A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

Click for January 18 edition of Pennsylvania Bulletin.

The information below is from Crisci Associates PA Capitol Digest.

Note: All state and federal offices and courts, will be closed on Monday, January 20, in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

House Completes Three Days of Voting Session; Returns to Session Next Week

On Monday, January 13 the House gaveled in for their first of three voting session days of the New Year. View reports from the three House session days of January 13, 14 and 15 here.

The House advanced several bills; including a few notable ones — 

House Bill 37, approved on a 120-74 vote, would prohibit the use of cell phones while operating a motor vehicle and change existing law regarding texting while driving, both becoming a secondary offense. This bill now heads to the Senate.

House Bill 726, approved on a 102-91 vote, regarding sentences for crimes committed with firearms, would require courts to impose the mandatory sentence required by that statute consecutive to any other sentence imposed by the court. This bill now heads to the Senate.

The House is scheduled to be voting session next week on Tuesday, January 21 and Wednesday,

Session Schedule

House

January 21, 22

February 3, 4, 5

Budget Hearings: February 18 – March 5

March 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25

April 6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 16

May 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20

June 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30

Senate 

January 27, 28, 29

February 3, 4, 5

Budget Hearings: February 18 – March 5

March 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25

April 6, 7, 8

May 4, 5, 6, 18,19, 20

June 1,2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30

‘It’s on Us PA’ Awards $1 Million to 36 Colleges, Universities

State and national leaders of the “It’s On Us” initiative joined Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera on Thursday, January 16 to announce nearly $1 million in grants from the Wolf Administration to combat campus sexual assault at 36 colleges and universities. Read more here.

The Criminal Justice Center is built on the former site of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin.

Headlines from PoliticsPA

Pennsylvania Capital-Star: Cocaine, marijuana and heroin topped fourth quarter drug seizures | The Numbers Racket

AP: State House votes to stop drivers’ use of hand-held phones

Pennsylvania Capital-Star: Pa. Corrections officials recommend shuttering state prison in Luzerne County. But Gov. Tom Wolf will have the final word

City Paper: The results are in: Here’s who’s using medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, and why

WITF: Pa. House moves to keep people convicted of gun crimes in jail longer

Pennsylvania Capital-Star: Pa. lawmakers roll out bipartisan proposal aimed at curbing Medicaid fraud

AP: Pot politics: Some Northeast states regroup on legalization

https://www.themarshallproject.org/
THE BEST OF THE MARSHALL PROJECT

The elected reformers fight back. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner this week took the extraordinary step of filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city’s leadership, including police officials, alleging that she is a victim of sweeping racial prejudice. Gardner is not alone in her assertions. Reform prosecutors across the country have run into public and fierce opposition from police, judges and other elected officials. And black women prosecutors, in particular, have been targeted. Eli Hager and Nicole Lewis have our story.

I’m not trying to fight the system. I just don’t want to die.” Even in states where medical marijuana is legal, some people on parole or probation are threatened with revocation or prosecution for using it, writes Eli Hager in this story co-published with The Daily Beast. Officials in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, for example, have threatened Melissa Gass, a mother of five, for using pot a doctor lawfully prescribed for her seizures. She’s now the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit seeking to strike down county rules that punish these patients for exercising their rights under state law.

As you’ve no doubt heard ad nauseum from TV news channels and Twitter, the House of Representatives delivered its articles of impeachment to the Senate this week, officially kicking off a trial of President Trump. But so much has happened this week alone, that it’s really difficult to keep up with the latest developments and what they mean. To help catch up, and make sense of it all, we recommend you check out the best reporting on the Senate impeachment trial we’ve seen, collected in our curated catalogue, The Record.

THE BEST OF THE REST

Criminal justice stories from around the web as selected by our staff.

Take the time over this long weekend to savor Melissa Gira Grant’s long-form piece for The New Republic on the myriad struggles of transgender people to find justice in our courts. From the small hearing room in Brooklyn where Layleen Polanco’s family and friends sought accountability for her death on Rikers, which occurred while she was being held in lieu of $500 bail, to the first trans civil rights case heard in the Supreme Court last October, every case Grant touches on forces the question she says is at the heart of it all: can the law bring us justice? — Trip Eggert

I was delighted to see a New York Times magazine essay grappling with the question of what the hell happened to Rudy Giuliani. “Did he change—or did America?” I had often wondered precisely the same thing. “How did a man who was once—pick your former Rudy: priestly prosecutor, avenging crime-buster, America’s mayor—become this guy, ranting on TV, unapologetically pursuing debunked conspiracy theories, butt-dialing reporters, sharing photos of himself scheming in actual smoke-filled rooms?” In a whimsical piece rich with historical detail (remember the Brooklyn Museum controversy over the Virgin Mary made of dung?), Jonathan Mahler comes to the disheartening conclusion that Rudy has always been Rudy, but America has become uniquely receptive to his particular brand of shamelessness—that the era of Trump created plenty of job opportunities for a brazen, “nakedly vindictive” huckster. — Beth Schwartzapfel

The day-to-day grind of journalism isn’t always as dramatic as “Spotlight” and “The Post” suggest. But it was easy to imagine the movie version of this week’s New York Times report on how smuggled cellphones allow prisoners in Mississippi to show the world the horrors they face. Reporter Rick Rojas opens with a call in which men at the state penitentiary in Parchman describe “mold everywhere, rats everywhere,” before zooming out to describe the growing role of cellphones in getting information about these secretive institutions out to the public. — Maurice Chammah

January 21, 1793. King Louis XVI is executed by French Revolutionaries. Click for report from History.com.

