Public Safety

Like many cases involving the death penalty, Williams v. Pennsylvania is a long story.

Terrance Williams was sentenced to death for killing Amos Norwood during a 1984 robbery in Philadelphia when Williams was eighteen. Williams claimed at trial he did not know Norwood, who was fifty-six.

In 2012 Williams’ co-conspirator Marc Draper revealed, among other things, that the prosecutor urged him to falsely testify that the motive for the murder was robbery, not that Norwood had sexually abused Williams, and the prosecutor wrote an undisclosed letter to the parole board on behalf of Draper. A hearing revealed the prosecutor failed to disclose extensive evidence of Norwood’s homosexual ephebophilia (attraction to teenagers).

After the passage of Megan's Law in 1994, state governments began imposing residency restrictions on registered sex offenders. Most of these statutes prohibit sex offenders from living within a set distance of schools or daycare centers. Some states impose additional restrictions, such as prohibiting sex offenders from living near public parks, youth centers, churches, or other places youth may congregate. Some states lack residency restriction statutes, allowing local governments to determine their own restrictions.

CSG Midwest
Under a seven-bill legislative package recently signed into law, Michigan is changing its laws on civil asset forfeiture, a move that proponents say will better protect citizens’ civil liberties and private property rights. According to the Detroit Free Press, lawmakers have raised the standard for when property can be seized through civil forfeiture. The standard had been a “preponderance of the evidence”; it is now “clear and convincing.”
CSG Midwest
In less than a decade’s time, national public opinion on marijuana legalization has changed dramatically, with the rate of people in support of such a change jumping from 32 percent in 2006 to 53 percent today. Will this shift lead to changes in state laws in the Midwest?
Thus far, the answer has been a clear-cut “no.” Legalization bills have not come close to passing in any of the region’s 11 state legislatures, and this November, Ohio voters rejected by a wide margin a plan to legalize marijuana via a constitutional amendment.
But state legislatures in this region continue to re-examine their laws on marijuana, as evidenced by laws and legislative proposals in this region to decriminalize possession or allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

In its second opinion of the term the Supreme Court ruled that a police officer should have been granted qualified immunity when he shot at a car whose driver had led police on a high speed chase to stop it instead of waiting to see if spike strips worked.

A first-of-its-kind report released today by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center found that most incarcerated youth do not have access to the same educational services as their peers in the community, and little accountability exists to ensure educational standards are met in lock-up. The report, “Locked Out: Improving Educational and Vocational Outcomes for Incarcerated Youth,” reveals that despite spending between $100,000 to $300,000 per incarcerated child in secure facilities, only 13 states provide all incarcerated youth with access to the same types of educational services that students have in the community. Meanwhile, only nine states offer community-equivalent vocational services to all kids in lock-up.

Last week, the Senate passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015, or CISA, 74-21. The bill is essentially an information-sharing bill, designed to allow companies that are hit by a hacker to share information--called “cyber threat indicators”--with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS. DHS can then put out an alert, share suspicious code and warn other firms about the threat. Cybersecurity is not just a hot topic in Washington, D.C., but also in statehouses across the country.

Economics webcast

What do autonomous vehicles, an aging population and cybersecurity have in common? These are all policy topics in which a basic knowledge of risk management and insurance can help state leaders make better policy decisions. In collaboration with the Griffith Foundation, The Council of State Governments addressed these topics and more throughout a four-part webinar series designed to provide public policymakers with a greater understanding of risk management insurance through the lens of emerging issues. Participants in this series gained a solid understanding of risk management and insurance fundamentals, property, casualty, life and health insurance, and insurance regulation and legislation. <--break->

If someone has spent or hidden their ill-gotten gain but has additional assets untainted by their crime, should the government be able to freeze the untainted assets? The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) amicus brief in Luis v. United States argues yes. State and local governments—police departments in particular—receive criminal asset forfeitures. Any many states statutes also allow freezing of substitute assets.

Even as partisan tension increases in advance of the 2016 elections, national policymakers on both sides of the aisle can cite one area where many find broad agreement: The need for comprehensive criminal justice reform. In Washington, D.C., growing momentum behind efforts to reform the criminal justice system has pushed the issue to the forefront of lawmakers’ agendas for the fall. For example, pressure has intensified to reauthorize federal funding for programs that support successful reentry of formerly incarcerated individuals. This momentum for change to the federal system reflects lessons learned from states where system innovations and improvements have made an impact on recidivism and other criminal justice outcomes over the past decade.