Council of State Governments (CSG) National Conference - Santa Fe, NM
July 10-13, 2022:
76th Annual Meeting of the MLC - Wichita, KS
First, congratulations on your appointment to the MLC Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee (CJPS), a nonpartisan group of legislators from 11 Midwestern states and four Canadian provinces! Your appointments were made by the leader of your respective chambers, i.e. the Speaker of the House/Legislative Assembly, Senate Majority Leader, President of the Senate, etc. With assistance from the Midwestern Office of the Council of State Governments (CSG Midwest), the committee serves as a forum for legislators to work together and to learn about criminal justice & public safety policy and trends in state and provincial governments. We are in the process of finalizing our committee roster and determining committee co-chairs and vice chair. You will receive more communications when the roster is finalized and we begin working with you to determine what topics the committee will focus on. If you have any questions about the committee or your membership, please feel free to reach out to committee staffer Mitch Arvidson at any time.
Second, please mark your calendars for the committee's meeting this July! The MLC CJPS Committee is planning to hold an in-person meeting and policy session as part of the MLC Annual Meeting, which is scheduled for July 11-14 in Rapid City, SD. In the weeks and months ahead, every MLC CJPS Committee member will receive more details about the meeting. If you have a criminal justice & public safety-related subject that you would recommend the committee explore and discuss at this summer's meeting, please contact Mitch Arvidson. Members are also welcome to propose policy resolutions for consideration by the full committee.
The structural barriers to employment for those involved in the criminal justice system are well-known and well-researched. However, the barriers to work and school for those involved in the juvenile justice system are less recognized. It is often assumed that automatic sealing, or expunging, of juvenile records prevent negative consequences from following juvenile offenders into their future work and schooling opportunities.
"State statutes appear to be designed to limit the imposition of collateral consequences based on a juvenile adjudication, but these provisions may not achieve their intended purpose in practice.
The majority of public and private postsecondary institutions and some employers in the studied states ask applicants about their criminal history and/or require background checks. Almost none of the states make distinctions between juvenile adjudications and adult convictions.
The studied states have established relief mechanisms to mitigate collateral consequences that result from juvenile adjudications, but significant exceptions, procedural challenges, and a lack of transparency and public education limit their effectiveness."
Helpfully, the report also contains four recommendations and has a companion policy solutions toolkit. State policymakers should be able to implement these policy solutions easily and without much additional costs.
Establish overarching state law that clearly distinguished juvenile adjudications from criminal convictions and that prohibits inquiry into and consideration of adjudications in education and employment decisions.
Make all juvenile arrest and court records and associated information presumptively confidential at all times with limited exceptions for clearly designated public safety purposes.
Ensure that record clearance processes are universal, automatic, and free of charge.
Establish mechanisms to ensure that people who become involved with the juvenile justice system are informed about the consequences of an adjudication as well as their rights and obligations.
Finally, the CSG Justice Center has recently began a new project called the Restitution Resource Center. With funding from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office for Victims of Crime, this new resource center seeks to help states improve the ordering, collecting, disbursing, and fulfillment of restitutions sentences. Repayment of crime victims' financial losses can be a crucial aspect of delivering justice and allowing them to move on.
Criminal Justice News
The "Afterlife" of Incarceration
45,000 laws, policies, and administrative sanctions that specifically affect people with criminal records. Formerly incarcerated individuals have a seven times higher chance of being homeless than people who haven't been incarcerated. Half of all Americans report having a loved one who has been to jail or prison. These are just some of the statistics that University of Chicago professor Reuben Jonathan Miller brought up during a recent interview with NPR.
These "aftereffects" of incarceration are the focus of Miller's new book, Halfway Home. He spent 15 years researching and following about 250 incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people to develop the book, including members of his own family. The worst "aftereffect" of incarceration, according to Miller, is the difficulty in finding a place to live, which exasperates the difficulties in finding employment, food, etc. He suggests that there is no reason to have 45,000 policies and laws targeting those with criminal records and that state lawmakers have the ability to reduce some of these burdens. "For example, in the state of Illinois, it took a legislative act to allow people with criminal records who were trained as barbers in U.S. jails and prisons to get their cosmetology license - and that law didn't change until 2016."
Wisconsin's Incarcerated Population Reaches Historic Low
According to the Wisconsin Policy Forum, from February 2020 to February 2021, Wisconsin's prison population dropped to 19,581, a 16% decrease. This is the state's lowest prison population since 1999. County jails in the state also saw precipitous drops, with the average daily jail population falling 35%, to 8,338, from April 2019 and April 2020.
For state prisons, this drop was attributed in part to Gov. Tony Evers blocking all new state prison admissions in March 2020 to combat the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, courts reduced the number of trials and many extended supervision orders were maintained, simultaneously reducing the number of new and returning prison admissions.
The downward trend for county jails was attributed to increased electronic monitoring instead of incarceration and the exclusion of jailing people charged with misdemeanors. 18 Wisconsin counties saw jail populations decline by half or more.
In order to deal with an estimated backlog of 5,000 criminal cases, the Kansas Legislature passed HB 2078 last week. This new law, which awaits approval from Gov. Laura Kelly, would give Kansan courts a little over two years to work through the backlog that has been caused by COVID-19-related postponements.
Normally, cases are required to come to trial within five months if a defendant is in jail, or six months if a defendant is out on bond. The speedy trial law will go back into effect on May 1, 2023. Judges and prosecutors supporting HB 2078 argued that it was unfeasible to bring certain cases to trial and that they would be forced to release some violent offenders.