Nation’s top cops, prosecutors urge Trump not to roll back successful crime policies

A coalition of police chiefs and prosecutors from the nation’s biggest cities implored the Trump administration Wednesday not to return to the “lock ’em all up” crime-fighting policies of the 1980s and 1990s and not to waste resources on low-level drug offenders, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has advocated recently.

The Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime & Incarceration sent a letter to Sessions and President Trump, and held a summit meeting in Washington, in which they were adamant that crime has been steadily declining across America for a quarter-century, not spiraling upward as the president is sometimes inclined to claim. They think  the decline is a result of smarter policing and more careful prosecution. But Sessions has called for increased drug prosecution and ordered federal prosecutors to seek the stiffest possible sentences in all cases, regardless of circumstance.

“The measure isn’t how many people we put in jail,” said Ronal Serpas, former superintendent of the New Orleans police and the founder of the Law Enforcement Leaders group. “The measure is whether the right people are put in jail. And that’s the people we’re afraid of, not the people we’re mad at.”

Police chiefs from Houston, San Francisco, Detroit and Washington, D.C.,  joined Serpas at the National Press Club in urging that the Trump administration support a recently introduced criminal justice overhaul bill that would revamp federal sentencing guidelines and reduce mandatory minimum terms while giving judges greater sentencing discretion. Sessions strongly opposed the bill as a senator. The presidents of the National District Attorneys Association, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., a board member of Law Enforcement Leaders, also appeared at the press club to endorse the call for more focus on violent offenders and less time spent on turnstile jumpers and drunks.

“The message to the president is very clear,” Vance said. When arresting or prosecuting a case, authorities must ask two questions, Vance said: “Does it make us safer, and is it fair?”

Serpas said that almost 30 states have passed criminal justice policy changes, including his home state of Louisiana, which is planning to reduce its prison population by 10 percent. “When Louisiana can reform its criminal justice system, but the federal government can’t,” Serpas said, “we all have to go, ‘Come on.’ ”

In addition to sentencing policy changes, the letter to Trump and Sessions calls for prioritizing federal resources on violent crime. “Attorney General Sessions’s regular statements encouraging law enforcement to focus on drug and nonviolent offenders,” the letter states, “divert officers away from that vital mission” of combating violent crime. The letter also asks for increased resources for mental health and drug treatment, noting that “Republican governors have made treatment programs a centerpiece of their public safety efforts,” including Texas with then-Gov. Rick Perry. The chiefs say that the Trump administration’s proposed 2018 budget cuts nearly $400 million from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at a time of rampant opioid abuse.

The letter also calls for increased support for community policing and expanded reentry programs for prisoners to reduce recidivism. “We have to find ways,” San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said, “to reduce unnecessary arrests and unnecessary jail time. That gets into closing the revolving door of recidivism.” Scott said San Francisco had launched a “jail re-envisioning initiative” using multiple social service agencies to keep prisoners from returning to jail.

“I think we have a chance as law enforcement leaders to really change the landscape in criminal justice,” Scott said.

Serpas, who also served as police chief in Nashville and head of the Washington State Patrol, said that “meaningful rehabilitation and reentry” for prisoners is a viable concept. “For people who want it, it works,” Serpas said. “They can be successfully helped, no doubt about it.”

Richard Stanek, the sheriff of Hennepin County, Minn., said local courts need to be more involved, particularly those that are only open eight hours a day during the work week, while police and sheriffs are operating, and arresting, 24 hours a day. Closed courts mean arrestees sit in jail far longer than needed because no judge is available to release them. “Forty hours a week isn’t good enough,” Stanek said, “when residents are subject to arrest 24/7.”

The letter to Trump and Sessions doesn’t mention gun control issues, though both D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said it was time to revive that conversation. “If we’re really interested in impacting violent crime,” Acevedo said, “let’s have some gun sense.”

“Having the government issue licenses before someone is able to possess and carry firearms is critically important,” Newsham said. D.C.’s strict gun laws have come under attack in the courts in recent years.

Both chiefs and prosecutors stressed that there was bipartisan political support in their groups for the measures proposed, and for not going back to the “overly punitive” approaches launched in the crack-drenched years of the 1980s and 1990s, with heavy emphasis on mass arrests and long mandatory minimum sentencing.

“The strategies we’ve been applying for the last couple decades actually worked,” Acevedo said, as crime nationwide steadily declined, with occasional upward jags in cities such as Chicago and Baltimore. “We do evolve,” Serpas said. “We do get smarter.”

