Prisoner Reentry – Los Angeles, CA

“I tried to assimilate. And I couldn’t:’ Ex-cons struggle to re-enter the workplace. Now L.A. County trying to help, By Nina Agrawal, July 12, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “When Lily Gonzalez was released from Valley State Prison in Chowchilla in 2012, all she wanted to do was put incarceration behind her. She hoped to go back to work, continue her education at Cal State Northridge and reconnect with her 11-year-old daughter. ‘I tried to assimilate,’ she said. ‘And I couldn’t.’  Gonzalez had been convicted of multiple felonies for falsifying signatures on documents — ‘something stupid I did when I was 18 years old,’ she said. Instead of returning to her old life, including a job with the county’s Department of Consumer Affairs, Gonzalez found herself stuck…”

Bail System – Illinois

Rauner signs law to change rules for paying cash to get out of jail, By Kim Geiger, June 9, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “Low-level offenders who have been arrested and can’t come up with enough money to get out of jail can get a rehearing of their bail amount, under a plan signed into law Friday by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner…”

Public Defender Fees – Los Angeles

L.A. County ends public defender ‘registration fee’, By Nina Agrawal, June 6, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to eliminate the $50 ‘registration fee’ that the public defender’s office and other court-appointed counsel may charge defendants before providing them with legal services…”

Age of Criminal Responsibility in States

How ‘Raise the Age’ laws might reduce recidivism, By Teresa Wiltz, May 31, 2017, Stateline: “You have to be 18 to vote in a general election or join the military without your parents’ consent — and you’ve got to be 21 before you can belly up to the bar. But in some states, if you’re under 18 and you break the law, you’ll be treated as an adult, no matter how slight the crime — even if it’s just jumping a subway turnstile or shoplifting…”

Foster Care Shelters – California

Chronicle investigation spurs calls to close foster care shelters, By Karen de Sá, Joaquin Palomino, and Cynthia Dizikes, May 22, 2017, San Francisco Chronicle: “The state attorney general’s office is looking into hundreds of dubious arrests at California’s shelters for abused and neglected children that were detailed last week in a San Francisco Chronicle investigative report. The attorney general’s response comes amid calls from judges, state lawmakers and youth lawyers to consider shutting down shelters where children as young as 8 have been funneled into the criminal justice system for minor incidents…”

Public Defender System – Louisiana

Class-action status sought for Louisiana indigent defense lawsuit, By Ken Daley, May 4, 2017, New Orleans Times-Picayune: “Civil rights advocates hoping to force a rebuild of Louisiana’s indigent defense system on Thursday (May 4) sought class-action status for a lawsuit filed in February against Gov. John Bel Edwards and the state’s Public Defender Board. The motion for class certification argues that Louisiana has allowed the system meant to provide constitutionally mandated legal aid for poor criminal defendants to buckle under excessive caseloads, inadequate staffing and deficient funding mechanisms. Supporters said that if the class action request is certified, rulings in the case would apply to nearly 20,000 indigent defendants in the state, likely making it the largest indigent-defense case of its kind…”

Ex-Offenders and Employment

Matching ex-offenders with hard-to-fill health care jobs, By Sophie Quinton, April 19, 2017, Stateline: “Collie Thomas sat in the courtyard outside the Johns Hopkins Hospital and marveled at her luck. She works as an orderly in one of the most prestigious hospitals in the country. She was promoted about a year ago. She just moved into a snug new row house. ‘I stayed 10 years in prison, and I worked hard in prison for like a dollar, dollar fifty — for so little,’ said Thomas, 51, her bedazzled pink smartphone glinting in the April sunshine. ‘So when you get these kinds of jobs here, you work your best.’  With unemployment falling and workers hard to find, a growing number of health care employers are following Johns Hopkins’ lead and giving people with criminal records a second chance — hiring them mainly into entry-level jobs in food service, janitorial services and housekeeping. Studies show that employees with records stay in their jobs longer and are no more likely to commit workplace crimes than hires without them…”

