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Kansas commission seeks budget savings for state by standardizing supervision, expanding diversion

by Mitch Arvidson ~ January 2021 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Like most states, Kansas is facing a budget deficit in fiscal year 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Estimated in the fall to be $152 million after an initial $1.4 billion deficit forecast in April, it will precipitate cuts this legislative session. Advocates of criminal justice reform say recommendations approved in November by the Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission could help close that gap, as well as save money into the future, by using stronger, non-incarceration supervision and community-based treatments. More »


In Michigan, new laws aim to give ‘clean slate’ to hundreds of thousands of residents

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Bipartisan bills signed into law this fall will give hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents the chance to have their criminal records expunged, a move that legislative supporters say will remove barriers to employment and housing opportunities. Among the changes in HB 4980-4985 and HB 5120:


Midwestern states seek to improve investigations of missing, murdered indigenous people

by Jon Davis ~ December 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Michigan and Minnesota will be among the first states to join a pilot program that aims to improve cooperation in investigations of missing or murdered indigenous people. Led by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Tribal Community Response Plan will begin in Oklahoma and require federal, state, and tribal law enforcement agencies to work in coordination to create “culturally appropriate guidelines when investigating emergent cases.” The guidelines will include instructions for law enforcement, victim services, community outreach, and public communications. The program will then expand to other states with large populations of indigenous peoples (also including Alaska, Montana and Oregon).
A mix of federal and state projects and initiatives have been launched in recent years to improve the investigation of missing or murdered indigenous people. The Department of Justice unveiled a national strategy in 2019, including the establishment of state-level coordinators and specialized FBI rapid deployment teams.
In 2019, North Dakota legislators passed two bills to raise awareness and improve law enforcement’s responses to cases of missing and murdered indigenous people within the state, but outside of tribal lands: HB 1311 promotes training for the state’s police officers and prosecutors on these specific types of cases; and HB 1313 requires the state’s existing information-sharing system for law enforcement to include “data related to missing and murdered indigenous people.” That same year, a law was enacted in Nebraska (LB 154) to study ways to improve the reporting and investigation of these cases.
Minnesota has a Task Force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. It was established in 2019, the result of legislation passed that same year (HF 70). Indigenous women between the ages of 25 and 54 are five times more likely to experience a violent death, as compared to any other race, according to a 2019 study from the Journal of Indigenous Research.


Question of the Month: Do Midwestern states require that young people adjudicated in juvenile court for certain offenses be part of a state-run sex offender registry?

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2020 ~ Question of the Month »
With the exception of Nebraska, every state in the Midwest has statutes that require certain juveniles to be registered as sex offenders. Nebraska does have a sex offender registry that adult offenders must be a part of, but this requirement typically does not apply to juveniles. There is one exception, however — if individuals have been adjudicated as juveniles for a sex offense in another state. That requirement was affirmed two years ago by the Nebraska Supreme Court, based on its reading of a state law that dates back to 1997. Elsewhere in the Midwest, juveniles must register, regardless of where the offense was committed. Important differences exist in these state laws, however, as a study released earlier this year shows. More »



Question: Do states certify police officers, and can certifications be removed for misconduct?

by Mitch Arvidson ~ August 2020 ~ Question of the Month »
While not technically an occupational license, the certification of police officers is required in most states. The International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training defines certification as "the process by which law enforcement officers are licensed in their respective jurisdictions, establishing the satisfaction of selection, training and continuing performance standards." More »


Under Senate-passed bill in Ohio, many more drug possession offenses would no longer be felonies

by Mitch Arvidson ~ August 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The statistics about drug addiction and its consequences — the number of overdose deaths, and the rates of people arrested and imprisoned — are everywhere for policymakers to see. But Ohio Sen. John Eklund says those numbers can't tell the full story, and often fall short of moving legislators to reconsider their states' policies on drug crimes and punishment. "It's really about learning the stories of those who are addicted, their family and their friends, and about the [personal] consequences," he says, "and why the system is not working the way it is now." More »


After death of George Floyd, push for state-level change intensifies: Proposals seek new police training, protocols and ways to prosecute misconduct cases

by Mitch Arvidson ~ July 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Eight minutes and 46 seconds. That's how long Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd's neck while three other officers stood by and watched as Floyd died. Twenty rounds. That's how many shots were fired by three Louisville, Ky., police officers into the home of Breonna Taylor as they executed a no-knock search warrant, killing her as she slept. Twelve years old. That's how old Tamir Rice was when he was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer while holding a pellet gun in a public park. This list can go on and on. According to The Washington Post, 5,424 people have been shot and killed by police since Jan. 1 2015. African Americans make up 24 percent of those shot and killed by police; in 353 of these 1,298 incidents, the individual possessed neither a gun nor a knife. (African Americans make up 13.4 percent of the U.S. population.) More »


New state laws, court initiatives identify better data sharing as path to better policymaking in justice system

by Mitch Arvidson ~ June 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
When a county in Indiana Rep. Randy Frye's district proposed a tax increase to build a new jail in order to relieve overcrowding, his constituents balked. After noticing their opposition to the tax increase, he wanted to get to the root of the issue. "The question was, Why is the jail overcrowded? And when I went to find out, there wasn't any data available, it's always an opinion," Frye says. "I didn't feel like I could competently address the issue." Since most data were collected by cities and counties, and not shared between jurisdictions, it wasn't there for a statewide view. So he introduced HB 1346, which became law in March and requires all Indiana jails to contribute to a new database that measures who is in jail, why they are there, and for how long. More »


In Midwest's capitols, legislative push intensifies for state-level changes in police training, standards and prosecutions

by Tim Anderson ~ June 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Amid widespread protests and calls for change in response to the May 25 killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, the push for state-level legislative reforms has intensified. Here is a look at some of the bills and policy proposals in three Midwestern states: Minnesota, Michigan and Iowa. More »


New state policies emerge as jails and prisons become COVID-19 hot spots in parts of Midwest

by Mitch Arvidson ~ May 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
With the number of COVID-19 cases increasing, and a rise in deaths from the disease, “social distancing” has become a familiar term and way of life across the country. But how is social distancing possible for people whose days are spent in a 6-by-8-foot cell with another person? How can state and local governments maintain public safety while protecting inmates? How can they prevent outbreaks from starting in correctional facilities, and then spreading to the wider community? These are some of the questions that have vexed criminal justice administrators, inmates, staff and family members for months. More »


Michigan took a hard look at its county jail system and population, and now has several ideas for reform

by Mitch Arvidson ~ March 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
After nine months of extensive, unprecedented analysis of Michigan's county jail populations, a specially formed task force has delivered 18 recommendations to the Legislature designed to improve state policies and curb rising jail incarceration rates.
The bipartisan task force's work reflects concerns in Michigan about the impact of a growing jail population, which has occurred even amid big drops in the state's total crime rate. More »



Midwest states in middle of national debate over laws on ‘riot boosting,’ protecting energy infrastructure

by Mitch Arvidson ~ January/February 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Over the past five years, 17 states have passed laws related to riots or protests, often with a particular emphasis on protecting pipelines or other critical energy infrastructure, according to the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law. Much of this legislative activity has been a reaction to protests in 2016 in North Dakota over the Dakota Access Pipeline. More »



Marijuana legalization will be on ballot in South Dakota; sales begin in Michigan and Illinois

by Tim Anderson ~ January/February 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The future of South Dakota’s marijuana laws is in the hands of the state’s voters. In late 2019 and early 2020, Secretary of State Steve Barnett validated the signatures of petitions for two different ballot proposals — one is an initiated measure to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, the second is a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize recreational and medical marijuana.
Both of these questions will appear on the November ballot.
Voters in three other Midwestern states have been asked to legalize recreational marijuana in recent years. Results have been mixed: Proposals failed in North Dakota and Ohio, but passed in Michigan. According to mlive.com, Michigan’s recreational sales began in December and totaled close to $6.5 million; those numbers are expected to rise as more retailers get licensed. Illinois is the other Midwestern state where recreational marijuana is now legal, the result of legislative action last year (HB 1438).


New Wisconsin law ensures kids’ lemonade stands won’t be squeezed out of business

by Jon Davis ~ January/February 2020 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Kansas and Nebraska have among the strongest laws in the nation to prevent sex trafficking of minors and to help victims of these crimes, according to the advocacy group Shared Hope International. Both of those Midwestern states received “A” grades in the group’s national report card for 2019. These grades are based on 41 components of state law — for example, the criminal penalties for perpetrators and facilitators of trafficking crimes; the types of legal protections and services provided to victims; and the investigative tools given to law enforcement.
Nebraska was identified as the most improved state in the nation. The reason: a policy change in 2019 that ensures specialized interventions and responses in all sex-trafficking cases involving a minor.
Despite many policy advances over the past decade, Shared Hope International says, gaps in state law still exist. Among them: victims’ lack of access to restorative services outside the juvenile justice system. In the Midwest, six states were given grades of “B”: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The states of North Dakota and Ohio were given a “C” by Shared Hope International; South Dakota was given a “D.”


Kansas, Nebraska get high marks for laws to prevent sex trafficking

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Kansas and Nebraska have among the strongest laws in the nation to prevent sex trafficking of minors and to help victims of these crimes, according to the advocacy group Shared Hope International. Both of those Midwestern states received “A” grades in the group’s national report card for 2019. These grades are based on 41 components of state law — for example, the criminal penalties for perpetrators and facilitators of trafficking crimes; the types of legal protections and services provided to victims; and the investigative tools given to law enforcement.
Nebraska was identified as the most improved state in the nation. The reason: a policy change in 2019 that ensures specialized interventions and responses in all sex-trafficking cases involving a minor.
Despite many policy advances over the past decade, Shared Hope International says, gaps in state law still exist. Among them: victims’ lack of access to restorative services outside the juvenile justice system. In the Midwest, six states were given grades of “B”: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The states of North Dakota and Ohio were given a “C” by Shared Hope International; South Dakota was given a “D.”


