Terrell Jermaine Starr en Cruel and Unusual: Some Mentally Ill Prisoners Forced to Wear Padlocked Jumpsuits <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Said to protect staff from exhibitionism, mental health experts believe the program is inhumane.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Several prisons in New York are requiring people serving time in correctional facilities to wear padlocked jumpsuits to prevent them from exposing their genitals to female correctional officers, the Marshall Project <a href="">reports</a>.</p><p>The disturbing practice, called Inmate Exposure Control, is a pilot program taking place at several New York state prisons that require people serving time who expose or masturbate in front of staff or visitors to wear the padlocked suits whenever they exit their cells. The person’s cell is also marked with a large yellow sign reading, “EXPOSER.” Those who refuse to wear the suits are not allowed to leave their cells.</p><p>Correctional officers at Marcy Correctional Facility, just outside of Utica, NY, placed Vincent Barrow in the padlocked jumpsuit in 2011 after he began exposing himself repeatedly to female staff in 2008. Staff believed the new approach would help keep his impulses under control. But Barrow disagrees, saying the suit left him subject to “scorn, ridicule and unusual punishment.” The guards, he claims, told him their only alternative was to place him in a restraint chair with his limbs bound.</p><p>Barrow wasn’t allowed to leave his cell for a 17-month period because he refused to wear the padlocked suit. As a result, he says he was unable to attend prison programs and denied depression medication. Barrow, who claims to suffer from depression and exhibitionist disorder, filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2012 in which he argued the jumpsuit violated constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.</p><p>“I’m supposed to be treated for my issues in confidence,” he <a href="">wrote</a> in the complaint. “With this sign over my door and this suit, this whole prison population knows what I am being treated for.”</p><p>Two federal judges who ruled on Barrow’s complaint said the jumpsuit was a minor inconvenience.</p><p>The program requires selected prisoners to wear the suits for 30-day periods, but documents obtained by the Marshall Project show that some inmates have worn the suits for several months. Most of the people who were forced to wear the suits in 2010-'11 were mentally ill individuals housed in special medical units; the policy was expanded in 2012 to include inmates in solitary confinement.</p><p>The program, which started in 2010 at Marcy Correctional Facility, has been adopted throughout the state. So far, a total of eight correctional facilities are participating in the pilot program. At least 80 people have been forced to wear the padlocked jumpsuits since 2011, though the exact number is unknown.</p><p>Mental health experts believe the program is inhumane.</p><p>“I’ve never heard of such suits being used to treat exhibitionism,” said Richard Krueger, a psychiatry professor at Columbia University who specializes in sexual behavior. He likened the suits to chastity belts. “This is an extreme form of restraint,” he told the Marshall Project.</p><p>Brenda Smith, an American University law professor whose research has focused on prison sex issues, told the Marshall Project that the program sounded “twisted” and “stigmatizing” and that labeling inmates can be humiliating and dangerous.</p><p>“Prisons are institutions outside of society,” Smith said. “That doesn’t mean they don't have to comport with common standards of decency.”</p><p>New York isn’t the only state using restraining jumpsuits to deal with prisoners who expose themselves. South Carolina also uses “pink jumpsuits,” but the program will be discontinued because it is “no longer effective.”</p><p>Correctional professionals who support using the jumpsuits claim they are, in part, used to protect staff. They says the suits allow for some movement.</p><p>Some critics wonder if correctional facilities are doing enough to work with prisoners who are a challenge to discipline. AlterNet <a href="">recently reported</a> how a group of correctional officers known as the “Beat-up Squad” beat to death a mentally ill man at the Fishkill Correctional Facility, in Beacon, NY, who was reportedly giving them a hard time. None of the guards have been charged in connection with this crime, raising the question of why American prisons do not have independent oversight boards monitoring staff conduct.</p><p>Human Rights Watch <a href="">reported</a> in May that mentally ill people serving time are routinely abused by prison staff. Although treatment is a better alternative than force, correctional officers often resort to the later, Human Rights Watch noted. In a national survey cited in the report, people with mental health issues rack up one-and-a-half times more infractions (rule violations) than those who do not have such issues.</p><p>Part of the problem that feeds into corrections culture, the report says, is the assumption that prisoners always make rational choices. So if someone refuses to leave his cell or exposes himself, it is assumed he is going out of his way to break the rules. That is not always the case, especially for someone who suffers from a mental health issue. The culture that allows cruel corrective measures like padlocked jumpsuits is a manifestation of such assumptions.</p><p>Until people serving time are treated like human beings and given the mental health treatment they require, more examples of extreme measures used to deal with challenging persons in prison will surface.</p> Sat, 19 Sep 2015 09:38:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1042669 at Human Rights Human Rights News & Politics prison prison abuse civil liberties exhibitionism Inmate Exposure Control, mental illness in prison untreated mental illness Bernie Supporter Explains What Sanders Needs to Do to Earn Black Vote <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">“He has worked for black people but he hasn’t actually gone to black people.&quot; </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">When Carlos Chaverst Jr. heard Sen. Bernie Sanders speak at the National Action Network’s national convention in New York City on April 8, he knew he was listening to a future presidential candidate he could get behind.</p><p>The senator’s message of making college affordable for all people struck a personal chord with Chaverst because he is currently taking a semester off from school, in part to figure out how he will pay off some of his student debt. A community activist who works with poor communities in his hometown of Birmingham, Ala., the 22-year-old said Sanders’ views on universal health care struck a chord with him. While he doesn’t remember the senator going into too many details, Chaverst says Sanders was frank about the need to address police brutality and holding abusive officers accountable.</p><p>“I had no idea who this guy was,” Chaverst told AlterNet. “I didn’t know too much about him but I knew then that the things that he was saying resonated with me as a young man more than anything I’ve heard from any other person and everything he said came off as very authentic and real.”</p><p>After Sanders finished delivering his remarks and shook hands with people in the audience, Chaverst made his way to the senator and made a bold statement.</p><p>“You would make a great presidential candidate and you are what this country needs,” he recalls telling the senator. Sanders just laughed graciously before walking off. On April 30, the senator announced his presidential bid.</p><p>Carlos Chaverst Jr. is part of the small but growing group of African Americans supporting Sanders’ run for the White House. As AlterNet <a href="">previously reported</a>, Sanders is polling at 14 percent with African Americans, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 65 percent. More than a dozen political analysts and activists said that Sanders' message of economic inequality doesn’t resonate with black voters because it deals more with class struggle than with racism. The Sanders camp rejects this claim, saying the senator discusses racism and economics regularly. </p><p>When Sanders went to Columbia, S.C., to visit Benedict College, an historically black institution, the New York Times <a href="">reported</a> that the gymnasium in which he spoke was half full and most of the attendees were white.</p><p>But Chaverst says there’s a lot of opportunities for Sanders in the future to make sure such events are packed with black supporters. When I asked Chaverst why he thinks Sanders isn’t polling better with black voters, he said part of the challenge is that many black people haven’t developed an emotional connection with the Vermont senator. Sanders, for all of his talk about how economic inequality impacts black people, isn’t known for speaking in poor African American communities.</p><p>“He hasn’t gone to them,” Chaverst said. “He has worked for black people but he hasn’t actually gone to black people. There’s a huge disconnect.... If he would meet with more black communities, go to more black events, more black people would know him.”</p><p>Sanders can easily overcome this issue, Chaverst says, by simply reaching out to people like him to do grassroots campaigning in “the hood." He says people need to hear about the senator's policies from the mouths of people who have some street cred. Chaverst would take Sanders to some of Birmingham's most impoverished neighborhoods, give him a tour of 16th Street Baptist Church, where four black girls were killed during a racist firebombing in 1963. Chaverst would also arrange for Sanders to have lunch with ordinary black people at one of the city’s soul food restaurants.</p><p>“If you say you’re going to help the poor, let me show you where the poor are struggling at,” Chaverst said. “If Senator Sanders was to come to Birmingham today, I would definately take him to a few areas and let him see first-hand what the people of Birmingham are dealing with on a day-to-day basis. If Sanders says he supports black people and he is here for black people, well, let’s see if you’re really here for black people. Let’s go to our black communities and show you where our schools haven’t had updated textbooks in almost 20 years, and let me show you how our people have to take public transportation that they can’t really rely on to get them to and from work every day.”</p><p>The young activist is not criticizing Sanders as much as sharing what he feels will give him an edge in campaigning for the black vote. He should know a thing about that: Chaverst says he is running for constable of Alabama’s House District 60. </p><p>The elected position serves as an officer of the court. The officer can serve papers, carry a gun, pull over vehicles and make arrests. They are not patrol cops, however, and prosecutors are <a href="">investigating</a> dozens of cases in which constables in the state have allegedly abused their power. Chaverst says he wants to assume the position because he wants to be a face in uniform that people who look like him can trust. With all of the issues of law enforcement officers abusing their power, Chaverst, also youth president of the National Action Network's Birmingham chapter, believes he has earned enough respect in his community to enforce the law effectively. </p><p>This is why he is so excited about Sanders’ run for the White House. He wants to use the influence he has established in Birmigham to help the senator with his outreach efforts in Alabama. </p><p>As for that offer to give Sanders a tour of Birmingham, Chaverst says the invitation is open. “I’d be delighted to do so,” he said.</p> Wed, 16 Sep 2015 12:12:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1042512 at Election 2016 Human Rights Election 2016 bernie sanders the black vote Why Aren't More Black Voters Feeling the Bern? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Critics say the Sanders campaign needs to do a lot more to connect with black voters.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Senator Bernie Sanders continues to pack arenas and often draws standing-room-only crowds as he vies for the Democratic nomination. Though Sanders trails former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in most national polls, he is closing the gap. One poll shows Sanders <a href="" target="_blank">leading Clinton</a> in Iowa.</p><p dir="ltr">Part of the magnetism drawing supporters to the senator is his populist message that includes eliminating economic inequality, challenging oligarchs on Wall Street and advocating for blue-collar workers. Without question, the insurgent nature of his candidacy is igniting excitement in the Democratic base and among many progressive voters who believe a true liberal can win the nomination, and quite possibly, the White House.</p><p dir="ltr">There remains one inconvenient dilemma for the Sanders camp: Most black voters have yet to “feel the Bern.” </p><p dir="ltr">According to the <a href="" target="_blank">latest findings</a> from Public Policy Polling, 65 percent of black voters support Clinton while only 14 percent back Sanders. For a man who is heralded as a civil rights veteran by his legion of supporters, that number is not impressive.</p><p dir="ltr">In more than a dozen interviews with political strategists, leading black journalists and activists, there is a common acknowledgement that most African-American voters don’t know who the senator is, and that his messaging to this critical voting base has been poorly executed. For many months, the Sanders campaign did little to make inroads with black voters, in person or online. Another problem observers point out is that there is an arrogant and insulting expectation among Sanders’ white liberal supporters that black people should vote for him simply because he is not Hillary Clinton. Others point to him “marching with Dr. King.”  Then too, the senator has also bumbled primetime moments from which he has yet to fully recover.</p><p dir="ltr">That said, observers believe Sanders can gain the trust of more black voters (but likely not more than Clinton), though many question his personal resolve to do so.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sanders Media Stumbles and Challenges Connecting With Black Voters</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Sanders' Netroots Nation appearance where he was confronted by Black Lives Matter movement protesters was far from impressive. During his time on stage, activists repeatedly challenged him (they also challenged Martin O’Malley) to narrow his traditional message of economic and social justice to address police brutality. Sanders seemed befuddled and agitated; at one point, he asked Jose Antonio Vargas, the moderator, if he should leave.  </p><p dir="ltr">Glynda Carr, co-founder of Higher Heights, a national organization focused on politically empowering black women, said that was the first sign for many black people that Sanders wasn’t comfortable digressing from his traditional script and dealing with an uncomfortable interaction.  </p><p dir="ltr">“That is really what I think catapulted people’s concerns," Carr said. “The fact that he wasn’t willing to just pivot off like, Okay, here is an action. Let me address it and move on."</p><p dir="ltr">O’ Malley did stumble with his “All lives matter” response to protesters, but he kept his appointments at the event (unlike Sanders), which, Carr says, earned the respect of many people of color.</p><p dir="ltr">Sanders' August interview with Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s “Meet The Press,” also left questions. When Todd <a href="" target="_blank">asked</a> Sanders if he approved an email written by Marcus Ferrell, his African-American outreach director, in which he apologized for not meeting with Black Lives Matter activists, Sanders gave a flat response.</p><p dir="ltr">"No, I don't. I think we're going to be working with all groups,” he said. “This was sent out without my knowledge."</p><p dir="ltr">Lauren Victoria, a political strategist, says the senator’s tone was flippant.</p><p dir="ltr">“He’s got to understand that the Democratic Party will not win this election without black voters, period,” she said. “So, the Democratic nominee, whether it is Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, or anyone else, has to acknowledge that black voters are important. So for him to go out of his way to say to Chuck Todd, ‘Oh, I didn’t apologize.’ That means he didn’t back the plan of his black staffer who made that apology. I am not understanding that level of discomfort when you are running for the Democratic nomination. Running in Vermont, I can understand that. Running nationally? I can’t understand it.”</p><p dir="ltr">Elon James White, media director of Netroots Nation, was more direct: “So you basically threw your black dude under the bus.”</p><p dir="ltr">White, who is also media director of “This Week In Blackness,” one of the most important independent black media companies in America, believes Sanders doesn’t seem to care how he is being perceived by black voters who have yet to warm up to him.</p><p dir="ltr">“I’ve had Sanders supporters say flat-out, 'I like Sanders. I really support him. But he is handling this really bad. I am not sure why. I hope he gets better with it,’” he recalls Bernie supporters telling him. “And the fact is that his platform is getting better, which is why I don’t understand why he wouldn’t want to nip all of this in the bud.”</p><p dir="ltr">White admits he was actually a Sanders supporter and wanted him to be the candidate who could beat Hillary Clinton. However, he says he was so turned off by what he feels is Sanders’ dismissiveness and the social media attacks from his supporters that, “I’m at the point where I don’t even want to talk about him anymore.”</p><p dir="ltr">Luther Smith, a political strategist who worked on John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004, has this take on Sanders’ mindset toward black voters: “Sanders attitude is, ‘I don’t have to be chummy with you. I am talking about the kind of things I think should be important to you and if I am saying the right things on those policy issues then you should naturally gravitate towards me.' I think that is what he is thinking. But that is not how we operate. That is not how most people operate, but that is definitely not how black people operate. We gotta feel you and we have to know that you feel us.”</p><p dir="ltr">In 2012, the voter rate for African Americans was higher than white voters for the <a href="" target="_blank">first time ever</a>. It may also have been higher than <a href="" target="_blank">white people in 2008</a>, according to some estimates. Black women were the primary reason President Barack Obama won both of his presidential campaigns. Much of Sanders’ narrative challenges economic inequality, but early on his campaign he rarely, if ever, spoke exclusively to black voters about economic racism.</p><p dir="ltr">“How irresponsible is it for a major part of your campaign to be on economic inequality and you not weave in double-digit unemployment among African Americans and not weave in the disparities of black women,” said L. Joy Williams, a political consultant who ran the 2013 campaign of New York City mayoral candidate William Thompson.</p><p dir="ltr">After Netroots Nation, Sanders’ campaign hired Symone Sanders (no relation), as its national press secretary. An African American who is a staunch supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, Symone Sanders doesn’t agree with political strategists who think her candidate’s message isn’t resonating with the black community.</p><p dir="ltr">“It’s that some African Americans haven’t heard it,” Sanders said. “On June 16, the polls said 1 percent of African-American voters are familiar with the senator. On September 1, it was 14 percent. We know we still have a lot of work to do in terms of name recognition in African-American and Latino communities and young people as well. Our platform speaks to everyday, hard-working American people whether they are black, white, Latino or otherwise. We are talking about economic equality, but we’re also talking about issues of racial justice. We’re talking about voting rights, pay equity, and climate change, which by the way, disproportionately affects people of color, particularly African-American communities. So I think it is a name recognition thing, but we have to go out there and do the work.”</p><p dir="ltr">But if Sanders has been fighting for the civil rights of black people for decades, how come so few of them know about him?  </p><p dir="ltr">“Think about it: How many people do you really know in Congress that’s not your own congressperson, unless they run for president?” asked Bonita Yarboro, the District 3 coordinator in Connecticut for Bernie Sanders Connecticut, which is not authorized by the campaign. “He’s never run for president before, so it’s not like there is any reason for everybody in the world to know about him.”</p><p dir="ltr">She went on to laud Sanders’ economic policies that she feels are very germane to black voters, as well as his anti-war stance. When I asked what Sanders’ anti-war stance has to do with black people, Yarboro replied, “Who goes to war? Think about it. Not the rich people. Poor people. Who are mostly poor? Black people. So you have to look at it that way.” (According to <a href="" target="_blank">USA Today</a>, "The share of black soldiers is still larger than the 17% of the U.S. population who are African Americans of military enlistment age and education.") </p><p dir="ltr">Paul Maslin, who was on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign team in 2004, said Sanders and his supporters are relying too heavily on the assumption that black people will connect with his civil rights record and stance on social justice policies.</p><p dir="ltr">“That ain’t good enough,” Maslin said. “This is not a library exercise, or a civics book thing. Of course, people will look at his record and they will be exposed to the record, but the thing that happens first is you get a measure of the person. Is this somebody I can identify with and identifies with me and I believe will fight on my behalf or somebody I could like? I don’t think this is a negative for Bernie Sanders. I just think it is an unknown.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Here is some guy who is a senator from Vermont,” Maslin continued. “People may think of him as a socialist. What does that mean? He’s kind of an independent who shows up on my radar and takes on someone we know very well, and we kind of like her and we trust her. At least as of right now. So the burden is on him to first, from a more visceral and emotional standpoint, make some kind of connection. This is not gonna be done in an academic exercise about policy papers.”</p><p dir="ltr">Many believe Bernie Sanders is a victim of biased mainstream media. AlterNet <a href="" target="_blank">published</a> a critique of how mainstream media outlets have either ignored his candidacy or covered him unfairly. Most political analysts and activists interviewed for this story acknowledge that the media has not done a good job of covering Sanders, but argue that he is hardly the only presidential candidate in history who has had to deal with negative and unfair press.</p><p dir="ltr">Joy Ann Reid, a national correspondent with MSNBC who previously worked on political campaigns in Florida, said the racist media attacks President Obama endured during both of his campaigns were far worse than anything Sanders has experienced so far.</p><p dir="ltr">“He was dealing with attacks on his religion and citizenship,” said Reid, whose new <a href="" target="_blank">book</a>, <em>Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons, and the Racial Divide</em> delves into this very issue. “They were not only coming from Republicans. The Obama campaign believed some of it was coming from the Clinton campaign. They believed fellow Democrats were deliberately attempting to undermine belief in Barack Obama’s very citizenship and his full Americanness. He had to deal with guilt by association with Jeremiah Wright. So, he dealt with far more vicious attacks.”</p><p dir="ltr">Yet, Obama, a black man who did not have deep pockets when he first ran, still found a way to overcome it and win two presidential elections. Yes, Sanders has had to contend with unfair media coverage. But it doesn’t compare to what Obama endured. Sanders will have to figure out a way to fight back against negative press just like anyone else who wants be the leader of the free world.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Is Sanders' Civil Rights Record Being Overlooked?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">At least <a href="" target="_blank">five bills</a> have been introduced in Congress that will fight racial profiling and require police officers nationwide to wear body cameras. While Sanders supports body cameras, he has not authored or co-authored a similar bill that deals with police brutality.</p><p dir="ltr">Sanders has released a <a href="" target="_blank">list of policies</a> he said he would pursue if he wins the general election. When I asked his campaign to provide a list of bills the senator has authored that significantly help black people, it responded by saying Sanders reintroduced a bill to increase the minimum wage to $15 and that he worked with Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) to secure $12.5 billion in the Affordable Care Act to dramatically expand access to community health centers.</p><p dir="ltr">Sanders was an original co-sponsor of the <a href="" target="_blank"> Democracy Restoration Act </a> (DRA), which seeks to restore voting rights in federal elections to the 4.4 million disenfranchised Americans who have been released from prison yet are still denied the right to vote. His involvement in the Employ Young Americans Act and his legislative efforts to provide low-income heating and cooling assistance are additional policies that would benefit black people.</p><p dir="ltr">No one is arguing that Sanders has done nothing. The concern is that there is a belief that his campaign is operating on the assumption that its candidate doesn’t have to do the work of connecting emotionally with black voters and earning their trust. Part of the problem is that Sanders has never had to depend on black voters to win elected office. Vermont is one of the whitest states in America with a black population that <a href="" target="_blank">reached</a> one percent in 2011. While Sanders was the mayor of Burlington, which has a small black community, that experience clearly was not enough to prepare him for the kind of spirited pushback he has encountered in recent months.</p><p dir="ltr">As helpful as his past record may have been for African Americans, much of Sanders' most impressive work has been done in the information vacuum of Congress, where people cannot see it unless they are watching C-SPAN. That is not the same as having to be a senator or representative from a state where one has to foster life-or-death relationships with black movers and shakers to win office or get reelected year after year.</p><p dir="ltr">Another unexpected development is that the Black Lives Matter movement is reconfiguring how presidential candidates court black votes. The playbook of white candidates simply getting a few influential black people to vouch for them and pointing to their NAACP rating won’t work in the next election cycle.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Black Lives Matter Movement Redefines How Politicians Earn Black Vote</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The protest movement is the factor that may well determine which Democratic candidate wins the black vote. Economic equality is certainly a priority for black Americans, but the number-one issue on most black voters’ minds is police brutality — a subject that neither Sanders nor any other candidate has discussed extensively until protesters have forced their hand.</p><p dir="ltr">Clinton, O’Malley and Sanders all have to deal with black protesters as political power brokers, something that has caught them off guard. No national politician has had to deal with such a dynamic since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Clinton’s face-to-face with Black Lives Matter organizers in New Hampshire <a href="" target="_blank">exposed</a> her lack of reflection over the damaging mass incarceration laws her husband passed as president and she supported as First Lady. Clearly, Clinton has been put on notice, even if she were to eventually win the nomination. Another tricky dynamic in navigating the politics of this movement is that it’s decentralized, challenging candidates to speak with individual protesters and far-flung constituencies whose main organ of communication is social media.</p><p dir="ltr">Deray Mckesson, one of the movement’s most well-known protesters, who is not affiliated with any organization, is finalizing plans to meet with Sanders and other presidential candidates. The fact that presidential candidates are being forced to speak with nontraditional black power brokers proves leaderless protesting can be a powerful political weapon.</p><p dir="ltr">“When candidates have traditionally reached out to black people, it’s been through traditional organizations and people have been older,” Mckesson said. “So what does it mean to have 19- to 33-year-olds have considerable influence about the perception of black America? It’s because of social media. The movement created that space. No longer is it enough to go to the National Action Network. It’s no longer good enough to talk to traditional organizations and institutions that have traditionally leveraged black people.”</p><p dir="ltr">Bernie Sanders' press secretary, Symone Sanders, says the senator is aware of this new political dynamic and has reached out to a wide range of black protesters. He is also setting up interviews with black media outlets and has been campaigning aggressively in South Carolina, a state that has a high black population and will be the real first test of Sanders’ ability to win the nomination.</p><p dir="ltr">The Black Lives Matter movement is challenging candidates to directly explain how they would use their presidential power to stop police violence against the black voters they claim to care about.</p><p dir="ltr">“The reality of most of these candidates is that they will never be able to connect with the families of Tamir Rice, Mya Hall or the communities that those folks are actually from,” said Elle Hearns, a national strategist for the Black Lives Matter organization.</p><p dir="ltr">“That is what the protests and the interruptions are about,” Hearns said. “These folks who claim to be in solidarity with black people and black voters actually aren’t, because they have no idea how to interact with folks who are experiencing pain and rage. So if you, as a presidential candidate, aren’t able to engage with your constituents around the pain that they’re experiencing, then you aren’t fit to be a president.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Black Voters Warming Up To Sanders, But Barely</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In June, only 1 percent of black people had a favorable view of Sanders, according to Public Policy Polling. That number increased to 6 percent in July, and now, it’s at 14 percent. The uptick in favorability is a positive sign because it is still very early in the campaign season. The political strategists interviewed for this story believe Hillary Clinton doesn’t necessarily have the black vote locked down. </p><p dir="ltr">Roland Martin, managing editor and host of TV One’s African-American news show, NewsOne Now, says Sanders needs to tailor his economic message and be more consistent about it if he expects to earn a decent percentage of black votes.</p><p dir="ltr">“It has to be a strong economic message that speaks directly to black people,” Martin said. “I think what happens is that white progressives want to be able to speak in these general terms and not speak specifically to black people.”