Serpas said the chiefs’ group has lobbied members of Congress and testified in favor of the justice reform bill, and “we would enjoy the opportunity to sit down with President Trump.” Michael Freeman, the Hennepin County, Minn., district attorney and head of the National District Attorneys Association, said his group had met with Sessions and “he does understand our work.” He said his goal was to limit the partisanship of the prosecutors’ group, and that “justice doesn’t have an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ next to it.”

An interesting participant in Wednesday’s meeting at the press club was Koch Industries, the Kansas-based company known for its heavy conservative political involvement but which is not always enamored of Trump or his policies. Serpas said Koch has been supportive of the chiefs’ group from the start, and company general counsel Mark Holden moderated the prosecutors’ panel. Holden said Koch’s “involvement is based on our goal of removing barriers to opportunity for all Americans, especially the least advantaged. We want to end the two-tier justice system that provides the rich and connected far better treatment than the poor, because it is immoral, constitutionally dubious, and fiscally ruinous.”

Holden rattled off statistics about the United States’ position as the world leader in incarceration, and said: “I’m really hopeful that the administration and the Department of Justice will listen to you all. Your voice matters the most.”

by Tom Jackman  |  Washington Post

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Press Release
For Immediate Release
October 18, 2017


APA President David LaBahn Joins National Law Enforcement Partners for National Law Enforcement Summit on Crime

Washington, DC- Today, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) joined police chiefs, sheriffs, attorneys general, and fellow prosecutors from across the country for the National Law Enforcement Summit on Crime.  This unique summit marks the first time that the national law enforcement community has come together to discuss a coordinated response to recent crime trends.

During the summit, APA President and CEO David LaBahn participated in a panel discussion on prosecuting crimes without increasing incarceration.  The panel was moderated by Mark Holden, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Koch Industries, and included New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman, and President of the National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys Hal Hardin.

Here are Mr. LaBahn’ s full remarks:

Being on this panel with DA Vance and County Attorney Freeman allows me to address more of the 30,000 foot view of policies, while they run incredible offices and have the local perspectives. APA’s mission is to support and enhance the effectiveness of prosecutors in their efforts to create safer communities, ensure justice and uphold public safety. APA

policies demonstrating support for evidence-based sentencing and prosecutorial practices that prevent crime, ensure equal justice, and ultimately make communities safer.

 

I want to briefly highlight our key principles:

 

First, Criminal sentences should be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime committed and incarceration should be limited to cases where its use improves public safety.

 

Second, Diversion programs are only sustainable if community resources exist to treat, rehabilitate and address the needs of individuals who commit offenses.

 

Third, there must be optimal selection of individuals into diversion programs requires leveraging a data-driven scientific approach to ensure maximum reductions in the rate of recidivism.

 

And finally, Regardless of whether an individual is ultimately incarcerated or diverted, the top priority of sentencing should be rehabilitation and re-integration, and individuals should face minimum collateral consequences upon re-entering society.

 

By utilizing a community-based problem-solving frame-work, key partners can work collaboratively in creating and implementing strategies for safer communities.

 

While on this topic, APA was pleased to be a part of putting together the Law Enforcement Leader’s policy for the new administration. In combining our efforts with those of other Law Enforcement Leaders, we prioritized 5 policies that the Administration should support in

advancing community safety and I believe these continue to be relevant past the first 100 days.

 

First, it is necessary to prioritize resources to combat violent crime. In an over-burdened system, low-level offenses must be diverted away from the criminal justice system so that resources can be concentrated on violent criminals. By focusing our priorities and resources on the most dangerous threats to our communities will make our nation safer

for all.

 

Second, we support reducing unnecessary incarceration. As prosecutors, we recognize the importance of treatment, alternative programs, and seek to reduce recidivism by safely diverting individuals from arrest and jail booking into community-based programs.

 

 

 

Alternatives should be available for anyone who does not pose a public safety threat.

 

This is especially true for those who suffer from substance abuse, mental health issues, or a dual diagnosis, who often become entangled in the criminal justice system. Community-based treatment programs and other supports are the most appropriate method for addressing

their needs, while community supervision also may be necessary in certain circumstances. Preferably, justice, health, and community resources should be allocated to intensive and comprehensive services that demonstrate the greatest capacity to reduce recidivism, protect

public order and safety, and promote public health, while also mitigating the need for costly justice supervision.

 

To ensure success, prosecutors’ offices should operate collaboratively with all other criminal justice and community partners. Through joining forces with other community agencies, there can be better integration of services, as well resources. Consequently, all members of the

community will have a greater stake in the outcome, and will be able to provide a meaningful contribution to the overall goal of improved community safety.

