2020 Quarter 2 | The Council of State Governments | MLC Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee

MLC Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee Newsletter
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In This Issue
Committee Happenings
CSG Justice Center Update
Criminal Justice News
Important Dates
*All times are Central Time

August 18 

August 24-28: 

November 11-13:

July 11-14, 2021:
76th Annual Meeting of the Midwestern Legislative Conference (MLC) - Rapid City, SD

July 30-August 3, 2021:

August 20-24, 2021:
CSG Henry Toll Fellowship Program - Lexington, KY 
Quick Links
Hello Midwestern Legislative Conference (MLC) Criminal Justice & Public Safety (CJPS) Committee members and happy Summer! First, apologies for the delay in sending out this newsletter, which was originally scheduled to be sent in June. As I'm sure many of you have experienced yourselves, COVID-19 has brought new challenges, new projects, and delays to other projects. But, as they say, better late than never! 

Now, back to business. With the cancellation of the Annual Meeting of the MLC, the MLC CJPS Committee has continued striving to provide criminal justice and public safety news, policies, and information to members like you, and other Midwestern legislators. 

On April 17, with the MLC Economic Development Committee, we hosted a webinar called "Improving Employment Opportunities and Outcomes for Ex-Offenders Entering and Re-Entering the Workforce." With presenters from the CSG Justice Center, Employ Milwaukee, and the Michigan Department of Corrections, this webinar explored national trends on re-entry and employment, and highlighted promising policies that support ex-offenders in their transition to successful employment. 

Then, on May 14, as part of the MLC's "Confronting a Crisis - The Midwest Responds to the Coronavirus Pandemic" series, we hosted another webinar. This one, called "Balancing Criminal Justice & Public Health in the Time of COVID-19," featured speakers from Franklin County, Ohio's Justice Policy and Programs division and the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. Topics for this session included healthcare in jail and prisons, especially in relation to infectious diseases; how states and localities could identify detainees for release to mitigate COVID-19's effects; how to prepare detainees for release; and how to protect prison and jail staff and detainees who can't be released. Information about these webinars, and all other CSG Midwest webinars, can be found on the CSG Midwest website

Additionally, the committee continues to cover criminal justice news in CSG Midwest's Stateline Midwest publication, including a recent cover story on state-level policy proposals and changes in reaction to the death of George Floyd and other police-involved deadly-force encounters. 

Finally, the committee is planning to meet virtually in early September. Here's where you come in! Please complete the following survey so we can target the best day, best time, and best topics for a virtual meeting: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CJPSvirtualmtg 

As always, if you have any news that you would like to share with the CJPS committee, such as committee appointments or significant legislative achievements, please reach out to Mitch Arvidson.

"The CSG Justice Center is committed to using our energy and influence to oppose racism and racial bias and support our nation's justice systems to live up to their highest ideals." This is part of the statement made by CSG Justice Center Director, Megan Quattlebaum, following the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. The statement goes on to say "Everyone is entitled to safety and deserves to be served by a government that not only minimizes harm but maximizes well-being. And until we can truly say that every Black person in America can trust in the criminal justice system to treat them fairly and with dignity and respect, our goals to advance safety and second chances for all cannot be achieved." You can read the full statement here

The CSG Justice Center continues to monitor the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, especially in relation to its effect on jails and prisons. In an article released today, the Justice Center identifies three major takeaways from their COVID-19 analysis. 
  1. "Various state-level shelter-in-place orders in April and May appeared to contain and curb the outbreak in state prisons for both incarcerated people and corrections staff; however, as these orders were lifted, new COVID-19 cases increased across the board.
  2. While four times as many incarcerated people have contracted COVID-19 as compared with corrections staff, cases are growing fastest among corrections staff. 
  3. Between July 26 and August 9, the total number of reported COVID-19 cases among people incarcerated in state prisons grew by over 17,000."
Finally, the CSG Justice Center has partnered with a North Dakota task force to conduct an assessment of the state's juvenile justice system and identify areas for improvement. Potential reforms that have been identified include: 
  1. "Decriminalize so-called "unruly" behaviors and develop pathways to serve youth outside of the justice system.
  2. Establish more stringent criteria and research-based processes for system decisions, particularly detention and out-of-home placement. 
  3. Invest limited resources into building a more robust continuum of community-based services across the state and for specific populations and communities. 
  4. Strengthen statewide commitment to and capacity for evidence-based services, quality assurance, and data collection. 
  5. Align statute with the above reforms and current research and best practices more generally." 
You can read more about the Justice Center's work with North Dakota here

Iowa Restores Voting Rights 
On August 5, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an executive order that restores voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences, including probation and parole. The executive order will affect thousands of Iowans, with the only exceptions being for this convicted or murder, manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter, or those with special lifetime sentences for sexual crimes or other offenses. 

Prior to the executive order, Iowa was the only state in the country to ban anyone with a felony conviction from voting unless the right was restored by an individual application to the governor's office. An executive order restoring felon voting rights was first issued in Iowa 15 years ago by former Gov. Tom Vilsack, but rescinded in 2011 by former Gov. Terry Branstad. Current Gov. Reynolds has expressed her preference that the Iowa Legislature grant felon voting rights through a constitutional amendment process. However, she decided to issue the order this year following the Iowa Senate's 2019 failure to approve a constitutional amendment resolution that had previously passed the House by a vote of 95-2. 

The Sioux City Journal has further coverage. 

Illinois Looks to Overhaul its Juvenile Justice System
On July 31, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker's administration announced a four-year, phased plan to change how the state handles juvenile offenders. The main thrust of the plan is to end the use of five larger, prison-like, facilities holding 50 to 300 youths, and replace them with smaller, regional, "dormlike" facilities holding no more than 50 youths. With the five current facilities being in northern and southern Illinois, and 40% of the Department of Juvenile Justice's population hailing from central Illinois, it is hoped that the proposed regional centers will keep youth closer to their homes and families. 

The overhaul comes in the midst of a nationwide effort to reduce youth confinement that has seen Illinois' youth prison population drop to 97 as of June 20, ~95% lower than a decade ago. With that being said, success is often measured in terms of recidivism. Between 2010 and 2018, more than half of the juvenile's released from the state system returned to it. The state's new system will seek to increase rehabilitation and decrease recidivism. 

The Chicago Tribune has more details. 

Minnesota Passes Police Reform Bill 
During its second special session of 2020, the Minnesota Legislature passed HF 1 on July 21. HF 1 came almost two months after the homicide of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police. There was a strong bipartisan push to enact police reform legislation during the first special session in June. However, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) led House and the Republican led Senate could not reach an agreement in June. After weeks of private talks between sessions, a compromise bill was agreed to. The comprehensive measure: 
  • bans the use of chokeholds, except when a peace officer or other's life is endangered; 
  • prohibits "warrior" style training of officers; 
  • establishes an independent unit with then Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate officers when they kill someone or are accused of sexual misconduct; 
  • adds two citizen members to the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board; and
  • changes the arbitration system for officers accused of misconduct. 
MinnPost has more in-depth coverage. 
Thank you for reading. Watch for the next edition to come out in 
September 2020
Missed a newsletter? Past issues are archived on the committee's webpage.
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