This week in the news: ‘Are Missouri lawmakers ready to fix an unconstitutional public defense system?;’ giving veterans a second chance; black female prosecutors are saying: “Enough;” and more.
This Appeal article argues that things haven’t changed all too much since 1865: “White people are still exploiting Black bodies, squeezing every dollar they can from them.” Stating that this is clear in a range of contexts, many of them in the criminal system. Most obviously, it is apparent in exploitative prison labor and exorbitant fees for basic resources in prisons, but also the fines and fees extorted from people who are shuffled through every level of the criminal system, including the lowest ones. (Lustbader, The Appeal, January 16, 2020)
Chicago prosecutor Kim Foxx answers questions regarding Chicago’s recent success story: a three-year reduction in homicides and nearly 40 percent drop in shootings. When asked how criminal justice reform could reinforce the credibility of the system as a whole, she responds: “A lot of people who live in neighborhoods impacted by violence know people who have gone to jail, for low-level nonviolent offenses, and sat there because they didn’t have money to get out… By showing that those are not fair and just practices, and demonstrating that [point] repeatedly, we can go in those neighborhoods and say: How can we help you resolve these conflicts in the criminal justice system and not on the street?… You cannot flood neighborhoods with police and have a system that people deem to be illegitimate. It’s not going to have long-term sustainability for communities.” (Gutman, The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 15, 2020)
This week, Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner filed a federal lawsuit against her entire city leadership, accusing its mostly white police force and political establishment of engaging in a racially motivated conspiracy to drive her out of office and block her efforts to make the city’s justice system less punitive toward people of color. (Hager & Lewis, The Appeal, January 16, 2020)
From Philadelphia’s Larry Krasner to San Francisco’s Chesa Boudin, candidates for prosecutor have recently won on claims that working outside of a district attorney’s office has positioned them to better overhaul criminal justice practices. Rachel Rossi, a former state and federal public defender who is running against Los Angeles DA Jackie Lacey, is the latest to make that case. “What has driven me to want to be a prosecutor is seeing, at every stage of the process, the need for reform.” (Nichanian, The Appeal, January 16, 2020)
When Missouri lawmakers begin work on the 2021 state budget soon, they’ll tackle important issues including education, health care and transportation, and, hopefully, the crisis in Missouri’s public defender system. The public defender office is requesting $61 million to fully fund the office and mark an important step in fixing Missouri’s ongoing denial of basic representation for indigent defendants. This is only two-tenths of one percent of the overall state budget. But it’s up to Gov. Mike Parson and the legislature to decide. (Editorial Board, The Kansas City Star, January 15, 2020)
Onondaga County’s jail population dropped by at least 100 inmates, a 20 percent decrease, as a result of the state’s controversial bail reform law. But there has not been a mass release of 100 inmates from the jail, according to multiple people familiar with the situation. The real reason for the reduction is more complex, they say. (Dowty, Syracuse.com , Syracuse, NY, January 10, 2020)
Numbers in Hamilton County’s veterans treatment court are rising in a positive way. Since its founding in late 2015, the county’s Veterans Court, under the direction of Superior Court 3 Judge William Hughes, has helped military veterans struggling with mental health or substance use disorders who have faced various criminal charges. Hughes said identifying veterans isn’t always easy. It’s not something that is asked when the court is collecting demographic information, and Hughes said offenders rarely share that they’re veterans. But a recent change that compares a Veterans Affairs database against the state’s court case management system is helping more veterans learn about the program. (Hunter, Current, January 14, 2020)