 

Finally, investments in reentry are critical to preserve and expand recidivism reduction. The reentry process should begin at intake, and services should be frontloaded upon release. Expanding reentry services will help decrease the overall rate of recidivism. In turn, this

will reduce crime while decreasing the number of incarcerated individuals while reducing the number of crime victims and saving taxpayer dollars.

 

In closing, thank you for involving the prosecutorial profession in your

efforts to both reduce incarceration as well as provide for safer communities. We stand with you and look forward to continued collaboration to make our nation safer.

Tasha Jamerson  / Director of Media and External Relations / Office: 202-861-2485/Cell: 202-807-9562

 

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The Hardest Phone Call a Prosecutor Has to Make

Law school doesn’t prepare you for delivering bad news to victims and their families.

By Jean Peters Baker

 

“This is Jean,” I say. “I’m from the prosecutor’s office. I would like to talk with you regarding a case in which you were the victim. Could we meet in person?”

“No, just tell me why you’re calling,” replies Sue*, a sexual assault victim.

“I would rather speak in person.”

“Just tell me now.”

“I believe this may be news that you would like to hear face-to-face,” I say, softly. “I’d like to meet with you to discuss.”

“No. I need you to tell me now.”

There’s a pause as I decide what to say.

“The case was overturned by the Court of Appeals.” I just say it straight-out.

“What does that mean?”

“It means that we will need to start over.”

I hear the sound of her throwing up. Then the call is disconnected.

There is no training for this in law school. It’s a part of the criminal justice system that is seldom seen or even portrayed in pop culture. But like a doctor who must inform a patient of some terrible illness, a prosecutor like me often has to deliver tough news to victims, or — when a victim has died — to their families.

I first learned about Sue more than six years after her original trial. There, she had testified that on an evening in the late 1990s in Jackson County, Missouri, she was driving to her cousin’s house when she ended up on a dead-end street. Realizing she was lost, she asked some men on the street for help. One approached her.

Suddenly, he pulled out a butcher knife and ordered her to let him into her car. He forced her at knifepoint to drive to a remote location and raped her.

Sue quickly reported the crime to police. Thanks to DNA testing, a semen stain on her clothing led them to her attacker.

A jury convicted the man. But then an appeals court found errors, including potential juror misconduct. (During the trial, one juror had driven to the area where Sue got lost and reported to the other jurors that it was, in fact, easy to get lost there.)

That’s where I came in, as an assistant prosecutor in the sex crimes unit. When the appellate decision came down, I was randomly assigned the task of telling the victim the bad news.

I first tried to find her contact information in our files. I sent a letter, but it was returned unopened.

Then I found what I believed was Sue’s mother’s phone number. When I called it, to my surprise, the victim herself answered. I learned later that due to the rape, she often used her mother’s name to hide from the outside world.

Delivering the worst kind of news is never easy. Still, my policy is to tell a victim’s family as much as they want to know.

In homicide cases, families often ask: “Did my son suffer?” I prepare for that question by imagining myself having lost a loved one. How would I want a prosecutor to convey that information?

If the autopsy report is not clear on the question of pain and suffering, I interview the medical examiner prior to meeting with the victim’s family. I am grateful when I can convey a quick death — the bullet penetrated the heart, for example. The mothers, eager, strained, bracing themselves for the worst, are often particularly relieved to hear this.

 When it is undeniable that a loved one suffered, I try to find the right time and the best way for the family to hear it. But sooner or later, I have to tell them. They weep. They say, “No.” They stand up and move around the room because they can’t sit still.

Then there are the situations when the evidence is insufficient to file a criminal charge against the individual we believe snuffed out the loved one’s life. Sometimes the “streets are talking,” but no witnesses are willing to speak with police. These families are left to see their son or daughter’s reputed killer around the neighborhood. All we can say to them is that we’ll keep trying to build a case, that murder has no statute of limitations, that they should not try to seek their own revenge. Sometimes they stay silent when they hear that.

There are times when we meet the family at a crime scene before we even know them. Desperate for information, they linger, waiting for word of whose body might be under a police tarp. They look for clues. What did their loved one wear that morning?

I’ve been asked to check the victim’s shoes or to look for other identifying markers. I’ve watched the family member furiously dialing their cell phone, hoping the victim will answer and put their fears to rest — until they hear the phone ring from the body on the ground.

Victims and their families do not ask to be thrust into the criminal justice system. They have little voice in the direction of the case beyond asking questions. Justice will turn on the evidence and on the skill of the prosecutors who must convincingly present it.

All the while, they are given a crash course on the law. They must struggle with concepts like admissible evidence, reasonable doubt, hearsay, and the constitutional safeguards that protect a criminal defendant.