In Re: Order Amending Rules 102, 105, 120, 121, 301, 313, 341, 502, 553, 701, 702, 901, 1311, 1312, 1316, 1323, 1501-1504, 1511-1517, 1531, 1532, 1541-1543, 1551, 1561, 1571, 1573, 1701, 1702, 1704, 1762, 1770, 1781, 1911, 2702, 3307, 3331 & Adopting Rules -No. 287 Appellate Court Rules

Click for Order.

Click for Text of Rules.

In Re: Order Amending Rules 102, 120, 121, 907, 1112, 1113, 1311, 1701, 2315, 2321, 2323, and Rescinding Rule 3304 of PA Rules of Appellate Procedure – No. 286 Appellate Court Rules

Click for Order.

Click for Text of Rules.

February 18 is deadline to comment on proposed amendment to Appellate Rule 302.

Click for Notice of Rulemaking.

February 18 is deadline to comment on proposed amendment to Appellate Rule 145.

Click for Notice of Rulemaking.

February 14 is deadline to comment on proposed amendment to Criminal Rule 431.

Click for Notice of Rulemaking.

February 14 is deadline to comment on proposed amendment to Criminal Rule 573.

Click for Notice of Rulemaking.

The information below is from Crisci Associates PA Capitol Digest.

Session Schedule

2020 legislative session schedule for the House and Senate —

House

January 13, 14, 15, 21, 22

February 3, 4, 5

Budget Hearings: February 18 – March 5

March 16, 17, 18, 23, 24,25

April 6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 16

May 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20

June 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30

Senate 

January 27, 28, 29

February 3, 4, 5

Budget Hearings: February 18 – March 5

March 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25

April 6, 7, 8

May 4, 5, 6, 18,19, 20

June 1,2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30

Public Hearings

January 14 — House Judiciary Committee voting meeting on HB 161, HB 2174, HB 2175, HB 2176, HB 2177, HB 2178, SB 60, HR 618. Room 60 East Wing, Capitol Building, Harrisburg, PA. 1000a.

Fiscal Year 2019-20 Budget Hearing Schedules (February 18-March 5, 2020)

House Appropriations

Click Here to watch online

Senate Appropriations

Click Here to watch online

Pennsylvania Bulletin for January 11, 2020.

Click to read.

Headlines from PoliticsPA

AP: State police provide guidance for sale of ‘ghost gun’ frames

https://www.themarshallproject.org/
THE BEST OF THE MARSHALL PROJECT

Inside Mississippi’s “restitution” program, a different kind of debtors prison. State judges lock up people while they work to earn money at low-wage, sometimes dangerous jobs to pay court-imposed fees, fines and victim compensation. The state also imposes housing, transportation and other costs on those struggling to pay their debts. There are racial disparities in the program as well, and it can take months—or even years—of hard labor to dig out. Anna Wolfe and Michelle Liu of Mississippi Today and our data reporter Andrew Calderón have this deep dive into an unusual program, in collaboration with the USA TODAY Network, the Clarion Ledger in Jackson and the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting. Read more about how our investigation unfolded in Mississippi.

The factors behind Mississippi’s prison violence. At least five prisoners have died in part because the state’s prison system continues to be dangerously understaffed and subject to gang rivalries that worsen the horrific conditions of confinement for many. Gang connections among prison staff, and pervasive cellphone use by prisoners, also are key parts of the problem. Investigative reporters Alysia Santo and Joseph Neff continue their coverage. Some context: The Mississippi private prison where gangs ran the show.

The elasticity of prison time. Michael Gaston is serving a 50-year sentence for murder in Texas. At first he wasn’t sure he’d be able to survive all those days and nights behind bars. But then a conversation with an older prisoner gave him the inspiration he needed to make something of the countless hours; to fight back against the oppression of prison time itself. “It’s a thing that one can smell and feel, and sometimes see out of the corner of one’s eye, here in this dark place. Trying to stay moving through it is like trying to swim across a wide, fast-moving river,” Gaston writes in the latest in our “Life Inside” series.

THE BEST OF THE REST

Criminal justice stories from around the web as selected by our staff.

