August 4, 2022

The most important election results you missed

Other United States cities have started to implement similar processes. Last year Seattle reallocated millions from the police budget, ask the inhabitants to decide how to spend it to create “real public health and safety”.

Local courts become the next frontier in criminal justice reform

Judicial systems across the country are labyrinthine and opaque, with little attention typically paid to powerful local judges who exert a great influence on the decision who is in jail, who to deport and how difficult it is to post bail.

This year in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (home of Pittsburgh), progressive groups made a concerted effort to change that. They promoted a slate of eight candidates for the County Common Plea Court, which deals with criminal cases; the candidates pledged to use their discretion to shorten prison sentences and reduce pre-trial detention.

Five of the candidates on that progressive list prevailed in the Democratic primary in May, and all five won Tuesday’s general election and are heading to the bench.

Among those incoming judges is Lisa Middleman, a former public defender who ran for district attorney in 2019. I spoke to him back in the days of his platform which called for an end to the cash bond and mandatory minimum sentences. Middleman then lost to an incumbent prosecutor who remains in office and pursued much more punitive policies that she will now be able to influence as a judge.

But higher up in the state court poll, it was the Republicans who won.

A statewide election was to decide the partisan balance of the 15-member Pennsylvania Superior Court, which hears appeals in most criminal cases. (Each party currently holds seven seats.) GOP candidate Megan Sullivan, a former prosecutor, won that election, which was a good night overall for her party: Republicans also won the only election of state for the state Supreme Court, although Democrats keep a 5-2 majority on that highest court.

Sordid prison conditions come under scrutiny

New Orleans jail was consented to decree with the federal government for years on his dismal confinement conditions, and federal monitors said last month that the prison had become less compliant. In Erie County, New York (home of Buffalo), a series of deaths in the county jail has fueled the prosecution and local organization against the conditions of detention there.

In both places, the elected sheriff is responsible for the prisons, and the issue has been at the heart of these campaigns.

Erie County Sheriff’s Race stay too close to call from publication; Republican John Garcia, who was backed by incumbent Republican Sheriff Timothy Howard, holds a lead over Democrat Kimberley Beatty, who had promised to improve the conditions of detention like the end of solitary confinement.

In New Orleans, Democratic Sheriff Marlin Gusman, who said the courts held him too high a standard, is eligible for re-election next week; prison and what a challenger called his “retrogression” was a problem.

Meanwhile, New York City, one of the few jurisdictions that does not have a sheriff, has seen an upsurge in investigations in recent weeks into the “abject” and “atrocious”Conditions inside Rikers Island. Newly elected mayor Eric Adams said this week that he agrees with outgoing mayor Bill de Blasio addressing Rikers’ conditions called for lifting the ban on solitary confinement, but it’s unclear if he will make it a priority.