A few days after I called Sue, the sexual assault victim, we met in person. Her husband accompanied her.

“Lady, you kicked up a lot of dust in my home,” he said, even before crossing the threshold into my office.

I thought to myself: I’m sure that’s right. I exacted the worst day of her life on her all over again.

We sat down. Sue told me how she had testified at her trial only days before delivering her first child. The judge had refused to grant a continuance, even though the defense received them earlier in the trial for arguably lesser reasons.

Over time, I gained Sue’s trust and convinced her to continue to pursue justice by testifying at a new trial.

The case ended in a courtroom hallway. The defendant’s attorney, nearly breathless, caught me to say his client was willing to take an offer of 18 years in exchange for pleading guilty. (The prosecution had originally been seeking 22.)

I picked up a phone.

“He’ll take 18 years,” I told Sue. “And it will be done.” I began to go into more detail about the terms of the deal, but she quickly interrupted.

“Take it,” she said. “Take it.”

The deal ensured that the defendant would remain registered as a sex offender. And the family, finally, would win some peace.

Before she hung up, Sue said, “Make me one promise.”

“Yes.”

“Never call me again.”

Jean Peters Baker is the elected prosecuting attorney in Jackson County, Mo. (which includes parts of Kansas City), as well as the vice-chair of the national board of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

*Not her real name.

Original article published by The Marshall Project in collaboration with Vice.

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Trump nominates US attorneys for western, central North Carolina

CHARLOTTE — The district attorney for North Carolina’s largest county and a utility company lawyer are in line to become the top federal prosecutors for the western two-thirds of the state.

President Donald Trump says he plans to nominate Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray as the next U.S. attorney for western North Carolina, which includes much of the Charlotte region and points west. The president also picked Matthew Martin on Friday for the same post in central North Carolina, including Durham, Greensboro and Winston-Salem. Martin is associate general counsel for Duke Energy Corp.

Both must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. North Carolina Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis recommended them for the jobs.

Trump in July picked former federal prosecutor Bobby Higdon as U.S. attorney for eastern North Carolina.

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Hon. R. Andrew Murray Nominated to be the Next U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina

President Donald J. Trump Announces Sixth Wave of United States Attorney Nominations

President Donald J. Trump today announced his sixth wave of United States Attorney nominations.  The United States Attorney serves as the chief Federal law enforcement officer within his or her Federal judicial district. These nine candidates share the President’s vision for “Making America Safe Again.” Accordingly, the President today announced his intent to nominate these individuals to serve as the United States Attorney for their respective jurisdictions.

If confirmed, John F. Bash of Texas will serve as the United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas.  Mr. Bash is currently a Special Assistant to the President and Associate Counsel to the President.  From 2012 to 2017, he served as an Assistant to the Solicitor General in the United States Department of Justice.  In that role, he argued ten cases on behalf of the United States in the Supreme Court, and he litigated or advised on numerous cases and other matters involving a range of federal legal questions, with a special emphasis on national security and criminal law.  He previously was an associate attorney at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP in Washington, D.C., where his practice focused on complex litigation in Federal district and appellate courts.  Mr. Bash clerked for the Honorable Antonin Scalia of the United States Supreme Court and the Honorable Brett M. Kavanaugh of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  He received his A.B., summa cum laude, from Harvard University and his J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School.

If confirmed, Scott W. Brady of Pennsylvania will serve as the United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania.  Scott W. Brady is currently the head of litigation for Federated Investors, Inc.  Mr. Brady previously served as an Assistant United States Attorney in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 2004 to 2010, where he prosecuted white collar crime, violent crime and drug trafficking offenses.  Mr. Brady also served as an associate at Jones Day and at Reed Smith LLP, where his practice focused on multi-district litigation, white collar criminal matters and internal investigations.  He clerked for the Honorable Thomas M. Hardiman of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.  Mr. Brady serves as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.  Prior to law school, Mr. Brady worked in emergency relief and development in Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia.  He graduated from Harvard University and the Pennsylvania State University School of Law.

If confirmed, Bobby L. Christine of Georgia will serve as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.  Mr. Christine is currently a Magistrate Judge in Columbia County, and a partner at the law firm of Christine and Evans, LLC.  He is also a Colonel in the Georgia Army National Guard, where he serves as State Judge Advocate.  Previously, Mr. Christine served nearly a decade as an Assistant District Attorney in Augusta, Georgia.  He received his B.A. from the University of Georgia, and his J.D. from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University.

