Election 2022: 7 key criminal justice insights


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As the results of the midterm elections continue to roll in, this week our team has a recap of how some key criminal justice candidates and issues have fared, and what the implications of those races and election measures may be for the future.

Sheriffs remain tough to beat – but not impossible

Every incumbent has an advantage, but the sheriff’s power runs deep.

Take Jody Greene in North Carolina who won this week, despite resigning two weeks ago after making derogatory remarks about black MPs. Or Chuck Jenkins in Maryland, who threatened to turn himself in at gunpoint to federal law enforcementbut fared better than his Republican counterparts. In fact, Kansas voters went for it make it harder for county officials to oust a sheriff while retaining the voters’ power to do so.

“Sheriffs are really emphasizing their elections as one of the primary sources of their authority,” said Texas Christian University political scientist Emily Farris, with whom We recently interviewed sheriffs. “It really takes a lot to actually have a competitive sheriff election.”

Still, Farris pointed to two races that suggest the right ingredients — scandal, media scrutiny, grassroots organization — can bring about change. voters in Bristol County, Massachusetts, supplanted Thomas Hodgsonwho was closely associated with ex-President Donald Trump, particularly on immigration, and has been criticized for abusive prison conditions. In Los Angeles, Years full of scandals are likely to end Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s reign, although news outlets have yet to announce the outcome.

Progressive activists will continue to look for candidates to challenge sheriffs they see as particularly abusive to prison inmates and hostile to immigrants. But it remains to be seen whether the alternative –progressive’ sheriffs” – can bring about lasting changes.

— Maurice Chammah

A controversial bail measure is passed

Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment with an overwhelming majority this requires judges to consider public safety when setting bail amounts. The change was prompted by a January judgment of the Supreme Federal Court found that (like Dishes routinely do) that it is unconstitutional for judges to set large bails just to keep a defendant in custody.

Ohio judges already had the power to deny bail to people charged with violent crimes, but it took more steps than setting bail at a prohibitive amount. judge often Use bail as a shortcut for this process, according to two judges who argued against the change. After the new change some fear these tensions between the state and the US Constitution will lead to increased litigation, cluttering up courts and “delaying justice”.

Voters in Alabama too approved an amendment that expanded dramatically the list of crimes for which a person may be denied bail. Previously, bail could only be refused for crimes that carried the possible death penalty.

– Jamiles Lartey

The “progressive prosecutors” movement is moving forward

Hennepin County — home to Minneapolis and epicenter of the 2020 policing and criminal justice protests — elected a progressive former public defender as prosecutor. As a public defender, Mary Moriarty exposed police abuse and ran on a platform promised to set up a police accountability unit in the DA’s office.

She wasn’t the only victorious “advanced prosecutor.” In Hays County, near Austin, Texas, new DA Kelly Higgins promised “a fundamental change” in the office. Kimberly Graham, who vowed to no longer require bail for many nonviolent cases, won in Polk County, Iowa, which includes Des Moines. Columnist Chris Geidner noted that these profits should serve as a “counterpoint to many national reports on criminal justice policy”, as predictions of the following sinking Prosecutor Chesa Boudin called back in San Francisco in June.

Speaking of Boudin, his successor, Brooke Jenkins, seems to have held back a progressive challenger to keep her job even though the race has not yet been officially declared.

In King County, Washington, which includes Seattle, the more progressive candidate Leesa Manion defeated an opponent who had promised to “go overboard with social justice reform.” A few others closely watched prosecutor races stay too close to call – even in counties where Phoenix and Oakland, California, are located. But it is clear that the progressive prosecutors stay alive and well, despite discrediting Attacks attempting to link them to a rise in crime.

– Jamiles Lartey

How will changes to slavery affect prison work?

voter one Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont changed their state constitutions to prohibit slavery as punishment for a crime. A fifth state, Louisiana, rejected a similar change after the lawmakers who sponsored them realized their language was potentially misleading, and asked voters to vote no “so we can clean it up with the intention of bringing it back next year.”

