Thursday, June 30, 2011

AZ Cops & Tasers. Maricopa Cty: Most Taser Deaths

Over the past decade I and many others have blogged about individual cases where tasers have been abused by law enforcement agencies and individual law enforcement officials. From the Baron Pikes case where a young black man in custody was tased to death by a white police officer in a small town in Louisiana until he died to the increase in taser use in Chicago to the tasing of a a bedridden 86 year old grandmother in El Reno, Oklahoma, to the man tazed while having a diabetic seizure -- well you get the point. There's a vast number of such stories where tasers were used in situations for which they were not intended, but few comprehensive studies to support the claims by activists that taser abuse by law enforcement in America is widespread.

Fort that reason, I'm gratified to learn that the ACLU in Arizona took it upon themselves to fund a study to determine whether tasers are being systematically abused by Arizona law enforcement agencies. The results of that study should not surprise anyone. From the Executive Summary:

Many U.S. law enforcement and correctional agencies in the United States are using Tasers today. In Arizona, where TASER International has its corporate headquarters, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona asked large police departments and sheriff’s offices about the number and percentage of officers armed with a Taser; virtually every sworn officer is provided with one.

... However, all too often, Tasers are used “preemptively” against citizens that do not present an imminent safety threat, and even offensively as a pain compliance tool. What’s more, both TASER International training materials and agency policies anticipate that officers will use the weapon as a pain compliance tool.

Read on...

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

10 Important Court Cases in College History

Most people don't think of colleges as litigious or important in the legal world, but the fact is that important court cases sometimes find their start in colleges. From affirmative action to the Fourteenth Amendment, colleges have had their part in major court case decisions in history. Here, we'll take a look at 10 of the most important ones that made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

  1. Dartmouth College v. Woodward: Dartmouth College v. Woodward considered whether a state legislature could change the charter of a college. The case determined whether Dartmouth would stay private or be forced to become a state school, changing the duties of the trustees and how they were selected. The court sided with Dartmouth, allowing the school to continue as a private college, as the school's original charter was a contract between the King of England and the trustees of Dartmouth.
  2. Berea College v. Kentucky: Berea College v. Kentucky paved the way for determining that segregated educational facilities were unconstitutional. Berea College educated African American and white students together, but the newly passed Day Law in Kentucky prohibited educating the two different groups together. The US Supreme Court upheld states' rights to prohibit private educational institutions chartered as corporations from admitting black and white students together. Although the decision stood, Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote a strongly worded dissent. The Day Law was eventually amended to allow voluntary integration.
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The folks at, many of whom are regular followers of Crimbrary, suggested this post to me. Tom

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Shocking: How Faulty Science Lands Innocent People Behind Bars as Accused Child Murderers

Her name was Isis Charm Vas and at 6 months old she was a slight child -- fifth percentile in height and weight.

When the ambulance sped her to Northwest Texas Hospital on a Saturday morning in October 2000, doctors and nurses feared that someone had done something awful to her delicate little body.

A constellation of bruises stretched across her pale skin. CT scans showed blood pooling on her brain and swelling. Her vagina was bleeding, as well. The damage was so severe that her body's vital organs were shutting down.

An autopsy bolstered the initial suspicions that she'd been abused. Dr. Joni McClain, a forensic pathologist, ruled Isis' death a homicide and said the baby had been sexually violated. McClain would later describe it as a "classic" case of blunt force trauma, the type of damage often done by a beating.The police investigation that followed was constructed almost entirely from medical evidence. In the end, prosecutors indicted one of the child's babysitters: Ernie Lopez.

Today, Lopez is serving a 60-year prison term for sexual assault and is still facing capital murder charges.

But in the years since Lopez was sent to the penitentiary, a growing body of evidence has emerged suggesting that McClain and the hospital staffers were wrong about what happened to Isis -- and that her death was not the result of a criminal attack.

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The Ontario situation gets a mention in this article. Tom

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The Supreme Court's Video Game Ruling: Yes to Violence, No to Sex

This American life of ours has long been pro-violence and anti-sex, unless the two can be merged so that violence is the dominant theme. The US Supreme Court reaffirmed that historical record on Monday in declaring California’s ban on the sale of violent video games to minors unconstitutional while continuing to deny constitutional protection to purely prurient sexual material for either minors or adults.