If confirmed, David J. Freed of Pennsylvania will serve as the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.  Mr. Freed is currently serving his 12th year as the elected District Attorney of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.  He previously served five years as First Assistant District Attorney in Cumberland County prosecuting Homicides, Violent Felonies, Arson and Complex Drug Transactions and as a Deputy Prosecutor in York County, Pennsylvania as well as in private law practice focusing on civil litigation.    Mr. Freed is the former President (2013-2014) of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and has been a member of its Executive Committee since 2007.  He received his B.A., cum laude, from Washington and Lee University and his J.D. from the Dickinson School of Law of the Pennsylvania State University.

If confirmed, Andrew E. Lelling of Massachusetts will serve as the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.  Mr. Lelling is currently the senior litigation counsel for the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts and has worked in that office for 12 years, prosecuting white collar crime and international drug trafficking, among other offenses.  Mr. Lelling also served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia.  He previously served as counsel to the Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.  Mr. Lelling clerked for the Honorable B. Avant Edenfield of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.  He received his B.A., magna cum laude, from the State University of New York at Binghamton and his J.D., cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

If confirmed, Stephen R. McAllister of Kansas will serve as the United States Attorney for the District of Kansas.  Mr. McAllister is currently the Solicitor General of Kansas and the E.S. & Tom W. Hampton Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Kansas.  Mr. McAllister has argued nine times before the Supreme Court of the United States and currently teaches constitutional and federal civil rights law at the University of Kansas.  Mr. McAllister clerked for the Honorable Clarence Thomas of the United States Supreme Court, the Honorable Byron R. White of the United States Supreme Court, and the Honorable Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  He received his B.A., with highest distinction, from the University of Kansas, and his J.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Kansas School of Law.

If confirmed, Matthew G.T. Martin of North Carolina will serve as the United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina.  Mr. Martin is currently Associate General Counsel for Duke Energy Corporation.  He was previously a partner at the law firm of Smith Anderson Blount Dorsett Mitchell & Jernigan, where he focused on complex litigation.  Prior to joining Smith Anderson, Mr. Martin practiced with the law firm of Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C.  He received his B.S., with honors and highest distinction, from the University of North Carolina and his J.D., with high honors, from the University of North Carolina School of Law, where he served as Editor in Chief of the North Carolina Law Review.

If confirmed, R. Andrew Murray of North Carolina will serve as the United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.  Mr. Murray is currently the elected District Attorney of Mecklenburg County and has served in this position since 2011.  He previously worked as an Assistant District Attorney in Mecklenburg County, prosecuting a variety of crimes, and as a criminal defense attorney and managing partner in a local firm.  Mr. Murray enlisted in the United States Coast Guard in 1980 and was later commissioned as an officer in the Coast Guard Reserve until 2016, when he retired as a Captain after 35 years of service.  He received his B.A., magna cum laude, from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and his J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law.

If confirmed, Michael B. Stuart of West Virginia will serve as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia.  Mr. Stuart is currently a member of the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson PLLC and serves as co-chair of the firm’s corporate services and tax practice group.  In 2014, Mr. Stuart chaired the West Virginia Presidential Debate Commission.  From 2010 to 2012, Mr. Stuart served as chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party.  Mr. Stuart received his undergraduate degree from West Virginia University and his J.D. from the Boston University School of Law.

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Kelley Hodge sworn in as Philadelphia’s 25th District Attorney

PHILADELPHIA (July 24, 2017) – Kelley B. Hodge was sworn in today as the City of Philadelphia’s 25th District Attorney. Hodge, who was elected on July 20, 2017, by the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas’ Board of Judges, will serve until the newly elected District Attorney takes office in 2018.

“Thank you for having the confidence in me to lead this office, an office that I have profound admiration and respect for. The Board of Judges have entrusted me with a responsibility that requires diligence, intelligence, patience and most of all humility, and I can assure you that I will work every day, as I have for my 20 years as an attorney and advocate, to deliver just that to the citizens of Philadelphia,” said Kelley B. Hodge, District Attorney for the City of Philadelphia.

“To the members of the District Attorney’s Office, it’s good to be back, and this is our restoration period. Our opportunity to look at adversity from the rear-view mirror and know you have weathered the storm. The citizens of this city deserve our best as members of the District Attorney’s office and I hope to inspire you all to always seek to do better today than you did the day before,” Hodge added.

Before her election, District Attorney Hodge was Of Counsel to Elliott Greenleaf where she developed a practice focusing on criminal, education, risk assessment, compliance, and civil rights law. Prior to joining Greenleaf, she was the Title IX Coordinator at the University of Virginia and responsible for the implementation of a new sex and gender based harassment policy in the University’s eleven schools.