Question: Which Midwestern states have restorative justice programs in state law?

by Jon Davis ~ December 2019 ~ Question of the Month »
Restorative justice programs are gaining traction in the Midwest as a way to heal wounds caused by criminal actions, reconcile offenders and their victims, and keep some offenders from entering the criminal justice system. More »



Michigan ends practice of trying 17-year-old offenders as adults

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »

As the result of a bipartisan package of bills signed into law in October, most 17-year-old offenders in Michigan will no longer be treated as adults in the state’s criminal justice system. The goal of the “Raise the Age” Law is to better treat and rehabilitate young offenders by having them go through Michigan’s juvenile justice system. For teenagers who commit certain violent offenses, a prosecutor will have discretion to try them as adults.
According to the National Juvenile Defender Center, most Midwestern states already give their juvenile courts jurisdiction over cases involving 17-year-old offenders; the lone exception is Wisconsin. States also typically allow juvenile courts to retain jurisdiction, (most commonly up to age 21), provided the alleged offense occurred before the offender was an adult.
In a 2018 study, the National Center for Juvenile Justice estimated that close to 76,000 U.S. juveniles are prosecuted as adults. The change in Michigan will substantially reduce this number. But states also typically allow for or require certain young offenders to be charged as adults — through statutory exclusions, and language allowing for prosecutorial discretion or transfers by the juvenile court.


Iowa Gov. Reynolds indicates a focus on criminal justice reform for her 2020 legislative agenda

by Mitch Arvidson ~ November 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A new working group in Iowa will look for ways to reduce recidivism among former offenders and eliminate racial bias from the state's criminal justice system. Gov. Kim Reynolds asked the group, chaired by Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg — a former state public defender — to deliver recommendations by December, to inform several proposals she will submit to legislators when they reconvene in January. More »


Wisconsin working with counties on overhaul of where and how juveniles are housed, treated

by Mitch Arvidson ~ October 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Wisconsin remains on a path to dramatically overhaul its juvenile justice system, but to get to the finish line, the state may need to find more money than originally expected. AB 953, a bipartisan bill passed in 2018, aims to keep most young offenders in smaller, regional facilities, rather than locked up in a larger, faraway youth prison in northern Wisconsin. That goal aligns with research on how to best rehabilitate young people, says Mary Jo Meyers, director of the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services. More »


Capital Closeup: Merit selection remains in Iowa, but more power given to governor

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »

After years of trying, Iowa lawmakers and others wanting to tweak or completely replace a decades-old system of selecting state Supreme Court judges were able to proclaim legislative victory in 2019. But as of early October, they still needed some wins in court to ensure the change. More »


MLC Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee: Is a 'third way' of policing — deflection — emerging?

by Mitch Arvidson ~ August 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A relatively new idea in criminal justice, deflection is a “third way” for police to interact with offenders they encounter. Police officers often only have a binary choice, arrest or release. Deflection seeks to use alternative remedies such as drug and alcohol treatment, hospitalization, and other diversionary programs, when appropriate, instead of introducing nonviolent, low-level offenders into the criminal justice system or releasing them back into the community without assistance. More »


Illinois removes statute of limitations for major sex crimes

by Jon Davis ~ August 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Illinois will lift its 10-year statute of limitations on major sex crimes starting in January, under a law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in July. HB 2135, which was unanimously approved by the General Assembly, allows prosecutors to file charges at any time for criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault or aggravated criminal sexual abuse. According to the Chicago Tribune, the limit had been 10 years, if the victim reported within three years of the crime.
In 2017, Illinois removed the statute of limitations for felony sexual assault and sexual abuse crimes against children. That bill, SB 189 of 2017, also was unanimously approved by the General Assembly.
According to the anti-sexual-violence organization RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin have either no statute of limitations or one of 21 years or more for their most serious sex crimes. Ohio has a statute of limitations of 11 to 20 years, and Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota have statutes of limitations of 10 years or less.


Minnesota law adds new tools to prevent, investigate wage theft

by Tim Anderson ~ August 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Minnesota leaders say their state now has the strongest law in the nation to protect workers against wage theft. The bipartisan measure (signed into law in May, as part of HF 2) includes greater enforcement tools and tougher penalties for violators.
Wage theft can take many forms — for example, underpayment of minimum wage, nonpayment of overtime compensation or mandatory breaks, and the misclassification of employees. According to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, around 40,000 Minnesota workers pursue claims every year, with nearly $12 million a year lost annually as a result of wage theft.
Wage theft in excess of $1,000 will now be a felony, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, and new statutory language penalizes retaliatory actions taken against individuals who report the crime. HF 2 also enhances civil penalties and includes new notification and record-keeping requirements for employers. Over the next two years, Minnesota’s Department of Labor and Industry will get an additional $3.1 million to enforce wage laws, and the state attorney general has established a new unit dedicated to investigating cases of wage theft.


State policies drive down Kansas' juveniles-in-custody population

by Mitch Arvidson ~ June/July 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Three years ago, with their passage of SB 367, Kansas legislators remade the state's juvenile justice system. A correctional facility would soon close, the state would rely much less on "group homes" to house low-level offenders, and several alternatives to incarceration would be introduced into the system. The result: Between 2015 and 2018, the monthly average of Kansas' juvenile custody population dropped by 63 percent. Rep. J. Russell Jennings, the chair of a legislative committee created through SB 367 to oversee implementation of the reforms, is hopeful that this sharp decline will lead to better, long-term outcomes. More »


Recreational marijuana legalized in second Midwestern state

by Tim Anderson ~ June/July 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Illinois has become the first state in the nation to legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana through an act of the legislature. Sent to the governor for signing in early June, HB 1438 was being hailed by its legislative sponsors as marking a new era in Illinois public policy and as a “model for other states in its commitment to equity and criminal justice reform.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, beginning next year, Illinois residents 21 and older will be able to legally possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate, or 500 milligrams of THC contained in a cannabis-infused product.
HB 1438 sets aside a portion of new revenue from legalization for substance-abuse programs and mental health services, as well as initiatives that seek to reduce gun violence and expand employment opportunities. Included in the bill, too, is language to promote minority involvement in the cannabis industry and expunge certain cannabis offenses.
Eleven U.S. states have legalized recreational marijuana, including Michigan. In that state, voters approved a statewide ballot initiative in fall 2018. (Approval by voters, rather than legislatures, has been the path to legalization in most states.) In recent years, ballot initiatives have failed in North Dakota and Ohio.


Minnesota legislators remove ‘marital rape exemption’ from statute

by Tim Anderson ~ May 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »

As part of a national movement that has states re-examining their laws on rape and marriage, Minnesota legislators have removed statutory language that allowed for a “pre-existing relationship defense” in cases of criminal sexual assault. HF 15 was signed into law in early May by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.
Prior to the bill’s passage, Minnesota law stated that “a person does not commit criminal sexual conduct ... if the actor and complainant were adults cohabitating in an ongoing voluntary sexual relationship at the time of the alleged offense.” The problem with this “marital rape exemption” was underscored by Jenny Teeson, who, in testimony this year to Minnesota legislators, recounted how she had discovered video footage of her then-husband drugging and raping her.
According to the Chicago Tribune, every state has a law making forcible marital rape a crime. However, citing research from the nonprofit organization AEquitas, the newspaper lists three states in the Midwest — Iowa, Michigan and Ohio — as among 17 nationwide that have some form of an exemption for spouses who rape partners when these partners are drugged or otherwise incapacitated.


Nebraska seeks answers to prison overcrowding; Michigan sees results from its policy changes

by Mitch Arvidson ~ May 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Prison overcrowding is one of the most persistent and confounding problems facing state criminal justice systems, and the issue is especially pertinent in the Midwest — home to three of the nation's five most overcrowded prison systems. As of the end of 2016, Nebraska had the second high prison population as a percent of designed capacity, Illinois was third and Wisconsin fifth. In 2015, Nebraska legislators passed a package of prison reform bills, including language (LB 598) than an "overcrowding emergency" be declared if the state's inmate population is over 140 percent of design capacity as of July 1, 2020. With a little over a year left before that date, Nebraska still has a lot of progress to make, and legislators are not standing idly by as the deadline approaches. More »


Time to bail on cash bail? A growing number of states are scrutinizing current systems, and exploring alternatives such as use of risk-assessment tools

by Mitch Arvidson ~ April 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »

States have used a variety of methods for exploring, and sometimes changing, their systems: for example, bills signed into law in Illinois, Indiana and Nebraska; the use of a legislative study committee in Wisconsin; and initiatives led by the state supreme courts of Kansas and Ohio. However states get there, two interconnected policy changes are typically part of these legislative- or judicial-led initiatives: first, eliminate or curtail the use of cash bail in misdemeanor or low-level felony cases; second, replace cash bail with a risk-assessment tool to guide judges’ decisions on whether to release or detain a suspect. More »


Legislation seeks to improve how states handle cases of missing, murdered indigenous people

by Mitch Arvidson ~ February 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Two bills introduced early in North Dakota's 2019 legislative session aim to to raise awareness and improve law enforcement's responses to cases of missing and murdered indigenous people within the state, but outside of tribal lands Under HB 1311, the state's police officers and prosecutors would receive training on these specific types of cases. HB 1313 would require North Dakota's existing information-sharing system for law enforcement to include "data related to missing and murdered indigenous people." More »


Two Midwest states have two very different new laws on guns

by Tim Anderson ~ February 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Within weeks of being sworn into office, two of the Midwest’s newly elected governors took action on gun legislation, though the two measures have very different aims. South Dakota’s SB 47 was the first bill signed into law by Gov. Kristi Noem. It allows individuals to carry a concealed handgun without a permit. South Dakota joins two other Midwestern states (Kansas and North Dakota are the others) with so-called “constitutional carry” laws, according to the National Rifle Association. South Dakota still has restrictions on who can carry a concealed weapon, The (Sioux Falls) Argus Leader reports, and individuals may still want a permit for reciprocity with other states.
One of the first actions taken by Illinois’ new governor, J.B. Pritzker, was the signing of SB 337, which allows the state to regulate gun dealers and to gather information on private sales and illegal gun transfers. With the new law in place, gun dealers must be certified by Illinois State Police and provide annual training to employees. Gun stores also must have a video surveillance system. The cost of certification is up to $300 for sellers without a retail location and up to $1,500 for retailers, the Chicago Tribune reports.
According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Indiana and Wisconsin also require gun dealers to obtain state licenses.



