Thursday, March 29, 2018
The Equality of Opportunity Project has issued results of a study that followed 20 million children and their parents to track wealth acquisition opportunities based upon race. The study showed a significant gap in income between similarly situated white and black men. A less significant gap was noted between white and black women. But black men have no advantage, and indeed are at a disadvantage, in reaching or maintaining economic stability in wealthier status levels when compared with white men with the same or similar situations. The data is disturbing.
"Black and American Indian children have substantially lower rates of upward mobility than the other racial groups. For example, black children born to parents in the bottom household income quintile have a 2.5% chance of rising to the top quintile of household income, compared with 10.6% for whites." This contrasts with Asian Americans and caucasians, who have a much higher income level.
Even black men who grow up in economically advantaged households have few assurances of retaining economic advantages. While white males are five times more likely to remain in the economically advantaged class in which they grew up, black and native men are as likely to drop to the bottom economic levels as they are to remain in the higher level in which they grew up.
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Last week 10,000 Croatians marched to protest Croatia's pending ratification of the Istanbul Convention. The convention, adopted by the Council of Europe in 2011, addresses domestic and gender violence.
The marchers protested the convention, claiming that implementation would lead to same sex marriage and lead to expanded transgender rights. The protest was organized by political conservatives and the Catholic Church. Protesters targeted recognition of a "third gender".
In the United States, President Trump announced that transgender individuals who are serving in the military may be permitted to continue to serve. But, the administration warned, transgender individuals may be assigned based upon their birth gender. The New York Times reported that those who have had sex adjustment surgery or require such surgery would not be allowed to serve. While exceptions are permitted, this public policy shift portends increased discrimination and danger for transgender individuals who serve.
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Sprung from the new activism that has developed since the last presidential election, Women Lawyers On Guard is a non-partisan advocacy organization that mobilizes women lawyers to challenge conditions and laws that undermine democracy. The organization does so by supporting non-profit organizations through pro-bono legal assistance. In addition, the organization encourages women to run for office and takes public positions on important legal issues. The website informs:
"Women Lawyers On Guard is a national non-partisan organization harnessing the power of lawyers and the law in coordination with other organizations to preserve, protect, and defend the democratic values of equality, justice, and opportunity for all."
"Our members want to "do something" for our country, but they may not know how to find meaningful projects. We help fulfill your (non-profit's) commitment to work on urgent, mission-driven issues."
WLG is organizing lawyers who plan on Marching for our Lives on Saturday March 24th in D.C. Those who are interested, please meet on the steps of the National Portrait Gallery on the F Street side at 10 a.m.
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Joyce Radice of the University of Tennessee School of law has exposed as untrue the myth that juvenile records do not interfere with with life opportunities as juveniles become adults. Prof. Radice argues that juvenile records are much more easily accessible than most realize. The full article, published with Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 106 No. 2 (2018) may be found here. The abstract reads:
The proliferation of adult criminal records and their harmful impact on people with convictions has received growing attention from scholars, the media, and legislators from both sides of the political aisle. Much less attention has been given to the far-reaching impact of juvenile delinquency records, partly because many people believe that juvenile records are not public, especially after a juvenile turns eighteen. That common notion is a myth.
This Article addresses that myth and adds to both the juvenile justice ad collateral consequences literature in four ways. First, The Juevenile Record Myth illuminates the variety of ways states treat juvenile records - revealing that state confidentiality, sealing, and expungement provisions often provide far less protection that than those terms suggest. Although juvenile delinquency records are not as publicly accessible as adult records, their impact is felt well beyod a juvenile's eighteenth birthday. No state completely seals juvenile delinquency records from public view or expunges them. Some states even publish juvenile records online, and almost all permit some degree of public access.
