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More than 100 public housing units in Bloomington to be renovated

Herald Times on 1/7/2020 by Emily Ernsberger

The Bloomington Housing Authority is looking for contractors to help complete a $7 million renovation project for more than 100 public housing units.

Over the course of 18 months, 116 units in the Rev. E.D. Butler and Walnut Woods complexes will be renovated.

Rhonda Moore, capital assets manager for the Bloomington Housing Authority, said the housing authority is working to extend its services to rental assistance demonstration. This is a means for programs under the Department of Housing and Urban Development to seek more stable funding and make improvements to homes.

In total, 56 apartments in 16 buildings at the Rev. E.D. Butler community and 60 apartments in 11 buildings at Walnut Woods will be renovated. The project will happen over the course of 18 months, Moore said, and eight to 10 apartments will be renovated at a time.

“We are allowing the units to become naturally vacant as people move out, and we aren’t reoccupying a unit until after the renovations are complete,” Moore said. “We will pay to have any residents relocated, and they have the right to return.”

Last March, it was announced that the 312 public housing units in the city all will be renovated within the next five years because of the switch in federal funding allocation.

Due to the switch to a rental assistance demonstration program, the Bloomington Housing Authority will be able to generate funding through tax credits to pay for the renovations. This is a type of voluntary program that less than 60,000 units across the nation are allowed to be a part of at a time. The program also allows for housing authorities to have conventional mortgages and borrow private money, according to the federal HUD website.

The local housing authority will be able to give vouchers, and will have a more stable funding source as opposed to the annual operating fund given by HUD they have been using.

An information session with business registration and contractor training will be 2-4 p.m. Jan. 14 at the South Central Indiana Small Business Development Center at 501 N. Profile Parkway.

Brenshore Development Corp.will be the head contractor for the project. Subcontracting work needed includes drywall installation, painting, insulating, carpentry, cleaning, roofing, flooring, moving and HVAC mechanic work.

Brian Payne from CDFI-Friendly Bloomington will be present to help identify lending options.

Residents or potential contractors with questions may contact Moore at 812-545-7053 or rmoore@blha.net.

Floyd County recognizes long-tenured probation officer

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News and Tribune on 12/9/2019 by John Boyle

On Monday, Denise Beckwith was given an award bearing her name that will recognize Floyd County’s probation officer of the year moving forward.

NEW ALBANY — The day in Floyd County Circuit Court started off like any of the other annual swearing-in ceremonies for the county’s probation officers.

More than a dozen officials renewed their oaths before judges Terrence Cody, James Hancock, Maria Granger and Magistrate Julie Fessel Flanigan on Monday.

But at the end of the proceedings, something out of the ordinary occurred. It was at this time that Cody announced that someone in the room would be honored, not only for this year, but for years to come.

Probation officer Denise Beckwith was presented with an award that will forever bear her name recognizing Floyd County’s probation officer of the year.

Beckwith was hired nearly two decades ago by then-chief probation officer Virgil Seay, noting that his teachings and those from others within the office helped guide her through the years.

“It’s just an honor,” she said of the recognition. “With all the great probation officers that have come through, I was guided and learned a lot. I just took what I learned from [Seay] and just moved on with it.”

In her time as a probation officer, Beckwith has helped countless young individuals. Trends have come and gone, but Beckwith said she has done her best to adapt with the times and provide the best assistance possible to right the paths of the young people with whom she deals.

“Each year and each day is something different when you’re dealing with juveniles,” she said. “There’s different challenges that you have to deal with and different attitudes. Each year, there’s changes with the kids and ways you have to handle them. It’s been good, and I’ve enjoyed it.”

This coming August will be Beckwith’s 18th year as a probation officer. She hopes to keep going for another couple of years, maybe even three or four, she said.

Something that has proved helpful in her lengthy career working with young people has been her ability and willingness to “take her work home with her,” as she puts it. This is especially true if she identifies a child in extra need of attention.

“They always say don’t take your work home with you,” Beckwith said. “When you leave the office, it stays there. But normally, I don’t do that. If I have to make contact with that person over the weekend, there’s some times where I do that. I just want to make sure that everybody’s doing well. I just try to make sure that when I leave a kid during the day, that everything is working well not only with the kid, but with the family.”