</p><p dir="ltr">Sanders says their candidate has, in fact, been fine-tuning his message to do just that.  </p><p dir="ltr">"The senator recognizes that economic inequality and racial inequality are parallel issues that must be addressed simultaneously," she said. "He has repeatedly raised the issue of high youth unemployment - particularly for young people of color. He often talks about the tragedy that, in America today, the real unemployment rate for Latino kids is 36 percent and 51 percent for African American kids. He believes it makes a lot more sense to invest in jobs and education for our kids as opposed to jails and incarceration. The senator genuinely gets it and he cares."</p><p dir="ltr">Higher Heights' Glynda Carr says Sanders needs to be assertive in making connections with black women.</p><p dir="ltr">“Voters still want some competitiveness in the Democratic primaries and having a different voice,” she said. “If he harnesses that voice and actually uses it, I think he could make some inroads, just because there is that opportunity to have some contrast to the lead candidate. He is making the largest gains in the primaries than the rest of the candidates. So that is an opportunity. Don’t forget in 2008 the bulk of African-American women were still with Hillary Clinton and [candidate Obama] migrated them away from her by investing in talking to them about issues that they care about.”</p><p dir="ltr">As for those claiming black people don’t want to vote for an old white guy, Carr has this response: “We were a little more sophisticated in voting for Obama for reasons other than him being a black man.”</p><p dir="ltr">But MSNBC's Joy Ann Reid wonders if it is even possible for Sanders to adjust his message to the grand scale required for him to win over a significant number of black votes.</p><p dir="ltr">“That is asking Bernie Sanders to be very inauthentic,” she said. “At its core, the Sanders message is that all problems and ills in the country essentially and fundamentally boil down to economic inequality, not racial inequality, and that racial inequality in other areas are a subset of economic inequality. That is his message.”</p><p dir="ltr">“I don’t know how he gets away from it, but he has to revise his message in a way that African Americans voters, in a much larger way, become interested in what he is doing,” Reid said. “Otherwise, he is just energizing the liberal white wing of the party. But that is not going to help in South Carolina or Florida. And that is not going to help him when he gets outside of New Hampshire and Iowa. That is his fundamental problem.”  </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Black Supporters Believe Sanders Has a Shot</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Jamaal Green of Portland, Oregon, says Sanders already has his vote and more potential black voters will follow him by the time the primary season begins. Green, who is originally from Washington, DC, knows most black people don’t share his views. Yet that is why he credits the Black Lives Matter movement for challenging Sanders’ civil rights record, something he feels is a healthy exercise for the campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">“He was rightly targeted by activists because, number one, he was making public statements and meeting people, whereas Clinton is really big on having private parties with major funders,” Green, a PhD student at Portland State University, said. “Part of why I think people are locked on Bernie is because he is the only one who has put himself out there in the Democratic field to actually be critiqued and exposed and questioned. Whereas, Clinton has been insulated thus far.”</p><p dir="ltr">A Washington Post-ABC News <a href="" target="_blank">poll</a> shows that 74 percent of black, Latino and other non-white women view Clinton favorably. That is far better than the 37 percent of white women who view her favorably, down from 48 percent in July. For now, it seems like female minority support for Clinton will hold, at least until Sanders can articulate how his vision for the country is better for them in the long run.</p><p dir="ltr">One black woman AlterNet spoke with is already convinced. Summer Martin, a 35-year-old African American from Dallas, says if the primaries were held tomorrow, “I’d vote for Sanders without even thinking about it.”</p><p dir="ltr">When the senator visited her city in <a href="" target="_blank">July</a>, Martin says the crowd was very much on the “whiter side,” yet small pockets of minorities were there cheering Sanders on. For Summer Martin, Sanders' message of racial injustice resonates.</p><p dir="ltr">“It’s clearcut and it is inclusive of us,” she said. “Particularly as a black woman in America. So what he needs to do now is be better with articulating that message to the country."</p><p><strong>Editor's Note:</strong>This story has been updated to include a quote from national press secretary Symone Sanders that was mistakenly left out. </p> Thu, 10 Sep 2015 13:58:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1042218 at Election 2016 Human Rights Election 2016 bernie sanders black lives matter hillary clinton barack obama Black Vet Thinks His Florida Home Was Defaced with Racist Graffiti Because of His Interracial Marriage <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s not the first time his neighbors have gone after interracial couples.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Wayne Scott was away in Virginia visiting family Tuesday morning when woke up to a text from his Florida neighbor, Jamal Clark. It was a photo of his home in Pinellas Park, Fla., with racist graffiti-sprayed message: “Dumb Nigger Black Lives Matter For Target Practice.”</p><p>At first, he thought, “What is this?” because he had just woken up. It took him some time to process the texts. It was only when his neighbor said that his house was tagged and he looked at the photos again that he realized the gravity of what had happened.</p><p>The retired Army sergeant who served America for 17 and a half years told AlterNet that he is still processing what happened.</p><p>“I’m an injured military vet and they’re doing this to my house,” Scott said.  He is black and his wife is white, which is likely why his house was targeted.</p><p>Scott has been in the Ciega Village neighborhood for seven years and hasn’t had any issues before, but the neighbor who sent him the text had experienced a similar racial incident in May. Someone spray painted “KKK” on his black Impala. Six weeks later, his wife’s car was sprayed with racist language. Like Scott and his wife, his neighbors are an interracial couple.</p><p>"We’re the only two mixed families that are on this block," Clark <a href="">told Bay News 9</a>. "So, someone’s doing it on purpose."</p><p>“The first time they did it to his car, I thought he was some racist prick, he said. “When they did it again, I thought it was personal. And now that it has happened to me, that finalizes it. It’s definitely personal. Racial and personal, if you want to put it together like that.”</p><p>Workers from the city have since painted over the racist message.</p><p>Pinellas Park Police Sgt. Mike Lynch that there have been at least seven incidents like Scott's that have taken place in the neighborhood. Last week, someone spray painted "impeach Obama stupid n-word" on the vehicle of a 60-year-old white resident. Cops say this may be the work of a serial vandal. There is no suspects but Sgt. Lynch encourages anyone to call his department with any potential leads.</p><p>Scott recalled another incident from two years ago with another neighbor.</p><p>Between 7 and 7:30 a.m., a man of Asian descent knocked on his door and showed him a note. He couldn’t read the handwriting and asked Scott to translate it for him in understandable English. “Basically, it told him that he needed to go home and used the racial slur for those type of people and that this is America,” Scott remembers the note saying. “We don’t need you here.”</p><p dir="ltr">The man left the neighborhood soon after that incident. Scott, however, says he isn’t going anywhere.</p><p dir="ltr">For one, he says the neighbors are nice and have been supportive since his house was tagged earlier this week. A Go Fund Me <a href="">campaign was started</a> on Scott and his wife’s behalf to repair the damage done to their home. So far, more than $2,500 in just two days have been raised.  </p><p dir="ltr">It is something that makes Scott happy and resolute in his decision not to let a racist scare him away.</p><p dir="ltr">“I’m going to be fine,” he said. “I got a military background. It’s going to take a lot more than that to scare me.”</p> <p> </p> Fri, 04 Sep 2015 08:24:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1041924 at Human Rights Human Rights News & Politics racism florida racist graffiti Wayne Scott Prison Guard 'Beat Up' Squad Accused of Killing Inmate: Why Prison Abuse Is So Common and Overlooked <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">America is the only democracy in the world that doesn&#039;t have independent oversight of prisons.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Samuel Harrell’s death at the hands of a group of correctional officers at the Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon N.Y. known as the “beat-up squad” is a tragic, but all too common instance of abuse taking place in America’s correctional facilities.</p><p>According to an <a href="">investigation</a> by the New York Times, Harrell, who has bipolar disorder, got into an argument with correctional officers on April 21, after packing his bags and saying he was headed home. He had several more years to serve on his sentence but Harrell was known to behave erratically.  </p><p>More than 12 witnesses claim that at least 20 correctional officers joined in kicking and punching Harrell after he was thrown to the floor. One inmate told the Times that correctional officers jumped on Harrell as if he were "a trampoline." An ambulance was called, but correctional officers didn’t mention a physical altercation. They claimed Harrell had likely overdosed on K2, a synthetic marijuana.</p><p>According to the autopsy report, no illicit drugs were found in his system. He died of cardiac arrhythmia, “following physical altercation with corrections officers.” The coroner ruled Harrell’s death a homicide. According to the Times, no officers have been disciplined in connection with Harrell’s death, but inmates who have spoken to his family and news reporters say they have been placed in solitary confinement and threatened with violence after speaking out.</p><p>New York isn’t the only state that has issues with correctional officers abusing men and women who are serving time in prison. <a href="">Nearly 50 percent</a> of inmate rapes are carried out by correctional officers, according to a recent study, but prosecutions are rare. When a correctional officer reported a fellow guard at a Florida prison for gouging out a mentally ill inmate’s eye, <a href="">he was fired</a>. Earlier this year, three former correctional officers at Angola Prison, in Louisiana, <a href="">were sentenced</a> for abusing an inmate and covering it up.</p><p>Statistics on the exact nature and regularity of abuse in America’s prisons are elusive and shrouded in secrecy. There are a lot of reasons for that, but generally, it is because most Americans have low opinions of people who are serving prison time, so prisoners get little sympathy from the public when allegations of abuse arise.</p><p>Soffiyah Elijah, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, says it’s ironic that society often doesn’t trust the word of inmates when they make claims of abuse, yet no one questions them when they plead guilty to a crime.</p><p>“They’re sworn to tell the truth,” she told AlterNet. “And the judge, based on the belief that they are telling the truth, finds them guilty and imposes a sentence. In fact, judges reject pleas when they believe defendants are not being truthful. So, there is a total acceptance of people being truthful when they are pleading guilty to a crime. Then suddenly when they are saying corrections officers have been engaging in criminal conduct and suddenly they’re not being truthful.”</p><p>According to the ACLU, America is the only democracy in the <a href="">world</a> that doesn’t have independent oversight of its prisons. While it is not uncommon for the Department of Justice to enforce oversight of a police department, it is rare for such intervention to take place at a prison or jail. In a rare case, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department <a href="">just agreed</a> to federal oversight of its jails after several of its deputies were convicted of abusing inmates. </p><p>Khalilah Brown-Dean, an associate professor of political science at Quinnipiac University, says the most disturbing issue with prison abuses is that the public is not demanding transparency of America’s correctional facilities.</p><p>“We’re in a time in our country where everyone wants transparency in government. We want to know what people are doing, the source of the money, how our tax dollars are being used. Except when it comes to prisons,” Brown-Dean, whose research focuses on prison reform, told AlterNet. “We’re okay ceding that kind of power to prison officials to not just police themselves but to pay themselves, too. And when you’re talking about life and death, which is what is happening in prisons, it undermines every value that this country is supposed to be built on.”</p><p>The U.S. Constitution guarantees legal protections for every citizen, but the rights of prisoners are more complicated because of their incarceration. An inmate who reports a dirty correctional officer still has to rely on that officer for protection. If a civilian reports a bad cop, the civilian doesn’t have to see the officer everyday. People who aren’t in jail have the protection of their homes and the American public is very attuned to challenging police brutality. That simply isn’t the case for people serving time.</p><p>A prisoner can file a federal lawsuit, but the Prison Litigation Reform Act makes <a href="">it difficult</a>. The prisoner must exhaust all administrative remedies at the prison first. Again, the prisoner has no protections against a staff member who wants to exact revenge. Another absurdity in PLRA: If an incarcerated person wants to file a lawsuit claiming emotional abuse, he has to provide proof of a physical injury.</p><p>In a <a href="">2012 paper</a> advocating for independent oversight of American prisons, Michele Deitch, a senior lecturer at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, wrote that the enormous number of incarcerated men and women in America and the federalist structure of our prison systems makes it impossible for a single national oversight system to work. Deitch recommends that each state should be charged with independently monitoring its prisons and jails, conduct unannounced inspections, have unlimited access to administrators, guards, prisoners, and facilities, and be required to report all findings to the public.</p><p>But there doesn’t seem to be much political will to create independent oversight. In Florida, legislators <a href="">approved a bill</a> for some oversight of its prisons but it falls short of outside supervision. There was once a legislative oversight panel on prisons in Tennessee, but Republicans <a href="">abolished</a> it four years ago. For now, our country’s prisons are allowed to self-regulate and there is no one recourse for correctional officers who abuse their power.</p><p>Soffiyah Elijah believes this is a moral problem the American public has to come to grips with to prevent more tragic deaths behind bars like Samuel Harrell.</p><p>“We have to start valuing and appreciating the humanity and dignity of every human being, no matter what they have been accused or convicted of,” she said. “We can’t strip someone of their humanity and their dignity because they have made a mistake and have broken the law.”</p> Thu, 03 Sep 2015 11:36:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1041890 at Human Rights Human Rights Investigations prison abuse aclu racism the Prison Litigation Reform Act The Under-Reported Truth Behind Most Mass Shootings <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Sensational crimes like the Roanoke shootings obscure a larger truth about who is killed by mass shooters.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Horrific mass shootings, like Dylann Roof’s church rampage in Charleston and Vester Flanagan’s on-air murders in Roanoke, Virginia grab headlines, but when David Conley broke into his ex-girlfriend Valerie Jackson’s home in Houston, Texas on August 8 and allegedly shot her and her six children to death, it was treated as an act of domestic violence, and got considerably less attention. But it was by any definition a mass shooting.</p><p>This is the untold story behind many mass shootings. Fifty-seven percent of mass shootings in America between 2009 and July 2015 involved a family member or intimate partner; 81 percent of the victims were women and children, the <a href=";ncid=newsltushpmg00000003">Huffington Post</a> recently found.  </p><p>There is no standard definition of a mass shooting, but generally it is understood to be a shooting of four or more people. Even under this definition, domestic violence killings make up the majority of mass shootings.</p><p>For years, we’ve come to consider a mass shooter as a gun-toting suspect, almost always male, who enters a public space and kills many people, most of them strangers. In fact, most shootings occur in private place where the victims know their murderer, and his violent propensities, all too well. And the killings are rarely random.</p><p>Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, says the reason Americans aren’t drawing a connection between domestic violence and mass shootings is because most state legislatures and our Congress are made up of men who are failing to see the link. There is also the insidious victim-blaming that says women can and should avoid knowing or becoming involved with violent men.</p><p>“They’re not making the policies that protect our communities and our families and our sisters and mothers and daughters,” Watts told AlterNet. “Those policies are being made mainly by people who aren’t being impacted by domestic violence. ”</p><p>Watts says the dearth of women making policy decisions gives gun advocates free rein to lobby for laws that support gun ownership, even for people who clearly shouldn’t be in possession of firearms. Women make up fewer than <a href="">25 percent</a> of all state legislatures, despite being <a href="">50 percent</a> of the U.S. population. </p><p>Federal law bars domestic abusers who have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from owning guns. But these laws are far from adequate. The law generally protects spouses, co-parents or intimate partners who live together, not dating partners. Though 69 percent of intimate partner homicides were committed by a spouse in 1980, the number of murders committed by a dating partner rose to <a href="">nearly 50 percent</a> by 2008. Only 10 states have gun bans against misdemeanor domestic violence abusers who have attacked women they’ve dated, according to the <a href="">Center for American Progress</a>. </p><p>Therein lies the loophole.</p><p>The federal ban on domestic abusers is limited because its definition of an abuser excludes acts of violence such as stalking, harassment and other forms of intimidation. Many <a href="">abusers stalk their victims</a> before harming them. Even if someone is <a href="">convicted of stalking</a>, he or she can still legally purchase a gun. The National Center for Victims of Crimes <a href="">reports</a> that 7.5 million people were stalked in 2011; 61 percent of those people were women.</p><p>David Conley allegedly threatened his ex-girlfriend, Valerie Jackson, with violence at least <a href="">three times</a> prior to the August 8 shooting. Abusers are <a href="">eight times more likely</a> to kill their victims if they have access to a gun.</p><p>Due in part to all of these loopholes, women and children make up the majority of mass shooting victims. A closer look at the Huffington Post data reveals that between 2009 and July 2015, 70 percent of mass shootings took place at homes. In those cases, 42 percent of the incidents involved a former or current intimate partner.</p><p>The close correlation between mass shootings and domestic violence is not new. In 2013, AlterNet <a href="">reported</a> that 57 percent of mass shootings dating back to 2009 involved a shooter who killed a spouse or family member; at least eight of the shooters had a prior domestic violence charge.</p><p>Shannon Watts says these figures should serve as a wakeup call to the nation that loose gun laws are enabling abusers to kill innocent women and children.</p><p>“That is why it is so important for women to realize that we are being victimized by mass shootings,” she said. “We need to use our voices and our votes to change the laws and close the loopholes that allow online [gun] sales to dangerous people. We need to use our voices and votes to redefine what a domestic abuser is and to make sure we are keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”</p> Mon, 31 Aug 2015 08:03:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1041645 at Human Rights Human Rights mass shootings domestic violence lax gun laws How Your Local Police Department Could Be Spying on You <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Many police departments are using secret technology to allow them to spy into people’s private lives.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Imagine that your local police department uses a high-tech monitoring device to track your cell phone activity and find your exact location. The cops arrest you, and before long, you're standing before a judge fighting a robbery charge or some other crime.</p><p>The cops don’t tell the courts that they used a Stingray, a surveillance device that poses as a cell phone tower and gathers your phone’s location and identifying data, to make the arrest. Neither the judge, prosecutor, defense attorney or defendant knows that the cops used the Stingray because no warrant was issued to surveil your phone in the first place. Even if the cops wanted to disclose that they used Stingrays, they can’t because they signed confidentiality agreements with the FBI barring them from saying a word.</p><p>Basically, the boys and girls in blue have found a way to circumvent the Fourth Amendment and any due process to place people in bracelets. It’s a practice that is a lot more common than you think.</p><p>USA Today learned in a <a href="">recent investigation</a> that nearly 60 state and local law enforcement agencies in 21 states use Stingrays, also known as cell site simulators, to find people suspected of committing common street crimes.</p><p>Stingrays also gather information from the phones of innocent bystanders who are not being investigated in connection with any crime. It is unclear what is done with data once a surveillance operation is complete, or what protocols govern how police handle it when it is in their possession.</p><p>“One of the really tricky things about Stingray secrecy in the United States is that it has prevented us from acquiring detailed information about what the devices are actually capable of doing," Kade Crockford, director of technology for the Liberty Project at the ACLU of Massachusetts, told AlterNet. “Even though we’ve learned about some of their functions through documents acquired through lawsuits in some places, the FBI has been very good at keeping an extremely tight lid on the capabilities of the specific devices that law enforcement is using across the country. That matters because some of these devices are capable of wiretapping, which is obviously a different kind of privacy invasion than the collection of huge quantities of location and call records.”</p><p>There are no federal guidelines or laws regulating Stingray activity, so local cops are given free rein to use them however they wish. The FBI claims it doesn’t have authority to regulate how local police use the devices. Nationally, we have no idea how many convictions come as a result of this program because we don’t know how many police departments are participating in it.</p><p>In a rare but limited inside look, we do have an idea of how the Baltimore Police Department uses the devices. A Baltimore police detective testified in April that his department has used Stingrays at least 4,300 times since 2007. Though the cops did not list the crimes for which the devices were used, USA Today identified 837 cases in which a Stingray was likely used by matching court records and a <a href="">surveillance log</a> from the department’s Advanced Technical Team. Most of the arrests were connected to robberies in which phones were often stolen. But sometimes the cops used Stingrays to find witnesses. Less than half of the cases ended in a conviction and prosecutors tossed a third of the arrests.</p><p>Civil liberties groups and news agencies have tried to obtain information from other law enforcement agencies that use Stingrays, but were met with fierce opposition or legal denials similar to those made by federal national security agencies. When NBC 7 San Diego submitted an open <a href="">records reques</a>t asking about a $33,000 purchase of tools suspected of being Stingrays, the station got this statement: "The information you seek would reveal security or intelligence information, and is exempt from disclosure."</p><p>Eric Sanders, a former NYPD cop and criminal defense attorney, says it’s ridiculous that cops are using Stingrays to catch common robbers. He added that the proliferation of local police departments using cell site simulators is another sign that cops are being given far too much latitude in carrying out their duties.</p><p>“If the government is surveilling you, you have a right to know about it and you have a Fourth Amendment right to have your conversations and everything protected,” Sanders told AlterNet.  </p><p>The ACLU has been successful suing local <a href="">law enforcement agencies</a> for records of Stingray use, but it ran into a roadblock of its own in June 2014. After making an appointment to review records at the Sarasota Police Department connected to Stingray use, U.S. Marshals swooped in and <a href="">seized them</a> before ACLU lawyers could get there.</p><p>If you think it’s hard for the ACLU or a major news organization to get their hands on Stingray information, think about the suspect who has no idea the device was used in his arrest. Susannah Karlsson, special litigation counsel at Brooklyn Defenders Services, says not knowing that a client was surveilled puts her defense at a major disadvantage.</p><p>“It’s huge. Every criminal case is binded by constitutional restrictions,” she told AlterNet. “Those restrictions have to do with what sorts of evidence can come in and be seen by the jury and whether the case proceeds at all. Whether there is a criminal case at all depends on whether law enforcement activity was in fact legal. If law enforcement targeting is illegal in the first instance, it’s not a valid prosecution because it wasn’t a valid arrest. ”</p><p>Warrantless surveillance also robs a defendant of due process. Usually a cop needs a warrant to conduct surveillance on a citizen because a judge can prevent cops from going on a fishing expedition and narrow what they can look for. The warrant also gives defendants a chance to challenge the constitutionality of the officer’s surveillance. No such legal protections exist under the current use of Stingrays in most states.</p><p>But there are times when a sharp attorney can protect a client from this overreaching policing practice. During a November <a href="">hearing</a>, a lawyer for a robbery suspect challenged a Baltimore police detective on how they found a phone and gun prosecutors wanted to use as evidence against his client. When the detective cited a non-disclosure agreement, the sitting judge said that the agreement wasn’t legally binding with the court. Rather than let the questioning go on, prosecutors decided to forgo the evidence.</p><p>Another problem is that privacy laws have yet to catch up with technology. It was only in 2014 that the U.S. Supreme Court <a href="">ruled</a> that cops can’t search a person’s cellphone without a warrant. But there are no federal laws restricting how law enforcement can use Stingrays, leaving that work for state legislatures to figure out. A dozen states have laws on the books that regulate how law enforcement agencies use cell site simulators. Washington has the <a href="">strictest rules</a>, requiring cops to show probable cause and obtain a warrant before using a Stingray.</p><p>Most states, however, have no real Stingray regulation. So for now, your local police department may well be functioning as a mini NSA satellite, collecting your cellphone data at will. The good news is that there are people in Washington who want to rein in the program.</p><p>Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., calls Stingrays an “<a href="">abusive spy program</a>” and wants to end their use altogether. In January, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, <a href="">reintroduced</a> the GPS Act that would bring Stingrays out of secrecy and under close court supervision.</p><p>"I don't see how you can use a Stingray without it raising very substantial privacy issues," Wyden <a href="">told USA TODAY</a>. "I want police to be able to track dangerous individuals and their locations, but it ought to be done with court oversight under the Fourth Amendment."</p><p>Until the feds get the program under control, the ACLU's Crockford says there are ways the public can protect their phones against government spying. She encourages people to download <a href="">encryption services</a> that protect calls, emails and texts. Some companies offer advanced services for a monthly fee, while some apps can be downloaded <a href="">for free</a>.</p><p>Will these services guarantee your privacy? No one knows for sure, but at least there are tools to empower us to be more vigilant against an increasingly intrusive police state that doesn’t want us to know it is collecting our cell phone information.</p><p>“What we need is for people to adapt to the new reality, which is the police are capable of spying so invasively and secretly into so many people’s private lives,” Crockford said. “We should all adopt encryption tools, and in addition to that, fight for a change in the law.”</p> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 18:19:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1041461 at Human Rights Human Rights stingray fourth amendment due process surveillance nsa surveillance 16 Trans People (That We Know Of) Have Been Murdered this Year <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">At least 14 of them were black or Latina women.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>With four months left in 2015, the number of trans people killed this year has already surpassed the 12 known murders of transgender people in 2014.</p><p>So far this year, <a href="">at least 16 trans people</a> have been killed. Most of them were black or Latina trans women. Just last week, Kandis Kapri, a black trans woman, was found dead in Phoenix, Arizona. Last Thursday, the remains of Elisha Walker, also a black trans woman, <a href="">were found</a> in a wooded area in Johnston County, N.C. Her alleged killer has been arrested and charged with murder. </p><p>According to news reports, most trans victims are killed as a result of intimate partner violence.</p><p>Elle Hearns, central region coordinator at GetEQUAL and strategic partner of #BlackLivesMatter, told AlterNet that these murders should be taken as signs of an epidemic.</p><p>"Two more confirmed murders of black trans women should be a numbing sensation to the core of America's consciousness,” she said. “It should be a wakeup call that we as people are missing the mark. Black trans women should never have to live in fear that today will be their last day. It is a national emergency that we must pay attention to by taking action to support and sustain the lives of trans women who are under attack."