By J.J. Prescott and Sonja B. Starr
Professors Prescott and Starr teach at the University of Michigan Law School.
March 20, 2019
“The consequences of a run-in with the law can persist for decades after the formal sentence has been served. People with records face major barriers to employment, housing and education, effectively condemning them to second-class citizenship.
In recent years, criminal justice reform efforts have increasingly focused on finding policy tools that can lower these barriers. The most powerful potential lever is the expungement of criminal convictions, which seals them from public view, removes them from databases, and neutralizes most of their legal effects.
At least 36 states have laws allowing expungement, but they tend to be narrow in scope. Whether it’s allowed typically depends on the number of convictions and the type of crime; people usually have to wait years after completing their sentences and go through an elaborate process to have their records cleared.
In the past year there’s been an explosion of activity on this front, however. In late February, an especially ambitious bill was introduced in the California Legislature, allowing automatic expungement of misdemeanors and minor felonies after completion of a sentence. In Utah, an automatic expungement bill is awaiting the governor’s signature. These developments follow on the heels of the first major automatic expungement law, which passed in Pennsylvania last summer.”
“WHEN it comes to poor people arrested for felonies in Scott County, Miss., Judge Marcus D. Gordon doesn’t bother with the Constitution. He refuses to appoint counsel until arrestees have been formally charged by an indictment, which means they must languish in jail without legal representation for as long as a year.From Our AdvertisersJudge Gordon has robbed countless individuals of their freedom, locking them away from their loved ones and livelihoods for months on end. (I am the lead lawyer in a class-action suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against Scott County and Judge Gordon.) In a recent interview, the judge, who sits on the Mississippi State Circuit Court, was unapologetic about his regime of indefinite detention: “The criminal system is a system of criminals. Sure, their rights are violated.” But, he added, “That’s the hardship of the criminal system.”There are many words to describe the judge’s blunt disregard of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Callous. Appalling. Cruel. Here’s another possibility: criminal — liable to prosecution and, if found guilty, prison time.”
Source: How to Prosecute Abusive Prosecutors – The New York Times
“Of course, all these states had abysmal conditions to start with. Mississippi imprisons more of its citizens per capita than China and Russia combined. That’s worse than any state except Louisiana, which has not yet managed reforms as broad as its neighbors. Alabama was facing the threat of federal intervention to alleviate its crushingly overcrowded prisons if it didn’t act. And many of these state reforms are far more modest than they should be. Alabama’s prisons, for instance, will still be 40 percent over capacity in five years, even if everything goes as planned. In many parts of Mississippi and Alabama, the lack of funding for public defenders is so acute that people can spend months behind bars before even being indicted.”
via Justice Reform in the Deep South – NYTimes.com.