Thursday, May 5, 2016

Gutting Habeas Corpus: The Inside Story of How Bill Clinton Sacrificed Prisoners’ Rights for Political Gain

...The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 — or AEDPA — was signed by Bill Clinton in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing. While it has been mostly absent from the recent debates over the crime policies of the ’90s, its impact has been no less profound, particularly when it comes to a bedrock constitutional principle: habeas corpus, or the right of people in prison to challenge their detention. For 20 years, AEDPA has shut the courthouse door on prisoners trying to prove they were wrongfully convicted. Americans are mostly unaware of this legacy, even as we know more than ever about wrongful convictions. Barry Scheck, co-founder and head of the Innocence Project, calls AEDPA “a disaster” and “a major roadblock since its passage.” Many would like to see it repealed.

More:  https://theintercept.com/2016/05/04/the-untold-story-of-bill-clintons-other-crime-bill/

The Other F-word: What we call the imprisoned matters

The other day Margaret Love, a veteran clemency lawyer, scolded The New York Times for this front-page headline: “Virginia Governor Restores Voting Rights to Felons.” She applauded the news — some 200,000 Virginians, most of them African-American, recovered their voting rights under Governor Terry McAuliffe’s executive order — but she deplored the word “felons.”

“This ugly stigmatizing label has been broadly criticized as counterproductive to reintegration efforts, perpetuating stereotypes about people with a criminal record and encouraging discrimination against them,” she wrote in a blog post. “While the Governor himself was careful with his language, not a single major newspaper reporting on his action could resist including the word in its headline.”

More:  https://www.themarshallproject.org/2016/04/27/the-other-f-word

Justice Dept. agency to alter its terminology for released convicts, to ease reentry

The Justice Department is taking a number of steps to reintegrate those released from prisons and jails into society, most notably during the recent National Reentry Week, such as asking states to provide identification to convicts who have served their sentences and creating a council to remove barriers to their assimilation into every day life. Here, Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason, who has headed the Office of Justice Programs since 2013, announces in a guest post that her agency will no longer use words such as “felon” or “convict” to refer to released prisoners.

More:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/true-crime/wp/2016/05/04/guest-post-justice-dept-to-alter-its-terminology-for-released-convicts-to-ease-reentry/

23-26 May in DC: Citizen mobilization and ways to break through power

Ralph Nader presents conference to secure long-overdue democratic solutions by strategic mobilization of citizen networks

May 23-26, Constitution Hall, Washington, DC

Celebrating the 50th anniversary year of Ralph Nader’s book Unsafe at Any Speed, the Center for Study of Responsive Law announces four days of civic mobilization at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. on May 23, 24, 25 and 26, 2016. 
 
Unsafe at Any Speed unleashed fresh energies and sparked the creation of numerous advocacy organizations leading to major consumer, environmental and worker safety protections. Register here.
 
The theme of this citizen mobilization will be elaborating ways to break through power to secure long-overdue democratic solutions made possible by a new muscular civic nexus between local communities and Washington, D.C.
 
Breaking Through Conference graphic
 
On these four days, speakers will present innovative ideas and strategies designed to take existing civic groups to higher levels of effectiveness. The participants will be asked to support the creation of several new organizations. One such group will work to open up the commercial media, which use the public airwaves free of charge, to serious content. Another will facilitate action by retired military, national security and diplomatic officials who want to deter unconstitutional and unlawful plunges into wars that lead to calamitous and costly blowbacks.
 
This “Civic Mobilization” will involve thousands of people at Constitution Hall and around the country and connect long-available knowledge to long-neglected action for the necessities and aspirations of people from all backgrounds. Many of the presentations will feature reforms and redirections for the common good enjoy Left/Right support.
 
Breaking Through Power: How it’s Done—May 23, 2016 will feature presentations by seventeen citizen advocacy groups. Over decades these activists have produced amazing accomplishments against powerful odds. These civic leaders will demonstrate how, with modest budgets and stamina, they have improved the health, safety and economic well-being of the people and focused public opinion onto decision-makers and opponents. Through greater visibility, broader support and wider emulation, they will present their future missions and show that it can be “easier than we think” to make major changes. For the first time ever, this diverse group of fighters for justice will be assembled together on stage at Constitution Hall and show that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts when fighting for a broader democratic society. The presenters will appraise what levels of citizen organization is necessary to fulfill these broadly-desired missions.
 
