Public Safety

CSG Midwest

In an effort to curb the number of deaths occurring in their state due to gun violence, Illinois legislators are cracking down on people who illegally sell firearms. Signed into law this summer, HB 6303 makes it a felony for a person who has not been issued a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card to bring guns into Illinois with the intent of selling or delivering them.

Justice Nancy Saitta was elected in 2006 to the Nevada Supreme Court, where she served as chief justice from September 2011 to May 2012. A former prosecutor and municipal and state district court judge, Saitta has been a tireless advocate for children, youth and juvenile justice reform. Saitta retired her seat on the Nevada Supreme Court in August, but remains a senior justice and will continue to fight for the state’s children and youth as chair of the state Blue Ribbon for Kids Commission, the Coalition to Combat Criminal Sexual Exploitation of Children and the Juvenile Justice Reform Commission. Saitta serves as co-chair of the CSG Interbranch Affairs Committee and is a 2009 CSG Toll Fellow.

In a three-page per curiam (unauthored) opinion in Bosse v. Oklahoma, the Supreme Court reversed the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision to allow victims’ relatives to recommend to the jury that they sentence a defendant to death. Shaun Michael Bosse killed Katrina Griffin and her two children.

In Booth v. Maryland (1987) the Supreme Court held that during sentencing capital juries could only hear victim impact evidence that relates directly to the circumstances of the crime. Four years later in Payne v. Tennessee the Court changed course holding that capital juries could hear evidence relating to the personal characteristics of the victim and the emotional impact of the crime on the victim’s family.

By Katy Albis
It is impossible to talk about the justice system without talking about race. In fact, with several high-profile incidents involving violent contact between law enforcement officers and minority residents, so much of today’s conversation about justice policy and practice seems to focus specifically on race. But talking about race and justice in a comprehensive, solution-oriented way requires looking closely at very specific components of the system to determine how racial disparity manifests. One such component is risk and needs assessment. Risk and needs assessment uses an actuarial evaluation to guide decision-making at various points across the criminal justice continuum by approximating a person’s likelihood of reoffending and determining what individual needs must be met in order to reduce that likelihood.

By Emily Morgan and Katy Albis
People between the ages of 18 and 24—often referred to as young adults—are generally considered to be undergoing a period of transition. According to a 2015 CSG Justice Center brief, Reducing Recidivism and Improving Other Outcomes for Young Adults in the Juvenile and Adult Criminal Justice Systems, research shows that young adults have tendencies that are distinct from those of both youth and older adults: Although young adults are more cognitively developed than youth, compared to older adults, they are more impulsive, less emotionally mature and less cognizant of the consequences of their actions. Many young adults also lack engagement in school and work, face mental health and substance use issues, are disconnected from family and other caring adults, and experience homelessness—all factors that put them at risk of justice system involvement.

With cybersecurity on the minds of many Americans, questions are being raised about what should be done to further protect the integrity of U.S. elections. Control of voting is in the hands of state and local governments, leading some to wonder what role the federal government should play in helping to strengthen these voting systems from a possible cyber-attack, while not overstepping state jurisdiction.

Enforcing the law, safeguarding public safety, preventing crime, ensuring accountability for people who break the law, and administering all of the processes associated with this work fairly—together these efforts are known broadly as criminal justice. The data commonly used to describe the outcomes related to these efforts tell a complicated story. Take statistics on crime, for example. Do falling crime rates indicate that law enforcement agencies are doing an exceptional job at preventing crime? Or is it that crime is on the decline as a result of more people being locked up in prisons and jails in most states? And what’s happening in the few states where crime and prison populations are declining?

By Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene
It may appear that efforts to adopt an evidence-based approach using data to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and fairness of law enforcement had its genesis back in 1995, when New York City kicked off work on its so-called CompStat system. In that very successful effort, geographic information systems, or GIS, were used to identify the places in the city where officers could be deployed to their best use. It worked so well that New York’s crime rates plummeted and a number of other places tried to emulate the work. But while CompStat may have been at the forefront of using technology in this way, “the history of quantitative crime analysis spans decades,” wrote Jennifer Bachner, a director in the Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Governmental Studies. As Bachner pointed out, in 1829 “an Italian geographer and French statistician designed the first maps that visualized crime data,” including three years of property crime rates as well as education information garnered from France’s census. The maps showed a correlation between the two—more education tended to equate to less crime. Jump forward about 190 years and you’ll find that a number of states, counties and cities have been using the seemingly magical capacity of computers to advance this work dramatically.

CSG Midwest

Ohio has become the latest Midwestern state to adopt a “Safe at Home” law, which allows the survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking and other violent crimes to shield their home addresses from public records. Under HB 359, which took effect in September, these crime victims can get a P.O. Box assigned to them by the secretary of state.

CSG Midwest
As the movement to legalize marijuana or, at least, medical marijuana gathers steam, the Midwest is living up to its reputation as neither the first nor last region of the country to adopt big changes. There are no signs that any Midwest state is ready to follow Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska by fully legalizing recreational use, although marijuana industry observers say that has more to do with the industry’s “Coasts First” focus.
But Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and, as of June 8, Ohio, have established medical marijuana programs. In addition, four states in the region — Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio and Nebraska — have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
North Dakotans will vote in November on a ballot proposal to legalize medical marijuana; Michigan voters might, too, depending on whether state courts rule that the signatures gathered in support of that petition are valid.