Public Safety

Annual observation created to raise awareness of mental illness and mental health offers a catalyst for making changes in the criminal justice system.

Vermonters whose driver’s licenses have been suspended for failure to pay fines and fees may find a reprieve this fall following the May passage of a bill by the state Legislature. The bill, H. 571, aims to alleviate some of the financial burden that outstanding traffic tickets and resulting license suspensions can pose, particularly for low-income residents in the rural state, where there are few public transit options and people rely on driving to get to work or school.

By Shannon Riess
Information is key whenever a disaster strikes. Lack of information could be detrimental to populations, neighborhoods and local economies. Many of the technological advances in the field of emergency management have been developed in order to solve the information problem and increase situational awareness. Data allows emergency managers to create a common operating picture that can help the state to predict and mitigate against the impacts of disasters, identify at-risk populations and respond to those areas in need, and recover from the effects of a disaster when a threat has passed. Information systems and emergency management specific software have led states to carry out their missions faster, better and more cost efficiently.

CSG Midwest

Kansas will cut by three-fifths the number of juvenile offenders sent to out-of-state facilities, under legislation (SB 367) signed into law in April by Gov. Sam Brownback. The law resulted from recommendations issued in November 2015 by a bipartisan working group that included members from the legislative, executive and judicial branches. (The group also got assistance from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Crime and Justice Institute at Community Resources for Justice.) 

On April 22, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order that restores the voting and civil rights of more than 200,000 convicted felons.  The order applies to people who have completed their sentence, including any supervised release, parole or probation requirements.  

Michigan enacted domestic violence legislation May 3 that adds companion animals to personal protection orders, making it the latest state to acknowledge the role pets play in domestic violence situations. Currently, 29 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws with provisions that allow pets to be included in personal protection orders.

It was a different crowd at the Supreme Court on April 18. The number of children on the courthouse steps may have exceeded the number of adults, and the voices on the microphones were speaking English and Spanish. Inside the courtroom, many members of Congress, cabinet members and foreign dignitaries filled the seats. Among those present were U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and chief justice of Canada, Beverley McLachlin. United States v. Texas is about different things to different people. For some it is about keeping families together, for some others it is about executive overreach and for many it is about “standing” to sue the federal government.

CSG Midwest

In the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision not to hear his state’s challenge to neighboring Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson is pledging to “determine the best next steps toward vindicating the rule of law.” Oklahoma joined Nebraska in the lawsuit. It was filed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court without going through a lower court — an action that is allowed when states have legal complaints with another, SCOTUSblog.com reports.

Representatives from correctional systems in 12 states came together in early March to set strategies for and share experiences related to reducing recidivism in their states and across the country. Convened by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, or BJA, and The Council of State Governments Justice Center’s National Reentry Resource Center, the 2016 Statewide Recidivism Reduction, or SRR, Forum brought together grantees of the SRR program—one of the Second Chance Act grants offered by BJA, which challenges state correctional systems and their partners to reduce recidivism and serve as models for the rest of the country. BJA officials—including Deputy Director Kristen Mahoney, Associate Deputy Director Ruby Qazilbash and Policy Advisor Andre Bethea—were on hand to discuss best practices.

Does your state criminal forfeiture statute allow the freezing of substitute assets? If so, it must now be rewritten to allow criminal defendants to use such assets to pay for an attorney of their choice.

In a 6-2 decision the Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel includes allowing a criminal defendant to use untainted substitute assets to hire an attorney, rather than freezing them for forfeiture to the government after conviction.

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing for the opposite result in Luis v. United States. State and local governments—police departments in particular—receive criminal asset forfeitures. Any many state forfeiture statutes allow freezing of substitute assets.

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