The California law that the Court struck down prohibited the sale or rental of violent games to minors “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being,” unless the work, taken as a whole, possessed redeeming literary, artistic or social value—qualities that limit censorship of sexually “obscene” material.

The Supreme Court, in essence, said no—“sexually assaulting an image of a human being” is protected speech, but depicting graphic sexual activity that is nonviolent and consensual is not.

“California has tried to make violent-speech regulation look like obscenity regulation by appending a saving clause required for the latter,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion. “That does not suffice. Our cases have been clear that the obscenity exception to the First Amendment does not cover whatever a legislature finds shocking, but only depictions of ‘sexual conduct.’ ”

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Gun Control Survives The Supreme Court

In 2008, the US Supreme Court overturned a DC law banning city residents from owning handguns. The decision in District of Columbia v Heller was unprecedented because the sharply divided court found—for the first time—that Americans have an individual right to own guns outside of the "well regulated militia" described in the Second Amendment.

Critics warned that the decision amounted to a death blow for all sorts of reasonable laws regulating gun ownership, and the National Rifle Association seemed to agree with them. The gun group's vice president, Wayne LaPierre, said at the time that the Heller ruling would be "the opening salvo in a step-by-step process" to kill off most of the nation's gun control laws.

Well, three years later, gun control is alive and well despite more than 400 legal challenges based on Heller, according to a new report (PDF) by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The NRA as well as dozens of criminals have attempted to invoke Heller in court to challenge everything from bans on carrying concealed weapons in public to restrictions on gun ownership by people involved in domestic violence. Almost all of those challenges have failed, according to the Brady Center, including a second lawsuit filed by Dick Heller, the plaintiff in the original Supreme Court case, who sued again to try to invalidate restrictions on semi-automatic weapons in the nation's capital.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

New poll finds ‘monumental shift’ in public perception of Toronto police because of G20 actions

Most Torontonians now believe police actions during the G20 summit were unjustified, signalling “a monumental shift” in public perception, according to an Angus Reid Public Opinion poll commissioned by the Toronto Star.

Immediately following last year’s summit, 73 per cent of Torontonians said police were justified in their response to demonstrations. One year later, that figure has dropped to only 41 per cent — a dramatic, 32-point percentage drop.

“Nearly half the people who said they supported the police actions a year ago have changed their minds,” said pollster Jaideep Mukerji, vice-president of Angus Reid. “It’s on that magnitude.”

The pendulum has swung sharply in the opposite direction. Just after the summit, 23 per cent of those polled felt the police response to G20 demonstrations was unjustified. That figure now has grown to 54 per cent.

Read on...

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Woman who encountered Officer Bubbles sues police

About a year ago, Courtney Winkels blew some bubbles. Ten minutes later, she found herself trapped between lines of police in riot gear. Officers grabbed her, threw her against a brick wall, and arrested her.

She spent the next 50 hours in captivity, she said. She was finally charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence. At her first and only court date last August, her charge was thrown out.

Ms. Winkels has had some time to think about what happened. Now the 21-year-old woman, whose peaceful act at Toronto’s G20 protests made an Internet sensation out of “Officer Bubbles,” has filed a lawsuit against the Toronto Police Services Board for $100,000.

She’s claiming damages for false arrest, false imprisonment, assault and battery, as well as breach of Charter rights. The police services board is named as the defendant in the claim as the employer of all officers in the Toronto Police Services.

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Does anyone think the Toronto police have learned anything from G20. Have they changed their behaviour? Next time there is a mass protest in Toronto, how do you think the police will behave? Think they'll remove their name tags? Think they'll try an intimidate peaceful, legal protestors? Think they'll riot? Tom

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The two sides of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair speaking to The Globe and Mail on June 24, 2011, following the release of a report on the police action during the G20. - Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair speaking to The Globe and Mail on June 24, 2011, following the release of a report on the police action during the G20. | Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the G20 summit, there were two versions of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair on display.

The first was contrite, admitting that there were problems with the way officers handled protests in failing to stop a small group of black-clad vandals from smashing up the downtown, and that administrative “deficiencies” at a temporary detention centre left some arrestees without access to lawyers and medical evaluations.

