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Advancing Restorative Justice

Problem

Despite the fact that cannabis is decriminalized in twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia, the Last Prisoner Project estimates that there are 40,000 cannabis inmates in the country today. Nearly 600,000 individuals were imprisoned for cannabis offenses in 2017, and despite broad legalization, cannabis arrests are on the rise in various areas throughout the country. Furthermore, re-entry into the job market is a major problem for previously imprisoned people. Therefore, released inmates have a tough time finding and keeping work following re-entry. Additionally, due to residential instability, previously imprisoned people may end up homeless after being released since strict housing laws make it more difficult for them to find stable housing.

Solution

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced that her office has expunged more than 15,000 non-violent possession cannabis convictions over the past three years. When cannabis use became legalized in Illinois in 2020, Foxx worked to bring relief to individuals who had paid their debt to society by removing past convictions from their records. Having a clean record can help these individuals with employment and housing opportunities. 

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Scott Holcomb, Representative (Atlanta, GA)

Better Protections for Victims of Wrongful Conviction

The Georgia House of Representatives unanimously passed NewDEAL Leader Representative Scott Holcomb’s legislation to improve the process for compensating victims of wrongful conviction. Under the bill, a newly created panel of legal experts would review potential wrongful convictions and make a compensation recommendation to a House Committee, replacing the need for a House member to file a special resolution. The measure would have the state pay victims between $50,000 and $100,000 per year spent incarcerated. According to Holcomb, 38 states have a similar system in place for compensating those who have been wrongfully convicted. Clare Gilbert, Executive Director of the Georgia Innocence Project, which works to free the wrongfully convicted, praised the legislation’s passage, saying “This bill does provide some financial security for exonerees to rebuild their lives in freedom.” The legislation will now head to the Senate. Read more here.

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2021 Ideas Challenge Finalists

The NewDEAL is pleased to announce the finalists from this year’s Ideas Challenge, our biennial policy competition highlighting innovative policy solutions from NewDEAL Leaders across the nation. Their ideas would reimagine the social safety net, create good jobs, expand education opportunities, build more sustainable communities, and strengthen our democracy. This year’s Challenge came at an especially important time to identify best practices, as Leaders grapple with the work of rebuilding and recovery in the wake of the pandemic, and have a unique opportunity to act with federal funds from the American Rescue Plan. Winners in each of five categories will be announced next week during our 11th Annual Leaders Conference, on Thursday, November 18, and be featured in Governing Magazine. Join us on social media to celebrate these extraordinary ideas, and click here to read details on the finalists in all five categories!

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Garlin Gilchrist II, Lieutenant Governor (Michigan)

Reducing Recidivism with Employment

This week, NewDEAL Leader Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist joined leaders from government, business, and law enforcement to announce a new proposal for a  “Job Court” pilot program. The program is a creative solution to decrease recidivism rates by making employment opportunities available for defendants accused of low-level, nonviolent crimes. The $5.5 million investment would give 450 eligible defendants good paying jobs and transferable career skills that will help them find jobs after their sentence. To read more about how this proposal could reduce recidivism and give Michiganders a second chance while also helping businesses staff up, read the article here.

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New Standards for Police Use of Force

Problem

Over the last year and a half, the over policing of certain segments of our communities, particularly for Black and Brown residents, has reached a point of reckoning. Communities across the county have faced terrible incidents of excessive use of force at the hands of police, and Montgomery County, Maryland has not been immune. Here in Montgomery County the data demonstrates disparities. While Black residents make up about 20 percent of the county, they make up 55% of use of force incidents.  With Latino residents included, that accounts for over 75% of use of force incidents by police.  Unfortunately, we have had incidents of police killing black residents and have also had very public incidents of excessive use of force.  But for cell phone and body cameras, these incidents would not have come to light.  

Solution

We drafted a law to amend the police use of force policy. This policy prohibits a police officer from using deadly force except when absolutely necessary, when no other alternatives are available. This includes prohibiting neck or carotid restraints and striking a restrained individual. The bill bans no-knock warrants and shooting from or at moving vehicles, unless the vehicle is being used as a weapon and the circumstances would authorize the use of deadly force.

The policy must provide guidelines protecting individuals without regard to race, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation. Rules must protect vulnerable community members and populations disproportionately impacted. 

The law requires officers to stop or attempt to stop the use of excessive force or the commission of a crime by another officer.  Officers who intervene must not be retaliated against or disciplined for taking action.

