Friday News Roundup: September 20, 2019

Friday News Roundup

This week in the news: “How do you find your place in the world as an old man when you’ve never lived in it as an adult?” Read Haywood Fennel’s story of release after spending his adult life in prison, the call for federal leadership on civil justice reform from the Center for American Progress and the Justice Programs Office’s own Karen Lash, and more.

Juvenile Justice News

A Prison Lifer Comes Home

Haywood “Red Dog” Fennell was released following the US Supreme Court ruling that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole were unconstitutional for youth incarcerated. Fennell was incarcerated in Pennsylvania, which incarcerated more “juvenile lifers” than any other state and has become the nation’s leader in releasing these same people: just over 200 people have been let out so far. Read more about Fennell beginning life upon release: “How do you find your place in the world as an old man when you’ve never lived in it as an adult?” (Ewing, Melamed, The Atlantic, September 15, 2019)

Civil Legal Aid News

Civil Justice Needs Federal Leadership

“America has not met its promise of equal justice under law,” says the Center for American Progress who calls for civil legal aid reform, since in three out of every four cases at least one side shows up without an attorney. The odds are stacked against people with low-income, especially people of color. The widespread effects of reform could be seen through improving healthcare access, avoiding wrongful convictions, increasing employment opportunities, relief from debt collectors, and securing immigration status. (Jweied, Lash, Center for American Progress, September 16, 2019)

Criminal Justice News 

How Many People in Your State Go to Local Jails Every Year?

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, understanding the true number of people directly affected by local jails allows policymakers to better assess the impact of jail policies. Most jail bookings do not improve public safety, as the vast majority (88%) of people arrested multiple times per year don’t pose a serious public safety risk. People who go to county and city jails are disproportionately likely to have a substance use disorder, suffer from a serious mental illness, lack health insurance, and are more likely to be unemployed, have incomes under $10,000, and lack a high school diploma. (Bertram, Jones, Prison Policy Initiative, September 18, 2019)

California Legislature Adopts a Flurry of Criminal Justice Reforms

California legislature passed a series of bills reforming the state’s criminal legal system and its law enforcement and detention practices, before adjourning for the year. The bills include, among other things; rights restoration, two sentencing reform provisions, factoring ability to pay into court-ordered fines and fees, provisions that made California the third state with a “clean slate” expungement law, and more. These bills are now all on Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk. (Nichanian, The Appeal, September 19, 2019

Kurt Evans Is Cooking to End Mass Incarceration

Read about Kurt Evans, the new culinary director of Drive Change, a New York organization that offers eight-month culinary arts fellowships to youth who were formerly incarcerated. Evans has hired individuals that were incarcerated before, and was behind the successful End Mass Incarceration dinner series, a multi-course meal where families impacted by mass incarceration, law makers, law enforcement officials, and curious diners have conversations about prison reform over his seasonal dishes. (Wilson, Food & Wine, September 13, 2019)

Drug Court News

Chief Justice: Drug Courts Failing To Keep Up With Needs

Not having enough resources for drug treatment court means “missing an opportunity at early intervention in a huge way,” testified Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. before a Kentucky state legislative committee. Minton asserts drug courts, and similar specialty courts, are serving fewer than 2,500 people at a time when Kentucky faces the worst drug epidemic in its history. He calls for increased funding and expansion of the drug court model that provides court-supervised treatment so people can continue to receive the counseling and education necessary to staying out of jail. (Associated Press, WUKY, September 13, 2019)