The second, however, was combative, defending the decision to round up hundreds of peaceful protesters and saying that, despite a months-long review of policing at the summit, he did not know whether the RCMP or other police forces at the Integrated Security Unit headquarters in Barrie, Ont., had given orders that added to the confusion on the streets during those fateful days.

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Experts shocked by alleged arrest, strip search of Sean Salvati prior to G20

The arrest and alleged strip search of a Toronto paralegal three days before the G20 summit has left some Canadian legal experts shocked. Some even suggested police may have left the man naked for 48 minutes to humiliate him and teach him respect.

For David Tanovich, a University of Windsor law professor, it's hard to imagine what the grounds would be for a strip search, “let alone dragging him, carrying him, moving him around the cell, like the picture shows on the front page of the Star, naked. There's absolutely no justification.”

The Star reported Friday that Sean Salvati, 33, has filed a lawsuit claiming police illegally arrested and imprisoned him last June. Salvati alleges he was denied access to a lawyer and forcibly strip-searched and beaten while in custody.

The lawsuit alleges Salvati was arrested for public intoxication, then taken to a downtown police station where he was held overnight, questioned on the G20 by two unidentified men, escorted naked past a female officer and placed in a cell for 48 minutes before his clothes were returned.

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Report: Private Prisons Love Mass Incarceration, And Want Politicians To Love It Too

Private prison companies have helped fuel government policies which lead to an increase in prison population and boost their profits, according to a recent report.

Employees of the for-profit prison company GEO Group. The private prison population has grown 353.7 percent in the past 15 years, according to a study by the Justice Policy Institute. Major private prison companies have an incentive to encourage policies which keep that number on the rise. (Photo: Geo Group) The private prison population has grown 353.7 percent in the past 15 years, according to a study by the Justice Policy Institute. Major private prison companies have an incentive to encourage policies which keep that number on the rise.

"Steady increases in the number of people in private prisons, especially those coming from federally contracted beds, translate into increased revenues for private prison companies," the report says.

"Since private prison companies are in the business to make money, policies that maintain or increase incarceration boost their revenues; from a business perspective, the economic and social costs of mass incarceration are 'externalities' that aren't figured into their corporate bottom line," it says.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

War on Drugs: US Civil Rights Advocates Still Fighting "Race War"

With one out of every hundred American adults behind bars, the U.S.'s bulging jails easily exceed even the prison population in China. These jails, experts say, have become the most racially biased institutions in the country. (Flickr photo by public15

WASHINGTON - Exactly 40 years after former United States President Richard Nixon labelled his administration's drug policy a "war" in 1971, a huge coalition of civil rights leaders, advocates and educators converged in Washington D.C. to expose an on-going conflict that they believe is less 'a war on drugs' and more an assault on the rights of African Americans in the 21st century.

"The War on Drugs has not failed to achieve its purpose," Reverend Jesse Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, told a crowded room at the National Press Club here Friday. "It has certainly failed to stop the trade and abuse of drugs, but it has succeeded in its original design: to ensure profit for some, political disenfranchisement of minorities, and the structural exclusion of a people based on their race."

A 2010 report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the U.S. Department of Justice claims that a drug arrest is made every 19 seconds, making the U.S. home to 25 percent of the world's inmates - most of them detained on non-violent charges of drug possession.

With one out of every hundred American adults behind bars, the U.S.'s bulging jails easily exceed even the prison population in China. These jails, experts say, have become the most racially biased institutions in the country.

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Arrested for Feeding the Homeless? 5 Outrageous Government Crackdowns on Peaceful Activists

Activists continue to be arrested, assaulted and otherwise harassed by the nation's police and government agencies for participating in nonviolent protests and other actions.

In recent months, police and government leaders have inappropriately, unfairly, and in some cases illegally targeted peaceful activists on a number of occasions.

That should come as a shock to no one, since government mistreatment of nonviolent activists has been going on for as long as activists have been pushing for social change in the U.S. -- that is, as long as there has been a U.S. government.

Still, it's distressing that after all these years, activists continue to be arrested, assaulted and otherwise harassed by the nation's police and government agencies for participating in nonviolent protests and other actions.

