Friday News Roundup: January 18, 2019

Friday News Roundup

This week in news – the government shutdown delays criminal justice reform, youth justice reform initiatives are being discussed on the state level; and drug court participation declines in Oklahoma.  All of these stories and more in this week’s news roundup.

Criminal Justice News

Leach: We need to repair Pennsylvania’s broken criminal justice system – Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach writes  The United States incarcerates more people per capita than almost every other country in the world. And as a state, Pennsylvania incarcerates more people per-capita than everywhere except Texas. I am introducing a bill to eliminate cash bail. Bail has become a way to warehouse poor people while wealthier people charged with the same crimes are free to await the disposition of their case at home. In some jails 65% of inmates haven’t even been convicted of any crime. They just can’t afford to pay bail. And places that have stopped doing this have the same rate of people showing up at trial as we do.. (The Times Herald, PA, January 14, 2019)

J.B. Pritzker Interview — On Criminal Justice, Higher Ed, Taxes, And Legislative Ethics – J.B. Pritzker is set to become the 43rd governor of Illinois on Monday. He won in part by promising to make college more affordable, improve the state’s finances, and reform the criminal justice system. “We’ve got a lot of work to do in this field. I know that there were some criminal justice reform proposals that were passed and implemented in the last administration, but there’s a whole heck of a lot more that we can do.  I just want to point out is a lot of people who end up in jail have mental health issues. If you want to talk about criminal justice reform, you’ve got to talk about the holistic issues facing the people who end up in the system.” (NPR, MO, January 14, 2019)

Shutdown Threatens to Delay Criminal Justice Reforms Signed Into Law by Trump – Hours before the government shutdown began, President Trump scored a rare bipartisan victory when he signed a criminal justice bill aimed at reducing the number of nonviolent offenders in prison. Now, the shutdown threatens to delay the law’s implementation. “The timeline in the bill was already ambitious,” said Molly Gill, vice president of policy at FAMM, an organization of families advocating criminal justice reform. “The shutdown isn’t helping.” (The New York Times, Washington D.C., January 16, 2019)

Opioid News

Americans more likely to die from opioid overdose today than car accident – Americans are more likely to die from accidental opioid overdoses today than from car crashes, according to a study released Monday from the National Safety Council. The group analyzed preventable injuries and deaths in 2017 and found the odds of dying by accidental opioid overdose to be 1 in 96 and the odds of a motor vehicle crash 1 in 103. The CDC also reported the national life expectancy rate is going down as the number of fatal opioid overdoses rise. (CNBC, USA, January 16, 2019)

Drug Treatment Courts

Bell unveils ‘Bell Plan’ for expansion of drug courts – New St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell announced what he said will be a far-reaching plan to tackle the opioid epidemic and decrease crime in the county last week. The plan continues key treatment [services] with organizations the drug court already partners with like Affinia Healthcare and Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, but it links them with community partners like Beyond Housing to find housing and the Urban League to find jobs. Affinia also focuses on mental-health treatment. Bell hopes to add more partners. (Call Newspapers, MO, January 16, 2019)

Oklahoma Prosecutors And Court Officials Disagree On Reason For Downturn In Drug Court Participation – Drug court participation fell in Oklahoma and Tulsa Counties after voters passed State Question 780 in 2016, records show. The ballot question reclassified drug possession and low-level property crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies. State law gives district attorneys the authority to choose who can get into drug court. District attorneys warned the state question would drive down drug court participation because it would hurt prosecutors’ ability to bring addicted people into the court. DAs say the latest numbers prove they were right. (KOSU Oklahoma Public Radio, OK, January 11, 2019)

Juvenile Justice

Juvenile Justice Reform Introduced at the Capitol – Two bills were introduced in the North Dakota House this session. Both will affect Mandan’s Youth Correctional Center. The first is House bill 1039: It will change the age someone can be prosecuted and sent to the correction center from seven to ten years old. The second, is House Bill 1076: It defines who is old enough to be transferred from youth corrections to adult centers. The newly introduced bill mandates that someone has to be at least 18 before he or she can be transferred to an adult facility. (Bismarck News, ND, January 14, 2019)

California Governor’s Opening Salvo: Scrapping Its Juvenile Justice System – California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) promised to “end the juvenile justice system as we know it” on Thursday as he unveiled his first budget. According to Newsom’s budget proposal, the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) would be moved from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to a new department under the Health and Human Services Agency. “This change will enable the state to better provide youth offenders with the services they need to be successful when released,” the proposal reads. (The Chronicle of Social Change, CA, January 11, 2019)

Cyntoia Brown clemency: Lawmakers to reexamine Tennessee’s juvenile sentencing lawsTennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s decision last week to grant clemency to 30-year-old Cyntoia Brown has prompted renewed scrutiny of the state’s uncommonly long sentences for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder. There are 119 other men and women in Tennessee prisons convicted since 1995 for crimes they committed before their 18th birthday who are serving the same mandatory sentence, according to the state Department of Corrections. Some were as young as 14 at the time of their crimes. Lawmakers returning to session last week may be more inclined to tackle sentencing reform than in years past, said Rep. Mark White, a Republican from Memphis. “We’ve got a new General Assembly and we will see where everyone is at, but I’m in agreement with Gov. Haslam on Cyntoia Brown, a 16-year-old girl sentenced to life was too harsh,” said White. “I think the conversation around Cyntoia has opened it back up.” (USA Today, TN, January 15, 2019)

New report calls for change to Iowa’s laws regarding youth receiving adult court convictions for simple misdemeanors – A recent report from the Campaign for Youth Justice and the University of Iowa’s Community Empowerment Law Project is calling for and offering recommendations to Iowa lawmakers to change the state’s laws on youth under 18 receiving adult court convictions for simple misdemeanors. According to Iowa law, youth as young as 10 years old can be prosecuted in adult court as youthful offenders, and those as young as 14 may be prosecuted, sentenced, and incarcerated as an adult for any sort of public offense. The report also noted of over 12,000 adult court convictions of youth between the ages of 15 and 17 in Iowa in 2017, according to the Division of Criminal & Juvenile Justice Planning. (KIMT 3, IA, January 16, 2019)