Washington, D.C. — Holly Harris may wear cowboy boots to work, but the Kentucky mom and Executive Director for the US Justice Action Network (USJAN) is far from your average southerner.
This past Saturday, June 25th, Harris talked about her work to a group of journalists and bloggers who traveled to Washington D.C. from different corners of the country to hear from leaders of the criminal justice reform movement. Harris was the first speaker at FreedomWorks’ #JusticeForAll event, and as the leader of USJAN, she set the tone for what turned out to be a fascinating conference.
The veteran litigator opened her speech by outlining USJAN’s goals, explaining the organization believes “our [criminal] code just doesn’t make sense.” That’s why their “goal is to shrink criminal codes” and “get rid of these unfair, unnecessary duplicative and inconsistent laws.”
But it was something else she told the crowd a few minutes later that got attendees worked up.
“The fastest growing segment of the prison population in America,” Harris articulated, “is women … and nobody is talking about that.”
Putting Young Students on the Right Path: Ending Discretionary Suspensions in Texas
What’s Happening Across Texas
Texas elementary schoolchildren — some as young as four — are suspended and sent to alternative schools at alarming rates. During the 2013-2014 school year, almost half of all elementary school suspensions in Texas were issued to pre-K through 2nd grade students. Students are often removed from school for minor Student Code of Conduct violations such as horseplay, disruption of class, or dress code violations. These removals are not required under state law — they are ultimately left to the teacher’s discretion (hence the term “discretionary”). Furthermore, school districts have the ability to create their own student codes of conduct that go well beyond state law, allowing suspensions of our youngest students for normal, age-appropriate behavior. Texas Appleseed is working to change this harmful practice. There are better, proven solutions available to teachers and schools than these discretionary suspensions.
The mere thought of sex offenders going to a center in a Gainesville neighborhood for counseling was enough last month to make residents irate and send a city commissioner on a fact-finding mission. The concerns focused on the potential threat to children at the handful of daycare centers in the area of the new treatment site at 1208 NW Sixth St. But one key element has been overlooked in the controversy: The company at the heart of the dispute, The ITM Group, has been quietly treating sex offenders in Gainesville for decades. And according to police records, there are no reports of clients attacking neighbors. Experts say that’s not unusual, for a variety of reasons. For one, the vast majority — 80 percent — of sex offenders know their victims and don’t attack strangers. Also, sex offenders aren’t going to cause trouble where they are seeking treatment because they know they are being watched.
Being arrested and/or charged with a crime can have devastating consequences on an individual, even if they are truly innocent. Employers, financial institutions, even the general public can all potentially see a record of the arrest or charge. You could be prevented from finding employment, obtaining an education, renting an apartment, or obtaining a business license. Some states luckily do offer some relief in terms of allowing individuals with arrests or criminal charges to have their criminal records expunged or sealed. Each state is different and some states do not offer any relief or only limited forms of relief (i.e. such as sealing and not expungement). So what is the difference?