Second, this Article provides the first comprehensive analysis of the crucial role of nondisclosure provisions in eliminating the stigma of a juvenile record. Now that colleges, employers, state licensing agencies, and even landlords are increasingly asking about juvenile delinqency charges and adjudications, the confidentiality, sealng and expungement protections that do exist, will be significantly undermined unless states allow juveniles with records not to disclose them. Third, using recent literature on juvenile brain development and the recidivism research of criminologists, The Juvenile Record myth presents new arguments for why juvenile delinquency records should not follow a juvenile into adulthood - and why the state's obligation to help rehabilitate juveniles (an obligation typically recognized in a state's juvenile code) should extend to restricting access to juvenile records. Finally, Prof. Radice argues for a comprehensive and uniform approach to removing the stigma of a juvenile record through a combination of robust confidentiality, expungement, sealing, and non-disclosure statutes to facilitate a juvenile's reintegration.
Sunday, March 11, 2018
This past Friday I was privileged to participate in a conversation on Race, Redemption and Restoration sponsored by the Public Welfare Foundation of Washington, D.C. The conversation brought together a nationwide group of those working with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals. I was humbled to be in a room filled with the formerly incarcerated and those who support them. As a white woman, I was there to learn. And I dd. The discussions gave me a broader perspective on the historical background of mass incarceration, which has been effective through a combination of voter suppression strategies, "war on drugs" and other tactics to enhance black oppression and the suppression of everyone of color.
The conversation was honest and magnificent. Many in communities are doing amazing work to support the formerly incarcerated, including working to change laws and policies that aid unjust arrests and sentencing; developing housing, and creating communities that foster dignity. Future posts will focus on some of the organizations providing innovative and effective supports.
I wish I could better capture the conversation's tone, as well as the caring and brilliance of the day. But for now let me restate part of the discussion and something that is obvious. The most effective action that a white person can take is to inform and influence other whites. Tempering the resistance to creating racial equity is something that whites are particularly well poised to do. How to transform racist views is something whites must learn. The oppressed carry enough burdens. Building white empathy is insufficient because creating empathy alone does not result in change. White people have to figure this out and carry the burden of the conversation. It is not up to the oppressed to teach others how to change.
Monday, March 5, 2018
Just Us Voices gives formerly incarcerated women an opportunity to tell their stories. The organization is soliciting formerly incacerated women to tell others about their experiences within and without of prison. To view a video of last years' voices click here. The penal system is not designed to accomodate women, their needs or their special circumstances. Just Us Voices encourages women to share their experiences as a form of healing, as a way to enfold others into the experience and eventually into advocacy.
Just Us Voices describes itself as "a new multimedia initiative that aims to transform the public dialogue on mass incarceration through storytelling and the lived experiences of formerly incarcerated women. Although women are the fastest-growing segment of the prison population, the national conversation on mass incarceration focuses primarily on the experiences of men. JustUS Voices will broaden the conversation to include perspectives and insights through the unique lens of gender, race and justice."
Sunday, February 25, 2018
The National Institute of Justice funded a study of the experiences of sex workers in New York City. New York City created a Human Trafficking Court and the participants had involvement with the court system, and the Human Trafficking Court in particular. Navigating Force and Choice: Experiences in the New York City Sex Trade and the Criminal Justice System Response was recently published and contains the research findings.
The population of interviewed sex workers was varied and impressive, including cis men and women, trans women and those identifying as other. The study explored four aspects of the sex workers' lives: personal histories, involvement in the sex trade, involvement with trafficking and criminal justice involvement. The sex workers revealed important and difficult information, including difficult child hood trauma and police violence. Defense attorneys and others involved with the court system were also interviewed and contributed toward assessment and recommendations. The report may be found here.
Thursday, February 22, 2018
The survivor youth of the Parkland Florida shooting see the duplicity of politician's sympathy. Action to prevent gun violence is what the survivors are looking for, not words. Senator Rubio accepted over $3,000,000 in NRA funding and received its A+ rating. The hypocrisy of his offering sympathy is as obvious as it is offensive.