'Victim-centered’ approach: New policies on sexual assault being implemented across Midwest

by Tim Anderson ~ January 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
States have explored various ways to improve their policies around sexual assault, and the result has been several new laws that aim to help victims and improve investigations of the crime, particularly through a better handling of sexual assault kits. More »


U.S. Supreme Court case from Indiana challenges states' use of asset forfeitures, criminal fines

by Mitch Arvidson ~ January 2019 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In November, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could dramatically limit states’ and localities’ ability to levy criminal fines and asset forfeitures. The central question in Tyson Timbs and a 2012 Land Rover LR2 v. State of Indiana is whether the Eighth Amendment’s ban on excessive fines applies to states and localities. The case started in 2013, when Timbs pleaded guilty to selling about $225 worth of heroin to undercover officers. Law enforcement in Indiana seized his vehicle, citing the state's civil forfeiture laws, which allow an individual's property to be seized (the vehicle in this case) if it were used to commit a crime. More »


Michigan turns to objective parole to reduce strain on its corrections system

by Mitch Arvidson ~ December 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The Michigan Legislature has codified the use of an objective, evidence-based scoring system that determines a prisoner’s probability of parole success. Under HB 5377, signed into law in September, individuals who score highly will be released from prison after completing their minimum sentence — unless the Parole Board provides one of 11 “substantial and compelling objective reasons” for not doing so. The scoring system, which is based on a set of guidelines including mental and social evaluations, has been used for years and generally scores parole applicants as having a high, average or low probability of parole success. More »


New laws, programs in Ohio and Wisconsin target elder abuse

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Two Midwestern states announced plans this fall to do more to prevent elder abuse. In Ohio, a new $1.3 million project will seek to raise public awareness, create an online referral system to report abuse, and establish new county-level collaborations. Much of the money for this new initiative is coming from a federal grant. This year, too, Ohio has expanded its mandatory-reporter law. Under HB 49, which took effect in September, many more individuals must report cases of elder abuse or face fines. The list of mandatory reporters now includes pharmacists, certified public accountants, financial planners, real estate agents and first-responders, among others.
In Wisconsin, an attorney general-led task force on elder abuse issued in October a series of recommendations: for example, create a special team of investigators within the state’s Department of Justice; strengthen the ability of financial advisors and institutions to block suspicious transactions; and stiffen criminal penalties and streamline or expedite court proceedings.
Elder abuse includes cases of neglect and abandonment; financial exploitation; and physical, emotional or sexual mistreatment. The number of reported allegations in Wisconsin rose by 160 percent between 2001 and 2017.


To address the opioid epidemic, Wisconsin launches pre-booking diversion pilot program in select areas

by Jon Davis ~ November 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Three Wisconsin law enforcement agencies are beginning a statewide experiment in gettingpeople who commit nonviolent crimes because they’re addicted to drugs into treatment rather than prison. The “Pre-Booking Diversion Pilot Program,” a key recommendation in a 2016 report of the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse, will split $267,000 in state funding annually over two years between a sheriff’s office and two city police departments. More »


Illinois seeks better hospital care for victims of sexual assault

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
By 2022, every hospital emergency room in Illinois must have staff that can provide specialized care to victims of sexual assault. This new requirement is the result of HB 5245, a bill passed unanimously by the General Assembly and signed into law this summer. Under the law, a trained provider will have to be present in the emergency room within 90 minutes of the patient arriving in the hospital. According to the Illinois attorney general’s office, few hospitals currently provide specialized care for sexual assault victims.
One option for hospitals to meet this new requirement is to have existing staff become sexual assault nurse examiners. These nurses receive training on how to collect physical evidence, respond to the medical and psychological needs of a survivor, and testify in court. The attorney general’s office already offers these training services. Supporters of HB 5245 told the Chicago Tribune it will reduce trauma among victims and improve government prosecutions of sex crimes.
Another provision in the Illinois law ensures that sexual abuse survivors under the age of 13 can undergo any necessary medical forensic exams at a pediatric health care facility, which must ensure that these young victims are treated by specially trained providers.


What restrictions do states in the Midwest have on who can purchase or possess firearms?

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2018 ~ Question of the Month »
A mix of state and federal laws makes it illegal for certain individuals to own or possess a firearm. At the federal level, the U.S. Gun Control Act prevents gun access to convicted felons, individuals addicted to a controlled substance, domestic violence abusers, and certain people with mental illnesses, among others. According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, many states have adopted more-expansive restrictions than those spelled out in the federal law. More »



Three states in Midwest allow for citizen-initiated grand juries

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Today, grand juries are viewed mostly as a tool for prosecutors, a means of gathering evidence and seeking indictments. But they have long had a second important function as well — to control the government and its power to prosecute. Six states, including Kansas, Nebraska and North Dakota in the Midwest, have laws on the books that put a twist on this government-checking role: Allow local citizens themselves to form grand juries. The target of these state statutes is not overzealous prosecutors, but inactive ones. More »


Nebraska policy on who witnesses state executions, and what they must see, under closer scrutiny

by Ilene Grossman ~ October 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Following Nebraska’s first execution of a death-row inmate in 21 years, some legislators are calling for statutory revisions that would change who witnesses the death and what they are able to see. “If the state is going to do something as serious as taking a person’s life, we need to be transparent,” Nebraska Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks says. More »



Wisconsin restructures juvenile justice system, with infrastructure investments paving the way

by Ilene Grossman ~ September 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Big changes are coming to Wisconsin’s juvenile justice system in the years ahead, with a $80 million infrastructure investment that will shift how young offenders are housed and treated. “We are no longer going to have to rely on a huge, one-size-fits-all system,” says Evan Goyke, one of the legislators who led the work ahead of this year’s passage of the transformative AB 953. More »



Ohio establishes grants, training requirements to improve school safety

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Ohio has become the latest state in the Midwest to address school safety through a mix of new laws and funding.
Under HB 318, signed into law in August, a $12 million grant program will be established for schools to pursue training in a number of areas, from how to deal with an active shooter to how to help students with mental health issues. Over the next few months, too, the Ohio Department of Public Safety will conduct studies of school security in order to ensure the proper infrastructure is in place to keep students safe.
One particular emphasis of Ohio’s new law is school resource officers. HB 318 establishes new qualifications and training requirements for these police officers working inside schools, while also specifying the type of services that they can provide (for example, fostering problem-solving strategies and contributing to emergency management plans).
Earlier this year, Wisconsin lawmakers established a $100 million school-safety grant program (AB 843). Other recent actions in the region include Iowa’s SF 2364, which requires schools to develop a high-quality emergency operations plan, and a new bonding bill in Minnesota that includes $25 million in school-safety infrastructure grants.


States in Midwest, and U.S., split on 'child access prevention' gun laws

by Mike McCabe ~ August 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
As lawmakers seek to cope with a rising tide of gun violence while preventing accidental firearm-related injuries and deaths, Ohio could become the next Midwestern state to focus on keeping guns out of the hands of kids — that is if a measure currently pending in the state Senate should advance. In a roundtable discussion during the July meeting of the Midwestern Legislative Conference’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, Ohio Sen. Vernon Sykes described the proposed Child Gun Safety Act (SB 279), which he and Sen. Charleta Tavares jointly introduced earlier this year. More »


Illinois legislators OK ‘red flag’ law; goal is to prevent gun deaths

by Tim Anderson ~ June/July 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Illinois legislators approved a bill in May that would allow family members or law enforcement officers to take action when an individual with access to a firearm is exhibiting dangerous or threatening behavior. HB 2354, known as a “red flag” law, was awaiting gubernatorial action as of mid-June. It would allow judges to issue a “firearms restraining order” (in effect for six months) if they find clear and convincing evidence that an individual “poses a significant danger of personal injury to himself, herself or another.”
Indiana has had a different version of this type of law since 2005. In that state, if a police officer believes an individual should not have a firearm, the officer can present a sworn affidavit to a judge detailing why the person is dangerous. Police also can take firearms without a warrant if an officer later obtains judicial consent.
Many U.S. state legislatures have been considering the adoption of these laws since the death of 17 people from a shooting this February at a Florida high school. In Illinois, on the same day they passed the “red flag” legislation, lawmakers also sent SB 337 to the governor’s desk. That measure seeks to regulate gun dealers and better track private gun sales.


Lawsuits as public health policy: North Dakota joins list of states suing opioid makers

by Jon Davis ~ June/July 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
North Dakota was one of six states to sue an opioid maker in May, alleging in part that it violated state consumer protection laws by falsely denying or downplaying the risk of addiction from opioids while overstating their benefits. More »


Nebraska law gives trafficking victims the chance to have criminal records erased

by Katelyn Tye ~ May 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A new law in Nebraska will help victims of sex trafficking clear their records of prostitution or other offenses that were a direct result of their being trafficked. The new statute applies to both convictions (crimes committed by adults) and adjudications (offenses committed by minors). To have their records cleared, victims must provide evidence, such as phone records, online ads, sworn testimony or other documentation, that shows they were being trafficked at the time the offense occurred. If a court agrees, the conviction or adjudication will be vacated and the record expunged.
More »


More support, better outcomes: South Dakota, Kansas have revamped their juvenile justice systems in recent years, and some early results are promising

by Katelyn Tye ~ March 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Utilizing research about what has proven to work in supervising and treating young offenders, Kansas and South Dakota adopted changes to their juvenile justice systems in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Both states are starting to see payoffs in the form of reduced recidivism rates and cost savings that can be reinvested in evidence and community-based treatment programs. More »


With new law, Indiana increases penalties for dealers in drug deaths

by Jon Davis ~ March 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Criminal penalties for drug dealers whose products cause a death will increase under a measure expected to take effect later this year. HB 1359 targets individuals who make or deal cocaine, methamphetamine and certain other controlled substances that result in the death of users. Gov. Eric Holcomb said he was was looking “forward to signing this bill that is a key part of our comprehensive work to enhance prevention, treatment and enforcement to curb the opioid epidemic.”
According to The Times of Northwest Indiana, the bill’s proponents say it will help the fight against heroin and opiate abuse by making a direct connection between dealers and fatal overdose victims. Opponents said the enhanced penalties go too far, given a recent revamp of the Indiana criminal code aimed at better aligning charges and penalties. A similar bill was approved this year by South Dakota legislators. Under SB 65, a dealer’s principal charge would be bumped up two felony levels if a death results from his or her dealing a controlled or counterfeit substance.
Federal data show that the nation’s rate of drug-overdose deaths tripled between 1999 and 2016; Indiana, Ohio and Michigan have rates higher than the national average.


