2020 Quarter 1 | The Council of State Governments | MLC Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee

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

March 26:

Week of April 13:
Webinar: Ex-Offenders Entering and Re-Entering the Workforce - Date and Time TBD

May 18-21:

June 18-19:

July 12-16:

July 19-22:

August 7-11:

August 21-25: 

September 24:

July 11-14, 2021:
76th Annual Meeting of the Midwestern Legislative Conference (MLC) - Rapid City, SD
Quick Links
Hello Midwestern Legislative Conference (MLC) Criminal Justice & Public Safety (CJPS) Committee members. I hope you and your families are staying safe during this uncertain time. 

First, an update about our annual meeting. The Council of State Governments (CSG) Midwest and the MLC Executive Committee members are constantly monitoring the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and preparing accordingly. The MLC Annual Meeting is currently planned to proceed as scheduled, but guidance and requirements from the CDC and state health officials will be followed. we will continue to update our members moving forward. The national CSG office has put together a COVID-19 Resources for State Leaders website. This new site shows how legislative sessions have been affected, what executive orders have been issued, case rates, etc. 

As mentioned above, planning for the MLC Annual Meeting in Detroit, MI, on July 19-22, is going ahead as scheduled. Conversations have already begun for the CJPS Committee's portion of the annual meeting. One session that will be open to all attendees will cover "Policy Strategies to Counteract Increasing County Jail Populations." Please click the link in the Important Dates calendar to the left for registration, hotel and travel information, and further session details. 

Next, The MLC CJPS Committee is teaming up with the MLC Economic Development Committee to host a webinar on the week of April 13. "Ex-Offenders Entering and Re-Entering the Workforce," will explore the trends in helping ex-offenders re-enter the workforce with the necessary skills for employment, as well as the opportunities for employment that will lead to good-paying and stable employment. Specific presenters, date, and time are still being worked out, but committee Co-Chair Rep. Shannon Roers Jones of North Dakota has agreed to co-host. Please keep an eye out in the coming days for further information and a registration link. 

MLC CJPS Committee Member, Rep. Wendy McNamara of Indiana
Finally, Indiana will be taking a comprehensive look at its juvenile justice system, thanks in large part to committee member, Rep. Wendy McNamara. An initiative she proposed will allow the CSG Justice Center to collect and assess data from across the state, talk with stakeholders, and make sense of the findings. Then, the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana will form a Juvenile Justice Reform Task Force to continue CSG's work and possibly develop legislative proposals. 

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.

There are many CS G Justice Center updates to highlight this quarter. First, there is a new report called  Laying the Groundwork: How States Can Improve Access to Continued Education for People in the Criminal Justice System This report provides a comprehensive, state-by-state analysis of post-secondary education policy and practices. It shows that states often fail to support, or even restrict, incarcerated people from accessing continued education. 

Next, there are two articles written by Justice Center Director Megan Quattlebaum. The first, "When Responding Well Means Responding Together," discusses how local law enforcement agencies are increasingly encountering unsheltered homelessness and mental health crises. The second, is a very timely look at what state policymakers and corrections administrators should be considereing during the current coronavirus pandemic. Read "Seven Questions About Reentry Amid COVID Confusion." 

Finally, in this climate, staying connected to the latest criminal justice news has never been more important. The CSG Justice Center is pleased to introduce  State of Justice, a media roundup delivering relevant criminal justice news and opinions from across the 50 states. Covering a variety of topics and perspectives,  State of Justice is curated by the team at the CSG Justice Center. It will be delivered directly to your inbox every Tuesday and Friday morning.  Subscribe now to receive this important resource. 

Coronavirus Updates

Minnesota Delays New Jury Trials 
Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea announced last Friday that the state's courts will see no new proceedings before April 22, or until further notice. Any ongoing trials and grand jury proceedings can conclude and courthouses will remain open for cases with "an immediate liberty concern, or when public or personal safety concerns are paramount." Public access to these proceedings will be severely curtailed and the use of video conferencing and remote meeting will be used as much as possible. 

These measures attempt to strike a balance between maintaining justice and following "social distancing guidelines." According to the Chief Justice, "The balancing of public health and access to justice during this time is testing our systems and procedures. The steps we announce today will help us maintain that delicate balance." 

The Duluth News Tribune has further coverage.

Vulnerable Inmates May be Released from Chicago's Cook County Jail
Cook County Jail
The Cook County Public Defenders' Office and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office have requested the release of 400 non-violent inmates from Cook County Jail due to COVID-19 concerns. Judges will decide whether to release an inmate on a case-by-case basis. The request comes after a correctional officer tested positive for the virus. With over 5,000 inmates in the jail, social distancing is impossible and the virus could spread very quickly once inside. 

"Vulnerable" inmates as defined by the request include all pregnant women, all persons at elevated risk of contracting the virus because of age and/or underlying health conditions, all persons being confined who are judged bailable but cannot afford the money bond, etc. Judges will review hundreds of cases each day this week via video monitoring systems. 

ABC 7 Chicago has more. 

Cleveland's Cuyahoga County Holds Mass Plea, Bond Hearings
Cuyahoga County's judges, prosecutor, public defender, interim sheriff, jail warden, and county executive all agreed to a plan earlier this month to work toward plea bargains for as many cases as possible. Judges were asked to prioritize cases for defendants currently in jail and charged with non-violent and/or low-level felonies. This is all to reduce the county's jail population and courthouse traffic as coronavirus spreads through the region. 

Over the course of four days, every courtroom on one of the four floors of the Cuyahoga County Justice Center would hold non-stop hearings. Their hope was to have all identified cases decided by Thursday, March 19. 

Cleveland.com has the full story. 
Thank you for reading. Watch for the next edition to come out in  
June 2020
Missed a newsletter? Past issues are  archived  on the committee's webpage.
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