Criminal Justice News Round-Up: August 10-14
This week brought more reflection about the state of the Black Lives Matter movement, protests in many cities, and the tragedy of a police killing in Oakland for the third time since June.
Kalief Browder’s story showed many the horrors of the bail system. This article documents several of the cases in a Brooklyn court and once again displays the dramatic ways in which even being accused of a minor charge can affect lives, resulting in people getting fired from their jobs, getting kicked out of shelters, and ripping apart families. It also shows how bail can be used to pressure people into pleading guilty to crimes they did not commit. There is also an accompanying photo essay.
Wednesday afternoon, a 24-year-old man was shot by police in Oakland. He was suspected of robbery and carjacking. Police say he was armed and pointed the weapon at them, but on Twitter and according to the Anti Police-Terror Project, based on interviews with eyewitnesses, he was fleeing and shot in the back. Protests began Wednesday night, and will continue over the next few days.
Justice for Mario
On July 15th, one of our longtime Ella Baker Center Books Not Bars family members, Sheri Costa, lost her nephew Mario Michael Martinez. Mario was inside Alameda County's Santa Rita jail and suffered from an asthma attack in his cell while calling for the emergency medical support that would have saved his life. On Wednesday, August 12th, PICO National Network organized a vigil and rally calling for #JusticeForMario. 150 people gathered at the Alameda County Administration building and shared testimony about Mario and their own experiences with the prison system. Read the Contra Costa Times story about the vigil and the family's demands.
After failures to indict Darren Wilson, Daniel Pantaleo, and other killer cops, grand juries, which allow for a high level of secrecy, came under fire. This week, California passed and signed into law a bill that prohibits grand juries in cases where a police officer has shot a civilian. This is a small step in the direction of holding cops accountable for their murders.
Commemorating the past year of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, The Root wrote a four-part series on the movement, its unique approach, its leadership style, its relationship to the 2016 election, and its challenges:
Charnesia Corley is the latest in an unfortunately neverending series of what happens when DWB (Driving While Black) goes wrong. Police officers claimed they smelled marijuana after she ran a stop sign and insisted on a vaginal search by the side of the road. She stated that she felt “like they sexually assaulted me."
Black Lives Matter activists disrupted a Bernie Sanders rally this weekend, to the dismay of many white progressives who claimed Bernie was their greatest ally. The next day, Sanders released a racial justice platform, but the event revealed a deep racial divide in the left. Zeba Blay writes here about why white progressives need to stop dictating how black activists should protest.
Though many criticize the label “Twitter activist”, the reality is that Twitter has played a huge role in the Black Lives Matter movement. In this video, some of the most prominent activists read their tweets from the last year and explain the context surrounding them.
Sex-related crimes are, reasonably, considered among the most serious. However, this doesn’t mean the punishment for them is always fair, or perhaps more importantly, helpful. For children convicted of sex crimes, even ones most people would not consider predatory or abusive, the intense stigma and legal restrictions can follow them for years after they have completed their sentence and result in a cycle of poverty, isolation and mental health issues.