What's more, the recent mistreatment of activists is wildly hypocritical, since the Obama administration has over the past several months scolded governments in the Middle East for their heavy-handed treatment of pro-democracy protesters. For instance, both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton had stern words for Egyptian authorities earlier this year, as Chris Dunn reported in the Collegiate Times:

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Vancouver police chief challenges riot critic’s credibility

Vancouver Chief Constable Jim Chu during an interview with the Globe and Mail at his office in Vancouver December 17, 2009. - Vancouver Chief Constable Jim Chu during an interview with the Globe and Mail at his office in Vancouver December 17, 2009. | John Lehmann/Globe and Mail

On the defensive over planning and response to last week’s Stanley Cup riot, Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu has launched an attack on one of his most outspoken critics.

In an internal e-mail to VPD staff – provided to the media on Tuesday – Mr. Chu took aim at the person widely identified by the media in recent days as an investigator of the 1994 Stanley Cup riot for the B.C. Police Commission.

In several interviews and news stories, Bob Whitelaw was critical of the VPD’s riot readiness. He also said the department ignored several recommendations made in the ’94 report that looked into errors made by police in responding to the Stanley Cup riot that year.

The provincial government has launched an independent review to determine whether the recommendations were followed and how well the police and the city planned for crowd control when more than 100,000 people were expected to pour into the downtown core to watch the game on massive, open-air screens.

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RCMP to probe $50 million G8 legacy fund, after scathing auditor’s report

Following a complaing by a former Liberal MP, the RCMP has decided to look into allegations the Harper government misappropriated $50 million for the G8 legacy fund.

Following a complaing by a former Liberal MP, the RCMP has decided to look into allegations the Harper government misappropriated $50 million for the G8 legacy fund.

OTTAWA—The RCMP is looking into allegations that the Harper government misappropriated funds in order to lavish $50 million on a cabinet minister’s riding prior to last year’s G8 summit.

The probe comes on the heels of an auditor general’s report earlier this month, which concluded the government “did not clearly or transparently” explain how the money was going to be spent when it sought Parliament’s approval for a G8 legacy fund for Tony Clement’s riding.

The Mounties’ involvement was prompted by a complaint from former Liberal MP Marlene Jennings. She was interviewed for an hour last week by three RCMP officers.

“My sense is that they’re taking it very seriously,” Jennings said in an interview Tuesday. “My sense is that they’re looking at this to see if there are any elements of proof that there may have been wilful intention to mislead Parliament.”

Jennings, who was defeated in the May 2 election, first sought an investigation in the midst of the election campaign. Her complaint was prompted by an early draft of the auditor general’s report, which was leaked mid-campaign to The Canadian Press.

The early draft was much more blunt than the final version released on June 9. It concluded the government “misinformed” Parliament about the G8 legacy fund and suggested it may have acted illegally.

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Exclusive: Toronto police swear off G20 kettling tactic

A man sits at Queen and John Sts. in front front of a line of riot police during G20 protests in Toronto on June 26, 2010.

A man sits at Queen and John Sts. in front front of a line of riot police during G20 protests in Toronto on June 26, 2010.

Toronto police will never again use the controversial crowd control technique known as kettling, which was employed for the first and last time in the city’s history during last year’s G20 summit.

The decision was revealed to the Star in a police statement Tuesday, along with the information that two Toronto police superintendents were “responsible” for commanding and controlling G20 policing in the city outside the security fence.

On June 27, the final day of the G20 summit, some 300 protesters and bystanders were boxed in, or kettled, by riot police at Queen St. and Spadina Ave. for about four hours.

Not long after the enclosure, rain began to fall in torrents as some stood shivering in summer dresses and tank tops.

“The crowd control technique implemented at Queen & Spadina on June 27 will not be used again by the Toronto Police Service,” spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said in the statement, a response to a list of G20-related questions sent by the Star.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Living Among Us

Activists Speak Out on Police Infiltration

On June 26, 2010, while the G20 summit was under way amid mass protests on the streets of downtown Toronto, a startling revelation was made that would reverberate through activist communities for months to come. Two undercover police officers had joined protest groups and been living among activists as part of a large-scale investigation that began more than a year earlier, in April 2009.

