Prairie-Correctional-exterior_binary_4041174.jpg

All quiet on the western front concerning the Appleton prison facility – West Central Tribune

APPLETON — It’s quiet on the western front this legislative session, as compared to previous years when bills were introduced and local campaigns launched to promote the reopening of the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton.

Don’t mistake the lack of activity for a lack of interest. The reopening of the vacant, 1,600-bed private prison remains a priority for the Appleton community as well as area legislators. The facility has not held inmates since 2010.

State Sen. Andrew Lang, R-Olivia, and Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, said the possibility of someday reopening the facility remains very much at play. It’s just not going to be a topic for this legislative session for a number of reasons, according to the legislators.

Some of it is related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Inmate numbers in the state are down and the

Department of Corrections

is not seeking additional beds at this time, according to the legislators.

The Department of Corrections is also very focused on managing its operations during the pandemic. This is not the time to raise discussions when the department is managing many immediate and challenging needs, the legislators said.

Miller and Lang remain optimistic overall. Progress has been slow, “but we have not lost ground,” said Miller. He said things are more or less in a holding pattern right now.

Lang believes prospects for reopening the facility will emerge in the future. Appleton remains in a good position, he said. Previously approved legislation requires that the Department of Corrections consider the facility as an option when it considers facility needs.

And, the legislators believe it is only a matter of time before the department again looks at facility needs. Many of its existing facilities are very old, they pointed out. “Appleton becomes more and more attractive,” said Lang.

Inmate numbers could rise after the pandemic and lead the Department of Corrections to once again consider adding capacity, they added. The department had requested $141 million to add 500 beds to the Rush City Correctional Facility in 2016 when inmate numbers were rising.

Miller said the pandemic likely has a role in the current decline in the number of inmates. There has been an increase in the number of people sentenced to probation rather than prison during the pandemic, he said.

The local representative said one possible use for the Appleton facility would be to hold offenders who are serving relatively short sentences. He said he learned from discussions with Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell that there are offenders who are returned to prison and have relatively short sentences to serve, in many cases less than a year. There is currently no facility programmed specifically for these inmates.

While state use of the facility remains their priority, the legislators also noted that a possible mix of uses could be possible as well. Since the facility is divided into segregated pods, a portion of the facility could be used to hold jail inmates from local counties, for example. That’s among a number of different proposals that have been discussed in the past, although the legislators say no decisions were ever made.

Gary Hendrickx of Appleton has been active in efforts to reopen the facility as a member of the Swift County Board of Commissioners. He said the facility’s owner,

CoreCivic

, continues to maintain the facility at the ready. It invested in roof repairs this last year, and is paying a hefty annual property tax bill for it as well, he said.

He said he has also encouraged the company to consider making its Jacob’s Trading Post facility at the prison site available for commercial use. The facility includes loading docks and has ample interior space to serve as a warehouse distribution center or for other uses along those lines, he said.

There have also been discussions in the past about exploring the use of the prison facility for alternative uses. Hendrickx and the legislators said they are not aware of any proposals that have advanced.

Hendrickx emphasized that the community remains ready to work with CoreCivic and promote the facility for reopening as a prison or for other uses. He pointed out that its future lies very much in the hands of CoreCivic. “At the end of the day, it is not our building,” he said.

shutterstock_death_penalty_gavel_and_books.jpg

SCOTUS stays execution, agrees to hear request for pastor’s hands-on, out-loud prayer in death chamber

U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUS stays execution, agrees to hear request for pastor’s hands-on, out-loud prayer in death chamber

Image from Shutterstock.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday evening agreed to consider a Texas inmate’s request to have a Baptist pastor lay hands on him and pray out loud during his execution.

The high court stayed the execution of John Henry Ramirez and granted cert in his case, report the New York Times, the Washington Post and SCOTUSblog. The court directed that the case be set for argument in October or November.

Ramirez argues that refusing to allow the hands-on audible prayer violated his rights under the free exercise clause and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. A federal judge rejected his petition earlier this month, holding that allowing a pastor to stand silently in the execution chamber accommodated Ramirez’s religious needs. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans affirmed.

Ramirez was convicted for killing a convenience store clerk in 2004 during a string of robberies. The case is Ramirez v. Collier; the SCOTUSblog case page is here.

