In 1852, legendary abolistionist and former slave Frederick Douglass was asked to give a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Known for his extraordinary oratory skills, that speech became one of his best known pieces and stands as a reminder that the 4th of July does not hold the [...]
Hector Aristizábal grew up in the barrios of Medellin, Colombia, where he and his siblings had to use all their wit, wiles, and wherewithal to survive poverty, the ever-present allure of cheap drugs and very dangerous money, and the endemic violence from leftwing guerrillas, rightwing death squads, cocaine cartels, and the armed power of the State.
Natasha Minsker: For years, presenting oneself as a hammer battering crime was a requirement. This time around, a hard-line stance alone without a plan for effective and budget-conscious enforcement is the new electoral kiss of death. Californians are weary of budget cuts to valued social services and cautious about wasteful spending on ineffective or lower priority criminal justice policies, like the $1 billion over the next five years that will be poured into death penalty spending.
Tanya Acker: There are many among that celebrated group of “We the People” who are opposed to the Arizona law but who nonetheless remain deeply troubled by our broken immigration system. I am one of them and, frankly, I do not need to be lectured about the consequences of illegal immigration by Mr. O’Reilly or anyone else.
Sherwood Ross: Slumlords charge exorbitant rents. “Convenience” stores charge higher prices. Military recruiters have their pick of jobless youth desperate for work. And the for-profit, private prisons increase their head count (and income) as the judicial system hands off the young drug peddlers caught in the legal web. As the Kaiser Family Foundation reported, African-Americans fill 40 percent of the nation’s prison cells. Yet they make up just 13 percent of the nation’s population.
Lawrence Wittner: In one way, Rand Paul is quite right. Anti-discrimination laws do turn the tables on businessmen, who find that they can no longer mistreat employees and customers on the basis of race, religion, national origins, or gender. And isn’t that ban on discriminatory behavior a good idea?
Sikivu Hutchinson: When a little white girl goes missing, online news, supermarket tabloids and cable network stations bombard us with up-to-the-minute dispatches on the crime, the victim, her shattered family and anguished community. When a little black girl is murdered in cold blood by a big city police department it is up to the community and those who care about social justice to ensure that the case doesn’t fade into the national obscurity that is usually reserved for the lives of people of color.
Ed Rampell: In a press conference the unelected Governor also announced that as part of the legislation the Arizona public school system was prohibiting teaching about the shootout at the O.K. Corral. “Educating students about this purported gunfight at Tombstone in 1881 could inflame racial animosity against Caucasians,” contended Brewer, noting that all of the participants in the brief but bloody barrage of bullets were whites.
Noman Solomon: If President Obama has his way, Elena Kagan will replace John Paul Stevens — and the Supreme Court will move rightward. The nomination is very disturbing, especially because it’s part of a pattern. The White House is in the grip of conventional centrist wisdom. Grim results stretch from Afghanistan to the Gulf of Mexico to communities across the USA.
David A. Love: The terrorist-as-enemy-of-America is like the bogeyman of Red Scare fame, ubiquitous yet elusive, and you can’t quite put your finger on them because they’re tricky. The definition of terrorism itself can serve as a political weapon—a form of terrorism itself, dare I say. Call someone a terrorist, or a communist or socialist or supporter thereof, and you delegitimize everything that person has to say. You marginalize everything that person represents.
Anthony Asadullah Samad: If California is serious at reducing its prison costs, ex-offenders will have to be re-trained and employers will have to be more tolerant of people trying to get their lives back on track. Is that even possible? One thing about American culture, as it relates to any offender, is that despite we profess to being a forgiving society, or want to redeem the best in those who have made mistakes, the truth of the matter is that it always lets the ex-offender know that they are just that, “ex-offenders.”
Robert Reich: Viewed as a whole, the record suggests that Roberts is likely to place a higher value on property than on community, and is likely to view the Commerce Clause as hobbling the effective reach of the federal law and regulation. As such, John Roberts may have more in common with his namesake before Justice Roberts switched sides in 1937 than after that historic switch.
Cynthia Loo: It is not only a historic time, it is a hopeful time. Change comes slowly, but with the inspiration of the recent appointments of Judge Jacqueline Nguyen, a recognition of the value that different voices bring to the judiciary and affirmative steps led by someone with vision – that what Jacqueline Nguyen’s parents know will become a reality – that anything is possible in America.
