MN criminal justice policymakers brace for major cuts as state faces $6.2B deficit

BY Jon Mosher on Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 11:01 AM

Today's Star-Tribune has an important story chronicling the impact Minnesota’s $6.2 billion deficit has had upon the state’s justice system.  Cuts in funding in recent years continue to strain the state’s already beleaguered public defender system.  Stakeholders are bracing themselves for even more budget cuts this coming year.  

"I cannot overestimate the importance of this issue," said Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea. "The success of our democracy depends on a vibrant, fully functioning justice system ... We can't put the people in prison that we're afraid of if we don't have an adequately funded justice system."

Indiana Chief Justice supports state's reclassification efforts

BY Jon Mosher on Friday, January 14, 2011 at 11:59 AM

Indiana's chief justice during his annual State of the Judiciary Speech backs criminal justice reforms that propose to keep non-violent offenders out of the prisons system, reports the Indianapolis Star.  "Making good decisions about which offenders are so risky that a prison bed is the only sound solution and which ones can be treated adequately through local alternatives makes all the difference in the world for public safety, recidivism rates, employability of offenders and the dollars we spend on corrections."

Gideon Alert: Ignoring the 6th Amendment in Broward County, Florida Municipal Courts

BY David Carroll on Friday, January 14, 2011 at 8:00 AM

It is an all too common occurrence for misdemeanor courts in the United States to pressure people charged with misdemeanors into waiving their right to counsel without adequately informing them of the consequences of doing so.  Courts defend such practices as an attempt to expedite the processing of cases and save money, but the Sixth Amendment does not allow this type of shortcut.  And, the consequences for unrepresented people can be severe, such as loss of public housing, deportation, inability to serve in the armed forces, ineligibility for student loans, and significant financial penalties.

Ohio's Chief Justice calls for reform of probation system

BY Jon Mosher on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 11:20 AM

An Associated Press story today notes the counter-productive consequences of disproportionate sentences on low-risk, non-violent offenders. By "exposing them to harsher probationary terms than they require" and "removing minor offenders from their communities, families and jobs makes it much more likely they'll commit more crimes and go back to prison." In the face of Ohio's ongoing budget woes, the state's chief justice says now is the time for sentencing reform.

Prominent conservatives take up the call of criminal justice reform

BY Jon Mosher on Friday, January 7, 2011 at 12:00 AM

“The criminal justice system is broken, and conservatives must lead the way in fixing it,” wrote former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in a January 7, 2011 Washington Post Op-Ed on behalf of other prominent conservatives making up the Right on Crime Campaign. Given the economic landscape of most states, Gingrich argues that there is an urgent need to address the “astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential.”  Knowing that “there are more humane, effective alternatives,” the Right on Crime Campaign demands that “it is time to fundamentally rethink how we treat and rehabilitate our prisoners.” 

Editorial calls for solutions to Oklahoma's right to counsel system

BY Jon Mosher on Thursday, December 30, 2010 at 12:00 AM

The editors at The Oklahoman, lamenting the state's indigent defense system "gasping under the weight of too many cases, too few attorneys and too little funding," have called for solutions "that are smart, not just tough, on crime."