North Dakota provides some relief for incarcerated parents with child support obligations

by Katelyn Tye-Skowronski ~ February 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Under a North Dakota law that took effect in January, parents who are sentenced to jail or prison for more than 180 days will have their monthly child support payments suspended throughout their period of incarceration. More »


Illinois laws aim to improve prison, parole systems for women

by Tim Anderson ~ February 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Two new laws in Illinois will seek to improve conditions and long-term outcomes for women in prison by providing them with more gender-responsive programming. Under HB 1479, signed into law in January, a permanent women’s division will be created within the Illinois Department of Corrections. It complements last fall’s passage of HB 3904, which requires the women’s prison and parole system to have trauma-informed, family-centered policies and programs in place. These programs also must reflect women-centered research on the most effective types of treatment interventions.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of female prisoners under state jurisdiction at the end of 2016 was as follows: 2,613 in Illinois, 2,205 in Indiana, 821 in Iowa, 869 in Kansas, 2,242 in Michigan, 774 in Minnesota, 424 in Nebraska, 213 in North Dakota, 4,594 in Ohio, 498 in South Dakota and 1,488 in Wisconsin.
According to The Sentencing Project, the number of women in U.S. prisons increased by more than 700 percent between 1980 and 2014. More than 60 percent of female prisoners have children under 18. Women are more likely than men to have been incarcerated for drug or property offenses.


Numerous bills on sports betting in play in this year’s sessions

by Tim Anderson ~ February 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »

With a case on federalism and the authority of states to allow for sports betting before the U.S. Supreme Court this term, several related bills have been introduced in capitols across the Midwest. Among the proposals:
• Michigan’s HB 4926, which would allow the state’s casinos “to conduct internet wagering on amateur or professional sporting events or contests if the wagering were not prohibited by federal law.”
• Iowa’s HSB 592, which, according to The Des Moines Register, would authorize sports betting online or at the state’s casinos.
• Indiana’s SB 405 and HB 1325, which would allow sports wagering at the state’s casinos, racinos and satellite facilities.
• Kansas’ HB 2533, which envisions sports gambling at the state’s racetrack gaming facilities.
• Illinois’ SB 2478, which would create the Sports Betting Consumer Protection Act.
The U.S. Supreme Court case centers on the state of New Jersey’s attempts to remove restrictions on sports gambling and a federal law that stops most states from sanctioning this activity.



In Michigan, when officers resign because of misconduct, police departments across state will know

by Katelyn Tye-Skowronski ~ January 2018 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Starting this year, Michigan law enforcement agencies must keep track of the reason for, and the circumstances surrounding, a law enforcement officer’s resignation. More »


Policies aim to better address mental health, substance abuse issues in prison populations

by Katelyn Tye ~ December 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Minnesota Rep. Marion O’Neill first became aware of the prevalence of mental health and substance abuse disorders in the state’s prisons while serving on the Legislature’s Prison Population Task Force in 2015. More »


Ohio voters change Constitution to enhance crime victims' rights

by Jon Davis ~ November 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Ohio has become the latest state in the Midwest to change its constitution with a goal of improving the rights of crime victims. Issue 1, also known as Marsy’s Law, was approved in November by voters: 82.6 percent to 17.4 percent. Its enumerated list of rights includes privacy, notification of court proceedings, prompt conclusion of a case, protections from the accused, restitution, and the ability to refuse discovery requests made by the accused.
Like most Midwestern states (Iowa and Minnesota are the exceptions), Ohio has protections for the rights of crime victims in its constitution. In 2016, voters in North Dakota and South Dakota overwhelmingly approved adding versions of Marsy’s law to their state constitutions; Illinois residents did the same in 2014. Wisconsin was the first U.S. state to establish a statutory bill of rights for crime victims. In the Midwest, constitutional-level protections were added between 1988 and 1996.
Ohio voters also defeated Issue 2, by a margin of 79.3 percent to 20.7 percent. It would have required state agencies and programs to pay no more for drugs than what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays. Ohio was the first Midwestern state where this type of drug-pricing law appeared on the ballot.


Do states in the Midwest exempt the body camera footage taken by a law enforcement officer from their freedom of information acts, and what other laws are in place to govern use of these cameras? 

by Jon Davis ~ November 2017 ~ Question of the Month »
According to the Urban Institute (which tracks state laws on body cameras), all states in the Midwest exempt body camera footage from Freedom of Information Act requests. And over the past three years, legislatures in at least seven Midwestern states — Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and North Dakota — have passed laws that set guidelines on police use of body cameras and/or public access to the recordings. More »


Illinois expands automatic expungement of juvenile records

by Katelyn Tye ~ October 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A year after a report showed the extent to which the state’s expungement policies have failed juveniles with criminal records, Illinois lawmakers simplified the process for young people and also strengthened confidentiality protections. More »


Strengthening rights of crime victims goal of Ohio ballot measure

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Ohio may soon become the latest state in the Midwest to change its constitution with a goal of improving the rights of victims. Issue 1, also known as Marsy’s Law, will be voted on in November. Its enumerated list of rights includes privacy, notification of court proceedings, prompt conclusion of a case, protections from the accused, restitution, and the ability to refuse discovery requests made by the accused.
Like most Midwestern states (Iowa and Minnesota are the lone exceptions), Ohio has protections for the rights of crime victims in its constitution. Proponents of Issue 1, however, say it would strengthen those safeguards. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, associations of the state’s prosecutors and defense attorneys oppose the ballot measure, saying it could potentially violate the rights of the accused and hamper court proceedings. In 2016, voters in North Dakota and South Dakota overwhelmingly approved adding versions of Marsy’s law to their state constitutions; Illinois residents did the same in 2014.
Wisconsin was the first U.S. state to establish a statutory bill of rights for crime victims. In the Midwest, constitutional-level protections were added between 1988 and 1996.


New Illinois laws aim to ease ex-offenders’ transitions

by Jon Davis ~ September 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Juvenile court records in Illinois that are not expunged will remain sealed under a new law signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner last month. HB 3817, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2018, also specifies that a juvenile adjudication is not a conviction, and cannot be used to disqualify someone from a civil service position, public office or “from receiving any license granted by public authority.”
Adjudications for forcible felonies, some firearms charges, inducement to commit suicide and dismembering a human body are excluded. The law, known as the Youth Opportunity and Fairness Act, was one of six measures Rauner signed on Aug. 24.
Also among those bills were measures reducing barriers to occupational licensing (SB 1688); allowing the sealing of records in cases where someone is given supervision for non-violent and non-sexual crimes (HB 2373) or charges resulting in acquittal or dismissal with prejudice (HB 514); and the “Prisoner Entrepreneur Education Program” (HB 698), which establishes a five-year pilot program in the Department of Corrections to teach business skills to inmates not convicted of sex offenses or child pornography.


Nebraska law aims to keep people out of jail for inability to pay bail bonds, fines

by Katelyn Tye ~ September 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Nebraska lawmakers are hoping a new law will reduce the number of individuals being housed in county jails due to the financial inability to pay bail bonds or court-ordered fines and fees. More »


Michigan sets rules for retention, release of police camera footage

by Tim Anderson ~ August 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Michigan legislators gave unanimous approval in July to a bill that sets statewide rules for the retention and release of footage captured on police body cameras. HB 4427, signed into law in July, takes effect in January. It requires evidentiary recordings to be kept by law enforcement for at least 30 days. Footage related to complaints against a police officer must be retained for three years; any recording that is part of an ongoing criminal investigation must be kept until completion of the legal case.
Also under the new law, camera footage captured in a private place (“a place where an individual may reasonably expect to be safe from casual or hostile intrusion or surveillance”) is exempt from the state's public records law. However, if the subjects of these recordings want a copy of the footage, law enforcement must provide them with the recordings.
Over the past three years, legislatures in at least six other Midwestern states — Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota and Nebraska — have passed laws that set guidelines on police use of body cameras and/or public access to the recordings.


CSG Justice Center experts suggest ways states can remove work barriers for ex-offenders

by Katelyn Tye ~ August 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
For individuals returning from jail or prison, meaningful employment is crucial to successful reentry into the community. But getting a job can be challenging for applicants with a criminal record. During a session of the Midwestern Legislative Conference Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee, experts from The Council of State Governments’ Justice Center discussed actions that policymakers can take to improve employment
outcomes. More »


Do states in the Midwest restrict the use of solitary confinement in prisons?

by Laura Kliewer ~ June/July 2017 ~ Question of the Month »

The use of solitary confinement in prisons (also known as restrictive housing or segregation) has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. One reason for employing this practice is to isolate inmates deemed threats to safety. But over the past three decades, the Vera Institute for Justice says, departments of corrections have increasingly used solitary confinement “to punish disruptive but nonviolent behavior, protect vulnerable inmates, or temporarily house inmates awaiting the completion of a facility transfer.” That may be starting to change. Recent state laws, prison policies and legal settlements have put new constraints on the use of this practice. More »


Bail reforms provide alternatives to jail in two Midwestern states

by Jon Davis ~ June/July 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »

The practice of jailing people who cannot post cash bail or pay even minor fines is being revised in Nebraska and Illinois.
Under LB 259, signed into law by Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts in May, people who fail to pay a fine in time will appear before a judge instead of automatically “sitting out” the fine in jail. Judges can choose to dismiss the fine or assign up to 20 hours of community service instead, and the rate for sitting out a fine would increase from $90 to $150 a day. The law also requires judges to consider a person’s ability to pay as one of several factors in setting bond.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the Bail Reform Act (SB 2034) into law in June. Under this new law, cash bail is not necessary for people in custody for nonviolent misdemeanors or low-level felonies such as theft, prostitution, driving under the influence or drug possession. The presumption will be that any bail set in connection with those categories of crimes not be monetary; other options include electronic home monitoring, curfews, drug counseling, stay-away orders and in-person reporting. One goal of these new laws is to save money, as incarcerating people is much more expensive than the bail or fines they pay.


