Organization of the month: Equal Justice Initiative

about-eji-header

I first became aware of Equal Justice Initiative when I read Just MercyI had heard other activists speak reverently about this book by Bryan Stevenson. The book chronicles his move to Alabama to start an organization to defend poor people battling a racist justice system and free those who have been wrongfully convicted. It’s a searing indictment of our criminal justice system and a beautiful meditation on the concept of mercy and how it should infuse our culture and our approach to criminal justice.  Continue reading “Organization of the month: Equal Justice Initiative”

We can’t just be against the death penalty when it’s easy

noose

As we hear more and more outrageous stories about wrongly convicted people spending decades in prison, support for the death penalty weakens. According to The Innocence Project, 341 prisoners have been exonerated through DNA evidence in the last 25 years. And these are the ones who are lucky enough to have an organization with resources to investigate their cases. Continue reading “We can’t just be against the death penalty when it’s easy”

Weekend reading

powerless_gender_v2.0

These graphs show the veto power of white men in politics.

Around the world, women are forced to justify their reasons for abortion.

4 damning findings from the investigation into the shooting of Tamir Rice.

Black Americans are killed at 12 times the rate of people in other developed countries.

How Section 8 became a “racial slur.”

Can we release violent criminals from prison without increasing crime? Yes.

Tim Wise on Rachel Dolezal and the creation of antiracist white identity.

What Rachel Dolezal doesn’t understand: being black is about more than how you look.

Ann Friedman asks, how do you know you’re a woman?

 

Kalief Browder, Timothy Tyrone Foster and the failures of the criminal justice system

Kalief Browder, 1993-2015
Kalief Browder, 1993-2015

This week, Kalief Browder’s all too brief life came to an end when he committed suicide. If I had greater faith in this country’s position as a moral bastion, I wouldn’t be able to believe his tragic story. Kalief, just 22 when he died, was held in jail for three years without trial starting at the age of 16 for stealing a backpack, a charge he vigorously denied. He suffered in jail all that time partly because his family could not afford bail, and after all that his case was dismissed. He spent about two of those years in solitary confinement, a practice that most reasonable people recognize as torture. The conditions he faced were reprehensible:  Continue reading “Kalief Browder, Timothy Tyrone Foster and the failures of the criminal justice system”

Talk about the people, not just the politics

prison-reform

Despite the fact that we’re more than a year away from the 2016 presidential election, we’re already getting inundated with horse race coverage. For candidates and likely candidates, every single moved is parsed for political impact. Every policy statement is assessed for what it signals about a candidates’ intentions or desire to woo a particular demographic.

When Hillary Clinton made a statement about criminal justice reform, a couple of Washington Post columnists attacked her for committing political suicide (apparently confronting a glaring reality turns you into Michael Dukakis). Radley Balko responded by tearing apart their claims that this is not a politically viable position, but then gets to the heart of the matter:  Continue reading “Talk about the people, not just the politics”

Weekend reading

savedbythebellhooks

If, like me, you watched a lot of Saved by the Bell as a kid and then grew up to love bell hooks, enjoy.

England just established “yes means yes” guidelines for police investigating rape.

One of many takedowns of Jonathan Chait’s piece bemoaning “political correctness.”

157 hate tweets a feminist faced in one week.

Reasons you were not promoted that are totally unrelated to gender.

A record-breaking number of wrongfully convicted people were released from prison last year.

Karen Hartman on wanting to go beyond being “passively pro-choice.”

Lena Dunham, Kristen Wiig, Mindy Kaling and Jenji Kohan on misogyny in Hollywood and more.

Debunking the myth of the good guy with a gun.

Donate to help a sexual assault survivor return to Paris to testify against her attacker.

What’s at stake in this election

no-on-1

It’s midterm election season, which means an onslaught of frantic emails and late night TV jokes about how no one cares about the midterm elections. Without a presidential race at the top of the ticket (though frighteningly we’re already having the 2016 conversation), a lot of people are content to let this one pass them by. As with most elections, there’s a lot at stake, and the results will directly impact our lives. I could go on about control of the Senate, extremely close gubernatorial races and state legislatures that have passed everything from Stand Your Ground to draconian voter ID laws. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to focus on some of the issues on the ballot around the country, and opportunities we have to beat back offensive laws or proactively be more bold than our governments are willing to be on their own.

Continue reading “What’s at stake in this election”

Weekend reading

o-RASENTH-4-570

A great comic by Rasenth shows the damage sexism does to everyone.

Is sex only for rich people?

Mapping the New Jim Crow. (Californians: you can help do something about this by voting YES on Prop 47.)

The casual use of tasers by law enforcement is horrifying.

Why privacy matters, even if you aren’t “doing anything wrong.”

Most Americans say they prefer having a male boss.

Today in rampant sexism, a Republican politician says a candidate will lose because she’s “ugly as sin.”

Amanda Marcotte skewers a guy on craigslist who has very specific ideas about how women should behave.

The police department’s margarita machine is on you

The tragic fates of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others have increased scrutiny of horrendous police practices. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver took advantage of this spotlight to turn their invaluable form of comedic long-form journalism to the practice of civil asset forfeiture.

The New Yorker featured an essential piece on the practice and people who are affected by this flagrant abuse of power last year. Dara Lind at Vox offers a helpful overview of the practice. On what police departments are doing with the money:

In its ongoing investigation of civil asset forfeiture, the Washington Post analyzed several years of reports from state and local law enforcement to determine what they’d done with the money the federal government had returned to them. They found that the most common use of asset funds was for “communications and computers,” with “building and improvements” coming in second. But even “communications and computers” was dwarfed by the amount of money that police marked as “other” — 44 percent of the money that police got back from the federal government went to “other.”

The Post investigation noticed some particularly frivolous spending, like a $600 coffeemaker or $225 for the face-painting services of Sparkles the Clown. But at least the money spent on Sparkles went to community outreach, which is generally cops’ lowest priority when it comes to asset money. Less than 1 percent of all federally returned money went to community outreach — five times less money than any other category.

The above video is well worth your sixteen minutes, running the gamut from the ridiculous justifications police offer for running off with people’s money and possessions, to systems that incentivizing robbing innocent people of their stuff, to the near impossibility of regaining the stolen property. And yes, I would totally watch Law and Order: Civil Forfeiture Unit. 

 

 

Weekend reading

photo via nymag.com
photo via nymag.com

Activists held a Michael Brown protest during a St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performance.

“It is past time to stop seeing Malala as simply the girl who survived, as a symbol. (The Times called her a ‘global emblem.’) She is a girl who leads.”

The producers of the great new show Transparent say they welcome debate about casting Jeffrey Tambor as a trans woman.

Good (bad?) news: court rules that gay marriage won’t lead to “sex, drugs and rock-and-roll.”

5.8 million Americans can’t vote because of their criminal records.

A response to anyone who says Texas’s anti-abortion laws don’t place an undue burden on women seeking care.

What it looks like when a lawyer is appointed for a fetus.

Watch Laverne Cox and bell hooks talk about feminism and pop culture.

Islamophobia on American TV news is out of control.