Impeachment-watchers and those fascinated—or horrified—by the seemingly-unprecedented presidency we’re living through may have enjoyed Slow Burn, the Slate podcast that examined first Watergate and then the Clinton impeachment (and now the feud between Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur). Without the passage of time to shellack those events with a veneer of inevitability, it’s surprising that Nixon almost got away with his misdeeds—and that Clinton almost didn’t. On the heels of Slow Burn, I really enjoyed Bagman, Rachel Maddow’s podcast about Nixon’s vice president Spiro Agnew. Having grown up in a post-Watergate era, I always considered Agnew little more than a Trivial Pursuit question, but I was shocked by his brazen corruption, by how easily he almost got away with it, and by how familiar his playbook now seems. Vilify communities unlike your own. Insist you can’t indict a sitting vice president. Impugn the Justice Department and the press. And deny everything. —Beth Schwartzapfel

Be sure to make time for Dashka Slater’s moving narrative in The New York Times Magazine about California prisoners who are seeking parole. For years, few “lifers” got the chance for release. But recent changes to state law—spurred by pressures to decrease prison overcrowding—have cleared the way for the release of many people. But, as Slater deftly shows, to win release, prisoners must be able to tell the story of their lives, their trauma and their crimes. As she writes, “California’s parole hearings are something like an ordeal of the soul, an investigation of every state of an inmate’s life from birth onward.” —Abbie VanSickle

Of the many criminal justice policies born of the “tough on crime” early 1990s, few have escaped modern scrutiny like sex-offender registries. Vox has the story of telephone hotline volunteers, mostly women, who offer support and friendship to sex offenders and their families trying to navigate the near-total stigmatization and ostracization that the label carries with it. Writer Serena Solomon also catalogs the slow but growing academic and political movement against the “failed experiment” of registries, as one expert puts it. —Jamiles Lartey

Benjamin Franklin born January 17, 1706. Click for 11 surprising facts about Benjamin Franklin from History.com.

The information below is from Crisci Associates PA Capitol Digest

Session Schedule

Senate

January 7, 27, 28, 29

February 3, 4, 5

Budget Hearings: February 18 – March 5

March 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25

April 6,7, 8

May 4, 5, 6, 18,19, 20

June 1,2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30

House

January 7 (non-voting), 13, 14, 15, 21, 22

February 3, 4, 5

Budget Hearings: February 18 – March 5

March 16, 17, 18, 23, 24,25

April 6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 16

May 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20

June 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30

Public hearings

February 19– Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing: 1:00 – Dept. of Corrections, Board of Probation & Parole; 3:00 – PA Board of Pardons. Hearing Room 1, North Office Building. Click Here to watch online.

February 20– Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing: 10:00 – PA State System of Higher Education; 1:00 – Dept. of State; 3:00 – Attorney General. Hearing Room 1, North Office Building. Click Here to watch online.

February 20– House Appropriations Committee budget hearings: 10:00 – State Police/ Homeland Security; 1:00 – Dept. Of Corrections, Board of Probation & Parole, Board Of Pardons. Room 140 Main Capitol. Click Here to watch online.

February 24– House Appropriations Committee budget hearings: 3:00 – Dept. of Health, Dept. of Drug & Alcohol Programs. Room 140 Main Capitol. Click Here to watch online.

February 25– Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing: 10:00 – Liquor Control Board. Hearing Room 1, North Office Building. Click Here to watch online.

Pennsylvania Bulletin for January 4, 2020. Click to view.

January 31 is deadline to apply for Supreme Court Committees

Click below for details.

Disciplinary Board

Board of Law Examiners

Lawyers Fund for Client Security

Juvenile Court Procedural Rules Committee

Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee

Headlines from PoliticsPA

WESA: Pa. House joins Senate in overwhelmingly passing bill to help ex-convicts get professional licenses
WESA: Republicans’ Judicial Election Amendment Would Make PA An Outlier

https://www.themarshallproject.org/
PICK OF THE NEWS
TMP

Visiting family in prison for the holidays. Tammara McCoy’s three children and her grandchild spent hours on a crowded bus trekking to the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in upstate New York to visit her for the holiday. The trip was organized by a group called Hour Children, a nonprofit that helps families navigate the bureaucracy imposed by corrections officials. “Every time I don’t see them it’s the hardest,” McCoy said in the latest installment of our photography series, “The Frame.” THE MARSHALL PROJECT

America’s opioid epidemic, a tragedy in three acts. First came the abuse of prescription pain pills. When doctors stopped prescribing them so freely, those who had become addicted next turned to heroin. And after that came a wave of fentanyl use. In some places the evolution, or devolution, occurred quickly. THE WASHINGTON POST Related: How the opioid crisis evolved, as told by three people caught up in it. THE WASHINGTON POST More: What the epidemic looks like on the streets of Philadelphia. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

“It’s what I know. It’s what I do best.” Dairon Elisondo Rojas, a Cuban doctor, is among the thousands of asylum seekers forced to wait in tent cities in Mexico near the U.S. border while his application is processed. He’s the only physician in town and works like it. THE NEW YORK TIMES Related: Congress launches an investigation into the medical care, or lack of it, given to immigrant detainees. BUZZFEED NEWS More: ICE officials sign contracts extending privately run immigration detention centers in advance of California’s ban on them. LOS ANGELES TIMES

A police union charity, its PAC and the telemarketers they fund. The next time you get solicited to donate in memory of fallen police officers consider the case of the Law Enforcement Officer Relief Fund. About 77 percent of the donations it receives from the public goes to pay fundraising services, a review of the charity’s tax returns reveals. A small fraction goes to the families of fallen officers. And then there’s the organization’s link to a political action committee. CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY

