Compassion Reporting on poverty fighting and criminal justice

Criminal justice on the ballot

Compassion | Several states pass initiatives that will change enforcement
by Charissa Koh
Posted 11/11/20, 03:13 pm

Amid widespread public debate, many states put questions about policing, drug, and race issues to voters on Nov. 3.

Most ballot initiatives for police reform dealt with oversight and accountability. In Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; and Columbus, Ohio, residents voted to create citizen boards to oversee police departments and investigate allegations of misconduct. While some of the boards are merely advisory, Portland’s initiative gave the panel authority to discipline and even fire officers.

Several California cities, including Oakland, San Diego, and San Francisco, restructured the oversight already in place and opened more resources for investigations into police misconduct. In King County, Wash., home to Seattle, residents voted to mandate investigations into police-involved deaths and changed the sheriff position from elected to appointed by the county council. Pittsburgh will require officers to cooperate with Independent Citizen Police Review Board investigations.

Also last week, California voters decided to let parolees vote or run for office. But they rejected initiatives to abolish the state’s bail system and return some crimes to the list of violent felonies. In Kentucky, voters approved Marsy’s Law, providing certain rights and protections to crime victims. In Michigan, police must now get a warrant before searching people’s electronic and digital communications. And residents of Utah and Nebraska voted to eliminate archaic state constitutional clauses allowing slavery to be used as punishment for crime.

Finally, several states loosened drug laws, hoping to reduce racial disparities in their prison populations and provide more medical options for offenders. Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota legalized marijuana possession and use, while Mississippi voters legalized medical marijuana for an approved list of conditions. Oregon voters approved two ballot initiatives: One decriminalized possessing a small amount of any drug, while the other created legal centers where people can purchase and use psilocybin mushroom products.

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Charissa Koh

Charissa is a WORLD reporter who often writes about poverty fighting and prison reform, including profiling ministries in the annual Hope Awards for Effective Compassion competition. She is also a part of WORLD's investigative unit, the Caleb Team. Charissa resides with her husband, Josh, in Austin, Texas. Follow her on Twitter @CharissaKoh.

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  • Narissara
    Posted: Thu, 11/12/2020 10:55 am

    I'm having a hard time understanding why legalizing recreational drugs and narcotics is being reported under the heading "Compassion."  Aside from the harm it does to users themselves, in violation of Biblical principles to care for one's own body, there is the harm it does to society, starting with the increased likelihood of absentee fathers (literally or figuratively) and the role drug use plays in creating dysfunctional families.  The same question could be asked as to giving people who have demonstrated no wish to govern themselves the right and opportunity to govern others.