State Licensing and Employment

  • When unpaid student loan bills mean you can no longer work, By Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Stacy Cowley and Natalie Kitroeff, November 18, 2017, New York Times: “Fall behind on your student loan payments, lose your job. Few people realize that the loans they take out to pay for their education could eventually derail their careers. But in 19 states, government agencies can seize state-issued professional licenses from residents who default on their educational debts. Another state, South Dakota, suspends driver’s licenses, making it nearly impossible for people to get to work. As debt levels rise, creditors are taking increasingly tough actions to chase people who fall behind on student loans…”
  • The disappearing right to earn a living, By Conor Friedersdorf, November 17, 2017, The Atlantic: “In most states, a person who desires to install home-entertainment systems for a living, or as a part-time gig for extra cash, faces relatively few barriers to entry. This is work teenagers routinely do for grandparents after they make a technology purchase. But in Connecticut, a home-entertainment installer is required to obtain a license from the state before serving customers. It costs applicants $185. To qualify, they must have a 12th-grade education, complete a test, and accumulate one year of apprenticeship experience in the field. A typical aspirant can expect the licensing process to delay them 575 days…”

Legal Counsel for Eviction

How free legal help can prevent evictions, By Teresa Wiltz, October 27, 2017, Stateline: “In much of the country, more and more renters are devoting larger and larger portions of their income to rent. For low-income families, this can push them further into poverty and put them at risk for being evicted — and becoming homeless. Evictions destabilize families, forcing them into poorer neighborhoods with higher crime rates. And evictions cost cities money: After a family is evicted, a city can end up losing thousands of dollars in property taxes and unpaid utility bills, and may have to bear increased costs from homeless shelters and hospitals…”

Incarceration and Recidivism – Montana

Montana agencies, volunteers work to reintegrate citizens after incarceration, By David Erickson, October 30, 2017, The Missoulian: “Montana’s prison population has grown faster than the national average, and last year 15,000 people in the state were either behind bars or under criminal justice supervision. The state spent $182 million on corrections in fiscal year 2014, and jails and prisons suffer from overcrowding while taxpayers foot the bill…”

Bail System – California

California’s bail system is ‘unsafe and unfair,’ study finds, By Eric Westervelt, October 25, 2017, National Public Radio: “The national effort to get states to move away from a bail system based on money — something detractors call unjust and antiquated — got a big boost this week: A yearlong study backed by California’s chief justice recommended money bail be abolished and replaced with a system that includes robust safety assessments and expanded pretrial services. Calling the state’s commercial bail system ‘unsafe and unfair,’ a working group created by California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye argues that the state’s bail system bases a defendant’s liberty too much on his or her finances, rather than an assessment of whether the defendant is a flight or safety risk…”

Bail Reform – Alabama

Too poor to make bail: Alabama forced to reform ‘two-tiered’ jail system, By Anna Claire Vollers, October 11, 2017, Al.com: “In May, Kandace Edwards had hit rock bottom. She was 29 years old and homeless, the mother of two toddlers. They lived in rural Randolph County on the Alabama-Georgia line, staying with a variety of friends – some of whom did not have electricity or running water – since her eviction five months previously. Edwards was also 7 months pregnant and had just lost her waitressing job, she said, after the restaurant let her go because her high-risk pregnancy prevented her from working in certain conditions. She had no income, relying on food stamps and Medicaid for support. She’d granted temporary custody of her children to her mother-in-law. Then Edwards was arrested for forging a $75 check. It was a felony charge, and bail was set at $7,500…”

Public Defender System – Tennessee

TN high court urges change, better funding to protect legal rights of the poor, By Jamie Satterfield, October 9, 2017, Knoxville News Sentinel: “The Tennessee Supreme Court announced last week it is going to try to ratchet down the costs of providing attorneys for poor people, recommend a boost in pay for those lawyers, and lend its voice to a push for money to reform a broken system. The high court in a news release detailed changes it wants to see in ensuring poor people are afforded legal representation that pass constitutional muster. Nearly all require buy-in from Tennessee lawmakers, who hold the purse strings…”

Prison Diversion Programs for Mothers

Breaking the  cycle of incarceration by keeping mothers and children together, By Rebecca Beitsch, September 13, 2017, Stateline: “When Stephanie Petitt was arrested for violating probation for prior drug and robbery convictions, she learned two things: She was 16 weeks pregnant, and she would probably deliver her baby while incarcerated at an Oklahoma prison. In most places, an incarcerated woman who gives birth almost immediately hands over her newborn to a social worker, who places the child with a relative or with foster parents. Petitt said she was told she would have an hour to hold her newborn. Just a few states offer alternatives that allow mother and child to stay together longer. At least eight states have so-called prison nurseries where nonviolent female offenders live with their children for a few months to several years…”

Legal Representation in Evictions

Denver landlords tried to evict nearly 8,000 households last year. The success rate largely depended on one factor: attorneys., By Jennifer Brown, September 13, 2017, Denver Post: “Denver landlords tried to evict nearly 8,000 households last year. Their success depended largely on one factor: whether their tenants hired an attorney. And they almost never did. In Denver County eviction court, landlords have an attorney about 90 percent of the time. Tenants, on the other hand, are represented by counsel about 1 percent of the time, according to new research by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, which reviewed 93,000 eviction filings from 2001 through last year…”

Ex-Offenders and Employment

‘Ban the Box’ laws may be harming young black men seeking jobs, By Rebecca Beitsch, August 22, 2017, Stateline: “‘Ban the box’ laws, which bar employers from asking job applicants whether they have a criminal record, may be harming some of the people they are intended to help.  Twenty-nine states prevent state and sometimes city and county employers from including a criminal history box on job applications. Nine states have extended the ban to private employers as well…”

Bail Reform

Post bail, By Jon Schuppe, August 20, 2017, NBC News: “On the ground floor of a deteriorating county courthouse, in a room outfitted with temporary office furniture and tangles of electrical wires, a cornerstone of America’s criminal justice system is crumbling. A 20-year-old man in a green jail jumpsuit appears on a video monitor that faces a judge. It is early June, and he has been arrested for driving a car with a gun locked in the glove compartment.  If he were in almost any other courtroom in the country, he’d be ordered to stay behind bars until he posted bail — if he could afford it. This is what millions of people charged with crimes from shoplifting to shootings have done for more than two centuries. The bail system, enshrined in the Bill of Rights, is meant to ensure that all defendants, presumed innocent before trial, get a shot at freedom and return to court. But allowing people to pay for their release has proved unfair to people who don’t have much money…”

Prisoner Reentry

To reduce recidivism, states scrap barriers for ex-offenders, By Rebecca Beitsch, July 27, 2017, Stateline: “To ease prison crowding and rein in corrections spending, state legislatures are trying to help ex-offenders re-enter society with the goal of ensuring they don’t return to prison. People exiting prison often struggle to find work and housing, and many legislators say the law continues to punish them as they are hit with court debt and barred from entering certain professions and, in some places, from getting public assistance…”

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…”