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Congratulations to Ben Evans, a public defender who inspires his colleagues to put their hearts and souls into the important work of representing poor people accused of crimes.
Here is the write-up that appeared in the MBA Annual Dinner program:
The prevalence of mental illness is significant. Well over 50% of state prison and jail inmates report having mental health problems. For women the number is even higher. The report highlights the fact that mentally ill prisoners tend to have higher recidivism rates than those without mental health problems. This is concerning not only because it indicates that people who suffer from mental illness may have trouble establishing a self-sustaining and law-abiding life after release from prison, but also because it has a direct impact on economic and societal costs. On the economic side, these include criminal justice costs (such as those incurred by the police, courts, jails, parole, probation, and prisons). Societal costs include things like victimization and reduced educational or employment opportunities. Read the report.
The report issued this week, details incidents in which correctional staff have deluged prisoners with painful chemical sprays, shocked them with powerful electric stun weapons, and strapped them for days in restraining chairs or beds. Staff have broken prisoners’ jaws, noses, ribs; left them with lacerations requiring stitches, second-degree burns, deep bruises, and damaged internal organs. In some cases, the force used has led to their death. Read HRW press release and entire report.
For a look at a what can happen in Massachusetts, WGBH had a segment about the Joshua Messier case this past week on Greater Boston.
Globe columnist Adrian Walker calls for transfer of BSH from DOC to DMH. Read column
This week the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of San Francisco v. Sheehan. The case could settle the extent to which the Americans With Disabilities Act serves as a check on police officers’ interactions with people with mental illnesses. The law demands local governments to provide “reasonable accommodations” to individuals with disabilities, and courts have interpreted that guarantee to include arrests—that is, police should take into account the people’s disabilities when taking them into custody. But the law isn’t uniform across the board on whether cops should make such accommodations if the arrestee exhibits violent or erratic behavior. Does an outburst by a woman who is suffering from schizoaffective disorder, hasn’t taken her medication, and is found holding a small bread knife in her own home automatically strip her of legal protection? Read about the case at Slate and the Christian Science Monitor
A single instance of incarceration in a young person’s life increases the risk of future imprisonment, at a cost to taxpayers of $240.99 per day. Living in jail worsens the mental, emotional, and behavioral problems with which these children and adolescents must struggle. And mental disorders and youth incarceration already share an alarmingly strong link. As James Barrett, a psychologist at the Cambridge Health Alliance and in Harvard Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry, said in an interview with the HPR, a “massive overlap” exists between the two groups. While just 20 percent of all American youth live with one or more mental disorders, that proportion jumps to 70 percent for the juvenile justice population. Read the whole article.
The CPCS Annual Training Conference will be held on Thursday, May 14, 2015 at the DCU Center, 50 Foster Street, Worcester. Advance registration is required.
Over the course of the day there will be a wide variety of programs of interest to criminal, juvenile, child welfare and mental health attorneys. At midday we will gather to hear remarks from Chief Counsel Anthony Benedetti. Late in the afternoon we have set aside time for networking sessions.
In years past we have presented a number of awards at the Conference. This year CPCS awards will be presented at a separate Awards Ceremony on May 5, 2015. Solicitation of award nominations and further details will be provided soon.
On January 31, 2015, longtime CPCS employee, Pamela Jean Webb of Springfield, unexpectedly passed away. Pam worked as an Administrative Assistant at CPCS for 32 years.
Here is a fond remembrance of Pam from Alan Rubin, the Attorney in Charge of the Northampton office.
“After working for several years in the Springfield office, Pam came to Northampton as AA soon after this office opened and has been with us for 25 years. She really has been the heart and soul of this office. In our small office she has had to perform the roles of AA, secretary, receptionist, answering the phones, and many other tasks, but much more than this, her kindness and wisdom supported and guided all of us who have worked here. In our office we share case discussions amongst all of us and frequently Pam’s common sense insights helped focus the attorneys on the best way to proceed with difficult cases or problem clients.
Outside of the office Pam was a wife, mother, grandmother, and sibling. She was not only the matron of her own extended family but was always acting in that same role for neighbors, friends, and others who came ‘under her wing’. She was a community activist, working as a strong, determined, and persistent advocate on many issues of importance, but most particularly on issues involving education and on the needs of teen-age single mothers. Pam was planning to retire in a few months and was very much looking forward to future projects in these areas, as well as spending more time with her family. It is incredibly sad that she did not have the opportunity to accomplish these goals.
Everyone who would call or visit this office would comment on the very pleasant way that Pam would respond to callers. But this was not just a ‘phone persona’, she was like that in all her interactions with people—strangers as well as friends. This pleasant and calm personality was in no way an indication of weakness, as she was a very strong and forceful fighter for the things that mattered to her, as some recalcitrant school officials in Springfield learned to their discomfort.
Pam will be very much missed by her family, community, and those of us who have worked with her in Northampton.”
A memorial service, celebrating Pam’s life, was held on February 6, 2015. Many from the CPCS community attended the service.
On January 30, 2015, the Roger Williams University School of Law held its inaugural Champion of Justice dinner at the Providence Biltmore Hotel in Rhode Island. The law school presented the Committee for Public Counsel Services with its 2015 Community Partner Champion Award in recognition of CPCS’s “impact and accomplishments” in supporting the law school’s public interest programs. Roger Williams is one of twenty-four law schools in the country that has a mandatory pro bono requirement for graduation. Many RWU law students meet their requirement by interning at one of the CPCS offices in Bristol County and many become staff attorneys after graduation. Jennifer Coliflores is a staff attorney in the PDD Fall River office and a 2011 graduate of RWU Law. During a video presentation about the “Champion of Justice” awardees, Jennifer said that she discovered her passion for public defense during her three-month law school internship at CPCS. Two other staff PDD attorneys and graduates of RWU Law, Allyson Entz and David Ellison were featured in the video and echoed Jennifer’s expressions of passion and gratitude to RWU Law. Carlos Brito, the Attorney-in-Charge of the PDD Fall River office said: “[Roger Williams] has it right because they emphasize clinical programs and programs that allow students to actually practice the law.” Alan Zwirblis, the long time Attorney-in-Charge of the New Bedford office said: “We appreciate the acknowledgement and are gratified that we have been recognized by RWU Law as providing an excellent intern program for their students.
Tom Mello and Ben Evans, supervising attorneys for the New Bedford and Fall River Public Defender Division offices, accepted the Champion of Justice Award for CPCS. Many other CPCS staff attorneys attended the dinner and award ceremony.