The Supreme Court has ruled on requests for execution stays by several inmates who wanted spiritual advisers at execution. The “shadow docket” cases are:

• In February 2019, the Supreme Court refused to block the execution of Alabama inmate Domineque Ray, who wanted an imam to be present during his lethal injection. Alabama denied Ray’s request, even though it allowed Christian clergy members at execution. The Supreme Court said in a brief order Ray had waited too long to seek relief. The case was Dunn v. Ray.

• In March 2019, the Supreme Court blocked the execution of Texas inmate Patrick Henry Murphy, who wasn’t allowed to have a Buddhist spiritual adviser with him as he was put to death. In an opinion concurring in the execution stay, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh said he thought the Constitution bars denominational discrimination. Going forward, he said, the state could choose to let all inmates have a religious adviser of their faith into the execution room, or it could relegate all religious advisers to the viewing room. The case was Murphy v. Collier.

• In June 2020, the Supreme Court stayed the execution of Catholic inmate Ruben Gutierrez, who sought a chaplain in the death chamber in Texas. After Kavanaugh’s opinion in Murphy’s case, the state banned all clergy in the execution chamber. The Supreme Court said that, on remand, the lower court should determine whether allowing clergy in the death chamber would create serious security problems. The case was Gutierrez v. Collier.

• In February, the Supreme Court refused to allow Alabama to execute inmate Willie B. Smith III if he is not allowed to have a pastor with him in the execution chamber. The case was Dunn v. Smith.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Chemerinsky: In death do they part—SCOTUS justices show divisions over capital cases”

6208235f7da0b.image_.jpg

The budget session starts Monday. Here’s what to look for. |

Wyoming lawmakers are set to convene Monday for a budget session. But the to-do list this time around is longer than normal.

The Wyoming Legislature is tasked with crafting a two-year financial plan for the state, something that is a necessity every budget session. But along with that, lawmakers must decide ow to spend a half billion dollars in relief aid while redrawing the state’s legislative map as part of the once-a-decade redistricting process.

The 20-day budget session happens every even-numbered year. This time around, the Legislature will be handling three budgets: the base budget, the capital construction budget and the spending plan for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) relief funding.

Gov. Mark Gordon is responsible for drafting versions of these budgets, which are then sent to the Joint Appropriations Committee (which you will often hear referred to as “J-A-C”). The committee has held numerous meetings since the governor made his budget recommendations. Members heard from dozens of interested parties about how the money was being spent.

Next, the draft budget will be delivered to the Legislature, at which point lawmakers will begin to offer up amendments.

Base budget

The main budget is the general government appropriations plan that lawmakers pass every budget session.

You’ll hear lawmakers and lobbyists at the upcoming session calling this current budget “flat.” In this context, “flat” means Gordon did not make any ground-breaking recommendations. His drafts were fairly even-keeled.

Perhaps the most notable change is the increase in pay for state workers. The increase is not universal for all positions, but determined by the “market value” for each sector.

Those increases work out to about 5% on average, said appropriations committee member Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs. Wages are currently about 19.4% below market value on average.

The proposed boost in state wages is driven by the fact that Wyoming is struggling to attract and maintain qualified state workers. The state experienced a doubling in turnover rates at almost half of Wyoming’s executive branch agencies between 2010 and 2021, according to WyoFile.

“We are hemorrhaging talent and experience,” Gordon said at a Joint Appropriations meeting last year.






Gov. Mark Gordon exits the House Chamber following his State of the State address in 2020 in Cheyenne. Gordon has recommended a budget to lawmakers, but they are in the process of revising the plan. 




When surveyed, employees overwhelmingly cited compensation as the reason they did not stay in state-run jobs.

Sen. Mike Gierau, a Jackson Democrat, said he hoped the pay increases would have been higher.

While workers are set to get raises, the base budget does not create many new positions. Fears that the relief money will eventually dry up, leaving some of the new positions without a funding source, drove that decision.

“The size of Wyoming’s government stays pretty small in this view,” Stith said. “The governor was really careful to recommend not growing government.”

The budget’s largest expenditure is earmarked for the Department of Health, at roughly $1.9 billion (the majority of which is federal money). Some of the dollars would go toward mental health services, but none is explicitly allocated for suicide prevention, despite the state having the highest rate in the nation.