</p><p>In the past month alone, at least two transgender black people were killed in Detroit. Amber Moore, a 20-year-old trans black woman, was found shot to death in Palmer Park on the city’s west side. Less than a month earlier, Ashton O'Hara, a <a href="">gender nonconforming person</a>, was found dead in the city on July 14. O’Hara’s alleged killer has been arrested and charged with murder.</p><p>Federal authorities are investigating O’Hara's and Moore’s murders, <a href="">according to the New York Daily News</a>.</p><p>In a meeting set up by the Detroit Police Department last week, trans people complained that cops harass them when they enter Palmer Park because officers assume they are engaged in prostitution or other illegal activity.</p><p>“If you’re here, and you live in the Palmer Park area, and you come out to walk across the street to go and get something from the gas station,” Lilianna Reyes <a href="">said</a>, “You’re stopped and given a ticket for prostitution."</p><p>“And that’s an issue,” she continued. “The petty crimes of prostitution that are being focused on are overshadowing the violence, the hurt, the murdering of trans women.”</p><p>According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, trans people of color are <a href="">6.2 times more likely</a> to experience police violence. Hearns said one way to combat transphobic violence is to create economic structures for trans women so that they don’t feel pushed to the fringes of society.</p><p>“I believe a system has to be developed that provides trans women of color access to resources such as jobs, housing and affordable medical insurance,” she said. “We have to create a system that doesn't further penalize women for creating their own opportunities to generate money in a world that isn't concerned about providing that kind of support free of transphobia.”</p><p>Another problem is that media often misgenders trans murder victims, making it difficult to keep count of the real number of people killed in trans violence. A Google search of any of the trans people killed this year will yield local media reports that misgender a victim of trans violence. It occurred in the case of Lamia Beard, the first known trans person to be killed in 2015. Penny Pride, a trans black woman, was murdered in New Orleans, La., in February and she, too, was consistently misgendered by local media. A report by <a href=""> connected</a> Proud’s death to illegal prostitution in the area where she was found, even though police made no such link. When a BuzzFeed reporter <a href="">questioned</a> the journalist, Prescotte Stokes, about the report, his reaction was indignant.</p><p>“They called her a girl but said he was a man,” said Stokes “I assume he parades around as a transgender woman, but he is actually a man.”</p><p>“The harm of the media misgendering and victim-blaming is that it sends a message to the public that these homicides are not as serious, and that somehow transgender people deserve it,” Chia Jindasurat of NCAVP told BuzzFeed back in February. (The story was eventually updated to identify Proud as a trans woman.)</p><p>Some five months later, the media still have not learned to apply the appropriate pronouns to victims of transphobic violence. In late July, Shade Schuler, a black trans woman, was found dead in a field in Dallas. One local news outlet <a href="">still has a live version</a> of a report of Schuler’s death using male pronouns in an updated story.</p><p>The murders of transgender women are fairly under-reported in media, but should cause concern. In 2014, at least 50 percent of LGBTQ homicide victims were transgender women of color, <a href="">according to NCAVP</a>.</p><p>“A majority of these murders are happening from intimate partner violence,” Hearns said. “The men responsible for these murders have internalized transphobia so much because of the societal views reflected daily in their homes or via social media and that is causing them to discard the lives of women that they seek out. Society has a responsibility to dismantle that or there will continue to be blood on your hands. Interacting with police is a great fear for black people once again in this country. Being black and trans is an even greater fear that we live with because we never know when death will come."</p> Mon, 17 Aug 2015 09:07:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1041038 at Human Rights Human Rights LGBTQ News & Politics transgender lgbtq rights violence against transgender people gender non-conforming people #BlackLivesMatter Black Activists Know Feds Are Monitoring Them, Yet Refuse to Be Intimidated <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Not much has changed since COINTELPRO and the Black Panthers.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">When Erika Totten returned to protesting in the DC area after taking a few months off last winter, law enforcement officers were waiting to greet her.</p><p>"We’ve been looking for you,” she recalls officers at several protests telling her. “We wondered where you were. We haven’t seen you in a while." Totten can’t remember what law enforcement agencies the officers were from. After a while, they all began to look the same to her.   </p><p>Totten, who is a member of the Washington, DC Black Lives Matter chapter, believes she is being monitored by the feds, but has decided not to worry about. A recent <a href="">report</a> from The Intercept made it even clearer.</p><p>The Intercept reported:</p><blockquote><p>The documents, released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Operations Coordination, indicate that the department frequently collects information, including location data, on Black Lives Matter activities from public social media accounts, including on Facebook, Twitter, and Vine, even for events expected to be peaceful. The reports confirm social media surveillance of the protest movement and ostensibly related events in the cities of Ferguson, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and New York.</p><p>They also show the department watching over gatherings that seem benign and even mundane. For example, DHS circulated information on a nationwide series of silent vigils and a DHS-funded agency planned to monitor a funk music parade and a walk to end breast cancer in the nation’s capital. </p></blockquote><p>And while surveillance of the Black Lives Matter movement is likely to increase now, especially in the wake of the unrest in Ferguson in the past few days, anyone who was around in the '60s and '70s knows that groups fighting for justice and liberation for black people are often the target of such monitoring. </p><p>“For many of us who know history, we know this isn’t new,” Totten told AlterNet. “So, now we are seeing the same thing, like COINTELPRO in the Black Power movement."</p><p>For those who need a history brush-up COINTELPRO was the acronym (standing for COunter INtelligence PRograms) for a series of secretive and illegal FBI programs aimed at destroying domestic political organizations including the Black Panthers that lasted from 1956 - 1971.</p><p>Larry Fellows III, one of the more active protesters in Ferguson last year, said reading The Intercept report left him with the impression that the government seems peace protesters as national security threats.</p><p> </p>“They made it seem like we were domestic terrorists,” Fellows III said. “We’re just basically showing up in cities protesting and I don’t see that as terrorism at all.” Taurean “Sankofa" Brown, a community organizer in Durham, NC, who goes by his nickname, says his first experience with police monitoring came a few years ago in downtown Durham. He and two friends noticed the cops stopped a car full of black and brown youths. The three men stopped to observe the officers in case they became aggressive. Immediately, another cruiser rolled up on them and an officer began video recording. The cops didn’t say a word and neither did Brown and his friends. The cops eventually let the car full of young men go after 15 minutes, and the cops who were recording video also left the scene.<p>Brown is known on Twitter for starting the hashtag, <a href=";q=%23wewillshootback&amp;src=tyah">#WeWillShootBack</a>, which advocates for black people to take up arms and defend themselves against racists who target them. Though he never encourages anyone to initiate violence, Brown knows his style of advocacy can be viewed as extreme and can draw the scrutiny of law enforcement. </p><p>Like other activists who spoke with AlterNet, he says he doesn’t let the possibility of being monitored get to him.</p><p>“Not really. There is nothing I can do to be truly safe here,” Brown told AlterNet. “I don’t fear death. I’m not looking forward to it. I’m not encouraging it, but I don’t fear it. The only thing I do fear is that my personal involvements will affect my loved ones. So, I have to worry about those kinds of things. That’s why I never really talk about my personal life. People don’t know my relationship status, where I truly live, how many brothers I have, these things. I try not to leak any of that information.”</p><p>While no federal or local law enforcement agency has openly admitted to spying on the Black Lives Matter movement, documents obtained by The Intercept show that the Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring protests since the Ferguson uprisings. The department has been collecting data from activists’ social media accounts and watching gatherings that were deemed peaceful. </p><p>What some find disturbing about DHS surveillance of the Black Lives Matter movement is that the department was created primarily to fight terrorism. </p><p>A DHS spokesperson told The Intercept that the department does not monitor any specific protests or gatherings, but documents provided to the national security site clearly show it has monitored many of them over the past year.</p><p>In a report, private security firm ZeroFOX <a href="">identified protesters</a> Deray McKesson and Johnetta Elzie as "high" severity, "physical," and "#mostwanted" threats during the Baltimore protests earlier this year. It also monitored more than 250 “actors” and “influencers” during the protests. The firm said is <a href="">provided</a> the city with a security assessment pro bono. A spokesperson for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told Mother Jones that several of its official systems were the targets of cyberattacks. He would not comment further, citing "the existence of confidentiality agreements.”</p><p>The Associated Press <a href="">reported</a> in November that the NYPD sent detectives to Ferguson to collect data on “professional agitators” to prepare for the protests following the Eric Garner grand jury decision that December.</p><p>The monitoring of the Black Lives Matter movement reminds many activists of the 1960s, when COINTELPRO began keeping tabs on black organizations. The Nation of Islam and the Black Panther Party, among many others, are referred to as “hate groups” and “anti-white” in COINTELPRO documents. The program was initially set up to disrupt the activities of the U.S. Communist Party, but expanded to what it deemed “black extremist” activities. One field report dated <a href="">March 15, 1968</a> details the dues members paid per month and other financial issues of the New York City branch of Nation of Islam. </p><p>Before the program was ended in 1971, it also sought to “foment discord between H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael,” according to a memo dated April 11, 1968. Another report (<a href="">page 13</a>) dated March 4, 1969 says that the program “has aggressively pursued a policy of disrupting and neutralizing the local chapter of the Black Panther Party in San Diego through Bureau-approved counterintelligence maneuvers.”  </p><p>For Erika Totten, the monitoring of Black Lives Matter is just history repeating itself. </p><p>“It comes with the work that we’re doing,” she said. “We understand the threats. We understand the risks. These risks aren’t new. We’re educated enough to know that this is a part of history. It’s a tactic. We’re not surprised. We’re going to continue to keep fighting.”</p> Thu, 06 Aug 2015 13:09:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1040532 at Human Rights Activism Human Rights #BlackLivesMatter black panthers cointelpro ferguson police brutality police racism New Justice Report Finds Shocking Disparities In How Black and White Children Fare in St. Louis Family Courts <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">How different is St. Louis County from the rest of America? </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">What happens to black children in St. Louis County Family Court is disturbing, but it is hardly an outlier.</p><p>The Justice Department found in a <a href="">recent report</a> that black children are two and a half times more likely to be detained pretrial than white children in St. Louis County Court. After being convicted, black children are more than two and a half times more likely to be placed in the Division of Youth Services custody. White kids are usually placed in less restrictive settings, like probation with in-home services or treatment facilities that are not run by the state.</p><p>As disturbing as this data is, St. Louis County is not the only locality in which black children are penalized unfairly in the nation's courts. The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth <a href="">reports</a> that black children make up 17 percent of the U.S. juvenile population, but account for 30 percent of kids arrested and 62 percent of children prosecuted in adult criminal courts. </p><p>The problem starts even before they get to court. Studies have shown black kids are criminalized starting in school. Though they make up just 16 percent of U.S. student enrollment, black children <a href="">represent 27 percent</a> of students referred to law enforcement.</p><p>In 2014, King County, which is home to Seattle, <a href="">saw more black kids</a> in its criminal justice system for the first time. Though black children make up just 10 percent of the county’s kids, 50 percent of them are behind bars. Florida <a href="">leads the nation</a> in charging children as adults; black kids make a vast majority of those transfers.</p><p>Yushika Florence, a social worker with HANDY, a nonprofit that advocates for foster children in Broward County, Fla., says the racial disparities we see are due, in part, to economics. She says black children who are placed in foster care, for example, are more likely to have encounters with the criminal justice system because many black families can’t afford to take on another child.</p><p>“White families are in a better financial situation to where they can take on another child in a household,” Florence told AlterNet. “With the black families, sometimes the kids end up in foster care because, frankly, they don’t have any relatives who can afford to feed another mouth or two.”  </p><p>Black kids are also the hardest hit group in terms of being sentenced to life without parole.  </p><p>Nationally, <a href="">77 percent of juveniles</a> serving life without parole sentences are either black or Latino. In California, where more kids are serving life without parole than in any other state, black kids are serving the sentence at 10 times the rate of white children.</p><p>Jody Kent Lavy, director and coordinator of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, says that black kids often don’t have adequate representation during sentencing, which leads to longer prison terms.</p><p>“We know that people facing life without parole are typically assigned public defenders in the adult criminal justice system who may or may not have any training whatsoever in representing children,” Kent Lavy told AlterNet. “That creates a whole set of other problems. They don’t necessary have any experience with adolescent development research that’s so critical in looking at how young people are fundamentally different than adults in their ability to be rehabilitated, susceptibility to peer pressure, all of the things that should be raised in the defense of a child.”</p><p>Then there is the <a href="">oft-cited 2014 study</a> by the American Psychological Association that found black kids are often perceived as “less innocent” than white children, in general. </p><p>Ferguson and St. Louis County have become known as a kind of ground zero for racism in America (for good reason), but in reality, things aren’t much better in the rest of the country. As the August 9 anniversary of Michael Brown’s shooting approaches, it is clear that Ferguson and the county that hosts it represent the rest of America.</p> Tue, 04 Aug 2015 12:41:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1040404 at Human Rights News & Politics racism in criminal justice system criminalization of black kids michael brown st. louis ferguson Body Cams Can Capture Abuse, But Can They End Police Brutality? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Criminal justice experts say much more is needed to really reform police departments nationwide.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">The swift first-degree murder charge filed against a former University of Cincinnati police officer after his body camera captured him shooting an unarmed black man to death reflects how crucial video is in proving police misconduct.</p><p>When Ray Tensing pulled Samuel Dubose over on July 19, his body camera captured the entire stop. After Dubose was unable to produce a license and prevented Tensing from opening the driver door of his vehicle, the former cop <a href="">shot him in the head</a>. Tensing claimed he was being dragged by the car, which was proven untrue. A <a href="">police report of the incident</a> also shows officers on the scene lied about seeing Dubose’s car “dragging” Tensing.</p><p>Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters said that, without body camera footage, he would have “nothing” and that “it would have been a very, very different case.”</p><p>The power of camera footage was also on display in North Charleston, S.C., earlier this year when police officer Michael Slager was captured on <a href="">cell phone video shooting Walter Scott</a> in the back. He was immediately fired and charged with first-degree murder. Several California cities, including Oakland and San Diego, <a href="">have reported</a> a decline in complaints against officers after members of their departments began wearing body cameras.</p><p dir="ltr">The idea of body cameras is popular with national politicians. Hillary Clinton, a leading presidential candidate, <a href="">has called</a> for all police departments to outfit their officers with body cams. In December, Obama proposed to spend $75 million for 50,000 body cameras, but funding is <a href="">being stalled</a> in Congress. At the moment it is not clear exactly how many police departments are using body cameras. The ACLU <a href="">estimates</a> that 25 percent of the nation’s 17,000 law enforcement agencies use them. Over the past few months, more local departments have begun pilot programs to test body camera technology, so the idea is catching on.</p><p>As critical as body cameras are in exposing police abuses, law enforcement experts told AlterNet that policymakers at the local and national levels need to do much more to curtail police brutality. Tensing wore a body camera, but still ended up abusing his power and shooting Dubose to death for no reason.</p><p>“It just goes to show how ineffective body cameras are and will be in reducing these kinds of incidents,” Shafiq R. Fulcher Abdussabur, a former president of the National Association for Black Law Enforcement Officers who works as a police sergeant in New England, told AlterNet. “Body cameras do not deter police misuse of deadly force. They just capture it. That’s all they do.”</p><p>Alexandra Moffett-Bateau, an assistant professor of political science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, added that body cameras are an incomplete solution.</p><p>“I think body cameras are a necessity given the political climate that we live in, but I'm not sure they are the answer,” Moffett-Bateau told AlterNet. “We saw in the filming with Sandra Bland that <a href="">all of this technology can be tampered</a> with in one way or another. So, yes, they are making a difference, but I'm not sure that they are the best or even the most effective solution.”</p><p>Some issues with body cameras include the discretion officers have in turning them on or off during a stop and at which point. A <a href="">report reviewing</a> the NYPD’s body camera pilot program recommends that officers turn on their cameras during all interactions with the public, as opposed to just "reasonable suspicion" interactions as currently required. A police monitor <a href="">wrote in a report</a> of the Denver Police Department’s body camera pilot program that, out of 80 use of force accidents, usable footage was available just 47 percent of the time.</p><p>Will officers face severe disciplinary actions if they do not turn on their body cameras? How often are body cameras monitored by supervisors and who is making sure footage is being properly stored on a regular basis, untampered? Can we even trust police officers to turn over video of possible misconduct to local prosecutors? These are some of the myriad questions regarding body cameras.</p><p>Robert Gangi of the Police Reform Organizing Project, in New York City, says officers like Tensing need to know that if they abuse their power, the law won’t protect them. AlterNet shared some reform ideas he favors, including police review boards having subpoena powers and ending the doctrine of “qualified immunity,” which protects officers from lawsuits that allege they violated a private citizen's civil rights. But even those wouldn’t go far enough.</p><p>The problem, Gangi says, is that cops are often evaluated on quota-based policing such as “broken windows” and other tactics that focus on racking up arrests that have been shown to disproportionately target minorities. In New York City, <a href="">more than 80 percent</a> of people arrested under “broken windows” for the past 13 years have been black or Latino. Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, <a href="">told NPR</a> that some of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the country use quota systems. In 2013, the Los Angeles City Council <a href="">settled</a> a $6 million lawsuit with a group of police officers who accused their supervisors of enforcing a secret quota system for traffic tickets. As the Washington Post <a href="">reported</a>, black people are far more likely to be pulled over for a traffic violations than white or Hispanic people. American Indians are more likely to be pulled over than any other race.</p><p>“Quota systems put pressure on cops to make these kinds of arrests and give out these kinds of tickets on a monthly basis,” Gangi told AlterNet. “It leads to discriminatory behavior by the police. Body cameras will help in certain instances, but they won’t change the nature of policing.”</p><p>So what will?</p><p>Moffett-Bateau believes police reform needs to be a national issue led by Washington with reforms that are as similarly far-reaching as the Civil Rights Act of 1965 for the country to see real change. “The federal government needs to get involved and overhaul the entire criminal justice system from top to bottom,” she said.</p><p>Martin O’Malley, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, <a href="">revealed</a> his criminal justice reform plan to Friday. One of his reform plans would be to nationalize use of force standards. The plan says O’Malley “will support legislation to require states to review and amend their own use of force laws to comply with federal guidelines.”</p><p>Eric Sanders, a former NYPD officer who currently works as a civil rights attorney, says cops have too many legal protections. He believes police officers’ internal review records should be made available to the public but many states have laws preventing that from happening. New York is one of <a href="">11 states</a> that protect cops’ personnel files. So, if an officer is abusing his or her power on the job, it is nearly impossible for the public to gain access to that information. Police advocates claim that cops have a right to privacy, but Sanders, who served with the NYPD for more than 12 years, doesn’t agree.</p><p>“When you take that job, you waive a lot of the private parts of your life because you’ve been given so much authority,” he said. “Yet we turn around and say, ‘We don’t want people to use our records against us.’ No, no, no, no, no. You’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. The bottom line is this: If the cop is clean, they are professional and doing what they are supposed to do, then you don’t have to worry about that.”</p><p>The overprotection of cops played out in San Diego, the same department that reported a decline in complaints. The SDPD refused the release video footage of at least two shootings in 2014 because the video was captured on devices pay for with tax dollars and the cops wearing them were on public payroll, so <a href="">it’s not public record</a>. If body cameras become a national standard, clarity over the rights of the public having access to the footage will have to be addressed.</p><p>Abdussabur, who wrote the book <a href="">A Black Man’s Guide to Law Enforcement In America</a>, says more training is needed. While activists like Rev. Al Sharpton and other national leaders have balked at the recommendation of more training as a reform tool, Abdussabur believes increased mandatory training that focuses on de-escalating conflicts and dealing with minority communities will make a difference. After officers leave the academy, they really don’t undergo much training to help them understand the communities they serve, he added.</p><p>“There is no mandatory training nationwide that says, ‘Police officers must be trained on how to deal with black people,’” he said. “We train police officers on how to use a gun. They don’t come in knowing how to use one. That firearms training is drilled into them until it becomes a second-nature habit of behavior when they’re out in the field. When they’re out in the field and see that black male dressed in red, we don’t want them thinking, ‘His name is probably Snukkie and he runs with the Bloods.’ Instead, we want training that specifically aims at removing false stereotypes and negative perceptions about black people.”</p><p>But Sanders says the real issue is that too many police departments cover up abusive behavior, and until the culture that protects bad cops is dismantled, body cameras won’t be enough to weed them out.</p><p>“Police work is not for everybody,” he said. “The problem is the screening process where you find out that officers are no longer suitable for police work and you don’t get rid of them. What we do is keep the same problem cops over and over again. Everyone knows who they are. They don’t get rid of them. There are no consequences for bad behavior. That’s the problem.”</p> Sun, 02 Aug 2015 11:06:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1040267 at Human Rights Human Rights News & Politics Body cams Samuel Dubose police reform police brutality Martin O'Malley 5 Black Women Have Been Found Dead in Jail in the Last Month <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">With Sandra Bland&#039;s death, is the conversation finally shifting? </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="265" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="265" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div><p dir="ltr">Officials found 44-year-old Raynetta Turner dead in a Mt. Vernon jail cell in New York State Monday morning, making her the fifth black woman to die in jail—that we know of—this month.</p><p>ABC news affiliate Channel 7 <a href="">reports</a> that Turner was arrested on a shoplifting charge Saturday and taken to a local hospital after notifying officials of various health issues. She was returned to her cell Sunday and fingerprinted at 2am Monday. She was found unresponsive in her cell at 2pm that day. Turner’s death is under investigation.</p><p>"All I know is my wife is dead and no one is saying anything," said Herman Turner, Raynetta’s husband.</p><p>Four other black women have been found dead in jail cells across America this month. Sandra Bland, 28, was found unresponsive in a Texas jail on July 13 after being brutally arrested for a traffic violation days earlier. Kindra Chapman, 18, <a href="">committed suicide</a> in an Alabama jail a day later, following her arrest for allegedly stealing a cell phone. Joyce Curnell, 50, <a href="">was found dead</a> July 23 at the Charleston County Correctional Facility. On Sunday, Ralkina Jones, 37, was <a href="">found unresponsive</a> in a Cleveland Heights, Ohio jail Sunday after a Friday arrest for a domestic dispute with her husband. Jones’ death occurred the same day the Movement 4 Black Lives ended in Cleveland with a police officer videotaped as he randomly pepper-sprayed peaceful protesters.  </p><p>Though the Black Lives Matter movement is led by black women, stories of their experiences with law enforcement have been largely overshadowed by the narratives of black men. But the national outcry over Sandra Bland’s death has been unusual. Her name trended on Facebook and Twitter for days. #JusticeForSandraBland trended on Twitter for just as long. Perhaps her own outspokenness on racial justice issues through her video series #SandraSpeaks made the story behind her death more compelling for mainstream news outlets.</p><p>Whatever the case, black women are finally getting the media attention activists have long called for. It will be interesting to see how this new attention will play out in the presidential campaign when candidates begin seeking black votes. Farah Tanis, executive director of Black Women’s Blueprint, wrote in an email that black women have long been a transformative political force in the black community.</p><p>“Within the past eight years, the political imperative and influence of black communities has grown exponentially, and black women’s political culture and political agency has been a revolutionary force,” she said. “Black women voted in record numbers in the last two elections, carrying the first black president of the United States to victory in 2008 and 2012. Black women’s groups and organizations, leaders and foot soldiers have sprung up everywhere.”</p><p>Pew Research Center <a href="">reports</a> that black women had the highest voter turnout rate in 2008. In 2012, the black voter turnout rate surpassed white voters for the first time in history. Again, this milestone was achieved through the participation of <a href="">black women</a>.</p><p>Without question, black women carry with them enormous political leverage that has the potential to draw policymakers’ attention to the abuses they experience in the criminal justice system. How presidential contenders will deal with this in conversations about police brutality in the black community remains to be seen. What is clear is that the issue of state violence against black women is one that is becoming impossible to avoid.</p> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 14:40:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1040113 at Human Rights Human Rights Sandra Bland #BlackLivesMatter Samuel Dubose 8 Stats That Reveal Just How Badly the Police State Hurts Black Women <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">If Sandra Bland were white, there&#039;s a good chance she would still be with us.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">The outrageous shooting death of Sam Dubose by a University of Cincinnati cop is grabbing the headlines, but nearly two weeks after Sandra Bland died in a Texas jail after being stopped and brutally arrested for a minor traffic violation, her questionable detainment makes it clear the criminal justice system is often as brutal to black women as it is to black men. As AlterNet <a href="">recently reported</a>, Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia overstepped his authority when he asked Bland to put out her cigarette, prolonging and escalating the stop.