Before joining the University of Virginia, Ms. Hodge was appointed by former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett to serve as the Safe Schools Advocate under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. As Advocate, Hodge oversaw the reporting and response to incidents of violence in the Philadelphia Public School system. She worked closely with the First Judicial District Juvenile and Adult Courts, local law enforcement, mental and behavioral health agencies, and Philadelphia’s City Council, District Attorney’s Office, Mayor’s Office, and human relations agencies to ensure each student’s civil rights were protected.

“I would also like to thank the office’s leadership team who not only kept improving the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office’s policies and programs, but made sure the entire organization remained focused on justice and serving the people of Philadelphia,” said Hodge.

Ms. Hodge began practicing law in the Commonwealth of Virginia as a criminal defense attorney for the Richmond Public Defender’s Office in 1997. In 2004, she began practicing law in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. For eight years, Ms. Hodge prosecuted thousands of cases ranging from Misdemeanor Theft to Attempted Murder in the First Judicial District. She trained and managed new and seasoned Assistant District Attorneys and assisted in the creation and implementation of various diversionary programs.

In 2013, she was selected to serve on a Pennsylvania Joint State Commission on Violence Prevention in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, and in 2014 she was appointed by Governor Corbett to serve on the Interstate Compact for Juvenile Justice.

Ms. Hodge received her Juris Doctor from the University of Richmond’s T.C. Williams School of Law in 1996. She is a 1993 graduate of the University of Virginia where she received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Foreign Affairs and in Spanish Language and Literature. She is a native of Montgomery County, PA and graduated from Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Flourtown, PA. Ms. Hodge currently resides with her husband and son in the Northwest section of Philadelphia.

 

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation. It serves the more than 1.5 million citizens of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives and support staff. It is organized into seven divisions: Executive/Administration, Trials, Pre-Trial, Investigations, Juvenile, Law, and Special Operations. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecution of over 50,000 criminal cases annually. The main office of the Philadelphia District Attorney is located in Center City Philadelphia at The Widener Building, Three South Penn Square. The Juvenile Court and Child Support Unit are located at 1501 Arch Street, and the Private Criminal Complaint Unit is located at 1425 Arch Street. Additionally, the Charging Unit is staffed around the clock in The Widener Building.

 

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A New Sense of Comfort, Friendship, and Relief in the Courtroom: The Use of Therapy Dogs

The bond between an owner and her dog is strong and irreplaceable-one that is made from years of love, care, and loyalty. Whether it’s walking around the park or walking into the courtroom, research has shown the physical and mental health benefits of having a furry best friend. The apparent advantages extend to decreasing anxiety, reducing blood pressure, lowering heart rate, decreasing depression, and improving mental clarity (Lex Canis Winter 2015).

 

This bond between man and man’s best friend has existed for thousands of years as animals have been used therapeutically even since 9th century Belgium. The American Veterinary Medical Association has recognized this bond through conclusive clinical trials, the results of which maintain that petting an animal, such as house pets like dogs, significantly reduces one’s stress levels. This stimulates the production of oxytocin (Odenaal and Meintjes, 2003-FL Courthouse Dogs), which increases trust, cooperation, and endorphin levels.

 

To continue this development of bonding and to further increase these milestone benefits to the improvement of human health, Florida recently passed a law authorizing the use and placement of therapy dogs in most courts within the state. Their action of legislation was motivated by the desire to comfort those who may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable–namely youth– in an intense situation and setting such as a courtroom. In Miami-Dade Children’s Court, therapy dogs are being used to comfort victims and children within the courtroom through a program called Paws in the Court. In conjunction with the Humane Society in the Miami area, Paws in the Court utilizes adorable, furry, and comforting dogs that the organization regularly trains to provide emotional relief to individuals struggling to adjust to the courtroom. To be a part of Paws in the Court, the dogs must be trained in obedience and receive certifications from the Canine Good Citizen program, in addition to completing at least 50 visits at recognized therapy-dog facilities.

 

The newly passed Florida state law was sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur and Rep. Jared Moskowitz, who have been involved in acts of animal welfare improvements previously. As imparted by the new legislation, therapy dogs are now allowed in most courts within the state and for more than sexual offense cases, now allowed into proceedings regarding anything from child abuse to abandonment.

 

The use of therapy dogs in the court also aids those within the juvenile court system. This was the case for 19-year-old Jenette Alen, who felt unsettled and nervous when walking into the Miami-Dade Children’s Courthouse as the judge was to decide if Alen was to graduate from drug court–a diversion treatment program for drug offenders trying to avoid extensive prosecution. As Alen awaited the decision, a Labrador mix by the name of Ginger–a furry friend part of the Paws in the Court program– settled her nerves as she pet her, later exclaiming, “I felt like, ‘I’m going to be OK, Ginger’s here,’ ” she recalled. “A dog in the courthouse makes it feel… less scary or frightening” (Miami Herald).