Breaking Through Power: The Media—May 24, 2016, brings together also for the first time a large gathering of authors, documentary filmmakers, reporters, columnists, musicians, poets and editorial cartoonists. All of these presenters have documented or depicted entrenched wrongdoing by the corporate state or “crony capitalism”—the cruel impacts of corporate crimes and abuses, the absence of governmental law enforcement, and the harmful effects of concentrated corporate power.
The speakers all seek wider audiences for their works: more readers, viewers and listeners. Unfortunately the mass media barons prefer to wallow in incessant advertising, hedonistic entertainment, sports and mind-numbing redundancy. The result is what many observers see as the stupefaction of human intelligence. A major purpose of Day Two is the creation of a “Voices” advocacy organization that puts forces in motion to inject serious programming into the over-the-air and cable networks under a revitalized Communications Act of 1934 and generally champion a greater life of the mind on all media.
 
Breaking Through Power: War—May 25, 2016 is dedicated to enhancing the waging of peace over the waging of war. We will assemble leading scholars having military and national security backgrounds, veterans groups such as Veterans for Peace, and long-time peace advocacy associations, to explain how peace is more powerful than war. The speakers will address the horrorsof war, its huge costs here and abroad to innocents and the weakening blowbacks of Empire amidst a collapse of constitutional and international law. One outcome of this day will be the establishment of a Secretariat comprised of current and former top-level military, national security and diplomatic officials who have spoken truth to reckless power. If organized for quick responses, their credibility, experience and wisdom can resist and prevent the kind of prevaricating pressures and unilateral policies that drove the unlawful destruction of Iraq, Libya and beyond.
 
Breaking Through Power: Congress—May 26, 2016 will unveil a new Civic Agenda to be advanced by engaged and enraged citizens in each Congressional district. The Civic Agenda includes recognized necessities ignored by Congress for decades. The planks of this Civic Agenda will be presented by nationally-recognized advocates—a veritable brain trust for the well-being of present and future generations. Each speaker will present the substance of each demand, which will be conveyed to their members of Congress via organized “Citizen Summons” in each Congressional District. Revitalizing the people to assert their sovereignty under our Constitution is critical to the kind of government, economy, environment and culture that will fulfill human possibilities and respect posterity.
 
 
For More Information visit: BreakingThroughPower.org

Snowden: Whistleblowing Is Not Just Leaking, It Is An Act Of Resistance

I’VE BEEN WAITING 40 years for someone like you.” Those were the first words Daniel Ellsberg spoke to me when we met last year. Dan and I felt an immediate kinship; we both knew what it meant to risk so much — and to be irrevocably changed — by revealing secret truths. One of the challenges of being a whistleblower is living with the knowledge that people continue to sit, just as you did, at those desks, in that unit, throughout the agency, who see what you saw and comply in silence, without resistance or complaint.

More:  https://theintercept.com/2016/05/03/edward-snowden-whistleblowing-is-not-just-leaking-its-an-act-of-political-resistance/

San Francisco Hunger Strikers Enter 9th Day To Protest Police Brutality

A hunger strike protesting police violence and racial injustices against black and brown people has entered its ninth day in San Francisco. Eight men and women—including a Board of Supervisor candidate, two pre-school teachers, local rappers and family members—are camped out on a sidewalk outside the police station in the city’s gentrifying Mission district, which has experienced an exodus of Latino residents and artists in recent years.

More:  http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/san-francisco-hunger-strikers-enter-ninth-day-protest-police-brutality-against-black

Blockade Disrupts Klamath Watershed Salvage Logging

...Demonstrators held banners that read ‘Karuk Land: Karuk Plan,’ recited call and response chants, and testified to the timber sales’ impact on ailing salmon populations. Work was delayed for approximately four hours, according to a news release from the river advocates.

