Skip to main content


Showing posts from July, 2011

Hate crimes against gay, transgender people rise, report says

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report says violent crimes against people in the LGBT community rose 13% in 2010, and that minorities and transgender women were more likely to be targeted.An 18-year-old gay man from Texas allegedly slain by a classmate who feared a sexual advance. A 31-year-old transgender woman from Pennsylvania found dead with a pillowcase around her head. A 24-year-old lesbian from Florida purportedly killed by her girlfriend's father, who disapproved of the relationship.

The homicides are a sampling of 2010 crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people compiled by a national coalition of anti-hate organizations.

The report, released Tuesday, showed a 13% increase over 2009 in violent crimes committed against people because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity or status as HIV positive, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

Last year's homicide count reached 27, up …

Trial by Fury

Jury trials aren't always satisfying, but they're better than angry mobs.Jamie Leigh Jones

The right to trial by jury is so fundamental to American democracy that it is enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Thomas Jefferson said the jury trial was "the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." The Declaration of Independence excoriates the king for "for depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury" precisely because American colonists were furious that the British tried to deny them just that right.

All that was hundreds of years ago, of course. Nowadays it has become something of an American tradition to call into question one of the most American of institutions. When Casey Anthony was acquitted last week in the killing of her 2-year-old daughter, the nation collectively went nuts. Anyone who had watched the trial for even a moment—or who had followed the noise of the…

Key probation services to be put out to tender

Core work, including supervising offenders and writing pre-sentence reports, to be taken out of the public sector

Harry Fletcher, of Napo, predicted the quality of work would be reduced if core probation services were put out to competition.

Core probation services, including the supervision of criminals, are to be put out to competition, in the most arresting example yet of the impact of the "big society" drive on the criminal justice system.The 35 chief officers of probation have been told they need to examine the "potential for core probation services" to be put up for competition.Michael Spurr, the chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, has written to chief probation officers telling them: "We intend to examine a range of possible options for service improvements and different models of delivering offender services within the community."The aim is to create a long-term direction for probation which is consistent …

Texas’s Progress on Juvenile Justice

Just four years ago, the Texas juvenile justice system was awash in allegations of brutality, neglect and sexual abuse by staff members. Thanks to leadership by Gov. Rick Perry and thoughtful, decisive action by the Legislature, a state juvenile justice system that was in chaos a few years ago is making impressive strides. Governor Perry placed the Texas Youth Commission in a conservatorship not long after allegations of wrongdoing emerged in 2007. The state also convened a task force that came up with an ambitious plan that essentially argued for razing the system and rebuilding it. The panel’s report called for moving Texas away from the prison model and toward a less costly and more effective system in which troubled children receive guidance and rehabilitation services in or near their communities, where families, churches and other local organizations can be part of the process.
Read on...This is from a New York Times editorial. Why is the NYTimes pump…

First Nations Under Surveillance

Harper Government Prepares for First Nations “Unrest"
Quebec riot police advance on Barriere Lake community members after a peaceful blockade in October, 2008 in north-western Quebec.

Russell Diabo and Shiri Pasternak
Internal documents from Indian Affairs and the RCMP show that shortly after forming government in January of 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had the federal government tighten up on gathering and sharing intelligence on First Nations to anticipate and manage potential First Nation unrest across Canada.Information obtained by Access to Information requests reveals that almost immediately upon taking power in 2006, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) was given the lead role to spy on First Nations. The goal was to identify the First Nation leaders, participants and outside supporters of First Nation occupations and protests, and to closely monitor their actions.To accomplish this task, INAC established a “Hot Spot Reporting System.”…

Anti-Semitism growing threat on campuses: group

Anti-Semitism on Canadian university campuses is a growing threat and the Canadian government needs to do more to tackle hate crimes against Jews, a parliamentary inquiry has found. The Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism released its report on Thursday following two years of hearings.According to the report, anti-Semitism is on the rise in Canada, especially in universities. The report makes several recommendations to the government, including working with police services across Canada to clearly define what constitutes an anti-Semitic crime and looking at rising international anti-Semitism when designating source countries for immigration.“We have a limited ability to measure (hate crimes against Jews) across the country,” Conservative MP Scott Reid, who headed the coalition’s steering committee, told journalists on Thursday.Read on...Here is a link to the full report. Tom

A juvenile justice system that's adrift

These are interesting times for those who work in the field of juvenile justice. In many states, lawmakers and voters are turning away from the 1990s model of treating youth offenders like adults and locking them up in adult prisons. Influential conservatives have banded together to support constructive and cost-effective alternatives to lengthy sentences. Across the nation, juvenile crime rates are falling, giving states some time and breathing room to restructure delinquency programs. Momentum is building for meaningful and cost-saving reform. All that's lacking is national focus and strong leadership.