The next largest expenditures are planned for the Department of Family Services ($300.7 million), the Department of Corrections ($262.6 million) and higher education ($600 million).

Together, those four allocations form about two-thirds of the proposed budget.

Another substantial portion of the budget would be put towards “medium-term and long-term savings,” Stith said. Specifically, $75 million would be put toward the Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Fund, $75 million is planned for the Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund, while $75 million would head to the common school land account, what Stith calls “medium-term savings.”

The rainy day fund will grow to about 1.7 billion, according to Rep. Tom Walters, R-Casper, another member of the appropriations committee.






House of Representatives

Speaker of the House Eric Barlow speaks at the Wyoming Capitol in 2020. The Legislature this session must contend with redistricting along with its normal duties. 




Because the budget is so “flat,” there is not expected to be much drama, but some disagreements could happen.

“Where I think the flash point might be is on the Senate side,” Stith said. “They might want to increase that savings number.”

In the end, the Joint Appropriations Committee did not make many changes to what Gordon proposed.

Reading the main budget

Total allocations in the base budget are made up of three pools: general funds, federal funds and “other funds.” General fund money is essentially money out of the state’s checking account, federal funds consist of money from the federal government that the state would have received regardless of the pandemic.

The governor also converted some of the ARPA relief money into general fund money. That money is incorporated in the general fund column.

Other funds are typically private donations or agency-generated dollars. For example, a state park may charge visitors for camping spots and then grant the Legislature the authority to spend that money.

As the budget session moves forward, the budget draft will undergo amendments, which can be proposed by interested parties, but must be introduced by lawmakers. These amendments will appear in different colored lettering, making it easier for the public to know what has changed.

American Rescue Plan budget

The relief aid budget does not move through the Legislature every two years. Instead, the money was sent to the states by the federal government to help with the economic problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This budget consists of about $339.5 million in ARPA money that has a specific purpose as required by the federal government. You may hear lawmakers refer to this money as having “federal strings attached.”

The appropriations committee amended the governor’s relief aid plan more than it did the base budget.

The governor proposed roughly 25 different allocations. The committee accepted about seven of them, while also combining some of the governor’s proposals. The committee added an entirely new project line, which included $50 million to local government support projects for water and $50 million for other local government projects.

Gordon also recommended $7 million to staff the state’s suicide prevention hotline 24/7. The appropriations committee cut this recommendation in its entirety.

“$7 million every two years seems like a really high price tag to change our phone number,” Stith said, adding that he is open to more “evidence-based” suicide prevention programs.

Outside of the base budget and the ARPA budget, there’s the capital construction budget. That money is meant to go towards building and refurbishing state facilities and hospitals.

The Capital Construction budget amounts to roughly $190 million, $62 million of which is federal money. Another $58 million in the capital budget is earmarked for the University of Wyoming. As of right now, $55 million dollars is going towards hospitals via ARPA money with the federal strings attached.

Redistricting

This year, the Legislature is also tasked with passing a redistricting bill, which happens once a decade following the Census.

Lawmakers have been working for months on redrawing the state’s legislative districts in light of population changes: namely that Wyoming’s larger cities are growing and its smaller communities are getting smaller. Throughout the process, the committee experienced difficulties balancing the urban and rural regions of the Equality State.

The Wyoming legislative committee tasked with redistricting had its final meeting Friday, at which the panel voted to move forward with a statewide map following months of debate, dozens of meetings and a fair share of drama. They had originally aimed to be done by Dec. 1.

The bill and revised map will be presented to lawmakers at the budget session. The measure that the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee voted in favor of would increase the total number of state lawmakers to 93 by adding two House districts and one Senate district. There are currently 60 representatives and 30 senators in the Legislature. The final bill the committee voted on on Friday only received three “no” votes.

Adding three lawmakers, some lawmakers said, helps to give the rural areas the representation they asked for and deserve while respecting the population increases in some of the urban areas.

One of the new House districts would comprise parts of north Cheyenne and sections of Laramie, Goshen and Platte counties. At Friday’s meeting, lawmakers voted to incorporate part of Laramie county into Platte County’s single district, as opposed to using Goshen County to boost Platte’s district population.

The other House district will be east of Casper, encompassing more rural parts of the area extending to the Glenrock region. The goal, lawmakers said, is to have an “outside of Casper district” that encompasses the “mineral interest area” of Glenrock and the Dave Johnston Power Plant.