North Dakota uses results of CSG study to enact sweeping, cost-saving justice reforms

by Katelyn Tye ~ June/July 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In April, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed into law a suite of bills that aims to curb the state’s correctional costs, reform its probation and parole systems, and increase access to community-based behavioral health programs. The enacted legislation (SB 2015, HB 1041 and HB 1269) was the product of a justice reinvestment study authorized two years ago by the North Dakota Legislative Assembly in response to the state’s rapidly growing prison
population. More »



Illinois legislation looks to reduce employment barriers for people with criminal histories

by Katelyn Tye ~ May 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Each year in Illinois, around 30,000 adults return home from state correctional facilities, many in search of jobs. To reduce employment barriers for people with criminal records, lawmakers have changed the way Illinois’ professional licensing body reviews applications for certain occupations. More »


New laws in Illinois, Michigan aim to update, improve justice systems

by Jon Davis ~ April 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Two of the Midwest’s governors recently signed bipartisan legislation to overhaul aspects of their states’ criminal justice systems. Based in part on recommendations from the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, Illinois SB 2872 requires the state to help local authorities with strategic planning and technical aid in addressing trauma victims’ experiences. It also strengthens judicial discretion in sentencing, including probation as an alternative to incarceration, and expands opportunities for former inmates to receive rehabilitative services.
In Michigan, 18 different bills approved by the Legislature will update parole policies and provide new tools to prevent repeat criminal offenses. For example, the Department of Corrections will create a “Parole Sanction Certainty” program for high-risk parolees in at least the state’s five largest counties. In addition, parole and probation programs will be required to employ evidence-based practices. Other bills in the legislative package redefine recidivism in state statute, establish an expedited commutation process for prisoners with medical conditions, and limit the maximum sentence for technical violations of parole to 30 days for the first three violations.


Protests are on the rise in the Midwest, and so are the number of bills to deal with this activity

by Tim Anderson ~ March 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
From demonstrations trying to stop proposed pipelines to rallies denouncing deadly police encounters with civilians, the number of protests in the Midwest has been unusually high over the past year. The region’s legislators have taken notice, revisiting their states’ laws on criminal trespassing, loitering, picketing, blocking roadways and disorderly conduct. As of early March, protest-related legislation had been introduced in 2017 in at least five of the region’s 11 states (see map). North Dakota and South Dakota were the first two Midwestern states where those bills became law. More »


Minnesota legislators remove prohibition on Sunday sales of alcohol

by Tim Anderson ~ March 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Starting in July, Minnesotans will have the option of buying alcohol on Sunday, the result of legislation (HF 30) signed into law in March. Minnesota and Indiana have been the only two states in the Midwest with Sunday-sales bans. Indiana’s SB 83, introduced in January, would allow the state’s grocery and drug stores to get a supplemental dealer’s permit and sell alcoholic beverages on Sunday; liquor store dealers would not need this permit.
Under Minnesota’s new law, the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune reports, local governments still have the authority to prevent Sunday sales. This “local option” is a common statutory provision in Midwestern states’ laws governing alcohol sales.
Less common is statutory language in Minnesota that prohibits grocery stores from selling many types of alcohol, regardless of the day of the week. According to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association, most states in the Midwest allow grocery and convenience stores to sell wine, beer and spirits. However, in Minnesota, these retailers can only sell beer with 3.2 percent alcohol or less; Kansas has a similar law in place. Indiana prevents grocery and convenience stores from selling spirits.


Michigan joins states with laws to compensate wrongfully imprisoned

by Tim Anderson ~ March 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Individuals put in prison for a crime they did not commit are now eligible for compensation in Michigan.
For every year in which a person was wrongfully incarcerated, he or she will be eligible for $50,000 from the state. Individuals have 18 months upon being released from custody to seek compensation via the Michigan Court of Claims. SB 291, signed into law in late 2016, directs Michigan’s treasurer to establish a wrongful-imprisonment compensation fund.
Two thousand people in the United States have been exonerated over the past 28 years, according to the University of Michigan’s National Registry of Exonerations. That total includes 431 individuals in the 11-state Midwest — with the number of exonerations ranging from a low of two in North Dakota to a high of 185 in Illinois. (Michigan has the second-highest total, 68.)
This year, bills to compensate the wrongfully imprisoned have been introduced in at least two Midwestern states: Indiana (HB 1062 and HB 1067) and Kansas (SB 125). Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin already have these laws in place.


Indiana, South Dakota target problems of meth labs, abuse

by Tim Anderson ~ February 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Recently released data from Indiana show that policymakers and law enforcement are making progress in their efforts to curtail methamphetamine manufacturing in the state. The number of meth labs fell by 35 percent in 2016, Indiana State Police statistics show.
In addition, law enforcement has had to remove far fewer children from these labs. Last year, the Indiana legislature passed a bill (SB 80) to restrict meth cooks’ access to pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient in the manufacturing process. Under the new law, individuals who have established a patient relationship with a pharmacy do not need a prescription to purchase medications with pseudoephedrine. However, minus that relationship, individuals can only purchase small amounts of these medications. An individual who refuses these options must get a prescription.
In South Dakota, Gov. Dennis Daugaard told lawmakers in January that their state’s meth problem is no longer being fueled by homegrown labs. Instead, he said, out-of-state producers are making meth “on an industrial scale” and bringing it to South Dakota. His proposals include forming a joint drug interdiction task force and establishing new incentives for individuals on probation and parole to pass their drug tests.



What are the civil forfeiture standards in the Midwestern states?

by Jon Davis ~ January 2017 ~ Question of the Month »
Unlike criminal forfeiture, in which a legal action is brought as part of the crime that a person is charged with, civil forfeiture laws by and large allow assets to be seized by police upon only upon a suspicion of wrongdoing. In recent years, stories of innocent citizens having cash and other property seized — and facing arduous, uphill battles to reclaim their property — have prompted efforts from entities as disparate as the Charles Koch Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union to modify or repeal civil forfeiture laws. More »


Do states in the Midwest provide crime victims with constitutional rights and protections?

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2016 ~ Question of the Month »
In 1980, Wisconsin became the first U.S. state to establish a statutory bill of rights for crime victims. Since then, state constitutions across the country have been amended to provide an even greater level of protections to this group of citizens. Most recently, voters in North Dakota (62 percent to 38 percent) and South Dakota (60 percent to 40 percent) approved November ballot measures to amend their constitutions. These new provisions to protect crime victims are part of a national movement and are collectively known as “Marsy’s Law.” More »


Illinois looks to ensure released prisoners have access to state IDs

by Jon Davis ~ November 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Easing ex-prisoners back into civilian life helps reduce recidivism, and one step states can take is to ensure that just-released inmates have a valid state identification card. In a letter earlier this year to all 50 governors, the U.S. Department of Justice asked states to provide IDs for federal prisoners being released, and according to The Atlantic, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio are among 17 states that have had preliminary talks with federal officials about taking that step.
Pending legislation in Illinois (SB 3368), meanwhile, would ensure individuals get an ID upon their release from state prison if they present a birth certificate, Social Security card, and two proofs of address. Released Illinois prisoners without these documents would be provided with a temporary state ID. The bill is one of many recommendations made by a commission of state legislators, other state leaders and criminal justice experts on how to reduce the state’s prison population by 25 percent by 2025.
According to The Council of State Governments Justice Center, state-issued ID is frequently required to access social services, secure housing and apply for employment— all factors that can play a crucial role in a person’s successful reintegration into the community.


Court upholds Ohio law that shields sources of lethal-injection drugs

by Jon Davis ~ November 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A U.S. circuit court has dismissed claims by several Ohio death-row inmates that a state law on capital punishment unconstitutionally conceals information from them. The November decision affirmed a lower court ruling that the prisoners had no standing because they couldn’t prove harm from the denial of information, The (Toledo) Blade reports.
Ohio suspended executions (by lethal injection) in January 2015 due to a lack of drugs used for them. Many pharmaceutical companies refuse to make or sell such drugs to states using them for executions. HB 663, signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in December 2014, shields drug suppliers (and the identity of people involved in the execution process) from public disclosure. The law took effect in March 2015. According to The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio currently plans to execute two prisoners on Jan. 12 using a trio of drugs: the anti-anxiety medication midazolam, the paralytic agent rocuronium bromide and potassium chloride (to stop the heart).
Along with Ohio, Midwestern states with the death penalty are Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.


Illinois law targets gun traffickers in new effort to curb violence

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In an effort to curb the number of deaths occurring in their state due to gun violence, Illinois legislators are cracking down on people who illegally sell firearms. Signed into law this summer, HB 6303 makes it a felony for a person who has not been issued a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card to bring guns into Illinois with the intent of selling or delivering them.
Between 2009 and 2013, almost 60 percent of guns used to commit crimes in Chicago were first purchased outside of Illinois. Indiana is the largest out-of-state source. The bill’s sponsor, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, told the Chicago Tribune that gun trafficking will now be punishable by as much as 15 to 30 years in prison. This isn’t the first time that Illinois lawmakers have targeted so-called “straw purchases,” which provide a means for criminals to evade a state’s gun control laws and get their hands on firearms. Three years ago, the state began requiring gun owners to report a lost or stolen firearm. The goal of this law is to help law enforcement identify straw purchasers.
In 2014, the U.S. death rate from firearms (homicides, suicides and unintentional deaths) was 10.2 per 100,000 residents. In the Midwest, the rate ranged from a high of 12.3 in Indiana to a low of 6.6 in Minnesota.



