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The National Criminal Justice Association
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The Arizona State University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice
The Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Criminal Justice Journalists

All articles are chosen at the sole discretion of the Crime and Justice News editors. Any opinions expressed or positions taken here on Crime and Justice News are those of their respective authors.

What Tipped Balance in Gun Law Negotiations

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The bipartisan gun bill that President Biden signed into law on Saturday was a product of unlikely pairings of senators and advocacy groups that was influenced in part by polling of gun owners that reassured Republican leaders to vote yes, the New York Times reports. The fragile deal nearly came apart, but ultimately the Senate's 65-33 vote last Thursday was followed Friday by the House's 234-193 vote the next day. Fifteen Senate Republicans and 14 House Republicans sided with Democrats to give Biden a bill that he praised at a signing ceremony as "doing something consequential." It is the first major gun control legislation passed by Congress in nearly 30 years. Both the National Rifle Association and Everytown for Gun Safety, opponents in the gun-rights debate, were deeply involved in the Senate's dealmaking discussions. The NRA, which ultimately opposed the bill, sought to weaken existing law by proposing that a five-year sunset clause attached to the new "boyfriend" provision be applied to other domestic abusers, the Times' sources said. The bill closed the so-called boyfriend loophole that excluded intimate partners not married to or living with domestic violence victims from the federal gun ban. The new ban expires after five years for first-time offenders who committed misdemeanors, which senators refused to extend to others covered by the existing law. The bill's fate remained in doubt after the initial framework for a deal was announced June 12. One factor that tipped the balance in favor of passage was polling of 1,000 gun-owning households across the country, commissioned by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, in which a solid majority of respondents backed increasing federal funding for states to maintain or enact red flag laws. More than 80 percent supported closing the boyfriend loophole and slowing down background checks to examine juvenile and mental health records of youthful gun purchasers. McConnell was among the senators voting for the final deal.

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What Tipped Balance in Gun Law Negotiations

The bipartisan gun bill that President Biden signed into law on Saturday was a product of unlikely pairings of senators and advocacy groups that was influenced in part by polling of gun owners that reassured Republican leaders to vote yes, the New York Times reports. The fragile deal nearly came apart, but ultimately the Senate's 65-33 vote last Thursday was followed Friday by the House's 234-193 vote the next day. Fifteen Senate Republicans and 14 House Republicans sided with Democrats to give Biden a bill that he praised at a signing ceremony as "doing something consequential." It is the first major gun control legislation passed by Congress in nearly 30 years. Both the National Rifle Association and Everytown for Gun Safety, opponents in the gun-rights debate, were deeply involved in the Senate's dealmaking discussions. The NRA, which ultimately opposed the bill, sought to weaken existing law by proposing that a five-year sunset clause attached to the new "boyfriend" provision be applied to other domestic abusers, the Times' sources said. The bill closed the so-called boyfriend loophole that excluded intimate partners not married to or living with domestic violence victims from the federal gun ban. The new ban expires after five years for first-time offenders who committed misdemeanors, which senators refused to extend to others covered by the existing law. The bill's fate remained in doubt after the initial framework for a deal was announced June 12. One factor that tipped the balance in favor of passage was polling of 1,000 gun-owning households across the country, commissioned by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, in which a solid majority of respondents backed increasing federal funding for states to maintain or enact red flag laws. More than 80 percent supported closing the boyfriend loophole and slowing down background checks to examine juvenile and mental health records of youthful gun purchasers. McConnell was among the senators voting for the final deal.

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Half of States Will Ban All or Most Abortions Under Court Ruling

The fall of Roe v. Wade will upend a half-century of reproductive health care across the U.S., changing where and how women access abortion and their decisions on whether to have children. Women’s reproductive lives look far different from 1973. Rates of legal abortion soared before declining somewhat in recent years, access to contraception has increased and adoption rates have dropped, reports the Wall Street Journal. Many women have come to see abortion as integral to the advances they have made in education and the workforce over five decades. Now, about half the states are expected to ban all or most abortions. Abortion clinics in conservative states are preparing to close, while clinics in more liberal areas and medication abortion providers brace for a surge in demand. “We’re talking about a scenario in which there is a dramatic increase in inequality in access to abortion,” said Caitlin Myers, an economics professor at Middlebury College who studies abortion access. Texas, Oklahoma and Kentucky have passed laws temporarily or permanently suspending access to most abortions, providing a preview of what life could look like in some two dozen states post-Roe. An analysis by Myers found that about 100,000 women trying to get an abortion wouldn’t be able to access an abortion provider because of the increased distances they would have to travel in the year after the court’s decision. About 75,000 of those women would likely give birth as a result, she said.

