The First Step Act is a criminal justice bill that could help reform prisons in Texas and across the United States. The bill is the first step in what many believe to be the beginning of prison reform and has been hailed by both the president and the American Civil Liberties Union. There are several components of the bill that could help thousands of individuals who are currently in prison.
In Texas and across the country, black defendants may be at a disadvantage when seeking bail in criminal cases, especially if the results of a recent study can be generalized nationally. One study conducted in Miami and Philadelphia showed that both white and black bail judges showed bias against black defendants when setting bail in these cases. According to the study, conducted by researchers from Princeton and Harvard, black defendants were more likely to be detained awaiting hearings or trial than white defendants by 2.4 percentage points.
Texas residents may be interested to learn that some states are beginning to prosecute individuals who are believed to be associated with a fatal overdose. These drug-induced homicide laws essentially put the blame for a person's fatal overdose on the drug dealer or even friends or acquaintances who might have provided the deceased person with the drugs.
Wrongful convictions may be high on a person's mind when they are charged with a crime in Texas. While many people grow up with a belief in the fairness of the criminal justice system, that belief can be easily challenged through firsthand experience or by learning about some of the prominent cases of wrongful conviction that have taken place. Some exonerations make major news, especially when DNA is used to show that a person convicted years ago of a serious crime like rape or murder is actually innocent. However, most wrongful convictions to not attract the level of attention given to these key cases.
The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in a case that could have implications for Texas residents and other Americans. The question in the case is whether police can obtain location information collected by cellphones and stored by service providers. Carpenter v. United States involves criminals who stole smartphones from Radio Shack locations in Ohio and Michigan. After stealing the phones, they were then sold on the black market.
There has long been a racial divide in Texas among people who are charged with crimes. Numerous studies have shown that blacks are arrested and charged with crimes disproportionately over whites even though both races have an equal likelihood of engaging in criminal conduct. A new study shows that institutional racism also extends into the justice system, affecting plea offers, sentences and bonds.
The juvenile justice system is very different in nature than the criminal justice system, as anybody who works in the field can tell you. The primary approach in the criminal justice system is to punish offenders so as to deter criminal activity and to protect society from those who are dangerous or threatening.