Legal System Leaders Say Hard Work and Cooperation Have Showed Pros and Cons of Remote Court Operations

Yes, the justice system in Milwaukee County is likely to come out of the pandemic operating better than it was before.

Yes, a lot of lessons have been learned, and some of them will have lasting impact.

But no, operating remotely and under the constraints imposed by COVID-19 precautions is not such a great thing, overall, and a return to in-person work as the predominant way the system operates is needed.

Those answers provide a broad description of an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” discussion with four leaders in courts and criminal justice in Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee. The session was posted on the Marquette Law School web site on Jan. 22, 2021.

Continue ReadingLegal System Leaders Say Hard Work and Cooperation Have Showed Pros and Cons of Remote Court Operations

The Worst Places in America

person sitting in wheelchair in empty nursing home hallwayNumerous social commentators have noted how the pandemic has hit the least powerful and prosperous parts of the population the hardest.  Infections, hospitalizations, and deaths have been disproportionally high among the poor, people of color, recent immigrants, Native Americans, and the elderly.

The pandemic has also underscored the worst places to work and live, with the pejorative “worst” referring to the way certain places weigh heavily on the body, mind, and spirit.  These places are not only individualized but also organized into types and categories.  I nominate three types of places as the worst in the United States:  prisons, nursing homes, and food processing plants.

Media accounts have reported at length on how COVID-19 has ravaged prison populations, but prisons were undesirable places long before the virus arrived.  The nation has in general abandoned any commitment to rehabilitate inmates, and prisons have deteriorated into demeaning, dangerous warehouses.  Diseases and medical problems are four to ten times as common as they are in the general population, and the Prison Policy Initiative and Wisconsin Department of Corrections estimate that 42% of the state’s inmates suffer from one or more mental illnesses.   According to the prominent sociologist Jonathan Simon, most of the nation considers prison inmates to be “toxic waste” of a human variety and thinks of the people who run the prisons as engaged in “waste management.”

Nursing homes have been the places in which 40% of COVID-19 fatalities have occurred, and some of the most excruciating pandemic scenes have involved distraught friends and relatives saying goodbye to confused and dying residents through tightly-sealed windows.

Continue ReadingThe Worst Places in America

New Marquette Lawyer Magazine Goes Deep in Looking at Crime and Society

Slogans are appropriate, even useful, for rallies or marches. In-depth thought is what should be expected from law schools. The Fall 2020 issue of Marquette Lawyer magazine offers a weighty serving of the latter, while examining implications of the former.

With the overall title of “The Crime and Society Issue,” the new magazine’s cover package features three pieces focusing on assessing and potentially improving the criminal justice system, from the time of an arrest through the charging and court processes, and ways of sanctioning people who commit crimes. Each piece features expertise and insight presented at Eckstein Hall events by scholars from coast to coast.

The lead story starts with some of the controversial ideas heard during 2020, such as “defund the police,” and explores ways the justice system could be improved when it comes to the overall safety and stability of urban communities. “The Case for Careful but Big Change” focuses in large part on the ideas of Paul Butler, the Albert Brick Professor in Law at Georgetown University, particularly as he presented them in Marquette Law School’s annual Boden Lecture and in an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program (last academic year, before the COVID-19 pandemic halted in-person programs at Eckstein Hall).

Continue ReadingNew Marquette Lawyer Magazine Goes Deep in Looking at Crime and Society