Marijuana initiatives, legislation slowly taking root in the Midwest: Ohio joins Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan in legalizing medical marijuana; North Dakota residents to vote on it in November

by Jon Davis ~ September 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
As the movement to legalize marijuana or, at least, medical marijuana gathers steam, the Midwest is living up to its reputation as neither the first nor last region of the country to adopt big changes. There are no signs that any Midwest state is ready to follow Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska by fully legalizing recreational use, although marijuana industry observers say that has more to do with the industry’s “Coasts First” focus. But Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and, as of June 8, Ohio, have established medical marijuana programs. In addition, four states in the region — Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio and Nebraska — have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. More »


Crime victims get address confidentiality in 7th Midwest state

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Ohio has become the latest Midwestern state to adopt a “Safe at Home” law, which allows the survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking and other violent crimes to shield their home addresses from public records. Under HB 359, which took effect in September, these crime victims can get a P.O. Box assigned to them by the secretary of state.
As a result, when they register to vote, register a vehicle or complete governmental forms, their home addresses will not be disclosed via searches of public records. Participants in the program will have their mail redirected to their home addresses on a daily basis by the Ohio secretary of state’s office.
For voting purposes, each individual will be issued a unique identification number that can be used to request and cast an absentee ballot. The new law also establishes procedures for how state and local election officials should handle and process ballots in order to ensure the information from program participants is not compromised.
Close to 40 U.S. states now have some kind of address-confidentiality program in place, including Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime.


Illinois sets new rules to govern police use of cell phone tracking devices

by Tim Anderson ~ August 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Law enforcement in Illinois has new guidelines to follow when it uses so-called “stingray devices,” which help track criminal suspects and enable the collection of information from their phone calls and text messages. These devices trick phones in a particular area into thinking they are connecting to a cell phone tower operated by a service provider. As a result, they can be a powerful tool in helping police nab suspects. But at the same time, these cell phone simulators are collecting information from the phones of innocent people who happen to be in the same area.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, stingray devices are known to be in use in at least five Midwestern states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Under Illinois’ SB 2343, within 24 hours after using the stingray device, police must remove all information from anyone who is not a target of the investigation. The law, too, prohibits law enforcement from using data not first authorized by a judge, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Two years ago, Illinois passed a law (SB 2808) requiring law enforcement to obtain warrants before using location tracking devices. According to the ACLU, Indiana and Minnesota also require police to obtain warrants.


Restorative justice holds promise of deeper healing, lower long-term costs

by Jon Davis ~ 2016 MLC Annual Meeting Edition ~ Stateline Midwest »
An alternative approach is available to states and communities seeking to reduce incarceration and recidivism rates, and their attendant price tags. Restorative justice is a victim-centered recognition that crime is not just a violation of law, but is an action against people — that someone has been victimized. It creates a community-based process during which victims might confront perpetrators, and all parties negotiate restitution aimed at healing personal and community wounds. More »


Life-without-parole sentences for juveniles banned in Iowa

by Tim Anderson ~ June/July 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Iowa has joined the growing number of U.S. states that ban life-without-parole sentences for individuals 17 and under. The state Supreme Court issued its ruling in May, arguing that such sentences violate the Iowa Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The decision does not entitle juvenile offenders to parole, but does eliminate “up-front determinations” (namely life-without-parole sentences by a judge).
According to The Des Moines Register, the recent ruling overturns legislation (SF 448) passed by Iowa lawmakers in 2015. That measure gave prosecutors the option of seeking life-without-parole sentences for some convicted juveniles.
Kansas and South Dakota are among the other U.S. states that ban life-without-parole sentences for juveniles, the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth reports. It also notes that over the last four years, the number of states with such bans in place has tripled. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that age and other mitigating factors must be considered before a young offender is sentenced to life without parole. However, judges still have the authority to impose such sentences, absent a state law or court ruling such as Iowa’s.


Kansas to rely more on community-based options for juveniles

by Jon Davis ~ May 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Kansas will cut by three-fifths the number of juvenile offenders sent to out-of-state facilities, under legislation (SB 367) signed into law in April by Gov. Sam Brownback. The law resulted from recommendations issued in November 2015 by a bipartisan working group that included members from the legislative, executive and judicial branches. (The group also got assistance from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Crime and Justice Institute at Community Resources for Justice.)
The panel found that while Kansas’ crime rate among young people had dropped during the past decade, its juvenile justice system was keeping more lower-level offenders in out-of-state facilities and for longer terms. Moreover, that trend was partly due to a lack of community-based alternatives in many areas of the state. Kansas’ planned reduction in the number of juvenile offenders being sent out of state is expected to save the state about $72 million through FY 2022. That money will be reinvested in community- and evidence-based alternatives, according to the governor’s office.
Kansas joins several other states that are investing more in community-based options as an alternative to incarceration — for example, South Dakota’s passage of SB 73 in 2015.


What age criteria do states use to determine jurisdiction in cases that involve a young person charged with violating the law?

by Tim Anderson ~ March 2016 ~ Question of the Month »
According to the National Center for Juvenile Justice, every state has a set of “age boundaries” that help determine jurisdiction in these cases — in particular, whether they should go through juvenile court or criminal court. More »


Kansas considers changes to how state's Supreme Court judges are nominated

by Laura Kliewer ~ March 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
More than a half-century ago, some unpopular political maneuvering in Kansas caused voters there to create one of the nation’s more unique structures for appointing judges to a state supreme court. That change purposefully reined in the nomination powers of state elected officials, namely the governor. Over the past few years, the legislative and executive branches have been exploring ideas to get some of that authority back. More »


Police reforms, new rules on body cameras take hold in Illinois

by Tim Anderson ~ February 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »

An Illinois law that sets guidelines for how police use body cameras and establishes new training and reporting requirements for law enforcement took effect in January. These statutory changes do not require the use of body cameras, but they do establish new statewide protocols. For example, the devices must be turned on at all times when an officer responds to a call or is engaged in other law enforcement activities. (Crime victims or witnesses can ask that the cameras be turned off.) New rules on the disclosure and retention of the cameras’ recordings are also now in place.
Signed into law in August, SB 1304 establishes a fund to equip police officers with body cameras, the Chicago Tribune reports; money will come from an extra $5 fee on traffic tickets. Other provisions include:
• a requirement that independent investigators be used in cases of officer-involved deaths;
• mandatory officer training on use of force and on cultural competency;
• a ban on police use of chokeholds;
• statewide data collection on officer-involved deaths and on officers who have been dismissed due to misconduct.


Minnesota reviews first year of law that provides 'safe harbor’ to sexually exploited youths

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
During the first year of a statewide system to help sexually exploited children, 163 youths in Minnesota received services and support. The state’s Safe Harbor program is the result of laws passed in 2011 and 2014. With these measures in place, Minnesota is taking a different view of youths (those under the age of 18) who engage in prostitution — they are seen as victims, rather than as criminals.
Eight Safe Harbor navigators have been established to coordinate regional services for sexually exploited children. These navigators help ensure that these youths are identified, receive trauma-informed services and are housed safely.
The findings on how many children received services under Safe Harbor were part of a comprehensive evaluation of the program. In that study, researchers also recommend expanding the age limit (to help sexually exploited adults), developing more services and providing more housing to victims. In its 2014 analysis of laws to prevent human trafficking (including victim-assistance programs), the Polaris Project rates seven states from the Midwest in the top tier: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin.


In 2015, several states in Midwest revamped justice policies

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
States in 2015 continued to dissect their justice systems in search of policies that control spending and, at the same time, improve public safety. The result: Major statutory changes this year in states such as Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota. More »


Ohioans say ‘no’ to legal marijuana; states continue to re-examine laws on medical marijuana and decriminalization

by Laura Kliewer ~ November 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In less than a decade’s time, national public opinion on marijuana legalization has changed dramatically, with the rate of people in support of such a change jumping from 32 percent in 2006 to 53 percent today. Will this shift lead to changes in state laws in the Midwest? Thus far, the answer has been a clear-cut “no.” Legalization bills have not come close to passing in any of the region’s 11 state legislatures, and this November, Ohio voters rejected by a wide margin a plan to legalize marijuana via a constitutional amendment. But state legislatures in this region continue to re-examine their laws on marijuana, as evidenced by laws and legislative proposals in this region to decriminalize possession or allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes. More »


Michigan raises standard for seizing property under forfeiture law

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Under a seven-bill legislative package recently signed into law, Michigan is changing its laws on civil asset forfeiture, a move that proponents say will better protect citizens’ civil liberties and private property rights. According to the Detroit Free Press, lawmakers have raised the standard for when property can be seized through civil forfeiture. The standard had been a “preponderance of the evidence”; it is now “clear and convincing.”
Michigan’s law enforcement agencies will also be required to submit an annual report on their forfeiture activities.
Forfeiture laws allow money or property to be confiscated if police and prosecutors suspect that it is tied to criminal activity. But in Michigan and other states, civil-liberties groups have raised concerns that state laws make it too easy for individuals’ property to be taken.
According to the Institute for Justice, most Midwestern states use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. However, for property to be seized in Nebraska, law enforcement must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the property is tied to a crime. In Indiana and Wisconsin, law enforcement must transfer its proceeds from a forfeiture to schools.