 

Therapy dogs are also making their way beyond the courtroom and into the offices of district attorneys. District Attorney Henry Garza of Belton, TX received a new member in his office last week, Blaez, a Tamaskan therapy dog. He was given to the office by his owner Dana Bettger, a victim witness coordinator for the D.A., who says Blaez has been a comfort for her and her husband before. Blaez, like Ginger and other therapy dogs in Paws in the Court, has been trained within hospitals and assisted living homes, making him accustomed to the varying tones of the environments. He later joined Divine Canines, a nonprofit organization for therapy dogs based in Austin, TX.

 

The community and members within the DA’s office has already seen great benefits through the new, cuddly addition. During a recent case of a young girl who was sexually assaulted, she was having trouble explaining what had happened to her to the prosecutors who had been asking her questions. When the young girl saw the therapy dog, she said she felt more comfortable explaining what had happened to her to this dog, demonstrating the sheer effectiveness of the Blaez’s presence. This astounded the prosecutors, who were thankful that they could get the young girl to open up to them through the use of Blaez.  This surged the initiative to implement more therapy dogs in the office, as they realized these dogs could help comfort the victim and allow the individual to tell their story while the prosecutor takes notes (TDT News).

 

It is apparent that the implementation of therapy dogs within the courtroom or even a DA’s office has proved to be extremely useful especially to youth in the courtroom, who benefit from the comfort, emotional support, and relief these fluffy friends provide.

 

Mehrin Saleem
Communications Intern | Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
Student |University of California, San Diego
Major: Communication | Minor: Law & Society

 

 

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Manhattan DA: This bill could turn your city into the Wild West

Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. is the Manhattan District Attorney and co-chair of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence. This views expressed in this commentary are his own.

New York’s turnaround on violent crime has improved the lives of all New Yorkers. In 1990, there were more than 2,000 murders in our city. Last year, there were
335. Our safe streets have subsequently enabled an economic resurgence that has proven especially beneficial to real estate developers like President Donald J. Trump.

I’m proud to say that New York remains the safest big city in the nation, at least according to the Economist’s Safe Cities Index. But this progress could come to a screeching halt if the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, known as CCRA, passes Congress. Every state has had the right to craft its own firearms licensing laws. In New York, we have crafted our laws to consider unique factors like our state’s population density, culture and history. The CCRA would override our state’s restrictive concealed-weapons permitting system and force New York to honor concealed-carry firearms privileges issued in other states, even though many other states have much looser standards.

Simply put, this means that the gun laws of Arkansas, for example, could be forced upon New York by federal mandate. I can only imagine how angry citizens of Arkansas would be if Washington politicians forced them to follow laws from New York.

Consider this: Eleven states grant concealed-carry privileges to individuals who have not undergone any safety training. Twenty states grant permits to people who have been convicted of violent crimes. And 12 states do not require any kind of permit or license to carry a concealed firearm. The CCRA would make it legal for someone to carry that concealed, loaded firearm into New York or anyplace else, regardless of local law.

Public safety is like oxygen. We don’t always notice when we have it, but if it went away, we’d realize quite quickly. Without security and stability, tourists wouldn’t visit. Developers wouldn’t have the confidence to invest. Businesses would lose out on top talent, and their customers would flee.

Public safety also means not having to worry when our children ride the bus to school or take the subway to visit a friend on a Friday night. Public safety is the reason we feel comfortable living, working and raising families in places like Manhattan.

As the No.1 tourism destination in the United States, my city receives more than 46 million adult visitors from other states each year, and 6.5% of American adults have a concealed handgun permit. Passage of CCRA could unleash countless new concealed weapons on the streets of New York. That could mean more shootings, more victims and more tragedies in America’s safest big city.

No one will bear the burden of those tragedies more heavily than our police. Under the CCRA, cops would have to patrol our streets surrounded by hidden, loaded guns. They would have no way to confirm whether an out-of-state permit is legitimate and no database to check on the status of those permits. And because many states don’t even require permits to carry, the NYPD would have to take armed individuals at their word.

So police officers are against this bill. Prosecutors, like me, are against this bill. Who would actually be for this bill? I can offer one answer: ISIS.

According to George Washington University’s Extremism Tracker, New York is the top ISIS terror target  in America. Meanwhile, ISIS is increasingly recruiting radicalized attackers to murder as many people as possible, using any means available.

