HEALTH & JUSTICE IN THE NEWS
Date: March 20, 2017

TASC in the News

The University of Pretrial Incubator (video)
Pretrial Justice Institute
As part of a recent summit on pretrial innovation, TASC's Jac Charlier discusses ways in which law enforcement can deflect people out of the justice system and into community-based substance use and mental health treatment.
 
 
Around the Nation  

Ryan Confident About Health Plan's Passage, After Change To Help Seniors
The Wall Street Journal, 3/19/17
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Sunday expressed confidence that the Republican health-care plan will pass the House later this week, saying his party's lawmakers are working to make changes to the bill to address remaining concerns, including providing more assistance to older Americans.
 
New bill proposes comprehensive review of U.S. criminal justice system
Michigan Radio, 3/17/17
A new bill introduced by Michigan U.S. Senator Gary Peters proposes a comprehensive review of the U.S. criminal justice system. The bill has received bipartisan support, as well as the support of many major police organizations and civil rights groups. Under the legislation, the National Criminal Justice Commission would conduct an 18-month review of federal, state, local and tribal systems. The commission would then make recommendations for policy changes. Bill co-signers include Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).
 
No opioids, please: Clearing the way to refuse prescriptions
ABC News | AP, 3/19/17
Connecticut and Alaska are two of the latest considering legislation this year that would create a "non-opioid directive" patients can put in their medical files, formally notifying health care professionals they do not want to be prescribed or administered opioid medications. Legislators in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania last year voted to create similar voluntary directives. While patients typically have the right to make decisions about the medical care they receive and whether they want certain treatments, proponents of non-opioid directives contend such a document make a patient's wishes clear, especially in advance of medical care or if a patient becomes incapacitated.
 
CT Senators Seek Opioid Fee to Aid Treatment
The Crime Report, 3/17/17
With money tight and the opioid epidemic continuing, Connecticut's U.S. senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, both Democrats, are proposing a new way to create as much as $1 billion for addiction treatment, the Hartford Courant reports. They want a fee of 1 cent per milligram of active opioid be added to prescriptions. The money would go to treatment.
Related: "Senators Propose Fee On Opioids To Help Fund Treatment" (Hartford Courant, 3/16/17): http://www.courant.com/politics/hc-murphy-opioid-legislation-20170316-story.html
 
 
Around Illinois  

Making it easier to get juvenile arrest records expunged 
Northwestern Now, 3/14/17
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle talked recently at a Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law event about a proposed bill in Illinois that will make it easier to get juvenile arrest records expunged and combat unlawful and broad sharing of such records in Illinois. Preckwinkle was joined by state lawmakers, youths impacted by the current state of juvenile records expungement and juvenile justice advocates.
Related: "President Preckwinkle Joins Sen. Hastings and Rep. Nekritz In Proposing Expanded Expungement of Juvenile Records" (Cook County Government Press Release, 3/13/17): https://www.cookcountyil.gov/news/president-preckwinkle-joins-sen-hastings-and-rep-nekritz-proposing-expanded-expungement
 
Durbin, Davis unveil plan to help kids stressed by violence
Chicago Sun-Times, 3/19/17
Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Danny Davis unveiled legislation Sunday that would allow more than two dozen federal grants to fund programs that help identify and treat psychological stress and trauma in kids who live in violent neighborhoods.
 
IL Sentencing Reform Could Save $62M, State Says
The Crime Report, 3/16/17
Legislation backed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the police department to crack down on repeat gun felons could save the state $62 million over 10 years because the bill also would ease penalties for some drug crimes, reports the Chicago Tribune. The figure was calculated by the Illinois Department of Corrections at the request of senators as they weigh the legislation, which narrowly cleared a committee last week. The proposal would increase the sentencing guidelines for judges deciding punishment for repeat gun felons. Instead of a range of three to 14 years, judges would hand out sentences in the range of seven to 14 years. If judges wanted to depart from that guideline, they would have to explain why.
 
Will County state's attorney wants state law to help with drug addiction
Daily Southtown | Chicago Tribune, 3/15/17
As more local police departments decide to help people who have heroin addictions rather than arrest them, Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow said he wants to establish some legal parameters. Glasgow appeared before the Will County board's legislative committee to seek support for proposed state legislation allowing a person seeking help of local police to dispose of a controlled substance, counterfeit or look alike substance and not be charged if the drug is less than 10 grams of heroin, three grams of cocaine or morphine and 40 grams of peyote, barbiturates or amphetamines. The plan also would require drug counseling or treatment from a licensed professional. State Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, is sponsoring a bill for the plan, Glasgow said.
 
IDPH Teams up With Wellness Center to Expand Treatment
U.S. News & World Report | AP, 3/13/17
The Illinois Department of Public Health is working with a wellness center to help more people access mental health care outside of Chicago. The department's five mobile health vans already visit community clinics and organizations statewide to perform health screenings and provide services in areas with few resources. Dr. Nirav Shah is the department's director. He announced on Monday that Pilsen Wellness Center will use one of the department's vans to provide mental health services to those with limited access. Shah says making mental health treatment available can help prevent expensive hospital visits and even jail time.
 