California's example shows what happens when that leadership goes missing. Draconian laws put into place in the last 20 years still result in too many youth offenders here being sentenced and imprisoned as adults. Our prisons are bursting, the failing Juvenile Justice Division of the state corrections department has turned over much of its mission to counties, and …

America's judiciary: Courting disaster

Denouncing a proposal to cut $150 million out of a courts budget that has already absorbed a $200-million reduction, California's chief justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, recently warned that the "devastating and crippling" cuts would "threaten access to justice for all."

California's not alone. Last month, 350 court employees in New York were laid off to offset $170 million in cuts to the state judiciary's budget. Remarkably, 65 dismissed part-time judges continued to work as volunteers to ensure that the courts' indispensable work wouldn't grind to a halt.

It is inexcusable, not to mention unsustainable, when an institution vital to our democracy must depend on former employees to work as volunteers — or simply lock the courthouse door.

But this is happening nationwide. According to the National Center for State Courts, 32 states experienced judicial budget reductions in fiscal year 2010 and 28 others saw reductions in fiscal year 2011. Thes…

Defining Deviancy Away: How the Justice Department Adopted "See No Evil" approach to corporate crime

Gretchen Morgenson and Louise Story have a must-read article in the New York Times on an important aspect of our two-tier justice system, in which only little people seem to be subject to the full force of the law. The article describes how, starting with the Bush Administration and continuing under Obama, the Department of Justice decided to exit the business of prosecuting suspected corporate criminals. This section is stunning:But by 2005, a debate was growing over aggressive prosecutions, as some business leaders had been criticizing the approach as perhaps too zealous.That May, Justice Department officials met ahead of a session with a cross-agency group called the Corporate Fraud Task Force…In the meeting, the deputy attorney general at the time, James B. Comey, posed questions that surprised some attendees, according to two people there who asked to remain anonymous because they were not supposed to discuss private meetings.Was American business being hurt by the J…

Jindal Signs Anti-Choice Bill, Likens Women Who Receive Abortions To Criminals

Yesterday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) appeared at the First Baptist Church of West Monroe to sign HB 636, a measure that “requires women to be informed of their specific legal rights and options before they undergo an abortion procedure.” Abortion providers will now have to post signs around their facilities stating that “it is illegal to coerce a woman into getting an abortion, that the child’s father must provide child support, that certain agencies can assist them during and after the pregnancy and that adoptive parents can pay some of the medical costs.” The law also creates a Department of Health and Hospitals website and a mobile platform to deliver information “about public and private pregnancy resources” for avoiding abortions. Jindal said he couldn’t understand why anyone would oppose the bill, comparing the new notices to Miranda warnings for women who receive abortions — a constitutionally protected procedure — to criminals: “When officers arrest criminals…

Union Workers Replaced With Prison Labor Under Scott Walker’s Collective Bargaining Law

While Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) law dismantling collective bargaining rights has harmed teachers, nurses, and other civil servants, it’s helping a different group in Wisconsinites — inmates. Prisoners are now taking up jobs that used to be held by unionized workers in some parts of the state. As the Madison Capital Times reports, “Besides losing their right to negotiate over the percentage of their paycheck that will go toward health care and retirement, unions also lost the ability to claim work as a ‘union-only’ job, opening the door for private workers and evidently even inmates to step in and take their place.” Inmates are not paid for their work, but may receive time off of their sentences.The law went into effect last week, and Racine County is already using inmates to do landscaping, painting, and another basic maintenance around the county that was previously done by county workers. The union had successfully sued to stop the country from using prison labor…

Budget Cuts Force Texas Town To Lay Off Entire Police Force, Mayor Warns ‘Bolt Your Doors’