Mr. Rubio argues that no law would have prevented the Parkland massacre. The evidence is otherwise. Austraila has virtually eliminated mass shootings since passing its 1997 law banning semi-automatic and other weapons. The US has never had such a ban so Mr. Rubio has no basis for arguing that a law will not prevent gun massacres. That Mr. Rubio and others are unwilling to experiment with a ban that might protect children, may hint at the size of the monster he and other legislators created when they accepted funding from the NRA. Banning future sales of automatic and semi-automatic weapons is one thing. Collecting those currently owned is another. Perhaps the politicians' fear is that they will become targets and a revolt of sorts will ensue. Maybe. But a ban has to start sometime.
That the US is willing to sacrifice youth of all ages is appalling to those within and without our borders. The false equivalency of the claim that gun rights equal rights of freedom does not hold up in the face of the slaughter of children.
A European observer said it well: America´s obsession with equating the right to buy and possess a gun with a fundamental human right and freedom, while simultaneously justifying it as a constitutional right, does not harmonize with the European values, according to which the right to life is a human right and not the right to take someone else´s life.
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
The Pozen Center for Human Rights at the University of Chicago is seeking a director for Human Rights Practice. The position is a three year one.
The director is expected to lead graduate and undergraduate students in developing solutions to real world human rights problems.
A range of projects is envisioned including "arts-based projects that explore questions surrounding the rights of migrants and asylum seekers, LGBTQ and women’s rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, policing and other law enforcement practices, the right to shelter, public health, the right to water or land, homelessness, or statelessness. [The Center is] particularly interested in practitioners who use innovative new practices including social media, the visual arts, or big data."
Those with a history of working with students will be preferred.
For more information click here. Application review begins on March 5th.
Sunday, February 18, 2018
The Red Mountain Theater Company announced its first festival devoted to human rights themes. The Birmingham based company has several new plays devoted to developing understanding an empathy for those whose experiences are unlike our own. The productions are i n collaboration with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
A press announcement informs: This empathy and understanding of another's point of view is perhaps now more important than ever in our nation - and especially in Birmingham, a city marked by a fractured and violent past. However, it's from that pain that the inspiration for Human Rights New Works Festival was born- a festival that would serve [as] a catalyst for healing and hope in a future of equitable treatment of all.
The range of topics addressed is impressive. Fighting censorship, struggling parents to accept a transgender child, and voting rights activism are among the topics unveiled in new plays and other writings.
The festival runs March 15-18. More information may be found here.
Thursday, February 15, 2018
Adam Foss is an amazing advocate for juveniles. As a Suffolk County (MA) prosecutor, Mr. Foss learned to listen to his young clients and came to understand the reasons why poor, and often brown or black, youths engage in criminal activity. Interrupting the school to prison pipeline is something he recognizes that all of us can do. Addressing the fundamental needs of poor boys and girls, such as education and self-esteem, are key. The difficulty comes in convincing prosecutors to be invested in listening to the juveniles' stories and creating responses that assist them in escaping lives of financial and emotional poverty. Adam Foss' transformative approach to juvenile justice can lead to not only transformation of the juveniles but of the prosecutors, as well.
Mr. Foss' website, prosecutorimpact.com, emphasizes those benefits when prosecutors have a broader vision of how justice is accomplished. Prosecutors need to embrace a paradigm shift from conviction being considered the only "win". According to Mr. Foss, a win includes:
Improved community safety
Repaired harm of the victims
Improved long-term community health
Hold those who commit crimes accountable in ways that increase their chances for success in the community.
The last element gives essential support to the first three.
Here is link to Mr. Foss' Ted Talk.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Under-reported in discourse addressing prison conditions and human rights violations is the particularly harsh treatment of women prisoners. The dis-empowerment that comes with gender oppression brings with it even more abusive conditions for pregnant women who have even less control over their lives than other prisoners.
A class action lawsuit filed in Almeda County, California addresses the horrific conditions suffered by incarcerated women the Santa Rita prison. The lawsuit details the horrific conditions, particularly for pregnant women. The lawsuit details pregnant women being denied blankets, healthy nutrition, and fresh air. Pregnant women are denied medical care and encouraged to have abortions.