Missouri appellate court refuses to give Lamar Johnson a new trial. Convicted of murder in 1994, Johnson now seeks a new trial as the weak case against him has fallen apart over time. The local prosecutor, Kim Gardner, agrees, but both have been stymied by the state’s courts. Now the state’s supreme court will have to issue what could be a seminal ruling on wrongful convictions. ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH Related: How much evidence of innocence must exist before a state’s appellate courts will grant relief to a prisoner? THE NEW YORK TIMES

N/S/E/W

Relentless gun violence is responsible for a dubious record in Baltimore, Maryland. The homicide rate in the city reached a new high in 2019. ASSOCIATED PRESS Related: Mass killings in America also hit a new high. ASSOCIATED PRESS More: But the homicide rate declined sharply again in New Orleans, LouisianaWGNO And the murder rate in “sanctuary city” San Francisco, California, hit a 56-year low. SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

Democratic candidate Michael Bloomberg’s election campaign unwittingly used prisoners to make campaign calls and halted the practice when campaign officials learned about the arrangement from reporters. THE INTERCEPT Related: The focus is on an Oklahoma company that charged $7.25 an hour for its work. THE NEW YORK TIMES

Colorado’s governor last week pardoned five people, including an undocumented immigrant who has sought and obtained sanctuary for years to avoid deportation. COLORADO SUN

Pedro Villalobos is one of the best young prosecutors in Texas, handling cases out of Travis County. He also is in jeopardy of losing his job and being deported as a “Dreamer.” TEXAS MONTHLY

Political corruption in New Jersey, state prosecutors said last week, is as common and cliched as hidden cash stuffed into a bag. THE NEW YORK TIMES

COMMENTARY

Understaffed. Poorly trained. Barely qualified. 2019 was the year in which Alaska’s police crisis made national news. Some experts now offer suggestions on how to fix a broken system. ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS/PROPUBLICA Related: How a police officer in Iowa raised money for Alaska cops desperate for basic equipment. PROPUBLICA

A rare victory in an unending war. How a group of activists helped shut down a child sex abuse website and what their tactics mean for future battles. THE NEW YORK TIMES

The Fifth Degree. Nowhere is Donald Trump’s takeover of the federal judiciary more evident than the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, remade now in his ideological image. SLATE

Making legal gun use safer. Gun research is about public health, not politics, and it’s essential. THE WASHINGTON POST

ETC.

Tragedy of the Day: Karen Daniel, a champion for the wrongfully convicted, was killed by a motorist in Chicago the day after Christmas. She was a longtime leader of Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions and was about to start a similar job with the Exoneration Project. CHICAGO SUN-TIMES

Holiday Cheer of the Day: One minute acclaimed rapper DaBaby, also known as Jonathan Kirk, was handing out toys for Christmas at a concert in North Carolina. Then he was arrested on a misdemeanor marijuana charge after police say they found less than half an ounce of pot in his van. ASSOCIATED PRESS More: “Merry Christmas,” hollered the alleged Colorado bank robber as he threw money up in the air after he walked outside the bank. USA TODAY

Question of the Day: Has the Cook County Jail in Chicago really ended the use of solitary confinement for inmates? CHICAGO REPORTER TMP Context: Too sick for jail, but not solitary confinement. THE MARSHALL PROJECT

Sentencing Excess of the Day: Mississippi’s onerous three-strikes law has consigned thousands of state prisoners to die in prison. THE APPEAL

Decision of the Day: In which a federal appeals court rejects a claim by a condemned Ohio man that his execution, using midazolam, would subject him to an unconstitutional level of pain. 6TH U.S. CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS TMP Context: The death chamber next door. THE MARSHALL PROJECT

January 9, 1788. Connecticut ratifies Constitution.

Supreme Court approves Judicial Assignments

Click for Order

Click for Order

The information below is from Crisci Associates PA Capitol Digest.

PA Bulletin – Dec. 28, 2019                                                                          

The December 28, 2019 Pennsylvania Bulletin is now available online for your reference.

Session Schedule                                                                                               

Senate 

January 7, 27, 28, 29

February 3, 4, 5

Budget Hearings: February 18 – March 5

March 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25

April 6,7, 8

May 4, 5, 6, 18,19, 20

June 1,2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30

House

January 7 (non-voting), 13, 14, 15, 21, 22

February 3, 4, 5

Budget Hearings: February 18 – March 5

March 16, 17, 18, 23, 24,25

April 6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 16

May 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20

June 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30

Public hearings

February 19– Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing: 1:00 – Dept. of Corrections, Board of Probation & Parole; 3:00 –  PA Board of Pardons. Hearing Room 1, North Office Building. Click Here to watch online.

February 20– Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing: 10:00 – PA State System of Higher Education; 1:00 – Dept. of State; 3:00 – Attorney General. Hearing Room 1, North Office Building. Click Here to watch online.

