Monday, September 30, 2013

Ten things to know about Canada’s newest Supreme Court judge

  1. He’s a man. Many people had expected a woman, because Stephen Harper faced criticism last year when he named Richard Wagner to replace Marie Deschamps on the court. Judges Nadon and Wagner are both not women, a fact that didn’t escape NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s notice: “This is the highest court in the land. And that has to reflect the population,’’ he said Monday.
  2.  Judge Nadon, 64, is an ‘‘expert in maritime and transportation law,’’ according to the Prime Minister. He has served on the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada, and the Competition Tribunal
  3. A list of three names was presented to Mr. Harper. The candidates were not ranked, and the names of the other two on the shortlist were not disclosed.
  4.  
  5. Read on...

California's prison break

The three federal judges who have ordered California to dramatically reduce its prison population have now pushed back their deadline by 30 days. The delay is both less and more than it seems.

It's less, because it's nothing close to the three extra years that Gov. Jerry Brown said he would need to reduce overcrowding and to keep the number of inmates capped. Instead of facing a Dec. 31 compliance date, the governor and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation now have until late January. That's not enough time to reduce crowding by attrition, or even by assigning newly convicted felons to leased cells in and outside of California.

But it's also more, or at least it could be. It's a signal from the judges that they believe, perhaps for the first time since the reduction order was handed down four years ago, that California may be ready to devote considerable thought and resources to reducing the flow of felons into the system.

Read on...

Canadians on hunger strike in Egyptian jail claim they were beaten

John Greyson and Tarek Loubani 'stripped, slapped and accused of being foreign mercenaries' at notorious Tora prison

Two Canadians on hunger strike inside an Egyptian prison have been beaten during their six-week-long detention, the pair have said in statement smuggled out of their jail cell.

Filmmaker John Greyson and medic Tarek Loubani were arrested during disturbances in Cairo on 16 August, and detained without charge ever since. The case has become a cause célèbre in the west with actors Alec Baldwin and Charlize Theron among thousands calling for their release. But little was known about either the circumstances of their arrest or their treatment inside the notorious Tora prison south of Cairo.

Their families said on Sunday Egyptian authorities had extended their detention for another 45 days, Associated Press reported. Cecilia Greyson said a prosecutor issued the extension order for her brother and Loubani.

Lynne Yelich, a Canadian minister responsible for consular affairs, said the government was "disappointed" that the two would stay in custody longer.

Read on...

Matt Gurney: Edmonton’s police owe the public far better than this

Two months ago, an Edmonton Police Services constable, Jack Redlick, was handed a one-year demotion (effectively a $15,000 penalty) for beating a suspect, George Petropolous, he had arrested. Petropolous, a middle-aged man, had been accused of striking his mother during a dispute about money. Redlick and his partner arrested him, and while heading to the police station, pulled off into a high school parking lot. Redlick took Petropolous out of the cruiser, walked him to an isolated part of the schoolground, out of sight of the cruiser, and beat him. During the assault, Petropolous claims that Redlick boasted that this wasn’t the first time he’d administered a little street justice on his own initiative. The charges against Petropolous were later stayed.

None of the above is disputed. Redlick and his partner at first denied the whole thing, but Redlick later recanted and pleaded guilty to discreditable conduct under the Police Act. That included his admission to this conduct in an agreed statement of facts. (His partner is now facing discipline for the attempted coverup.) When handing down the sentence of the one-year demotion, the presiding officer noted that the incident was “extremely serious,” but that there were also several mitigating factors, including the fact that Redlick was suffering from depression (relating to a suspect he shot and killed, but more on that later) and that he had an exemplary service record.

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Justice to sue North Carolina over voting law

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced Monday that the Justice Department would sue North Carolina over its controversial new voting law, saying electoral measures approved by the state would discriminate against minorities and “break a system that was working.”

At a news conference, Holder alleged that the electoral law in North Carolina, as well as similar measures that the Justice Department is challenging in Texas, represent a broad threat to the democratic process. In North Carolina, he said, the law would “shrink, rather than expand, access to the franchise.”

