Nov 2016 News Briefs

Seattle, Wash. — City officials are planning two facilities — one in Seattle, another in the suburbs — where heroin addicts can legally take injections while supervised by medical personnel who can administer aid or call 911 if needed, reports The Los Angeles Times. It would be the first facility of its kind in the nation. Supporters say the plan would save lives while critics say the plan would enable drug users.

Prineville, Ore. — Crook County Sheriff John Gautney told The Associated Press that the 16-bunk county jail is an embarrassment to his community. The jail has a persistent humid smell, no natural light and the fluorescent bulbs give the green walls “a sickly hue”, the AP reports. The county is looking to raise $10 million to build a new jail, but the measure has to be approved by voters. Experts say the nationwide problem with aging jails, along with the increasing numbers of people being sent to jail, is not going to improve anytime soon as taxpayers are reluctant to spend public money on such projects.

Sacramento — As the number of available inmates to fight major wildfires is declining, California is looking for recruits to its state Conservation Corps. Last year, prisoners accounted for about 20 percent of California fire crews on several major blazes, The Associated Press reports.

San Francisco — In 1967 John Irwin, who had served five years for armed robbery, started Project Rebound to help former inmates graduate from San Francisco State University. Now, a grant from the Berkeley-based nonprofit Opportunity Institute could bring a similar program to California State University at Fullerton as early as next spring. In March, the Opportunity Institute awarded the California State University system a $500,000 grant to fund the expansion of Project Rebound into seven other CSU schools, the OC Register reports.

Texas — According to a report issued by the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) in 2011, the mailroom officer at each Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prison checks all incoming books against a master list of books that are deemed acceptable. If the publication is on the list, the prisoner receives it. If it’s not on the list, the mailroom officer, who may or may not have a high school diploma, decides if the book has objectionable content. If a prisoner appeals a decision made in the mailroom, the appeal goes to TDCJ’s headquarters in Huntsville, Texas. Books that are critical of the prison system tend to fare poorly, TCRP reports.

Missouri — In 2012, the state created “earned compliance credits” that allow probation or parole to shorten by 30 days for every full calendar month that an individual complies with the conditions of his or her sentence. Credits are available only to those who were convicted of lower-level felonies and have been under community supervision for at least two years. The Pew Charitable Trusts evaluated the policy and found that in the first three years, more than 36,000 probationers and parolees reduced their supervision terms by an average of 14 months. As a result, the state’s supervised population fell 18 percent, driving down caseloads for probation and parole officers. The law had no evident negative impact on public safety: Those who earned credits were convicted of new crimes at the same rate as those discharged from supervision before the policy went into effect.

Arkansas — In August 2014, a report showed that while the nation’s juvenile incarceration rate was falling, Arkansas’ was rising. In 2015, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published a series of investigative reports showing that juveniles were incarcerated for “skipping school, running away from home, disobeying their parents, drinking alcohol or breaking other rules aimed only at children.”

Virginia — Advocates and state leaders are making progress on changes to the state’s juvenile justice system, which includes preliminary work to create community-based alternatives that offer support for children and families.

Washington, DC — President Obama continues to commute prison sentences for federal drug offenders. He is releasing some of the same people who were incarcerated during former President Bill Clinton’s presidency, 20 years ago, The Washington Times reports. Obama commuted sentences for 325 inmates in August, bringing to 673 the total for his presidency.

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