Some states ramping up efforts to enroll inmates in Medicaid

by Grant Gregory ~ July/August 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
As Indiana Rep. Charlie Brown sees it, a new plan to enroll eligible inmates in Medicaid has the chance to be a win-win for his state and its taxpayers: Reduce recidivism by giving more people the health services they need, and cut long-term costs in the criminal justice system. Signed into law earlier this year, HB 1269 (of which Brown was a co-sponsor) received overwhelming legislative approval, and it is part of a broader trend that has states looking for new ways to improve outcomes for state and local inmates, who have disproportionately high rates of mental illness and substance abuse. More »


New laws in Illinois seek to ‘right-size’ juvenile justice system

by Tim Anderson ~ July/August 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Illinois lawmakers say a series of legislative reforms this year will help “right-size” the state’s juvenile justice system. The bills were signed into law in July. Under SB 1560, minors will not be committed to Department of Juvenile Justice facilities for misdemeanor offenses, and minors cannot be detained in a county jail for “status offenses.”
HB 3718, meanwhile, gives judges more discretion on how to sentence minors. For example, they can take various mitigating factors into account: maturity level, presence of a developmental disability, home environment, history of childhood trauma, prior criminal record and potential for rehabilitation.
In addition, juveniles in Illinois charged with certain felony offenses will no longer be automatically prosecuted in adult criminal court.
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice analyzed the different methods that states use to transfer juveniles to adult courts. One is “automatic transfer”: granting criminal courts exclusive jurisdiction over certain classes of cases involving minors. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota (murders only), South Dakota and Wisconsin all had automatic transfer laws, the federal study found. Some states, on the other hand, leave the transfer decisions to local prosecutors or juvenile courts.


Which states in the Midwest have veterans treatment courts and how do these courts function?

by Ilene Grossman ~ July/August 2015 ~ Question of the Month »
Veterans treatment courts operate in most states in the Midwest, and there are more than 200 nationally. Most of these are run by county or other local court systems, and the treatment court usually convenes once a week, depending on the need. Currently, about 11,000 veterans are being served by these courts. More »


No end to death-penalty debate: In Nebraska, legislative repeal leads to push for statewide vote; in Ohio, new laws and policies center on lethal-injection protocol

by Tim Anderson ~ June 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Thirty-seven times during his long legislative career, Nebraska Sen. Ernie Chambers had introduced legislation to repeal the state’s death penalty. Every time, it had ended in defeat. And for those outside Nebraska, there was little reason to believe the 38th time would be the charm for death-penalty opponents — the newly elected governor supported capital punishment, and the Unicameral Legislature was still considered politically conservative. Inside the state Capitol, though, legislators were well aware that 2015 could finally be the year for a successful repeal. Near the end of this year’s legislative session, supporters mustered not only enough votes to pass LB 268, but to override the veto of Gov. Pete Ricketts as well. It marked the first time that a U.S. state’s repeal of the death penalty occurred over the veto of a governor. More »

Goal of new state laws is to keep victims of violence safer at home

by Tim Anderson ~ June 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Hoping to better protect victims of stalking, sexual assault, domestic violence and other crimes, legislators in Iowa and Minnesota adopted new “Safe at Home” laws this year. Iowa’s HF 585 was signed into law in May after receiving unanimous legislative approval. It creates an address confidentiality program for certain crime victims. Under the program, victims can have their mail sent to the Iowa secretary of state’s office, which then forwards it to their home addresses. The program will allow victims to keep their home addresses confidential when registering to vote and conducting other official business.
According to The National Center for Victims of Crime, 36 states have Safe at Home programs in place, including Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin. (Wisconsin’s is for voter registration only.)
This year’s Minnesota legislation provides more clarity on when the addresses of Safe at Home participants should be disclosed as part of legal proceedings. Courts sometimes order the disclosure if an address is needed for an investigation, prosecution or litigation. SF 878 provides more protections for victims by establishing a framework for courts to use when making their address-disclosure decisions.


New approach to juvenile justice: In states such as South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas, reforms reduce reliance on incarceration, invest in proven interventions

by Ilene Grossman ~ May 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A year ago, officials from all three branches of South Dakota government began taking a close, critical look at the state’s juvenile justice system. The working group didn’t like what it saw. “While juvenile commitments were declining [nationally],”Sen. Alan Solano says, “South Dakota had the second-highest incarceration rate in the country in 2011, a rate of 385 youth per 100,000.” The state needed to do better, the working group concluded. With this year’s passage of SB 73, lawmakers believe they have taken a big step forward, one that will save taxpayer dollars, reduce recidivism and improve long-term outcomes for young people. These same goals are driving proposed reforms of juvenile justice systems in other states as well. More »


Police and the public trust: In wake of high-profile incidents involving officers and civilians, legislation focuses on transparency, accountability

by Laura Kliewer ~ March 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Recent concerns about officer-related deaths, and the investigations that follow, have resulted in much legislative activity in state capitols in 2015 — calls for an increased use of police body cameras, for example, and new rules for how violent incidents are handled, investigated and publicly reported. More »


Ohio halts executions, plans to use new mix of drugs in 2016

by Tim Anderson ~ February 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
No death-row inmates will be executed in Ohio this year, as the state transitions to a new mix of lethal drugs to put people to death. The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, which made the announcement in January, had previously planned to execute six people in 2015. According to The Washington Post, a shortage of lethal-injection drugs has left Ohio and other states seeking new drug combinations to put people to death. In some cases, those new combinations have been linked to prolonged executions.
The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a case this year challenging the state of Oklahoma’s drug protocol on the grounds that it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Ohio is eliminating the use of the two-drug regimen midazolam and hydromorphone. Thiopental sodium, a drug previously used in the state from 1999 to 2011, will be added to the protocol.
Meanwhile, to address the problem of drug shortages, Ohio lawmakers passed a bill in late 2014 (HB 663) that shields the identities of companies that provide lethal-injection drugs to the state. Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota are among the 32 U.S. states with capital punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.


More states adopting ‘second chance’ laws to help offenders

by Tim Anderson ~ February 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
For criminal offenders released from prison or jail, a “second chance” for them often begins with the ability to find employment. But many obstacles can stand in the way of a successful job search. Removing some of those barriers is the goal of bills passed over the past few years in several of the Midwest’s legislatures. One of the more common statutory changes has been to make it easier for individuals to expunge their criminal records. These measures, often dubbed “second chance” laws, have been passed in states such as Illinois (HB 3010 in 2013), Indiana (HB 1482 in 2013), Minnesota (HF 2576 in 2014) and Ohio (SB 337 in 2012).
Michigan joined this list of states in early 2015, when Gov. Rick Snyder signed HB 4186 into law. The bill allows people with up to one felony and two misdemeanor charges to petition the courts to clear their records five years after the completion of their sentence.
Another idea is “ban the box” legislation: removing questions about criminal history on job applications. For example, Nebraska’s LB 907 (passed in 2014) applies to public employers and their initial screening process of applicants. Illinois and Minnesota also have ban-the-box laws. Minnesota’s law extends to private employers as well.


Illinois boosts minimum pay for jurors, reduces jury sizes in civil trials

by Tim Anderson ~ January 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Illinois will soon go from having the Midwest’s lowest minimum rate of pay for jurors to one of the region’s highest. The change is the result of SB 3075, passed by the General Assembly and signed into law in December. Starting in June, jury compensation in Illinois must be at least $25 on the first day and $50 for each subsequent day. Counties are responsible for paying the jurors, and under the old law, they could pay as little as $4 per day.
Illinois’ new $50-a-day rate will match the pay already given to jurors in North Dakota and South Dakota, according to the National Center for State Courts. (Fifty dollars is the highest daily pay rate in the Midwest.) The region’s lowest minimum rates are now in Iowa, Kansas and Ohio ($10 per day). It is common, too, for jurors to have at least a portion of their travel expenses reimbursed, and in Minnesota, they are eligible for up to $50 in child care expenses.
Illinois legislators also made another change with SB 3075. In civil trials, the number of jurors deciding the case will be six instead of 12. Proponents of this change said it will help offset the cost of higher juror compensation; they also noted that 38 other states already allow for six-member juries.


In Ohio and Wisconsin, a state response to officer-related deaths

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
High-profile incidents involving police officers and the deaths of civilians have led to the passage of a new law in Wisconsin and creation of a state task force in Ohio.
Under Wisconsin’s AB 409, police departments can no longer lead the investigation of incidents involving one of their officers. Instead, two outside investigators must be brought in (one to lead the investigation). Family members of the person killed, too, must be told of their legal rights. Lastly, if criminal charges are not filed in an officer-related death, information on the investigation must be released to the public.
Ohio’s new task force, meanwhile, will look at ways to improve relations between law enforcement and the people it serves, particularly those in minority communities. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, the idea for the task force stems from discussions between Ohio Gov. John Kasich and three of the state’s African-American legislators. Sen. Nina Turner says the move “represents a first step to understanding what is going on, why it’s going on, and how we can begin to tackle it.” This past year, in separate incidents, two African- Americans carrying BB guns were shot and killed by police in Ohio. Officers in the two cases were not indicted, the Enquirer reports.


Rise of drones forcing states to reconsider laws governing privacy and law enforcement

by Tim Anderson ~ 2014 MLC Annual Meeting Edition ~ Stateline Midwest »

Aerial and camera surveillance of public areas is nothing new, but as lawmakers learned this July during a roundtable discussion, advances in technology are raising new policy questions about everything from privacy and private property to the practices of law enforcement. More »


Rise in phone thefts leads to Minnesota law requiring 'kill switches'

by Tim Anderson ~ 2014 MLC Annual Meeting Edition ~ Stateline Midwest »

Under a first-of-its-kind state law that takes effect next July, Minnesota will require all new smartphones sold within its borders to be equipped with an anti-theft “kill switch.” The passage of SF 1740 reflects growing concerns in Minnesota and other states about a rise in phone thefts.
At the University of Minnesota, for example, 62 percent of the robberies on campus now involve a smartphone. In half of those incidents, police told lawmakers during legislative testimony earlier this year, a firearm was used by the criminal. Nationwide, the Federal Communications Commission estimates that more than 30 percent of all robberies today involve smartphones. A “kill switch” allows owners of the phone to disable the device remotely.
According to The Washington Post, Minnesota is the first U.S. state to pass a “kill switch” bill; measures are also being considered in California and the U.S. Congress. In April, many of the nation's leading wireless companies announced that they would voluntarily include kill-switch capabilities on smartphones manufactured after July 2015. Some lawmakers, though, would like these anti-theft features to be enabled on devices by default, rather than requiring consumers to opt in.