The Lone Star state is famous for its own harsh brand of justice, but residents in one small town will soon be left to fend for themselves after budget cuts forced Alto, Texas to lay off its entire police force: Alto, Texas is preparing for a crime wave, after the small East Texas town put its entire police force on furlough…In an effort to save money, the city has laid off its police chief and four police officers for six months — longer if Alto’s finances don’t improve.In the meantime, the county sheriff’s department will take over law enforcement duties for the town of 1,200, according to the AP. The sheriff’s department is already responsible for policing the nearby city of Wells, which laid off its sole police officer last year.Alto residents have every reason to fear a rise in crime will follow the police force’s departure. The town’s per-capita crime rate is already above the state average. There were 66 crimes in Alto last year, compared to 51 the previous year.Read o…

Court to rule on whether law that makes public nudity criminal is unconstitutional

An Ontario court judge will hear arguments Tuesday about whether laws that make it a criminal offence to be nude in public are unconstitutional and should be struck down.Lawyers for Brian Coldin will argue it should not automatically be a criminal offence to be without clothes in public and that discretion of prosecuting people for being nude should be left up to police.Read on...

Operating Instructions

The Supreme Court shows corporate America how to screw over its customers and employees without breaking the law.Was the Supreme Court's Wal-Mart case a bellwether? Or an instruction manual?

Depending on how you count "big cases," the Supreme Court has just finished off either a great (according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) or spectacularly great (according to a new study by the Constitutional Accountability Center) term for big business. The measure of success here isn't just the win-loss record of the Chamber of Commerce, although that's certainly part of the story. Nor is it news that—in keeping with a recent trend—the court is systematically closing the courthouse doors to everyday litigants, though that's a tale that always bears retelling. The reason the Roberts Court has proven to be Christmas in July for big business is this: Slowly but surely, the Supreme Court is giving corporate America a handbook on how to engage in misconduct. In case afte…

10 Years After Drug Decriminalization Portugal Says Treatment Works Better Than Punishment

AFP reports that 10 years after Portugal decriminalized drug use, and decided to treat addicts instead, that the experiment has worked. Portugal drug law show results ten years on, experts sayLISBON — Health experts in Portugal said Friday that Portugal's decision 10 years ago to decriminalise drug use and treat addicts rather than punishing them is an experiment that has worked. "There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal," said Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, a press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the law. The number of addicts considered "problematic" -- those who repeatedly use "hard" drugs and intravenous users -- had fallen by half since the early 1990s, when the figure was estimated at around 100,000 people, Goulao said.
Other factors had also played their part however, Goulao, a medical doctor added.
"This development can not only be attributed to…

Woman Gang-Raped by 7 Halliburton Employees "Signed Away" Her Right to Sue? How Justice Has Become the Privilege of Corporations

Worried about the influence of money in American politics, the huge cash payouts that the US supreme court waved through by its Citizens United decision – the decision that lifted most limits on election campaign spending? Corporations are having their way with American elections just as they've already had their way with our media. But at least we have the courts, right?Wrong. The third branch of government's in trouble, too. In fact, access to justice – like access to elected office, let alone a pundit's perch – is becoming a perk just for the rich and powerful.Take the young woman now testifying in court in Texas. Jamie Leigh Jones claims she was drugged and gang-raped while working for military contractor KBR in Iraq (at the time, a division of Halliburton). Jones, now 26, was on her fourth day in post in Baghdad in 2005 when she says she was assaulted by seven contractors and held captive, under armed guard by two KBR police, in a shipping container.Read o…

Rape Isn't Funny: On Making Excuses For Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Blaming the Alleged Victim

When a public intellectual of the left makes light of rape and makes excuses for an alleged perpetrator, we see how much work there is to do on sexism among progressives.

What is the simplest explanation for the misguided logic suffusing recent discussions of the alleged rape of a hotel maid by the former head of the International Monetary Fund? A generational disconnect? A lack of appreciation for the complex links between social issues and economics? A warning that high-brow progressive culture may be in need of some self-reflection?

Robert Kuttner, the well-known journalist and editor of the American Prospect, responded on his new blog yesterday to recent leaks suggesting that the alleged victim in the sexual assault case against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is an unreliable witness. Reports are circulating that the maid, an African immigrant, lied about her U.S. residency status on her asylum application (on a lawyer's advice), claiming a gang rape that p…