Thursday, April 29, 2010

All G20 protests will be directed to Trinity Bellwoods Park

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The restored gates of the original Trinity College mark the entrance to Trinity Bellwoods Park, which was chosen as the G20 summit protesting area.

MICHAEL STUPARYK/TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO

With the upcoming G20 summit looming over downtown Toronto, the event is casting an increasingly larger shadow, one that now stretches as far west as Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Summit officials have chosen the park as the designated protesting area for the G20 summit on June 26 and 27. That means demonstrators — at least, the rule-abiding ones — will be wielding placards and shouting through megaphones from inside a 37-acre residential park, located some two kilometres west of the summit’s outer boundary, or so-called “yellow zone.”

Susan Atkinson was shocked to hear that summit organizers have decided to send hoards of protestors to her neighbourhood park.

Read on...

So now Canada has designated protesting areas. When this started in the U.S. to keep protestors out of ear shot of George Bush, I thought it was crazy. Is anyone going to protest? Tom

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An Arizona Congressman's Courageous Dissent

Paul Grijalva

The word "courage" gets thrown around pretty casually in discussions about politics.

But examples of real courage are rare. For the most part, politicians of both parties follow the routes that are safest for them – even when they know they are wrong. Take Arizona Senator John McCain, once an advocate for humane and responsible immigration reform, but now a defender of the crude anti-immigrant crusade implemented by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and her legislative cronies.

McCain knows he is wrong. But he also knows that he faces a tough Republican primary challenge from former Congressman J.D. Hayworth, an immigrant-bashing extremist who has dialed up the crazy by backing demands that President Obama produce a birth certificate to prove he was born in the United States.

Read on...

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Arizona's Vicious New Anti-Immigrant Law Isn't Just Racist; It's Unconstitutional and Counterproductive

According to one study, Arizona would lose $26.4 billion in economic activity and approximately 140,324 jobs if all undocumented people were removed from the state.

A US Border Patrol officers walks beside the border fence that divides the US from Mexico in the town of Nogales, Arizona, on April 22. US President Barack Obama on Friday criticized tough new immigration measures in the southwestern state of Arizona, saying they called into question cherished American notions of fairness.
Photo Credit: AFP/File - Mark Ralston

The conservative "states' rights" mantra sweeping our country has led to one of the most egregious wrongs in recent U.S. history. New legislation in Arizona requires law enforcement officers to stop everyone whom they have "reasonable suspicion" to believe is an undocumented immigrant and arrest them if they fail to produce their papers. What constitutes "reasonable suspicion"? When asked what an undocumented person looks like, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who signed SB 1070 into law last week, said, "I don't know what an undocumented person looks like." The bill does not prohibit police from relying on race or ethnicity in deciding who to stop. It is unlikely that officers will detain Irish or German immigrants to check their documents. This law unconstitutionally criminalizes "walking while brown" in Arizona.

Former Arizona attorney general Grant Woods explained to Brewer that SB 1070 would vest too much discretion in the state police and lead to racial profiling and expensive legal fees for the state. But the governor evidently succumbed to racist pressure as she faces a reelection campaign. Woods said, "[Brewer] really felt that the majority of Arizonans fall on the side of, 'Let's solve the problem and not worry about the Constitution.'" The polls Brewer apparently relied on, however, employed questionable methodology and were conducted before heavy media coverage of the controversial legislation. No Democrats and all but one Republican Arizona legislator voted for SB 1070.

Read on...

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Arizona's Draconian Immigration Law Is Great ... For Our Prison-Industrial Complex

Discussion about "racial profiling" isvmissing the larger point: what about all the business Arizona's sick, racist law will bring to the copper state?



All these liberals whining about “racial profiling” are missing the larger point. We’re in a recession here. Unemployment’s been hovering at ten percent. Perhaps the economy's turned a corner, but the American labor market hasn't.

Yet nobody’s really talking about how Arizona’s new immigration law is going to bring big business to the Copper State.

In 2006, when DHS only had 1.5 million people going through immigration proceedings, the Washington Post reported that ICE held "more detainees a night than Clarion Hotels have guests, operates nearly as many vehicles as Greyhound has buses and flies more people each day than do many small U.S. airlines."

Someone’s got to guard those detainees, clean those buses and fly those planes -- we’re talking about American jobs!

In addition to its own detention facilities -- they're not called "jails" because many of those held are never charged with a crime -- ICE leases thousands of beds in 312 county and city prisons.

Read on...


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Monday, April 26, 2010

They May Cause Harm

by digby

Officers to adopt lethal shock tactics by publik16.