Cody said he was the only judge present at Monday’s event to have seen Beckwith work for the duration of her career. Prior to her hiring, he said he knew of her work with students at New Albany High School and how beneficial such experience would be.

“What sticks out with Denise to me is her demeanor,” Cody said. “She’s excellent with kids. She can be their best friend or worst enemy if they’re not toeing the line. She’s so well-respected in the community, within the probation office and with the judges. It’s just the type of person she is.”

All of these years later, Cody still marvels at the work Beckwith does. He said she had been submitted as the county’s nominee for Indiana’s probation officer of the year.

When the state passed on the nomination, he said the consensus of the office was that she should be honored regardless. That was the birth of the Denise Beckwith Probation Officer of the Year.

Moving forward, Cody noted that the award will act as motivation for probation officers to continue to excel in what they do.

“Peer recognition is very important,” he said. “I’m sure we will nominate people in the future again for the state award, but it’s best that we honor our own as well. I think it sets a pretty good reason to excel in your job.”

New Indiana Rule Adds Risk Assessments For Booked Inmates

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Indiana Public Media on 01/06/2020 by Associated Press

A new Indiana rule requiring that booked inmates be assessed to determine risks or benefits of releasing them before trial is expected to eventually reduce overcrowding at the state’s county jails, criminal justice officials said.

Criminal Rule 26, which set Indiana’s new pretrial release protocols, was adopted by the Indiana Supreme Court in 2017 but it didn’t take effect statewide until Jan. 1.

The new system requires that inmates be released on bond or recognizance unless they present a “substantial risk of flight or danger to themselves or others.” It also mandates that an evidence-based risk assessment be used to help make that determination.

The rule’s expansion to all 92 Indiana counties comes after 11 counties volunteered to try it out under a pilot program that began in 2016.

In one of those pilot counties, northeastern Indiana’s heavily populated Allen County, the approach has aided low-risk offenders who don’t have the resources to post bond, said Jeff Yoder, executive director of Allen Superior Court’s criminal division services.

“It’s allowed a number of low risk folks to be released instead of sitting in jail for days or weeks on end because they can’t afford a bond,” Yoder told the Post-Tribune.

The new rule, which requires collaboration between local criminal justice entities, has the potential to decrease jail populations, but it varies from county to county, said Mary Kay Hudson, executive director of the Indiana Office of Court Services. She said the required risk assessments do not replace a judge’s discretion.

“It is designed to be additional information to inform the court’s decision. The judge always retains discretion,” Hudson said.

Continue reading…

Franklin County Juvenile Court Shifts Course, Eliminating Probation Officers

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WOSU on 12/4/2019 by Adora Namigadde

Whitney Randolph goes into work every day knowing her job is coming to an end in a few months. Her Franklin County courtroom office has expansive windows that overlook the city.

“Technically, it’s my department that’s going,” Randolph says with a laugh. “If you choose to stay and reapply for the new positions, you know there’s probably a job for you.”

She’s been the chief probation officer for the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations and Juvenile Division for two years. Her job and the jobs of other probation officers are being replaced with what the judges call “rehabilitation specialists.”

Current probation officers can reapply, but there’s no guarantee they’ll be hired.

“I would hope I interview and interview well. I passed the test the first time for the chief,” Randolph explains. “So I do hope I still have something to give.”

Their current positions will be eliminated by March to make way for a juvenile justice structure administrators hope will better help rehabilitate kids.

Franklin County is overhauling a system that processes hundreds of kids every year. Judges involved say it is fundamentally broken, so they’re eliminating dozens of jobs and starting from scratch. Continue reading →

The Healthiest—and Unhealthiest—States

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Route Fifty on 12/5/2019 by Kate Elizabeth Queram

Reduced smoking rates, not much violent crime and low reports of sexually transmitted diseases make Vermont the healthiest state in the country, according to rankings released this week.

Vermont is the healthiest state in the country thanks to decreased rates of smoking and mental distress, along with low incidences of violent crime and certain sexually transmitted diseases, according to rankings released Thursday by the United Health Foundation.

The 30th annual America’s Health Rankings is “a composite index of over 30 metrics” that provides a snapshot of each state’s population compared to others, according to the foundation, a private nonprofit owned by UnitedHealth Group. Those metrics include behaviors (smoking, excessive drinking), community and the environment (public health funding, mental health providers) and outcomes (infant mortality, cardiovascular deaths).