CSG Justice Center offers road map for improving how schools discipline children

In a comprehensive, consensus-based new study released by the CSG Justice Center, state and local leaders have been given more than 60 recommendations to improve how the nation’s schools discipline children. Implementing these changes, the study concludes, will help keep students from dropping out of school and entering state justice systems, while also enhancing school safety. More »



First in the Midwest: "Most copied legal innovation in nation's history" began in Illinois

by Mike McCabe ~ May 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The idea of separate courts and a distinct system of justice for juveniles has its roots in legislation passed by Illinois lawmakers on the last day of their 1899 session. “[It is] the most copied legal innovation in our nation’s history," says professor David Tanenhaus. More »


Full court pressure: Recent Supreme Court ruling in Kansas serves as a reminder of the judiciary's power to shape state school funding

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2014 ~ PDF of Stateline Midwest article »
In the decades-long legal battles over school funding, different states have taken turns in the national spotlight. All eyes were on Ohio in the late 1990s, for example, after its state Supreme Court ruled on multiple occasions that the K-12 funding system was unconstitutional. This year was Kansas’ turn to grab headlines. A state Supreme Court ruling in March not only forced Kansas lawmakers to scramble for a fix by the end of this year’s session, it also could have ramifications in other states. More »


States pick up fight to stop rise in scrap-metal thefts

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In response to a problem that the Detroit Free Press says has reached “epidemic proportions” in some communities, Michigan legislators voted in March to give law enforcement more tools to prevent scrap-metal thefts.
Three Midwestern states have among the most metal-theft claims in the country, according to a recent National Insurance Crime Bureau analysis. Those states are Ohio (first in the nation), Illinois (seventh) and Michigan (ninth).
Michigan’s HB 4593 bans all cash sales of scrap metal. For sales of $25 or more, a check must now be mailed to the seller; an encrypted debit card can be used for sales under $25. The bill also includes language allowing for creation of a database that would track people who sell items to scrap yards. Legislators, though, did not require that a database be established. A bill passed late last year (HB 4595) made it a felony in Michigan for scrap-metal dealers to knowingly purchase stolen items. The most commonly stolen items are air conditioner components, catalytic converters and copper wire.
Ohio and Illinois are among the other states where scrap-metal theft laws have been enacted in recent years. Ohio, for example, now requires dealers to register with the state and to report transactions to a state-run database. The dealers pay a fee to maintain this electronic registry.


New era in corrections: In states such as Michigan, Ohio and South Dakota, recent reforms aim to cut costs, improve public safety

by Kate Tormey ~ February 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In 1977, South Dakota’s state prisons held just 550 inmates. Over the next 35 years, however, that population would multiply six times — and, in the process, drive costs through the roof. By 2011, the state’s corrections budget was more than $100 million and had quadrupled in 20 years. And the prison population was projected to grow by another 25 percent in 10 years, with costs increasing to the tune of $224 million. More »


Question of the Month: What steps have states taken to prevent human trafficking?

by Ilene Grossman ~ January 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Human trafficking involves the detention of people against their will, who are then forced to work — in factories or local businesses, for example, or as domestic workers in homes. One of the more common forms of trafficking involves coercing individuals to work in the commercial sex trade. According to the Polaris Project, a national organization working to prevent human trafficking, certain groups of people are most vulnerable to trafficking, including undocumented immigrants and homeless/runaway youths. More »


Alcohol-related driving deaths rose in 2012; states urged to lower BAC limits, expand ignition-interlock laws

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
When the clock strikes midnight, and people in states across the country ring in the new year, one of the most dangerous few hours on U.S. roadways begins. About half of all the fatal crashes on New Year’s Day are due to impaired driving, higher than the rate for any other day of the year. And new National Traffic Highway Safety Administration data provide another reason for concern: With the exception of Kansas, the number of alcohol-related driving fatalities rose between 2011 and 2012 in every Midwestern state (see table). More »


What is “ban the box” legislation, and what states have enacted it?

by Laura Kliewer ~ November 2013 ~ Question of the Month »
“Ban the box” is a nationwide effort to remove inquiries about criminal history from employer job applications. Supporters argue that the question should be deferred until later in the interview process and not used as an automatic bar to employment at the application stage. Ten states have enacted “ban the box” measures, including Illinois and Minnesota in the Midwest, according to the National Employment Law Project. More »


Michigan legislators eye expanded use of mental health courts

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »

It didn’t take long for Michigan legislators to take notice of a state Supreme Court study examining the efficacy of mental health courts. Less than a month after the study’s release, the House unanimously passed a four-bill package (HB 4694-4697) that statutorily creates mental health courts, thus paving the way for judicial circuits across the state to operate them, Mlive.com reports. The legislation would also establish guidelines for these courts; for example, violent offenders could not be served by them.
The three-year Supreme Court study, which evaluated 10 mental health courts, found that the recidivism rate of participants was 300 percent lower compared to similar offenders. Participants also had better work and employment outcomes. Mental health courts offer treatment programs to offenders with severe mental illnesses as an alternative to lengthy jail or prison terms.
According to the nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center, 48 percent of Michigan’s population resides in a jurisdiction with a mental health court — same as the U.S. average. In the Midwest, two states are above the national average: Illinois (78 percent, fifth-highest rate in the nation) and Ohio (63 percent). In the region’s eight other states, the availability of mental health courts falls below the national average.


New Illinois law requires lost guns to be reported, expands background-check law

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Illinois legislators have added new requirements on gun sellers and owners under a recently enacted bill that aims to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals.
Prior to enactment of HB 1189, which takes effect next year, Illinois exempted some private sales from an existing background-check requirement. But starting in January, all private sellers must confirm that the buyer has a valid Firearm Owners Identification Card. (This requirement already applied to licensed gun dealers and sales at gun shows) Illinois is the first state in the Midwest to have universal background checks, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Illinois is also now requiring gun owners to report a lost or stolen firearm within a 72-hour time frame. This new law is intended to help law enforcement crack down on “straw purchases” of firearms: Someone buys a gun for an individual unable to purchase it due to a criminal background or other reasons. Chicago police (where last year 435 of the city’s 506 murders involved guns) have cited straw purchasing as a major public safety problem. Michigan and Ohio were already among the seven U.S. states that require gun owners to report lost or stolen guns.


Prison population trends have shifted, and so have state policies

by Tim Anderson ~ September 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In the 1990s, and for a good part of the last decade, no state was immune to the precipitous rise in the nation’s prison population. Even traditionally low-incarceration-rate states in the Midwest such as Minnesota and North Dakota saw their numbers of prisoners triple. But over the past few years, a change has occurred. More »


What states permit the use of medical marijuana, and in those states, how is use of the drug regulated?

by Ilene Grossman ~ May 2013 ~ Question of the Month »

Medical marijuana is now legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia. Only one of those states — Michigan — is in the Midwest, though several bills were introduced in the region this year to legalize medical marijuana, which is used to relieve severe pain, control nausea and stimulate appetites. More »


Kansas joins states with no statute of limitations for cases involving rape

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Kansas lawmakers have removed the statute of limitations for prosecuting cases of rape and aggravated criminal sodomy. Rape cases previously had to be prosecuted within five years, The Kansas City Star reports. HB 2252 also changes the time frame for when a sexually violent crime involving a victim under 18 years old can be prosecuted: within one year of when the identity of the suspect is conclusively established with DNA, or within 10 years of the date the victim turns 18.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 31 states had no statute of limitations for certain types of sexually violent crimes as of 2011. That list of states includes five Midwestern states. In Michigan, South Dakota and Wisconsin, the statute of limitations is extended indefinitely in cases of sexual assault or rape of a child. Nebraska’s law applies to all cases of sexual assault; in Indiana, it applies to Class A felony rape. Under a bill introduced this year in Ohio (SB 83), the statute of limitations would be removed for prosecuting cases of rape and sexual battery, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.
Another option is to keep the statute of limitations, but allow for exceptions when DNA evidence is found. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin are among the states with some type of DNA exception.


The future of gun laws: Options include strengthened background checks, bans on certain guns and magazines, and elimination of "gun-free" zones in schools

by Tim Anderson ~ January 2013 ~ PDF of January 2013 Stateline Midwest article »
Over the past decade, several states in the Midwest have passed laws allowing residents to carry concealed weapons as well as other measures backed by gunowner-rights groups. But what does the future hold with regard to state gun policy, particularly in light of the recent mass shootings inside and outside the Midwest? This article examines some of the policy options for lawmakers, as well asthe priorities laid out by two oft-cited researchers who have very different perspectivse on what states should do. More »


With new policies in place, three states report declines in recidivism

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2012 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In 2008, more than 28,000 people were released from Ohio’s prisons. Three years later, close to one-third of them had returned. Most came back because they committed new crimes, others because of violations of
their parole. More »


Only in the Midwest: Illinois has unique partisan system of electing, retaining judges

by Mike McCabe ~ September 2012 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Although judicial elections have long been a mainstay of the electoral landscape in many states, they have seldom attracted the same level of attention routinely paid to partisan contests for legislative seats or constitutional
offices. In recent years, however, a number of high-profile supreme court races have increasingly called attention to the means by which judicial officers are chosen. More »


What states have laws to provide compensation for individuals wrongfully convicted of crimes?

by Laura Kliewer ~ May 2012 ~ Question of the Month »
According to the Innocence Project, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin are among the 26 U.S. states with laws to provide compensation for individuals wrongfully convicted of crimes. Michigan would be added to this list under bills (SB 61, HB 4171) introduced earlier this year. More »


Supreme costs: Five Midwestern states have among most expensive
judicial elections in nation

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2011 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The trend toward big spending on state supreme court races took at least two new turns during the 2009-10 election cycle, according to a report issued in October by three judicial watch groups. And at the center of these changes are several states in the Midwest. More »