Here's a great article on the use of tasers and what's becoming an important part of the debate --- the fact that they are killing people with them:

On a balmy fall night, two police officers in a squad car in east Bradenton spotted a man on a bicycle without a headlight.

Derrick Humbert, 38, rode a bike around town because seizures from a head injury prevented him from driving. He worked odd jobs as a short-order cook and gardener. He took care of his three kids, 2, 8 and 11, while their mother worked the evening shift at a 7-Eleven.

On this Monday in late September, he was riding home from a convenience store just after midnight when police told him to stop.

Instead, he pedaled around a corner past three houses, jumped off the bike and ran into a yard, the two officers chasing him on foot.

Read on...

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Economist James Galbraith: Economists Should Move into the Background, and "Criminologists to the Forefront"

University of Texas economics professor James K. Galbraith previously said that fraud caused the financial crisis:
You had fraud in the origination of the mortgages, fraud in the underwriting, fraud in the ratings agencies.

Senator Kaufman said last month:

Fraud and potential criminal conduct were at the heart of the financial crisis.
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur says that there was rampant fraud leading up to the crash (see this and this).

TARP overseer Elizabeth Warren suspects fraud as the cause of the crisis.

Yves Smith has shown that fraud largely caused the subprime crisis.

Janet Tavakoli says that rampant fraud and Ponzi schemes caused the financial crisis.

Read on....

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Torture At Home: Documentary On Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons Misses the Mark

National Geographic's well-intentioned effort to show the horrors of solitary confinement may have caused more harm than good.

A locked cellblock at a prison in the US. The US prison population was little changed in 2009 with a rate of one out of 100 Americans who are old enough to be incarcerated, a study showed Wednesday.
Photo Credit: AFP/File - Robyn Beck

Rarely do the horrors of solitary confinement get a spotlight as bright as National Geographic’s film, Explorer: Solitary Confinement. Despite the 80,000 Americans who live for months or years cut off from the world and even the rest of the prison population, we are much more likely to hear about torture overseas and at U.S. prisons abroad. Scant attention is paid to the torturous practices in domestic prisons.

This new documentary, aired last Sunday, provided a window in to the isolated world of people suffering alone in solitary confinement. It debunked some myths of solitary, especially how many individuals in solitary confinement aren’t charged with violent crimes, but end up in solitary confinement after not complying with prison regulations.

Dr. Stuart Grassian discusses movingly how the most vulnerable individuals, in most need of support, tend to end up in solitary confinement. The isolation has a worsening effect on people, he explained, leading them to exhibit more impulsive, violent behavior as a result.

Read on...


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Facing the Threat from the Far Right, Noam Chomsky Says He 'Has Never Seen Anything Like This'

"The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way."



Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite and the myths they perpetrate. Chomsky has done this despite being blacklisted by the commercial media, turned into a pariah by the academy and, by his own admission, being a pedantic and at times slightly boring speaker. He combines moral autonomy with rigorous scholarship, a remarkable grasp of detail and a searing intellect. He curtly dismisses our two-party system as a mirage orchestrated by the corporate state, excoriates the liberal intelligentsia for being fops and courtiers and describes the drivel of the commercial media as a form of “brainwashing.” And as our nation’s most prescient critic of unregulated capitalism, globalization and the poison of empire, he enters his 81st year warning us that we have little time left to save our anemic democracy.

“It is very similar to late Weimar Germany,” Chomsky told me when I called him at his office in Cambridge, Mass. “The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over.”

Read on...

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Daryl Gates, the Ruthless L.A. Police Chief Who Ran an International Spying Operation on the Side

Gates' controversial tenure as LAPD police chief included 35 undercover agents who spied on and intimidated Los Angeles residents.



David Cay Johnston covered the LAPD for the Los Angeles Times during the Daryl Gates era, and later won a Pulitzer Prize for the New York Times. In a visiting blogger piece for LA Observed, he describes his investigations into Gates' secret intelligence unit, an account that includes spying on Los Angeles leaders, sex, suspicious burglaries and Gates' attempts to intimidate Johnston. Daryl Gates died April 16, at the age of 83.

When Daryl Gates ran the LAPD from 1978 to 1992 he also ran a worldwide political spying operation. And he lavished time on it, sometimes several hours a day, including all the dossiers and reports he got on the lawful activities of L.A. leaders, elected and not, as well as political and religious groups he suspected were up to no good.

To doubters reading this I invite you to carefully read Gates' 1992 autobiography, Chief: My Life in the LAPD, in which he boasts about some of this.

Read on...