“Over the past 30 years, the understanding and science of public health has changed dramatically,” Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare and advisor to the report, said in a statement. “Many health issues that were concerning in 1990 remain so today, and additional issues have arisen that require action now.” Continue reading →

Indiana Supreme Court justice visits LaGrange County Monday

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The News Sun on 12/3/2019 by Patrick Redmond

Indiana State Supreme Court Justice Steven David spent Monday visiting LaGrange County to see how the local JDAI program is working. He spent about an hour meeting with local attorneys talking about civility and ethics.

LAGRANGE — Indiana State Supreme Court Justice Steven David returned to LaGrange County Monday, a guest of JDAI program director Randy Merrifield.

David came to speak with local students in programs supported by the JDAI office and meet with local Amish businessmen.

David has been to LaGrange County three times in the last two years to learn more about LaGrange County’s JDAI program.

JDAI, short for Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, is a program designed to help teenagers avoiding incarceration in area juvenile facilities by reaching out to them before trouble happens. Justice David is a member of the state JDAI committee and an advocate of the program.

“It’s a very important program,” David said Monday. “We visited a high school, a middle school and an elementary school where they have a mentoring program. We visited with the high school seniors who are doing the mentoring and talked to some of the kids who are being mentored. We met with some high school administrators and talked about how important it is for the community to be involved. And I think the message I can take back to Indianapolis and our state JDAI steering committee is you have to get out into the community and see all the great work that’s being done, and the culture here in this county is nothing short of phenomenal. This community works together.”

JDAI takes teens who might have otherwise been sent to a juvenile justice facility for nonviolent incidents involving alcohol or tobacco and places them in supervised community service programs and mentoring programs. At one time, Amish teens made up 70% of the teens arrested in LaGrange County each year. But Merrifield said thanks to the efforts of the JDAI programs, which meets with Amish school children and talks about the law, that number is now down to about 50%. Continue reading →

Ohio spends less per inmate, but imprisons more than many states

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The Center Square on 12/4/2019 by Todd DeFeo

Ohio imprisons 567 people per 100,000 residents, 15th most in the country, while spending $181 for every resident of the state to do so, a new analysis reveals.

The review from HowMuch.net found Ohio spends less on a per capita basis than other nearby states, even as the number of people in prison in the state is higher than most others in the country.

Ohio’s rate of incarceration is higher than Indiana (509 per 100,000 residents), Michigan (508), West Virginia (492) and Pennsylvania (473), according to the study. Kentucky puts more people in prison per capita, locking up 682 people per 100,000 residents.

When it comes to spending, Indiana spends less than Ohio at $159 per capita, while Pennsylvania ($289), Michigan ($249), Kentucky ($213) and West Virginia ($195) outspend the Buckeye State.

The state’s prison population increased from about 13,500 in 1980 to more than 51,400 in 2017, according to an analysis from The Sentencing Project. The Buckeye State has the 15th highest imprisonment rate in the country, and its rate exceeds the national average.

Prison reform and reducing the state’s prison population are targets of several pieces of legislation, although one, Senate Bill 55, could increase incarceration costs.

The proposal, which the state Senate passed, would stiffen penalties for drug trafficking offenses committed on or near a substance addiction services facility. The plan might increase the General Revenue Fund-funded incarceration costs by an estimated $1.5 million and $5.3 million annually.

“The fact that the War on Drugs has been such an abysmal failure is evidence that longer prison sentences do not deter crime,” Niki Clum, the legislative liaison for the Office of the Ohio Public Defender, said in prepared testimony before a recent committee hearing.

Continue reading →

‘Your Body Being Used’: Where Prisoners Who Can’t Vote Fill Voting Districts

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NPR on 12/31/2019 by Hansi Lo Wang and Kumari Devarajan

Robert Alexander has been away from home for more than a decade. His days and nights are spent locked up behind walls topped with barbed wire.

“Prison kind of gives you that feeling that you’re like on an island,” says Alexander, 39, who is studying for a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies while serving his third prison sentence.

