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Latest roundup of criminal justice news, updates, and commentary
Topics to get smart on:
Prison slavery: Campaigns to abolish slavery in prisons are heating up. This article sums up the history, the stakes, the players, and current legislation in Congress.
Overdose laws: Grieving parents whose children have died from fentanyl overdoses are split: some want to send drug sellers to prison for murder, while others say that doing that will make people terrified to call for help if someone starts overdosing. The New Republic has great coverage.
Local control of police: Many states right now are trying to take control of city law enforcement bodies. TIL that Missouri took away the St. Louis police force during the civil war because the city stood with the union while the state was pro-secession. This is a great summary of some trends that link together democracy, police powers, and justice.
Solutions and Wins
The Health and Human Services agency has formally recommended that cannabis be rescheduled from schedule I to schedule III. If the DEA agrees, this will be a big deal, allowing for banking in the cannabis industry, for example, and many other key shifts.
Mother Jones has a fascinating story on the campaign led by Bianca Tylek of Worth Rises in partnership with Diane Lewis and others to make calls from prison free in Connecticut.
A new study agrees with past studies showing that unconditional cash transfers work to reduce homelessness: “To our surprise, we found that the cash transfer [of $7500] cut homelessness by 99 days, increased spending on rent, food, transit, and durable goods, and the reduced reliance on social services generated societal savings of $8,277” per person per year. By contrast, workshops and coaching had almost no effect. They didn’t study the impact on jailing (maybe because it’s Canada?), but I suspect it would be significant.
After spending 7 years in prison and nearly 50 years living with a rape conviction over his head, Leonard Mack was exonerated this week after the Innocence Project secured DNA testing.
Commentary and Analysis
Organizers in Los Angeles are raising the alarm about Accenture, a massive consulting firm that the county CEO seeks to pay ~$8.5million to assess and redesign the county’s pretrial system. The county already has a pretrial plan, compiled by community experts over four years, which was previously adopted by the Board of Supervisors. The supervisors did not approve of the Accenture contract, and organizers see a path to having it canceled. Here’s the rundown.
Three California judges wrote a spirited oped in support of bail reform, reminding readers that the constitution sets tight restrictions on the courts holding people in jail.
Mayor Adams of NYC lists scary statistics about felony arrestees when he argues for expanding jail capacity. But in reality, police regularly overcharge people, and the vast majority of felony charges get dismissed. So don’t be fooled when you hear about felony arrest numbers - the real question is, how many charges hold up? (p.s.: I’m very curious what the comparable numbers are in other parts of the country).
Sam Bankman-Fried has been remanded to jail after violating some terms of his pre-trial supervision, and is reportedly having a rough time. A prominent writer on crypto policy brought the matter of poor jail conditions to a new audience.
Wall of Shame
The Daily Beast has the corrupt and seedy story behind DeSantis’s (likely unconstitutional!) removal of Monique Worrell as elected prosecutor in Orlando, including details on her investigation into the Sheriff’s department that is now on ice since she was barred from office.
A new West Virginia law says that prisons can deny medical care to prisoners if they don’t think it’s “necessary.” This is a recipe for a lot of death and disability by neglect. It’s gruesome.
Hidden investors took over the notoriously bad prison healthcare provider Corizon and now appear to be engaging in bankruptcy fraud by separating the company into two entities: one with the assets, and one with the debts, and putting the latter into bankruptcy. Hundreds of prisoners who sued the company for substandard care have had their cases stayed.
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