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Alabama and South Carolina: Stop Segregating HIV-Positive Prisoners

Conditions in HIV Units ‘Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading’
Birmingham, Alabama) - Alabama and South Carolina should immediately change their policy of segregating HIV-positive prisoners from the rest of the prison population, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU National Prison Project concluded in a report released today. Prisoners in the designated HIV units face stigma, harassment, and systematic discrimination that amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment, the report found. The 45-page report, "Sentenced to Stigma: Segregation of HIV-Positive Prisoners in Alabama and South Carolina," says that prisoners in the HIV units are forced to wear armbands or other indicators of their HIV status, are forced to eat and even worship separately, and are denied equal participation in prison jobs, programs, and re-entry opportunities that facilitate their transition back into society.

Read on...

Here is the link to the report. Tom

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens retiring

WASHINGTON – Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the court's oldest member and leader of its liberal bloc, is retiring. President Barack Obama now has his second high court opening to fill.

Stevens said Friday he will step down when the court finishes its work for the summer in late June or early July. He said he hopes his successor is confirmed "well in advance of the commencement of the court's next term."

The timing of Stevens' announcement leaves ample time for the White House to settle on a successor and for Senate Democrats, who control a 59-vote majority, to conduct confirmation hearings and a vote before the court's next term begins in October. Republicans have not ruled out an attempt to delay confirmation.

Read on...

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The Tea Parties: Built on Fear, Violence and Race Resentment

Racism and xenophobia have been central to the Tea Party movement from the start; while not all of them are racist, they swim in a sea of white racial resentment.



I used to be able to watch Glenn Beck and shake my head at his antics. I would listen to Rush Limbaugh and watch Fox News for their entertainment value as theaters of the absurd. I would laugh at the television as Sarah Palin struggled through the easiest of public policy questions. The Tea Party gatherings were comedy gold as one part failed agitprop and one part Village People reunion—fully equipped with protesters dressed in Revolutionary War regalia, carrying misspelled signs, and reciting half-cooked political slogans to a backdrop of bad country music.

The lunatic fringe had taken over the Republican Party. It was high comedy.

Since the passage of the health care bill matters have taken an ugly and horrible turn. Congress members have been spat upon and assaulted by Tea Party protesters. Bricks have been thrown through the windows of representatives who voted for health care reform. Racial and homophobic slurs such as “nigger” and “faggot” have been hurled by Tea Party protesters at members of Congress. A casket was left on the lawn of Representative Russ Carnahan. Right-wing vigilantes targeting Tom Perriello instead accidentally cut the gas main of his brother’s home.

Read on...



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What Cost-of-Crime Research Can Tell Us About Investing in Police

By: Paul Heaton

Many state and local governments are facing significant fiscal challenges, forcing policymakers to confront difficult trade-offs as they consider how to allocate scarce resources across numerous worthy initiatives. To achieve their policy priorities, it will become increasingly important for policymakers to concentrate resources on programs that can clearly demonstrate that they improve their constituents' quality of life. To identify such programs, cost/benefit analysis can be a powerful tool for objectively adjudicating the merits of particular programs. On the surface, all such programs aim to improve quality of life, but whether they actually achieve — or will achieve — what they aim for is another question. Summarizing the existing high-quality academic research on the cost of crime and the effectiveness of police in preventing crime, this paper familiarizes policymakers and practitioners with current research on these issues and demonstrates how this research can be used to better understand the returns to investments in police. It demonstrates a method for comparing the costs of police personnel with the expected benefits generated by those police in terms of reduced crime. Applying the method to several real-world scenarios shows that these investments generate net social benefits. Returns on investments in police personnel are likely to be substantial.

Read on...

This report is from the Rand Corporation. Tom

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Quantifying the Specific Deterrent Effects of DNA Databases

Abstract

Re-offending patterns of a large cohort of offenders released from Florida Department of Corrections custody between 1996 and 2004 were analyzed to quantify the effects of DNA databases on offending patterns. Statistical models constructed to identify the specific deterrent effects of DNA databases distinct from their probative effects yielded mixed results. Small deterrent effects were found and for only some crime types (robbery and burglary). Strong probative effects were found for most crime types. Methods, data, results and implications are discussed in this report.

Read on....