</p><p>Social media reactions to Bland's stop, however, have been divided, in part along racial lines. Many white people have argued that Bland would have left the stop untouched had she simply not given Texas state trooper Brian Encinia an “attitude.” Black people, overwhelmingly, have pointed out that white women regularly engage police officers just as Bland did, yet don’t have to fear being abused for doing so.</p><p>Critics point to a New York Daily News photo of a white woman breast-to-chest with an <a href="">NYPD officer</a> and a <a href="">video</a> of a white woman defiantly challenging an officer during a traffic stop as offering sharp contrasts with Bland’s treatment, and anecdotal examples of how law enforcement treats white and black women differently.  </p><p>Julia Jordan-Zachery, a professor of political science at Providence College whose research focuses on the treatment of black women in the criminal justice system, says Bland’s story and ultimate death is another example of the myth of the strong black woman who is impervious to pain.</p><p>“It wasn’t possible for anyone to understand that she could have been in pain,” Jordan-Zachery told AlterNet. “What we know from literature is that black women are somehow so strong that we can’t even experience physical pain or that our tolerance level for pain is so high that no one ever listens to black women when we say we are experiencing pain.”</p><p>Breea C. Willingham, assistant professor of criminal justice at State University of New York in Plattsburg, echoed Jordan-Zachery’s analysis, saying that the disregard for black women’s bodies by American law enforcement dates back to America’s inception.</p><p>“From slavery days, during the Civil Rights movement, and the history of black women in America, black women’s bodies were never really their own,” Willingham, who is working on a book about the treatment of black women in prison, told AlterNet. “We’re always under surveillance. If you take the case of 15-year-old Dejerria Becton, in McKinney, Tex., where the cop slammed her on the ground in her bikini, knee in the back of her head, that’s just one example of the fact that there is no regard for our bodies.”</p><p>The dearth of research on the subject is a major barrier in understanding the ways in which the criminal justice system treats black women. While statistics on how law enforcement engage black men are plentiful, similar data on black women is limited. But Bland’s death has sparked a rare national conversation that’s forcing the country to take a closer look at how law enforcement and the criminal justice system treat black women.</p><p>AlterNet was able to find eight statistically backed ways in which law enforcement disproportionately abuses black women, despite limited scholarly research devoted to the issue.</p><p>Below are some of the most glaring findings, along with some commentary from Willingham and Jordan-Zachery.  </p><p><strong>1. Black women make up 6 percent of San Francisco’s female population, yet 45.5 percent of all women arrested there in 2013.</strong></p><p>San Francisco is known as perhaps the most liberal and inclusive city in all of America, but that reputation means little for the black women its police department places in handcuffs. According to the <a href="">Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice</a>, black women have been arrested at higher rates than other races of women in the city for the last 23 years at least. In every major arrest category, including possession, prostitution, weapons, drug felonies and marijuana, black women far outpace other races of women. Perhaps the most notable arrest disparity cited in the report is that arrest rates of black women in San Francisco are four times higher than the rest of California.  </p><p><strong>2. In New York City and Boston schools districts, black girls are suspended and expelled at much higher rates than white girls.</strong></p><p>During the 2011-2012 school year, 90 percent of all girls suspended were black, according to a recent <a href="">report</a> titled, "Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected.” Not one white girl was suspended that year. Boston was no better. Sixty-three percent of the girls subjected to expulsion were black during the same time frame, but no white girls were suspended.</p><p>“As public concern mounts for the needs of men and boys of color through initiatives like the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper, we must challenge the assumption that the lives of girls and women—who are often left out of the national conversation—are not also at risk,” Kimberlé Crenshaw, the study’s lead author, said.</p><p><strong>3. Black women are locked up in state and federal prisons at <a href="">more than twice</a> the rate of white women.</strong></p><p>Overall, black women make up 30 percent of the prison population, despite being 14 percent of the U.S. population, <a href="">according to the American Civil Liberties Union</a>. There are a wide range of reasons why these disparities exists. A Huffington Post <a href="">article</a> cites a lack of economic resources, familial support and systematic oppression as driving actors.</p><p>It is difficult to unpack that 30 percent figure because not much research is devoted to understanding black women and incarceration, and policymakers feel no pressure to allocate resources to understanding the issue. Jordan-Zachery says this is due to the either-or politics policymakers engage in. Under this model, they can only address the issues of black men or black women, with women normally being left out.</p><p>“We can either talk about black men under the umbrella of black politics, or we can talk about black women,” she said. “We can’t talk about both simultaneously. What I suggest is that it is not a politics of either-or. It’s a politics of both-and. We have to expand our understanding of politics in a way that sometimes go against the American understanding of politicians that leads us to make false choices. When we include black women, what we’re actually doing is expanding our politics.”   </p><p><strong>4. Black mothers in New Jersey are more likely than their white counterparts to be deemed “unfit parents.”</strong></p><p>New Jersey Public Radio learned through its own <a href="">investigation</a> that the children of black mothers are four times more likely to be placed in foster care than the children of white mothers. Black children make up just 14 percent of the state population but account for 41 percent of those entering foster care. The report found that even if the mothers are at similar economic levels, the black mothers were still viewed as more unfit than white moms, so this is not a class issue.</p><p>Oronde Miller, of the Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare, cited a Texas analysis of unfit parents that reveals poverty was not at play when that state found more black moms unfit than white moms. Instead, he argued that authorities were racially biased in determining who was deemed a good or bad parent.</p><p>Nationally, pregnant black women are 10 times more likely to be reported to child welfare services for drug use than white women, according to the <a href="">Drug Policy Alliance</a>.</p><p>Jordan-Zachery says this data should inform us on how society views black motherhood.</p><p>“Even when we’re seen, we’re seen in a very negative way to justify punishment,” she said. “So, no matter what black women do, we become criminal elements.”</p><p>Laura Browder, a Texas mom who had to take her children with her to an interview at a mall, <a href="">was arrested</a> for child endangerment a few weeks ago, despite the fact that her children were a mere 30 feet away from her. </p><p>“Here’s a woman following the so-called rules, to use policymakers' language,” Jordan-Zachery said. “But in that case, she is still seen as a criminal. What makes her criminal? What makes her criminal in this case is poverty and a lack of child care. This is another element of invisibility. What are you supposed to do? If you leave your children at home, you become a criminal. If you take your children with you, you become a criminal. So, what are black women suppose to do? Not work? If we don’t work, then we become the stereotype.”</p><p><strong>5. Dark-skinned black women receive stiffer prison sentences in North Carolina than light-skinned black women for comparable crimes.</strong></p><p>In a <a href="">study</a> titled, "The Impact of Light Skin on Prison Time for Black Female Offenders,” researchers found that black women who were perceived to be lighter skinned received sentences that were 12 percent lower than darker skinned women.</p><p>The authors of the study researched the criminal records of black women imprisoned in the state of North Carolina between 1995 and 2009 and controlled factors such as misconduct in prison, prior records and conviction dates. What the findings reveal, the authors wrote, is that associations with whiteness play a crucial role in how black women are treated in the criminal justice system.</p><p><strong>6. States that drug-test pregnant women disproportionately jail black women.</strong></p><p>At least 17 states consider drug use during pregnancy to be child abuse, <a href="">according to Guttmacher Institute</a>. Pregnant black women are no more likely to use drugs than white women during pregnancy, but they are reported to child welfare services for drug use at rates higher than white pregnant moms, <a href="">according</a> to a 2015 report by the Drug Policy Alliance.  </p><p>The ACLU <a href="">reports</a> that the incarceration rate for black women for drug-related offenses since 1986 has increased by 800 percent, compared to 400 percent for other races of women. It is crucial to note that black and white women uses drugs at the same rate.</p><p><strong>7. More than half of all of women stopped by the NYPD are black.</strong></p><p>In 2013, the most recent year for which arrest data is available, black women made up 53.4 percent of all <a href="">arrests</a> in New York City. Latina women were second at 27.5 percent and white women made up only 13.4 percent.</p><p><strong>8. Black girls make up 14 percent of the U.S. population but more than 33 percent of girls detained or committed at juvenile justice system.</strong></p><p>Willingham, whose research focuses on the incarceration of black women, says we see a higher rate of black girls behind bars than white girls because they aren’t getting the same support at the juvenile level. <a href="">A recent report</a> that analyzed how the sexual abuse girls experience can lead to incarceration points out that black girls make up a third of female juveniles detained or committed. Most girls in the juvenile justice system have experienced some form of sexual assault at some point during their lives. However, Willingham says black girls are less likely than white girls to get the rehabilitative support needed to decrease their chances of recidivism.</p><p>“Even at a young age, they’re considered bad," she said. “For white girls, it’s, Oh, they just have problems, they’ll be OK, we can help them. But black girls, no. They’re just bad. And we don’t even get the benefit of the doubt.”</p><p>Hopefully, attention to how black women are treated by police and the criminal justice system will change that.</p><p>The reason Americans are beginning to hear about the abuses black women experience at the hand of law enforcement is because of social media, Willingham says. In order to gather a more complete understanding of how police brutality and incarceration impacts black women, more research has to be done. But the recent deaths of Sandra Bland, Kendra, and as of Sunday, Ralkina Jones, all symbolize that black women face many of the same kinds of law enforcement abuse as black men.  </p><p>“Whether they’re slamming us to the ground or manhandling us, throwing us in jail and finding our dead bodies in them, there is no regard for us,” Willingham said. “It’s just like throwing the trash out. That is how I see the criminal justice system treats black women. It’s just taking the trash out.”</p> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 13:31:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1040057 at Human Rights Human Rights Sandra Bland racism Laura Browder McKinney Texas racism in criminal justice system Texas Trooper Had No Right to Ask Sandra Bland to Put Out Her Cigarette <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">There was nothing lawful about Trooper Encinia&#039;s order. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Asking a woman sitting in her vehicle to put out her cigarette during a traffic stop is not a reasonable request for a law enforcement officer to make, and Sandra Bland knew it.</p><p>“You mind putting out your cigarette, please?" Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia asked.</p><p>“I’m in my car. Why do I have to put out my cigarette?” Bland said.</p><p>“Well, you can step on out now,” Encinia replied.</p><p>We know what happened next, based on a dashcam <a href="">video released</a> by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Bland was violently pulled out of her vehicle, thrown to the ground after she refused to obey Encinia's "lawful order" and jailed at Waller County Jail, where she was found dead three days later under suspicious circumstances.</p><p>But let’s address the cigarette issue. Did Encinia have a right to ask her to put it out? Eric Sanders, a former NYPD officer and civil rights attorney, told AlterNet flatly, “No.”</p><p>“What law was he enforcing?” Sanders, who spent nearly 13 years years with the NYPD, asked. “Is there a law against her smoking a cigarette in her own car? The police only have power through the Constitution, so can you explain to me what was the legal basis for that command? The government can only tell you, as a citizen, to do something that has legal authority. Without legal authority, they have nothing. So tell me what did she do?”</p><p>Eric Guster, a civil rights attorney in Birmingham, Ala., says officers can ask drivers to comply with reasonable commands. For example, a cop can ask a driver to turn off the ignition to his or her vehicle because not doing so can endanger the officer’s safety. If a car has a lot of people in it, the officer can ask everyone to raise their hands so he or she can see them. The officer can also ask someone to turn on his or her car lights if the inside of the vehicle is dark.</p><p>After reviewing the video, Guster says Encinia’s request was far from reasonable.</p><p>“I just don’t think so,” he told AlterNet. “He wrote the ticket already. She said, ‘Give me the ticket.’ The officer had no reason to tell her anything else but give her the ticket and walk away. There can be a thin line about what is a legal command, but under these circumstances, I just don’t see what the officer did was reasonable.”</p><p>The Houston Chronicle <a href=";cmpid=twitter-premium">published</a> a report outlining Texas-specific rights officers have to stop a driver and when it is legal for the officer to ask passengers to exit the vehicle. None of the scenarios cited in the report suggest any wrongdoing on Bland’s part.</p><p>Walter Katz, a police oversight lawyer and monitor, <a href="">wrote</a> that Encinia escalated the situation after Bland accused him of speeding behind her, forcing her to switch lanes hastily without using her signal. Basically, she accused Encinia of creating the conditions that caused him to pull her over. He never explained the legality of his commands and Bland challenged why he didn’t.</p><p>“Sandra Bland failed the Attitude Test,” Katz wrote on his blog. “She refused to submit to authority in a way which satisfied the trooper. That was her greatest crime and one that we have seen far too often.”</p><p>The stop also failed the Constitution test. The Supreme Court ruled in April in <a href="">Rodriguez vs. United States</a> that police officers cannot prolong a traffic stop beyond the intended reason. In Bland's case, the stop was over when Encinia wrote Bland the ticket. He had no right to ask her anything else beyond that. Doing so violated her civil rights. </p><p>For those who say Bland should have just shut her mouth and complied with the trooper's requests, there is no legal basis for such submission. There is no law in Texas, or anywhere else for that matter, that gives cops the right to arrest someone for mouthing off. As AlterNet <a href="">previously reported</a>, judges across the country are tossing disorderly conduct cases in which cops arrest people for cursing at them. The video makes it clear that Encinia didn’t like Bland challenging his authority.</p><p>Sanders believes that most situations in which a cop gets into an altercation with someone is due to the cop not keeping his cool.</p><p>“You represent the government, which means you are subject to the wrath of the people,” he said. “If you are a police officer out there and your feelings are getting hurt, you’re in the wrong business. You’re taught that in the academy. You know that intuitively. There are no personal feelings. If someone is yelling at you, they’re not yelling at you, they’re yelling at your uniform.”</p><p>That’s what Bland was clearly doing. Encinia was operating beyond the duties of his uniform and Bland dared to challenge the officer on it. In return, she was brutally arrested, jailed and later died.</p><p>Bland’s death is being investigated as a possible homicide by local authorities. But according to the video, it appears her arrest had much more to do with Brian Encinia’s ego and the way he overstepped his authority because she refused to put out her cigarette.</p> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 06:33:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1039825 at Human Rights Sandra Bland America Leads Developed World in Treating Working Moms Like Crap <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">America is very harsh on working mothers.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Laura Browder is the latest example of how harsh America can be on working mothers. When an employer <a href="" target="_blank">called</a> the Houston mother of two to meet up for a job interview, she didn’t have time to line up childcare. Browder ended up taking her 2-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter with her to the interview location, a local mall, where she kept an eye on her kids from 30 feet away. </p><p dir="ltr">Moments after she landed the gig, a cop arrested Browder for child abandonment. Though she was later released, the arrest was an unfriendly reminder of the tough calls moms often have to make.</p><p dir="ltr">“Mothers constantly have to do mental cost-benefit analysis like this,” Stacia L. Brown, founder of the blog <a href="" target="_blank">Beyond Baby Momas</a>, told AlterNet. “We bear the brunt of chastisement when we make tough calls like Browder did, but we can only be in one place at a time. According to her account, the children were within her line of vision the whole time they were seated in the food court. The alternative to not bringing her children to the mall so that she could interview would have been losing an opportunity to secure a livable wage for her family.”</p><p dir="ltr">Though Browder’s arrest was a daycare issue, it is part of a larger problem. Women make up <a href="" target="_blank">nearly 50 percent</a> of America’s workforce and 40 percent of household breadwinners, yet they have few of the protections mothers in other rich countries enjoy. America is the <a href="" target="_blank">only country</a> in the developed world that doesn’t offer guaranteed paid paternity or maternity leave to workers. Only 12 percent of U.S. workers reportedly have such coverage, but it is usually a benefit provided through employer insurance. </p><p dir="ltr">At least seven in 10 mothers with children younger than 18 were in the workforce in 2012, <a href="" target="_blank">according</a> to the Pew Research Center. Yet, America is quite hostile toward its working mothers. Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director of <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, says part of the problem is that most policymakers can’t relate to the issues moms face. More than <a href="" target="_blank">80 percent</a> of the 114th Congress is male, a figure Rowe-Finkbeiner says explains why lawmakers don’t see childcare access as an urgent issue.</p><p dir="ltr">“Often, childcare has been thought of as a woman’s individual problem,” she told AlterNet. “If one person can’t make it happen, then it’s her fault. We have a structural issue with childcare we have to solve together and not an epidemic of personal failing.”</p><p dir="ltr">(Keep in mind that racism pressures black moms like Browder even more. In New Jersey, black mothers are more likely to be <a href="" target="_blank">deemed unfit</a> by the state’s child services than white mothers.)  </p><p dir="ltr">President Barack Obama <a href="" target="_blank">acknowledged</a> during his State of the Union speech in January that childcare costs are unaffordable for many mothers. He has proposed to triple the childcare tax credit to $3,000. It would be a welcome source of financial support. In 30 states and the District of Columbia, a mother can <a href="" target="_blank">pay more for daycare</a> annually than for a year of in-state tuition. Not only is childcare expensive, women aren’t earning equal paychecks. We know that women make <a href="" target="_blank">78 cents</a> for every dollar a man makes, but the breakdown for working mom’s salaries are even more bleak. <a href="" target="_blank">Sixty-five percent</a> of households led by women are considered low-income.</p><p dir="ltr">But here’s another issue: employers discriminate against mothers. One study <a href="" target="_blank">found</a> that moms pursuing six-figure jobs could be offered salaries that are $11,000 less than female applicants who don't have children; that figure jumps to $13,000 less when compared to childless male applicants. Men don’t face such discrimination. In every state, working fathers <a href="" target="_blank">earn more than</a> working women. Men’s salaries increased by more than 6 percent when they had children, but women saw their salaries drop by 4 percent for each child they had, <a href=";abg=0" target="_blank">according to one study</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Brown says fear of discrimination can lead to women hiding the fact that they have children. She believes employers should become more sensitive to the reality that mothers may not be able to secure childcare during an interview.  </p><p dir="ltr">“I think it would help if companies provided onsite childcare for employees, which could also be open to interviewees in need,” she said. “That's the dream scenario.”</p><p dir="ltr">But it doesn’t appear that many states are taking childcare seriously. Illinois is reportedly running out of money for childcare subsidies because the state legislature <a href="" target="_blank">underfunded</a> the budget by $300 million last year. In North Carolina, thousands of low-income families <a href="" target="_blank">lost</a> childcare subsidies under the state’s new eligibility requirements last year. Parents in Alabama <a href="" target="_blank">face cuts</a> to their state-supported childcare subsidies.</p><p dir="ltr">Such cuts would be a mistake for several reasons. When parents don’t have affordable childcare for their children, they risk high absenteeism and lack of focus at work. Studies show the <a href="" target="_blank">reverse happens</a> with state-supported childcare. Rowe-Finkbeiner says America is far behind the rest of the developed world in realizing that subsidizing childcare is good for society</p><p dir="ltr">“This is a win for taxpayers, a win for working parents, and a win for businesses when we do have access to high-quality, affordable childcare," she said.</p> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 14:39:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1039749 at child care A Staggering Number of Rape Kits — About 70,000 Nationwide — Languish Untested <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Traumatized women and their families sometimes wait decades.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">More than 70,000 rape kits have yet to be tested at more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies across the country, according to an <a href="">investigation</a> by USA Today.</p><p>Thousands of rape victims have waited years and in some cases decades for their kits to be tested. The reasons (excuses) vary, though cost is a factor: It costs as much as $1,000 to test a kit in some municipalities, and some police departments say they simply do not have the funds to cover the expense.</p><p>In the past, attention has been focused on the backlog of rape kits in large cities, but smaller cities struggle to keep up with the demand as well. Muncie, Ind., Visalia, Calif., St. Cloud, Minn., and Green Bay, Wis., have hundreds of kits that have gone untested. USA Today also found that at least 50 major law enforcement agencies don’t even have an inventory of their rape kits, so they don’t know how many untested rape kits they have.</p><p>A staggering 44 states have no law stipulating the timeframe when a rape kit should be tested and 34 states have not conducted an inventory of their rape kits. What this means is that most states have no idea how many women are waiting to seek justice against their attackers, and of course, it also means that many of those attackers are free to attack and rape other women.</p><p>In 1993, a New York City girl was raped in an apartment building in Queens. She was hospitalized that night and a rape kit was provided. She had to wait more than a decade before it was finally tested. Her rapist, Michael J. Brown, was convicted 12 years later, in 2005.</p><p>New York City spent $12 million to have all of its kits tested at private labs and 2,000 matched profiles in DNA offender databases. Michael J. Brown was one of those hits.</p><p>Joanie Scheske had to wait 18 years before St. Louis policed called her, in 2009, to say that they caught her rapist. But this only came after evidence in a separate case, an eight-year old assault case matched her attacker’s DNA.</p><p>These stats are frightening but it is impossible to quantify the emotional toll of not knowing when your kit will be tested or when the wheels of justice will begin to turn.</p><p>"Every single one of those rape kits is a person, and (their) family and friends," Scheske said. "It's like a baby's mobile: You touch one piece and it moves all the others. It's not just one person. Everyone that their sphere of influence touches is affected by what happens to a victim."</p><p>Read the complete USA Today report <a href="">here</a> to get a comprehensive understanding of how bad the issue of abandoned rape kits is.</p><p><br /> </p><p> </p> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 11:32:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1039516 at Human Rights Human Rights LGBTQ Investigations News & Politics rape kits rape Criminal Justice Experts: Bail System Needs More Than Reform, It Needs to Be Scrapped <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">“Unless we deal with the issue of police interactions, the bail system and everything else is just a bunch of bandaids.”</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">For years, inmates with non-violent felonies and misdemeanor charges in New York City had to sit in Rikers Island for months—even years sometimes—awaiting trial because they couldn’t afford to pay bail. Under the city’s new bail initiative <a href="">announced</a> by Mayor Bill de Blasio last week, some 3,000 low-level offenders are eligible for release without bail. They will be supervised by the city or by a non-profit organization in the community. The city <a href="">estimates</a> that 38,000 people were detained because they could not pay bail. Nearly 10,000 couldn’t pay $1,000 and 3,400 didn’t have $500.</p><p>While it’s a promising step, critics say it doesn’t go nearly far enough. The city’s bail system needs serious reform, but its policing tactics that led to a disproportionate number of arrests of blacks and Latinos are the more urgent issue. The New York Police Department dropped stop-and-frisk, but still practices "broken windows," a policing tactic that arrests people for low-level offenses like peeing on the street, disorderly conduct and trespassing. The New York Daily News <a href="">reports</a> that 81 percent of the 7.3 million people hit with summonses between 2001 and 2013 were black and Hispanic. Some of those summonses carry felony or misdemeanor charges that residents of non-black neighborhoods that aren’t hyper-policed don’t have to deal with.</p><p>Thena Robinson-Mock, a project director at the Advancement Project, a D.C.-based civil rights organization that addresses racial inequality in the criminal justice system, told AlterNet that New York City’s bail initiative doesn’t address why many people are being unfairly arrested and charged with crimes to begin with.</p><p>“Kalief Browder, who inspired a lot of this change, would not have benefitted from this new policy because he was charged with a violent felony,” Robinson-Mock said, referring to the case of the young man who was held three years in Rikers without trial and who committed suicide recently. “So, it captures non-violent and low-level felonies but not other charges. So when we start talking about the charges, we have to look at prosecutors. That is where we are seeing the racial bias play out.”</p><p>According to a <a href="">recent study</a>, 95 percent of the nation’s prosecutors are white, which Robinson-Mock says underlies the problem of why so many people who are stuck in the nation’s bail system are black or Hispanic.</p><p>Then there is the national issue of racial bias in arrests. According to the <a href="">Pretrial Justice Institute</a>, black people are 2.5 times more likely to be arrested than whites. They are also two times more likely to be detained than whites; Hispanics are 2.5 times more likely to be detained than whites. Blacks and whites smoke marijuana in equal numbers, yet blacks are four times more likely to be arrested for it. When it comes to bail amounts, black men regularly face bail that is 35 percent higher than white men. Hispanic men’s bail disparities are only slightly better; their bail amounts are 19 percent higher than white men.</p><p>Those who cannot pay bail face bleak futures even after their trial dates come up. Defendants held during the entire pretrial period are more likely to be sentenced to jail or prison and face longer sentences. The Justice Policy Institute <a href="">published a study</a> in 2012 arguing that America needs to abolish the practice of using money for bail altogether.</p><p>“The ability to pay money bail is neither an indicator of a person’s guilt nor an indicator of risk in release,” the study’s authors wrote. “The focus on money as a mechanism for pretrial release means people often are not properly screened for more rational measures of public safety: their propensity to flee before their court date or their risk for causing public harm. Meanwhile, those too poor to pay a money bail remain in jail regardless of their risk level or presumed innocence. Evidence suggests that up to 25 percent more people could be safely released from U.S. jails while awaiting trial if the proper procedures are put in place, including valid risk assessments and appropriate community supervision.”</p><p>Eric Sanders, a civil rights attorney and former NYPD officer, said bail has everything to do with defendants being able to afford good counsel who can defend them against bogus charges. He added that many of the stop-and-frisk and broken windows arrests in New York City are not only illegal but underdocumented.</p><p>“Take the number of times that are documented by a police officer and times it by 10,” he told AlterNet. “That will get you closer to the true number. Many stop-and-frisks and broken windows stops are not documented. Unless we deal with the issue of police interactions, the bail system and everything else is just a bunch of bandaids because we aren’t getting to the first part of the problem, which is police encounters.”