State Senator Van Wanggaard Commentary: Milwaukee’s Criminal Justice System Failed Officer Peter Jerving and Milwaukee

Last week, following the killing of police officer Peter Jerving, local and state leaders alike called for change to stop the senseless, preventable, tragic violence in Milwaukee. And they’re right. While the causes of violence are many, solving the crisis that is the Milwaukee criminal justice system would go a long way. 

Let’s start with the front line – police officers and police policies.

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Tennessee Representative David Kustoff Introduces Resolution Calling on Congress to Address Rising Crime in the U.S.

Tennessee Republican Representative David Kustoff (R-TN-08) recently introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives that calls on Congress to create a strategy to address the rising violent crime in the United States. A similar resolution was also introduced in the U.S. Senate by Republican Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

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Ryan Now Blasts Ohio Senate Rival Vance on Law Enforcement, But Once Called Criminal Justice System ‘Racist’

Advertising from Democratic Ohio Senate candidate Tim Ryan, which alleges that his Republican opponent J.D. Vance has disparaged law-enforcement officers, prompted Vance this week to recall Ryan’s own severe criticisms of law enforcers.

A video ad that appears on the Ryan campaign’s YouTube channel features a monologue by Stark County Sheriff George T. Maier.

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Bipartisan Juvenile Justice Reforms Introduced in Pennsylvania

State Sens. Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington) and Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) introduced legislation on Monday aiming to land fewer underage defendants in Pennsylvania’s adult criminal-justice system.

Responding to a report by the state’s Juvenile Justice Task Force, the two senators believe too many of Pennsylvania’s youth are tried as adults and too many are detained away from home for minor offenses.

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Connecticut Senate Republicans Bringing Up Anti-Crime Proposals

This week, Connecticut Senate Republicans are seeking consideration of proposals they made last autumn to mitigate the Constitution State’s crime problem.

On Wednesday, the CT General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee will convene virtually to consider GOP legislation to aid police recruitment, modernize law-enforcement data gathering and promote “explorer” programs to foster relationships between juveniles and law-enforcement officers.

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Commentary: Tennessee Republicans Will Work to Keep Communities and Schools Safe in 2022

School bus

Tennessee voters spoke loud and clear last November when they overwhelmingly elected Republicans to represent them at every level. I’m extremely proud that Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly have delivered on the promise to uphold conservative values, increase economic opportunities, improve public safety and strengthen education. We still have much work to do and we will continue to work to address these priorities during this upcoming legislative session. 

Our state budget is probably the most significant component of public policy our governor and General Assembly tackle each year. Unlike the federal government, Tennessee’s constitution requires us to balance our budget. The federal government’s debt has amassed to almost $30 trillion, something we should all be concerned about for future generations to come.

Our primary goal each year is always the same: to pass a balanced budget. From top to bottom, Tennessee’s $42.6 billion zero-debt budget is a spending plan that addresses the priorities and needs of all Tennesseans. 

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Pennsylvania State Reps. Miller and Harris Propose Softening Juvenile Justice Measures

Pennsylvania state Reps. Dan Miller (D-Mt. Lebanon) and Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia) are preparing to introduce legislation that would mitigate several features of the commonwealth’s criminal-justice system for minors.

The two Democrats would limit juvenile probation to one year for misdemeanors and to 1.5 years for felonies, stop levying nearly any juvenile court fees or fines and raise the age at which children are subject to juvenile court to 13. Under their proposal, criminal prosecution would not be an option for anyone under the age of 10.

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Public Safety Remains High Concern Amid Tennessee Bail Reform Discussions

A suitcase of marijuana, drunk driving, car burglary, a high-speed chase, murder and prostitution were some of the issues discussed during more than nine hours of testimony this week in front of Tennessee’s Joint Senate Judiciary and House Criminal Justice Committee to Study Bail Reform.

Much of the early testimony centered on data and costs regarding how those accused of misdemeanors and felonies are handled in the pretrial process.

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Former Detroit, Michigan Police Chief and Gubernatorial Hopeful Craig Appoints Team to Generate Anti-Crime Solutions

Former Detroit, Michigan Police Chief James Craig, a Republican who is exploring a run for governor, announced Monday the formation of his Law Enforcement Action Team (LEAT), an advisory panel to craft legislation to strengthen public safety.