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Trump Badgered DOJ Over 2020 Corrupt Election Claims

Former President Trump pressured the Justice Department to pursue false allegations of election fraud, witnesses testified Thursday to the House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, Associated Press reports. Justice Department officials recounted Trump's repeatedly pestering them to investigate the election, which he said Democrat Joe Biden had stolen. These arguments continued despite no evidence of election fraud. The Justice Department is independent from the White House, and Trump’s constant badgering was described as a breach of protocol. Trump’s Republican allies in Congress supported stolen election claims but several sought pardons after the Jan. 6 insurrection. Jeffrey Rosen, the attorney general during the final days of the Trump administration, said he met with Trump almost daily for two weeks. Trump expressed dissatisfaction with the Justice Department rejecting his election fraud claims. Trump then met Jeffrey Clark, the former assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. Clark was a strong ally, willing to do anything for Trump. Trump considered replacing Rosen with Clark but was warned in a meeting on Jan. 3, 2021 that doing so would have resulted in mass resignations of high DOJ officials. The panel is working to prove that Trump’s election fraud claims resulted in the insurrection. Several GOP representatives were also involved in efforts to reject the electoral tally, includinb Reps. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Louie Gohmert of Texas.

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Police Perpetuate Homelessness By Making Arrests

The combination of a mental health crisis and a decade-long real estate boom have created a new, especially vulnerable, visible generation of the unhoused in West Coast cities. Over the 2009-2019 decade, unsheltered homelessness continued to grow in California, Oregon and Washington, even as it declined in major cities outside the West Coast. The increase is leading to the vast criminalization of the homeless for largely nonviolent violations and generating unaffordable fines for unhoused individuals, sapping police resources and failing to address the core problems fueling homelessness, Reveal News reports. Although the homeless population in all the cities reviewed was less than two percent of the overall population, they accounted for anywhere from seven percent of arrests in Oakland to about half of all arrests in Portland. In San Diego, police used one municipal code violation more than any other from 2013 to 2020: a law, intended to force residents to clear their trash cans from the street, that has been transformed to cite and arrest unhoused people for taking up public space with their possessions. Reveal found the driving force behind arrests often isn’t proactive police enforcement, but residents reporting that a person is making them feel unsafe, refusing to leave the area, or leaving trash and other items behind. A criminal record can complicate getting a job, housing or social services for unhoused people. Some cities have begun programs to divert these calls to unarmed social workers, but the programs are still limited in scope and funding.

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Health Issues More Pronounced In Prisons, States Not Prepared

State prisons are continuing to ignore the health care needs of people in their care, says the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) in a new report, The study examines the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Survey of Prison Inmates, breaking down the prevalence of several chronic conditions in the 1,566 state prisons. The report also reviews the medical histories of people behind bars. People in state prisons suffer disproportionately from asthma, hepatitis C, HIV and substance abuse disorders. Many inmates also suffer from illnesses such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, which can be exacerbated behind bars. Half of state prisoners lacked health insurance at the time of the arrest that led to their incarceration. Those with insurance disproportionately received Medicaid, a sign that poverty, exclusion from the health care system, and incarceration overlap significantly. The report says that 43 percent of state prisoners report one or more diagnosed mental health conditions. Only 26 percent received professional help for their mental health since entering prison. Many people who go to prison die prematurely. In the first two weeks after release, individuals face a risk of death more than 12 times higher than the general population. In a separate report, the Sentencing Project says the prison system is largely unprepared to handle the medical, social, physical, and mental health needs for older people. Nearly half of prisons lack an established plan for the care of elderly inmates. Warnings about the crushing costs of incarcerating older people have gone almost entirely unheeded amid what sociologist Christopher Seeds calls a transformation of life without parole “from a rare sanction and marginal practice of last resort into a routine punishment in the United States” over four decades. In a survey of 20 states, almost half of people serving life without parole are at least 50 years old and one in four is at least 60 . In ten years, even if no additional LWOP sentences were added in these states, 30,000 people now serving LWOP will be 50 or older. Half of aging people serving LWOP are Black. The Sentencing Project calls for allowing "immediate sentence review with presumption of release for people who are 50 and older and have served 10 years of their sentence."