February 20– House Appropriations Committee budget hearings: 10:00 – State Police/ Homeland Security; 1:00 – Dept. Of Corrections, Board of Probation & Parole, Board Of Pardons.    Room 140 Main Capitol. Click Here to watch online.

February 24– House Appropriations Committee budget hearings: 3:00 – Dept. of Health, Dept. of Drug & Alcohol Programs.    Room 140 Main Capitol. Click Here to watch online.

February 25– Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing: 10:00 – Liquor Control Board. Hearing Room 1, North Office Building. Click Here to watch online.

Governor signs Acts 114 and 115 into law

Click for Act 114 establishing County Adult Probation and Parole Advisory Committee

Click for Act 115 concerning sentences and the Sentencing Commission

Headlines from PoliticsPA

AP: Lawsuit challenges state police over new ‘ghost gun’ policy

Pennsylvania Capital-Star: Pardons board rejections leave Lt. Gov. John Fetterman ‘dismayed’

https://www.themarshallproject.org/

Five years on, we continue to believe that the only way to fix our criminal justice system is to expose the many ways in which it fails, through fearless and fair investigative reporting. We rounded up a long list of some of our best work in 2019. For the last Closing Argument of the year, we’d like to share a small selection from that list with you.

In their own words. This year, we released two new installments in our film series, “We Are Witnesses.” The first focused on what it means to migrate to the United States, and how our immigration policies affect people who want to come here as well as those tasked with enforcing the law. In the second edition, which focused on tales of crime and justice in Chicago, we heard the stories of parents, victims, police, community activists and formerly incarcerated people. It serves as a reminder of the devastation wrought by crime and the justice system itself. Co-published with Newsy, WBEZ, The Chicago Reader and Univision Chicago

Not in our boroughs. Closing New York City’s troubled Rikers Island jail complex seemed like a popular decision, until city officials announced what would replace it: new jails in four boroughs. Maurice Chammah chronicled the furor that erupted in several communities chosen to host the new facilities. And he brought readers into the deliberations among officials tasked with planning the future of pretrial detention in the city. Co-published with The New Yorker

The veteran. John Phillips has spent 66 years in prison in North Carolina. Handed a life sentence at the age of 18, he now hobbles around a minimum security facility with a cane. Joseph Neff tells the story of the intellectually disabled man nicknamed “Peanut,” and how he fears that he might have to leave prison for the world outside. Co-published with the News & Observer

Who’s in charge? Many prisons struggle to attract enough staff to prevent violence and keep order. In Mississippi, Joseph Neff and Alysia Santo found one where workers were so taxed, they all but gave up trying. In an internal audit of the privately run Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, the warden acknowledged he let gangs have the run of the prison in hopes they would keep the peace. The result was rampant violence and the stabbing death of a newly transferred prisoner. Co-published with the USA Today Network, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting

The cost of hope. When your child goes to prison, you’ll do anything you can to try to help them. So when families met a consultant who said he could help their children get out early, they were willing to pay, whatever the cost. In this gripping narrative, Christie Thompson tells the tale of Peter Candlewood and how he made millions by selling families a dream that turned into a nightmare.

52,000 and counting. We’ve all seen the headlines about migrants held in detention facilities and children being taken from their parents at the border. But how did it come to this? In this immersive multimedia story, Emily Kassie explains how, in the span of 40 years, the United States built the largest immigrant detention system in the world. Co-published with The Guardian

Feds, go home. There are hundreds of joint task forces across the country that bring together federal and local law enforcement agencies on missions such as fighting drug dealers or tracking potential terrorists. But as Simone Weichselbaum reported, several big cities have abandoned these task forces. That’s because their participation requires that they forego the transparency and accountability—think body cameras and use of force standards—that reformers have been trying to bring to police departments, which has resulted in eroded trust in their communities, and sometimes, deadly consequences. Co-published with Vice and USA Today

The lasting toll of prison violence. Each year, thousands of people are assaulted in federal prison, and when many return home, they bring deep emotional and physical wounds with them. For four years, Christie Thompson followed the story of Chuck Coma, who was nearly strangled to death in a federal prison in Pennsylvania. Now he is free but can’t live independently due to lingering damage from the attack. Coma’s experience sheds light on the far-reaching effects of prison violence—a battle being fought by an untold number across the country. Co-published with NPR and Mother Jones

January 3, 1959. Alaska Statehood.
The 49 star flag, acknowledging Alaska Statehood was official from July 4, 1959 until July 4, 1960, when the 50 star flag became official acknowledging Hawaii Statehood. Click for details.

PA Senate confirms Cateria R. McCabe, John R. Padova, Jr., and Daniel Sulman for Philadelphia Judgeships

Click for Senate vote.

The information below is from Crisci Associates PA Capitol Digest.

Governor Wolf signs bipartisan criminal justice reform bills

On December 18, Governor Tom Wolf, surrounded by legislators and criminal justice advocates, today signed two Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI 2) bills, hailing them as yet another successful bipartisan effort to make the state’s justice system fairer while keeping communities safe– Senate Bill 500 (Baker-R-Luzerne), Senate Bill 501 (Killion-R-Delaware).   Read more here.

