The Department of Homeland Security has launched the first mobile Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request app from the federal government. Users can file a FOIA request straight from the app, check the status of prior requests, search through already-released documents, receive alerts regarding upcoming events and releases, and research various statutes and resources related to FOIA requests. The department receives and responds to the most FOIA requests of any federal agency.
To reduce the number of people unnecessarily jailed in Rikers Island, New York City has unveiled a plan to end the requirement of cash bail for defendants who are accused of low-level or nonviolent crimes. Cash bail has long been seen as having a disparate impact on poor persons who end up confined to jail cells for long terms prior to having their day in court. Under the new arrangement, judges will have the option of replacing money-bail for about 3,000 low-risk defendants with supervision options including regular check-ins, text-message reminders, and drug or behavioral treatment. The plan has been funded initially with $18 million to support these alternative services.
Across the US, state departments of transportation are using humor to compete for the attention of drivers. Utah is using its electronic highway signs to post weekly messages to focus drivers on safety, such as “That seat belt looks good on you,” “Turn signals: the original instant message,” and “Get your head out of your apps.” Officials hope that the messages will resonate with drivers when they see them on the road. Massachusetts has posted similar comedic signs and Illinois is also considering posting witty, crowdsourced safety messages.
New York City is establishing the Commission on Gender Equity, which will work to secure economic security, social inclusion, and safety for all New Yorkers, particularly women and girls. The commission will also work towards the same goals for transgender and genderqueer individuals. In the near-term, the commission will focus on gender-based income inequality and gender diversity in New York’s fire and police departments.
Los Angeles County is working with designers to improve the look and feel of voting. The largest voting jurisdiction in the US is partnering with IDEO, a design company, to implement touchscreen capabilities such as scrolling and tapping. A current prototype is also equipped with headphones and remote controls for vision-impaired voters and can be broken down into a wheeled carrying case for portability to different polling stations.