The Senate district would stretch through the east-central part of the state and partly straddle Natrona and Converse counties.






Charlie Scott

Sen. Charlie Scott, R-Natrona County, sits for a portrait at his home. Scott is the longest-tenured state lawmaker. He’s noted a mild uptick in the amount of incivility in Wyoming politics, but a “great deal of growth” in number of hateful calls he receives. 




Lawmakers reasoned the new House district would encompass more of Natrona County, while the new Senate district would encompass more of Converse County.

“We can make it work, but it does make it more difficult,” Sen. Charlie Scott, R-Casper, said earlier this month. He was in the Legislature when there were 62 representatives and 31 senators in the past.

Multiple members of the committee have expressed a desire to move ahead with only one map, but the committee did vote to sponsor a back-up plan drafted by Scott “in case something goes wrong.”

During one redistricting process in the past, the main redistricting bill fell through, and the Legislature ended up moving forward with Scott’s plan. It became the statewide map for the next decade.

Other bill drafts

Only bills related to the budget or redistricting will be automatically heard. All other bills will have to make over a two-thirds introductory vote hurdle.

In fact, there’s a bill being brought for the fourth time to eliminate the super-majority requirement.

Procedural changes

Arkansas and Wyoming are the only states who have a two-thirds introductory vote threshold, and Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, is proposing a constitutional amendment that would take away that two-thirds requirement present at all budget sessions.

The thinking behind the two-thirds vote requirement is that it will conserve enough time for lawmakers to handle the complicated budget process.

That said, when lawmakers are trying to push their bill drafts through the two-thirds introduction vote, they end up debating the matter for hours before the measures are even formally heard.

In the Cowboy State, constitutional amendments require two-thirds support from each chamber to be put on the ballot in the next general election. If the amendment makes it on the ballot, it requires a majority of the total votes cast to go into effect.

So even if Harshman’s bill is successful in the Legislature, it still needs voters’ backing.

COVID-19 vaccination

A new version of a previous special session bill that aims to create protections for unvaccinated Wyoming residents is also slated for the budget session. This draft is a reworked version of measures that were introduced during the 2021 special session that convened to fight back against one of the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandates.

House Bill 32 would require health care facilities, governmental entities and providers of “essential services” to offer accommodations to people who are unable or unwilling to provide proof of immunization. It would also prohibit COVID-19 vaccine requirements in Wyoming schools for the next five years and make requiring immunization as a condition of employment “a discriminatory or unfair employment practice.”

The measure is a less severe version of House Bill 1006, which failed in last year’s special session.

Last fall, the Biden administration announced vaccine mandates for various groups — including workers at large private businesses. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that workers at companies with 100 or more employees can’t be federally obligated to be vaccinated against COVID-19, while workers at health care facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid can be federally mandated to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This bill attempts to respect that federal ruling.

Critical race theory

Casper Rep. Chuck Gray filed a bill Friday that explicitly seeks to keep critical race theory out of Wyoming classrooms. The “ban on teaching and training critical race theory” prohibits preschool through 12th grade students from “instruction that presents any form of blame or judgement on the basis of race ethnicity, sex, color or national origin.” On a more granular level, teachers are also not allowed to teach students that a person, because of their “sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin,” is inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same “sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin,” nor are they allowed to teach students that the U.S. is “fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist.”

The Wyoming Education Association, which represents the state’s public school teachers, expressed concern over this bill.

“It is definitely a substantial concern that it seems like, again, political expediency around inflammatory rhetoric and not data driven … education policy,” said Tate Mullen, the group’s director of government relations.

Critical race theory is an academic framework for examining how racism is embedded in U.S. institutions and society. At least 35 states have introduced anti-critical race theory legislation so far, according to ABC News.

Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devil’s Tower, and the Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, filed a bill last week that requires school districts to create an online directory listing all teaching materials and curriculum used in each school by grade level and subject.

That bill never uses the phrase “critical race theory,” and Driskill maintains that it does not have to do with the controversial topic.

But the former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow directly linked the bill to critical race theory at a press conference held on the legislation in the fall. Balow has since resigned her post.