“Today’s action is about far more than unwarranted voter restrictions. It is about our democracy, and who we are as a nation,” Holder said. “I stand here to announce this lawsuit more in sorrow than in anger. It pains me to see the voting rights of my fellow citizens negatively impacted by actions predicated on a rationale that is tenuous at best — and on concerns that we all know are not, in fact, real.”

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Noam Chomsky: 'The Foundations of Liberty Are Ripped to Shreds'

The U.S. openly brags about boom times for its drone wars, while casually abandoning our 800 year-old system of due process.

Just driving in this morning I was listening to NPR news. The program opened by announcing, very excitedly, that the drone industry is exploding so fast that colleges are trying to catch up and opening new programs in the engineering schools and so on, and teaching drone technology because that’s what students are dying to study because of the fantastic number of jobs going on.
 
And it’s true. If you look at the public reports, you can imagine what the secret reports are. It’s been known for a couple of years, but we learn more and more that drones, for one thing, are already being given to police departments for surveillance. And they are being designed for every possible purpose. I mean, theoretically, maybe practically, you could have a drone the size of a fly which could be buzzing around over there [points to window] listening to what we’re talking about. And I’d suspect that it won’t be too long before that becomes realistic.

Read on...

Breakdown: Here’s The Economic Cost Of Shutting Down The Government

If Congress doesn’t reach a deal by midnight tonight, the government shuts down.
A shutdown isn’t just bad politically, it can also be damaging to the United States’ economy, taking the paychecks of federal employees out of the mix, and disrupting tourism across the country.
Here’s a look at some of the latest numbers on how a shutdown might affect our economy:
  • A shutdown that lasted between three and four week could cost the economy about $55 billion, by the estimate of Moody’s Analytics economist Brian Kessler.
  • Washington, DC, would lose $200 million a day on lost wages and lost spending by those who get furloughed. That estimate doesn’t include tourism, and the huge losses DC will feel from the museums and national mall being closed.
Read on...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Why Canada’s bail system creates more crimes than it prevents

A troubling new report from the John Howard Society

If you ever find yourself arrested for a crime you didn’t commit, hope it happens in Prince Edward Island. At least then you’d have a decent chance of getting out on bail before your trial. Manitoba would be your least-preferred option.

A report earlier this month from the John Howard Society of Ontario reveals a host of problems with bail as it currently operates in that province. Combined with data from other provinces, it’s apparent our country’s bail system requires a major overhaul, in the name of fairness and efficiency, not to mention the concept of innocent until proven guilty.

Bail allows individuals accused of crimes to enjoy their liberty until a court decides their fate. Unlike the American system of an upfront cash bail requirement—familiar to anyone who’s ever read an Elmore Leonard or Janet Evanovich novel, or watched Law & Order—Canadian bail instead relies on sureties. No money is demanded immediately. Rather, the accused may be released into the care of a friend or relative who forfeits a set sum of money if the individual skips town or otherwise fails to abide by the conditions of his release.


But while the right to “reasonable bail” is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it has become steadily more difficult to obtain, subjected to an increasing number of unreasonable conditions and transformed into something akin to extrajudicial punishment.

Read on...

The FBI’s Trojan Horse?

Over the past few decades, a paradigm shift has occurred within policing. Known generally as community policing, the basic idea is that state and local law enforcement officers should integrate themselves into the communities they serve.

The idea seems simple and, in theory, uncontroversial: the better the relationship police have with the public, the easier it will be to solve problems, such as crime, that affect everyone's quality of life. But in practice, if police are not properly trained, if programs aren't closely monitored for compliance with American communities' constitutional rights, community policing can open the door to biased policing and other rights violations.

That's what happened after 9/11, when the FBI initiated a mosque outreach program in Northern California.

