1. Oregon — (The Oregon Capital Chronicle) Gov. Tina Kotek signed into law a bill that provides stiff penalties for street racing, including for those who organize the racing or block public roads. The practice has become increasingly troublesome for motorists and law enforcement in the wake of the popular Fast & Furious film series. Portland police arrested five and cited 33 people in a one-night May operation targeting the problem. Under the legislation, the maximum punishment for street racers, organizers, or those who block public roads to facilitate the racing is a $6,250 fine and 364 days in jail. A second or subsequent offense within five years is subject to a $125,000 fine and five years in prison.
2. Oklahoma — ( Enid News & Eagle) Almost seven years after reclassifying some drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, lawmakers have finally settled on a process to pass savings from reduced incarceration to fund local services. The reclassification of the crimes has contributed to a 20% reduction in the state’s prison population in the last five years. Meanwhile, county jails have experienced increased pressure to provide substance abuse and mental health services. Local officials are gearing up to request their share of the state money. Ben Crooks is administrator of the Garfield County Detention Facility. “Anyone that truly knows jail operations understands how critical [mental health] services are to maintaining safety and security of staff and inmates,” said Crooks. “Garfield County has waited more than five years for these funds.”
3. Mississippi — (The Guardian) A case challenging Mississippi’s permanent disenfranchisement of persons convicted of any of 23 specific felonies remains intact after being turned away by the U.S. Supreme Court in June. The list of felonies includes crimes that 19th-century lawmakers thought Blacks were most likely to commit in order to suppress voting by Blacks, according to The Guardian. The list originated during a state constitutional convention in 1890 where the president of the convention said, “We came here to exclude the negro. Nothing short of this will answer.” The felony list includes murder, rape, theft, carjacking, bribery, bigamy and timber larceny.
4. Alabama — ( Alabama Reflector) Voting rights advocates are hailing as a victory the failure of a bill intended to criminalize organizations or individuals assisting people with absentee ballots. Republican Rep. Jamie Kiel sponsored the legislation. Subject to certain exceptions, the bill would have provided a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison for paying someone to assist with a ballot and 10 years for accepting money to complete a person’s ballot. “That was thinly veiled voter suppression,” said Muaath Al-Khattab, community organizer for Faith in Action Alabama.
5. Florida — ( The Marshall Project’s Closing Argument) The Legislature recently passed a bill to allow erasing certain adult criminal records: arrests that did not lead to charges, dropped charges, and not guilty verdicts. Although the predominately Republican Legislature approved the bill almost unanimously, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed it, reported The Marshall Project in its Closing Argument. Criminal records affect efforts to secure housing, jobs and other necessities. The bill was modest in its reach and scope compared to similar legislation passed in other states. Matt Dixon of NBC News said that DeSantis’s veto makes sense in light of his 2024 presidential aspirations. DeSantis also proposes to repeal the First Step Act, a Trump-era criminal reform bill, in an effort to position himself to the right of Trump on law and order issues, according to the Closing Argument.
6. New Jersey — (NorthJersey.com) New Jersey reduced its prison population by 45% between 2017 and 2022 without a significant change in violent crime, according to a report from the ACLU of New Jersey. The state’s Public Health Emergency Credit legislation enacted in response to the Covid-19 crisis, drove the decrease with the release of almost 9,000 people. “This law is one of the most significant modern policies for decarceration in the nation, and the resulting releases marked a groundbreaking moment for public health and criminal legal reform,” said New Jersey’s ACLU Policy Director Sarah Fajardo. The state’s jail population also fell from about 9,000 to just over 5,000 in 2018 and 2019 following a 2017 law that allowed judges to release pre-trial defendants without bail.
7. Connecticut — ( Connecticut Inside Investigator) Gov. Ned Lamont signed into law a bill that makes inadmissible in court statements, confessions or admissions of guilt made to law enforcement agents if those agents use coercive tactics or deceptions to attain such statements. The law provides a rebuttable presumption that the statements are involuntary. The state can overcome the presumption by showing with “clear and convincing evidence” that confessions or admissions were made voluntarily and that alleged deception by law enforcement agents did not create substantial risk of false self-incrimination. The definitions of deception or coercive tactics are more expansive if the person under interrogation is under the age of 18.