</p><p>During his run for mayor, de Blasio vowed to bring serious, far-reaching reform to the NYPD but has since retreated from his hardline rhetoric after facing fierce opposition from the powerful police department’s union.</p><p>Alexandra Moffett-Bateau, professor of political science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told AlterNet that lawmakers fear political repercussions if their policies attempt to end policies like broken windows.</p><p>“There is very little political traction to be gained there,” she said. “Politicians can pretty much ignore this issue altogether because they don’t want to be seen as the person who is light on crime or giving criminals the easy way out or any of these things people say when they are talking about criminal justice.”</p><p>Thena Robinson-Mock said de Blasio’s announcement is encouraging, but until serious debate focuses on what police officers and prosecutors consider criminal behavior, the city’s bail initiative won’t scratch the surface of why thousands of people are being unnecessarily detailed.</p><p>“Even if we can prevent one Kalief Browder from happening, that is a good thing,” she said. “I celebrate that. But, at the same time, knowing how flawed the criminal justice system is around how we perceive behavior of black and Latino people, I know this isn’t going to be enough to capture many of the people who are going to be lost in the system. I think we’re going to have to go a lot further and really think about both the arrest points and also what happens at the prosecutor point when these crimes are charged in the first place.”</p> Tue, 14 Jul 2015 12:19:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1039322 at Human Rights Human Rights bail system Kalief Browder Mayor Bill de Blasio broken windows stop and frisk Would America Stop Locking Up Teens If They Were Mostly White? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Why aren&#039;t the horrifying videos of black kids being abused in adult prisons fixing this crisis?</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Last month, Americans were forced to reckon with the cruelty of placing children in solitary confinement when Kalief Browder hanged himself at his mother’s home after spending three years in Rikers' Island, where he was beaten repeatedly by staff and adult inmates, then released without trial. But we haven't learned our lesson: right now, some 70,000 children are currently behind bars at juvenile facilities where solitary confinement is “<a href="">routine</a>.”</p><p>This figure doesn’t even include the <a href="">95,000 kids</a> locked up in adult facilities around the country who are also subjected to abuse by older inmates and staff and endure the use of solitary confinement as punishment.</p><p>Nearly 2,600 inmates, a dispropotionate number<a href=""> of them black</a>, are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for crimes they committed as children. So, when the Huffington Post <a href="">published a repor</a>t recently about the terrifying abuse children in adult Michigan prisons were experiencing, the details were sickeningly unsurprising.</p><p>The story began with the journey of a young girl from Detroit, "Jamie," who was sentenced to two concurrent six-month sentences in prison for assaulting a family friend and destroying property when she was 17. She denies the allegations. It has since come to light that Jamie’s sentence was bumped up to five years in adult prison for the crime of giving guards what they construed as an “intimidating look.” Accompanying the HuffPo story is a deeply upsetting video that depicts Jamie's treatment. “I can’t breathe,” she repeats as guards force a "spit-mask" over her face. “Please stop doing this to me,” she begs.</p><p>Why was Jamie in adult prison, or in prison at all? A defense attorney from Ann Arbor, a suburb of Detroit, said it is unheard of for kids, especially affluent, white kids, to be sentenced to prison for doing what Jamie is alleged to have done. They normally get community service. But Jamie is black and is from Detroit, and the harshness of the sentencing sounds consistent with that of other black kids.</p><p>In Michigan, black kids make up just 18 percent of the state’s population, but account for 59 percent of youth 16 and under who are <a href="">convicted</a> of crimes as adults. While there may be other factors at play besides race, like poverty and lack good schools and opportunity, it's hard to escape the conclusion that the harshest policing and sentencing is meted out to black kids.</p><p>From Huffpo:</p><blockquote><p>Following Kalief Browder’s death, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul observed that “white kids don’t get the same justice” —and when it comes to sentencing practices, this is empirically true. One national study <a href="" target="_blank">found</a> that in a single year, almost 10 times more black kids were committed to adult facilities than white kids. Of 257 children prosecuted as adults in Chicago between 2010 and 2012, only <a href="" target="_blank">one</a> was white.</p></blockquote><p>Jamie, now 20, was housed with three adult cellmates during her time in prison. She showered with adults and hung with them in the yard. Minors need parental permission to go on a field trip, so why is it okay for a 17-year-old girl to be living with adults in such intimate settings?</p><p>While she was locked up, Jamie attempted suicide several times, as did Browder while he was locked up in Rikers.</p><p>The Huffington Post’s reporting was outstanding, but will public and official pressure to end sentencing of youth offenders as adults match the story’s persistence and rigor? Stories like Jamie’s must force Americans to ask themselves some tough questions:</p><ul><li>Why are black kids <a href="">62 percent</a> of youth prosecuted in adult criminal courts?</li><li>Why are black kids <a href="">nine times</a> more likely than white kids to receive an adult prison sentence?</li><li>Why, as the Huffington Post reported, of the 257 kids prosecuted as adults between 2010-2012, was only one white?  </li><li>Why does Florida <a href="">lead the nation</a> in transferring children to adult courts? Why do black kids make up most of those transfers?</li><li>Why do America’s schools <a href="">send</a> 27 percent of their black kids to cops for disciplinary actions, despite black kids making up just 16 percent of enrollment? (This practice is the beginning stage of the “school-to-prison pipeline.”)</li><li>Why are <a href="">more than half of preschoolers</a> (who are mostly 4 years old) suspended from school black, despite making up 18 percent of total enrollment?</li></ul><p>The criminalization of black kids starts well before they are thrown in jail, according to noted criminologists. “Schools in majority black and brown communities are increasingly becoming criminal justice institutions, as opposed to educational ones,” Alexandra Moffett-Bateau, an assistant professor of political science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told AlterNet. “Police patrol the hallways, kids have to go through metal detectors, and instead of being sent to detention, children in some areas have the police called on them."</p><p>Before long, those same kids are ensnared in a criminal justice system that is already predisposed to seeing them as criminals, Moffett-Batea says. “We know that racial bias is a pervasive and systemic issue within police forces all over the country. So young black and brown people are more likely to be profiled for 'looking suspicious' or ‘acting suspiciously.'" Or giving an "intimidating look."</p><p>Add to this the fact that black children and teens are misperceived as being older and more grown up than their white peers.</p><p>“Young black and brown people are rarely perceived as children by the institutions that they come into contact with,” Moffett-Bateau continues. “We saw this in the Tamir Rice case. It just didn't occur to those officers that Tamir could be a child playing with a toy gun. What this means is that when black and brown kids are taken before judges, they are much more likely to receive adult prison sentences. Our kids have been fundamentally stripped of their childhoods and it has devastating consequences for their life trajectories.”</p><p>Stories like the Huffington Post's have been written for years, yet little has been done to reverse the policies that keep people like Jamie behind bars and leave people like her and Kalief Browder psychologically broken even after they are free. After Browder’s case came to light, New York City <a href="">discontinued</a> the use of solitary confinement for inmates under 21, but that rule change came too late for Browder. And elsewhere, children in America are still subjected to solitary confinement in America’s jails and prisons.  </p><p>No child offender, regardless of race, should be treated as an adult. But, as the data and research clearly shows, most of the children prosecuted and locked up in American jail cells are black. This trend dates back to the '70s, when the race-based hysteria about "super-predators," young, mostly black and brown youth said to be vicious and lawless was first peddled.</p><p>Khalilah L. Brown-Dean, professor of political science at Quinnipiac University, told AlterNet that the racial bias we see playing out in America’s criminal justice system is a structural issue. </p><p>“The type of bias that drives a 14-year-old girl in a bikini to be thrown to the ground at a McKinney pool party manifests at every level of the criminal justice process,” said Brown-Dean, whose research focuses on how politics and race influence decision-making in the criminal justice system. “Various empirical studies confirm this. From a political perspective, the key question is who's advocating on behalf of these young people? Kids can't vote, but their parents can. So if your parent doesn't have the civic capacity to stand before a judge and convince her to place you on probation, or they don't have the economic capital to pay for an accomplished attorney or therapist, chances are you'll be trapped in the system. Public policy is about making choices. If we choose to see certain groups of young people as problems rather than potential, we doom them to having the state dictate every aspect of their lives.”</p><p>If white Americans, politicians, voters, and people with power to exert pressure, opened up their issue of the New Yorker to see that a 21-year-old man who looked like their child hanged himself after being abused in jail, or watched a video of a teenaged girl who looked like their daughter being masked and begging to breathe, would they make meaningful changes?</p><p>Who knows.</p><p>What we do know is that black children are being abused disproportionately, and the people in positions of power don’t seem to care.</p> Thu, 09 Jul 2015 09:50:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1039097 at Human Rights Human Rights Investigations Kalief Browder jamie HuffingtonPost expose juvenile justice racism in criminal justice system Google News Is Better at Collecting Data on Cop Killings than the F.B.I. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">That&#039;s your tax dollars at work, there!</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">If you want to keep up with the number of civilians killed by cops at any given moment, setting up an alert on Google News is likely your best bet.</p><p>So far, Google News is helping media organizations and independent websites keep better track of police shootings around the country than the FBI. According to <a href="">the Washington Post</a>, 466 people have been killed by cops this year. <a href="">The Guardian</a>, which is also keeping track of police killings through it’s own database, has tallied 568.</p><p>(A quick note: one reason why the The Guardian’s count is higher than The Post’s is because it counts all police killings, not just shootings. So, a death by chokehold, in the case of Eric Garner, would be counted in The Guardian’s count but not The Post’s.)</p><p>The Post and The Guardian are relying on <a href="">Fatal Encounters</a> and <a href="">Killed By Police</a>, two independent websites that track police shootings, to compile their databases, <a href="">according to The Marshall Project</a>. Those websites are using Google News, which allows users to set up custom searches of news topics and email those findings via “alerts.”</p><p>In a way, the platform is keeping the cops more accountable than local, state and federal governments.</p><p>In more than four decades, The FBI has not counted more than 460 shootings in one year. In less than six months, The Post <a href="">hit that number</a>. That said, it is likely that the FBI has missed thousands of shootings over the years. Using news links from Killed By Police, The FiveThirtyEight <a href="">estimated</a> in August that cops kill at least 1000 people per year. The Bureau of Justice Statistics <a href="">published a study</a> in March claiming the FBI is only counting about half of the shootings that occurred between 2003-2009 and 2011, so the FiveThirtyEight’s estimates would seem to track.</p><p>There are some drawbacks to using Google News to get an accurate count of cop shootings.</p><p>The media isn’t a reliable counter of police shootings because, well, it isn’t their job. And there is a chance that local media aren’t covering every shooting, either. Google News was launched in 2006, so using the platform to count shootings before that time was impossible. And, as The Marshall Project noted, the farther back you search in Google News, the less thorough the results will be.</p><p>But, still, Google News is making the recent reporting we see in the Washington Post and The Guardian possible. At the same time, the dissemination of videos of cops killing citizens on social media is pressuring public officials to address the issue and compelling the media to cover these  incidents properly, rather than just repeating the official line</p><p>Senators Cory Booker and Barbara Boxer <a href="">introduced</a> the Police Reporting of Information, Data and Evidence Act (or PRIDE) immediately after The Post and The Guardian began their series. The legislation, if passed, would require all law enforcement agencies nationwide to report demographic details of every shooting or incident that results in serious bodily harm. For law enforcement agencies that don’t have money to collect statistics, grants will be available to offset the costs of data collection.</p><p>Only 2,700 out of 22,000 law enforcement agencies reported data on police-involved shootings in 2013, the latest year from which such data is available.</p><p>Before PRIDE was introduced, President Barack Obama launched his <a href="">Task Force On 21st Century Policing</a>, which is working with organizations like Code For America. The partnership is suppose to help police departments “build transparency and increase community trust” by improving data collecting practices then sharing it with the public.</p><p>But Google News has already empowered media and independent websites to create publicly available databases that communities can use to keep up with how police interact with people.</p><p>So, the federal government has some catching up to do. Technology is way ahead of Uncle Sam in the data collection game.</p><p>When Google News was launched in 2006, the creators likely envisioned the platform helping users to keep up with the news, not how many people made the news after the cops killed them.</p><p><br /> </p><p dir="ltr"> </p><p><br /><br /><br /><br /> </p><p> </p> Wed, 08 Jul 2015 09:04:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1039040 at Human Rights Human Rights Media News & Politics Google News google alerts cop shootings cop killings walter scott michael brown eric garner One Quarter of People Police Have Killed This Year Were Mentally Ill <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Experts say police either lack or ignore training to deal with the mentally ill.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">A quarter of the 462 people who were shot and killed by police so far this year were in the middle of an emotional or mental health crisis, according to the <a href="">Washington Post</a>.</p><p>Most of these 124 people were armed at the time of the shootings, though the cops who shot them weren’t responding to a crime. Most of the time, relatives were calling 911 for help dealing with a loved one who was behaving erratically. At least 50 of the people shot were suicidal.</p><p>The data compiled by the Post reveals what many mental health and policing experts around the country already know: too many officers are ill-trained to deal with the mentally ill or aren’t following the training they underwent at police academy or in followup workshops that focus on dealing with people in severe emotional distress.</p><p>Nationally, police officers get at least 60 hours of handgun training, but only eight hours of training on how to deal with the mentally ill and another eight on how to de-escalate tense situations, according to the Police Executive Research Forum. </p><p>Earlier this year, AlterNet <a href="">published a story</a> about how few police departments undergo Crisis Intervention Team (or CIT) training, that requires officers to undergo 40 hours of coursework teaching them how to de-escalate tense situations with mentally ill people. During our reporting, we learned that some studies have shown that departments that require CIT training saw a decrease in shootings of the mentally ill. But out of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S., only 2,700 of them have CIT training. And even those that underwent the training, like the Albuquerque Police Department, continued to see their officers kill a high number of mentally ill people. Charles Cochran, the founder of CIT, told AlterNet that Albuquerque started drifting away from the core principles of CIT that makes officers accountable to the community as well as the department.</p><p>Many of the shootings in which Albuquerque cops shot and killed a mentally ill person were later determined to be justified. The three LAPD cops who shot and killed a homeless person in downtown L.A. earlier this year <a href="">underwent</a> CIT training, so perhaps accountability for unnecessary shootings, not more training, is the issue. Eric Sanders, a former cop who spent 12 and a half years in the NYPD, told AlterNet that most of these shootings happen because the cops overreact, not because the mentally ill person poses a threat.</p><p>“The biggest problem is that police officers are not following their training,” said Sanders, who is now a civil rights attorney. “They aren’t taught to go to a scene and then immediately engage people who are emotionally disturbed and fight with them. They’re not taught to do that. They are taught to use time and distance to make assessments and wait on their supervisors because the supervisor will likely have the other equipment they need to deal with people who are emotionally disturbed, whether that is a water cannon, net, bean bags or any other non-lethal method.”</p><p>While it is true that too many cops are not held accountable for using unnecessary force, another issue is that many people, including family members, don’t know how to support someone in a mental health crisis until it is too late.</p><p>Often times, people tend to call the police in hopes the officers will help de-escalate a frightening situation with a mentally ill person. In many cases, they don’t have to. Alfiee M. Breland-Noble, associate professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University, told AlterNet that there are alternative resources people can rely on besides law enforcement.  </p><p>“Many cities have something called a <a href="">system of care</a> which is basically a central portal to help direct people to available resources besides law enforcement,” Breland-Noble said. “These systems include places like the local community health clinic, the psychiatric hospital, the community mental health clinic, hotlines, and support groups. In addition, there are often print resources that loved ones can find ahead of a crisis that include information on local chapters of organizations like the <a href="">National Alliance on Mental Illness</a>, CHADD and the <a href="">Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance</a>.”</p><p>Breland-Noble also mentioned that most people don’t understand how to support people who are mentally ill or in an emotional crisis. For example, she said the world can be a very lonely and ostracizing place for someone with a severe and persistent mental illness and any protection from that is logical to him or her — including holding some kind of object that can be perceived as a weapon.</p><p>“I am not surprised that individuals might wish to have something that offers them the feeling of security,” she said.</p><p>Sanders believes we would see fewer shootings of the mentally ill, and in general, if cops were simply held accountable for using unnecessary force. A Dallas police officer <a href="">was fired</a> earlier this year for violating the department’s deadly force policy and procedures for dealing with the mentally ill when he shot a mentally ill man in 2013.</p><p>"We are not going to sweep officer misconduct under the rug," Dallas Police Chief David Brown said at a press conference announcing the officer’s firing. "An officer's actions must be reasonable and necessary."</p><p>Sanders says this needs to happen more often. </p><p>“Training will reduce the likelihood of having these problems, but you know what else will reduce these problems? Holding people accountable,” he said. “That is left out of the conversation. When officers don’t follow their training, there should be consequences for it. We taught you we don’t want you to respond in this way, because by responding in this way, you’ve escalated the situation to a level where you had to use force. You didn’t follow tactics, therefore, you violated the policy.</p><p>"It is very rare you hear that.”</p> Thu, 02 Jul 2015 12:13:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1038782 at Human Rights Human Rights mentally ill fatal police encounters police 23 Cents an Hour? The Perfectly Legal Slavery Happening in Modern-Day America <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The government and corporations have a pool of powerless, exploitable workers in skyrocketing prison populations.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>If you thought slavery was outlawed in America, you would be wrong. The 13th amendment to the Constitution <a href="">states that</a> "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."</p><p>In plain language, that means slavery in America can still exist for those who are in prison, where you basically lose all of your rights.  (You don’t gain a lot of your rights back when you get out of prison, either, but that is a different story.) So, given the country’s penchant for rapacious capitalism, it may not come as a surprise that there is much of the American prison system that exploits American prisoners much like slaves.</p><p>In fact there is large-scale exploitation in American prisons benefiting American corporations and the military-industrial complex. UNICOR, better known as Federal Prison Industries, or FPI, is a government-owned corporation that employs inmates for as little as 23 cents per hour, to provide a wide range of products and services under the guise of a “jobs training program.” In theory, this is supposed to give inmates skills that will prepare them for the workforce upon release.</p><p>Critics of FPI have long claimed it exploits prisoners who don’t have the right to organize for representation to protect their rights and it unfairly competes with small businesses that can’t provide goods and services for the average pay of 92 cents an hour FPI workers make. The program employs around 13,000 prisoners per year. In 2013, it <a href="">reported</a> gross revenue of $609.7 million.</p><p>According to <a href="">FPI’s website</a>, inmates employed in the program carry out a wide range of services that include making house and office furniture, mattresses, flags, traffic signs and military items. These items are usually made for other federal agencies, but private companies can contract workers through FPI as well.</p><p>It is no surprise that the inmate/slave labor force has grown along with mass incarceration in America. The <a href="">Prison Policy Initiative</a> counts 2.3 million people in prison, according to the 2010 census, by far the highest rate of incarceration in the developed world. </p><p>Many more are ensnared in the criminal justice system’s other branches. At the end of 2013, nearly 5 million adults were either on probation or parole, <a href=";iid=5135">according to Bureau of Justice Statistics</a>. All of these populations and even those not even convicted of a crime are vulnerable to exploitative fees and byzantine rules seemingly designed to catch people and get them back into the grips of the prison system. Basically, there is a trifecta of exploitation in the American criminal justice system. As <a href="">reported</a> on AlterNet, the bail system in America keeps many people in jail in a massive form of pretrial detention one has to buy one's way out of. And police departments are <a href="">increasingly funding</a> themselves by charging poor people exorbitant fees for minor infractions.</p><p>In terms of prison labor, one of its controversial services is the production of solar panels. Reuters <a href="">reports</a> that Suniva Inc, a Georgia-based solar cell and panel maker, uses prison labor for 10 percent of its manufacturing needs to keep its costs low so it can, in part, keep up with producers from China. The company is also backed by Goldman Sachs Group Inc.</p><p>Over the last 18 months, Suniva moved all of its solar panel assembly to the United States from Asia. Suniva’s deal with FPI helps it to avoid U.S. government tariffs on Chinese-made panels and capture lucrative government contracts. Roughly 200 inmates make solar panels in factories at prisons in Sheridan, Oregon and Otisville, New York, according to Reuters.</p><p>Solar panels made in America are more efficient in generating electricity from the sun, allowing companies like Suniva to sell them at premium rates. As for the inmates, Suniva’s vice president of global sales and manufacturing Mike Card says he doesn’t know how much they are paid.</p><p>Manufacturing solar panels is actually a good skill to have, but according to Alex Friedman, managing editor of Prison Legal News, FPI has no job placement program for inmates once they are released.</p><p>“You can have lots of skills, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get a good job when you get out,” Friedman told AlterNet. “You can be really skilled at whatever it is, diesel engines even, but you also have a felony record. You’re getting out from prison after five or two years or whatever it is and starting from scratch.”</p><p>Another field where FPI inmates are providing labor is <a href=";iStore=UNI&amp;idCategory=1419">through military contracts</a>. In 2013, federal inmates stitched more than $100 million worth of military uniforms for the Department of Defense, <a href="">according to the New York Times</a>. The federal inmates who make these garments earn no more than $2 per hour, something that puts competing small businesses that have to pay at least minimum wage at a major disadvantage.</p><p>Cathy Griffiths, operations manager for clothing maker American Power Source of Fayette, Ala., <a href="">complained</a> in 2012 that she had to let 50 of her 300 employees go after FPI won a lucrative contract with the U.S. Army. During the same year, American Apparel, Inc., an Alabama company that makes military uniforms, said it had to close down a plant and lay off 175 workers because it was forced to compete with FPI for federal contracts.</p><p>“We pay employees $9 on average,” Kurt Wilson, an executive with American Apparel, <a href="">told Prison Legal News at the time</a>. “They get full medical insurance, 401(k) plans and paid vacation. Yet we’re competing against a federal program that doesn’t pay any of that.”</p><p>With prisoners lacking even a modicum of labor protection, it is very hard for any company to compete with companies that use this source of dirt-cheap prison labor.</p><p>“Prisoners currently don’t fall under any fair labor standard practices or umbrellas,” Christopher Petrella, a researcher at UC Berkeley who studies labor abuses in prisons, told AlterNet. “So, often times, prisoners will get paid but they aren’t afforded the same protections as a worker outside of prison.</p><p>No one is complaining about prisoners having the right to work and learn skills that will help them once they are released from prison. But that is not the issue. In reality, FPI is paying far below minimum wage rates. Prison labor takes advantage of a vulnerable workforce that can’t advocate for itself, form a union, fight for its labor rights or seek legal protections for potential workplace abuses.</p><p>Prison workers have no political support, either. “There is virtually no constituency that really cares,” Petrella said. “That’s a very sobering and tragic thing to say, but I think it’s actually true. Prisoners are often times disenfranchised. They can’t even vote. So, if they can’t even vote, then what kind of constituency exists that politicians can then lean on to make these sorts of decisions about how they want to move forward with reforming the system?”   </p><p>The number of inmates working under FPI make up just a small number of the 2.2 million prisoners behind bars in a wide range of state and federal work programs, so it’s just a small part of the larger issue of exploited labor. But it is important to note that the federal government finances and operates FPI, a corporation that outsources labor in exploitive ways.</p><p>Friedman says FPI and other work programs in general must undergo major reforms that include giving inmate workers the right to protect themselves from exploitation, paying them as much as a worker who is not locked up would make, and training them for jobs that will actually lead to employment once they leave prison. Without such changes, Friedman says prison labor is nothing more than slave labor.</p> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 13:54:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1038723 at Human Rights Human Rights Labor prison labor slavery modern-day slave labor Cursing Out Police Is Perfectly Legal, But Cops Routinely Arrest People for It <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Why do so many cops needs a refresher course in civil liberties and the First Amendment?</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Being rude is not illegal, even if some of us sometimes wish it were. Being rude to cops, including cursing them out may be ill-advised, but it is protected speech.Yet that doesn’t mean you won’t end up in bracelets anyway.</p><p>As the Marshall Project <a href="">reports</a>, many citizens are illegally arrested for cursing at cop, when in fact, their speech is protected. A police officer from the McKinney, TX police department was captured on the now infamous pool party video throwing a 15-year-old girl to the ground after he accused her of mouthing off. He was later fired for his actions.</p><p>Last week, the Washington Supreme Court <a href="">threw out</a> an obstruction case against a man who cursed at cops after they were called to investigate a disturbance at his home in 2011. In December, a Georgia woman was <a href="">awarded</a> a $100,000 settlement after cops arrested her in 2012 and placed her in solitary confinement for cursing at them and flipping the officers the bird.</p><p>Threatening speech is a different matter. If someone threatens violence against a cop (“I’ll fuck you up!”) or challenges a law enforcement officer to a fight, those are “fighting words.” Whether or not they are meant seriously, fighting words can lead to a legal arrest. Other than that, cursing at cops in frustration after being stopped or dealing with an unpleasant police situation should not get you locked up.