Friday News Roundup: October 11, 2019

Friday News Roundup

This week in the news: Terrance Lewis restarts his life after twenty years behind bars for a wrongful conviction, Sesame Street tackles the addiction crisis, an issue-by-issue breakdown of democratic candidates’ stances on justice issues, and more. 

Drug Treatment

‘We’re Not Alone’ – ‘Sesame Street’ Tackles Addiction Crisis

Data shows that 5.7 million children under age 11 live in households with a parent who has a substance use disorder. Sesame Street creators are now working on a way to address substance use for their young audiences through exploring the backstory of Karli, a bright green, yellow-haired puppet whose mother is battling addiction. “There’s nothing else out there that addresses substance abuse for young, young kids from their perspective,” said Kama Einhorn, a senior content manager with Sesame Workshop. It’s also a chance to model to adults a way to explain what they’re going through to kids and to offer simple strategies to cope.” (Kennedy, ABC News, October 9, 2019)

Juvenile Justice

Philadelphia Man Begins Rebuilding His Life After His Wrongful Conviction

Terrance Lewis spent more than 21 years in prison after having been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole for a murder that occurred when he was 17. Lewis was released in May and he is now an advocate for other innocent people caught up in the criminal legal system. In 2010, a federal judge wrote that Lewis was most likely innocent based on new evidence, however, Lewis was not released because the judge ruled his petition for release failed on procedural grounds. Nearly 10 years later, Lewis is spending time with his son, but still without a home as of September and is suing the city of Philadelphia. (Vaughn, The Appeal, October 9, 2019)

Criminal Justice Groups Push to “Raise the Age” in Texas

Criminal justice groups are once again pushing efforts to “Raise the Age” of criminal responsibility, as Texas is one of four states where 17-year-olds are treated as adults in the criminal justice system. A bill that could have raised the age of criminal responsibility to 18, and others that would have given access to specific age-appropriate programs and services, was filed, but never made it through the full legislative process. (Lee, KXAN, October 8, 2019)


A Pioneering Ohio Courtroom Helps Trafficking Victims Find Hope

A diversion program called CATCH (Changing Actions to Change Habits) for survivors of human trafficking is spreading to cities around the country. Ten years ago, Judge Paul Herbert noticed a trend of women who were forced and involved in sex work being treated as “criminals.” Herbert realized the law didn’t recognize these women as victims, so he pitched the idea of a courtroom dedicated to recovery, not punishment. There are now seven of these specialized courts in Ohio alone. (Pfleger, National Public Radio, October 7, 2019)

Criminal Justice

The Democrats on Criminal Justice

The Marshall Project has a issue-based breakdown of where each of the twelve democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential election stand on justice-related issues. This includes topics like bail reform, restoring voting rights, marijuana legalization, mandatory minimums, and more. Use the interactive tool here. (Park & Lartey, The Marshall Project, October 10, 2019)

Governor Newsom Signs Criminal Justice Bills to Support Reentry, Victims of Crime, and Sentencing Reform 

Governor Gavin Newsom Tuesday signed 25 bills aimed at setting a path to reform California’s criminal justice system. The bills include support for those reentering the community after serving their sentences, including creating a system to automatically expunge records of individuals previously convicted of low-level offenses, as well as reform. Three weeks ago we covered The Appeal breakdown of eight of the bills headed to Newsom’s desk, six of which have now been signed. (Office of Governor Gavin Newsom, Sacramento, CA, October 8, 2019)

Supreme Court’s New Term Opens With Arguments Over Unanimous Juries, Insanity as a Criminal Defense

The Supreme Court on Monday opened with a pair of criminal justice cases and only eight justices on the bench. The court considered a case from Louisiana about whether a jury’s verdict must be unanimous, and another about whether Kansas and other states must allow juries to consider mental disease or defect as a defense. (Barnes, The Washington Post, October 7, 2019)

Restoring Felon Voting Rights a ‘Mess’ in Battleground Florida

Pastor Clifford Tyson, is challenging a Florida law that orders he must pay outstanding court-ordered fines and fees from three, decades-old felony convictions before casting a ballot or risk being prosecuted for voter fraud. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Brennan Center for Justice, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense and Educational Fund are also part of the lawsuit and alleging the fees requirement defies the will of Florida voters, who passed an amendment restoring voting rights, and amounts to an illegal poll tax on newly enfranchised Floridians, many of them minorities. (So, Reuters, Tampa, FL, October 7, 2019)