Criminal justice reform in the states: North Dakota legislature adopts two bills, Texas holds hearing on decriminalizing marijuana, and more

Update drawn from the Daily Appeal and Political Report newsletters. Find out more on our legislative roundup page.


The Idaho House approved a bill (House Bill 118) this week that requires that “all pretrial risk assessment tools shall be transparent” and all records of their use be “open to public inspection, auditing, and testing.” The bill would also do away with the “trade secret” exemption that makes it nearly impossible for anyone challenging the validity of the assessments to obtain the details of the algorithms used. While the use of risk assessment tools has been a part of many bail reform efforts, there are concerns, as Beryl Lipton reports in MuckRock, that “computational models, like those used in the risk assessments, have a substantial downside and could automate and reinforce prejudices against groups that have long been subject to discrimination. Thirty-three of Idaho’s 41 counties use some form of pretrial risk assessment.

New Mexico
House Bill 57, the proposal to fully abolish felony disenfranchisement, moved past one House committee in January. But on Monday, the Judiciary Committee approved the bill while narrowing it: The amended version enfranchises people once they are released from prison, but not incarcerated people. State Representative Damon Ely, a Democrat who sits on both committees that heard the bill, had indicated during the aforementioned January hearing that he did not support incarcerated people’s voting rights. Still, this amended version is a major step as well. It would enfranchise people on parole and probation, who represent the vast majority of people disenfranchised in New Mexico, according to a Sentencing Project report.
New York
Assemblymember Dan Quart is once again pushing to repeal the state ban on owning “gravity knives,” Jon Campbell reports in The Appeal. It has swept up thousands “for owning what critics argue are common work tools,” Campbell writes. Governor Andrew Cuomo has previously vetoed bills reforming this, as the state’s district attorneys association urged him to.
North Dakota
The legislature overwhelmingly adopted two criminal justice bills last week.

These bills now head to Governor Doug Burgum’s desk for his signature. [Update: Burgum signed both HB 1039 and HB 1183 on March 7.]


The state is considering a series of reforms to decriminalize marijuana and expand access to medical marijuana. On Monday, a legislative committee held a hearing on House Bill 63, which does the former. Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, told Marijuana Moment that the bill’s goals are “to see no arrests, no jail time and most importantly no criminal records.” Marijuana Moment writes that House Bill 63 would reduce possession of up to one ounce of marijuana it to a civil offense punishable with a fine. However, prosecutors could still file misdemeanor charges for a third possession violation. Michael Arria reports in The Appeal that the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas is an obstacle to reforming marijuana laws.