Let’s not kid ourselves: ISIS is following the gun debate. Look no further than Rumiyah, its official magazine and how-to guide for terror. In its May 2017 issue, under a section titled “Just Terror Tactics,” ISIS specifically told aspiring terrorists how to exploit America’s lax gun laws to commit mass shootings on our soil:

“In most US states, anything from a single-shot shotgun all the way up to a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle can be purchased at showrooms or through online sales — by way of private dealers — with no background checks, and without requiring an ID or a gun license.”

The CCRA is a gift to these terrorists. A person on a watch list could purchase multiple handguns at a gun show, take those guns into Manhattan and carry them, fully loaded, into Times Square. It wouldn’t be a crime until they started shooting.

Despite this astounding possibility, the CCRA already has more than 200 sponsors in the House of Representatives, and the National Rifle Association has called passing the bill its No. 1 priority.The gun lobby is making it politically dangerous to oppose this bill. We have to make clear that what’s in this bill is even scarier.

Republican members of Congress have long championed the rights of states to establish their own laws that reflect local needs and concerns over national legislation — particularly when it comes to public safety. The CCRA tramples on those rights. If for no other reason, Congress should reject this unprecedented exercise of federal power.

If they do not, the President should exercise his veto authority. Trump is a New Yorker — perhaps the most famous one we have. Presumably, he understands that guns in the hands of criminals and terrorists would be bad for New York. He also states frequently that he is a strong supporter of police.

If the CCRA passes Congress, the President should align himself with law enforcement — including, among others, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major City Chiefs Association and Prosecutors Against Gun Violence — and veto this dangerous legislation.

The public safety we take for granted in cities like New York depends on defeating this bill.

Danny Frost
Deputy Director of Communications
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.
212-335-9400 // @ManhattanDA<https://twitter.com/ManhattanDA>

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Community sets new course for South LA’s ‘death alley’

SOUTH L.A. (CBSLA.com) — Part of South L.A.’s infamous “Death Alley” is getting new life.

Statistics show the two-mile stretch off Vermont Avenue has been the site of dozens of killings over the last decade.

For the past year, architecture professor Marcela Hicks and students from L.A. Trade–Technical College have been cleaning up part of the stretch near Florence Avenue to spur reformation — both physically and symbolically.

Now that the alley is open, so are minds, says Hicks. And on Saturday, community members sat down with entrepreneurs and architects to set the neighborhood on a new course.

The group that gathered was led by design strategist Matthew Manos — every table throwing out different ways to use the space.

“We sometimes see ideas for community gardens, so places where people can come together and cultivate fresh food,” Manos said. “We have even seen ideas for completely new schools that are totally unconventional. And then we have had ideas for businesses that exist on Mars.”

CBS2/KCAL9’s Laurie Perez reports the lot could also see parks, festivals, art exhibits or pop-up stores with locally-made products.

Read the Original Story Here

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New lighting in crime-riddled housing developments leads to drop in crime rates

Magee Hickey | July 12, 2017

FORT GREENE, Brooklyn — Let there be light and crime will drop.

That’s what officials and the New York City Housing Authority are learning after they installed new, better lighting in one of the city’s most crime-riddled housing developments.

“I’ve seen it all: the good, the bad and the ugly,” said Edna Grant, 78.

For most of the past 58 years, Grant has been living in NYCHA’s Ingersoll Houses. She never would have ventured out after dark, but now, with the newer, brighter LED lights just installed, Grant eagerly showed PIX11 News the pansies she’d planted in the community garden — and it was after 9 p.m.

“It’s definitely better to have this lighting,” Grant added.

Brooklyn City Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo fought hard to get the money for the enhanced lighting.

“Our seniors and our entire community didn’t feel safe after dark until this lighting was installed,” Cumbo said.

The Ingersoll Houses used to be one of 15 NYCHA developments responsible for 20 percent of all the crime in NYCHA’s more than 300 complexes, so better lighting was a first step in slashing that rate.

Burglaries and grand larcenies are down in Ingersoll compared to the same period last year.

“This area used to be very dark and not safe,” said Gerald Nelson, NYCHA Vice President in charge of Public Safety,. ” But look at that basketball court now — it is bright.”

These 524  LED lights cost $5.3 million to install. Playground also have better lighting now, so adults feel more comfortable letting children play after dark.

“It is nice for the parents and the kids to have light in the playground,” said Sabur Ansari, who was visiting relatives at Ingersoll.

Now that the lights are on, the next project will be installing closed-circuit cameras inside and outside Ingersoll’s 20 buildings. That is expected to be completed by year’s end.

Read the Original Story Here

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