Friday News Roundup: April 12, 2019

Friday News Roundup graphic.

This week in the news: Read about the legislation put out by Congressman Elijah E. Cummings and US Senator Cory Booker in honor of Second Chances Month meant to ease the barriers to re-entry, the voting rights that could be in jeopardy, and the objections raised over president Trump’s top pick for the No. 2 post at the Department of Justice.

Criminal Justice News

Cummings, Booker Introduce New Pathways Act

This week, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) and US Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), in recognition of Second Chance Month, introduced legislation to ease the barriers to re-entry for formerly incarcerated individuals. The bicameral New Pathways Act provides more specific guidance for the Bureau of Prison to help individuals obtain federal identification documents upon release from prison, such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, Social Security card, photo ID, or work authorization form. (Cummings House, Washington, DC, April 11, 2019)

Dems Sound Alarm Over Top DOJ Nominee

Objections were raised over president Trump’s pick, Jeffrey Rosen, for the No. 2 post at the DOJ. Rosen was asked about his qualifications for the position and his involvement in the Mueller investigation. Republicans and democrats shared differing opinions on how Rosen might uphold Obama-era communications policies and criminal justice reform. Republicans feel he is a capable nominee, but democrats aren’t so sure. (Thomsen, The Hill, Washington, DC, April 10, 2019)

G.O.P. vs. Voting Rights (Yes, Again)

This opinion piece revisits Amendment 4, the recently passed Florida legislation on voting rights, and says lawmakers may be trying to undermine the amendment. One possibility is the expansion of the list of crimes that would make some potential voters ineligible to have their rights restored; currently, only murder and felony sexual offense are on that list. Another is a bill in the State House that would keep people disenfranchised so long as they owed money to the state from judicial fees. (Leonhardt, The New York Times, New York City, NY, April 9, 2019)

21 More Studies Showing Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System

Following a list of 120 studies done demonstrating racial bias in the criminal justice system, this opinion piece covers 21 more studies, pulling evidence from police to prosecutors to prisons; from misdemeanor offenses to the death penalty; from sentencing to parole; and from youth offenses to plea bargaining to clemency. For example, a 2018 Pew study found that 1 in 23 black adults in the US are on parole or probation, versus 1 in 81 white adults. And while persons of color make up 13 percent of the US population, they make up 30 percent of those on probation or parole. In another, the Sentencing Project revealed that mass incarceration combined with felon disenfranchisement laws have led to severe underrepresentation of black Americans in the voting electorate. (Balko, The Washington Post, April 9, 2019)

Drug Court News

San Antonio’s Drug Court Judge Seeks to Banish the Stigma Attached to Depression, Drug Abuse

In this article, a San Antonio drug court celebrates a 12.4 percent recidivism rate over the past three years. The court’s magistrate, Judge Ernie L. Glenn, considers this a success, also commenting that these programs are credited with saving taxpayer dollars through their “therapeutic justice” approach and are a better means than incarceration due to their ability to grant second chances or redemption. (Huddleston, San Antonio Express-News, April 8, 2019)

Opioid News

Opioid Maker Charged with Fraud in Marketing Drug as Less Prone to Abuse

Federal prosecutors late Tuesday charged British drug maker, Indivior, with felony fraud and conspiracy for its marketing of opioid products including Suboxone. The company allegedly created a “nationwide scheme” in the US designed to convince doctors and government insurance providers that Indivior’s patented opioid medications are safer and less prone to abuse than cheaper generic alternatives. This indictment marks an escalation in what has already emerged as a dangerous year for major drug makers and distributors entangled in the opioid crisis. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription opioid overdoses have killed more than 200,000 Americans in the last 20 years. (Mann, NPR, April 10, 2019)

Juvenile Justice News

New Analysis Raises Questions about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Juvenile Justice Proposal

A new report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office raises red flags on if Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reform proposal for the juvenile justice system will lead to tangible change for California’s youth. In January, Newsom proposed that moving those in the juvenile justice system to Health and Human Services would give them better access to rehabilitation programs. But now, juvenile justice experts are having mixed feelings on the proposal, some saying it won’t do much to change the culture of violence that they are trying to prioritize in these facilities. (Caiola, Capital Public Radio, Sacramento, CA, April 10, 2019)

Chicago Is Tracking Kids with GPS Monitors That Can Call and Record Them without Consent

A Chicago county has a new contract with an electronic monitoring company, Track Group, for juvenile ankle monitors that critics say are an invasion of privacy. It will lease 275 ankle monitors meant for children who are awaiting trial. Some are weary of the communication feature that allows monitoring officers at the criminal court and employees at Track Group to call the individuals with a monitor at any time; and there is no way to decline the call. However, to the court’s knowledge, no probation officer has used the device in violation of the law, according to an email statement explaining that the communications feature is only used “to inform the juvenile if the battery is low or that he or she entered an exclusionary zone where there is somebody or a place they must avoid.” (Lerner, The Appeal, April 8, 2019)

Meet the Grown-Ups Keeping Kids out of Prison

In 2010, Gladys Carrión, the then commissioner of New York’s Office of Children and Family Services, ordered prison reforms that included new mental-health services and limits on the use of physical force. Since then, New York State shuttered more than two dozen youth prisons, welcomed the federal consent decree, and implemented a program called ‘Close to Home.’ The results of these initiatives: New York City no longer sends children to state-operated youth prisons, when nearly 4,000 were imprisoned in the mid-1990s. Carrión is now working with Columbia University Justice Lab, and hoping to take New York’s success national. (Barkan, The Nation, New York City, NY, April 8, 2019)

Public Defense News

Public Defenders Would Get Raises under New Budget Plan

The City Council wants to spend $15 million to help bring New York City’s public defenders’ pay up to par with city government lawyers’. The money is meant to address a pay disparity that lawmakers say has fueled high turnover among the people who aid the city’s poor. But the city’s largest legal-services provider says at least twice as much is needed to truly resolve the problem of the pay gap. (Manskar, Patch, New York City, NY, April 10, 2019)