Congress Pushes Back of Jeff Sessions’ Regressive Approach to Criminal Justice

Republican Senator Rand Paul and Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy have pledged to fight back against Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vow to seek the longest possible sentences even for non-violent drug offenses. Paul, Leahy, and Democrat Jeff Merkley have introduced the Justice Safety Valve Act, which would allow federal judges the discretion to give out sentences below the mandatory minimum in some cases. The Senators noted the failure of increasing incarceration to lower crime rates, as well as the extraordinary cost to taxpayers. They also noted the ineffectiveness of Sessions’ approach for treating opioid addiction.

Former Civil Rights Attorney Takes the Lead Towards Becoming Philadelphia’s Next DA

It is possible for prosecutors to be champions of progressive criminal justice reform. Larry Krasner, a former civil rights attorney who has never been a prosecutor, has taken the lead to win the Democratic nomination over several experienced prosecutors and a former city manager. He will run against one Republican candidate in the fall. Krasner is a strong opponent of mass incarceration and the death penalty. He has fought hard against the death penalty while advocating for his clients. In 25 years of defending capital cases, none of his clients have been sent to death row. He seeks to work towards “a criminal justice system that works for everyone” and a “society that builds people up instead of tearing them down.”

 

North Carolina need to identify and support candidates for district attorney who are willing to create a judical system that works for all citizens, like Krasner.

HB 684: Sex Offender Registry Fee

A bill has been introduced in the House which would require sex offenders to pay an initial registration fee of ninety dollars and an annual registration fee of ninety dollars on the anniversary of the initial registration date. The attorney general would recover delinquent fees in a civil action. Fees would be used to offset costs associated with the registration of sex offenders.

Possible Changes to Recovery and Treatment Courts

Judge Marion Warren, Director of N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee  to present a plan that proposes to unify NC treatment courts and put them in every judicial district in the State. The plan, entitled Judicially Managed Accountability and Recovery Act (JMARA), proposes to coordinate court, community, and college social work resources for accountability and recovery in our communities.

According to the presentation, this model will provide treatment, when needed, and case management.  The treatment would be provided by community treatment providers, with little to no funds from the state.  Senator Barringer expressed approval for the plan and emphasized that there are many community based recovery and support programs that are volunteer based, requiring no additional funding from the state.  Judge Warren stated that he thought the many case managers that would be needed for this plan could be harvested from the schools of social work at the colleges and universities around the state.  He indicated that, under the supervision of professionals, these students would benefit from practical, real world experience and the state would benefit financially from using students in this important role.

Senator Van Duyn expressed concern for the DWI Court in her county of Buncombe, which she felt may be threatened by this new statewide plan.  Judge Warren indicated that the existing treatment courts would be folded into the new system. How that would happen and who would fund those new courts is currently undecided.

There is currently no legislation that associated with this model.  We will continue to closely follow and report on this proposal.

Brunswick County Get New Nonprofit to Support Reentry

Return with Honor is a new nonprofit in Brunswick County dedicated to creating employment opportunities and training for people who have served in the military and are ex-offenders.  Specifically, Return with Honor will hire people who have served in the military to train and mange people who are on house arrest, work release, probation, parole or weekend jail.  The goal is to address employment issues for people who served in the military and to help reduce recidivism by creating a strong reentry program for the criminally involved.

This combination of helping employ ex-military and ex-offenders is exactly the type of community based program desperately needed in North Carolina.  To reduce the overuse of jails and prisons, there must be support systems available to those people reentering society to break the cycle of recidivism.  In 2015-2016, North Carolina released almost 24,000 people from prison.  This number does not include all the people who reenter communities from jails and probation.  The Carolina Justice Policy Center makes it a priority to support entities that are working to make reentry a positive experience that reduces recidivism.

Return with Honor is hosting an open house on April 6, 2017 from noon until 1pm.  Learn more about Return with Honor »

5th Annual 2017 Law Enforcement Summit on Heroin and Fentanyl

The fifth annual Law Enforcement Summit on Heroin and Fentanyl, hosted by NC Harm Reduction, was last week, as reported by News and Observer.  Advocates and members of law enforcement from across North Carolina participated in the summit, which was held at N.C. Museum of History

Presenters gave valuable information on the dangerous impacts on increased fentanyl use and the real risk this drug creates for our communities.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) fentanyl is a “powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50-100 times more potent.” Presenters from as far away as Massachusetts, offered first hand accounts of the programs they are successfully using to divert the drug addicted to treatment.

Read a full article on this valuable summit.