Clad in an oversized gray sweatshirt under the fluorescent lights inside the visiting room of Wisconsin’s oldest state prison, he is more than 70 miles from his last address in Milwaukee.

“You don’t feel like a resident of anything,” he adds.

But if Alexander and his more than 1,200 fellow prisoners are still incarcerated at Waupun Correctional Institution next Census Day — April 1 — the Census Bureau will officially consider them residents of Waupun, Wis., for the 2020 national head count.

That’s because, since the first U.S. census in 1790, the federal government has included incarcerated people in the population counts of where they’re imprisoned. This technical detail of a little-known policy can have an outsized impact on prison towns across the U.S. for the next decade.

Continue reading…

Health Dept. launches teen anti-vaping campaign

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Greensburd Daily News on 11/29/2019 by Kevin Green

INDIANAPOLIS—The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) recently launched a public awareness campaign to educate youths about the dangers of e-cigarettes, or “vaping.” The “Behind the Haze” campaign is part of a $2 million effort announced by Governor Eric J. Holcomb and State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG, to reduce vaping among Indiana youth.

“The speed at which vaping is increasing among youth is alarming, and we must protect children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction,” Governor Holcomb said. “These efforts will help curb youth vaping, educate the public on health risks and provide resources to help people who want to quit.”

Dr. Box said the Indiana Youth Tobacco Survey found the use of e-cigarettes has increased more than 350 percent among Indiana middle and high school students since 2012, which makes public awareness a critical part of protecting young Hoosiers’ health.

“Most teens don’t really know what these products contain,” Dr. Box said. “We hope that this campaign educates youth about what they could be putting into their bodies and helps protect them from the lung injuries and nicotine addiction that we are seeing across our state.” Continue reading →

Getting them out of jail sooner

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The Michigan City News-Dispatch on 11/27/2019 by Ted Yoakum

La PORTE — In January, La Porte County officials will flip the switch on some significant overhauls to the criminal justice system — changes leaders hope will result in a smaller jail population.

At its meeting Monday, the La Porte County Council approved the hiring and training of two new pretrial service officers at the county Adult Probation Office. The department will task the employees with performing risk assessments on new arrivals at the jail, part of a litany of changes the county plans to implement to comply with an impending state-mandated deadline.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, the state is requiring all counties to follow provisions of Indiana Criminal Rule 26, which requires courts to perform evidence-based risk assessments on new arrestees before their first court appearance. Judges can use these screenings to determine bail, and the level of supervision a subject will require if released from jail while awaiting trial, based on flight risk or danger posed to the community.

Currently, judges in La Porte County follow a set bond schedule based on the highest level felony an arrestee faces.

As a result, habitual lawbreakers and first-time offenders who face the same drunk driving charge will have the same bond, though they pose different levels of threat to the community. Though the former may have the money to post bail and can resume their illicit activities upon release, the latter may not and must remain in jail until the conclusion of their case.

“The ones that are there [in jail] and should not be are losing their homes, their jobs, their families, their ability to pay and hope,” Superior Court 3 Judge Jeff Thorne said. Continue reading →

Why Abolishing Bail for Some Crimes has Law Enforcement on Edge

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The New York Times on 12/31/2019 by Jesse McKinley, Alan Feuer and Luis Ferré-Sadurní

ALBANY, N.Y. — When Democrats pushed through a law last spring that sharply curtailed cash bail for nonviolent defendants, they hailed it as a landmark measure to stop the poor from being jailed before trial simply because they had few resources.

Now, as the rules take effect on Jan. 1, a backlash has arisen among numerous district attorneys, judges, county legislators and law enforcement officials, who are sounding alarms and raising the specter of dangerous criminals on the loose. Some Republicans are using the issue to paint Democrats as soft on crime.

“Estimates of what’s going to happen have ranged from ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ to something like the panic in the opening scene in ‘Escape From New York,’” said Greg Berman, the director of the Center of Court Innovation, a nonprofit group. “There are still a lot of unknowns.”

While New Jersey, California, Illinois and other states have limited the use of bail, New York is one of the few states to abolish bail for many crimes without also giving state judges the discretion to consider whether a person poses a threat to public safety in deciding whether to hold them.

That decision has many prosecutors and police officials worried the changes will have unintended consequences.