The group is made up of lawmakers and law-enforcement officials, including two Democrats: Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham and Gladwin County Sheriff Mike Shea.

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Virginia Directs Nearly $136 Million for State and Local Criminal Justice Programs

Arlington Police motorcycles

Virginia awarded $135.8 million worth of grants to support state and local criminal justice programs, primarily to support those who have been the victims of a crime, Gov. Ralph Northam announced late Thursday afternoon.

Nearly 63% of the funding, $85.5 million, will be used to provide services for victims. Many organizations receiving money provide direct services for traditionally underserved populations and for victims of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault.

“Each of these grant recipients play an important role in keeping our communities safe and supporting victims and survivors of crime,” Northam said in a statement. “This funding will sustain the operations of a variety of critical programs and help expand the reach of services to underserved areas of the Commonwealth.”

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Fairfax, Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano Says His Office Will Not Seek Cash Bail

  Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano (D) announced Monday that he would not be seeking cash bail for non-violent offenders, formalizing a policy he and his prosecutors have been practicing since Descano took office in January 2020. “I’ve long said that the laws on the books should match the values in our hearts. Cash bail is unjust, racially biased, and doesn’t make our community safer,” Descano said in a Twitter announcement. “That’s why my office won’t request it and why I call on the legislature to end it.” In a Washington Post op-ed Descano said, “Simply put, cash bail creates a two-tiered justice system: one for rich people and one for everyone else. People who sit in jail risk losing their jobs for nonattendance, which, in short order, could lead to the loss of their housing, and in some cases the loss of custody of their children. Facing these rippling consequences, many people simply opt to plead guilty in exchange for their immediate release, often plunging them into a cycle of increased contact with the criminal justice system.” Descano is part of a growing list of Virginia prosecutors who are moving away from cash bail. Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood…

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Virginia Lawmakers Pass Bill Allowing Jury Trials With Judge Sentencing

Virginia lawmakers passed legislation Friday that allows those accused of a crime to receive a jury trial and a judge’s sentence, which proponents believe will reduce sentence lengths.

Under current law, a defendant must opt for a jury sentence if he or she requests a jury trial, which can often result in longer sentences than guidance normally would suggest. The law allows a judge to reduce the sentence, but this happens in only about 8.1% of cases.

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Kamala Harris Had Nearly 2,000 People Locked up on Marijuana Charges: Report

Sen. Kamala Harris, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s running mate, reportedly prosecuted nearly 2,000 people on marijuana-related charges during her time as California attorney general.

A total of 1,974 people were sent to state prisons for marijuana-related offenses during Harris’s 2011-2016 tenure as the Golden State’s lead prosecutor, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

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Report: Ohio Prison Population Still Growing Despite Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform

Despite bipartisan calls for a reduction in the prison population and a slew of laws aimed at doing just that, a new report released this week has found that the prison population of Ohio has continued to climb over the past decade. Since 2011, the state has passed several new bills specifically aimed at addressing criminal justice reform. The two most impactful were House Bill 86 (HB 86) and House Bill 49 (HB 49). Both of these laws made a comprehensive list of changes to the criminal code, all aimed at curbing the incredibly high incarceration rates in Ohio. Among the changes were downgraded sentences for smaller offenses, permitting early release for certain types of offenders, shifting some crimes to misdemeanors, and creating financial incentives for rehabilitation as opposed to incarceration. Despite this, the report found that: HB 86’s reforms, alone, may have saved the state $500 million by flattening prison population growth. While HB 86 was expected to significantly reduce the prison population, the prison population dropped just 2 percent. HB 49 was supposed to reduce the prison population to 47,500 by FY 2019, but right now, the prison population stands at 49,051. Projected reduction of the prison population was off by more…

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Buckeye Institute Legal Fellow to Lead Ohio Task Force to Fix ‘Broken’ Prison Bail System

