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  • Risk Assessment Tool Led to Harsher Sentences for Certain Defendants
    Virginia’s risk assessment tool led to increased sentences for certain residents. Researchers at George Mason University and Texas A&M examined tens of thousands of felony convictions in Virginia, focusing on the period between 2000 and 2004, after a risk assessment algorithm was adopted statewide in 2002. The study revealed younger defendants were 4 percent more likely to be incarcerated after the assessment was adopted, and their sentences were 12 percent longer than their older peers.
  • Hundreds of California Inmates Convicted Under ‘Felony Murder Rule’ Prep for New Shot at Freedom
    California Senate Bill 1437 was signed into law by former California Governor Jerry Brown in September 2018. The bill repeals a centuries-old legal doctrine that held a second co-defendant responsible for felony murder if someone was killed in the commission of certain felonies, like robbery, even if the person did not intend for a killing to occur or did not aid in the killing in any way. Persons eligible for resentencing could not have aided and abetted in the killing, did not act with reckless indifference to human life and did not have knowledge prior of a potential killing prior to the crime.
  • New York Could Become First State to End Funding for Private Prisons
    New York is one of three states nationally that have prohibited the operation of private prisons within the state prison system. The state has gone one step further by passing S5433 in the State Senate, which prohibits state-chartered banks from investing in and providing financing to private prisons.
  • California Looks to Close a State Prison, But it Won’t be Easy
    California has reduced its prison population by 30,000 inmates over the last decade. However, its prison capacity is at 131.3%, or 117,700 inmates, and it spends over $15 billion per year. Governor Newsom would like to close a prison in favor of more transitional housing, but he faces a difficult uphill battle about which facility to close and where to transition inmates when local jails are close to capacity.  
  • NYC Votes to Close Rikers. Now Comes the Hard Part.
    After many years, the notorious Rikers Island jail will finally close. The City Council approved a sweeping $8 billion plan to close the troubled jail complex and replace it with four smaller jails by 2026.
  • Man Pleads Guilty to Cocaine Possession to Get Out of Jail. It Turned Out to be Powdered Milk.
    Cody Gregg, a homeless man, was biking through an industrial neighborhood in Oklahoma City when he stopped by police on a probable cause suspicion. When he was arrested, he was charged with felony cocaine possession. After spending two months in prison, he pleaded guilty to felony possession but later entered a not guilty plea when drug testing confirmed the substance was powdered milk. Gregg said he obtained the milk from a local food pantry but only pleaded guilty to get out of jail.
  • People Whose Criminal Convictions Stem from Medical Debt.
    Individuals across the country have developed criminal histories because of unpaid hospital debt. Many hospitals and contractors of radiology and medical services will hire attorneys to collect unpaid debt and when debtors fail to appear for their court date they have a warrant issued for their arrest. Local magistrates can also send people to jail regardless of how sick or mentally ill they are for bills as low as $100.
  • How Prison Can Destroy Your Credit Score and What to do About It
    Prison can damage someone’s credit score during incarceration if they fail to pay monthly bills, particularly student loan debt, a mortgage or a car loan. Even utilities can be reported to a credit bureau if the debt is unresolved. This article introduces some helpful tips of how to rebuild your credit if you’ve been incarcerated.
  • How to Request a Credit Report While You are Incarcerated
    People who are incarcerated can be vulnerable to identity theft or scammers using their personal information to open up new accounts while they are detained. The only real ways to prevent this is by placing an alert on a credit account or by checking a credit report annually. Requesting a credit report from prison requires sending a letter to the Annual Credit Report Request Services. More details are listed in the article.
  • Ohio House Bill Would Allow Involuntary Commitment for Moderate to Severe Substance Abuse
    A proposed Ohio bill would allow courts and law enforcement to involuntarily detain anyone with suspected moderate to severe substance abuse to a hospital. The law would also make it mandatory for private gun sellers to request a certified background check from a potential buyer, which verifies the person is not under a weapons disability or domestic violence order.
  • Ohio Legal Help Launches to the Public
    Ohio Legal Help provides plain language legal information, interactive self-help tools, and connections to local legal and community resources to help Ohioans resolve their legal issues. All content is reviewed by lawyers, to ensure the website is easy to understand and accurate.
  • Second Chances Farm
    The farm, located in Delaware, provides returning citizens with mentorship programs and green collar jobs at hydroponic, indoor, vertical farms in economically distressed communities. Their mission it to reduce their carbon footprint by growing food locally and providing skills to entrepreneurs-in-residence.
  • Athletes are Stepping into the Criminal Justice Arena
    WNBA All-Star and Phoenix Mercury forward Dewanna Bonner visited women at the Estrella Jail – a women’s only facility in Phoenix. The tour – as part of a larger effort to engage athletes in learning more about the U.S. criminal justice system – followed Bonner around the facility and introduced her to several incarcerated women.
  • Back to School: A Common-Sense Strategy to Lower Recidivism
    Postsecondary education is thriving in prisons as corrections officials realize furthering the education of incarcerated persons can reduce their chances of recidivating. The Vera Institute investigates further.