“When you have individuals that are standing before a judge and immediately being released, and essentially everyone in the room knows that this person is a danger to the community, I think we need to look at the system and make sure that judges can make common-sense decisions,” the New York City police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea, said in a radio interview on 1010 WINS in early December.

Under the new law, judges will no longer be able to set bail for a long list of misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, including stalking, assault without serious injury, burglary, many drug offenses, and even some kinds of arson and robbery.

Thousands of people currently in jail awaiting trial across the state will be automatically released, and about 90 percent of new defendants each year in New York will remain free as their cases move through the courts. Most cities and counties will rely on supervised release programs — in which officials stay in touch with defendants through phone calls or meetings — to ensure people show up to court.

In New York City alone, 20,000 more people would have been released in 2018 under the law, according to a report from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Bail is a method to ensure people return to court that requires defendants to post cash or a bond, which they forfeit if they fail to show up for proceedings. Since the 1970s, New York judges have been able to consider only the risk of flight in setting bail, not public safety. The amount can range from a few hundred dollars to millions.

Opponents of cash bail have long argued that it criminalizes poverty, tilting the justice system in favor of wealthy defendants. In New York, the inequities of the system were crystallized when a Bronx teenager named Kalief Browder spent three years on Rikers Island because his family could not raise $3,000, only to have charges dropped in 2013 for lack of evidence. He later took his own life.

After his death, the movement to abolish cash bail grew stronger, and last year the governor and the Democratic-led State Legislature passed the new law, which bans imposing bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.

The rules require judges to impose the “least restrictive conditions” that will assure people return to court. Those include supervised release, travel restrictions and, for some serious offenses, electronic monitoring.

In recent weeks, courts around the state have begun releasing batches of defendants from jails under the new rules to avoid a rush as the new year starts, and the law’s opponents have pounced on recent cases in which people out on bail committed crimes as harbingers of the future.

Supporters of the bail law say critics are being alarmist: Judges will still be able to set bail for almost all violent felonies, they point out, and the old law unfairly discriminated against the poor. Neither Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo nor Democratic legislative leaders have given any sign that they might delay or significantly alter the law, despite the intensifying opposition.

“I know change is scary, change is hard,” said Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Westchester County Democrat who leads Albany’s upper chamber. “But, again, we are talking about justice.”

Backers say the new bail system will pay dividends by allowing people awaiting trial to remain in their homes with their families and jobs — all elements of maintaining stability in low-income communities. Moreover, they argue that law enforcement in New York — a liberal stronghold — should be embracing the changes, rather than fighting them.

Prosecutors and law enforcement officials say the law takes a critical decision away from judges. Even though under the old law judges were supposed to consider only the risk of flight in setting bail, as a practical matter judges still had the discretion to set a higher bail for people with long arrest records or who showed other signs they might commit another crime.

Some states, like New Jersey, that have abolished or curtailed the use of cash bail have established a system for assessing the risk that a defendant might commit another crime, and allow judges to hold people to protect public safety. But New York simply eliminated bail for most nonviolent crimes.

“District attorneys do not believe in general that people should be held in jail just because they can’t afford to get out,” said David Hoovler, the district attorney in Orange County and president of the District Attorneys Association of New York. “But people who have done bad things and are repeat offenders will be getting out.”

Republicans facing elections next year have begun to wield the issue as a cudgel against Democrats. “I’m already campaigning on it,” Senator John J. Flanagan, the Republican minority leader, said at a news conference in mid-December in the State Capitol. “And I think we have an obligation to do so.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Flanagan and other Republicans on Long Island — where the G.O.P. lost four seats in 2018 and, with them, control of the State Senate — intensified their criticism. They decried recent cases in which defendants were set free under the new rules, including Tiffany Harris, who was arrested a day after being charged with a bias attack on several Orthodox Jewish women in Brooklyn.

“This is not what justice looks like,” Mr. Flanagan said.

Senator Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat who is the deputy majority leader, said Republicans’ critiques of the new system were “intentionally misleading or ignorant.”

“We are taught that we have a system of innocent till proven guilty, but it was functioning as guilty till proven rich,” he said. “We fixed that.”

Incumbent Democrats in some suburban districts are also being hammered over the issue by law enforcement groups on social media. Some, like Senator Todd Kaminsky of Nassau County, have responded by proposing bills to amend the law, making it possible to set bail for more offenses. For some types of sex offenders, Mr. Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor, is seeking to add public lewdness and exposure to the list.