Following the arrest of four activists that same morning under charges of conspiracy, the Toronto Star reported that “Undercover officers infiltrated criminal extremist groups in Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo and Toronto and forged relationships with several people whose ideological beliefs and backgrounds pose a direct threat to large-scale public events, including the G20,” according to allegations by Crown attorneys.

The case is now under a court-imposed publication ban, which prohibits disclosure of the undercover agents’ identities. While only two officers have been officially acknowledged, documents recently released to Briarpatch support suspicions among activists that infiltration was in fact much more extensive.

Although the names of the two confirmed infiltrators are not yet public, many activists are convinced they know who the officers are.

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Class Dismissed

The Supreme Court decides that the women of Wal-Mart can't have their day in court.

Today the Supreme Court decided what may well be the most consequential case of the current term, Wal-Mart v. Dukes, a sweeping class action suit filed almost 10 years ago that has yet to be litigated on its merits. Filed on behalf of the more than 1.5 million women who have worked at Wal-Mart since 1998, the suit alleges that the company favored men over women in decisions about pay and promotion in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Today, the Supreme Court told them all to go home.

Writing for the court's five conservatives—and all but one of its men—Justice Antonin Scalia found that the women seeking to be certified as a single class did not have enough in common to go forward with the lawsuit en masse. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, seems to have figured out that the key to low-cost discrimination lies in discriminating on a massive scale. In Scalia's words, all these disparate women with their multiple claims about "millions of employment decisions" lacked sufficient "glue" to be permitted to move forward together.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Can Canada Really Be Scared of Free-Thinking?

It's a question I have to ask after being denied entry again – this time, ironically, to give a paper on academics and public debate

Bill AyersWilliam ('Bill') Ayers in Chicago's Grant Park, in 2001. Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground, spent 10 years as a fugitive, a story he told in his book Fugitive Days. The former university professor has again been barred entry from Canada, where he had been invited to give a conference paper. (AP Photo/Ted S Warren)

In January this year, I was invited by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) to address the Worldviews Conference on Media and Higher Education to be held on 16 June 2011 in Toronto. The topic would be "The responsibility of academics to contribute to public debates in the media."

I told the organizers then that while I would love to attend, I had been denied entry into Canada twice in the past few years – once in Calgary, and later at Island Airport – and that while lawyers on both sides of the border were engaging the issue, we were being met again and again by bureaucratic gibberish and classic rule-by-no-one. The president of OCUFA sent a letter to the Canada Border Services Agency hoping to resolve the matter, and received a boiler-plate response: "The CBSA is charged to ensure the security and prosperity of Canada by managing access of people and goods." I explained that my participation in the conference would jeopardize neither, and promised to spend a lot of money while in town, but I got the same response.

I'm in Chicago today, and a video of my talk has been sent to the conference. One irony in this situation is that the injured party in all of this is not me primarily, but the people who, for whatever reason, wanted to engage me in conversation. After all, I will talk to myself all day, and probably disagree and argue with myself as usual. But what of the Canadians who thought it might be useful to have a dialogue? Tough luck: your government is vigilantly watching over your security and prosperity.

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Call Off the Global Drug War


IN an extraordinary new initiative announced earlier this month, the Global Commission on Drug Policy has made some courageous and profoundly important recommendations in a report on how to bring more effective control over the illicit drug trade. The commission includes the former presidents or prime ministers of five countries, a former secretary general of the United Nations, human rights leaders, and business and government leaders, including Richard Branson, George P. Shultz and Paul A. Volcker.

The report describes the total failure of the present global antidrug effort, and in particular America’s “war on drugs,” which was declared 40 years ago today. It notes that the global consumption of opiates has increased 34.5 percent, cocaine 27 percent and cannabis 8.5 percent from 1998 to 2008. Its primary recommendations are to substitute treatment for imprisonment for people who use drugs but do no harm to others, and to concentrate more coordinated international effort on combating violent criminal organizations rather than nonviolent, low-level offenders.

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This is a New York Times op-ed by Jimmy Carter. Not sure how the link will work now that the Times is behind a partial pay wall. Tom

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B.C. Premier promises to expose rioters to public gaze

B.C. Premier Christy Clark has asked spectators who took videos and photos of the looting, vandalism and violence to let the police see what they have.

