Category Archives: legal issues

As Christopher Dorner Saga Continues, The Truth Is Still Out There

By Arturo R. García

The search for former Los Angeles Police officer Christopher Dorner may be over…but hopefully, the questions he has raised are not. Which makes Davey D’s interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman all the more relevant.
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Race, Rehabilitation, And The Private Prison Industry

Image by x1klima, via Flickr Creative Commons.

By Lisa Wade, PhD, cross-posted from Sociological Images

In 1984 the U.S. began its ongoing experiment with private prisons. Between 1990 and 2009, the inmate population of private prisons grew by 1,664%  (source). Today approximately 130,000 people are incarcerated by for-profit companies.  In 2010, annual revenues for two largest companies — Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group — were nearly $3 billion.

Companies that house prisoners for profit have a perverse incentive to increase the prison population by passing more laws, policing more heavily, sentencing more harshly, and denying parole.  Likewise, there’s no motivation to rehabilitate prisoners; doing so is expensive, cuts into their profits, and decreases the likelihood that any individual will be back in the prison system.  Accordingly, state prisons are much more likely than private prisons to offer programs that help prisoners: psychological interventions, drug and alcohol counseling, coursework towards high school or college diplomas, job training, etc.

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Sundance Film Festival: Fruitvale Scores Big After Gaining Distribution

By Arturo R. García

TRIGGER WARNING: Video contains footage from the shooting of Oscar Grant between :38-:58, between 3:25 and 4:02 and between 13:11 and 13:28.

Last week we mentioned that Ryan Coogler’s film Fruitvale had been picked up for distribution after becoming a favorite at the Sundance Film Festival. Now we know it’s leaving with the festival’s top honors, as well.
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The Wilmington Ten: A Struggle In History

By Guest Contributor Lamont Lilly

The Wilmington Ten. Standing (l-r): Wayne Moore, Anne Shepard, James McKoy, Willie Vereen, Marvin Patrick, Reginald Epps. Seated (l-r): Rev. Ben Chavis, Joe Wright, Connie Tindall, Jerry Jacobs

On Dec. 31, outgoing North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue pardoned the Wilmington 10, ending the prolonged national struggle for the 10 activists–nine black, one white–initially convicted in 1972. Perdue was forced to publicly admit that their sentences were “tainted by naked racism,” ending 2012 with justice finally being served for Rev. Benjamin Chavis, Connie Tindall, Marvin Patrick, Wayne Moore, Reginald Epps, Jerry Jacobs, James McKoy, Willie Earl Vereen, William Wright, Jr., and Ann Shepard.

“We are tremendously grateful to Gov. Perdue for her courage,” said Chavis, the group’s leader. “This is a historic day for North Carolina and the United States. People should be innocent until proven guilty, not persecuted for standing up for equal rights and justice.”

Background 
In 1971, racial outbursts in the city of Wilmington shocked the world. The political and social undercurrent of racism and bigotry were still festering in the aftermath of the signing of historic Civil Rights bills in 1964 and 1965. Police had murdered a black teenager, while two white security guards had been killed.

The National Guard was called to patrol the city, to protect its downtown and commercial district from a potential race war. All of the key players were in attendance: the Ku Klux Klan and their local support organization, The Rights of White People, while frustrated Black residents, including youth, towed the progressive side. Anyone who pressed for change and racial solidarity became a threat to social order and the complete reign of white supremacy. Though skin color was the major dividing line, Blacks weren’t the only targets. White allies who were seen as “trying to make integration work” were also targeted by the Klan. White southerner and superintendent of schools Hayward Bellamy was almost lynched to death in front of his family.

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Excerpt: Jemele Hill On The Sports World’s Indifference Toward Domestic Violence

Kasandra Perkins was killed by her boyfriend, NFL player Jovan Belcher, on Saturday.

There is no evidence that definitely proves playing sports makes athletes more prone to violence toward women than the rest of the population. But there are some statistics that do highlight some alarming trends involving male athletes.

In 2010, Jeff Benedict, an English professor at Southern Virginia University who has written extensively about athletes and crime, released a thorough examination of arrests for professional and college athletes during a sixth-month span.

There were 125 athletes arrested during that period, including 70 college football players. Domestic violence cases accounted for nearly 20 percent of the total.

Even more disturbing than some of the crimes committed was how some athletes were punished. At Oregon, LaMichael James was charged with menacing, attempting strangulation and assault after an altercation with a former girlfriend. The case eventually was resolved with James pleading guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge. He was suspended only one game, and although he was sentenced to 10 days in jail, he never did any jail time.

If some cases are being handled like that, we can’t be surprised if violence toward women continues to escalate, or the fact that so much of the violence goes unreported. And even if you believe violent crimes committed by athletes aren’t more of an issue than those committed by the general population, there is research that shows the conviction rate for athletes is drastically different.

The National Coalition Against Violent Athletes cites a 1995 study that found that people in the general population accused of assault were convicted 80 percent of the time while athletes facing similar charges were only convicted 38 percent of the time.
- ESPN

Anti-Latino Laws Ignite The South

By Guest Contributor Lamont Lilly

Protesters at a rally against Alabama’s HB56. All photos by the author.

In its original format, Alabama’s Beason-Hammon Act granted school resource officers the right to badger fifth graders on the basis of their immigration status. The state of Alabama, which passed the law, also known as HB 56, in June of 2011, was the only state in the country requiring public school administrators to verify immigration data for new K-12 students.

However, just two months ago in August of this year, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the student provision of HB 56, declaring it unconstitutional and a legal breach of Plyer vs. Doe, which mandates that states provide an education to all children, regardless of their immigration status. The 11th Circuit also struck down Georgia’s HB 87, a state proposal to criminalize the “transporting and harboring of illegal immigrants,” a statute with anti-Latino written all over it, a proposal with no parallel within the U.S. system of federal law.

These recent rulings were key in dispelling the notion that individual states can create their own immigration regulations, bypassing federal authority. When initially proposed, Alabama’s HB 56 along with Georgia’s HB 87, were sold as valuable pieces of legislation that would boost local economies – laws that would crack down on the presence of those entering the U.S. illegally. Conservatives billed such bigotry as a quick fix to unemployment and poorly performing schools. Instead, such rogue policies were a complete setback to Civil Rights and due process.

In Alabama, children of all ages were deterred from attending school and pursuing their education. Many withdrew out of fear that their families could be deported if questioned about their immigration status. According to the U.S. Justice Department, over 13 percent of Latino children withdrew over the one year HB 56 operated before federal intervention. Instead of teaching Geometry, classroom instructors were fishing for birth certificates.

As for those local economies and decreasing unemployment rates, the state’s number one industry, agriculture, was damn near decimated. We’re talking an agricultural sector accustomed to generating over $5.5 billion per year. Industries dependent upon migrant labor, like poultry operations, were devastated. Small farming operations were brought to a halt, as valuable workers were scared indoors. Others simply migrated for the purpose of mere safety.
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Mitt’s Tragic Number: Why The GOP Should Worry About The 74 Percent

By Arturo R. García

While the Mitt Romney campaign is regrouping in the wake of the infamous “47 percent” video circulated by Mother Jones earlier this week, it’s interesting to note that his infamous remarks came out not long after he tried yet again to connect with members of the Latino community, a demographic in which he–and the GOP along with him–still can’t win over.
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