Juvenile justice

Wyoming has one of the highest incarceration rates for juveniles in the nation, and there’s a bill aimed at remedying that issue. Legislation meant to spur widespread collection of juvenile justice data in Wyoming earned the backing of the Joint Judiciary Committee during the interim.

Wyoming has struggled for years from the lack of data on juveniles in the criminal justice system, and the bill is aimed at filling those gaps in data.

There is also an amendment to the proposed budget in the works that would seek to address Wyoming’s incarceration rate of juveniles.

The Wyoming Youth Justice Coalition is currently ratcheting up an effort to get a budget amendment passed that would allocate $3 million towards funding County Juvenile Service Boards, county-level outfits dedicated to keeping juveniles out of the formal correctional system, like detention, and in their communities. As the budget stands, there are zero dollars allocated for the County Juvenile Service Boards.

Without these service boards, advocates and experts argue, more juveniles will be taken out of their communities and put into detention facilities, which have adverse outcomes and tends to land them back in detention.

A tough hurdle

The two-thirds introductory vote is difficult for bills to overcome, and sometimes seemingly important measures don’t even make it far in a budget session. Once lawmakers get acquainted with the bills and the issues they seek to address, they’re often more likely to pass them in future session if they are reintroduced.

But whatever happens, lawmakers must pass a budget and complete the redistricting process.

1644579728_61d3c64f031b6.image_.jpg

Albany lawmakers continue to clash over editing state bail, discovery laws | State News

ALBANY — New campaigns to fight misinformation about the state’s criminal justice reforms grew louder this week in an attempt to steer a politically saturated debate over the need to edit the state’s bail and discovery laws.

Legislative leaders in Albany are expected to continue discussions next week about the need to revisit the state’s 2019 changes to its cash bail system as top state leaders remain at odds over the need to amend reforms rolled back in 2020.

Policy experts with project Justice Not Fear, launched by media and education initiative Zealous, work to refute misleading reports and statements on the state’s bail laws as officials — especially members of law enforcement and campaigning Republicans — tie the 2019 changes to a double-digit increase in homicides and violent crimes across the state seen since 2020.

“Ninety-eight percent of people released pretrial have not been rearrested for any felony that’s classified as violent that includes charges like simple possession of a weapon, even though there is no harm to a person alleged it’s still a violent felony offense,” said MK Kaishian, a civil rights attorney and legal policy and justice advocacy fellow for Zealous.

About 2% of the rough total 183,000 New Yorkers released before their trial without bail were rearrested for a violent crime, according to state Office of Court Administration data.

“Some of those cases are later dismissed, some of those charges are later reduced by prosecutors,” Kaishian said. “So this is really just people who are having those arrests happen.”

New York City Mayor Eric L. Adams, a Democrat, urged lawmakers Wednesday to make targeted amendments to the state’s bail laws to allow judges greater discretion in determining a defendants’ level of dangerousness — especially individuals accused of violent crimes with a firearm.

“I think we can tweak it and make it right and get what we’re desiring,” Adams said at a virtual budget hearing Wednesday.

Both parties remain strongly at odds about the safety of the system changes.

Accused criminal offenders who post bail are rearrested at higher rates, but some officials maintain the state’s 29% increase in homicides in 2020 is tied to bail reform.

Adams, a former state senator and New York City Police Department captain, told several lawmakers that the bail and discovery laws should be reviewed, to watch for a pattern of judges abusing the discretion, but could not name his specific, desired revisions for the statute or another U.S. state to model.

The law is expected to be an important topic of discussion as Adams prepares to meet with legislative leaders in Albany and Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul prepares to release 30-day amendments to her proposed $216 billion executive budget.

Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, D-Bronx, and Senate Majority Leader Andrea A. Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, have maintained that revisiting the bail laws are not part of their legislative priorities for the 2022 session or as budget negotiations heat up for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

“I’m certainly more than happy to discuss anything with the mayor,” Stewart-Cousins said on the topic Tuesday. “… There is certainly a broader conversation we can have about criminal justice reform — all kinds of reforms. Certainly, I want it to be very, very clear we are concerned, as everyone is, about the spike in crime.”

The leaders of the Senate and Assembly argue that the changes to New York’s bail and discovery laws have been successful in limiting the number of people languishing in jail without funds to post bail.

“We do not want to criminalize poverty,” the Senate leader said.