Natasha Minsker and Ramona Ripston: Los Angeles County, home to California’s largest trial court system, has been feeling the pain of those court closures in more significant measure than most. It recently laid off more than 300 staff and is moving forward with shutting down 12 courtrooms. But meanwhile, a parallel trend is stalking the county that’s exacerbating the budget crisis. Astoundingly, Los Angeles County has become the leading death penalty county in the United States. In fact, in 2009 more people were sentenced to death in Los Angeles County than in any other state, including Texas, the longtime leader in this grim statistic.
Tom Deegan: Fasten your seat belts and brace yourselves for the latest poop storm that is about to fall on Washington DC, folks. With the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens imminent, President Barack Obama is about to get his second appointee to the United States Supreme Court in a less than a year. And like last year’s Sonia Sotomayor confirmation travesty, you can expect the Republicans (and even some Democrats) to have a positive hissy fit. These people have moved so far to the extreme right in recent years, the wishiest washiest moderate is going to be perceived as too much of a radical, left wing ideologue for these nincompoops.
Jim Fuller: Obviously, the peddling of weapons to Mexican drug gangs is highly profitable. Remember, 40,000 recovered weapons in 2008 alone, and nobody knows how many still in the hands of gangsters, but certainly many times that 40,000 figure. And there are thousands of sales to drug peddlers every day along the border. Money, money, money. America’s gun makers are going to protect that highly profitable business every way they can, and that inevitably means stirring up the knuckle draggers who front for them in every battle in the stupidly mistaken belief that they are “protecting our Second Amendment rights.”
David Swanson: If you wanted to increase violence, he writes, you would take the following steps that the United States has taken: Punish more and more people more and more harshly; ban drugs that inhibit violence and legalize and advertise those that stimulate it; use taxes and economic policies to widen disparities in wealth and income; deny the poor education; perpetuate racism; produce entertainment that glorifies violence; make lethal weapons readily available; maximize the polarization of social roles of men and women; encourage prejudice against homosexuality; use violence to punish children in school and at home; and keep unemployment sufficiently high. And why would you do that? Possibly because most victims of violence are poor, and the poor can organize in rebellion against the rich when they aren’t terrorized by crime.
Rev. Irene Monroe: When you have a pope more invested in doctrinal debates than personal suffering, and more invested in exerting his ecclesiastical power in defrocking dissident theologians than his priestly flock of sex predators, then it’s easy to comprehend why the decades-long pleas and petitions from Catholic parishioners – worldwide – to Pope Benedict XVI to do something never made anything happen.
Diane Lefer: Problems in the department–the largest probation department in the world–are well known. Probation, with its $700-million budget, is monitored by the Department of Justice and sued by the ACLU. Young people are incarcerated for offenses no more serious than truancy and curfew violations. Probation officers known for physically abusing youth in their care remain on the job…
Ivan Eland: Although closing Guantánamo would be important symbolically, the law-free sanctuary that the Bush administration had achieved there has already been eroded by the Supreme Court’s demand that detainees have some legal rights. And even if the Obama administration closes Gitmo, some of Bush’s unconstitutional policies would continue in prisons around the United States—for example, the use of military tribunals for some detainees and the detention of some former Guantánamo detainees indefinitely without trial.
Dick Price: To get a handle on the damage California’s current approach to incarceration is having on its citizens, consider this: In a recent 23-year period, California erected 23 prisons—one a year, each costing roughly $100 million dollars annually to operate, with both Democratic and Republican governors occupying the statehouse—at the same time that it added just one campus to its vaunted university system, UC Merced.
Michelle Alexander: The uncomfortable truth, however, is that crime rates do not explain the sudden and dramatic mass incarceration of African Americans during the past 30 years. Crime rates have fluctuated over the last few decades — they are currently are at historical lows — but imprisonment rates have consistently soared. Quintupled, in fact. And the vast majority of that increase is due to the War on Drugs.
David A. Love: America’s criminal justice system certainly is disproportional. In the land of the free, 5 percent of the world’s population boasts 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Bad drug laws and sentencing guidelines fill the prison cells with nonviolent offenders. The vast majority of these prisoners are black and Latino, not to mention poor and uneducated. The vast majority of the judges and lawyers are white.