Washington state enacts new regulations to tackle the opioid crisis; Nevada lawmakers call for an audit of the state’s juvenile justice system; and activists come together for the National Day of Empathy to talk criminal justice reform. Read about these stories and more with JPO’s news roundup.
Criminal Justice News
Sen. Booker To Propose Next Steps In Criminal Justice Overhaul – An advocate for criminal justice reform is preparing to try again. Last year, Congress passed and President Trump signed a measure easing some of the rules that have put millions of Americans in prison. It was a bipartisan bill, although its name, the FIRST STEP Act, suggested how modest it was. This deal included only a few of the many ideas for rolling back the crackdown on crime that has swelled the prison population in the U.S. since the 1980s. Senator Cory Booker has wrapped more of those ideas into a second bill that he plans to introduce today: “Why do users of crack cocaine, who are often black, spend so much more time in prison than users of powder cocaine, who are more often white? Well, Booker wants to just equalize the sentences.” – NPR’s Steve Inskeep (NPR, Washington, DC, March 7, 2019)
Celebrities, activists urge criminal justice reform at ‘Day of Empathy’ -Protesters rallied at the Arkansas Capitol against what they’ve called unjust criminal justice laws, encouraging lawmakers to consider reforms. Tuesday’s protests were part of a national “Day of Empathy” organized by #cut50, a national bipartisan initiative to reform criminal justice. The goal is to generate empathy for those affected in some way by the criminal justice system. “People that are re-entering society, we want them to have a fair shake,” David Arquette told The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “We want to end the dismantling of communities.” (FOX News, USA, March 6, 2019)
Washington state tackles opioid abuse with new regulations for prescription drugs – Opioids have created a public health crisis nationwide. In Washington State, an opioid overdose is now the leading cause of accidental deaths. Doctors say more than 700 people died in Washington last year from opioid-related causes — that includes a spike in fentanyl overdoses. New regulations statewide are meant to help crack down on opioid abuse. Now there’s a mandatory statewide tracking system. The new rules require monitoring and regulating every prescription.Washington state doctors are now also legally required to take extra classes to learn about opioid overuse, and what to prescribe and what not to prescribe. (Komo News, WA, March 7, 2019)
North Dakota House adopts resolutions for reducing recidivism, improving juvenile justice system – Gov. Doug Burgum signed this bill into law Wednesday, which raises the age of criminal responsibility in North Dakota from 7 to 10. House Speaker Lawrence Klemin, R-Bismarck, brought the resolution, seeing “more to do” for the juvenile justice system after the previous study. (The Grand Forks Herald, ND, March 7, 2019)
Nevada Lawmakers Call for Audit of ‘Broken’ Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems – A new bill in Nevada seeks to audit every program in the state’s juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Assembly Bill 111 would require the legislature to hire an independent consultant to conduct a study “concerning the funding of child welfare” in the state, allocating $250,000 to fund the review. “We know that Nevada as a state isn’t investing in everything that they need to, not only in our child welfare system, but in the systems that our child welfare agencies rely on to provide services and support,” said Denise Tanta, CAA’s executive director. “It’s really hard for us to advocate for more funding when we don’t have those clear numbers.” The state currently audits programs individually, but doesn’t track basic metrics of success like recidivism rates, according to 3 News Las Vegas. (The Chronicle of Social Change, NV, March 7, 2019)
Why Doesn’t Texas’ Most Liberal County Have a Public Defender? – Judges and an aggrieved defense bar are derailing talks to build a public defender’s office in Travis County. Austin is the largest city in the country without a public defender’s office to help represent poor people accused of crimes. In Texas, the only other big city without one is Fort Worth. Despite Austin’s reputation as a leader on progressive policies, advocates for criminal justice reform have struggled to overcome fierce opposition from the entrenched local criminal justice system. (The Texas Observer, TX, March 5, 2019)