Californian Muslim community members may have thought that the FBI was building relationships of trust by coming to mosques to discuss problems the community might face, such as hate crimes. That's what the FBI did in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. But what appeared initially to be a laudatory program dedicated to protecting the civil rights of American Muslims developed into something very different.

Read on....

Academics Join Opposition to Petraeus Professorship, Violent Arrest of Students

Hundreds of professors at the City University of New York and elsewhere are admirably calling for charges to be dropped against six students arrested Tuesday during a protest against former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus. The academics are also calling for Petraeus to resign from his teaching post at CUNY.

A video of an arrest shows a man detained by the NYPD being punched in the back by what appears to be a plainclothes officer:

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Rape Settlement at Occidental College: Victims Barred from Campus Activism

Occidental College, the Los Angeles school where thirty-seven students and alumni filed a federal complaint last spring about rape on campus, has quietly settled with at least ten of the complainants. Under the settlement, negotiated by attorney Gloria Allred, the ten received cash payments and are barred from participating in the Occidental Sexual Assault Coalition, the campus group that organized the campaign that has resulted in a federal investigation.

The settlement, reported by the Los Angeles Times September 19 on page one, immediately provoked criticism. Danielle Dirks, a criminology professor who has been active in the campaign, told the Times that requiring “the women to remain silent and not to participate in campus activism could have a chilling effect at Occidental.” “Part of the reason so many women have come forward is because other assault survivors have been able to speak openly about their treatment,” Dirks said.
The settlement negotiated by Allred, Dirks said, “effectively erases all of the sexual assaults and the college’s wrongdoing.”

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Court: Hitting "Like" on Facebook Protected by First Amendment

A federal appeals court overturned a lower court decision on Wednesday, ruling that clicking the “Like” button on Facebook in support of a political candidate amounts to constitutionally protected speech.

The case was brought by former employees at a Virginia sheriff's office who said they lost their jobs because they supported their boss’ opponent in the local election and had the cheek to "Like" his campaign page on Facebook.

Here’s a bit more of the back story from the Atlantic:

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Here Are All The Countries Where Children Are Sentenced To Die In Prison

There are about 2,500 youth offenders serving life sentences without the possibility of parole in prisons worldwide. We've come up with a map showing all of the countries where they are incarcerated.

That's right: The United States is the only country in the world that condemns people to spend their lives behind bars for crimes they committed before they turned 18.

A new report from the Sentencing Project, a group that advocates for prison reforms, highlights this fact.

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Patrick Kennedy Visits Mentally Ill Inmates Of Cook County Jail, Largest Illinois Mental Health Facility

Before he was an inmate, a middle-aged man in a tan correctional uniform heard voices and believed he was God.

Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, the Rhode Island Democrat who retired from Congress in 2011, and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart listened intently as the inmate, who declined to be named, talked about living with schizophrenia in the lockup. The man attends group therapy sessions and receives other treatment inside what is now the largest mental health care provider in Illinois -- the Cook County Jail.

Kennedy, visiting Chicago for meetings related to next month's Kennedy Forum on mental illness, intellectual disabilities and addictions in Boston, toured the jail Thursday after learning the sheriff and his team devote much of the 10,000-inmate facility to mental health care. As a longtime mental health advocate, Kennedy worked with his father, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, to write and pass the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.

Read on...

Going inside ‘KP:’ Kingston Penitentiary soon open for guided tours

For three weeks, visitors will be able to tour the maximum security facility that’s housed Canada’s worst criminals

Members of the public will have soon have a rare and limited chance to go inside the country's most notorious but soon to be closed prison, the first such opportunity in ages.

For three weeks starting Oct. 2, visitors will be able to tour Kingston Penitentiary, the formidable maximum security facility that has housed Canada's worst criminals. 

The tours, guided by Correctional Service Canada volunteers, are a fundraiser for the United Way in Kingston, Ont.

Bhavana Varma, president of the local United Way branch, calls it an "exciting" opportunity.
"Many of us have lived here and been curious about and intrigued by the historic institution," Varma said Friday. 

