National

The call for bipartisan support and the news in criminal justice reform this week

“The one constant in this work is that it cannot be successful without bipartisan support.”

In The Hill, Ed Chung of the Center for American Progress and Jason Pye of FreedomWorks renewed the call for bipartisan comprehensive criminal justice reform. Representatives Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Mark Walker (R-SC) joined the call, and pushed for an expanded conversation on criminal justice that focuses on restoration and rehabilitation.

“We need to work to make our criminal justice system more fair, more equitable, and more focused on rehabilitation.”

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf outlined a package of eight reforms, including comprehensive clean slate legislation, funding of indigent defense programs, and the adoption of bail and pretrial risk assessment tools across the Commonwealth. He was joined at a press conference by Senator Stewart Greenleaf, and Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. The announcement comes just as Representative Sheryl Delozier’s Clean Slate bill was passed by the state House of Representatives with an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 188-2 and goes to the Senate, which unanimously passed similar legislation last year.

“Even though we broke the law, rape, intimidation and sexual harassment were not part of our sentence.”

Kim Brown, of the Women & Justice Project, wrote about her experience in prison and the need for the "Me Too" movement to address the needs of women in prison. “Incarcerated women cannot escape their abusers,” she wrote, “and they place themselves at risk of retaliation if they speak up.”

“Growth in occupational licensing is associated with less economic mobility…and greater income inequality.”

A new study from the Archbridge Institute found that growth in the number of occupations requiring a license is associated with a 1.7% to 6.7% decline in economic mobility, and increased county level Gini coefficients. These licensing requirements, which frequently exclude people with criminal records, serve as barriers to successful reentry even when the occupation is unrelated to any prior criminal activity. Between 1993 and 2012, states added an average of 31 license requirements low-income professions, with Louisiana adding the most (59) and Oklahoma and Kentucky adding the least (15).

“I cried a lot of times in prison silently because you can’t do it out loud in a treacherous place like that. But I always said, ‘one day it’s gonna get better.’”

After serving seven years in prison for the possession of three grams of marijuana, Bernard Noble was released this week. Noble’s case brought attention to Louisiana’s extraordinarily tough drug laws and sentencing practices, and helped drive the campaign to reform marijuana possession sentencing and reform the state’s administrative rules on clemency.

Second Chance Month, and the news in criminal justice this week

“We encourage expanded opportunities for those who have worked to overcome bad decisions earlier in life and emphasize our belief in second chance for those who are willing to work hard to turn their lives around.”

President Trump designated April 2018 “Second Chance Month,” and urged federal, state and local corrections systems to implement evidence-based programs that focus on job training, mentoring, mental health treatment, and addiction treatment. Similar proclamations have been introduced in the Senate by Republican Rob Portman and in the house by Democrat Tony Cardenas, and April 2018 has been declared Second Chance Month in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alabama, Michigan, Texas, Minnesota, the District of Columbia, and the city of Minneapolis.

“The program humanizes incarcerated people and allows them to be seen—both by prison staff, and themselves—as valuable members of the communities to which they belong.”

A new pilot program in New York prisons trains incarcerated people to act as emergency responders for overdose victims. State correctional and public health authorities educate incarcerated people on the proper use of naloxone, and on their rights as “Good Samaritans,” and equip them with naloxone kits upon release.

“Tennesseans should not have their property seized without being charged with, or convicted of a crime.”

The Tennessee Senate unanimously passed a bill to reform the state’s civil asset forfeiture system, requiring formal notice of a property seizure or forfeiture-warrant hearing, clarifying the legal process to seek the return of seized property, and holding agencies responsible for attorneys’ fees in cases where they are found to have wrongly seized assets. This is the latest in a series of civil asset forfeiture reforms undertaken at the state level, including those passed this year in Idaho, Wisconsin and Kansas. Lawmakers in Michigan are expected to take up reforms when they return from spring break.

“Everything about this unit is supposed to replicate life more on the outside than a jail does, to prepare them for reentry by giving them some of the skill sets they didn’t have.”

The Middlesex, Massachusetts House of Correction’s new initiative, supported by the Vera Institute, is focused on changing the trajectory for young adult offenders. Inside the People Achieving Change Together (“PACT”) Unit, young adult inmates have greater freedom and access to family members, meet with therapists and anger-management specialists, and report for work every day.

“They keep a close eye on their clients, but in many places, no one is keeping a close eye on them.”

In the New York Times, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Shaila Dewan examined the extraordinary powers and lax regulation of the $2 billion bail bond industry. They found complaints of kidnapping, extortion, forged property liens, theft and embezzlement that rarely resulted in meaningful punishment for the bail bond agents. This remarkable piece includes particularly shocking stories of people, families, and their liberty impacted by this industry, and don’t miss what happened to Christopher Franklin in North Carolina.