Criminal Justice News Round-Up: August 3-7

This week marks the anniversary of Mike Brown’s death and therefore, this has been a week of reflection on what has changed since then. The answer seems to be a resounding: not enough, as there are plenty of injustices to report this week.

How Ferguson Changed America

This article tries to identify why Mike Brown, who was certainly neither the first nor last unarmed black person killed by police, sparked a movement and conversation not seen since Rodney King in 1992 and perhaps not since the Civil Rights Movement. Jamelle Bouie settles on a combination of timing, place, and a continual barrage of tragedies that kept activists perpetually fighting.

One Year after Ferguson, the Majority Agrees the US Needs to Improve Racial Equality

For years, polling data on the state of racism in America stayed relatively flat. However, between March 2014 and July 2015, the statistics changed dramatically. #BlackLivesMatter has led to some police, court, and even prison and jail reforms over the past year, but perhaps more importantly, it has shifted public opinion.

Life as a Transgender Inmate

The Guardian details the horrors of being a transgender woman in California’s San Quentin, a men’s prison. Lady Jae, the main person in the story, explains that she faces violence and ridicule from both guards and her peers.

Solitary Confinement is Terrible for Youth. Some Senators Want to Get Rid of It.

Cory Booker, along with Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Dick Durbin, has introduced a bill to ban solitary confinement for youth in the federal system, except for the safety of themselves or others. The legislation, called the MERCY act, follows reform around solitary confinement for youth in many states. In California, the Ella Baker Center is co-sponsoring legislation authored by Senator Mark Leno to #EndYouthSolitary. Write to your legislator in support of the bill, SB 124. 

Copwatch vs. Cops: After Freddie Gray

Started in Berkeley, Copwatch is dedicated to observing police and holding them accountable. In the wake of Freddie Gray and the Black Lives Matter movement, it has gained a new vitality and urgency, as shown in this New York Times video.

Probation, Sounding Light, Can Land Hard

America not only practices mass incarceration, but also mass criminalization. This story shows how probation, a supposedly “mild” punishment, especially when coupled with poverty, can similarly ruin lives, and result in incarceration for the most minor of violations.

Who Runs the Streets of New Orleans?

Policing has been rooted in protecting the interests of wealthy people since its inception. However, this take that to new levels. Sidney Torres, a man who got incredibly rich in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, has created his own police force, controlled by an app and endorsed by the New Orleans mayor, to monitor the wealthiest and most tourist-heavy part of New Orleans.

Training Officers to Shoot First and He Will Answer Questions Later

The world of paid expert witnesses raises many legal and ethical questions. When it comes to William Lewinski, his fellow psychologists are quick to say his “expertise” is really pseudoscience. He defends police officers, no matter how shaky or contradictory their stories may be, on charges of killing civilians. And he helps them win their cases a remarkable amount of the time.

Inmate’s Family Seeks Answer in His Jail Death

In a San Francisco Jail, 57-year-old Alvin Hayes died following a struggle with sheriff deputies. His family has many questions that remain unanswered seven months after his death, so they have filed a lawsuit against the city and county. They hope the answers will emerge in the process.

Cops Are Not Warriors

In the wake of a shooting of the Hayward police sergeant, many in the media have been describing him, and other slain cops as “warriors”. This op-ed critiques this image, as well as the idea that policing is the most dangerous job.