</p><p>Eric Guster, a civil rights defense attorney based in Birmingham, Ala., told AlterNet that people should record verbal interactions with officers because it will be a matter of “he said, she said” if a cop slaps handcuffs on you for cursing at him.</p><p>“By the time a police officer gets his story together, the police report will read, ‘The person said, I’m going to kick your ass.’ Just like the South Carolina shooting where Walter Scott was accused of reaching for the cop’s taser. Then we saw what really happened when the video came out,” Guster said. “That is why I encourage people to record all of the interactions they can. Sometimes, they can’t get video, but at minimum, you can turn on your recorder, put it on your car seat, put it in your pocket, just to record the events.”</p><p>There are no statistics available to determine how many citizens are arrested for cursing at officers, but courts around the country consistently rule in favor of defendants who find themselves behind bars for using profane, but protected speech against law enforcement.</p><p>Last Thursday, the Court of Appeals in Manhattan <a href="">overturned</a> the conviction of Richard Gonzalez, who had been charged with disorderly conduct and possession of a weapon after he ranted and raved expletives at cops. He was convicted and sentenced to three and a half to seven years in prison. The appeals court ruled Gonzalez wasn’t engaged in disorderly conduct just by virtue of shouting obscenities, and that this behavior wasn’t a “potential or immediate public problem.” And because he didn’t commit a crime, the cops had no probable cause to search him.</p><p>Eric Sanders, a civil rights attorney who served as a police officer in the NYPD for more than 12 years, told AlterNet that most of the cops making these arrests should never have been given a badge and a gun.</p><p>“There are too many people who don’t belong in policing,” said Sanders, who has spent much of his legal career suing the NYPD for various civil rights allegations.“That is never addressed by anybody. You’re supposed to have thick skin. They teach you that in the police academy. You represent the government, and when you represent the government, it is not always favored by the people. So what? As long as they are following the law, who cares?”</p><p>The use of vulgar speech against police officers came to a head during the late 1980s when N.W.A. released <em>Straight Outta Compton,</em> which featured a track titled, “Fuck the Police.” Many officers who served as security for music concerts refused to protect the young hip hop group when they toured the country. During a Detroit concert, police <a href="">rushed</a> to the stage after Ice Cube started speaking lyrics from the song. The group fled the stage and were later questioned by the cops. No one was charged. Asked why the officers rushed the stage, one was quoted as saying, “We just wanted to show the kids that you can’t say ‘Fuck the Police’ in Detroit.”</p><p>Sanders believes the reaction to N.W.A. was purely racial. White America, he says, wasn’t ready to hear a group of young black men use music to express speech that challenged police authority—and it still isn’t.</p><p>“Privileged white people talk about the government all day long on television,” he said. “Rush Limbaugh and others say all kinds of things about the government. You see them being arrested? They’re not going to have street encounters. The average person walking around in the neighborhood is likely to have street encounters because the police interactions with them are diametrically different than what would occur on the Upper East Side.”</p><p>People are often charged with disorderly conduct for cursing at officers. In 2012, the ACLU of New York <a href="">found</a> that black students in city schools made up a majority of the disorderly conduct summonses for the 2011-2012 school year. Last year, the New York Daily News <a href="">reported</a> that, between 2001 and 2013, a disproportionate number of minorities were arrested for disorderly conduct under “broken windows.” In Minneapolis, a black person is 8.86 times more likely to be arrested than a white person for disorderly conduct, according to the <a href="">ACLU</a>.</p><p>While it is not known exactly how many of these arrests are the result of profanity being used toward police officers, it does reveal a trend of hyper-policing that troubles Sanders.  </p><p>“As long as they are not breaking the law, people are allowed to have their First Amendment right to say, ‘Fuck the police.’ It’s reality. ‘Fuck the police. I hate all cops.’ Is it a nice thing to hear? No. But is it legal? Sure it is. There is no law against that,” he said.</p><p>That may be so, but Guster warns that it's still smart to keep your cool during a stop or interaction with law enforcement. The hassle going to court to fight the case, pay bail and secure a lawyer may not be worth it.  </p><p>“You can cuss at them all day, but they can arrest you, although it’s not legal,” he said. “It’s just the trouble of dealing with it later on that is the problem. And the police know that.”</p> Mon, 29 Jun 2015 16:15:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1038573 at Human Rights Human Rights policing overpolicing first amendment mckinney texas When It Comes to Removing Racist Symbols, Money—Not Morality—Talks <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">When the Alabama governor said he&#039;d remove the &quot;distraction&quot; of the Confederate flag, he showed white supremacy&#039;s hand.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">When Alabama Governor Robert Bentley ordered the removal of four flags that flew on state Capitol grounds Wednesday morning, his reasons for doing so sounded familiar.</p><p>“This is the right thing to do,” <a href="">he told</a>. “We are facing some major issues in this state regarding the budget and other matters that we need to deal with. This had the potential to become a major distraction as we go forward. I have taxes to raise, we have work to do. And it was my decision that the flag needed to come down."</p><p>Translation: I don’t think my state can afford the financial strain of being viewed as racist at this time.</p><p>Sure, Bentley said the killings in Charleston, S.C., that claimed nine lives also played a role in his decision, but his specific use of the words “budget” and “I have taxes to raise” clearly reflect his true motivations. Money and perception.</p><p>The atrocity of Dylann Storm Roof, a white supremacist, walking into a black church and shooting nine people apparently wasn't reason enough. But even a quick look at recent and past events that forced institutions’ hands when challenged for upholding and defending racist symbols, practices or people, the money trails economic motives are never far behind.</p><p>Take the case of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, for example. The NBA forced Sterling to sell the team after audio of him making racist remarks against black people (most notably, Magic Johnson) were made public. The revelations rocked the league and serious conversations over how to handle Sterling ensued, but it was  <a href="">the 20 advertisers</a> who either left or severed ties with the organization over Sterling’s comments that accelerated the league’s move to force the Clippers to sale.</p><p>If Sterling’s racism was the number reason why the NBA parted ways with Sterling, the league would have done so long ago. A former black Clippers executive had <a href="">sued</a> him unsuccessfully for racial discrimination and the Justice Department forced him to pay a $2.75 million settlement after it accused him of not renting to black people at his Los Angeles residential complexes. Nothing happened. The concerns raised by his black coaches, employees, residents at his complexes and even the Justice Department over several decades couldn’t get the league to budge.</p><p>But 20 advertisers and millions in lost revenue? That’s what get the white power structure nervous enough to act. Not extreme racism against black people.</p><p>After Don Imus famously referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hoes back in 2007,” MSNBC, where Imus worked at the time, wasn’t going to let the radio shock jock go. But after at <a href="">least eight advertisers</a> pulled their ads and civil rights groups threatened the network with economic boycotts, MSNBC fired Imus.</p><p>No consciences were engaged in making these decisions, just the bottom line. And that line hasn’t or ever will be about us.</p><p>Making white-dominated power structures bleed from their pockets over their racism has been one of the most effective tactics to make them respect black people for decades.</p><p>Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew this when he lead the Montgomery Bus Boycotts that lasted more than a year, after authorities refused to desegregate bus seating. The loss of paying black passengers nearly left the bus company in bankruptcy. A Supreme Court ruling forcing the bus line to desegregate seating was the nail in the coffin but the boycotts articulated a clear message: Disrespect black people and we will disrespect your wallet.</p><p>Protesters in the Sunshine State were equally effective in defeating white supremacy by draining its bank account. Students from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University lead boycotts that <a href="">forced the bus company  in Tallahassee, Fla., to desegregate</a> in 1957 because it feared financial ruin.</p><p>So, when Gov. Bentley talks about the need to address budget concerns being the reason for removing the flag, it’s just one in a long line of economic, not moral, decisions. At least <a href="">eight major retailers</a> are banning the sale of the flag on their merchandise websites, after feeling public pressure. Pressure against <a href="">sales</a> and <a href="">official use</a> of the Confederate flag are only intensifying with no end in sight. These businesses don't want their bottom line hurt by peddling these wares, though curiously, it didn't seem to bother them before.</p><p>It would make sense, financially, for Bentley to remove a flag that, in essence, will do nothing more than cause a distraction for his political agenda. Of course, like the businesses that banned the sale of the flag and other companies that bowed to threats of economic pressure after being accused of upholding racist people or symbols, that agenda has never really included being respectful of black people’s feelings or humanity.</p><p>It seems the only way we can make institutions and overseers feel our pain is through the pocketbook.</p><p><br /><br /> </p> Thu, 25 Jun 2015 09:51:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1038384 at Human Rights Human Rights News & Politics white supremacy alabama confederate flag Donald Sterling martin luther king jr. 8 Huge Retailers and Counting Ban Sale of Confederate Flag <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">NASCAR joins chorus in pressuring South Carolina lawmakers to remove the flag.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">At least eight retailers have banned sales of the Confederate flag at their stores and websites as public and corporate pressure mounts to force lawmakers in South Carolina to remove the Civil War-era symbol from its State Capital.</p><p><a href="">According to Yahoo</a>, Google joined Amazon and eBay Tuesday to stop the sale of the flag on its shopping site Tuesday.</p><p>"We have determined that the Confederate flag violates our ads policies, which don't allow content that's generally perceived as expressing hate toward a particular group," a Google representative said in an emailed statement sent to Reuters.</p><p>So far, the other retailers who have announced bans are Walmart Stores Inc., Inc., Sears Holdings Corp., eBay Inc.,  Etsy Inc., Target Corp., and Spencer Gifts.</p><p dir="ltr">NASCAR has also called for South Carolina to remove the flag.</p><p dir="ltr">"As we continue to mourn the tragic loss of life last week in Charleston, we join our nation's embrace of those impacted," NASCAR said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon, <a href="">according to ESPN</a>. "NASCAR supports the position that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley took on the Confederate Flag on Monday.</p><p dir="ltr">But long before any of these corporations called for the flag’s removal, it was mostly black Americans who pressured officials in South Carolina to pull down the flag. Monday morning, Gov. Haley made an announcement that she supports pulling the flag down.</p><p dir="ltr">“It came down to one simple thing,” Haley told the <a href="">New York Times</a> in a phone interview Tuesday. “I couldn’t look my son or daughter in the face and justify that flag flying anymore."</p><p dir="ltr">Those weren’t her sentiments in 2010, when she was running for governor. At the time, she said the flag is “not something that is racist,” but rather, “a tradition that people feel proud of,” according to the Times.</p><p dir="ltr">Haley also refused to take the issue on during her five years in office. Calls for the flag to be removed came after photos of white supremacist Dylann Storm Roof posing with the flag became public. Roof is accused of killing nine black people at Emanuel AME Church last Wednesday in what is widely considered a racially motivated attack. His racist ideology is <a href="">well-documented</a>. For many black people, the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate that belongs in a museum, not on statehouse grounds.</p><p dir="ltr">Lawmakers will meet in a special session this week to debate whether to officially remove the flag from state grounds. The Confederate flag flew over the statehouse dome until 2000, after the NAACP and other civil rights organizations forced officials to remove it. In a compromise, the flag was moved to the front of the statehouse where it currently flies.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="">The Post and Courier reports</a> that there is support in both the House and Senate to remove the flag, according to a poll it is conducting among lawmakers.</p><p dir="ltr">If lawmakers officially vote to remove the flag from statehouse grounds, it will end a long battle many black locals have waged over the past several decades at least.</p><p dir="ltr">And it only took nine black people being murdered by a white supremacist to achieve it.</p> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 07:11:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1038305 at Human Rights Human Rights Culture News & Politics confederate flag nikki haley south carolina dylann roof racism white supremacy More Diverse GOP Field Still Not Likely to Pull Black and Latino Votes, Report Says <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It takes more than just running people of diverse ethnicities to attract minority votes.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">The GOP has a far more ethnically diverse field of presidential candidates than the Democratic Party, but that does not mean they will have a good chance at pulling black and Latino voters.</p><p>Right now, the Republicans have Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz (both Latinos), Ben Carson (an African American), and soon, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, an Indian American. You’d think that the most diverse GOP field in recent memory would have the Democrats worried, but that isn’t the case, <a href=";hpid=z8">according to The Washington Post</a>.</p><p>A push to put black candidates on the ballots during the 2010 congressional races didn’t increase turnout or black votes, according to a 2015 study co-written by University of Chicago professor Amir Shawn Fairdosi. Several conservative columnists used the study to argue that the GOP should give up on black voters, but Fairdosi said that wasn’t the point of his research.</p><p>“The thrust of the paper isn’t that the Republican Party can’t attract black voters, but you just can’t throw a black candidate out there,” Fairdosi said. “Voters are going to vote for the candidates that will do what’s best for them.</p><p dir="ltr">“Democrats start off with a platform more appealing to black voters than Republicans,” he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Michael Steele, a former Republican National Committee chairman and Lt. Governor of Maryland, told The Post that getting black people to vote GOP isn’t just about fielding black candidates.</p><p dir="ltr">“The split with the black community was not because there were no black candidates; the black community felt the Republican Party walked away from the black agenda in the 1960s,” Steele said.</p><p dir="ltr">And it doesn’t seem like the Party is willing to walk back to it, either. So that means Ben Carson should not expect too many black votes.</p><p dir="ltr">But the same reality holds true with Cruz and Rubio as far as Latino voters go. A November Latino Decisions poll found that Cruz had a 25 percent favorable rating compared to Rubio’s 31 percent. Forty percent had no opinion of Rubio and 55 percent had no opinion of Cruz. Both have records to suggest that it would be hard for them to get a significant number of Latino votes from Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner in the presidential race.</p><p dir="ltr">The 2016 elections are more than a year away, so the GOP does have time to earn the respect of black and Latino voters. But, if the GOP candidates’ responses to Charleston or immigration reform are any indicator, that seems doubtful.</p><p><br /> </p><p> </p> Mon, 22 Jun 2015 11:28:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1038208 at Election 2016 Election 2016 News & Politics election 2016 Ben Carson marco rubio ted cruz immigration black vote hispanic vote Twitter Responds Hilariously to Hullabaloo About Obama's Use of 'N-Word' <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Major media made sure to completely miss the president&#039;s larger point.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p dir="ltr">President Barack Obama used the n-word during a podcast with comedian Marc Maron in which the two discussed race relations and gun control in the wake of the Charleston shootings, <a href="">CNN reports</a>.</p><p>In the podcast "WTF with Marc Maron," which was released this morning, Obama said race relations have improved significantly, mentioning that he was born to a black father and a white mother.</p><p>"I always tell young people, in particular, do not say that nothing has changed when it comes to race in America, unless you've lived through being a black man in the 1950s or '60s or '70s,” Obama sad. “It is incontrovertible that race relations have improved significantly during my lifetime and yours.”</p><p>But the President added that "the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination" exists. He went on to say that just because racist language is not used as liberally today as in the past, does not mean that racism doesn’t exist.  </p><p>"Racism, we are not cured of it. And it's not just a matter of it not being (too) polite to say nigger in public," Obama said. "That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior."</p><p>The whole point of his remarks were to discuss the reality that racism is alive and well, but media outlets focused more on the fact that he said the n-word than the more systematic forms of racism that inspires the slur’s use.  </p><p>Of course, Twitter responded hilariously:</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">“Obama said the n word” You’ve been calling him that for the last 10 years. Stay mad, ho.</p>— #JeSuisCharleston (@blowticious) <a href="">June 22, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">Soooo white folks can call the President the N-word all day, but when he uses it to have an open conversation about racsim, it's wrong?</p>— . (@PricelessKitty7) <a href="">June 22, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">Barack Obama is the first U.S. President to use the n word not as a racial slur. Be mad at all the racist white presidents before him.</p>— Nessa. (@curlyheadRED) <a href="">June 22, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">RT <a href="">@writeli</a>: The President uses the n word and suddenly context doesn't matter but when a SC judge uses it...? Uh, ookaay.</p>— ProfB (@AntheaButler) <a href="">June 22, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">You know what's nuts? Censoring <a href="">@POTUS</a> for saying the N-word all the Right wingers and Republicans have been calling him since 2008.</p>— ProfB (@AntheaButler) <a href="">June 22, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">I can't believe Obama said the 'N word' like almost every president before him.</p>— andrew kimler (@AndyKimy) <a href="">June 22, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">What's most absurd about people being mad about Obama using the N-word is the same people hear white people say it &amp; it doesn't phase them.</p>— TRiLL CLiNTON (@iMadeSmartCool) <a href="">June 22, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">President <a href="">#Obama</a> used the N Word and racists in America be like: <a href=""></a></p>— Bipartisan Report (@Bipartisanism) <a href="">June 22, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">Bill O'Reilly will be discussing how the president is legitimizing rap music by using the N-word.</p>— Just Me. (@NoThoughtsHere) <a href="">June 22, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">what would LBJ say about Obama saying the n-word</p>— Brendan James (@deep_beige) <a href="">June 22, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Well, since you asked...</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr"> </p></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">The n-word was a regular feature in Lyndon B. Johnson's conversations. <a href=""></a></p>— Ryan Dalton (@capetownbrown) <a href="">June 22, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//" charset="utf-8"></script> Mon, 22 Jun 2015 07:34:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1038187 at Media Human Rights Media News & Politics n-word obama Maron Why Are Media Organizations So Reluctant to Call Dylann Roof a Terrorist? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Who gets labeled a terrorist is usually a product of race, theirs and white-dominated newsrooms.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">So far, we know that Dylan Roof, a 21-year-old white man, is in custody in connection with the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Charleston, S.C., where nine people were killed. Images of Roof circulating on social media <a href=";q=Dylann%20Storm%20Roof">show him wearing</a> a black jacket bearing the flags of apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia, both known for their histories of state-sanctioned racism and terror against black majorities.</p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="">Daily Beast reports</a> that a high school classmate of Roof’s said he “made a lot of racist jokes.” Sylvia Johnson, cousin of the pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (who was one of the dead), says a survivor told her <a href="">Roof said</a>, "<a href="">You rape</a> our women and you’re taking over the country. You have to go." </p><p>For many black people, it is clear that Roof’s alleged actions are an act of terror, making him a “terror suspect,” not a “shooting suspect.” But so far most media outlets have referred to Roof as the latter.</p><p>Anthea Butler, associate professor of religion and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania <a href="">wrote</a> for the Washington Post, media outlets have already found ways to legitimize his alleged crimes, a courtesy that is seldom extended to suspects of color.</p><p>“[T]he go-to explanation for his actions will be <a href=",9171,2042358,00.html">mental illness</a>,” she wrote. “He will be <a href="">humanized</a> and called sick, <a href="">a victim of mistreatment</a> or inadequate mental health <a href="">resources</a>. Activist <a href="">Deray McKesson noted</a> this morning that, while discussing Roof’s motivations, an MSNBC anchor said ‘we don’t know his mental condition.’ That is the power of whiteness in America.”</p><p>After the Boston Marathon bombings, <a href="">experts were called</a> on to qualify what had happened as terrorism. There was no discussion of whether the Tsarnaev brothers could have had psychological difficulties. It leaves us with the question of whether or not there is a disconnect between how black and white people view violence against black bodies. <a href="">Vox embedded</a> a tweet from Jelani Cobb, associate professor of history at the University of Connecticut, who said that the first anti-terrorism law in U.S. history was the <a href="">Klan Control Act</a> and that the Charleston shooting clearly fits the definition of terror. </p><p>It is also key to mention that Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has a very long history of fighting racism. Denmark Vesey, an abolitionist who was formerly enslaved, <a href="">helped to found</a> Emanuel in the early 1880s. In that same church, he plotted a slave rebellion, in 1822, but some other enslaved black people leaked the plan to their plantation owners and Vesey was consequently hanged along with more than 30 others.</p><p>Just last year, local activists unveiled a life-sized statue of Vesey in Charleston to honor him. Several local bloggers and radio hosts <a href="">criticized</a> the project because they believed Vesey targeted innocent white people during his slave rebellion plot. Jack Hunter of the Charleston City Paper <a href="">wrote at the time</a>, “Erecting a statue to honor Vesey is admitting that terrorism is sometimes justified, depending on the cause. But for civilized people, terrorism should never be justified — and neither should Denmark Vesey.”</p><p>Yes, Hunter actually used the words “civilized people” to rationalize why Vesey’s actions weren’t justified. During slavery. Such thinking may inform how some in the white establishment may view (or excuse) violence against black bodies.</p><p>Shay Stewart-Bouley, executive director of Community Change, Inc., a Boston-based organization dedicated to anti-racism work, told AlterNet that it’s hard for white people to see acts of violence against black people as acts of terror because it’s not personal for them. She added that unless it happens to a black person they know personally, like a family member or friend, it is hard for them to see violence like the Charleston shootings as terror.  </p><p>“It’s abstract [for white people] in part because we still live in a very segregated society,” said Stewart-Bouley, who has led workshops in anti-racism since 2002. “By and large, we don’t interact on deep levels, so we don’t see the humanity in each other. More specifically, white people don’t see the humanity in people of color.”</p><p>This is a harsh reality, given that <a href="">nearly 90 percent</a> of newsrooms in America are staffed by white reporters.</p><p>Breea Willingham, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh who worked as a news reporter for 10 years, shares Stewart-Bouley's views. She told AlterNet that newsroom editors are simply uncomfortable labeling people who look like them as terrorists.</p><p>“When it comes to other white people, they are hesitant to do that because they don’t want to ruffle the feathers of their own race,” said Willingham, whose research focuses on crime and punishment. “But when it comes to attaching those labels to non-white people, then it’s, Oh, that’s the norm. There is no surprise there that this black person or this Arab person is like this because that’s what they are. So it’s only natural for us to assign those labels to them. But when it comes to white people? Um, we need to be a little more careful because we don’t want to piss off white America."</p> Thu, 18 Jun 2015 14:38:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1038051 at Media Media dylann roof terrorism racism in the media BREAKING: Rachel Dolezal Quits NAACP Post <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The latest development in the bizarre story of a white woman claiming to be black.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who has been pretending to be black for years, has resigned her position as president of the Spokane chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., <a href=";nlid=70766618&amp;_r=0">the New York Times reports</a>.</p><p>“It is with complete allegiance to the cause of racial and social justice and the N.A.A.C.P. that I step aside from the presidency and pass the baton to my vice president, Naima Quarles-Burnley,” Rachel A. Dolezal said in a statement that was posted to the chapter’s <a href="">Facebook page</a>.</p><p>Dolezal was elected president of the chapter last year and was credited with improving the chapter’s membership, visibility and finances.</p><p>It is not clear if she will also give up her part-time teaching position in African-American studies at Eastern Washington University, or her membership on the Spokane police ombudsman’s commission.</p><p>As AlterNet <a href="">previously reported</a>, Dolezal has been presenting herself as a black woman for years, despite her biological parents stepping forward to say she is white, and sharing photos of her as a young obviously white girl. She also checked off the box for black in her application to the city for the ombudsman commission, where she was appointed by the mayor of Spokane. Her white parents, who live in Montana and from whom she is estranged, say that she has no black ancestry.</p> <p> </p> Mon, 15 Jun 2015 09:56:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1037853 at News & Politics Human Rights News & Politics Rachel Dolezal naacp The Real History of Section 8 Shows the Ignorance of People Who Use It as a Racial Slur <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The cheap housing was built for white workers during the Depression.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">When Tatiana Rhodes, a 19-year-old black woman who hosted a swimming party in a mostly-white neighborhood in McKinney, Tex., was told to go back to “<a href="">Go back to your Section 8 home</a>,” she knew it was a racial slur. But Section 8 history tells us that public housing was really designed for working white people, <a href="">according to the Washington Post</a>.</p><p>By now, we all know about what happened at that party on June 5: <a href="">AlterNet previously reported</a> that a local cop was seen in a cell phone video running around wilding and randomly brandishing what appears to be his department-issued flashlight at balck kids in the neighborhood after responding to a 911 call about a fight at the pool. That same cop, ex-Cpl. Eric Casebolt, pulled 15-year-old Dajerria Becton down to the ground by her hair and pulled his gun on boys who ran over in obvious concern for her safety. Casebolt has since resigned his position.</p><p>Before the cops came, some of the white people at the pool yelled the Section 8 slur at the black kids. Here's what those ignorant white folks obviously do not know. Public housing was created in 1937, as part of the New Deal. It was actually designed to revive the housing industry, not provide shelter for the poor. Housing construction collapsed during the Great Depression and major housing shortages followed. To help revive the industry, the federal government paid for the construction of hundreds of thousands of new homes. Lots of those homes were built on land that had previously been slums.</p><p>These homes were built for working-class white families, however. If any of them were built for black people, it was segregated. In large urban cities like Chicago and Detroit, public housing “became a black program,” the Economic Policy Institute’s Richard Rothstein told The Post, “because the Federal Housing Administration created a different program for whites, which was a single-family suburban program.”