“I’d like to make this call out to everybody who may have some evidence for police,” Ms. Clark told reporters Thursday before walking through the streets with boarded-up storefronts and burnt out vehicles. “Make sure we see those pictures of the people that incited this.”

Ms. Clark also had a message for those who were involved in breaking windows and grabbing merchandise from the stores.

“If you were a part of this, and I’m speaking to people who may have been responsible last night, I promise you this. You won’t be able to live in anonymity, you won’t be behind your bandana or under your hoodie.

“We are going to do everything we can to make sure the public understands who you were. Your family, your friends, your employer will know you were a part of it. Because this cannot happen in our city. It isn’t the kind of city that I want to live in,” she said.

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Looks like provocateurs to me. Tom

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Housing for ex-cons: Spend a little, save a lot

Ron, 57, lives in a bachelor apartment on St. Clair Ave. W., found with help from the John Howard Society.

Ron, 57, lives in a bachelor apartment on St. Clair Ave. W., found with help from the John Howard Society.

Jim Rankin Staff Reporter

On the first seriously hot morning of a late spring, Ron gave his walk-up bachelor apartment on St. Clair Avenue West a serious sweep, despite the heat and fact that he otherwise keeps it immaculate.

“It’s already 30 degrees,” said Ron, 57, mopping his forehead with a cloth. “I need a fan, I think.”

But it is home — and has been since December, when the John Howard Society helped find him the place. Other than the fan, it has what he needs: A small kitchen, TV and pullout bed. He’s added a few personal touches, like mirrored lettering on the wall that says, “Live, Love, Laugh.”

“I feel good about myself,” said Ron.

Since the age of 17, Ron, a recovering heroin addict, estimates he has been in and out of jail about 40 times, spending a total of 20 years incarcerated. The longest stint was 21/2 years in a federal penitentiary for a string of drug-fuelled break-and-enters.

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Lawyers fiddle while prostitution laws burn

Mariana Valverde

A prostitute walks with an unidentified male down Toronto's Carlton St. near Jarvis.

A prostitute walks with an unidentified male down Toronto's Carlton St. near Jarvis.

If some current or former sex workers tell us that prostitution as they have lived it is abusive, does that mean the current laws should be upheld?

This week a high-powered five-judge panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal is hearing the government’s defence of the prostitution laws. The three main laws ban “communication” in any public place for the purpose of prostitution, “living on the avails” (which criminalizes getting security or other help) and “bawdy houses.” These laws were struck down as unconstitutional by Ontario Superior Court Judge Susan Himel in October.

To counter Himel’s tightly reasoned judgment, the federal government’s lawyer, Michael Morris, introduced affidavits from former sex workers who have been victimized. Upholding the Himel decision would legalize this violence, he claimed.

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Mariana Valverde, the author of this piece, is the Director of The Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies. Tom

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Supreme Court continues to define what constitutes a ‘violent felony’

For the fourth time in as many years, the Supreme Court on Thursday considered exactly what kind of violent crimes call for the mandatory prison terms Congress provided in the Armed Career Criminal Act.

Get used to it, Justice Antonin Scalia said in a sharp-edged dissent; the court will be trying to sort out the law’s meaning “until the cows come home.”

The justices said that fleeing police custody in a vehicle could be a “violent felony” under the law’s definitions. Scalia not only criticized that decision, but the Congress that approved a law that contains provisions he considers so vague as to be unconsititutional.

“Fuzzy, leave-the-details-to-be-sorted-out-by-the-courts legislation is attractive to the Congressman who wants credit for addressing a national problem but does not have the time (or perhaps the votes) to grapple with the nitty-gritty,” Scalia wrote. “In the field of criminal law, at least, it is time to call a halt.”

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10 States Where Abortion Is Virtually Illegal for Some Women

Thanks to increasingly restrictive state laws, we're seeing a return to pre-Roe back-alley abortions and criminal treatment of women.

n recent years, abortion restrictions on the state level have made abortion harder to access and harder to afford, making it just as inaccessible to many women as it would be if it were outright illegal.