A press release describing the suit states the "The women seek injunctive relief under the U.S. and state constitutions and demand an end to inhumane and sexually biased treatment at Santa Rita. Plaintiffs charge they are subject to more restrictions and harsher treatment than male prisoners, including being held in holding cells for longer periods of time, being denied equal access to jobs outside the cell, limited on classes and education, and subjected to more frequent strip searches and body cavity searches." One woman delivered her child alone with the baby's umbilical cord around the child's neck. The woman screams were not only ignored, a prison employee shut a door to muffle the sounds. Other inhumane treatment is described in the complaint.
Sunday, February 11, 2018
The Public Welfare Foundation will hold a day-long forum: A Conversation on Race, Redemption and Restoration. The forum will be held on March 9, 2018 in Washington, D.C.
The invitation states "We will dive into candid conversations about: advancing racial justice, particularly within the youth and criminal justice field, the steep barriers to opportunities facing individuals who transition back to communities from the justice system; and necessary strategies to restore communities experiencing crime, violence, and lingering impacts of the criminal justice system. "
While the conference is by invitation only, it may possible to secure admission by contacting the Foundation directly to explore availability.
Thursday, February 8, 2018
by Margaret Drew
Previously, I wrote about the human right to transportation. In modern culture, access to basic human rights, such as work, housing, medical care, and education, can hinge on the ability to travel. During the spring 2017 semester, students in UMass Law's Human Rights at Home Clinic conducted a transportation study of the South Coast Massachusetts area. Prior area transportation studies had been conducted, but none from a human rights perspective.
Students rode bus routes operated by the Southeast Regional Transportation Authority (SRTA), interviewing riders during the process. As part of their due diligence, students met with Eric Rousseau, SRTA administrator, who twice during the semester engaged students during our weekly seminar. The first visit came at the beginning of the study and the second when the students presented their findings. The collaboration that developed created an opportunity for both sides to discuss their different approaches. One obvious difference revolved around economics. While Administrator Rousseau must justify expenditures to regional stakeholders, the students argued for change based upon the needs of riders, without regard for cost or the number of riders affected. Once the student's report was released, the partners easily found common ground on changes to be made. Some changes will be accomplished in the near future, while others may take longer, while others involve third party cooperation, such as municipalities.
Simple changes, such as enforcement of no-parking zones, and cutting tree limbs that block bus stop signs are more easily accomplished and are under local control, rather than SRTA's. The same is true of sign postings, as well as ensuring that bus drivers routinely lower buses to ease access for elderly and disabled. One change that will be likely accomplished by year's end is creating a bus stop for those visiting our local house of corrections, as well as increased signage along specific routes.
We anticipate a long term collaboration with SRTA and look forward to additional improvements. Anyone wishing to read the report's executive summary or would like assistance in designing a transportation study are welcome contact Margaret Drew at email@example.com
Sunday, February 4, 2018
Increasingly, courts and legislatures recognize the importance of the rights to counsel in immigration cases. New York expanded to universal representation in immigration court due to its of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project.
Vermont has a bill pending that would require appointment of counsel in any matter arising out of or relating to immigration status.
Meanwhile, in the manner of two steps forward and one back, the 9th Circuit, held that children in removal proceedings have no right to counsel. The case involved accompanied children, but the opinion denies that the child in question had a sufficient liberty interest in having counsel because of his short time in the United States. The court noted that the Immigration Court judges' more proactive involvement in the proceedings the child is protected. Apparently the Court failed to remember the Immigration Court judge who thought that a three year old was qualified to represent herself.
More on the juvenile immigration case may be found here.
Thursday, January 25, 2018
A study done by the Vera Institute found that women in jails are one of the fastest growing segments of the prison population. And nearly 80% of women are mothers. Women are an afterthought in the discussion of mass incarceration. Little attention is given to the impact on families when a mother goes to jail. And little is done to help families stay connected when mothers are incarcerated. In a nationwide move, sheriffs and other jailers are replacing live child-mother visits with Skype visits. Nothing replaces touch between parents and children. Particularly young children are less likely to bond with a virtual parent. And the incarcerated women are expected to pay for the Skype visits, making even virtual contact out of reach for many.
