On Sunday, the Portland Press Herald published this story on the number of people incarcerated for failing to pay a criminal fine in Maine and the enormous cost to taxpayers. According to research by the ACLU of Maine, every year thousands of Mainers are booked into county jails for no other reason than failing to pay a criminal fine. In some counties, almost 20 percent of total jail bookings were just for unpaid fines.
A couple weeks ago, MPBN aired this sad story: for the third year in a row the number of drug related deaths in Maine increased. In 2014, 208 Mainers died, up from 176 in 2013. These statistics are a sad and tragic reminder of the failures of our current drug policy. Many of these deaths could have been prevented. Many of these families could have been spared the intense pain of the loss of a loved one.
Earlier today, President Obama announced a ban on the federal government’s transfer of certain military vehicles and weaponry to local and state police departments in the United States. This is extremely welcome news, and given that it is effective today, it will immediately begin to show dividends by increasing the trust between police and the public they serve.
This Wednesday, May 13th, the Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on two anti-abortion bills. Testimony for the two bills will be heard at 1:00 in Room 438 in the Statehouse. If you’re able to join us on Wednesday, please wear pink to show your support for defeating these bills.
A few weeks ago, Girls actress Jemima Kirke shared her abortion story with Draw the Line – a national campaign launched in 2012 by the Center for Reproductive Rights. Her abortion narrative is common – her life wasn’t “conducive for raising a happy, healthy child.” Kirke was frank about her experience, focusing on the financial toll seeking an abortion took on her, as well as the isolation that she felt after the abortion.
This week the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee of the Maine Legislature will consider LD 113, An Act to Reduce the Penalties for Certain Drug Offenses, sponsored by Senator Katz of Augusta. This bill is an important step towards recognizing and treating drug addiction as a public health rather than criminal justice issue and will be impactful in decreasing criminal justice involvement in Maine. Passage of this bill is a priority for the ACLU of Maine.
Last week, CNN’s Jessica Ravitz published a piece reflecting on the status of women in the U.S., as compared to other countries in the world. Ravitz wrote the piece to draw attention to “Equal Pay Day” – the date that symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what a man earned in the previous year.
The Eighth Amendment of our Constitution explicitly prohibits any cruel or unusual punishment from being imposed, and yet, we see examples of this throughout our criminal justice system. From use of the death penalty to solitary confinement and inadequate provision of medical care, America's enormous prison system has a reputation for its terrible conditions.