 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Victory for College Students! Court Strikes Down Mandatory Drug Testing for All Students

ACLU's win should be a warning to colleges and universities

Today, in a class-action lawsuit brought by the ACLU and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, a federal district court told a Missouri college to end its unconstitutional program of requiring all of its students—irrespective of their course of study—to submit to suspicionless drug-testing. Jason Williamson, staff attorney at the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project, and co-counsel on the case, said:

"Linn State required every incoming student to be tested for drugs, even though many of them would not be engaged in dangerous activities, and the college had no reason to believe any particular student was using drugs. Any student who refused to submit to the drug test—which is considered a search under the Fourth Amendment—would be denied the opportunity to pursue their education at Linn State.

"Students should not be required to sacrifice their constitutional rights in order to further their education, and we're thrilled that the court has struck down the policy. Our victory should serve as a warning to colleges and universities across the country: mandatory, suspicionless drug testing of the entire student body has no place in education.”

Read on...

Hard Times, the Sequel

George Packer on the disappearance of the American Dream.

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, George Packer’s absorbing account of the 35-year shakedown of the U.S. economy by “organized money,” follows the life stories of three everymen struggling against mounting odds to make ends meet, economically and existentially. The Unwinding’s narrative begins in 1978—soon after 5,000 steelworkers lost their jobs to the abrupt closure of Youngstown Sheet and Tube—and demonstrates that in the subsequent collapse of the “Roosevelt Republic,” the money elites may have killed off the American democratic experiment for good.

“He was angry on behalf of the American people,” Packer says of Jeff Connaughton, one of his three lead characters, “not the poor, to be honest, who were always with us, but the people in the middle who had …worked hard and played by the rules and saw half their 401(k)s disappear in their late fifties just when they thought they’d saved for retirement and now were fucked.” Connaughton’s story frames the larger narrative of institutional disintegration and comes closest, one suspects, to reflecting Packer’s own moderate political bent. After a modest but solidly middle-class upbringing in Alabama, Jeff majored in business at the state U and, as a sophomore, was inspired to enter a life of public service by a characteristically charming, outsider-y debate performance by 36-year-old Senator Joe Biden in 1979. From that point on, he was determined to follow Biden all the way to the White House, which young Jeff regarded “the summit of American life.”

Read on...

How a Law Aimed at Sex Offenders Could Feed into the Growing Surveillance State

A new precedent for chilling 1st Amendment rights.

Last November, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 35, the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE) Act. Like “tough on crime” anti-trafficking legislation around the country, Proposition 35 was presented as bolstering law enforcement's ability to fight human trafficking by introducing a bundle of new laws that, most prominently, increased penalties for those convicted of trafficking human labor, made prostitution a sex crime, and with less public attention, created a new requirement for registered sex offenders. 

Under this last provision, all 73,000 registered sex offenders are required to submit their Internet service providers and "Internet identifiers” to their local police department within 24 hours of creating each new one, or face up to three years in jail. “Identifiers” include every name or username a registrant uses for any online activities he engages in, from posting a comment in a news outlet to shopping.

The day after Prop 35 was voted into law, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU of Northern California filed a class action complaint on behalf of two anonymous registrants and the advocacy group, California Reform Sex Offender Laws, against the provision under question, claiming that it was unconstitutionally broad and would create a chilling effect on registrants’ free speech and associative rights. In response, the District Court immediately issued a temporary restraining order on Nov. 8, 2012, and eventually, a preliminary injunction on Jan. 11, 2013.

Read on...

Indiana Cop Repeatedly Tasered Naked, Elderly, Nursing Home Patient

The officer attacked a 64-year-old Alzheimer's patient multiple times with a taser, even after he was handcuffed.

In Indiana, a police officer tasered a naked, nursing home patient who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, Courthouse News reported.
The officer, Doug Martin had been called to Miller’s Merry Manor nursing home after a 911 call was received requesting help in transporting a patient who had hit his roommate, a nurse and nurse assistant.