Prisoner Re-entry – Colorado

Homelessness, criminal histories create barriers for those seeking to re-enter Colorado society, By Amelia Arvesen, April 15, 2017, Denver Post: “On paper, Glenn Allan Tefft was sure he qualified for an open position at a Longmont, Colorado, printing plant even with his criminal background. But his spirits were low after he believed he was judged on his appearance during what he thought was a suspiciously brief interview. ‘People won’t even look at you,’ he said a week before the opportunity arose. ‘You can tell I’m homeless.’ Almost 39, a three-time felon who’s been to jail but not prison, Tefft is struggling to defy the odds also faced by 95 percent of the prison population that the Congressional Research Service expects will reintegrate back into the greater community at some point…”

Nuisance Policies and Eviction

ACLU sues city over nuisance policy, alleges it punishes domestic violence victims, By Mary Emily O’Hara, April 7, 2017, NBC News: “The ACLU filed a lawsuit Friday against the city of Maplewood, Missouri, over a policy that allegedly evicts domestic violence victims and banishes them from the St. Louis suburb if they call police for help more than twice in six months…”

Court Fines and the Poor

An alternative to paying court debt: Working it off, By Rebecca Beitsch, April 4, 2017, Stateline: “When Steven Robinson first landed in county jail here for cocaine possession about a year ago, he had about $12,000 in court debt and his driver’s license had been suspended for more than 20 years because he never paid off earlier fines and fees. But Robinson, 47, and other inmates in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail are allowed to do community service to work off the debt that they rack up in fines and fees on their way through the court system. By doing more than 1,000 hours of community service while serving time, Robinson has gotten his debt down to about $5,000…”

Driver’s License Suspensions – Minnesota

Unpaid traffic tickets — debt trap for the poor — in MN legislators’ sights, By Bill Salisbury, April 2, 2017, Pioneer Press: “For Carmen Mask, 2009 was a rough year. Mask and her husband divorced, her household income dropped from around $80,000 to $25,000 a year, and she and her three sons moved from their St. Paul house to an apartment. While moving in an old van her ex had left her, a police officer pulled her over and gave her a traffic ticket for driving with a broken tail light. He also told her that her insurance had expired. ‘I was really struggling at that time, and I forgot about the ticket,’ said Mask, 45, an employment counselor who now lives in Minnetonka and works in St. Paul. Soon another cop ticketed her for driving an uninsured vehicle. She couldn’t afford to pay the fine or the insurance, she said, and her driver’s license was suspended. Then a few weeks later, another officer stopped her and handed her a warrant for her arrest…”

Bail System – California

Here’s how state lawmakers plan to reform the bail system in CaliforniaBy Jazmine Ulloa, March 26, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “State lawmakers have unveiled an ambitious plan to reform how counties in California set bail for defendants while they wait for their cases to be resolved or go to trial.  New language added Friday to bills by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) would prevent criminal defendants from having to post money as a condition of release from jail and would shift some power from judges to pretrial services agencies to assess the risks they would pose if allowed out in the community…”

Rural Poverty and Crime

Report: Violent crime rate is higher for rural poor, By Sophia Tareen (AP), March 15, 2017, State Journal-Register: “People living in poverty are more likely to become victims of violent crime than higher income earners whether they live in cities, suburbs or rural areas, but the rural poor experience crime at higher rates, according to a Wednesday report by a Chicago research group…”

Public Defender System – Missouri

Missouri sued over low funding for public defender system, By Margaret Stafford (AP), March 9, 2017, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Missouri’s public defender system is so badly underfunded and understaffed its lawyers are unable to provide even rudimentary representation for indigent clients, who often languish in jail or appear in court without attorneys, according to a class-action lawsuit seeking to force the state to increase funding…”

