Women Unshackled, and the news in criminal justice this week

“Our prison system and our jail system are just not equipped to deal with all the issues women are facing right now.”

Lawmakers, advocates, judges, law enforcement, and formerly incarcerated women gathered in Austin on Wednesday for “Women Unshackled: The Next Step,” hosted by CPS and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. The forum, which was simulcast on Facebook and livestreamed into the Travis County Correctional Complex, focused on the unique challenges women face in our justice system, and potential reforms to better address their needs. As part of the event, Congresswomen Karen Bass (D-CA) and Mia Love (R-UT), announced upcoming federal dignity legislation. If you missed it, you can still watch the conference here:  https://www.facebook.com/coalitionforpublicsafety/.

“People who choose to learn from their mistakes and want to live productive lives should be able to do just that.”

Pennsylvania’s Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Clean Slate legislation that had previously been passed by the House. The bill would automatically seal the records of those who had committed certain misdemeanors and gone 10 years without another offense. The measure has strong bipartisan support in both chambers, and the backing of business, organized labor, and district attorneys from across the commonwealth.

“...If the audits are allowed to fail, the Prison Rape Elimination Act will fail, and the shameful scourge of prison rape will continue.”

Just Detention International’s Lovisa Stannow drew attention to the First Step Act’s strengthening of protections under the Prison Rape Elimination Act.  The First Step Act would establish stronger guidelines for conducting audits, harsher penalties for auditors who do not comply with the guidelines, and more transparency in the audit process. The bill, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House last month, awaits action in the Senate.

“Forfeiture only makes it more challenging for people in my position to clean up and become contributing members of society.”

The Supreme Court granted a cert petition in a civil asset forfeiture case, Timbs v. Indiana, which could determine whether the Eighth Amendment’s excessive fines clause is incorporated against the states. Timbs’s case has attracted a broad range of supporters, with amicus briefs filed by the Chamber of Commerce, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Cato Institute, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

“American voters are ready to move forward with this important legislation, and politicians should take their lead and bring clean slate to fruition...”

70% of voters support automatically sealing the records of nonviolent offenders, according to new polling from the Center for American Progress and GBA Strategies. Clean Slate legislation has the support of 75% of Democrats, 66% of Republicans, and 61% Independents.