House Passes bill electing appellate court judges by district
On December 18, the House passed House Bill 196 (Diamond-R-Lebanon) amending the constitution to require the election of Commonwealth Court, Superior Court and PA Supreme Court justices through regional judicial districts. The bill now goes to the Senate.  The bill would have to pass this legislative session and in the 2021-22 legislative session before the amendment could be put to voters. Read more here.

Corrections Secretary releases report highlighting consistent decrease in crime over the last 20 years in Pennsylvania

On December 17, Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel released an infographic report, Crimelines, highlighting the significant drop in crime over the past 20 years in Pennsylvania. Read more here.

Session Schedule                                                                                               

January 7, 27, 28, 29

February 3, 4, 5

Budget Hearings: February 18 – March 5

March 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25

April 6,7, 8

May 4, 5, 6, 18,19, 20

June 1,2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30

House

January 7 (non-voting), 13, 14, 15, 21, 22

February 3, 4, 5

Budget Hearings: February 18 – March 5

March 16, 17, 18, 23, 24,25

April 6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 16

May 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20

June 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30

Public hearings

January 9– Senate and House Democratic Policy Committees Joint Hearing on net neutrality.  Penn State-The Navy Yard, Building 7R Auditorium 1101 Kitty Hawk Ave., Philadelphia. 11:30.

February 18– NEW. Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing: 3:00 – Dept. of Drug & Alcohol Programs. Hearing Room 1, North Office Building. Click Here to watch online.

February 20– NEW. Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing: 3:00 – Attorney General. Hearing Room 1, North Office Building. Click Here to watch online.

February 20– NEW. House Appropriations Committee budget hearings: 10:00 – State Police/ Homeland Security; 1:00 – Dept. Of Corrections, Board of Probation & Parole, Board Of Pardons.    Room 140 Main Capitol. Click Here to watch online.

Headlines from PoliticsPA

Pennsylvania Capital-Star: Wolf signs cost-cutting criminal justice bills into law

AP: Pennsylvania takes more steps to reduce prison population

Pennsylvania Capital-Star: Facing pushback, Montgomery County lawmaker drops proposal to add mandatory minimums to some gun crimes

Pennsylvania Capital-Star: Wolf, lawmakers announce new panel to study juvenile justice system

Pennsylvania Capital-Star: ‘These are the paint-by-numbers of firearms,’ AG Shapiro says as Pa. moves to crack down on ‘ghost guns’


https://www.themarshallproject.org/
THE BEST OF THE MARSHALL PROJECT

Chuck Coma comes home. He was serving time in a federal prison in Pennsylvania, in a “solitary” cell with another man known to be violent, when he was assaulted so severely he almost died. Next came a stonewalled investigation from prison officials. Then a denial of compassionate release from the Bureau of Prisons despite the significant brain injury Coma, a military veteran, had suffered. Finally, he was released from custody, to a life of pain, medicine and endless doctors’ visits. In collaboration with Mother Jones and NPR, Christie Thompson has our story. Listen to this segment of “All Things Considered” for more on the story with Thompson and NPR’s Joe Shapiro.

This week, we are partnering with The New York Times Race/Related newsletter to present a series on families of the incarcerated. Read the series by Beatrix Lockwood and Nicole Lewis about the hidden cost of incarcerationthe long journeys families take to visit incarcerated loved onesvideo visitation and how a couple celebrates Christmas apart.

Let us in. The next step in America’s efforts to ease the effects of mass incarceration requires corrections officials to open up prisons and jails to trained volunteers who could help bridge the gulf between the incarcerated and society. “Recent college graduates should receive stipends to teach prisoners languishing with few opportunities for instruction in math or history,” writes Neil Barsky, founder of The Marshall Project. “Retired school teachers could teach literature or science classes.” Read his original commentary, published with The New York Times.

How would the Democratic presidential candidates change the use of solitary confinement in prisons? This week, we added solitary confinement to the list of topics in our interactive guide on where Democratic candidates stand on criminal justice issues. The guide is ever-growing, and we will update it throughout the primary. Are there other criminal justice or immigration issues that matter to you in this election cycle?

Some of The Marshall Project’s best work in 2019. It’s been a big year. We turned five and launched a print publication, News Inside, for distribution in the nation’s prisons and jails. We extended our “We Are Witnesses” franchise with looks at immigration in America and crime and punishment in Chicago. Our reporters and editors examined prison violence, juvenile justice, domestic violence, the Democratic candidates’ positions on criminal justice and more. Tom Meagher walks us through the year.

Just in time for the holidays, our book picks of 2019 are here. Our staff compiled the books that moved them on criminal justice this past year, including stories about gun violence and prosecutors, domestic violence and the rise of the #MeToo movement. But that’s not all. Tatiana Craine gathered some of our favorite films, shows and podcasts of the year so you won’t run out of binge-worthy entertainment for the holiday season.

THE BEST OF THE REST

Criminal justice stories from around the web as selected by our staff.

