Excerpt: “In a fascinating investigation for the American Prospect, Beth Schwartzapfel takes us inside the dark world of penal labor, asking a question that has dogged the industry since the days of roadside chain gangs: why can’t we agree that prisoners have labor rights? At prisons across the United States, men and women build office furniture, clean cellblocks, make industrial sinks for school cafeterias, work as telemarketers, sew the uniforms worn by their guards and fellow inmates, and complete dozens of other mindless, routine tasks that keep the giant engine of the carceral state running. Though part of the pretense for prison labor is that it helps inmates save money and earn skills that will ease their transition upon release, these terribly paid, manual labor jobs provide little practical assistance to inmates returning home. Instead, they are more akin to a modern-day version of slavery: unprotected, physically demanding and economically exploitative.” Click Here for full article.
The New York Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP today announced a historic settlement that overhauls public defense in five counties and lays the foundation for statewide reform of New York’s broken public defense system. By entering into the agreement, the state is taking responsibility for providing public defense for the first time in the more than 50 years since the Supreme Court held that it is a state obligation.
Excerpt:”On paper, the inquiry seems straightforward enough. But critics, noting the racial imbalances in how some crimes are processed, have argued that asking it can amount to a form of unintended discrimination. Responding to those concerns, as raised by the advocacy group Center for Community Alternatives, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has reached an agreement with St. John’s and two other institutions under which the schools will drop such questions from their standard application process.” Click here for full article.
Excerpt: “Even though the inmate population at Rikers Island has fallen to its lowest level in decades, the amount of money spent to run New York City jails soared to a record $1.1 billion in 2014, according to a new report by the city comptroller. And yet there appears to have been little improvement, with assaults by guards and inmate violence drastically worsening.” Continue Reading ->
Excerpt: “New York, along with North Carolina, is one of just two states that automatically prosecute all 16- and 17-year-olds like adults. Last year, the 12,300-inmate Rikers facility housed about 700 teenage boys. Bharara found that more than 40 percent of them were subjected to the use of force by guards at least once, and required emergency medical assistance more than 450 times. Even people who’ve worked in juvenile justice for decades say these numbers are alarming.” click here for full article.
Excerpt:”An off-duty police officer shot and killed a black teenager in St. Louis on Wednesday night, setting off a demonstration just days ahead of long-scheduled protests in Missouri about the use of lethal force by the authorities. The St. Louis police chief, D. Samuel Dotson III, said at a news conference that the teenager had fired at least three shots toward the officer, a six-year veteran who was working in the city’s Shaw neighborhood for a private security firm. Chief Dotson said that the officer had fired 17 rounds, but that he did not know how many times the teenager had been hit. The teenager’s family disputed the police account, and a woman who said she was his cousin told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he had been unarmed.” Click here for full article.
Excerpt: “Twenty years ago, amid a national panic over crime, California voters adopted the country’s most stringent three-strikes law, sentencing repeat felons to 25 years to life, even if the third offense was a minor theft. The law epitomized the tough-on-crime policies that produced overflowing prisons and soaring costs. Now California voters appear poised to scale back the heavy reliance on incarceration they once embraced, with a measure that would transform several lower-level, nonviolent felonies into misdemeanors punishable by brief jail stays, if that, rather than time in a state penitentiary. The referendum on Nov. 4 is part of a national reappraisal of mass incarceration.” Click Here for full article.
Stop and seize, The Washington Post, Michael Sallah,Robert O’Harrow Jr., and Steven Rich, September 6, 2014.
Excerpt: “After the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the government called on police to become the eyes and ears of homeland security on America’s highways. Local officers, county deputies and state troopers were encouraged to act more aggressively in searching for suspicious people, drugs and other contraband. The departments of Homeland Security and Justice spent millions on police training.” click here for full article.
Excerpt: “In the era before cheap video technology, this would be a story about a police officer who reported shooting a man during a traffic stop when the man dove into his car to grab a weapon. Absent images, many people would give the police officer the benefit of the doubt, even when the motorist turned out to be unarmed, on the theory that cops have no reason to shoot men who comply with their orders. The motorist’s behavior would be described as erratic and aggressive. People would believe that the cop reasonably feared for his life before shooting his gun. But this is the era of the dash cam. So this is a story about South Carolina Highway Patrol officer Sean Groubert being charged with armed aggravated assault.” click here for full article.
Excerpt: “Protests in Ferguson and New York this summer rekindled an old debate about how American police use force. The perception that cops are too aggressive has been fed not just by the high-profile deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, but also by a stream of unflattering camera phone videos, such as the recent scene of New York cops aggressively clearing a street of vendors or the clip of three officers in a Houston school wrestling with a teenage girl who didn’t want to give up her cellphone.” click here for full article.