Fair Chance Hiring, and the news in criminal justice this week

“Right now, there are millions of Americans just like me waiting for their second chance. We need Congress to pass more criminal justice reforms.”

Writing in the New York Post, Matthew Charles called on President Trump and members of Congress to take the next step in justice reform and pass the Fair Chance Hiring Act. Sponsored by Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Doug Collins (R-GA), the bill would prohibit the federal government and federal contractors from asking about an applicant’s criminal record until after a conditional offer of employment is extended.

“A lot of cases, I make less than $5 an hour, but I stopped calculating it because it’s so depressing.”

Indigent defense lawyers in Detroit are paid $40 for an arraignment, $110 for a plea-deal hearing, and $90 for a half-day of trial, regardless of how long or involved each hearing is, or how much out-of-court work is involved. Wayne County spends $5.5 million each year for indigent defense, and court fees paid to lawyers haven’t increased in more than 20 years. The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission created a set of new standards to ensure that defense lawyers are paid for out-of-court work and remain independent from judges. One of their first recommendations takes effect in October—rather than being individually appointed by judges, defense lawyers will be assigned by a computer, based on their relevant experience and training.

“It’s an incredibly significant day to make a decision on one of the key civil rights issues of our time.”

Harris County Commissioners agreed to a settlement this week in a lawsuit where plaintiffs claimed there was a two-tier system of justice, keeping poor defendants jailed while rich defendants were able to be released on bail. The settlement agreement calls for a monitor to oversee new bail protocols for seven years, creates safeguards to help defendants show up in court, provides comprehensive public defense services, and establishes a transparent data collection process to allow the county to make evidence-based adjustments. The new system will cost between $59 and $97 million, according to county estimates, but will save $18,250 per year for each person who is no longer detained before trial.

“… The bottom line is that our data show states are bearing a very high financial burden in the crisis.”

Researchers at Penn State looked at the various ways the opioid epidemic has impacted state budgets, and found $112 billion in Medicaid costs, $13 billion in reduced employment and tax revenue, and $2.8 billion in increased costs in the child welfare system. In Pennsylvania alone, researchers estimated that opioid-related criminal justice costs came to $526 million between 2007 and 2016. Collectively, the impacts are estimated at $130 billion, with $6-10 billion in additional spending each year.

“I love you, and I’ll see you soon, if I get there.”

When people are released from jail at night and in the early morning hours, many struggle to find transportation and shelter. Some jails have created policies to mitigate the risk—San Francisco distributes taxi vouchers to those released after 8 p.m., and Washington, D.C. ensures that people released after 10 p.m. have a ride, housing, and a week’s supply of their prescription medications. California lawmakers are considering the “Getting Home Safe Act,” which would allow those scheduled for late-night releases to choose to remain in jail until the morning, or have access to a safe place to wait for a ride.