Mr. Kaminsky said while he understands “the unfairness of a cash bail system that favors wealthier offenders,” some of the offenses now eligible for release “are as serious, if not more serious, as felonies under cash bail reform that remain part of the criminal justice system.”

Democratic lawmakers privately worry the pushback will hinder their pursuit of a raft of additional criminal justice bills when they return to the State Capitol in January, including a measure to allow people with felony convictions to vote and serve on a jury.

Mr. Hoovler and other county prosecutors argue that the legislature rushed passage and implementation of the law.

Others, including the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., have faulted New York State for not providing more money to create or expand programs that will track defendants who are free awaiting trail.

A few liberal prosecutors, including the Brooklyn district attorney, Eric Gonzalez, have embraced the changes, pointing to states that saw lower crime rates after they eliminated cash bail.

But many prosecutors and police officials worry that some defendants released under the new rules will continue to commit crimes, and a few may try to intimidate potential witnesses. They point out that the crimes for which people will not have to post bail includes drug sales.

“Someone who deals in drugs is not someone who, once arrested, will just decide to give it up and find legal employment,” said Patrick Swanson, the district attorney in Chautauqua County, on the state’s western border. “They will continue to sell drugs.”

Advocates for the law have moved to fend off the criticism. In early December, New Yorkers United for Justice, a group that has spent more than $2 million to champion the law, hosted dozens of Democratic lawmakers for a two-day retreat in Westchester County to discuss how to defend the changes. The group also created a television and mail campaign featuring Mr. Gonzalez.

“These reforms passed in late March,” said Khalil A. Cumberbatch, the group’s chief strategist. “The district attorneys across the state who are in opposition could have begun preparing, as opposed to last-minute fear-stoking.”

 

Federal judge awards $1 million to woman sexually harassed by Casper probation agent

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Casper Star Tribune on 11/20/2019 by Shane Sanderson

A federal judge on Wednesday afternoon ordered a former probation agent to pay seven figures to a Casper woman whom he sexually harassed while she was on probation.

The probation agent, Jaret Maul, no longer works for the probation office, which is a part of the Wyoming Department of Corrections. The government agency was never named as a defendant in the lawsuit, and Maul himself failed to contest the civil case.

The reason for his departure, however, is not clear. A corrections department spokesman has told the Star-Tribune that privacy of personnel records exempts him from disclosing how and why Maul left the agency in December.

As a result of his failure to respond to the lawsuit, the court found Maul in default. Judge Nancy Freudenthal held a hearing on Monday in Cheyenne to determine the monetary damages due to the probationer, who was assigned to Maul’s supervision as part of her first-time offender treatment in a misdemeanor marijuana possession case. She successfully completed the probation before reporting Maul.

In court documents filed in advance of the Monday hearing, the woman’s lawyers included portions of a transcript from a sworn deposition given by Maul. The former probation agent exercised his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to a series of questions about the harassment. In one question, the woman’s lawyer alleges that Maul directly used his power over probationers’ freedom in order to barter for sex.

“In your position as a probation agent, did you request sexual favors in exchange for not failing people on positive drug tests?” asked Ian Sandefer, who represents the woman, Kalee Blazek, in the civil suit.

“Objection, Fifth,” replied Maul’s lawyers, according to the transcript.

Those lawyers could not be reached by phone for comment on Wednesday evening. Sandefer said by email that he was out of town and therefore unavailable.

Maul also exercised his right to avoid self-incrimination when asked if he had sent sexual photos from the Casper probation office and when asked if he sent videos of himself masturbating to multiple women.

Exercising that right cannot be used against him in criminal court. However, in civil proceedings like the lawsuit in question, declining to comment on the basis of the Fifth Amendment can be considered against a defendant.

The judge’s ruling, filed in court by mid-afternoon Wednesday, states that after he had been supervising her case for about three months, Maul added the woman as a contact on Snapchat, the social media app known for the ephemeral nature of its messages. He then used his government-issued phone to send unsolicited sexual messages and requests to the woman.

Maul went on to send photos of his erect penis to the woman. And, according to the judge’s ruling, because Blazek was afraid of having her probation revoked and being sent to prison, she sent Maul nude photos in return.