As pro-choicers have long argued, abortion bans don’t stop abortion so much as drive it underground. Thousands of women were admitted to hospitals every year for septic abortions when the procedure was illegal, either from unsafe back-alley providers or their own amateur attempts at home.

Abortion is a legal right today. But thanks to increasingly restrictive state and local laws and overzealous law enforcement, we are seeing a return to pre-Roe back-alley abortions and increasingly criminal treatment of women. Here are 10 states where abortion laws are putting women’s health and freedom in danger:

1) Idaho. Even though the constitutional right to abortion has been established for 38 years, a woman in Idaho was arrested and charged for aborting her pregnancy. The woman bought some drugs online to terminate her pregnancy, and was ratted out by an acquaintance who disapproves of a woman’s right to choose. Even though the rat is technically on the wrong side of the constitutional determinations regarding this question, she got her way. The woman in question was arrested because of Idaho’s recent ban on post-20-week abortions, even though she claims to have believed she was only 14 weeks along, which could be true, if she wasn’t seeing a doctor during this time.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

UPDATE on Police State | “SWAT” Team Breaks Down Door, Detains Man for Wife’s Defaulted Student Loans

Just updated the earlier post on Police State | SWAT Team Breaks Down Door, Detains Man for Wife’s Defaulted Student Loans...

From the original source...

Questions surround feds' raid of Stockton home

Wright said he later went to Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston and Stockton Police Department, but learned the city of Stockton had nothing to do with the search warrant.

U.S. Department of Education spokesman Justin Hamilton confirmed for News10 Wednesday morning federal agents with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), not local S.W.A.T., served the search warrant. Hamilton would not say specifically why the raid took place except that it was part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Hamilton said the search was not related to student loans in default as reported in the local media.

OIG is a semi-independent branch of the education department that executes warrants for criminal offenses such as student aid fraud, embezzlement of federal aid and bribery, according to Hamilton. The agency serves 30 to 35 search warrants a year.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hate Crimes In Canada: Statistics Canada Notes Large Jump In Police Reports In 2009

THE CANADIAN PRESS -- The number of police-reported hate crimes in Canada increased 42 per cent in 2009, says a new study released today.

Canadian police services reported 1,473 hate crimes in 2009, up by 437 incidents. That came on the heels of a 35 per cent increase in 2008.

Statistics Canada says more than half (54 per cent) of police-reported hate crimes in 2009 were motivated by race or ethnicity, 29 per cent by religion and 13 per cent by sexual orientation.

All increased, especially hate crimes motivated by religion, which rose 55 per cent, the agency says.

The number of racially motivated hate crimes was up 35 per cent, it says, while those motivated by sexual orientation went up 18 per cent.

"Violent offences, such as assault, accounted for about four in 10 hate crimes reported by police. Violent offences were particularly more common among hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation."

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Bank tellers policing money-laundering laws

Centre student Vanessa Iafolla in the media spotlight.

Front-line bank employees are doing their share to ensure anti-money laundering laws are upheld, a University of Toronto doctoral student said at the University of New Brunswick's Wu Conference Centre on Monday.

Vanessa Iafolla is a doctoral candidate at the university's Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies who spoke at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences on Monday.

She said under post-9-11 Canadian anti-terrorism law - namely the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorism Financing Act - bank tellers are required to report transactions they deem suspicious to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada. That means using their discretion as to what they believe are suspicious or unusual transactions, generally relating to bank deposits.

"What's neat about this is, that when you think about it, when an investigation happens, or when a crime happens, it's the police who do the investigating," she said. "And what you have now you have these people who are hired to do a different job - process cheques and cash - who are doing a kind of policing job."

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Opposing Viewpoints on Canadian Anti-Terrorism Law

Vanessa Iafolla

Many feared Canada would begin fighting terrorism at the expense of human rights when anti-terrorism legislation was introduced.

That was the subject of Vanessa Iafolla’s presentation to the Canadian Sociological Association. Mrs. Iafolla is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto’s Centre of Criminology and Sociolegal Studies.

“The political agenda to augment national security was bolstered by media reports regarding potential threats posed from terrorist cells within Canada, as well as reports indicating the willingness of the Canadian public to preserve national security even at the cost of its civil liberties,” Iafolla said.