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As Expected, High Court Overrules Roe v. Wade, 6 to 3

The Supreme Court overruled the historic 1973 Roe. v. Wade decision granting abortion rights, potentially criminalizing the procedure in many states. Justice Samuel Alito wrote for a 6-to-3 majority, "The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe ... now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. "That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be 'deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition' and 'implicit in the concept of ordered liberty," Alito wrote, citing a 1997 high court ruling. "The right to abortion does not fall within this category." In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said, "This Court has held that the Constitution protects unenumerated rights that are deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition, and implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. But a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in American history and tradition." The decision upheld a Mississippi law saying that “[e]xcept in a medical emergency or in the case of a severe fetal abnormality, a person shall not intentionally or knowingly perform . . . or induce an abortion of an unborn human being if the probable gestational age of the unborn human being has been determined to be greater than fifteen (15) weeks.” Dissenting justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonio Sotomator said, "Even in the face of public opposition, we uphold the right of individuals—yes, including women—to make their own choices and chart their own futures. Or at least, we did once." "With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent," the three justices said. Friday's ruling was foreshadowed by a leak of Alito's draft opinion that was obtained by Politico. The ruling issued on Friday largely tracked the leaked draft. The decision placed the U.S. among a select few countries that have severely curtailed access to the procedure in the 21st century, the Washington Post reports. The 1973 decision found that the constitution protected the decision to terminate a pregnancy as a fundamental matter of privacy. It set nearly five decades of legal precedent but was never codified into federal law. At the annual National Right to Life Convention in Atlanta, beng held this weekend, cheers erupted when someone shouted “Roe’s been overturned!” at 10:10 a.m. Eastern Time. “We are all excited,” Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, told CNN. “Of course, everybody here is erupting in tears of joy that this has finally happened. We are going to be celebrating for the rest of the weekend.” Tobias acknowledged: “We have a long battle ahead of us. Abortion is not going to be illegal because of this decision. The elected officials are now going to have to determine what the laws will be – federal and state levels. There’s a lot of work to do. And we need to build a culture that’s pro-mom, pro-baby, pro-life. We certainly know this is not the end.”

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Pelosi's Husband Charged with DUI after California Crash

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, was charged with an alcohol-related offense after a car crash in Napa County, Ca., The New York Times reports. Prosecutors charged Pelosi, 82, with driving under the influence and causing injury and driving with a blood-alcohol content of .082. The punishment for these charges includes up to five years of probation and a minimum of five days in jail. Arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 3. According to Napa County District Attorney Allison Haley, such charges can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony. Due to the extent of injuries sustained by the victim, Pelosi’s case was filed as a misdemeanor. A spokesperson for Speaker Pelosi said that she will not be commenting on the situation, calling it a private matter. On May 28, Pelosi’s car, a 2021 Porsche, was hit by a Jeep at 10:26 p.m. while he was attempting to cross State Route 29, said a California Highway Report. Haley did not clarify the type of injuries the victim suffered.

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Many State Gun Laws Will Be Challenged Under High Court Ruling

The Supreme Court’s ruling striking down New York's permitting requirements for concealed weapons is likely to have ripple effects throughout the U.S., especially in several Democratic-led states that have given government officials broad latitude to deny citizens’ requests to carry concealed handguns for self-defense, reports the Wall Street Journal. The decision said New York’s longstanding permitting rules violated the Second Amendment because local officials enjoyed too much discretion to deny a citizen a concealed-carry permit unless the applicant demonstrated a special need to carry a handgun. The 6-3 ruling, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, suggested most states’ handgun permitting programs passed legal muster, but it called into question the rules in at least a half-dozen states, including California and New Jersey. New York officials responded immediately, saying they would look for new ways to limit handguns, especially in certain locations where they said firearms would be particularly dangerous. The Supreme Court has made clear that government officials can forbid the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings. Thursday’s opinion warned that cities and states can’t define entire urban areas as sensitive gun-free zones just because they are densely populated. Adam Winkler, a professor of law at the University of California Los Angeles, said a host of modern gun-control laws—including red-flag laws that allow firearms to be taken from people who are mentally ill—might be challenged because they don’t have pre-Civil War roots. “Many of the top agenda items of the gun-safety reform movement are novel, innovative laws that don’t have any pedigree in the gun laws of the 1700s and 1800s,” Winkler said. California Attorney General Rob Bonta said state leaders had been anticipating the ruling and would look for other ways to strengthen concealed-carry permitting rules, as well as to expand the locations where firearms aren’t allowed, such as amusement parks, sporting venues and other places “of significant public congregation."