Friday, the Buckeye Institute announced that Daniel J. Dew, a legal fellow with the institute, would lead an Ohio Supreme Court Task Force, focused on reforming the bail system throughout Ohio. Dew has done some of the most extensive research and analysis on the state’s current bail system and his findings are rather shocking. He notes; The traditional cash bail system allows accused murderers, child rapists, armed robbers, and dangerous gang members to be arrested and released into our communities to await trial. Meanwhile, otherwise law-abiding, harmless citizens sit in jail for days, weeks, or even months for drunken jaywalking, violating dress-codes, or failing to pay traffic tickets. These absurd incongruities stem from a pretrial release system rooted in money rather than a careful, scientific assessment of the risks that the accused pose to our neighborhoods. One of the most tragic examples featured in his work; “Money Bail: Making Ohio a More Dangerous Place to Live,” tells the story of Dragan Sekulic. In 2015, he was charged with domestic violence, “felonious assault, domestic violence, and, and operating a vehicle while intoxicated,” all directed at his ex-wife. After posting a $100,000 bond, he left jail as a free man until his trial. He…

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Outgoing MN Rep. Jason Lewis’ Juvenile Justice Reform Bill Signed Into Law

Rep. Jason Lewis’ (R-MN-02) Juvenile Justice Reform Act (JJRA) was signed into law Friday by President Donald Trump as part of Congress’ sweeping criminal justice reform measures. According to Lewis, the JJRA hadn’t been “reauthorized or modernized since 2002.” Lewis’ reforms respond to the need for alternatives to detaining juveniles for “so-called ‘status crimes’ like skipping school.” The bill, H.R. 6964, offers a “plan to provide alternatives to detention for status offenders, survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, and others.” The bill also seeks to “reduce the number of children housed in secure detention and corrections facilities who are awaiting placement in residential treatment programs.” His bill will also modernize the juvenile-justice system by promoting “evidence-based and trauma-informed programs and practices,” and emphasizing “community-based services to respond to the needs of at-risk youth.” The bill further eliminates the use of restraints on juveniles who are known to be pregnant, and prohibits detaining juveniles who are awaiting trial with adult inmates. “Some of the most rewarding experiences I had in Congress were working with colleagues from all over the country and from varying political backgrounds on criminal justice reform,” Lewis said in a press release. “Today, my Juvenile Justice Reform Act was…

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Ohio Sheriff Under Investigation for Stealing Drug Arrest Money

A Pike County Sheriff has been accused of stealing thousands of dollars, seized in various drug arrests throughout the county, and using the funds to fuel his “compulsive” gambling problem. The investigation, currently underway, stems from an anonymous complaint filed against Sheriff Charles Reader on November 9. The complaint (copied below) details that the sheriff was able to steal the money by taking the funds from an office safe that only he had access to. He was able to do so because the safe is kept inside his office and only he has access to it. The complaint notes that he “never has any money” and gambles compulsively. The funds in question were seized in local drug arrests made within Park County. He is also accused of taking cars out of the local impound lot and giving them to his daughter for her personal use, and demonstrating behavior unbecoming of an officer. The complaint alleges that he has also borrowed “large sums of money” from two of his deputies after gambling away his own, and owes a local car dealer more than $20,000. “[Sheriff] Reader just does whatever he wants and no one ever calls him on it,” the complaint states,…

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Trump’s Use of Pardon Power Aims at Rectifying Injustice

by John-Michael Seibler   Since taking office, President Donald Trump has granted pardons and sentence commutations for a number of individuals who he thinks received an unjust federal prison sentence or were unjustly prosecuted and convicted of a federal crime. In some cases—particularly in granting the early-20th century black boxing champion Jack Johnson a posthumous pardon, and taking meetings on criminal justice issues—Trump is drawing flak, when he should be getting kudos for working to address instances of manifest injustice. On Oct. 9, Trump reiterated his commitment to using the presidential pardon power, saying that he was actively looking at more federal inmates in similar situations. Speaking from the Oval Office, Trump said that there are “a lot of people … that will unfortunately be locked up for many, many years, and there’s no reason for it.” Trump’s comments came before a widely publicized meeting on Oct. 11 with rapper Kanye West and pro football Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, during which the three discussed, among other things, prison reform and presidential pardons. Yet, one commentator called the meeting a “minstrel show,” and others used it as an opportunity to mock both West and Trump. In doing so, Trump’s…

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