Martin and his partner, Officer Jeremy Brindle entered the Alzheimer's ward to find 64-year-old James Howard sitting in a chair, stark naked and wearing only socks. The officers commanded that Howard lie on a gurney. When Howard refused and advanced towards the officer, Martin yelled, “taser” and zapped Howard five times for 31 seconds on his naked torso.

Following complaints by Howard’s wife, Martin was fired for excessive force and conduct unbecoming of an officer. Martin then took the case further to the Miami Superior Court who overturned the decision. Subsequently, the city of Peru, Indiana, and its police department appealed.

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Sacramento's prison deal

Before the courts lift a deadline on overcrowding, California must show it's serious about reform.

At the heart of the state's latest proposal to comply with a federal court order to reduce the prison population is a plea, yet again, for more time. If the judges say no and stick with their Dec. 31 deadline by which the state must release or find alternative housing for about 9,600 inmates, the deal brokered Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown and Assembly leaders on the one side and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on the other will revert to the foolish plan that Brown proposed last month: Spend down the state's hard-won reserve fund by $715 million over the next two years and throw it down what the governor himself has called "the rathole of incarceration" by expanding the prison system with leased public and private cells for excess prisoners.

The end-of-year compliance date already represents a six-month reprieve from the original June deadline. The three-judge panel with jurisdiction over the case has rejected pleas for additional stays and has expressed, in barely disguised anger, its impatience with the state's resistance.

Read on...

 

STUDY: Gun Violence Hospitalizations Cost Over $600 Million In 2010 Alone

Emergency room and inpatient procedures related to firearm injuries cost $629 million in 2010 alone, according to a new study by the Urban Institute. Since a large majority of these injuries afflicted poor males from low-income regions, U.S. taxpayers subsidized over half the costs of the treatments through public insurance programs.

Victims of gun violence are almost exclusively men aged 15 years and older, with American males between the ages of 15 and 34 comprising 69 percent of firearm assault injuries. Women constituted just nine percent of gun injuries across all ages.

Researchers found that the average emergency room visit for a gun injury ran $1,126, while an inpatient visit cost $23,497 — $14,000 more than the average cost of all inpatient stays in 2010.

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Largest Gun Study Ever: More Guns, More Murder

The largest study of gun violence in the United States, released Thursday afternoon, confirms a point that should be obvious: widespread American gun ownership is fueling America’s gun violence epidemic.

The study, by Professor Michael Siegel at Boston University and two coauthors, has been peer-reviewed and is forthcoming in the American Journal of Public Health. Siegel and his colleagues compiled data on firearm homicides from all 50 states from 1981-2010, the longest stretch of time ever studied in this fashion, and set about seeing whether they could find any relationship between changes in gun ownership and murder using guns over time.

Since we know that violent crime rates overall declined during that period of time, the authors used something called “fixed effect regression” to account for any national trend other than changes in gun ownership. They also employed the largest-ever number of statistical controls for other variables in this kind of gun study: “age, gender, race/ethnicity, urbanization, poverty, unemployment, income, education, income inequality, divorce rate, alcohol use, violent crime rate, nonviolent crime rate, hate crime rate, number of hunting licenses, age-adjusted nonfirearm homicide rate, incarceration rate,and suicide rate” were all accounted for.

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Ten Years After Law’s Passage, DOJ Takes Baby Steps To Address Prison Sexual Assault

Ten years after Congress passed legislation to address rampant sexual abuse in prison, especially of teenagers and LGBT individuals, the Department of Justice is starting to implement new regulations under the law.

The new policies will impose basic requirements, such as separating teens in adult prisons, and banning cross-gender pat-downs in juvenile and female units. Facilities must also develop plans to eliminate rape, and will be subject to federal audits, U.S. News reports.

Just as the PREA turns ten years old, the first audit was conducted last week at a federal prison in West Virginia, and more are scheduled for the coming weeks. But some are alarmed to learn who will perform the first round of audits. The American Correctional Association, a membership organization for corrections officers, performs accreditation for many detention centers, and will be asked to examine sexual assault prevention as part of that assessment. But the ACA has very close ties to corrections officers, and a ProPublica analysis calls it the “very organization that has been criticized over the years for failing to identify and address safety problems at prisons across the country.”

