We need more Veterans Courts

“Roughly one in 12 people in America’s prisons and jails is a veteran. Often, they’ve ended up in prison because of behavior resulting from injuries and trauma sustained during service. Many are serving absurdly long sentences for low-level drug offenses, having turned to drugs as a way of coping with PTSD and adjusting to life after tours of duty. And almost always, they are forgotten on this solemn day.”

If you or your family member are a veteran and are caught in the modern American criminal justice system, contact the VA Veterans Justice Outreach.  Its mission:

The aim of the Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) program is to avoid the unnecessary criminalization of mental illness and extended incarceration among Veterans by ensuring that eligible, justice-involved Veterans have timely access to Veterans Health Administration (VHA) services, as clinically indicated. VJO specialists provide direct outreach, assessment and case management for justice-involved Veterans in local courts and jails and liaison with local justice system partners.

More critically, Alabama has made strides towards establishment of Veterans Courts in each county in the state. There are approximately 20 Veterans courts active in Alabama. A Veterans court allows veterans charged with a crime to complete a program of treatment and counseling in exchange for dismissing the charges. Its not easy though. For instance, in Baldwin County,

Those efforts kicked off the court one year ago with a focus on helping veterans facing criminal charges to get their records expunged. The kicker: They have to attend the court every Tuesday, accomplish a series of tasks, and maintain a clean record for one year. . . For the veterans who attend the court, they will work through their problems – whether it’s drug or alcohol addiction, or something else – with a “team” that consists of a coordinator, defense attorney (who is a veteran), a prosecutor from the District Attorney’s Office, a volunteer from AltaPointe who specializes in substance abuse and treatment (also a veteran), a veterans’ outreach specialist from the Veterans Administration, a counselor, a volunteer life coach, and a team of 15 mentors.

Parole Board Hearings: “Blink and you may miss the entire thing.”

If you want a fairly accurate picture of a parole hearing in Alabama, read this article entitled: “How do Alabama parole board members decide whom to release? Think ‘American Idol‘” The article recounts several parole cases while discussing the current parole rate and Cam Ward’s criminal justice reform bill.

The article makes one thing clear:

But even though the number of incoming inmates has fallen by a few thousand, the overall prison population has barely budged. That’s because paroles are becoming harder to obtain. In fiscal year 2009, the parole rate – the percentage of paroles granted by the state – stood just north of 42 percent. In the end of fiscal 2013, the rate had tumbled to 36 percent.

As the sentencing guidelines continue to filter out offenders, with less serious crimes and less-lengthy crime histories, I expect this trend to continue.


New Sex Offender Requirements in Alabama

American courts have approved the practice of ever-increasing the punishment for sex offenses. Seemingly in every session of the Legislature, some new restriction or requirement is lopped into an already substantial set of notifications, registration, residential and employment restrictions, and other scarlet letters. In its last session, the Alabama Legislature passed such an additional requirement: Ala. Code § 15-20A-17:
(b)(1) No adult sex offender, after having been convicted of a sex offense involving a minor, shall enter onto the property of a K-12 school while school is in session or attend any K-12 school activity unless the adult sex offender does all of the following: (a) Notifies the principal of the school, or his or her designee, before entering onto the property or attending the K-12 school activity. (b) Immediately reports to the principal of the school, or his or her designee, upon entering the property or arriving at the K-12 school activity. and (c) Complies with any procedures established by the school to monitor the whereabouts of the sex offender for the duration of his or her presence on the school property or attendance at the K-12 school activity. For a public K-12 school, the local school board shall adopt a policy to effectuate this section. . . .Any person who violates … subsection (b) shall be guilty of a Class C felony.
A “K-12 activity” is defined broadly:

For the purposes of this subsection, a K-12 school activity is an activity sponsored by a school in which students in grades K-12 are the primary intended participants or for whom students in grades K-12 are the primary intended audience including, but not limited to, school instructional time, after school care, after school tutoring, athletic events, field trips, school plays, or assemblies.
This law is quite unnecessary. Any school board could pass whatever restrictions or regulations for a sex offender entering school board property. They own the land and can trespass any person from the premises just as any other land owner.
As I recently encountered, the prosecution of this statute may be stalled because the local school board has yet to pass “policy to effectuate this section.” Accordingly, its very possible that the statute is not in effect unless the local school board as passed policy “to effectuate” the statute. The statute employees the “effectuates” language in fact twice within the statute.
One, this is a perfectly normal mode of operation. 
Second, the language is quite unambiguous. The term “effectuate” means “to make effective.” But if its not clear, then t

Lesson: If you are on bond, probation, or parole, Stay Off Facebook

Based upon photographs obtained off Facebook, the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the revocation of one lady’s probation. The Court found that the Facebook content and photographs:

provided an adequate basis for the court to rely on the photographs as depictions of the defendant’s behavior during probation . . . that she appeared in these photographs again worshipping at the altar of alcohol and debauchery and lewd behavior  and she still has the audacity to go back on Facebook and show herself in a condition of being intoxicated.

Of course, the Court revoked her probation and reinstated her prison sentence.