UPDATE … JUSTICE AT THE LEGE
Saturday, February 15, 2014
It was a rough week in the trenches. CAP was focusing on three bills this session: Compassionate Release, Eyewitness ID, and Repealing Mandatory Minimums for all drug offenses. All three are dead or will be. We usually don’t get beaten up this early in the session.
I’ve been over and over this in my mind and I don’t know what I could have done any differently – I met with everyone (except the House Public Safety Chair who will not schedule a meeting) Senate Public Safety Chair Espero, Senate Judiciary staff, WAM Chair Ige, JUD Chair Rhoads and FIN Chair Luke and Sen. Green Health Chair.
These are the times that try my soul. I’ve been doing this a long time, yet it still hurts when good bills die. I can’t help but think of all the people and families impacted by, and who could be helped by, the bills.
After allowing myself a short time to feel bad, I snapped back and told myself that it just means we need to educate more legislators on criminal justice issues and on the better, the more effective, ways to protect communities and dispense real justice.
Dr. Martin Luther King said that we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. A radical approach to the US criminal justice system means we must go to the root of the problem. Not reform. Not better beds in better prisons. We are not called to only trim the leaves or prune the branches, but rip up this unjust system by its roots.
Yesterday, February 14th, was First Lateral, which means that all bills have to be on their way to their final committee (usually FIN or WAM/$ or JUD or JDL). We only have about 10 days to get whatever bills are still alive heard. Crossover (when bills go from House to Senate and Senate to House) is the first week in March. We are approaching mid-session.
Here’s what happened to each of our Big Three bills:
Compassionate Release: JUD Chair heard the bill from last year. All he had to do was take out the pilot program part; however, he needed ‘prior concurrence’ from the subject chair – Aquino – to make any changes. I don’t know for sure, but guess that the changes (like probability of death within 6 months) came from Aquino. The bill passed and is on its way to FIN. We hope it dies! There was a great Senate bill (SB2306) that was assigned to PSM/HTH, WAM. Sen. Espero was willing to schedule it but I guess Sen. Green did not sign off on the hearing notice, so it didn’t get a public hearing.
Eyewitness ID: This was a total shocker. Law Enforcement came out in force against the bill (they don’t want the legislature to tell them how to do their jobs) even though the police admitted that they do everything except blind administration (where the person administrating eyewitness id process does not know who the suspect is) and HPD is moving toward that. The purpose of the bill was to have uniformity statewide in the eyewitness id process. We will continue working to reform the eyewitness id process statewide. FREE THE INNOCENT; CONVICT THE GUILTY!
Repealing or Decreasing Mandatory Minimums: It was obvious that the Legislature was not going to go near this much sentencing reform this session with the 2014 elections looming. But hey, has the threat of defeat ever stopped CAP from trying? Never! Being willing to bring up the prickly issues is a vital component of democracy. Bad things happen when good people remain silent about things that matter. So CAP dove right into the oncoming wave and we will continue to do so until we create enough energy to ride that sucker home and return judicial discretion to the open courts. NO MORE BACK DOOR JUSTICE!
I am working on the big multipage CAP list to keep you updated on what is still alive and kicking. We do have some good bills going and a few that we have to defeat. I want it to be a quick guide for you to see the progression of the good bills and also to see what the Legislature thinks is important this session. I will send that out when I am done.
Mahalo to those who have sent in testimony. I will be sending out an alert for 3 bills and 2 informational briefings scheduled for next week after this.