Day of Empathy, and the news in criminal justice this week

“Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, whether you are a liberal or a conservative, our core values as human beings require us to advance human dignity...”
 
On Tuesday, #cut50’s Day of Empathy events brought activists together for lawmaker meetings, rallies and press conferences in 25 states. As part of Connecticut’s Day of Empathy, Governor Malloy proposed legislation that would improve conditions for incarcerated women, including prohibiting shackling women during labor, providing feminine hygiene products at no cost, and establishing child-friendly visitation policies. And this same week, Kentucky Republican State Senator Julie Raque Adams advanced her bill that would limit restraints during labor and delivery and create statewide standards for women in Kentucky’s jails.
 
“I begged them to please get him home. And while the blood was still warm in his body, instead of sending him home in a body bag.”
 
In the New York Times, Christie Thompson examined the federal Bureau of Prison’s Compassionate Release program and found that only 6% of applicants have been approved for release in the past four years. Since 2013, 266 rejected applicants have died in custody, and roughly half of those who died after applying were convicted of nonviolent fraud or drug crimes. The Granting Release and Compassion Effectively (GRACE) Act, introduced last week by Senators Brian Schatz, Mike Lee and Patrick Leahy, would create clear guidelines for release and allow prisoners to petition the courts if their request is delayed or denied.
 
“When we exclude them from the workforce, we are excluding people who are living next to us, who are parents, who are looking for a second chance.”  
 
In Tulsa, organizations like the Resonance Center for Women and the Center for Employment Opportunities are helping connect companies with people who have been incarcerated. They encourage companies to wait until they meet applicants to ask about previous convictions, and to give candidates an opportunity demonstrate their skills and abilities.
 
“We give them a structure to their lives, most of all.”
 
Buzzfeed’s Dan Vergano spends a day in Huntington, West Virginia’s drug court, subject of the Academy Award-nominated documentary Heroin(e). Cabell County leads the state in drug overdose deaths, with 152 last year, and 10% of the city’s residents are addicted to opioids. The drug courts take a holistic approach to fighting the opioid epidemic, offering participants counseling and life skills classes, and requiring community service and substance abuse treatment. Nearly half of Huntington’s drug court participants graduate from the program, and the majority of those graduates stay clean for years.
 
“We have tens of thousands of children who are simply outside our school accountability mechanisms. They simply disappear.”
 
Education Week looked into juvenile justice facility education programs and found that only 28% of juvenile justice schools offered Algebra 2, and fewer than half offer all the core courses students need to graduate. Students received an average of 26 hours of instruction, but in some schools children were receiving only an hour or two per week.