October 2016 News Briefs

Sacramento — The California Supreme Court decided unanimously in August to overturn the death sentence of Sergio Dujuan Nelson, who was 19 years old when he was convicted of killing two co-workers in 1993. Nelson, who had no prior criminal history, admitted the killings but argued they stemmed from depression, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Sacramento –– The state Senate unanimously confirmed Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointment of Scott Kernan as head of the state prison system, the Los Angeles Times reports. The state prisons continue to be under federal control and oversight, subject to a lawsuit over delivery of inmate healthcare and mental health services, in addition to policies regarding administrative segregation.

Sacramento — During an 18-month period in 2014-15, the suicide rate at the California Institution for Women was eight times the national average for women prisoners and five times the rate for the entire California prison system, according to state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino. As a result, an audit is underway examining suicide prevention and reduction policies, procedures and practices at state prisons.

Sacramento — The Commission on Accreditation for Corrections accredited seven more California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) prisons, bringing the total number of accredited state prisons to 30. “Our success with accreditation is proof of the progress CDCR is making in improving our prison system,” said CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan. “We started this ACA process six years ago at a time when there were still too many inmates in our prisons and too few resources to rehabilitate them. ACA accreditation demonstrates our efforts to reform and improve California’s correctional system are working well.”

San Diego  — A pilot program offering youth offenders an alternative to the traditional juvenile justice system has been successful in its first year, officials said. The City Heights Restorative Community Conference Pilot Project takes qualified youth offenders and puts them in direct meetings with their victims and community stakeholders. The parties work out customized plans, including community service for the offender, restitution, getting involved in after-school activities or taking anti-drug or anti-alcohol classes designed to repair the harm done to victims, families and the community, as well as the offenders themselves.

Minnesota — Removing children from their homes and placing them in a large juvenile detention center exposes them to additional risks, “piling trauma upon trauma,” said Judge Margaret Daly. This does not help children who need mental health services, the Star Tribune reports. “We’re locking away far too many kids, and that’s a huge cause for concern,” added Rep. Joe Mullery (Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party-Minneapolis), a longtime advocate for juvenile justice reform in the report. “Sending kids to incarceration, when they haven’t even committed a crime, has proved to end up making them hardened criminals.”

Chicago — Hoping to prevent violence, Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK) planted folding chairs on the southeast corner of an intersection and spent the afternoon chatting with passersby and dispensing hugs, In These Times reports.

Chicago — Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation last August to end automatic transfers to adult court for 15-year-olds and limit the transfer of 16- and 17-year-olds charged with first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault or aggravated battery with a firearm, The Associated Press reports. The legislation ensures some juveniles will have their cases heard before a juvenile court judge who can consider mitigating factors such as background, mental capacity and culpability before deciding whether the case should be transferred to adult court.

Columbus, Ohio — A state court committee plans to study and make recommendations about juvenile court policies on shackling youths during court proceedings, The Associated Press reports. The court’s chief justice says the safety of the juvenile and others in the proceedings must be balanced “with the rehabilitative focus that is at the core of our juvenile court system.”

Washington — Nearly 5,500 people were killed by gun violence this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that compiles real-time information on shootings in the United States. The number excludes suicides by gun, which is nearly double the number of gun homicides in any given year, according to the report.

Washington — Citing a report released last August by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, suicide in county jails is the leading cause of death in such facilities and is on the rise, according to The Marshall Project. One reason jails have a higher suicide rate (46 per 100,000 in 2013) than prisons (15 per 100,000) is that people who enter a jail often face a first-time “shock of confinement.” They are stripped of their jobs, housing and basic sense of normalcy.

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