Read on...

How do you cut a police budget? Very carefully …

Here’s some free advice for cities considering cutting their police forces: Slice carefully.
Crime rates are dropping in most Canadian cities. The shift has been slower in some prairie cities, like Edmonton, Regina and Winnipeg. Yet even in these cases, the overall number of crimes is gradually coming down. There’s a similar trend in the United States, where crime rates are down to 40- or 50-year lows in many areas.

In Canadian cities where this trend is clearest — like Calgary and Toronto — pundits and politicians are now calling for major cuts to local police budgets to take advantage of the lower crime rate. It doesn’t help that policing is the highest single cost in almost every city’s budget.

There’s even talk about police cuts in Winnipeg, a city that often leads the nation with its arson, murder or violent crime rates. Rumours are swirling about a confidential study commissioned by Winnipeg’s city council. The report supposedly recommends shutting down the vice squad and other special units (although the city’s controversial helicopter doesn’t seem to be on the chopping block). If you’re cutting cops “because the crime rate is lower,” it’s important to ask how the crime rate got lower in the first place.

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N.S.A. Able to Foil Basic Safeguards of Privacy on Web

The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents.

The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show.

Many users assume — or have been assured by Internet companies — that their data is safe from prying eyes, including those of the government, and the N.S.A. wants to keep it that way. The agency treats its recent successes in deciphering protected information as among its most closely guarded secrets, restricted to those cleared for a highly classified program code-named Bullrun, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. 

24 Distortions About Guns From Wash. Times Editor Emily Miller's New Book

Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller's new book, Emily Gets Her Gun: ...But Obama Wants to Take Yours, is filled with falsehoods about the gun debate and promotes the National Rifle Association's conspiracy theory that President Obama is planning to confiscate privately held firearms.

Miller: "When Asked On A Candidate Questionnaire In 1996 If He Supported Legislation To 'Ban The Manufacture, Sale And Possession Of Handguns,' Obama Simply Answered, 'Yes.'" Miller alleges that Obama lied about his support for the Second Amendment in the 2012 election, citing his answer on a 1996 survey:
Obama knew that the 100 million gun owners in the United States could sink his election if they became aware of his true views on firearm ownership. So in the 2012 election he assured voters, "We're a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment." Gun owners were mocked as crazy and paranoid for fearing a second-term gun grab by Obama. Political analysts suggested that pro-gun leaders were trying to stir up fear to get out the vote for Mitt Romney. But in the end, everything the pro-gun groups predicted came true.
Back when Obama ran for the Illinois state senate, he didn't try to hide his anti-gun views. When asked on a candidate questionnaire in 1996 if he supported legislation to "ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns," Obama simply answered, "Yes." [Emily Gets Her Gun: ...But Obama Wants to Take Yours, pg. 16, 9/3/13]

REALITY: Survey Answer Not Reflective Of Obama's Views On Gun Regulation

 Read on...

California Prisoners End Hunger Strike Against 'Systemic State Sanctioned Torture'

'Peaceful Protest of Resistance' against solitary confinement to continue, they vow

 California inmates ended on Thursday their over two-month hunger strike in "nonviolent peaceful protest of . . . decades of indefinite state-sanctioned torture, via long term solitary confinement."

The historic strike began at the Security Housing Unit (SHU) in Pelican Bay State Prison but quickly spread to other prisons across the state, and included as many as 30,000 inmates at one point.

In a statement, representatives of the hunger strikers said that they "deemed it to be in the best interest of our cause to suspend our hunger strike action until further notice."

In addition to the human rights violations from long-term solitary confinement, California prison officials were slammed by human rights advocates for getting a green light to force-feed prisoners during the hunger strike, which stands in violation of international laws.

Read on...

