Law, Criminal Justice and Public Safety Newsletter


Registration for NCSL’s Legislative Summit is Now Open!

Hopefully, you’ve already registered for NCSL’s 2018 Legislative Summit—to be held in Los Angeles, Calif., July 30 - Aug. 2. If not, register here and check out the Law, Criminal Justice and Public Safety (LCJPS) Committee agenda. In one of our sessions, the LCJPS Committee will learn about the use of criminal records in employment and occupational licensing decisions, and federal guidance regarding such use.  

Nearly one in three U.S. adults has a criminal record—which may be a conviction, but could also be an arrest for which charges were dismissed or never filed. State laws restricting individuals with certain criminal records from being employed or licensed for a particular occupation may create barriers to earning a livelihood for those seeking to re-enter the community post-incarceration and those with a past criminal history. In 2012, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance that cautions the use of an individual’s criminal history in making employment decisions may violate the prohibition against employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Join us at this session to learn more about the current legal landscape surrounding these issues, best practices, and related policy reforms. This session will feature Carol Miaskoff, associate legal counsel for the U.S. EEOC, and Chidi Umez, Esq., project manager at the Council of State Governments Justice Center. Our speakers will review applicable federal laws and agency guidance, as well as key components for compliant legislation.

U.S. House Passes Federal Prison Reform Bill

The U.S. House passed the FIRST STEP Act, HR 5682, by a vote of 360-59 on May 22. Introduced by Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the bill addresses challenges relating to mental health, substance abuse, education and work opportunities for former federal inmates as a means to reduce recidivism. If an inmate in the federal prison system is eligible, the bill provides incentives for participation in evidence-based recidivism reduction programs via earned time credits that allow inmates to serve a final portion of their term in halfway houses or home confinement. Additionally, the bill would leverage post-sentencing risk and needs assessments to both determine the most effective program for any given inmate, and predict an inmate’s likelihood of re-offending upon release. HR 5682 would also extend existing provisions in the Second Chance Act that creates a mechanism for eligible elderly inmates to be let out early on compassionate release. For more information, see NCSL’s blog post on the bill.

The President Proclaims May 6-12 as National Hurricane Preparedness Week

Citing record-setting destruction from the 2017 hurricane season, the Department of Homeland Security on May 4 circulated a proclamation from the president designating May 6-12, 2018 as National Hurricane Preparedness Week. Hurricane season starts in May in the Eastern Pacific and in April in the Atlantic and Central Pacific regions. The administration emphasized Hurricane Harvey has become the second costliest on record, with record-breaking rainfall and flooding causing nearly $125 billion of damage to southeastern Texas and Louisiana. The president said in the proclamation, “I also call upon Federal, State, local, tribal, and territorial emergency management officials to help inform our communities about hurricane preparedness and response in order to help prevent storm damage and save lives.” The proclamation encourages individuals to visit online pages for FEMA’s Ready Campaign and resources from the National Weather Service for additional information.

DHS Preparedness Grants

On May 21, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the FY 2018 Notices of Funding Opportunity for eight DHS preparedness grant programs totaling more than $1.6 billion. With the goal of improving disaster readiness, these grants provide funding to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, as well as transportation authorities, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector. The Homeland Security Preparedness (HSGP) grants and the Emergency Management Public Grant (EMPG) specifically focus on state, local and tribal governments These grant programs and their funding levels include:

  • Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP), including:
    • $402 million for State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP)
    • $580 million for Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI)
    • $85 million for Operation Stonegarden
  • $10 million for Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program
  • $60 million for Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP)
  • $10 million for Intercity Passenger Rail Program (Amtrak)
  • $2 million for Intercity Bus Security Grant Program
  • $100 million Port Security Grant Program
  • $88 million for Transit Security Grant Program
  • $350 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants (EMPG)

The grants received an average increase of 4 percent between FY 2017 and FY 2018. This specifically reflects increases to the nonprofit security grant program by 140 percent and Operation Stonegarden by 55 percent. All funding opportunity notices can be found here. Final submissions must be made through the Non-Disaster (ND) Grants system. For further information on the preparedness grants, visit the Department of Homeland Security and the grants section at FEMA.

NCSL Webinar: “Multilateral Mitigation: State-Federal Collaboration to Build Disaster Resiliency”

Thursday, June 14 | 3:00 p.m. EST | Register Here

In the wake of 2017’s record-setting natural disasters, numerous state and federal agencies are mobilized to work collaboratively to better prepare and protect natural and built infrastructure to reduce the human and economic impacts of extreme weather events. Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria are among the top five costliest disasters in U.S. history, creating a renewed sense of urgency around disaster planning. However, these threats are not new to states like Texas, Florida, and Louisiana, that are well-versed in the unique risks they face and what’s necessary to address them. This webinar will explore examples of approaches states are currently implementing around disaster mitigation as well as recent actions the federal government has taken to help lessen disaster impacts and improve collaboration.

Rep. Holly Raschein, Florida Legislature
Matt Cowles, deputy director, National Emergency Management Association
Mike Grimm, assistant administrator for mitigation, Federal Emergency Management Association

Additional Resources

NCSL Legisbrief: The Complexities of Sex Offender Registries (May, 2018)

From the NCSL Blog        

Supreme Court Accepts Significant Oklahoma Indian Reservation Case (May 23)

Scotus Upholds Rental Car Drivers' Privacy Rights (May 23)

Issue Simple, Law Tricky, in Age Discrimination Case (May 15)

House Appropriations Committee Votes to Increase Justice Funding (May 14)

Cross-Branch Collaboration at the Front End Of the Justice System (May 8)