Get Informed

Subscribe to our newsletters for regular updates, analysis and context straight to your email.

Close Newsletter Signup

Chicago Activists Say #NoCopAcademy; Hospital Says No Kidney For Son of Justice-Involved Dad … and more

AFSC
Debbie Southorn

Chicago Activists Say #NoCopAcademy; Hospital Says No Kidney For Son of Justice-Involved Dad … and more


Note: This first appeared in our daily In Justice Today newsletter. To get stories like these in your inbox every day, you can sign up here.

In today’s news roundup, we bring you stories about Chicago activists protesting a new police training academy, the St. Petersburg Police Department trying out gun cameras, Pensacola’s State Attorney directly filing kids into adult court at a higher rate than other Florida head prosecutors, shifts in marijuana policy in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, the failure-to-launch of a King County (Seattle) ballot initiative against safe injection sites, Orange County, California prosecutors losing a fight over the definition of “gang member,” a father’s collateral consequences putting his young son’s life at risk, and then-DHS Secretary John Kelly advancing a directive to paint immigrants as criminals.

Policing

  • Chicago Activists Fight Against a $95 Million Police Training Academy.Using the hashtag #NoCopAcademy, more than two dozen community and national groups have banded together to demand that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel abandon a $95 million plan for a new police training academy. Instead, these groups want to see that money invested in schools, health clinics, and housing. In 2013, Mayor Emanuel shuttered six schools in the same neighborhood where the police training academy would be built. [Nation Action / The Nation]
  • Body cameras, now gun cameras? Some police trying them out. The St. Petersburg, Florida, Police Department has tested out gun-mounted cameras as a possible alternative to body cameras. Now police departments in the Minneapolis, Minnesota and Flagstaff, Arizona metro areas plan to follow suit. The NYPD Deputy Chief Timothy Trainor notes that a gun camera only activates when a gun is drawn, and that his department is “more concerned about capturing (all) interactions between the community that we are tasked to serve and the officers.” Ngozi Ndulue, the senior director of the NAACP’s criminal justice program, said “we need to focus more on the policies for implementing body cameras and making sure officers are turning on their body cameras.” [Dave Collins / AP]

Juvenile Justice

  • “Pipeline To Prison” Series Spotlights Prevalence Of Juveniles Sent To Florida’s Adult Courts. With sponsorship from groups including the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Campaign for Youth Justice, the Pensacola Bay Area League of Women Voters chapter presented on how Florida State Attorneys using “direct file” to prosecute kids as adults contributes to a “pipeline to prison.” Of particular concern to the chapter is the outsized role that Florida’s First Judicial Circuit plays in the process. Paula Montgomery of the LWV branch’s juvenile justice committee explained to the audience that, “Direct File is a process by which the state’s attorney has sole discretion of whether the child is tried as a juvenile or as an adult,” and that “There’s no judicial oversight; there’s no defense [input]. It’s just all in the hands of the state’s attorney. This process results in a great many children, actually, being tried as adults, particularly in the First Judicial Circuit,” which includes Pensacola. The only other judicial circuit in the 2015–16 fiscal year with a higher number of kids transferred directly to adult court is the the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, which includes Tampa. However, Andrew Warren defeated former State Attorney Mark Ober in his reelection bid to become the new State Attorney starting in Jan. 2017, and has reduced the number of kids direct-filed. First Judicial Circuit State Attorney Bill Eddins has been the circuit’s head prosecutor since Jan. 2005. [Sandra Averhart / WUWF]

Drugs

  • Dallas Doobies in Doubt. Texas law handles marijuana possession with a hammer’s subtlety: two ounces and a first offense can render a sentence of up to six months. Some Texas District Attorneys, like Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg in Houston and Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez, have recently opted to substitute jail time with a 4-hour class and a fine, respectively. Without the help of Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson, the city of Dallas seemed prepared to head in the same direction. However, the plan hit a snag in the Dallas County Commissioners court over the prospective cite-and-release program’s funding. Johnson has said that it is not her role to “legislate,” yet as the county’s head prosecutor, she has a wide swath of discretion on how to discharge its duties. For example, she could create a robust diversion program to ensure that low-level marijuana possession does not generate needless incarceration. Instead, Johnson continues to abdicate responsibility by stating that any marijuana policy is entirely up to individual cities and police departments. [Jessica Pishko / In Justice TodaySee Also Savannah, Georgia Alderman Van Johnson has announced a plan to introduce an ordinance to eliminate jail time and lessen fines for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. [Eric Curl / Savannah Morning News]
  • New policy in San Antonio could lead to fewer arrests for marijuana possession. While Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood’s tenure continues to be burdened with the specter of allegations of his personal prosecutorial misconduct, he could be doing his part to reduce low-level arrests and prosecutions in San Antonio. District Attorney LaHood’s pilot program of cite-and-release for under four ounces of marijuana would extend to property damage under $500, theft of hotel or restaurant services under $750, and driving with an invalid license. However, policing discretion places limits on what such a program can do, and LaHood himself reiterated that he would alter or scrap the program if he is not satisfied with the results. [Larry Hannan / In Justice Today]
  • Seattle-area judge rules initiative to ban safe injection sites is invalid.An attempt to preemptively block safe injection sites by ballot initiative was struck down by King County, Washington, Superior Court Judge Veronica Alicea Galvan. Judge Galvan held that the proposed initiative would illegally “impinge” on the county’s legislative authority and the health board. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has “consistently” backed safe injection sites. [Allison Sundell / KING-TV]

Gang Injunctions

  • Prosecutors Forced to Redefine ‘Gang Member’. Two Orange County, California gang injunctions have stalled in court since 2015. Generally, these gang suppression orders are swiftly implemented and rarely contested. But in these cases, lawyers have been representing the alleged members from the start. Using a 2013 Ninth Circuit ruling that said there should be a “meaningful” process to determine gang membership, lawyers from the Urban Peace Institute convinced a judge to lay out specific criteria to prove that an alleged member is an active threat to the community. Thus far, O.C. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ office has failed to bring forward a single eligible defendant. [Maura Ewing / In Justice Today]

Collateral Consequences

  • A criminal record is preventing this father from donating a kidney to dying son. A 2-year-old child is in danger of dying because his father is not being allowed to donate a kidney to his son because of the dad’s criminal history. A.J. Dickerson was born without kidneys and his father, Anthony Dickerson, is a perfect match. But Emory Hospital in Atlanta delayed the transplant after Anthony Dickerson was thrown in jail for violating his probation. The case is a chilling example of the stigmatization people with a criminal record face. While it’s usually a struggle just to find a job or a place to live, society’s desire to keep punishing people who’ve been incarcerated could in this instance kill a child who doesn’t have to die. [Larry Hannan / In Justice Today]

Crimmigration

  • Top Trump Official John Kelly Ordered ICE to Portray Immigrants as Criminals to Justify Raids. Further reinforcing the idea that mass ICE raids are more about ideology than public safety, Vanderbilt University Law School students filed public records request and unveiled a DHS plan to portray immigrants as criminals. For example, an ICE executive sent an email to several agency chiefs of staff on February 10 that read in part, “Please put together a white paper covering the three most egregious cases.” In Texas, an agent from ICE’s San Antonio office wrote an internal email that read: “I have been pinged by HQ this morning indicating that we failed at this tasking.” [Alice Speri / The Intercept]