Parole For Offenders Convicted of Crimes Involving Harm to Children

An article in the Texas Tribune, New Parole Rules Sought in Cases Involving Children, shares the story and the plight of Laurie Thompson, a woman whose 4-year-old granddaughter was “beaten to death after being sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend.” The mother was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison; however, within two years she became eligible for parole set to be automatically reviewed every year. The issue is that Ms. Thompson has been promised the perpetrators would have no eligibility for release.

Thompson met with other organizations such as Parents of Murdered Children and became aware that many people were facing this issue. Andy Kahan, victim advocate for the city of Houston explains that parents never have a chance to heal; they are constantly re-living the experience in anticipating yearly paroles until the offenders are eventually released.

Thompson has teamed up with Kahan, and they have been contacting legislators for the 2013 session who would be interested in authorizing the bill, titled, Emma’s Law. They are pursuing a law that would end automatic yearly parole reviews in cases where the victim is a child. The goal is to give the parole board discretion in choosing to refrain from reviewing cases for up to five years. And apparently, there is currently a list of offenses that already meet this discretionary measure.

On the other hand, attorneys such as Brian McGiverin of the Texas Civil Rights Project explain that this sort of law is “deceptive,” and keeps offenders in prison even if they have compelling reasons for parole. A better proposition, McGiverin suggests, is to limit the frequency of parole eligibility for offenders rather than leaving it in the hands of the board to decide in each case.

The director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Policy Foundation, Marc Levin, theorizes that longer periods between paroles may increase chances for early release, but “if they don’t have time to see that person hasn’t harmed anyone… they are more likely to tend to the side of not granting parole.”

For more see New Parole Rules Sought in Cases Involving Children by Maurice Chammah, click here.

New Efforts to Avoid School Suspension for Student Infractions

School suspension as a means of disciplinary action against students has created much concern about its ultimate effects on student performance, participation, attitude, and direction in school. Education Week reports that California has responded to this concern by implementing new provisions concerning school suspension as a disciplinary measure.

The goals include:

  • Requirements for school districts to try other ways to address student behavior before suspension
  • Explaining that expulsion is not required for students who bring toy guns or medicine to school
  • Finding alternative ways to address truancy without involving law enforcement
  • Clarifying that students may return to school after involvement in the juvenile justice system
  • Increasing awareness to appropriate agencies when foster children face expulsion

California’s Gov. Jerry Brown signed five bills to this affect, but vetoed a bill limiting school suspension for infractions under the “willful defiance or disruption of school activities” provision. The issue is that “willful defiance” is the reason for a large percentage of school suspensions in California.

Gov. Brown explains that due to increased class size, budget cuts, and reduced school personnel, school officials need broad discretion in classroom management. But Matthew Cregor of the New York City NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, expresses that student suspension for “nebulous offenses” means we don’t know what’s going on.” In essence, the issue is one that still needs further attention from the legislature.

For more information, check out Education Week’s article, “Calif. Laws Aim to Curb Use of School Suspension” by Nirvi Shah here.

Education and Immigration

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that Alabama’s immigration law requiring public schools to check the citizenship status of new students was unconstitutional. The Court maintained that the provision singles out children who are in the country illegally, and keeps undocumented children from enrolling and attending school.

School officials reported that the parents of undocumented children did in fact stop sending their children to class once the law was enacted, and some even moved from the state.

Alabama is among many other states that have recently passed anti-illegal immigration laws. Ultimately, the court only struck down part of Alabama’s immigration law, and upheld parts of the law allowing the police to check documents for people they stop.

Alabama Republican Gov. Robert Bentley expresses that “The core of Alabama’s immigration law remains that if you live or work in the state, you should do so legally… It is time now to move past court battles and focus on enforcement of Alabama’s law.” Although Gov. Robert Bentley disagrees with the Court’s ruling, he maintains that the court upheld the “essence” of the law.

On the contrary, Omar Jadwat, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney explained that the judges struck down the law pretty forcefully and were opposed to the idea of self-deportation by making the lives of undocumented immigrants very difficult.

For more information check out “Ala schools can’t check student immigration status; police can ask for suspects’ papers” by Bill Barrow and Jay Reeves, The StarTribune.