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Do Prison Inmates Get Porn?

Prohibiting people from accessing the internet ain't easy. Even convicted sex offenders can't get banned from social media sites. And current prison inmates used dating sites to run sextortion scams on active duty military personnel.

But do they get porn behind bars?

Not if you're in prison in Iowa, where a state law prohibits distributing "any commercially published information or material to an inmate when such information or material is sexually explicit or features nudity." That's casting a pretty wide net, and 13 inmates at the Anamosa State Penitentiary sued the state, claiming the statute violates their First Amendment rights.

As you may have noticed, quite a few states have been legalizing weed lately. And as you should be aware, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance, illegal under federal drug laws. So how does that work?

For the most part, federal law enforcement decided to take a hands-off approach to state weed regulation. That was until Donald Trump was elected and his new attorney general Jeff Sessions blew all that up. But it appears Trump's selection to replace Sessions, William Barr, differs quite a bit from his predecessor when it comes to federal enforcement of drug laws in legalized states.

With Felony-Murder Rule Change, CA Starts to Release Some Inmates

In California, approximately 800 prisoners incarcerated for murder may soon be set free. Last fall, California legislature, joined by then-Governor Jerry Brown, passed SB 1437, a bill co-sponsored by Democratic State Senator Nancy Skinner and Republican State Senator John Anderson. This law significantly modifies California's felony murder rule, and allows for retroactive resentencing.

The law went into effect on January 1, 2019. As a result, earlier this week, Adnan Khan, sentenced to 25 years to life under the felony murder rule, was released for time served. Khan's plight was the impetus behind the senate bill, and he was the first to be released under the new law.

We've all heard about solitary confinement, where prisoners are kept in cells alone, with little or no human interaction. The practice -- sometimes used as punishment, or to keep the prisoner or other inmates and guards safe -- has come under additional scrutiny lately, however, as tales of abuse or exceedingly long stretches in solitary confinement have come to light.

One such story, that of a mentally ill Illinois man who spent over 20 years in solitary confinement, is now a lawsuit claiming that sentence amounted to torture. So, when does solitary cease to be an acceptable form of incarceration and become cruel and unusual punishment?

There are some who claim that police misconduct, if it does happen, is a rare occurrence, and even so, a few bad apples shouldn't spoil the whole bunch. There are others who claim such misconduct is rampant, and dirty cops outnumber the good ones. The problem for both sides of the argument has been one of transparency: most police departments aren't required to release investigations into officer abuse or misconduct or even the number of complaints they receive.

But last September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law loosening confidentiality rules regarding records of police misconduct. That law went into effect January 1, and according to local media, those records releases are already revealing major offenses.

The First Step Act, signed into law by President Trump last week, represents just that: a great first step towards criminal justice reform that altered federal sentences guidelines. While there are many other steps that need to be taken -- especially at the state and local level -- the bill will provide some major changes to minimum sentencing statutes, give judges more leeway, and give federal prisoners more options in reducing their sentences.

Here are three of the biggest reforms included in the First Step Act, and what could follow.

Gov. Cuomo Looking to Legalize Recreational Marijuana in NY

Recreational marijuana could be headed to New York in 2019. In a remarkable turnaround, Governor Cuomo announced his plan to legalize recreational marijuana next year in his speech outlining his agenda for the first 100 days of his third term.

In a move that could generate between $248 million and $677 million in new tax revenue in its first year, Cuomo claims that it's time to stop the unfairness in the justice system that prosecutes minorities at a high rate for this seemingly benign substance.

Top 2018 Marijuana Laws

We'll look back on 2018 as a banner year for bud. More states legalized it. States that had previously passed legalization measures refined their regulatory schemes. And, despite all indications to the contrary, there appeared to be some positive movement on marijuana at the federal level as well.

It was all a lot to keep track of -- so here's what happened to pot this year, legally speaking.

Darius Jacob Taylor wasn't even in the same state when Wesley Burnett was shot and killed. And yet Pennsylvania prosecutors charged Taylor with criminal homicide.

Under the felony murder rule, anyone who participates in a dangerous felony can be charged with homicide if the crime results in a killing. Burglars have even been given life sentences after victims died trying to flee the scene of the crime. But some are arguing that the felony murder rule is being stretched too far, and that the rule itself may not serve its intended purpose.

Is Congress Going to Legalize Hemp?

Politics makes strange bedfellows. And that couldn't be more true than the Republican Congress pushing to legalize hemp prior to losing its majority, with the charge being led by none other than Mitch McConnell.