Jessica Contrera from The Washington Post told the wrenching story of a teenager, groomed and exploited by a sex trafficker whom police said she later killed. This nuanced portrayal examines how the law fails to take into account the psychological and power dynamics that factor into such tragic cases. It’s beautifully told, with great empathy but also clear-headedness. —Susan Chira

The New York Times published a stunning investigation into a vast civilian surveillance network being built in China. Using tools that are also available in the United States, Chinese authorities have rolled out surveillance networks controlled by local police that collect millions of people’s personal data on servers lacking basic security measures. The story came the day before the New York City Council’s hearing on the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act, a modest reform bill seeking to expand transparency about the NYPD’s use of surveillance technology. The New York Times also published a staggering examination of how companies are collecting data from our smartphones that tracks everywhere we go. These stories force you, no matter where you are around the world, to stop and consider what the future of mass surveillance holds for us all. —Trip Eggert

The New York Times’ Daily podcast has been profiling the top presidential candidates, and this week’s episode on Joe Biden doubles as an especially clear-headed explainer of the transformation of crime policy in Washington in the 1980s and 1990s. Although Biden himself declined an interview, New York Times reporter Astead W. Herndon reconstructs Biden’s realization that criminal justice would be a winning issue for Democrats and tracks his collaborative approach with Republicans like Strom Thurmond and Ronald Reagan. It’s old news that these policies helped create what we now call “mass incarceration,” but Herndon does an especially good job of capturing the national mood at the time, in which both black and white communities perceived crime to be out of control. The story of why Biden pursued these policies is far more nuanced than either his critics or supporters tend to admit. —Maurice Chammah

December 26, 1946. Bugsy Siegel opens Flamingo Casino in Las Vegas. Clic for report from History.com.

In Re: Exemption from Rules 205(B)(2) & 1205(B)(2) of Juvenile Court Procedure

Click for Order.

In Re: Adoption of Rules 205 & 1205, Amendment of Rules 166, 167, 345, 1166, 1167 & 1345 of Juvenile Court Procedure

Click for Order.

Click for Text.

Click for Final Report.

Pennsylvania Cybercrime by the numbers

News release–AOPC, December 13, 2019

Pennsylvania Bulletin for December 14, 2019

Click for edition.

News from PoliticsPA

Pennsylvania Capital-Star: Montgomery County lawmaker moves to add mandatory minimum sentences to criminal justice bills

PA Post: Paying rent to your jailers: Inmates are billed millions of dollars for their stays in Pa. prisons.

PA Post: Pa. House adds mandatory minimums to high-profile justice reform bills

https://www.themarshallproject.org/

THE BEST OF THE MARSHALL PROJECT

A quarter century in prison, then the threat of deportation. Colin Absolam worked hard to rehabilitate himself and was paroled in June after spending 25 years in prison in New York for second-degree murder. Now federal immigration agents want to deport him to Jamaica, a country he left when he was 11. “Deporting me to a foreign land will be like extracting a valuable asset out of this society only to throw it away,” Absolam tells Akiba Solomon in the latest in our “Life Inside” series. Subscribe to our Life Inside newsletter to receive it in your inbox every Friday.

What have we learned since the Central Park jogger case? This week, a 13-year-old was arrested in connection with the fatal stabbing of a college student in New York City.The circumstances of this case are eerily similar to the 1989 Central Park jogger case, yet so much has changed. Eli Hager looks at the growing understanding of adolescent behavior and violent crime in juvenile justice.

When your appeals judge doesn’t even look at your appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the case of a Louisiana man whose appeal was rejected by a court staffer instructed decades ago by state judges to reject all criminal appeals by defendants who were representing themselves. Louie Schexnayder, serving a life sentence in Angola State Prison for second-degree murder, never has had substantial appeal issues heard by an untainted state court. Andrew Cohen brings the latest in our “Case in Point” series.

The great divide over violent offenders and mass incarceration. There is a broad political consensus to ease incarceration rates by releasing more nonviolent offenders from prison and easing laws that put them there in the first place. No such consensus exists, Jamiles Lartey writes, for easing sentences for those convicted of “violent” crimes, although the topic has come up a little more often during this Democratic presidential campaign than it has in past cycles.

THE BEST OF THE REST

Criminal justice stories from around the web as selected by our staff.

story this week by ProPublica and the South Bend Tribune examines an investigative tool that promises to help officers figure out when a suspect is lying. The product, called the Scientific Content Analysis, or SCAN, relies on patterns in word choice and handwriting to spot lies. The reporters found it’s escaped scrutiny because it’s rarely used in court, but that the tool is often used to determine the direction of criminal investigations. —Abbie VanSickle

For The Post and Courier, Jennifer Berry Hawes and Stephen Hobbs documented in painstaking, horrifying detail how a series of systemic flaws led to the deadliest explosion of prison violence in the U.S. in 25 years, with seven deaths in one night at a prison in rural South Carolina. A dire staffing shortage and careless transfers of inmates from rival gangs led to a bloody, terrifying conflict in 2018 that should never have happened. The narrative captures the fear of corrections officers trapped in the melee, the desperation of those who tried to flee the violence and the pain of the families whose loved ones were killed. It’s a warning to every state with understaffed prisons. —Cary Aspinwall

While cities like Chicago and New York saw a significant decrease in their jail populations in the past five years, rural counties tell a different story. A new report from the Vera Institute of Justice shows the jail population in rural counties increased by nearly one third. One driving force behind the increase is the opioid epidemic. High bail amounts and the lack of resources for pretrial diversion programs also kept many people in rural jails. In a jail in rural Tennessee, The New York Times’ Richard A. Oppel Jr. found overcrowding means more inmate-on-inmate assaults, higher jail expenses and people sleeping in the hallway. —Weihua Li

December 13, 1773. Boston Tea Party. Click for report from History.com.

