A nation of second chances, and the news in criminal justice this week

“We are a nation of second chances”

President Trump issued his first sentence commutation, to an Iowa slaughterhouse executive serving 27 years for bank fraud and money laundering. This step, with bipartisan support, may further open the door to federal reform legislation, while the Nation of Second Chances project profiles some of the 1715 men and women whose petitions were granted in the last few years. 

“A minor criminal offense should not lead to a lifetime of punishment”

In New Jersey, Governor Christie signed three bills intended to help with reentry—expanding existing ban the box legislation, reducing waiting time periods for expungement, and making more crimes eligible for expungement. In New Orleans, The First 72+—an organization designed and run by men who have been incarcerated—eases reentry with housing, meals, clothes, transportation, job resources and legal services, 

“The sheriffs are so desperate to try something

In the face of an opioid epidemic, police and prosecutors are going back to a tactic from the ‘90s and treating overdoses as homicides, but the line between users and dealers is increasingly hard to define. 

"More than 27 percent in Nashville and more than 38 percent in Memphis are covered by such zones."

Reason Magazine takes a deep dive into drug free school zones in Tennessee, questioning whether these policies are having their intended effect. One finding: in Johnson City, Tennessee, “[o]verlapping drug-free zones leave only tiny areas—in this case, 472 square feet—uncovered in some neighborhoods."

“These recommendations are not about being soft on crime; they are about holding people accountable in a way that enhances public safety”

Utah’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative’s Annual Report found that reforms had reduced the projected prison population by 18% while focusing on more serious and violent offenders, held offenders accountable through community supervision, and expanded mental health and substance abuse treatments to historically high levels. Heading into the upcoming legislative sessions, Kentucky’s CJPAC Justice Reinvestment Work Group recommended 22 data-driven policy recommendations that would avert 79% of projected prison population growth and save nearly $340 million over the next ten years. The Alabama Juvenile Justice Task Force reached consensus on 48 policy recommendations to promote safety and accountability, control costs and improve outcomes.