Freudenthal, in her order, awarded Blazek a total of $1 million: $200,000 for psychological injuries and lost income Maul caused, $300,000 for future emotional distress and money she now will be unable to earn because of the harassment, and another half-million dollars to punish Maul for violating Blazek’s constitutional rights.

Maul has not been charged in criminal court in connection with the case.

Indiana Receives Grant To Address Opoid Use In Pregnancy

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Indiana Public Media on 12/23/2019 by Darian Benson

Indiana was awarded $5.2 million to help pregnant and postpartum women with opioid addictions.

The grant comes from the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services. It is part of a collaboration between Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) and CMS to combat opioid use in pregnancy.

FSSA chief medical officer, Dr. Dan Rusyniak, says the goal for the grant is twofold.

“The goal of this is to address substance use disorder in pregnant women with a goal of getting them connected to better medical, behavioral health and addiction treatment,” Rusyniak says. “And at the same time through that, reducing the incidents of neonatal abstinence syndrome.”

The FSSA has partnered with Medicaid managed care programs in the state to improve care coordination, address social determinants of health and extend Medicaid coverage. Women who qualify under the program will be eligible to receive full Medicaid coverage up to one year after giving birth.

It will also work closely with Indiana’s new OB Navigator program to coordinate services for women who qualify for both programs.

The Steep Costs of Criminal Justice Fees and Fines

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Brennan Center for Justice on 11/21/2019 by Matthew Menendez. Michael Crowley, Lauren-Brooke Eisen, Noah Atchison

Executive Summary
The past decade has seen a troubling and well-documented increase in fees and fines imposed on defendants by criminal courts. Today, many states and localities rely on these fees and fines to fund their court systems or even basic government operations.

A wealth of evidence has already shown that this system works against the goal of rehabilitation and creates a major barrier to people reentering society after a conviction. 1 They are often unable to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in accumulated court debt. When debt leads to incarceration or license suspension, it becomes even harder to find a job or housing or to pay child support. There’s also little evidence that imposing onerous fees and fines improves public safety.

Now, this first-of-its-kind analysis shows that in addition to thwarting rehabilitation and failing to improve public safety, criminal-court fees and fines also fail at efficiently raising revenue. 2The high costs of collection and enforcement are excluded from most assessments, meaning that actual revenues from fees and fines are far lower than what legislators expect. And because fees and fines are typically imposed without regard to a defendant’s ability to pay, jurisdictions have billions of dollars in unpaid court debt on the books that they are unlikely to ever collect. This debt hangs over the heads of defendants and grows every year.

This study examines 10 counties across Texas, Florida, and New Mexico, as well as statewide data for those three states. The counties vary in their geographic, economic, political, and ethnic profiles, as well as in their practices for collecting and enforcing fees and fines.

Continue reading →

Vanderburgh County jail expansion talk to resume; many tough questions remain

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Courier & Press on 12/1/2019 by John T. Martin

The common area of the women’s pod is filled with portable beds due to overcrowding at the Vanderburgh County Detention Center in Evansville, Ind., Thursday, May 23, 2019. Vanderburgh County’s jail population routinely teeters above 800, with dozens of those inmates transported at taxpayer expense to nearby Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois counties because the local lockup is too full.

EVANSVILLE, Ind. –- Vanderburgh County government officials face a list of difficult questions this week as they dive back into jail expansion discussions.

How many more jail beds does the county need? How many might be required in 10 years, 20 years? What can taxpayers reasonably afford? Could temporary structures become part of the solution? What about federal inmates?

The county’s consultants on the jail issue, American Structurepoint and Rosser International, will show a list of alternatives during Wednesday’s County Council meeting.

Councilors expect to spend weeks if not months vetting those options. They said public input will be part of the process.

The consultants “are going to show what they have put together to date,” said Joe Kiefer, president of the council. “They will say, here’s the analysis based on cost, how many beds can be built, certain restrictions and rules.”

The jail on Harlan Avenue is above capacity on a regular basis.

Built to house 512 inmates, the jail as of Nov. 22 had 563 under roof. Due to the lack of room, another 197 people were incarcerated in surrounding counties, at local taxpayer cost. Continue reading →