Criminal Justice Section party December 10

Tuesday, December 10, 2019–5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Thomas R. Kline School of Law, Institute of Trial Advocacy
12th and Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia

The Thurgood Marshall Award will be presented to
the Honorable Charles A. Ehrlich,

Judge of the Court of Common Pleas

Enjoy the company of friends and collegues over drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres

Registration required by December 6.
$60 Members
$50 Law Student Members
$50 Public Interest and Government Attorney Members
$70 Nonmembers
Judges complimentary

Click to REGISTER

Pennsylvania Bulletin Volume 49 dated December 7, 2019 available online

Click for access.

Session Schedule

Session Schedule                                                                                               

Senate 

December 18 [Technically recessed to the call of the President Pro Tempore.]

House

December [9, 10 non-voting days] 16, 17, 18 

(Source: Crisci Associates PA Capitol Digest).

Headlines from PoliticsPA

Spotlight PA: Sex offender registry law in Pa. facing life-or-death test at Supreme Court.

WITF: Pennsylvania restricted tobacco sales. Some tobacco control groups are still uneasy.

Post-Gazette: Pa. lawmakers pitch bill to criminalize school bullying.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star: Amid opposition from physicians, Wolf signs bill tightening opioid prescription rules.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star: Criminal sentences are down in PA, and three more takeaways from an annual report.

Patriot News: Pa. raises minimum age to buy tobacco to 21, starting July 1.

AP: Pennsylvania creates criminal offense of sexual extortion.

https://www.themarshallproject.org/

THE BEST OF THE MARSHALL PROJECT

A love story without a happy ending. After Rachel Douglas’ mother’s first marriage went south, she vowed to focus on her children. Then her son, behind bars in Kentucky, convinced her to open up her heart to one of his fellow prisoners. It worked. She fell in love. Then she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. She married her beau in a prison ceremony and then he was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer. He never made it home to spend his final moments with her. Here is the latest in our “Life Inside” series. Subscribe to our Life Inside newsletter to receive it in your inbox every Friday.

The growing racial disparity in prison time. While arrests and prison admission rates are declining for black people, they are spending increasingly longer time in prison than their white counterparts, a new study concludes. For violent crimes from 2000 to 2016, for example, prison time for black people grew at a rate almost twice as fast. There are a number of reasons why, experts say. Risk assessment tools may be a factor. So too are disparities in criminal history, harsh sentencing laws and prison rules.

THE BEST OF THE REST

Criminal justice stories from around the web as selected by our staff.

Pam Colloff is an acknowledged master of longform criminal justice reporting. Her latest deep dive is another riveting and disturbing look at a systemic problem: jailhouse snitches and the questionable integrity of convictions that depend on informants with strong incentives to deceive. Read about the case of Paul Skalnik, an accused child molester and convicted fraudster, one of the most prolific, and compromised, informants in American history. —Susan Chira

This week, Columbia Journalism Investigations and ProPublica co-published an investigation into sexual abuse and assault on Tinder, PlentyofFish and Match.com. They pored over lawsuits and police reports from across the country and conducted their own survey with about 1,200 users, finding that its users include registered sex offenders, some of whom have used the dating apps to re-offend. The parent company, Match Group, is fully aware but has continued to let convicted and accused perpetrators access the apps, leaving users vulnerable to sexual assault, according to the story. A Match Group’s spokesperson acknowledged that the safety measures vary in part depending on whether you use a paid or free app. —Andrew R. Calderon

By now, the opioid crisis is a familiar story, but The New York Times project about the “Class of 2000” resonated with me in a way that few other stories have. The Times looked at the devastation of opioids through the lens of one high school class in Minford, Ohio. Their reporting revealed how the epidemic touched nearly everyone’s lives, even if they never used opioids. The statistics in the story startled me. One example: In 2010, that county led Ohio in the number of opioid prescriptions—enough for 123 pills per resident. —Abbie VanSickle

What happens when someone cannot pay back a high-interest loan? While it’s unlawful to jail someone for unpaid debt, an investigation by ProPublica’s Anjali Tsui found that in Utah, payday lenders and other lending companies are weaponizing the state’s small claims courts to sue borrowers and arrest them if they don’t show up in court. Between September 2017 and September 2018, almost all arrest warrants issued in Utah’s small claims courts came from cases initiated by lending companies. —Weihua Li

December 11, 1936: King Edward VIII abdicates. Click for details from History.com.

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