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Supreme Court Rules For Inmate Seeking Execution by Firing Squad

The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in favor of a Georgia death row inmate who challenged the state’s lethal injection protocol, Courthouse News Service reports. Michael Wade Nance, a convicted murderer, said that because of a vein condition, a lethal injection would likely cause him severe pain and cause his veins to burst. He also said that the sedative injection may not work because of the medication he takes for back pain, meaning he would be awake during the execution. He said the lethal injection would be cruel and unusual punishment and is seeking death by firing squad. This method of execution is legal in four other states, but not Georgia. Nance’s request was blocked by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which said a a habeas corpus petition is the proper way to request a change in execution method. This decision was overturned by the Supreme Court. In a majority opinion joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Brett Kavanaugh, Justice Elena Kagan cited the court’s 2019 decision in Bucklew v. Precythe, stating that a prisoner can request an alternative execution method that is permitted in other states. Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote a dissenting opinion, saying that the 11th Circuit ruling was correct.

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Assaults Against Abortion Clinics Rose 128 Percent Last Year

Assaults directed at abortion clinic staff and patients increased 128 percent last year over 2020, says a new report from the National Abortion Federation (NAF), Axios reports. Heated political rhetoric, the passage of more restrictive state abortion bans and increased media coverage factored into the increase in violence, emboldening those "who want to harass and terrorize abortion providers," said the federation's Melissa Fowler. Beyond the surge of assaults outside of clinics, NAF documented a six hundred percent increase in stalking, a sixty three percent increase in burglaries and a one hundred twenty eight percent increase in invasions, including instances in which anti-abortion protesters forcefully entered clinics. Anti-abortion protesters are "feeling supported by politicians who are coming right out and speaking their anti-choice views, and so ... they feel supported in committing acts of violence and targeted harassment," said Michelle Davidson, NAF security director. The federation said those targeting abortion clinics are often the same people who participate in other violent and extremist activities. There is an overlap between white nationalists and the anti-abortion movement, with some individuals who have targeted abortion clinics also having participated in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. The new numbers come as the federal government prepares for a potential surge in political violence once the Supreme Court hands down the ruling that could overturn Roe v. Wade. Law enforcement agencies are investigating social-media threats to burn down or storm the Supreme Court building and murder justices and their clerks, as well as attacks targeting places of worship and abortion clinics.

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Biden Adds Gender Identity, Sex Orientation To Title IX Protections

The U.S. Department of Education announced plans to restore Title IX regulations that were removed by the Trump administration, NPR Reports. This plan was announced on the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which protects students from sex-based discrimination at school and other federally funded programs. These Title IX expansions are more inclusive of LGBTQ students and broaden victim protection. The Biden administration is modifying the language of Title IX to include protections against gender identity and sexual orientation. The amendments also expand pregnancy protections. Schools must provide reasonable modifications for pregnant students. Pregnant employees must be given adequate time off and lactation spaces in schools. In May 2020, Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Secretary, rolled back schools' responsibility to report Title IX violations and strengthened protections for those accused. Supporters of these changes believed that they were fairer to all students. The Trump administration’s version of Title IX required investigations only on sexual harassment accusations. Under the Biden administration expansion, all discrimination complaints would have to be investigated.

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About Crime And Justice News
Crime and Justice News is a daily digest of criminal justice stories from across the nation. Each day, veteran journalists led by Ted Gest provide summaries of newsworthy reporting on all aspects of crime and punishment. Our news coverage is complemented by expert commentary and research to provide insights into important criminal justice issues and a deeper understanding of the criminal justice system.
Sponsored By
The National Criminal Justice Association
The Academy for Justice at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University
The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University
The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University
Criminal Justice Journalists
All articles are chosen at the sole discretion of the Crime and Justice News editors. Any opinions expressed or positions taken here on Crime and Justice News are those of their respective authors.