 

Drudge's Race-Baiting Is Only Getting Worse

A new study from The New Republic determined that the Drudge Report's use of race-baiting headlines has soared in the last five years, a fact that lends context to the recent flood of conservative media amplifying random, interracial crimes and baselessly assigning them a racial motive.
Matt Drudge's conservative website Drudge Report is infamous for its obsessive coverage of alleged black-on-white crime and race-baiting headlines. But it's only getting worse, according to a new analysis by The New Republic. The magazine analyzed Drudge's use of race-related terms in headlines after 2008 -- the year President Obama established himself as a national figure with his first presidential campaign -- with Drudge headlines before 2008, and the results are striking. According to the analysis, since 2008, Drudge headlines:
  • Referencing "racism" have more than tripled
  • With the term "racist" have nearly doubled
  • Containing "black" and "crime" have quadrupled, and
Read on....

What Canadians need to know about CSEC spying

Thousands of Canadians are speaking out to defend their privacy rights, after recent revelations that an ultra-secretive government agency is spying on our everyday online activities. This agency, the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), was revealed to be systematically collecting the private information of law-abiding citizens, including Canadians, from around the world.

Fresh developments show that Canadians are absolutely right to be concerned. Just last week, CSEC’s own official watchdog revealed that the spy agency may have illegally targeted Canadians within the past 12 months.

Americans are also speaking out after it was revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA), through a secret program called PRISM, can, according to the Guardian, “collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats” from online users. The NSA is able to gather vast amounts of online information from users because of the extensive access they have been given to large Internet companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google.

Read on...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

These States Are Most Likely To Legalize Pot Next

Attorney General Eric Holder gave a green light on Thursday to two states whose efforts to legalize marijuana had been locked in by legal uncertainty for more than nine months. With that announcement, Colorado and Washington -- both of which passed pro-pot initiatives at the polls last November -- can now proceed with establishing a framework for the taxation and regulation of legal weed for adults.

The administration's decision holds clear and immediate implications for the two states, both of which had been hesitant to act too quickly over concerns that the government might decide to enforce federal law, which still considers marijuana an illegal substance.

But the move also, and perhaps more importantly, throws open the gates for other states to pursue similar pot legalization efforts, so long as they include "strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems." Experts on both sides of the issue have already said they expect to see movement come quickly.

Read on...

Ten Ways Criminal Justice Is One Of The Great Civil Rights Crises Of Our Time

The last few months have issued several potent reminders that racism still pervades our criminal justice system, as even some prominent and powerful American black leaders publicly professed that they had to warn their young sons about police profiling. Supporting these anecdotes is a U.S. record of racially skewed criminal justice policies that moved academic Michelle Alexander to declare in her seminal 2010 book that mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow. On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, here are some of the many reasons criminal justice is in fact one of the great civil rights crises of our time:

1. The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid. More than 60 percent of people in prison now are racial or ethnic minorities, according to the Sentencing Project. These minorities are part of a total prison population that eclipses that of any other nation in the world. At the federal level, more than half of these individuals are locked up for nonviolent drug or immigration offenses.

2. Black men born in the United States in 2001 have a one in three chance of being incarcerated at some point in their lifetime, according to Department of Justice statistics. An even greater number will have a criminal record, and face the host of collateral consequences that emanate from a criminal record. As Alexander wrote, “An extraordinary percentage of black men in the United States are legally barred from voting today, just as they have been throughout most of American history. They are also subject to legalized discrimination in employment, housing, education, public benefits, and jury service, just as their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents once were.” One study suggested felon voting restrictions disenfranchise more minorities than voter ID laws.

Read on...

The truth about 'early release'

Both Gov. Jerry Brown's ill-considered plan for complying with a court-ordered prison population cap by contracting out for inmate beds, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's much smarter plan to control the flow of new inmates into prison, are based on the desire to prevent, at almost all costs, the early release of inmates.