The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution – passed in 1865, after the Civil War – prohibits slavery or involuntary servitude “except as a punishment for crimes”. Many state constitutions followed suit, and the provisions of Tuesday’s vote attempted to erase vestiges of that era. During Reconstruction, the Southern states, no longer able to directly enslave black people, created a system to try and incarcerate former slaves for petty crimes — and then rent out their forced labor to corporations.

Critics say: “convict leasing” System continues to this day, with prisoners in many states being forced to work cents per hour – or without pay – under threat of disciplinary sanctions. But the constitutional changes could be even more symbolic than practical. Legal experts say the changes open the door to lawsuits against states’ prison labor systems. But prisoners in Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont are paid, albeit very little – potentially allowing officials to argue that the workers are not technically enslaved. (Of these three states, the highest paying prison job is in Vermont at $1.25 an hour, according to the Prison Policy Institute.) Prisoners in Alabama may have the strongest legal argument in the wake of the change there: Workers are not being paid, which has led to this several top-class prison strikes.

After Nebraska voters passed a similar amendment to their state constitution in 2020, at least one prison that had previously not paid inmates to do their labor began serving some minimal compensation. Other prisons don’t.

— Beth Schwartzapfel

No progress on criminalizing abortion

With abortion bans in many states leading to the potential criminalization of the procedure, voters in Michigan, California and Vermont approved measures to enshrine abortion rights and reproductive health services in their constitutions. Kentucky Voters decided against a change their constitution to deny the right to abortion (a statutory prohibition remainsbut faces a challenge in the state Supreme Court).

In Montana, voters rejected a proposal who declared fetuses and embryos in the event of premature birth or attempted abortion to be legal persons entitled to medical care. The proposal would also have criminalized healthcare providers who failed to try to save them.

Arizona stays in a bit a state of chaos regarding abortion rights – a higher court judge temporarily blocked enforcement of a 1901 state law banning all abortions, and they exist Clinics still performing procedures. But it was the current Attorney General who has agreed not to impose a ban until 2023 – and the race to choose his successor remains too close to call.

– Cary Aspinwall

A new frontier in marijuana legalization

It may seem a bit unremarkable that Missourians legalized recreational marijuana this week – after all, 19 other states and Washington DC had done so before. But Missouri voters broke new ground, making it the first state to “pass a nonviolent crime eradication measure in a statewide vote,” reports reports NPR in Kansas City.

That’s a big deal, because according to progressive advocates in Missouri About 20,000 people are arrested nationwide each year for petty marijuana crimes. This week’s vote should help clear criminal records for many of them. but Some legalization advocates were concerned that “automatic deletion” might not apply in all cases, and that there is no appeal process for rejected individuals.

Maryland voters too legalized recreational marijuana. lawmakers there have yet to iron out how taxation and permits will work, and the law only comes into force thereafter. In the meantime, Voters in North Dakota, South Dakota and Arkansas rejected Legalization of marijuana.

– Jamiles Lartey

Mixed impact on immigration across the country

The impact of immigration as a campaign issue varied widely. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has drawn national criticism for flying migrants from Texas to Massachusetts. But on election night, he reaped the rewards of years of intense Republican campaigning Winning Miami-Dade County, home to many Latino voters. DeSantis also won 56% of Latino voters nationwide.

Another Republican governor, Greg Abbott of Texas, crossed to a third term over Democrat Beto O’Rourke, although O’Rourke received support from Latinos who were deterred by Abbott’s aggressive border law enforcement agencies.

But in crucial US Senate races, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona defeated Blake Masters, a Republican with a tough anti-immigration message. Kelly was buoyed by voters who also backed a ballot measure to give undocumented students the opportunity pay the same reduced tuition as other state residents.

The small but high turnout of Latinos in Pennsylvania helped Lt. gov. John Fetterman, whose wife Gisele is a formerly undocumented immigrant from Brazil, won a Senate seat for the Democrats. In Massachusetts, immigrant activists celebrated a major victory in a state that decidedly turned blue, as Voters approved a law allow undocumented immigrants to have driver’s licenses.

— Julia Preston


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