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Equal Access to Justice for Victims and Witnesses of Violent Crimes and Human Trafficking

Problem

The U and T visa programs were created back in 2000 with bipartisan support in Congress to benefit both victims and witnesses as well as law enforcement agencies. Certifications from law enforcement agencies assist victims and witnesses in applying for immigrant protections, and facilitate cooperation with law enforcement from communities that are sometimes wary of law enforcement. Victims and witnesses of crime and trafficking have to submit the certification in order to start the application process. While many agencies and jurisdictions have processes in place for victims and witnesses to obtain certifications, many others do not, and several have not encountered these requests before. As a result, many victims will wait years to get a certification, and many will wait indefinitely, not getting a response at all.

Solution

This idea increases victim and witness participation in the criminal legal system and promotes public safety and assistance to law enforcement by creating a consistent victim certification process for vulnerable immigrant victims and witnesses of crime and trafficking, and standardizes the process for law enforcement, prosecution, and investigatory agencies to provide victims who have been helpful in an investigation or prosecution of serious crimes, described in the federal Violence Against Women Act, the certification form they need to help them apply for a U-visa or a T-visa. It does not require that a law enforcement agency provide certification. It only requires that a decision be made within ninety days. If there are extenuating circumstances, the agency must provide a written explanation for the delay and projected timeline for the issuance of a decision.

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Greg Fischer, Mayor (Louisville, KY)

Reforming Louisville’s Police Department

After the murder of Breonna Taylor and the protests that followed, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer commissioned an independent, top-to-bottom review of his city’s police department. The results of the review, which conducted over 100 interviews and include a roadmap to reform, were released at a press conference on Thursday, where Mayor Fischer noted that the audit underscored the pain felt in the community and within the department. The roadmap ahead for the police and the city includes the passage of Breonna’s Law to ban no-knock warrants and mandate body cameras, the creation of a civilian police review board, and the creation of a system to deploy social workers for appropriate calls. Read the city’s summary of the report or see the full, 155-page review here.

Community Not Incarceration

Problem

The Salt Lake County jail struggles with overcrowding and high recidivism rates. A substantial percentage of those in jail have committed nonviolent crimes associated with mental health issues and substance abuse. Repeated arrests add to their criminal record but do nothing to address the underlying problems.  When they leave jail without appropriate interventions, they often are re-arrested and incarcerated.  Research has shown that an evidence-based assessment and referral to the appropriate type of treatment services increase the chance that they won’t re-offend.

Solution

Mayor McAdams’ team proposed using state grant funding for sheriff’s staff to conduct screenings for recidivism and behavioral health concerns in the jail.  The county then combined the findings from that screening with case management by Criminal Justice Service staff to ensure the appropriate level of supervision, placement and follow up with treatment. The partnership between the Mayor, the Sheriff, the District Attorney and the County Council ensures that the right people and funding levels are aligned with a desired outcome: enhanced public safety, less jail overcrowding, reduced recidivism and access to behavioral health treatment to address the underlying cause of nonviolent crimes.

Justice Web

Problem

The historical lack of communication and information sharing between municipal courts in Montgomery County and the jail led to higher prison costs and duplicative efforts to track down information. This lack of coordination also hindered the social service system providers such as Children Services, Child Support Enforcement, and the tracking of Child Daycare Providers. 

Solution

County Commissioner Dan Foley helped create JusticeWeb in 2005, a multi-county comprehensive criminal justice information system designed to improve mission critical data support for all levels of the justice system. Since its inception, JusticeWeb has saved taxpayer dollars by allowing the county to better manage its jail population and lower costs, and provide law enforcement with real-time data to make the community safer. JusticeWeb continues to grow and evolve as additional data is obtained and new technology develops. Most recently a mobile application was developed for use on most smartphones. 

The Santa Cruz Pact

Problem

Santa Cruz has long grappled with persistent drug and alcohol abuse-fueled petty crimes in its downtown area. The community’s sense of safety and economic prosperity are adversely impacted by this cycle of recidivism and many in Santa Cruz consider the local criminal justice system to be a revolving door for low-level criminals.

Solution

The City and County of Santa Cruz have joined forces to reduce recidivism among the community’s most chronic low level offenders. County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty helped launch PACT in April 2014, an innovative multi-agency and multi-disciplinary team, working collectively to provide street outreach, case management and treatment in exchange for strict court accountability. This adaptive program offers wraparound services to chronic offenders, on a voluntary basis, in exchange for strict accountability for their actions. The PACT program has already seen evidence of success with recidivism rates for PACT-intervened clients greatly reduced in the first twelve months of the program.