criminal justice

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United States: Four NFL Players Ask Jeff Sessions To Fix The Justice System

Justice

The war on drugs is a war most of the country, unlike Attorney General Jeff Sessions, would like to end

By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

Current National Football League (NFL) players, Johnson Bademosi (Detroit), Anquan Boldin (Detroit), Malcolm Jenkins (Philadelphia) and Glover Quin (Detroit), have written a column that advocates against what could be a renewed war on drugs. The op-ed piece, posted at CNN.com, is a response to Attorney General Jeff Sessions request for prosecutors to seek the strongest possible sentences in all situations, including non-violent drug offenses.

Kentucky: Press Conference To Push Senator McConnell To Schedule Criminal Justice Bill

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Over 30,000 Signatories Demand a Vote on Criminal Justice Reform

On the afternoon of March 29, Kentucky advocates, including faith leaders and students, will hold a press conference outside the Lexington office of Sen. Mitch McConnell, to demand that he bring an important criminal justice reform bill to the Senate floor for a vote.

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, spearheaded by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, expand the federal "safety valve” (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and expand reentry programming and early release, among other things.

The bill has broad bipartisan support, with 29 Republican and Democratic Senators currently sponsoring. The bill was passed by the Senate’s Judiciary Committee last October, and is now awaiting a vote on the floor. House Speaker Paul Ryan recently promised to bring criminal justice reform legislation up for a vote, but Mitch McConnell has not made the same commitment.

Advocates will deliver a petition that was organized by Drug Policy Alliance, Change.org, #cut 50, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. The petition was signed by over 30,000 people, and calls for McConnell to schedule a vote on the bill.

Who:
Rev. Dean W. Bucalos, Program Coordinator, Mission Behind Bars and Beyond.
Reverend D. Anthony Everett, Pastor, Wesley United Methodist Church (Lexington, KY), Commissioner At Large, Kentucky Commission on Human Rights

Arizona: Civil Forfeiture Reform Legislative Hearing Set For Thursday

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Legislative Hearing on Civil Forfeiture Reform
Thursday, March 24, 2016 at 9:00 am
House Government and Higher Education Committee
House Hearing Room 1

An unprecedented array of public interest organizations — including ACLU of Arizona, Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Arizona Citizens Defense League, Goldwater Institute, Institute for Justice, Los Abogados, NFIB, and Public Integrity Alliance — have banded together as the Coalition for Arizona Forfeiture Reform to support reform of Arizona’s civil forfeiture laws.

The Coalition will be testifying before the House Government and Higher Education Committee to inform legislators about civil forfeiture and the nationwide, bipartisan steps being taken to implement necessary reforms.

If law enforcement suspects that you committed a crime, they can arrest you and put you on trial. At trial, prosecutors must prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But if law enforcement suspects your property is linked to a crime, they can seize it even if they don’t charge you—or anyone else—with a crime.

If you want your property back, you will have to prove your innocence. Exacerbating these problems, law enforcement gets to keep up to 100 percent of what they take, which can warp law enforcement priorities and lead to questionable or even illegal spending of public funds.

Welcome to the upside-down world of civil forfeiture.

U.S.: First-Ever Bail Reform Legislation Introduced In Congress

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Bill Would Ban States from Receiving Federal Law Enforcement Dollars If They Use Money Bail

DPA: Far Too Many People Behind Bars Simply Because They Can’t Afford Bail; 60% of People in U.S. Jails Have Not Been Convicted of Any Crime

A group of Congressmen led by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) on Wednesday introduced the No More Money Bail Act of 2016. The bill would reform the country’s bail system by denying states access to Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) funds until they end the use of monetary payment as a condition for pretrial release.

Byrne JAG is one of the main federal law enforcement grant programs, directing hundreds of millions of dollars annually to state law enforcement agencies. The bill would also prohibit the use of money bail at the federal level.

“Too many individuals are currently held without trial simply because they cannot afford bail,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “Many of them are charged with drug offenses, therefore the nexus between the drug war and money bail is clear.”

Currently, around 60 percent of individuals in jail in the U.S. are pretrial detainees who have not been convicted of any crime. Such a system contradicts the ethos of “innocent until proven guilty,” and has an adverse impact on low-income families and communities of color.

New York: NYC Marijuana Possession Arrests Drop Under 17K; First Time Since '96

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67% Drop from 51,000 Arrests in 2011

Still A Tale of Two Cities: Young Black and Latino People Arrested at Higher Rates, Despite Young White People Using Marijuana at Higher Rates

According to data just released by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York City marijuana arrests in 2015 dropped to under 17,000 for the first time since 1996. The 16,590 arrests for low-level marijuana possession in 2015 is a 42 percent decline from the 26,386 in 2014 and a 67 percent drop from the nearly 51,000 arrests in 2011.

“New York is finally starting to shed its embarrassing distinction of being the marijuana arrest capital of the world,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York state director at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Over the last twenty years, more than 700,000 lives were irrevocably harmed by our draconian marijuana arrest policies. We must repair the harms of marijuana prohibition and end the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young Black and Latino New Yorkers.”

In 2015, with the continuous advocacy of community members, advocates, and elected officials – the New York Police Department made 16,590 arrests for low level marijuana possession, down from a high of 26,386 in 2014. This continues a four year trend of declining marijuana possession arrest by the NYPD.

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