This report is from the Urban Institute. Tom

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THE STATE OF SENTENCING 2009 | DEVELOPMENTS IN POLICY AND PRACTICE

With states around the nation experiencing significant fiscal crises,
legislators are increasingly interested in prioritizing available resources as
they affect how states direct scarce correctional dollars. As a result, many
states are rethinking their sentencing policies in order to develop fair and effective
approaches to strengthen public safety. Legislative initiatives to address prison
overcrowding, parole policies and sentencing alternatives are increasingly at the
forefront of state criminal justice agendas.
During 2009 state legislatures in at least 19 states enacted policies that hold the
potential to reduce prison populations and/or promote more effective approaches to
public safety.1 This report examines these initiatives in sentencing reform, death
penalty, probation and parole practices, and juvenile justice. Highlights include:
• Three states scaled back the scope of mandatory minimum drug sentences;
• Seven states amended probation and parole policies to expand good time and
earned time programs resulting in reducing prison sentences;
• Four states improved juvenile justice policies, including eliminating juvenile
life without parole and modifying adult certification procedures;
• Two states created incentive programs for local jurisdictions to reduce
probation revocations;
• New Mexico repealed the death penalty;
• North Carolina permitted persons sentenced to death to challenge their death
sentence by arguing that there is systemic racial bias in the way that capital
punishment is applied;
• Four states created oversight committees or task forces to address sentencing
laws, overcrowding, and reentry services;

Read on....

This is from The Sentencing Project. Tom

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Shrinking Pa.'s prison population

New Jersey and a few other states have shown the way.

By Marc Mauer and Judith Greene

A new report by the Pew Center on the States shows that while the national prison population declined last year for the first time in 38 years, Pennsylvania's number of inmates increased more than any other state's. Unless policymakers address the factors contributing to these figures, the state risks continued high incarceration costs, which will come at the expense of education and other services.

Especially given the serious fiscal challenges facing the states, gaining control of the prison population is a critical issue for policymakers. Fortunately, recent developments in a few states offer a road map for producing sustained declines in prison populations.

Read on...

Here is the report from The Sentencing Project

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It's about time: aging prisoners, increasing costs, and geriatric release

Correctional facilities throughout the United States are home to a growing number of older adults with extensive, costly medical needs. This report examines statutes related to the early release of geriatric inmates in 15 states and the District of Columbia and concludes that these provisions are rarely used, despite the potential of reduced costs at minimal risk to public safety. The author identifies factors that help explain the discrepancy and provides recommendations for addressing it.

The full report from the Vera Institute is available here. Tom

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Time for California to Catch Up with the Death Penalty Decline

Most of the country seems to be getting it: The death penalty is expensive and risky. The expense to execute a prisoner is staggering: in California, the cost of death row housing alone is $90,000 more per year, per inmate (PDF) compared to housing in other high security prisons, adding up to more than $63 million each year. A shift from death sentences to permanent imprisonment means significant savings and eliminates the risk of executing the innocent. That’s why a growing number of states are choosing permanent imprisonment over the death penalty. In fact, in 2009, the number of new death sentences nationwide reached the lowest level (PDF) since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

Why, then, is California going in the wrong direction? The Golden State sent more people to death row last year than it did in the prior seven years. At the end of 2009, California’s death row was by far the largest and most costly in the United States.

The ACLU’s new report, Death in Decline ’09 (PDF), shows, in fact, the majority of California counties are getting it right: most of California’s 58 counties have effectively replaced the death penalty with permanent imprisonment. Pursuit of the death penalty in California is limited to just a few “killer counties.” Only three — Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside — accounted for 83 percent of all death sentences in 2009. The strange reality is fewer and fewer California counties are sending more and more people to death row.

Read on...

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Orange Is the New Black: A Year a Women's Prison -- a Powerful Memoir by Piper Kerman

Piper Kerman's memoir reveals how prison changed her life, and why warehousing people who commit crimes is such a waste of human potential.



Piper Kerman was a 20-something Smith College graduate, somewhat adrift and in search of adventure, which she eventually found in an older woman named Nora. Intimidating, impossibly cool, and always with cash on hand, Nora introduced her to the international heroin trade, a dangerous, unlikely universe for a "well-educated young lady from Boston," as Kerman describes herself in her new memoir, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison (Random House). Eventually, Kerman got out of the drug business, but 10 years later and living in New York, her past suddenly caught up with her. She was charged with criminal conspiracy and sentenced to 15 months in federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut.

Kerman is the first to say that hers was not a harsh sentence, not by U.S. criminal justice standards anyway. "A minimum security women's federal facility is probably your best-case scenario if you're going to be incarcerated," she says, as we sit by the window in her sunny Brooklyn apartment. Five years after getting out of prison, she remains acutely aware of her good fortune -- in having had resources, a private attorney, a devoted fiance and even a job waiting for her on the outside. Unlike many prisoners, who frequently end up locked up again after serving their time, often on a minor parole violation, hers was always destined to be a temporary stay. (She even got a book deal out of it.)

Read on...

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