Hochul again this week declined to publicly reveal her stance on changing the state’s bail system this session, reiterating her refusal to negotiate important policy through the press.

The governor spoke with Heastie, Stewart-Cousins and several senators and assemblymembers about proposals in the 2022-23 fiscal year budget early this week.

“Those conversations continue,” Hochul said on the topic Wednesday at an unrelated press conference.

The governor plans to discuss the controversial criminal justice reforms with mayors and local leaders across the state as the joint legislative budget hearings continue through next week.

“It’s all processed into a larger conversation about what is right for the state of New York,” she said. “All of this will be resolved. Right now, this is information-gathering.”

“… There’s been very frequent and impactful conversations even this early in the budget process, so I feel good about what’s going to be the ultimate outcome,” she added.

The Legislature’s 2019 decision to limit pretrial detention for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies was intended to ensure equality in release regardless of socioeconomic status and reverse the trend of mass incarceration and more severe punishment of Black and Hispanic people — a disparity prevalent throughout U.S. and state prisons and courtrooms.

State discovery laws were also changed to prevent prosecutors from delaying the start of a trial without turning over evidence to the defense, increasing the likelihood a defendant would default to a plea deal to end lengthy or expensive court proceedings.

Legislative leaders look forward to speaking with Adams in private, at length, about his demands to alter the bail laws.

“He knows how this works — I’m sure he’ll be speaking to Speaker Heastie and myself soon,” Stewart-Cousins said.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

61d3c64f031b6.image_.jpg

Albany lawmakers continue to clash over editing state bail, discovery laws | State News

ALBANY — New campaigns to fight misinformation about the state’s criminal justice reforms grew louder this week in an attempt to steer a politically saturated debate over the need to edit the state’s bail and discovery laws.

Legislative leaders in Albany are expected to continue discussions next week about the need to revisit the state’s 2019 changes to its cash bail system as top state leaders remain at odds over the need to amend reforms rolled back in 2020.

Policy experts with project Justice Not Fear, launched by media and education initiative Zealous, work to refute misleading reports and statements on the state’s bail laws as officials — especially members of law enforcement and campaigning Republicans — tie the 2019 changes to a double-digit increase in homicides and violent crimes across the state seen since 2020.

“Ninety-eight percent of people released pretrial have not been rearrested for any felony that’s classified as violent that includes charges like simple possession of a weapon, even though there is no harm to a person alleged it’s still a violent felony offense,” said MK Kaishian, a civil rights attorney and legal policy and justice advocacy fellow for Zealous.

About 2% of the rough total 183,000 New Yorkers released before their trial without bail were rearrested for a violent crime, according to state Office of Court Administration data.

“Some of those cases are later dismissed, some of those charges are later reduced by prosecutors,” Kaishian said. “So this is really just people who are having those arrests happen.”

New York City Mayor Eric L. Adams, a Democrat, urged lawmakers Wednesday to make targeted amendments to the state’s bail laws to allow judges greater discretion in determining a defendants’ level of dangerousness — especially individuals accused of violent crimes with a firearm.

“I think we can tweak it and make it right and get what we’re desiring,” Adams said at a virtual budget hearing Wednesday.

Both parties remain strongly at odds about the safety of the system changes.

Accused criminal offenders who post bail are rearrested at higher rates, but some officials maintain the state’s 29% increase in homicides in 2020 is tied to bail reform.

Adams, a former state senator and New York City Police Department captain, told several lawmakers that the bail and discovery laws should be reviewed, to watch for a pattern of judges abusing the discretion, but could not name his specific, desired revisions for the statute or another U.S. state to model.

The law is expected to be an important topic of discussion as Adams prepares to meet with legislative leaders in Albany and Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul prepares to release 30-day amendments to her proposed $216 billion executive budget.

Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, D-Bronx, and Senate Majority Leader Andrea A. Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, have maintained that revisiting the bail laws are not part of their legislative priorities for the 2022 session or as budget negotiations heat up for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

“I’m certainly more than happy to discuss anything with the mayor,” Stewart-Cousins said on the topic Tuesday. “… There is certainly a broader conversation we can have about criminal justice reform — all kinds of reforms. Certainly, I want it to be very, very clear we are concerned, as everyone is, about the spike in crime.”

