Friday News Roundup: April 19, 2019

Friday News Roundup graphic.

This week in the news: Read about the benefits of expungement, how more areas in the United States are turning to drug courts, what the US Department of Justice is doing to make sure opioids are responsibly distributed, and how juvenile justice systems in the country are working to give youth a second chance.

Criminal Justice News

North Carolina First Step Act Would Ease Penalties for Low-Level Drug Users

Sen. Bob Steinberg is the primary advocate for Senate Bill 404 (First Step Act) which would “increase judicial discretion in sentencing for drug trafficking offenses.” The bill helps to alleviate mandatory sentences under federal law and increases credit given to reduce an individual’s sentence based on behavior and their attendance at rehabilitation and vocational programs. The reasoning behind the bill is to advocate for the removal of a “one-size fits all” policy when looking at individual cases. (Travis, Caroline Journal, April 16, 2019)

St. Louis Tackles Pretrial Reform

There is a nationwide movement calling out discrepancies in pretrial detention processes across race and income lines. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, more than 540,000 people in the US are detained annually who have not yet been convicted or sentenced. A project in St. Louis (FUSE) is now working to establish processes for pretrial reform to develop alternatives to bail that judges can use that will help reduce the large number of people housed in jails whom are unable to afford their cash bail. (Wald, FUSE, April 17, 2019)

Delaware House Eyes Bill to Help Human Trafficking Victims

The Delaware State House approved a bill on Tuesday that allows survivors of human trafficking to pursue a pardon or expungement of a nonviolent criminal record. Furthermore, it mandates that, “public awareness signs about human trafficking” be put up in specific locations. The bill went through the House unanimously and it goes to the Senate now. (Associated Press, The Washington Post, April 16, 2019)

Can Better Data Fix Florida’s Prisons?

Florida became the first in the country to require its jails, prosecutors, public defenders, courts, and prisons to coordinate their data collection, enabling lawmakers and the public to track how someone moves through the entire criminal justice system, from arrest to release. The information will be sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Supporters of the new data law hope it will bring transparency to the justice system, as well as better discern which criminal justice reform is working and which is not. (Lewis, The Marshall Project, April 14, 2019)

From Bail Reform to Restoring Voting Rights and Sealing Records, Colorado’s Criminal Justice System Is Getting a Makeover

Several bills are navigating their way through the Colorado legislature, with most of them concerning justice system reform. These bills include bail reform, drug defelonization, addressing jail overcrowding, and supplying more court judges. Many of them have bipartisan support, but some are causing law enforcement to hesitate. (Paul, The Colorado Sun, April 15, 2019)

When the Government Persecutes You, Then Forbids You From Talking About It

This opinion piece reflects on two stories where individuals were asked to plead guilty for small offense cases that they did not commit to avoid being charged for much more serious offenses, ones that they still might not have commited. (Balko, The Washington Post, Washington, DC, April 18, 2019)

Drug Court News

Washington County, Va Drug Court Program Receives a $400,000 Grant

The US Department of Health and Human Services granted $400,000 to the Community Services Board in Abingdon to pay for more people to join drug treatment programs. This grant is for persons with a substance use disorder with high risk needs, and the program aims to provide mental health care alongside other treatment opportunities. (Batista, WJHL, April 15, 2019)

‘Powerful Experience:’ Students Observe Treatment Court

This article addresses a few high school students’ experience with participants in a treatment court re-telling their success stories. The students were able to ask questions about how the treatment courts were a tool for improvement. One teacher recounts, “I feel like it’s been a pretty powerful experience over the last two weeks. I think it gives the kids a different glimpse of the criminal justice system they’re not seeing on TV and what they normally watch.” (San Francisco Gate, Norristown, PA, April 17, 2019)

Opioid News

Nearly 60 Doctors, Other Medical Workers Charged in Federal Opioid Sting

Four months ago, the US Justice Department sent fraud prosecutors to Appalachia to inspect areas that have high numbers of opioid related deaths and overdoses. This past Wednesday, the Justice Department announced they are charging 60 doctors, pharmacists, and medical professionals in connection with alleged “opioid pushing and health care” fraud. The case involves more than 350,000 prescriptions. (Johnson, National Public Radio, April 17, 2019)

Juvenile Justice News

Oregon Senate Approves Sweeping Juvenile Justice Reforms

The Oregon State Senate passed a sweeping list of justice reforms; one that includes provision to end automatic referral of youth to adult court who are facing Measure 11 charges (sex offenses, murder, robbery, and/or assault). Prosecutors will now have to request a hearing before referral. The bill would do away with life without parole sentences for youth in the state. Now the reform bills will head to the Oregon House. (Crombie, Oregon Live, April 17, 2019)

ACLU Kentucky Hopes to Shine Light on Juvenile Justice Reform

The ACLU of Kentucky is hoping to inform those in the Louisville area about improvements for their juvenile justice system by hosting a conversation series that “provides a pathway for community voices to be heard in the movement for juvenile justice reform.” The six-week series will touch on the court process, probation and detention, legislative process, resources for youth and police in schools. (Durden, Wave 3 News, Louisville, KY, April 17, 2019)