Ex-Offenders and Occupational Licenses

To help ex-offenders get jobs, some states reconsider licenses, By Sophie Quinton, March 8, 2017, Stateline: “Robert Lewis didn’t think it would be hard to get a job selling insurance. He was a car salesman for decades and sold insurance for a while after graduating from college. But in Lewis’ home state of Illinois, felons can’t get a license to sell insurance. And in 1985, Lewis was arrested for felony theft.  Lewis says he long ago kicked the drug habit that contributed to his arrest, and these days the 62-year-old can often be found running around after his grandkids.  ‘I was a whole other person back then,’ Lewis said of his Reagan-era brush with the law. But the criminal record derailed his recent job application…”

Housing for Prison Parolees – New York

Parolees to go from big house to Syracuse public housing under new state pilot program, By John O’Brien, March 3, 2017, Syracuse Post-Standard: “Public housing in Syracuse will soon be home to certain newly paroled New York state prisoners under a new pilot program.  The state will allow carefully screened and monitored parolees to live in public housing with their families in Syracuse, White Plains and Schenectady, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today.  The goal is to reduce the likelihood that the paroled prisoners will commit new crimes, Cuomo said in a news release…”

Housing and Eviction – Milwaukee, WI

  • Tenants caught in legal tangle get evicted, By Cary Spivak, February 24, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Briana Shipp is caught in a legal whirlpool that won’t stop swirling. Shipp, a 29-year-old single mother, says in the past year she lost her home and possessions when she was evicted on the orders of Elijah Mohammad Rashaed, long one of Milwaukee’s most notorious central-city landlords. Her possessions, she said, were either thrown out or stolen when she was locked out of her house on N. 41st St.  The August eviction — which Shipp argues was illegal — stems from a bedazzling set of circumstances that left Shipp and a group of other Rashaed tenants unsure of whom to pay their rent. As a result, several ended up in eviction court, which has hampered their ability to find new places because many landlords won’t rent to people with evictions on their record…”
  • No title? No worry. LLC that no longer owns house files to evict Milwaukee family, By Cary Spivak, March 3, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “The eviction suit filed against Jesse White last month stands out from the nearly 900 other evictions filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court last month. The difference: Kaja Holdings 2 LLC  — the company seeking to throw the 79-year-old man and his two teenage sons out — does not own the house on N. 26th St. where the family lives. The company lost title to the property on Oct. 31 in a tax foreclosure…”
  • Watchdog Report: Landlord Games, series homepage, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “With little consequence in the courts, Milwaukee landlords have learned how to play the system, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill…”

Legal Services Corporation

Draft of first Trump budget would cut legal aid for millions of poor Americans, By Tom McCarthy, February 21, 2017, The Guardian: “Cuts in Donald Trump’s first draft budget to funding for legal aid for millions of Americans could strip much-needed protections from victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities, families facing foreclosure and veterans in need, justice equality advocates warned Tuesday…”

Public Defender System – Louisiana

La. Governor sued over state’s alleged failure to provide lawyers to poor defendants, By Rebecca Hersher, February 7, 2017, National Public Radio: “Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards was sued Monday over his state’s public defender system, which plaintiffs say violates the U.S. and Louisiana Constitutions by denying effective representation to poor people accused of crimes.  The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court describes defendants kept in jail for months before seeing a lawyer, public defenders who are so overworked they cannot provide adequate counsel and multiple instances in which people accused of minor crimes did not receive an attorney at all…”

Children of Incarcerated Parents

How mass incarceration pushes black children further behind in school, By Melinda D. Anderson, January 16, 2017, The Atlantic: “In the summer of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the closing remarks at the March on Washington. More than 200,000 people gathered to cast a national spotlight on and mobilize resistance to Jim Crow, racist laws and policies that disenfranchised black Americans and mandated segregated housing, schools, and employment. Today, more than 50 years later, remnants of Jim Crow segregation persist in the form of mass incarceration—the imprisonment of millions of Americans, overwhelmingly and disproportionately black adults, in local, state, and federal prisons…”