And that is understandable. California's 33 prisons are overpopulated by about 9,600 felons, according to courts that have ordered the number of inmates to be reduced to 137.5% of design capacity by Dec. 31. The prospect of that many convicted criminals being released onto the streets in a single wave is frightening.

But Californians should understand that their leaders' motivation for resisting early release is based at least as much on political as criminological facts. The prison doors will not swing open. There will be no new wave of released felons.

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Can the Obama Admin Actually Fix Our Broken Criminal Justice System?

  On Monday, August 12, the day Attorney General Eric Holder announced “a fundamentally new approach” to the criminal justice system in his speech before the American Bar Association in San Francisco, US District Court Judge Mark W. Bennett was in his office in Sioux City, Iowa, drafting a sentencing opinion in a drug case. An outspoken critic of mandatory minimums [see “ Imposing Injustice,” November 12, 2012], Bennett is known for writing unusual opinions that criticize the sentences he must often hand down. “It’s about trying to make the system fairer,” he says, “not just for the defendant in front of you, but for others.”

The defendant in this case, a 37-year-old black man named Douglas Young, had caught a rare break. He’d pleaded guilty to two charges involving twenty-eight grams of crack cocaine—an amount sufficient to trigger two five-year mandatory minimum sentences. But he had previously been convicted on another crack charge, in Chicago, when he was just 20 years old. This single offense, seventeen years ago, meant not only that prosecutors could have doubled Young’s mandatory minimum sentence, but also that he could have received a maximum sentence of life without parole.

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Prison-Industrial Complex? Maybe It's Time For A Schools-Industrial Complex

California has built 23 prisons since 1980. In the same period, the University of California system has opened one new campus. And although California's prison population has declined in recent years, the state's spending per prisoner has increased five times faster than its spending per K-12 student in the last two decades.

California has more than 130,000 prisoners, a huge increase from the state's 1980 prison population of about 25,000. Prisons cost California taxpayers close to $10 billion, compared with $604 million in 1980. While some say the additional spending is needed for rehabilitation services, they also note that the prisons are draining scarce funds from education and other key areas.

This week, Californians who hope to see the state scale down its prison spending were dismayed to learn that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) wants to further expand the prison system, spending an additional $700 million on prisons over the next two years. Brown is trying to comply with a federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding by the end of this year: Despite the 21 new prisons built since 1980, construction hasn’t kept pace with the growth of the inmate population, and California’s prison system is one of the most crowded in the country.

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STUDY: Juvenile Arrests in Oakland Driven By Racial Bias

A new study released Wednesday finds that African-American boys in Oakland, California, are far more likely to be arrested than boys of other races. They are also more likely to be arrested for minor offenses like gambling and drunkenness.

According to the study, conducted by the Black Organizing Project in conjunction with the ACLU, black boys comprised of 73.5 percent of all juvenile arrests by the Oakland Police Department between 2006 and 2012, even though they only make up 29.3 percent of the city’s youth population. Nearly 80 percent of these young African Americans were not prosecuted.

As Jacquelyn Byers, director of the Black Organizing Project, told the San Francisco Chronicle, “we’ve heard stories about racial profiling — when you see the actual data, it’s hard to believe this is actually happening.”

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Weather and Violence

AS temperatures rise, tempers flare. Anyone who has experienced the hostility of a swelteringly hot summer day in the city can attest to that.

But researchers are now quantifying the causal relationship between extreme climate and human conflict. Whether their focus is on small-scale interpersonal aggression or large-scale political instability, low-income or high-income societies, the year 10,000 B.C. or the present day, the overall conclusion is the same: episodes of extreme climate make people more violent toward one another.

In a paper published this month in the journal Science, we assembled 60 of the best studies on this topic from fields as diverse as archaeology, criminology, economics, geography, history, political science and psychology. Typically, these were studies that compared, in a given population, levels of violence during periods of normal climate with levels of violence during periods of extreme climate. We then combined the results from those studies that concerned modern data in a “meta-analysis,” a powerful statistical procedure that allowed us to compare and aggregate findings across the individual studies.