MARCH: Policy Updates

Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, AP News

by PINAR GOKTAS                                                                                                             Policy Reporter

  1. California May Abolish the Death Penalty
    • On March 13th, Governor Gavin Newsom of California pardoned all 737 of California’s death row inmates and shut down the state’s execution chamber, alongside announcements of plans to abolish capital punishment via referendum. Gov. Newsom cites the potential execution of innocents as his rationale. His critics, such as President Trump, have retorted by saying the pardons were insensitive to the victim’s families and outside the Governor’s legal jurisdiction. Gov. Newsom must gain support from 81 state Congress members for the referendum to even be put on the ballot in 2020 (Thompson 2019).
  2. Flowers v. Mississippi Addresses Racism in Jury Selection for Death Penalty Case
    • On Wednesday, March 20th, the Supreme Court heard Flowers v. Mississippi. The defendant, Curtis Flowers, has been charged with the death penalty for four counts of murder. His case has been tried six times because of accusations of misconduct against his prosecutor Doug Evans and inconclusive juries. After the sixth trial, which resulted in a conviction, Flower’s defender appealed to the Supreme Court on the grounds that Evans was racially biased in his use of his peremptory challenges, or unquestioned removals of potential jurors in death penalty cases. Evans’s defender claims that Evans provided “racially-neutral” reasons for all uses of his peremptory challenges (Epps 2019).
  3. Voting of Rights of Former Felons Under Attack in Florida   
    • Last November, Florida voters passed Amendment 4, a state constitutional amendment that granted voting rights for more than a million former felons on completion of their sentence, was approved by the state’s voters. On Tuesday the 19th, Florida’s House passed a bill limiting Amendment 4, by restricting the number of crimes eligible for regaining voting rights and requiring payment of fines to qualify a sentence as complete. The bill will likely pass the House along Republican party lines. This development in the swing state is pertinent, as it could alter the course of the upcoming 2020 presidential election. The ACLU has compared the bill to Jim Crow, but Republican legislators have defended it by saying it gives a guideline to unelected government agencies for implementing Amendment 4 (Fineout and Ursula 2019).
  4. Utah Proposes Bill Against Shackling Incarcerated Women During Childbirth
    • A Utah bill banning the shackling of incarcerated women during childbirth in local and state jails passed the House this month. The bill, called the Inmate Restrictions Standards Amendments, is meant to address inherent health hazards involved with giving birth while restrained, like blood clots, and difficulty in mobility in cases of emergency (Davis 2019). The practice stemmed from policies that require prisoners to be restrained during all medical treatment for security reasons. However, there have been no documented cases of a woman escaping a prison during childbirth. Twenty-two states already have bans on this practice. Tennessee, Arkansas and South Carolina are also considering similar bills after receiving lawsuits (Whitehurst 2019).


[1] Amy, J. (2019, March 19). Supreme Court to hear case on racial bias in jury selection. Retrieved from

[2] Davis, Zuri. “Will Utah Ban the Shackling of Inmates in Labor?” March 18, 2019. Accessed March 21, 2019.

[3] Epps, Garrett. “A Racial Pattern So Obvious, Even the Supreme Court Might See It.” The Atlantic. March 18, 2019. Accessed March 20, 2019.

[4] Fineout, Gary, and Ursula Perano. “Florida Felon Voting Rights Imperiled amid GOP Opposition.” Politico PRO. March 19, 2019. Accessed March 20, 2019.

[5] Thompson, Don. “California’s New Governor May Commute Death Sentences.” AP NEWS. March 14, 2019. Accessed March 20, 2019.

[6] Whitehurst, Lindsay. “States Weigh Bans on Shackling Jailed Moms during Childbirth.” AP NEWS. March 13, 2019. Accessed March 20, 2019.

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