The leaders of the Senate and Assembly argue that the changes to New York’s bail and discovery laws have been successful in limiting the number of people languishing in jail without funds to post bail.

“We do not want to criminalize poverty,” the Senate leader said.

Hochul again this week declined to publicly reveal her stance on changing the state’s bail system this session, reiterating her refusal to negotiate important policy through the press.

The governor spoke with Heastie, Stewart-Cousins and several senators and assemblymembers about proposals in the 2022-23 fiscal year budget early this week.

“Those conversations continue,” Hochul said on the topic Wednesday at an unrelated press conference.

The governor plans to discuss the controversial criminal justice reforms with mayors and local leaders across the state as the joint legislative budget hearings continue through next week.

“It’s all processed into a larger conversation about what is right for the state of New York,” she said. “All of this will be resolved. Right now, this is information-gathering.”

“… There’s been very frequent and impactful conversations even this early in the budget process, so I feel good about what’s going to be the ultimate outcome,” she added.

The Legislature’s 2019 decision to limit pretrial detention for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies was intended to ensure equality in release regardless of socioeconomic status and reverse the trend of mass incarceration and more severe punishment of Black and Hispanic people — a disparity prevalent throughout U.S. and state prisons and courtrooms.

State discovery laws were also changed to prevent prosecutors from delaying the start of a trial without turning over evidence to the defense, increasing the likelihood a defendant would default to a plea deal to end lengthy or expensive court proceedings.

Legislative leaders look forward to speaking with Adams in private, at length, about his demands to alter the bail laws.

“He knows how this works — I’m sure he’ll be speaking to Speaker Heastie and myself soon,” Stewart-Cousins said.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

61f99264cf76b.preview.jpg

Oklahoma lawmakers seek $308 million for tribal justice, say McGirt ‘bankrupting’ tribes | Govt-and-politics

Jimcy McGirt, 71, is challenging an Oklahoma state court’s jurisdiction over him in his convictions in 1997 for a series of sex crimes. A Wagoner County District Court judge sentenced him that year to more than a millennia in prison.

McGirt was convicted of first-degree rape by instrumentation, lewd molestation and forcible sodomy, all after a former conviction, according to court documents. He previously served a five-year prison term for a sodomy conviction.

“McGirt challenges this judgment and sentence as void without subject matter jurisdiction because McGirt is an enrolled member of the federally recognized Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and the alleged crimes were allegedly committed in Indian Country,” McGirt wrote in his self-filed petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The crimes occurred in late 1996 in east Broken Arrow. And, according to the Oklahoma attorney general’s response to the petition, they were committed against a child.

Res507_ABAAnnual2021_privateprisons.png

California’s ban on private prisons unconstitutionally interferes with immigration enforcement, 9th Circuit rules

Constitutional Law

California’s ban on private prisons unconstitutionally interferes with immigration enforcement, 9th Circuit rules

Image from Shutterstock.

A federal appeals court has ruled that a ban on private prisons in California unconstitutionally restricts the federal government’s authority to operate private detention facilities in the state.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco ruled Tuesday that the measure violates the supremacy clause and discriminates against the federal government.

Politico, Courthouse News Service and Law360 have coverage.

The appeals court said the measure, known as California Assembly Bill 32, unconstitutionally interferes with the authority of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which uses only private detention centers in California.

“California is not simply exercising its traditional police powers but rather impeding federal immigration policy,” said the panel majority in an opinion by Judge Kenneth Lee.

The 2-1 decision also held that the law discriminates against the federal government because it grants more exemptions and a longer phaseout period to the state’s operation of private prisons.

The 9th Circuit ruled in a suit by a private prison operator, the GEO Group Inc., and by the U.S. Department of Justice. Only the immigration facilities were at issue in the appeal, according to a dissent arguing that AB 32 was not preempted by federal law. The case is The Geo Group Inc. v. Newsom.

According to Politico, the decision “could be of some use” to the federal government in its lawsuit seeking to block the Texas abortion law. In that case, the DOJ is arguing that the Texas law impedes federal constitutional duties.

The ABA House of Delegates passed a resolution in August that opposes private prisons and juvenile detention centers.

A report submitted to the House argues that “private prison corporations are driven by perverse and immoral incentives whereby an increase in crime and an increase in the number of human beings placed into America’s prisons is good business news for that industry.”