</p><p>The Post breaks down the racism in public housing that allowed poor whites to move to better homes:</p><p>The Federal Housing Administration <a href="">financed the construction of new single-family homes in suburban developments</a> (and government money plotted and paved the roads to get there). The FHA and the Veteran's Administration also guaranteed cheap mortgages for the families who moved there, making this new kind of owner-occupied housing often just as affordable as rents had been in public housing projects in the city. Like many of those original projects, though, the new homes were explicitly unavailable to blacks. The FHA required developers to <a href="">use restrictive covenants barring blacks</a>, and it denied black families the mortgages that allowed working-class whites to leave public housing.</p><p>As the white “barely poor” moved out — and as the strict criteria for who could live in public housing faded -- the median incomes of the families there began to fall. In 1950, the median household in public housing earned about 57 percent of the national median income. That number fell to 41 percent by 1960, then 29 percent by 1970. By the 1990s, the median family in public housing made only about 17 percent what the median family in America made.</p><p dir="ltr">Relatively speaking, that means public-housing residents by the 1990s were about three times as poor as they had been in the 1950s.</p><p dir="ltr">Most people in public housing today are not even black; around 44 percent of black people receive public housing assistance. A lot of the problems we see in public housing today stem from flaws in the program that date back to 1937. Rents were supposed to pay for property upkeep but housing authorities never had enough money to pay for the buildings. The cheap materials used in the construction mean constant structural issues. Large public housing structures began to be demolished during the 1990s, raising fears (basically among white people) that former Section 8 residents using federal vouchers with private landlords in better neighborhoods would increase crime.</p><p dir="ltr">There is no evidence of this, but the fear persists.</p><p dir="ltr">There is much more to the history of public housing (which you can<a href="">read</a> about in The Post), but the main takeaway from the article is that Section 8 housing was originally designed for white people trying to survive and come  out of one of the most economically depressed times in American history, but, somewhere along the way, it became associated with black people. And now it has become another slur against them.</p><p><br /><br /> </p><p> </p> Mon, 15 Jun 2015 09:27:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1037852 at Human Rights Human Rights News & Politics Section 8 Housing McKinney Texas racism housing segregation Cop Who Killed Tamir Rice Makes Absurd Claim: 'He Gave Me No Choice' <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A judge has found probable cause for murder, but so far prosecutors have failed to file charges.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">The Cleveland cop who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice has figured out a way to attempt to blame the child for his own death. He claims the boy refused to obey demands that he drop the toy gun he was playing with at the time of the shooting, <a href="">USA Today reports</a>.</p><p>"He gave me no choice. He reached for the gun and there was nothing I could do," Officer Timothy Loehmann told a fellow officer in the moments after he shot Tamir, according to a report by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty that was released Saturday.</p><p>There were no witnesses cited in McGinty’s report who heard McGinty yell any warnings to boy before shooting him. The video shows Loehmann shooting the boy within seconds after arriving on the scene, which on its face seems inconsistent with claims that he gave Tamir several warnings.</p><p>Another detail in the report notes that neither Officer Loehmann or his partner, Frank Garmback, had a first aid kit or training, according to an FBI agent who was in the area at the time of the shooting and gave first aid to the boy.</p><p>"I think it was a very difficult situation for him to deal with and ... probably now as the adrenaline was wearing off, I think the realization is kicking in that he just had to shoot somebody," the agent said.</p><p>Tamir was critically shot twice in the abdomen.</p><p>"He turned over and acknowledged and looked at me, and he like reached for my hand," the agent said.</p><p>The agent added that Loehmann and Garmback seemed helpless at the scene.</p><p>"It's an incredibly disturbing injury to look at," he said. "And ... you could see the level of concern in (the officers). I don't think they knew what to do."</p><p>A Cleveland judge ruled Thursday that there is probable cause to charge Loehmann with murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide and dereliction of duty, <a href="">the New York Times</a>. Judge Ronald B. Adrine, presiding judge of the Municipal Court, also found probable cause to charge Garmback with with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.</p><p dir="ltr">“This court determines that complaints should be filed by the prosecutor of the City of Cleveland and/or the Cuyahoga County prosecutor,” Judge Adrine wrote.</p><p dir="ltr">He had this to say about video of the shooting: “The video in question in this case is notorious and hard to watch,” Judge Adrine wrote in his order, according to The New York Times. “After viewing it several times, this court is still thunderstruck by how quickly this event turned deadly,” he wrote.</p><p dir="ltr">Judge Adrine, however, doesn’t have the power to order Garmback or Loehmann’s arrests without the prosecutor filing a complaint first.</p><p dir="ltr">Tamir was shot Nov. 22, which was nearly seven months ago. Neither officer has been charged in connection to his shooting.</p><p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> </p><p> </p> Mon, 15 Jun 2015 07:45:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1037841 at News & Politics Human Rights News & Politics Tamir Rice polie shootings cleveland Rachel Dolezal Tried Really Hard to Be Black—But Why? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Here&#039;s why Dolezal&#039;s deception matters and who it harms.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p dir="ltr">By now, you may have heard about Rachel Dolezal, the civil rights activist out of Spokane, Wash., who is generating intense media scrutiny after her parents claimed she has been passing as a black woman for years. </p><p dir="ltr">Dolezal, who is currently president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, avoided questions about her ethnicity when <a href="">contacted</a> by the Spokesman-Review Thursday.</p><p dir="ltr">“That question is not as easy as it seems,” she told the newspaper. “There’s a lot of complexities … and I don’t know that everyone would understand that.”</p><p dir="ltr">During an <a href="">interview</a> with a local television reporter, Dolezal <a href="">walked away</a> after he asked about her ethnicity. Today, she told <a href="">Sky News</a> that she identifies as black, yet rejects the term African American.</p><p>But Lawrence and Ruthanne Dolezal, Rachel’s parents, <a href="">provided the Washington Post</a> with a copy of her birth certificate, which lists her as their daughter. Both parents are white. They also provided photos of Dolezal as a child with straight, blond hair and say her background is “Czech, German and a few other things.”</p><p>Dolezal doesn’t mention any of those “other things” in her public lectures or writings, in which she clearly personalizes the black experience. In a March 11 column for Inlander titled “<a href="">A Woman’s Worth</a>,” Dolezal consistently used the pronouns “us” and “we” when arguing that the nation needs to focus as much time on black women killed by police as it does on black men.</p><p>“So why is it that our lives have consistently been valued less, from the auction block in the 1700s to the media attention when we are kidnapped, assaulted or killed in 2015?” she wrote, continuing:</p><blockquote><p>“Where is the reciprocity, acknowledgement and celebration of black women? We are up to our necks in holidays and monuments celebrating men, but where is the day that the nation takes pause to remember the birth or death of a black woman? We march, petition and live our lives in support and connection with the struggle of our brothers. We make and wear Trayvon hoodies, #BlackLivesMatter apparel and 'I Can't Breathe' shirts, but who will memorialize us when we are gunned down by police, assaulted in our homes or killed in a crossfire? We remember the first and last names of our sons who have been killed — Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown — but do we know the names of Ashley Yates, Alexis Templeton and Brittany Ferrell, who started the #BlackLivesMatter movement?”</p></blockquote><p><a href="">In a YouTube video</a> dated February 17, Dolezal is seen stylishly dressed in a neatly tailored black suit jacket, form-fitting blue jeans and black high heels delivering a lecture on the politics of black hair. At the one minute and 50 second mark of the video, she speaks about “our hairstyles” and at 3:30, she pulls on a strand of her hair and refers to it as one of several types of black hair: curly.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"></iframe></p><p>It is not clear why Dolezel devoted so much time to performing as a black woman. But Tanisha Ford, author of the forthcoming book Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul, told AlterNet that the manner in which Dolezel styles her hair informs the kind of black racial politics she wanted to portray.  </p><p>“She’s using these things that we reclaimed during the '60s and '70s as markers of our proud Africanness,” said Ford, who is an assistant professor of women, gender and sexuality studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. “She’s using those things to mark herself as a black body, so that she is clearly read as a black body. It’s not just that she has changed her hair color to a darker hair color. It’s that she is wearing hairstyles that we would call natural hair styles. In doing that, she’s definitely participating in a particular kind of hair politics where we would see a grassroots activist, a more radical activist, really being invested in wearing natural hair styles as a black woman. There is this particular sphere that it seems like she is trying to traffic in, even if it’s in the broad sphere of black politics. She is not Michelle Obama or Marilyn Mosby. These are women who wear their hair straight. [Dolezal] is clearly adopting hairstyles that are more on the natural end of things, which not only helps to mark her as a black body but as a more radical, grassroots type of activist/political figure.”   </p><p>Another way she may have attempted to adopt a black identity was by enrolling in an MFA program at Howard University, a prestigious historically black college in Washington, DC. William Whitman, a spokesperson for Howard, confirmed for AlterNet that Rachel Dolezal-Moore enrolled at the school in 2000 and earn her MFA on May 11, 2002, but could not provide any more details. (<a href="">According</a> to the Spokesman-Review, in 2000 she married Kevin Moore, whom she has since divorced.)</p><p>Her parents told the <a href="">Washington Post</a> she attended Howard on a full scholarship based on a portfolio of “exclusively African American portraiture,” and that the university “took her for a black woman.”</p><p>Eric Guster, a civil rights attorney based in Birmingham, Ala., told AlterNet that if Dolezal did, in fact, earn a scholarship to Howard that was reserved for a black person, she could face a civil lawsuit for fraud from the people who sponsored it. “If it was earmarked for minorities and she utilized those funds and she is not a minority, that would be a problem,” Guster said.</p><p>The city of Spokane is investigating whether Dolezal lied about being black on an application to serve in a volunteer position on the citizen police ombudsman commission, according to the <a href="">New York Times</a>. Guster says that could be an ethics violation if she lied, but  legally challenging her claims of being black would be difficult.</p><p>“I think it would be hard for them to prove otherwise,” he said. “They would have to do a DNA test. You have people walking around saying, I’m half-Irish, I’m half-Scottish, I’m this and I’m that. She says, I’m black. And what does being black mean? You have one black parent, both black parents, you have a black grandparent? What does it truly mean?”</p><p>Legalisms aside, people have been debating Dolezal’s passability on Twitter for much of the day, with many arguing that some of her more recent photos remind them of their own black family members. Some say she looks white and couldn’t have ever fooled them. Some users have expressed sympathy for the NAACP president using the hashtag “<a href=";src=tyah">#transracial</a>,” a term some have equated with being transgender. It is a comparison that Elle Hearns, a black trans woman and central regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, says is dangerous.</p><p>“Equating my experience to someone such as Rachel who has only pretended to share my real-life experience is violent erasure,” Hearns told AlterNet in an interview. “It plays into the notion that trans people, especially black trans women, are being deceptive in regards to their experience, which is also how I think we elevate the violence that trans people face as a result of their identity and we don’t allow for space to be reflective of actual oppression that we experience every single day. I think about the fact that Rachel is a white woman. Period. And at any point and time that is convenient for her, she can return to being white. As black people, we do not have that option.”</p><p>Yaba Blay, author of (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race and an expert on colorism in the black community, says using the one drop rule there are people who look like Dolezal, but are genetically black. Blay added that the problem with the word "transracial," which she is unfamiliar with in any scholarly context, is that it allows white people to embrace a very limited aspect of the black experience. For example, Dolezal is seen in social media posts talking about her <a href="">natural hair style</a> and <a href="">baking sweet potato pie</a>, all stereotypical experiences associated with black lifestyles.</p><p>“The potential for the danger in this transracial situation is that you then can’t control people’s performance of the race they are taking on,” Blay said. “What is dangerous for me in a white supremacist construct is the ways in which white people in the majority receive and translate blackness. It’s limited. So, if that’s the only way in which you receive blackness and perform it, is that really something that is OK?”</p><p>For Sil Lai Abrams, whose father is black and mother is Chinese, there is nothing OK about it. Abrams was raised in a white family by a white man who claimed to be her natural father. In reality, her biological father was black, a fact her family willfully hid from her until she was 14 years old.</p><p>“As a young person, I was mercilessly taunted living in the white environment I grew up in because of the color of my skin, because my hair wasn’t the texture of my peers, because my nose wasn’t straight and had a pronounced bridge like my peers, because I couldn’t get a Farrah Fawcett flip,” Abrams, who is the founder of media advocacy organization Truth In Reality, told AlterNet. “So when I found out that I was black at 14, I did pass. At that point, I made the conscious decision [not to reveal that I was black] out of fear of what would happen to me if the white people at the schools I attended and the neighborhood that I lived in actually found out that I had black blood, that I wasn’t wasn’t Hawaiian but that I was actually black. I chose to hide that information until I moved away from Central Florida to New York at 18.</p><p>"So it’s incredibly offensive because black people passed for self-preservation. Rachel passed for God knows what reason but it was not for self-preservation. Her passing enabled her to become a leader in a historically marginalized and oppressed group of people who accepted her but she has suffered none of our pain. It is unconscionable to me as a black woman that anyone would be defending what she has done because she does not know our pain.”  </p><p>Dolezal has claimed she was a victim of racism in the past. On her staff biography at Eastern Washington University, where she serves as a part-time professor of Africana Studies, Dolezal claims to have been the victim of at least <a href="">eight hate crimes</a> because of her racial justice work. A <a href="">recent report</a> from Inlander has questioned some of those claims.</p><p>The NAACP national office did not address Dolezal’s ethnicity <a href="">other than saying</a>, “One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership. The NAACP Alaska-Oregon-Washington State Conference stands behind Ms. Dolezal’s advocacy record.”</p><p>But Yaba Blay wonders why Dolezal feels the need to perform as a black woman at all. If she is such a great activist for and supporter of black people, she can do that as a white woman.</p><p>“I like my white people white,” she said. “Be you. Just be you. I think your work speaks for itself and you don’t have to do these things.”</p> Fri, 12 Jun 2015 15:01:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1037757 at Human Rights Human Rights News & Politics Rachel Dolezal passing transgender transracial Spike Lee's Silence About Planned Film 'Chiraq' Has Chicago Residents Concerned <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Community members wonder if Lee will promote unhelpful myths about Chicago.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Aysha Butler has spent half of her life convincing outsiders that her South Side of Chicago neighborhood of Englewood is more than the war zone label it carries. Now she fears all of the work she and other activists put into reversing that narrative will be overshadowed by Spike Lee’s new film <em>Chiraq. </em>“Going in the door with such a negative connotation about our community with a title like <em>Chiraq</em> is not doing us justice and isn’t, to me, utilizing [Lee’s] creative abilities to the fullest,” Butler, 39, who has lived in Englewood since the age of 17, told AlterNet. (Chiraq is the nickname given to America’s third largest city in light of its staggeringly high murder rate: Chicago plus Iraq equals Chiraq.) </p><p dir="ltr">She said she and her husband have bought property in the neighborhood over the past 15 years and have been working to attract desperately needed economic development opportunities to the area as president of RAGE (Resident Association of Greater Englewood).</p><p>Butler knows Englewood has its issues. More than 42 percent of its residents live <a href="">below</a> the poverty line and it currently ranks fifth out of the city’s 77 communities for violent crime, <a href="">according to the Chicago Tribune</a>. Public radio WBEZ 91.5 <a href="">reports</a> that the neighborhood recorded the second-highest number of murders in the city last year. But Butler points out that Englewood and many communities like it are more than their high-crime reputation. For example, RAGE has been active in getting residents to participate in a city program that would allow them to buy city-owned vacant lots in Englewood <a href="">for as little as a dollar</a>. Butler even maintains a <a href="">personal blog</a> of the neighborhood’s grassroots efforts to empower its residents through volunteering and talent shows. Butler wonders if <em>Chiraq</em> will feature these kinds of community members.</p><p>Since the Academy Award-nominated director announced plans in April to film the movie in Englewood, one of the city’s neighborhoods hardest hit by violence, he has met with intense backlash. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a <a href="">press conference</a> that month that he shared the community’s displeasure with the film’s title. City Alderman William Burns referred to the title as a “slap in the face.”</p><p>The exact origin of the term Chiraq is unknown, but it is mostly an underground term that has been popularized by Chicago rap artists, according to Natalie Y. Moore, who <a href="">wrote</a> about the word last year for The Root. That it is derived in part from a country that has descended into violent chaos because of an unnecessary U.S. invasion makes the term pack an even more political punch.</p><p>As of now, little is known about the plot of <em>Chiraq</em>, which is heightening the concerns about it, Butler said. The most recent pushback against the film came Wednesday after newly elected Alderman David Moore denied St. Sabina Catholic Church a permit for a block party to celebrate the end of filming of <em>Chiraq</em> because he opposes the film's title.</p><p>"I applaud the fact that [Lee] wants to bring national attention to the senseless gun violence taking place in the city's black communities," Moore said in a statement, <a href="">according to the Chicago Tribune</a>. "What I object to is the branding of these communities to the rest of the world who will never know anything about the real people who live in Englewood and Auburn Gresham. All they will ever know is the name Chiraq and the overreaching association with the war-torn nation of Iraq."</p><p>Alderman Burns has gone so far as to call for the state of Illinois to <a href="">withhold the $3 million tax break</a> Lee’s production company will get if he doesn’t change the name of the film.</p><p>Lee has responded so far to the pushback over the film with silence, but in mid-May, he held a press conference at St. Sabina Catholic Church in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood to address some of the concerns.</p><p>"Way way back when I made <em>Do the Right Thing</em>, there were people who said this film would cause riots all across America, that black people were going to run amok," <a href="">Lee said</a>. "They wrote a whole bunch of things. But those people ended up being on the wrong side of history. And the same is going to happen in Chicago. They are going to look stupid and end up on the wrong side of history. We're here for peace. We have to stop this."</p><p dir="ltr">He didn’t divulge any details about the plot, which isn’t unusual for a filmmaker. Yet because of the film's title, people seem less willing to give the filmmaker the benefit of the doubt.</p><p dir="ltr">“The connotation of Chiraq is so hard for us to deal with because we’re not living in a war zone,” Jamie Nesbitt, a freelance journalist who has covered Chicago neighborhoods for more than 15 years, told AlterNet. “All of these people killed in these murders aren’t being randomly picked off in the street. A lot of these crimes involve domestic violence and other issues. This isn’t the Wild West.”</p><p>Michael Phillips, a film critic with the Chicago Tribune, <a href="">told MSNBC’s Richard Lui</a> that the speculation over what the film will be about is premature.</p><p>“This is a bigger mystery than the devil in a white city,” Phillips said. “Spike Lee has been very, very tight to the vest about any plot details and there has been a weird amount of media speculation, especially in Chicago but nationally as well, about what this film is going to be saying. Is it going to excite more gang violence or what. We do not know. I’ve heard every description, from it’s going to be a musical comedy based on an ancient classic, <em>Lysistrata</em>, which is a sex strike staged by women against the men to bring an end to the war, to a gritty, really hard-edged Englewood in contemporary Chicago. I do not know what the film is going to be about.”</p><p>Butler says she has spoken to aldermen who have held discussions with Lee and was told that the title of the film will not change. Lee may be a great filmmaker, Butler says, but the high level of secrecy about how the movie will portray her community reminds her of other outsiders who use the salacious reputation of Englewood to benefit themselves to the detriment of the people who live there.</p><p>“People are offended because everyone enters Englewood, does whatever they want to do in Englewood, leaves, does not think of the residents here and uses Englewood as a backdrop but doesn’t talk about why Englewood is in the position that it’s in today,” she said. “People are just tired of it and the fact that you’re now going to brand it as Chiraq is even more hurtful to residents like myself and others who have been working towards change.”</p> Fri, 12 Jun 2015 14:42:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1037756 at Culture Culture spike lee Chiraq chicago Englewood 6 Ways White Supremacy Takes a Toll on the Mental Health of Black People <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">This is why black people are 20 times more likely to report serious psychological distress than white people. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Officially, Kalief Browder <a href="">died</a> as a result of suicide at his family’s home in the Bronx this weekend. Yet it’s not a stretch to say the racist criminal justice system that locked him up for more than three years without a trial was likely the main culprit for the young man’s death. In 2010, the cops arrested 16-year-old Browder after another teen accused the boy of robbing him of his backpack. Browder has always denied the accusations. His family couldn’t afford the $10,000 bail, so Browder was forced to stay in Rikers for three years. While there, he was held in solitary confinement for 400 days, beaten by jail guards, abused by other inmates and attempted suicide several times.  </p><p>Black people make up just 14 percent of the U.S. population, yet 38 percent of those locked up, <a href="">according to a recent repor</a>t; 60 percent of those in solitary confinement are black. <a href="">A fact sheet</a> from Solitary Watch reports that solitary confinement can create or exacerbate mental health issues. Browder never had a chance.</p><p>This is what white supremacy does. It disproportionately targets black people and uses its system (jails, police, unsupportive work environments, white privilege at universities and other institutions) to break them. But it is not just about jails. Even young black kids who attend pool parties are at risk. As AlterNet <a href="">previously reported</a>, Officer Eric Casebolt from the McKinney Police Department was captured on video violently putting 15-year-old Dajerria Becton on the ground and pulling his gun on other teens who came to her aid. The psychological trauma from that experience will surely follow her for some time. That is part of the quintessential state violence that black people endure on a daily basis.</p><p>Racism, in all of its forms, takes a heavy toll on black people’s mental health, according to practicing therapists and psychologists who spoke with AlterNet. “Research has shown that racism has negative psychological consequences for African Americans such as increased symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress,” says Erlanger Turner, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Houston-Downtown. He was one of three mental health professionals, along with Kira Banks, assistant professor of psychology at Saint Louis University, and Lisa Jones, a licensed clinical social worker based in New York City, who spoke to AlterNet about the ways in which racism can literally make black people ill.</p><p>“While racism comes in various forms, be it through personal experience or media portrayals, black people tend to feel hopeless and give up mentally, often feeling as if they are not good enough,” Jones said. “Living in a society where there is constant portrayal of racial injustice (forms of microaggressions, ongoing discrimination, unarmed black people killed by law enforcement) can lead to chronic feelings of despair. Many, at times, will feel like racial issues will never be solved. Such negative and consistent thoughts can trigger severe depressive symptoms.”</p><p>In 2011, the American Psychological Association <a href="">released a study</a> that found a correlation between racism black people self-reported and subsequent mental and physical health issues.</p><p>“The relationship between perceived racism and self-reported depression and anxiety is quite robust, providing a reminder that experiences of racism may play an important role in the health disparities phenomenon,” Alex Pieterse, lead author of the study, said. “For example, African Americans have higher rates of hypertension, a serious condition that has been associated with stress and depression.”</p><p>Here are some of the upsetting realities of daily life that black people experience that are harmful to their mental health.</p><p><strong>1. Videos and photos of black people being killed by police.</strong></p><p>When the nation <a href="">saw video</a> of Officer Michael Slager fatally shooting Walter Scott in the back, in N. Charleston, SC, in April, it struck a particular emotional chord for black people because we know such a scenario could happen to us. It doesn’t help that media plays such videos repeatedly without any regard to how mentally difficult it is to consume them. At the time of the shooting, conversations on social media discussed the mental health precautions people should take after viewing such violent deaths.</p><p>“While video footage might be the spark in an ‘aha’ moment for some and the needed ‘proof,' for others, repeated exposure to violent race-based acts can negatively affect mental health,” Banks said. “Intrusive thoughts, hypervigilance, anger, avoidance, numbing, anxiety and depressive symptoms are a few of the potential outcomes. We should be careful not to desensitize ourselves to the pain or perpetuate the dehumanization of black lives. I'm not advocating you ignore or put on blinders, but take care of yourself and know the risks of repeated exposure.”</p><p><strong>2. Parenting a black son.</strong></p><p>No amount of success in society can spare a black person the barrel of an officer’s gun. A few months ago, New York Times columnist Charles Blow <a href="">wrote a piece</a> about how his son was held at gunpoint on Yale University’s campus, where he is enrolled as a junior. The young man had done nothing wrong; he fit the description of a burglary suspect, according to Blow’s account of what took place. As Blow wrote:</p><blockquote><p>Why was a gun drawn first? Why was he not immediately told why he was being detained? Why not ask for ID first?</p><p dir="ltr">What if my son had panicked under the stress, having never had a gun pointed at him before, and made what the officer considered a “suspicious” movement? Had I come close to losing him? Triggers cannot be unpulled. Bullets cannot be called back.</p><p dir="ltr">My son was unarmed, possessed no plunder, obeyed all instructions, answered all questions, did not attempt to flee or resist in any way. This is the scenario I have always dreaded: my son at the wrong end of a gun barrel, face down on the concrete. I had always dreaded the moment that we would share stories about encounters with the police in which our lives hung in the balance, intergenerational stories of joining the inglorious “club.”</p><p dir="ltr">When that moment came, I was exceedingly happy I had talked to him about how to conduct himself if a situation like this ever occurred. Yet I was brewing with sadness and anger that he had to use that advice.</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Blow went on to point out that there is no way to “earn your way out” of this danger.</p><p dir="ltr">Every black parent fears that an officer will overreact and fire a bullet at their child (or themselves) that can’t be called back. It’s a stress that is very germane to the black experience and parents often teach their kids how best to deal with it.</p><p>“Due to actions of police officers, many have increased fear, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle responses, or avoidance behaviors,” says clinical psychologist Turner. This is why most black people <a href="">fear and don't trust</a> the police. Over the past year, black people made up <a href="">41 percent</a> of unarmed people killed by police, despite being just 14 percent of the population.