There are a myriad of discriminatory problems faced by women and girls in prison. One other is the failure to provide menstrual products to them. Some states charge for the products, and those who do not often distribute an average of 2.5 pads per month.
The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls works to address the particular barriers that females face during and after incarceration. From disparities in sentencing, to assisting with re-entry and healing, the National Council provides tremendous community based resources for the recently incarcerated and those currently incarcerated. I recommend a visit to the Council's website for an introduction to the wide variety of work the Council does, as well as their sister organizations.
Sunday, January 21, 2018
President Trump's disturbing remarks about certain countries has prompted both outrage and response worldwide as well as within the human rights
communities. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called the remarks both shocking and shameful. The Commissioner, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, noted that there is no way avoid labeling the remarks "racist". "You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as 's***holes', whose entire populations are not white and therefore are not welcome", remark that people from Norway would be welcome and not reach the conclusion that the president is racist.
Overlooking the fact that it is hard to imagine why Norwegians would want to emigrate to the US under President Trump, the President's remarks come closer to the truth of the current state of affairs in the US than any prior remark. The President may have been able to hide behind terrorism and Homeland Security warnings in his earlier comments around refugees from war engaged, middle eastern countries. But there is no terrorism threat to the US from Haiti or the other targeted countries. The difference is skin color. And that is the underbelly of the vile backlash the US is currently experiencing.
The UN High Commissioner distilled the impact of President Trump's comments to the core danger. "This isn't just a story about vulgar language, it's about opening the door to humanity's worst side."
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
The right to truth coincides with the US founders’ understanding of truth’s essentialism in creating and maintaining democracy. Some may see an international, legally enforceable right to truth as separate from democratic societal interests in knowing the truth, but those principles are interdependent. Democratic autonomy cannot be maintained if residents do not have access to the truth. Likewise, access to the truth is necessary to the nurturing of autonomy through democratic political organization.
We are in an era when truth is minimized and lies are hawked as truth. Our challenge is to develop new ways of delivering truth so that the charge of "fake news" fails.
Sunday, January 14, 2018
One of our inheritances from Dr. King was maintaining hope in the face of despair. The past week has been particularly challenging. The President seems determined to degrade the office as much as possible. It was not enough that the president denies reality, he now has employed profanity to further the shock us and feed his narcissism. We do not know where this behavior will end. The contrast between the dignity of Dr. King and the crudeness of our current president is stark.
The civil rights movement took time to regroup from the grief of Dr. King's assassination. However, among his many lessons was that persistence in the face of oppression brings its own results and the movement survived. Now more than ever we must maintain our dignity and optimism that we can change direction. Dr. King said: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that."
Monday, January 8, 2018
Reese Witherspoon, Tracee Ellis Ross, Natalie Portman, America Ferrera and so many other actors have organized and supported a legal defense fund for women suing their employers for sexual harassment. Time's Up has over 300 female supporters from the entertainment industry. Attorneys Tina Tchen and Roberta Kaplan are founders of the fund, as well. The Time's Up Legal Defense Fund has raised over $15 million to date. The legal defense fund will assist lower income employees to fight discrimination and harassment in the workforce.
The fund will be administered by the National Women's Law Center. The Center's website says:
"This Fund will enable more individuals to come forward and be connected with lawyers — regardless of industry, rank or role. Countless activists, celebrities, and other donors want to see an end to a culture that allows sexual harassment and retaliation of those who courageously step forward to go unpunished. This effort is not just to support women in Hollywood, but others in need – the factory worker, the waitress, the teacher, the office worker, and others subjected to this unacceptable behavior. Now is the time to finally stop the sexual harassment and retaliation that has often gone unchecked."
This fund is important for many reasons, and one important reason is to unite women of all income levels and diversity. The #WhatAboutUs movement is best replaced with #WomenUnited. While lower earning women might feel even more victimized due to lack of resources to defend themselves and the lack of choice that resources bring, separation of women at this time divides the power, as well as the results.