  • Improving the Health and Wellbeing of Incarcerated Mothers
    The United States has the highest maternal death rate in the developed world. This rates increases for black and incarcerated women.
  • Changing Ohio’s Civil Asset and Forfeiture Practices
    In the past, property could be seized and forfeited if law enforcement officers suspected it was used for the commission, or attained through, a crime. Oftentimes, small sums of money, or a person’s car or home could be seized without a person being criminally convicted of a crime. This practice resulted in $25.7 million dollars in revenue for law enforcement agencies across the state of Ohio and left many property owners without substantial recourse to prove their innocence and recoup their forfeited investments. Beginning in 2017, changes in forfeiture laws will mean any property valued at $25,000 or less can only be seized if the owner has been criminally convicted, and it can be proven by clear and convincing evidence that the property was used to facilitate a crime. Finally, if real property is at stake, property owners will be granted a pre-seizure hearing if agencies are targeting the property.   
  • Fair Housing Rights for Returning Citizens
    The National Housing Law Project (NHLP) is pleased to announce the publication of An Affordable Home of Reentry. The manual was last published in 2008 and has been fully updated. It is an essential tool for advocates working for people who have criminal records and are seeking access to federally assisted housing. The publication also covers federal statutes and regulations governing admissions and continued occupancy for individuals with a criminal record.
  • Ohio Voting Rights Online Tool 
    A new voting rights resource at 
    www.RestoreYourVote.org provides useful information for individuals with criminal convictions and their ability to vote. The online tool takes the complicated legal framework of each state into an easy to use questionnaire that people with convictions, or agencies serving this population, can use to determine their voting eligibility and the steps they can take to restore their right to vote. Read more of the story of an Alabama voter who thought he was ineligible to vote due to his felony conviction.
  • Criminal Record Sealing in Ohio
    In Ohio, criminal records cannot be completely erased or “expunged,” unless they are related to human trafficking. Under Ohio’s Revised Code 2953.31 – 2953.61, when a record is sealed, the electronic and paper records of a person’s criminal charges are filed in a separate, secure location. Certain individuals are eligible to have their records sealed depending upon their conviction. To learn more about eligibility requirements for record sealing or about this process, visit the Ohio Justice and Policy Center.
     

    Events 

    • Cuyahoga Common Pleas Pro Bono Collaborative
      Civil Legal Assistance for Those in Need
      The Justice Center – Courtroom 15-D
      1200 Ontario Street
      Registration required: Mark Shannon, Pro Bono Coordinator
      (216) 348-4027 or mshannon@cuyahogacounty.us
      Dates are as follows:
      January 17, 2020 – 9 a.m.
      February 21st
      March 20th
      April 17th
      May 22nd
      June 19th
      July 17th
      August 21st
      September 18th
      October 16th
      November 20th
      December 18th
    • Understanding Race Equity and Homelessness
      Wednesday, January 8, 2020
      9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
      Jerry Sue Thorton Center
      2500 E. 22nd Street
      Cleveland, Ohio 44115
    • Cuyahoga County Homeless Stand Down
      Saturday, January 11, 2020
      8:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
      Cleveland Public Auditorium
      To volunteer or learn about the Stand Down, please visit: https://www.handsonneo.org/homelessstanddown
    • 35th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
      Monday, January 20, 2020
      1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
      Cleveland Public Library
      2075 Stokes Blvd.
      Cleveland, Ohio 44106
    • Surviving Criminal Justice in America
      Tuesday, January 21, 2020
      7:00 p.m.
      Mainstage Theatre, Kleist Center for Art & Drama
      Baldwin Wallace University
      95 E. Bagley Road
      Berea, Ohio 44017
      Free and open to the public. Entrance tickets required.
    • The Impact of Foster Care on Thousands of Ohio's Children
      Thursday, January 23, 2020
      12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
      The City Club of Cleveland
      850 Euclid Avenue, Ste. 200
      Cleveland, Ohio 44114
      Registration is required.
    • Ohio's Transportation Future
      Friday, January 24, 2020
      12:00 p.m. -1:30 p.m.
      The City Club of Cleveland
      850 Euclid Avenue, Ste. 200
      Cleveland, Ohio 44114
      Registration is required.
    • Our Voices, Our Vote: Courage and Persistence in Black Women's Struggle for Voting Rights
      Tuesday, January 28, 2020
      7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
      Tinkman Veale University Center
      11038 Bellflower Road
      Cleveland, Ohio 44106
      This event is open to the public.
    • CQE & Record Sealing Workshops
      North Star Recovery Resource Center
      1834 E. 55th Street
      Cleveland, Ohio 44103
      Dates: February 21, 2020; May 22nd; August 28th; October 30th
      Registration is required: https://cqe-recordsealingforcommunitymembers.eventbrite.com
      View flyer
    • Racial Disparity, Social Justice and the Opioid Crisis
      Friday, April 17, 2020 - Saturday, April 18, 2020
      Case Western Reserve University
      Linsalata Alumni Center
      11310 Juniper Road
      Cleveland, Ohio 44106
      Registration will go live in January 2020.