</p><p><strong>3. Consistently not being valued or being abused at work.</strong></p><p>A 2014 Workplace Bullying Institute <a href="">survey</a> reports that black people endured the second highest rate of bullying behind Hispanics. A <a href="">recent example</a> of workplace bullying comes out of Portland, OR, where two current and two former black employees of Daimler Trucks North America filed a lawsuit against the company claiming racial discrimination. Hangman’s nooses being displayed at work was one of the many allegations made by the plaintiffs.</p><p>“Although being devalued in your work environment is not overt racism, subtle forms of racism called microaggressions (daily interactions that devalue or demean ethnic minorities) do exist and can affect self-esteem, motivation, and success,” Erlanger Turner says. “Microaggressions are problematic because they send messages to African Americans that their experiences as are not valid. This may be one reason why you see people insisting on building black-owned businesses and programs to counteract the negative impacts of microaggressions.”</p><p>But what if you don’t have the capital to start your own business? Yep, there’s racism in pursuing <a href="">business loans</a>, too. It’s hard for many black people to get a win on the job.</p><p><strong>4. Microaggressions on college and university campuses.</strong></p><p>The racist “There will never be a nigger SAE" <a href="">incident</a> that got Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s Oklahoma University chapter kicked off campus is far from unique. For decades black students have faced racism at America’s colleges and universities. Whether it is a noose <a href="">hanging</a> from a tree, racist <a href="">costume parties</a> or being excluded from <a href="">Greek life</a>, black students experience many instances of aggression and exclusion that can cause serious mental health issues. A 2014 Voices of Diversity <a href="">study</a> found that students who endure racism on campus deal with confusion, sadness, self-doubt, and anxiety.</p><p>At <a href=";src=tyah">#NotJustSAE</a> on Twitter you can read a wide range of racist incidents people of color experience on campuses, and some describe how their mental health has suffered as a result. Some of the students said being mocked because of their race made them feel isolated, unsupported and attacked for being who they are. </p><p>These experiences can challenge how black people in racially combative non-black spaces manage relationships.</p><p>“Black people have to be on guard and socialize with family, friends, co-workers who may be of a different race on a daily basis,” clinical social worker Lisa Jones said. Acts of racism can affect a black person in how they interact with others on a personal level, which can lead to irritability, avoidance, anger and mistrust.</p><p><strong>5. Being attacked by police for exercising our civil rights.</strong></p><p>News reports out of Ferguson, Mo., where unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by a local cop, captured images of protesters being tear-gassed and shot at with rubber bullets. The bravery of many of the protesters has been featured in major publications, such as the <a href="">New York Times Magazine</a>. But the day-to-day protesting black people engaged in took a toll on their mental health, as AlterNet <a href="">reported</a>.</p><p>Johnetta Elzie, a protester who was tear-gassed at least nine times during the height of the Ferguson protests last August, told AlterNet that her interactions with the police led to her being diagnosed with PTSD.</p><p>“It was just crazy for me to see the police responding to us like we were almost at war. Only we weren’t armed,” Elzie, a native of St. Louis, told AlterNet. “There was the constant threat of almost dying. In August, I thought I almost died at least twice when we were on the run from police.”</p><p>According to Marva Robinson, a clinical psychologist and president of the St. Louis Chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists, the trauma that comes with seeing a dead body in the street after a police shooting and the personal sacrifices protesters made to be in Ferguson will have long-term mental health consequences.</p><p>“People are shocked when I say that we’re going to be dealing with this for at least another decade,” Robinson told AlterNet in a previous interview. “Post-traumatic stress disorder has very long-term effects, especially when people don’t seek counseling. Not only does it have a long-term effect, but it can lead into other mental illnesses such as depression, general anxiety disorder and substance abuse. So it branches off into other illnesses as a result of this one volatile event that can affect people for the next five, 10, 15 years. Certainly affecting the way they view law enforcement officers.”</p><p><strong>6. Treating black girls in school like criminals.</strong></p><p>Ninety percent of all girls subject to expulsion in New York City during the 2011-2012 school year were black, while no white girls were suspended, according to a 2015 <a href="">report</a> titled, "Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected.” The report, which also found that black girls in Boston schools fared no better, delves into how destructive such harsh discipline is on black girls:  </p><blockquote><p>“Girls who are suspended face a significantly greater likelihood of dropping out of school  and are more likely to have contact with the juvenile justice system. The long-term consequences of dropping out are particularly troubling for black as well as Latina girls, including a greater prevalence of low-wage work and unemployment. Because detachment from school carries so many negative consequences, efforts to reverse these patterns must be informed by a closer look at how girls experience the push and pull factors that shape their attachment to school.”</p></blockquote><p>Even as adolescents, black girls must grapple with the cruelties of racism that will cause a wide range of socioeconomic consequences that could have harmful long-term mental health consequences.</p><p>"Being disproportionately targeted for disciplinary action can lead to internalizing those beliefs,” psychology professor Kira Banks said. “Negative beliefs about oneself and racial group has been correlated with increased negative body image, drinking as a coping mechanism, and psychological distress."</p><p><strong>Bottom line: It is hard being black in America at any age</strong></p><p>In March, AlterNet's <a href="">piece</a> "10 Things Black People Have to Fear That White People Don’t," outlined the ways black people are consistently criminalized. It is not surprising that such unfair treatment can lead to symptoms of hopelessness, anxiety and fears that cause mental health problems. Black people are 20 times <a href=";lvlID=24">more likely</a> to report having serious psychological distress than white people, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Health. How can black people deal with this?</p><p>Finding ways to heal is crucial, as black people fight the white supremacist structures while maintaining their mental health. One resource is the <a href="">Association of Black Psychologists</a>, which may have a local branch near your city or town. The national organization hosts the Emotional Emancipation Initiative, a worldwide movement for the healing, wellness, and empowerment of black people. In the St. Louis area, some members of ABP offer <a href="!resources/c13ps">pro-bono</a> mental health counseling. Other ABP branches may offer similar services. </p><p>It’s impossible to deal with the stresses of racism all by ourselves. Black people will continue to bear the heaviest burden of American racism, but we don’t have to suffer while we fight it.</p> Tue, 09 Jun 2015 08:10:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1037576 at Human Rights Human Rights Personal Health white supremacy mental health racism Kalief Browder Charles Blow Pool Party Attendee: "I Honestly Believe It Was About Race Because They Did Nothing to the Caucasians" <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">National Bar Association calls for over-agressive police officer&#039;s firing.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">The white Texas cop who was captured on video aggressively handling a black teenage girl in a bikini, then pulling his gun on teens that came to her aid at a pool party Friday night in McKinney, Tex., has been placed on administrative leave, <a href="">according to BuzzFeed</a>.</p><p>AlterNet <a href="">published a story</a> on the melee Sunday <a href=";v=R46-XTqXkzE">after video of the incident</a> went viral. In the opening minutes of the seven-minute video, several officers from the McKinney Police Department are seen sprinting through the Craig Ranch North community after they were called in to help end a fight in the area. One of the cops, oddly, rolls on the ground, as if he were avoiding bullets in a conflict zone.</p><p>One officer is seen using profanity towards the teens and menacing them with what appears to be a flashlight. He also complained about having to run after the kids in the heat with 30 pounds of gear, though no one in the video appears to have given the officer a reason to give any chase at all. The officer is then seen walking towards 15-year-old Dajerria Becton and then violently pulling her down to the ground by the hair. Becton was walking away from the officer at the time and made no contact with him prior to him taking her down. When her friends came to her aid, the cop pulled his weapon out and aimed it at them. The officer is shown sitting on top of Bacton afterwards.</p><p>“He grabbed me, twisted my arm on my back, and shoved me in the grass and started pulling the back of my braids,” Becton, told <a href="">Fox4 Dallas</a> on Sunday night. “I was telling him to get off me because my back was hurting bad.”</p><p>Becton was eventually allowed to leave. Though the officer has not been officially identified, <a href="">several news reports</a> have identified him as Cpl. Eric Casebolt.</p><p>One of the party organizers said the fight started after white neighbors directed racial slurs towards the black teens.</p><p>Tatiana, a community member who helped to organize the pool party, <a href=";v=uZjHwOHFJGk">said in a YouTube video</a> that a white woman at the pool began yelling racial slurs (black fucker, among them) at the teens. Grace Stone, a white 14-year-old girl, stood up for the group, telling the white people who hurled the slurs that their comments were racist. The white woman and another male then berated the girl, according to Tatiana. When Tatiana told them they could not speak to a young girl like that, the white couple then told told her to “go back to [her] Section 8 home.”</p><p>Tatiana said a white woman, whom she identified as “Kate”, then slapped her and attacked her with the help of another woman. It is unclear what exactly took place after that. <a href="">There is video</a> of what appears to be two adult white women attacking a woman, but it is unclear who the women are.</p><p>What is clear, however, are the racial overtones. McKinney, a town that is 75 percent white and 10 percent black, <a href="">underwent scrutiny</a> after the Justice Department criticized its police department, according to the Dallas Morning News. Also, people at the event believe the officers, 12 in total that responded to the call, acted aggressively because of race.</p><p>"I honestly believe it was about race because mostly they did nothing to the Caucasians," 13-year-old Jahda Bakari, who was at the party, <a href="">told CBS News</a>.</p><p>The National Bar Association <a href="">wants Casebolt fired</a>.</p><p>"The National Bar Association is demanding a full investigation, and that based on the seven minute YouTube video standing alone is grounds to terminate Officer Casebolt,” according to the statement. “It is insufficient to place him on paid administrative leave, when it is obviously clear that this officer was not enforcing the law, but instead was enforcing his will and power and showing explicit bias towards these African American teenagers.”</p><p>On the gates of the community where the incident took place <a href="">are signs</a> thanking the McKinney Police Department for “keeping us safe.”</p><p>Many in McKinney would probably question who, exactly, is being kept safe and who is under attack.</p><p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> </p><p> </p> Mon, 08 Jun 2015 12:29:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1037541 at News & Politics Human Rights News & Politics bar association police racism mckinney TX BREAKING: Michael Slager, Cop Who Gunned Down Fleeing Walter Scott, Indicted for Murder <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Prosecutor will not seek death penalty for killer cop.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Michael T. Slager, the former South Carolina cop who was captured on cellphone video shooting and killing Walter Scott has been indicted for murder by a grand jury, <a href=";nlid=70766618&amp;_r=0">the New York Times reports</a>.</p><p>Slager was fired by the North Charleston Police Department soon after the April 4 shooting and has been in jail since April 7, when he was charged with first-degree murder. His lawyers have not asked for bail.</p><p>Scarlett A. Wilson, the local prosecutor, said that the state would not be asking of the death penalty.</p><p>Slager pulled Scott over in North Charleston April 4 because of a broken taillight. During the interaction, which was captured on dashcam, Scott fled and the former officer took off after him. Scott’s family believes he ran because he may have believed Slager would find out about his outstanding child support commitments and arrest him. When Slager caught up with Scott, the two men had a brief struggle during which the ex-cop may have tasered Scott. After Scott broke away and ran, Slager pulled out his handgun and fired eight shots at Scott's back.</p><p>Several of the shots hit Scott and he died at the scene.</p><p>The whole time, a local man was recording the entire incident. He turned in the video over to Scott’s family, who soon gave it to the authorities. That video resulted in Slager's immediate firing and charge of murder. Slager, it appeared, was planning to claim self defense and that Scott grabbed his taser. The video also showed Slager dropping what appeared to be his taser next to Scott's lifeless body.</p><p>Before the incident, Slager, a former member of the Coast Guard, had two abuse complaints filed against him, including one when used a Taser against Mario Givens, a burglary suspect. North Charleston cleared Slager of wrongdoing in that case in 2013, but Givens said he would pursue civil litigation against Slager and North Charleston authorities after hearing about Scott’s shooting.</p><p>During his time as a cop, Slager was involved in 19 use-of-force episodes, at least 14 of which included the use of his Taser. His shooting of Scott was the only time he fired his handgun on patrol.</p> <p> </p> Mon, 08 Jun 2015 09:29:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1037528 at News & Politics Human Rights News & Politics walter scott Michael T. Slager Wrongly Imprisoned for Three Years, Kalief Browder Commits Suicide <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Browder endured unspeakable horrors at Rikers because his family could not afford bail.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">A 21-year-old New York man who spent three years in a city jail as a teen and was subjected to beatings by guards but never charged with a crime has committed suicide, <a href="">the New York Daily News reports</a>.</p><p>Using an air-conditioning cord, Kalief Browder hanged himself at his family’s Bronx home Saturday night. Before he took his own life, Browder told his mother, “Ma, I can’t take it anymore.”</p><p>In 2010, Browder was arrested after a teenager accused him of robbing him of his backpack, which Browder denied. His family didn’t have the $10,000 bail money to get him out of jail, so the teen stayed at Riker’s Island awaiting a trial that never arrived. After 33 months, Browder was offered a plea deal that he ended up rejecting. During that time, he spent more than 400 days in solitary confinement, endured beatings by jail guards, was abused by other inmates, and attempted suicide several times.</p><p>The robbery charges were dropped and Browder was released in May of 2013. Between the time he was released and the day he took his own life, he tried his best to get his life together. Browder enrolled in Bronx Community College, but his experiences of abuse at Riker’s Island continued to haunt and traumatize him. Bouts with depression and suicidal ideation were common; Browder tried to kill himself several times after his release.</p><p>The young man gained support from celebrities such as Jay Z and talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell. Browder’s story pushed Mayor Bill de Blasio <a href="">to reform rules</a> so that inmates under 21 cannot be placed in solitary confinement.</p><p dir="ltr">His lawyer, Paul V. Prestia, had this to say after his client’s suicide, <a href="">according to The New Yorker</a>. “When you go over the three years that he spent [in jail] and all the horrific details he endured, it’s unbelievable that this could happen to a teen-ager in New York City. He didn’t get tortured in some prison camp in another country. It was right here!”</p><p><br /> </p><p> </p> Mon, 08 Jun 2015 08:11:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1037520 at News & Politics Human Rights News & Politics rikers island Kalief Browder bill de blasio prison reform Gun Nut Just Strolls Through Atlanta Airport with His Rifle Because He Can <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">His fellow passengers were terrified, but he was just exercising his rights.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">You’d never assume that a citizen could walk into a major international airport with a loaded rifle, but that is exactly what Jim Cooley did last Thursday, <a href="">The New York Daily News reports</a>.</p><p>The 50-year-old man entered Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport to drop off his wife and daughter. Around his neck was an AR-15 rifle. While many passengers were terrified at the gun-carrying man walking freely around the airport, Cooley had no concerns about scaring people because, according to Georgia law, he is doing nothing wrong.</p><p>"People think that if you're simply carrying your firearm, regardless of how you're carrying it, you're a bad person," he told the Daily News. "But if you're not carrying it in a menacing or threatening manner, it should be no cause for concern for anybody."</p><p>Under Georgia law, licensed residents can carry guns in public places, including bars, schools, churches and certain areas in airports. As far as airports go, federal law doesn’t allow people to carry guns into security screening areas.</p><p>Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the second-busiest airport in the world, behind O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.</p><p>Cooley, who is originally from Chicago, recorded his interactions with airport officials and <a href="">posted them to YouTube</a>. In one video clip, a guard tells him that he is scaring passengers. He replied: “Well, people’s fear are not my responsibility.”</p><p>Last week was the second time Cooley entered the airport with his rifle. He says when he did it for the first time earlier in May, he got no reaction. The reaction from officials the second go-around annoyed him.</p><p>"Why should anyone come up to me and ask me why I'm doing something I have the right to do?" Cooley told the Daily News. "It's like asking you, 'Why are you breathing?'"</p><p> </p> <p> </p> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 09:14:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1037303 at News & Politics Human Rights News & Politics gun nuts open carry laws nra atlanta Supreme Court Rules Abercrombie & Fitch Discriminated Against Muslim Job Applicant <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The Court agreed Samantha Elauf&#039;s religious rights were violated. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">A Muslim woman who was turned down for a job at Abercrombie &amp; Fitch in 2008 because she wore a hijab during an interview scored a major victory today after the Supreme Court ruled that companies can’t discriminate against job applicants or employees for religious reasons, <a href="">USA Today reports</a>.</p><p>Liberal and conservative justices did not buy Abercrombie &amp; Fitch's argument that Samantha Elauf was turned down because of her head scarf and not her faith.</p><p>When Elauf, who was 17 at the time, interviewed for a job wearing a black hijab, she did not tell her employer that she was Muslim and the interviewer did not ask about her religion.</p><p>Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the 8-1 decision that even if the preppy clothing store wasn’t aware of Samantha Elauf’s religion, it still influenced their decision not to hire her.</p><p>"The rule for disparate-treatment claims based on a failure to accommodate a religious practice is straightforward," Scalia wrote. "An employer may not make an applicant's religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions."</p><p>Abercrombie &amp; Fitch has a very strict “look policy” that governs what its employees wear, including type of clothing, jewelry, headwear and makeup. The company usually offers exceptions upon request.</p><p>The only Justice to dissent was Clarence Thomas, who wrote that the company’s "neutral look policy" cannot constitute intentional discrimination. The company has since changed its dress code and settled a lawsuit brought  by black, Hispanic and Asian-American college students for $40 million ten years ago. It also claims that it has increased the diversity of its sales associates since that time from fewer than ten percent non-whites to more than 50 percent non-white people.</p><p>Abercrombie &amp; Fitch released a statement after the High Court’s ruling, according to USA Today: "Significant enhancements to our store associate policies, including the replacement of the 'look policy' with a new dress code that allows associates to be more individualistic; changed our hiring practices to not consider attractiveness; and changed store associates' titles from 'model' to 'brand representative' to align with their new customer focus."</p><p dir="ltr">"This case relates to events occurring in 2008," the company said. "A&amp;F has a longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, and consistent with the law, has granted numerous religious accommodations when requested, including hijabs."</p><p><br /> </p><p> </p> Mon, 01 Jun 2015 12:08:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1037200 at News & Politics Human Rights News & Politics Abercrombie & Fitch supreme court discrimination against Muslims antonin scalia clarence thomas Cruel Catch 22: When You're Out of Prison, You're Denied the DNA Test that Could Prove Your Innocence <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A New Jersey man is free but wants an updated DNA test to prove his innocence of rape.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">It is not enough for Dion Harrell to simply be out of prison after serving time for a rape he is adamant he did not commit. He wants his name cleared and off the sex offender registry list, and is certain that the DNA evidence will affirm his innocence. But in a nightmarish Catch-22, the New Jersey man, who was released nearly 20 years ago after serving half of his eight-year sentence, doesn’t have the right to challenge the DNA kit that lead to his conviction because he is not currently in prison, <a href="">The Marshall Project reports</a>.</p><p>In 1988, a 17-year-old girl accused Dion Harrell of raping her on her way home from work. After spotting Harrell three days after the attack in the parking lot of the McDonald’s where she worked, she called the cops and he was arrested. She claimed Harrell was the man who attacked her. He was convicted of second degree sexual assault in 1992 and sentenced to 8 years in prison; he served half of that time. Harrell was placed on the sex offender registry after parole and under community supervision for the rest of his life.</p><p>The Innocence Project petitioned the Superior Court of New Jersey, in Monmouth County, to test the contents of the rape kit again so that it could be analyzed with technology that was not available during Harrell’s trial.</p><p>Christopher Gramiccioni, Monmouth County Prosecutor, initially refused. Unless someone is currently serving time, New Jersey law states that the person does not have the right to access post-conviction DNA testing.</p><p>“Defendant’s sexual assault conviction is 22 years old,” Gramiccioni wrote in January. “The State believes the conviction is entitled to finality.</p><p>Thirteen other states have similar laws which specify that only those who are serving time have a right to post-conviction testing. But lawmakers and defense attorneys are calling for these somewhat arbitrary  laws to be changed because it hampers the rights of defendants to challenge their convictions if they believe they were wrongfully imprisoned, and new technology may make it possible that more will be exonerated. Montana signed a new law extending DNA testing to inmates who are free. Now, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island are considering a similar law.</p><p>“Because [Harrell] has been released from prison he no longer has the right to demand testing of evidence that might clear his name – and possibly identify the true perpetrator,” said New Jersey state Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, <a href="">in a statement</a>. “That is an awful contradiction that our laws present to prosecutors.”</p><p dir="ltr">Swayed by local coverage of Harrell’s story, prosecutor Gramiccioni relented in February, though he stopped short of agreeing the law should be rethought. “While Dion Harrell was released from prison more than a decade ago and is no longer serving a term of imprisonment, it is nonetheless in the interest of justice to consent to Mr. Harrell's motion for post-conviction DNA testing due to the unique facts and circumstances of his particular conviction,” Gramiccioni <a href="">said in a statement</a>, according to The Marshall Project.</p><p>Harrell’s test results are pending.</p><p>Those in favor of changing laws so that former inmates released from prison can have access to post-conviction testing say that people like Harrell who were convicted decades ago need access to new technology that can possibly prove their innocence.</p><p>“[The law] has to be clear...You cannot just rely on the goodwill of prosecutors,” said Innocence Project senior staff attorney Vanessa Potkin, who is representing Harrell, told The Marshall Project. “The people who really need DNA testing to prove innocence are people convicted in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s, before the current DNA technology existed.”</p><p>In Harrell’s case, the sole physical evidence used to convict him was a blood type of the semen recovered after the assault. It matched his own as well as the victim’s. This information was not presented to the jury in Harrell’s trial. It was only in 1999 and 2006 that the two kinds of DNA tests that could identify a perpetrator in the case became available in New Jersey. This, of course, came years after Harrell was released.</p><p>Prosecutors, however, claim that courts can be overburdened if testing is expanded to inmates who are not serving time.</p><p>But post-conviction tests requested by the Innocence Project clearly suggest that laws should give people like Harrell a chance: <a href="">Roughly 42 percent</a> of the post-conviction DNA tests confirmed guilt, 43 percent proved the defendant’s innocence, and 15 percent were inconclusive.</p><p>Harrell requested the Innocence Project’s help in 2002 but they could not get to his case until more than a decade later because of a backlog of cases. Right now, Innocence Project is evaluating 6,000 to 8,000 cases. While he waited, Harrell struggled to find work because of his conviction and was homeless for some time.</p><p>He is currently unemployed.</p><p><br /> </p><p> </p> Mon, 01 Jun 2015 10:23:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1037190 at Human Rights Human Rights News & Politics innocence project dna testing sex offenders registry wrongful convictions Denver Ex-Cop Says He Was Fired for Refusing to Destroy Video Evidence of Abuse of Inmate <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The inmate was paraded naked in handcuffs.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">A former Denver internal affairs investigator says he was fired after refusing to destroy video evidence showing cops subjecting an inmate to inhumane treatment, <a href="">CBS Denver reports</a>.</p><p>Brent Miller, who worked for the Adams County Sheriff’s Office for nearly 26 years before retiring, took a job with the Denver Sheriff Department as a civilian internal affairs investigator to help clear up a backlog of internal affairs cases. One of the cases involved complaints by inmate Christopher Colbruno. Sheriff’s deputies were transporting Colbruno to the Denver Health Medical Center when he defecated on himself at some point. Deputies removed his clothing before he entered the hospital. He was handcuffed but was walked through the hallways naked. Hospital staff believed Colbruno was subjected to inhumane treatment and filed a complaint with the Denver Sheriff’s Department.</p><p>According to reports, Miller and another investigator obtained video of the incident on May 11. He was soon approached by Captain Paul Ortega, who leads the Sheriff Department’s internal affairs bureau, and asked if he uploaded the video yet. Miller said he didn’t.</p><p>“(Ortega) told me don’t upload it they’re making it go away,” Miller told CBS Denver. “Who is they? He said the sheriff then told me to get rid of the video. Do not upload it get rid of the video and I immediately told him that’s not ethical to get rid of evidence in a case.”</p><p>Ortega, according to Miller’s account, said that he agreed but, “That’s the way it is.”</p><p>Miller said he refused to destroy the tape and gave it to another investigator so that it would not be destroyed. On May 12, he said Ortega requested a meeting in his office.</p><p>“I was told I was being terminated by the Denver Sheriff Department because I was too opinionated and they wanted to go in a different direction,” said Miller.</p><p>Stephanie O’Malley, Denver Executive Director of Safety, said that Miller’s allegations are being investigated. She didn’t get into the specifics of the investigation but did say that, “I am able to verify that Senior Investigator Miller did not pass his employment probation with the City of Denver due to performance issues unrelated to the allegations referenced above.”</p><p>Miller, however, says he was always told that he did good work and no one complained about him. He has hired an attorney through whom he plans to sue the Denver Sheriff Department because he was fired as retaliation for exercising his first amendment rights.</p><p>Donald Sisson, his lawyer, said there is certainly a connection between his client refusing to destroy a video tape and being fired the next day.</p><p>Miller just wants to expose wants going on and stand up for what’s right.</p><p>“I believe I was fired because I stood up to what I perceived to be unethical behavior and corruption by the Denver Sheriff’s Department and the Manager of Safety’s Office,” said Miller. “I expressed those opinions that what they were doing was unethical, improper and corrupt and I didn’t want to be a part of it. I cannot be part of losing evidence or getting rid of evidence or letting those collusions of corruption go on within the city. I don’t want to be a part of that.”</p> <p> </p> Mon, 01 Jun 2015 07:45:00 -0700 Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet 1037184 at Human Rights Human Rights News & Politics police misconduct whistleblower