She highlighted the reaction to the legislation of different ethnic and religious groups within Canada. She spoke of their fears that the Anti-Terrorism Act would target and limit their civil liberties.

She shows that groups of Muslim-Canadians felt the law went too far to infringe on rights, while a group of Jewish-Canadians felt it didn’t go far enough to protect citizens from attack.

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Vanessa is a PhD student at the Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies. Tom

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Monday, June 6, 2011

The other side of the story on domestic abuse

Remarkably, a PhD student in Criminology at the University of Toronto, Alexandra Lysova, has been awarded one of 14 2011 scholarships from the prestigious Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.

I say "remarkably" not because Ms. Lysova herself is unworthy -on the contrary -but because of the nature of her research project. Of which more anon.

According to the Foundation's spokesperson, "The Trudeau Foundation rewards excellence [in the humanities and social sciences] and provides young researchers with the best conditions to ground their work in the real world."

In academia, for ideological reasons, there have always been, and continue to be, areas where "the real world" makes an uncomfortable fit with sacred myths based in theory, not evidence. One such theory is that in domestic violence -or "intimate partner violence (IPV)," as it is now called -women always are either passive victims of male aggression or violent only in self-defence. This myth has so permeated the academy, social service agencies, charities, schools, the police and the legal system, that the truth about the "real life" of intimate partners caught up in dysfunctional scenarios has been ignored, suppressed or attacked to the point that most researchers stay far away from it.

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Alexandra is a PhD student at the Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies. Tom

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Friday, June 3, 2011

Calls to legalise cannabis and ecstasy

Panel of distinguished world figures wants an end to 50-year war on drugs

It isn't working. It never has worked. And so long as it continues to be fought in its current form, the "war on drugs" will do little to curb the spread of illegal narcotics or prevent hundreds of thousands of people from continuing to lose their lives each year as a result of the international drug trade.

So says a panel of world leaders who called yesterday for the biggest shake-up of drug laws in half a century. "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world," declared the Global Commission on Drug Policy. "Fundamental reforms... are urgently needed."

The Commission, which counts the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan along with former presidents of Brazil, Mexico and Colombia as members, believes governments must now experiment with "legal regulation of drugs." "This recommendation applies especially to cannabis," reads a major report it published in New York yesterday. "But we would also encourage other experiments in decriminalisation."

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Has America Become a Corporate Police State?

In just the last few years, the Corporate Police State has reared its head at every level of government.

Corporate Police State," it's a fraught -- some might even say, overwrought -- term. But in its purest, apolitical form, it simply describes the periodic commingling of state and corporate power to protect private interests.

In the American psyche, any discussion of that phenomenon typically brings one of three images to mind. There's the Old Corporate Police State -- the sepia-toned America of decades long past, a place where state militias murder striking mine workers on behalf of Gilded Age barons and Congress empowers the government to forcibly ban work stoppages that defy corporate executives' wishes. There's the Fictional Future Corporate Police State -- that smoldering bombed-out world depicted in "Robocop," "Fortress" and every other dystopian flick in Hollywood's post-apocalyptic catalog. And there's the Foreign Corporate Police State -- think Dubai, Singapore, Monaco and every other lavish enclave defined by lots of rich people, lots of corporate headquarters, lots of heavily armed cops -- and almost no civil liberties.

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New Opportunities for Real Justice in Calif. Prison Supreme Court Ruling

The Supreme Court's order that California fix its overcrowded prisons offers opportunities for correcting inequalities. But playing musical chairs with inmates won't work.

The May 23 Supreme Court decision ordering California to reduce the dangerous overcrowding of its prisons has left many people confused. Despite the best efforts of right-wing Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito to stir up panic about “happy-go-lucky felons” roaming the streets, it is not yet clear that the decision will do anything but move the legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown to do what should have done years ago.

California’s prison system is by any measure a massive failure. People released from prison return to custody at twice the national average, most for violations of parole rules rather than new convictions. A system that once was the world leader in education and counseling has seen budgets for those programs – essential to successful re-entry to society – slashed year after year. Spending on prisons has grown from2 percent of the state’s general fund 30 years ago, to 5 percent a decade ago to 10 percent today, draining much-needed dollars from essential health and human services, and from what had been the greatest public university system in the world.

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