Legal Help Could Come Faster For Those Arrested In Chicago
WBEZ | AP, 3/14/17
Chicago's top judge has announced a new program to enable quick and free access to an attorney for people arrested in the city. Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans said his order will mean that individuals who have been arrested won't have to wait until they make their first court appearance to speak to a lawyer, which is what happens in the vast majority of cases in the county that encompasses the nation's third largest city. "Everybody deserves access to justice," Evans said in a statement. "They should always have the opportunity to speak with an attorney before talking to anybody else."
 
Cook County Jail Is Being Dropped From Lawsuit Against Jail
U.S. News & World Report | AP, 3/13/17
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is being dropped as a defendant in a lawsuit alleging that thousands of poor, largely African-American inmates are being held improperly at the county jail because they can't afford bail. Dart was named with several Cook County judges in the lawsuit filed last year that contended setting bail amounts in excess of what inmates can pay violates their constitutional rights. Attorney Matthew Piers says the agreement was reached so that he and the other attorneys could focus on judges who set the bail amounts and not Dart who runs the jail, but has no say in bail amounts. Dart has supported abolishing the cash system that he says unfairly keeps poor people behind bars longer than they should be locked up.
 
Preview Of Written Inside: Stories About Prison Cells (audio)
WBEZ, 3/15/17
Written Inside is a podcast about life inside a maximum-security prison cell. Adapted from essays written at Stateville Correctional Center near Chicago, these stories speak to the everyday experience of being incarcerated.
 
 
Research, Reports, and Studies  

Do You Speak Repeal And Replace?
Kaiser Health News, 3/17/17
This article offers brief definitions of some of the language being used in the discussion about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. Terms include Medicaid block grants, essential health benefits, and high-risk pools.
 
Opioid Painkillers and Xanax or Valium a Deadly Mix: Study
HealthDay, 3/15/17
Mixing opioid painkillers with common anxiety and sleep medications is a prescription for a deadly overdose, a new U.S. study shows. Of all fatal overdoses from narcotic medications, nearly 30 percent also involved benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Klonopin and Valium, the researchers said. "It's not news that this combination is not a good one, but despite being well known, it's gone up over time, and more people are ending up in the hospital because of it," said lead researcher Dr. Eric Sun. "Patients and doctors really need to think twice about this combination." When patients take benzodiazepines along with narcotic painkillers such as Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin, the mix lowers the threshold for an overdose, said Sun. He is an assistant professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine at Stanford University.
Report: "Association between concurrent use of prescription opioids and benzodiazepines and overdose: retrospective analysis" (BMJ, 3/14/17): http://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.j760
 
 
Youth  

Mass incarceration of African Americans affects the racial achievement gap - report
The Washington Post, 3/15/17
By the age of 14, approximately 25 percent of African American children have experienced a parent - in most cases a father - being imprisoned for some period of time. A growing share of African Americans have been arrested for drug crimes, yet African Americans are no more likely than whites to sell or use drugs. Research in criminal justice, health, sociology, epidemiology, and economics demonstrates that when parents are incarcerated, children do worse across cognitive and noncognitive outcome measures - and the incarceration is a key cause. Those are findings from a new report released by the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute that says the "evidence is overwhelming that the unjustified incarceration of African American fathers (and, increasingly, mothers as well) is an important cause of the lowered performance of their children" and of the racial achievement gap.
Report: "Mass incarceration and children's outcomes" (Economic Policy Institute): http://www.epi.org/event/mass-incarceration-contributes-significantly-to-the-racial-achievement-gap/
 
 
Opinions, Editorials, and Commentary  
 
Editorial Board: When does a small-time shoplifter become a big-time felon?
Chicago Sun-Times, 3/16/17
Should someone who steals two or three pairs of sneakers serve the same prison sentence as someone who beats a person savagely? Clearly, one crime is more heinous. But in the eyes of the law in Illinois, they look a lot the same. Shoplifting goods worth more than $300 in Illinois is a Class 3 felony, punishable by two to five years in prison, the same as aggravated battery that causes great bodily harm, disability or disfigurement. There is no doubt that shoplifting is criminal activity. It drains stores of billions of dollars each year, and those losses are passed on to consumers. But an adage applies: Punishment must fit the crime. Setting the threshold for a felony at $300 brings on penalties that are too severe for the crime. Illinois should raise that threshold, a step the Legislature is considering.
 
Hilary Gowins: 3 Reasons Why Raising Felony Theft Thresholds Is A Better Way to Deal with Theft
Illinois Policy, 3/17/17
Illinois is out of step with most states when it comes to punishing theft. The dollar amount that triggers a felony is low - compared to Illinois' $500 threshold, 29 other states have felony theft thresholds that are twice as high or even greater, including Texas and Wisconsin, where theft below $2,500 is generally a misdemeanor...  House Bill 3337, which was introduced Feb. 22, would increase the felony theft threshold to $2,000... Theft is a serious problem that shouldn't be downplayed. Victims often are ignored in discussions on how to deal with instances of theft. But the facts don't support [the] position that low felony theft thresholds deter crime.
 
 
Health & Justice in the News is a summary of recent news stories relating to criminal justice, mental health, addiction, recovery, and related issues. It is compiled and published by TASC each Monday and Thursday.   

Some headlines and text have been altered by TASC for clarity or emphasis, or to minimize discriminatory or stigmatizing language. Opinions in the articles and op-eds do not necessarily express the views of TASC or our staff or partners.

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