The protesters said the Westside Salvage Logging Project would clear cut more than 5,700 acres on steep slopes above Klamath River tributaries and along 320 miles of roads within Klamath National Forest. Post-fire logging and hauling began in late April, before legal claims brought forth by a lawsuit led by the Karuk Tribe could be considered in court.

“The Forest Service should follow the Karuk Plan on Karuk Land. Traditional knowledge of fire helps everything stay in balance because it’s all intertwined,” said Dania Rose Colegrove of the Klamath Justice Coalition. “When you destroy the forests, you destroy the rivers.”

The protesters said the Westside plan, unlike the Karuk Alternative, calls for clear cut logging on steep slopes right above several of the Klamath River’s most important salmon-bearing streams, at a time when returning salmon numbers are reaching record lows.

More:  https://intercontinentalcry.org/blockade-disrupts-klamath-watershed-salvage-logging/

Redskins, and Other Troubling Trademarks

The Supreme Court may soon take up two cases in which the government does not want to register trademarks it considers disparaging — for the Washington Redskins football team and an Asian-American band called The Slants. The major federal law on trademarks lets the government deny registration to trademarks that are “immoral, deceptive, or scandalous” or that “disparage.”

Is it a denial of free speech for the government to prohibit registration for such trademarks?

More:  http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2016/05/04/redskins-and-other-troubling-trademarks

Fort McMurray Blaze, Fast and Unpredictable, Keeps Firefighters at a Distance

OTTAWA — Walls of flame driven by strong, shifting winds raged out of control on Wednesday in and around the evacuated city of Fort McMurray, Alberta, where firefighters were helpless to stop the destruction and where about 88,000 people had fled their homes.
 
“To date, the fire has resisted all suppression efforts,” Bernie Schmidt, an Alberta forestry official, told reporters in a conference call on Wednesday. “This is a very complex fire, with multiple fronts and explosive conditions.”
 
Rachel Notley, the premier of the province, said that at least 1,600 buildings had been destroyed. No deaths or serious injuries were reported, but the danger was far from over.
 
“This is a really dirty fire,” Darby Allen, the regional fire chief for the area, said on the conference call. “There are certainly areas within the city which have not been burned, but this fire will look for them, and it will take them.”
 
The entire population of Fort McMurray, the main center for Canada’s oil sands region, was ordered to evacuate on Tuesday evening once the fire, which began in woodlands outside the city, had overwhelmed firefighters’ efforts to hold it at bay. Cars and trucks jammed the only route out of the city, Highway 63, which runs north to the oil-sands work camps and south to Edmonton, the nearest sizable city, 270 miles away.
 
More:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/05/world/americas/fort-mcmurray-canada-fire.html
 
 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Public Defenders’ Biases May Contribute to Wrongful Convictions

According to the Innocence Project, 69 percent of DNA-based exonerees in the United States are people of color. In many of those cases, racial bias significantly contributed to those exonerees being either targeted as suspects, misidentified or being provided with inadequate counsel—all of which played roles in their wrongful convictions. Law enforcement and prosecutors often take the blame as those within the justice system most often misguided by their own inherent biases, but a piece published in the Marshall Project on Monday highlights how public defenders may harbor inherent biases towards their clients just as often as others within the criminal justice system do, preventing them from providing effective counsel.

According to the Marshall Project, defense attorneys are not immune to the racial and ethnic biases that are most often attributed to police and prosecutors, and these biases may subconsciously compel them to disregard their clients’ innocence claims and encourage guilty pleas.

“[Bias] might manifest in whether the defender believes in the guilt or innocence of the person they’re representing,” says Phoebe Haddon, chancellor of Rutgers University-Camden. “Or their assessment of their fellow counsel, the credibility of witnesses, whether to take a plea bargain.”

If defenders’ bias causes them to doubt their clients’ innocence, it could lead to them spending less time on their client’s cases. Professors Song Richardson and Philip Atiba Goff wrote in a 2013 article for the Yale Law Journal: “[Defenders] may expend more effort on cases in which they believe their client is factually innocent.”

More:  http://www.innocenceproject.org/public-defenders-biases-may-contribute-wrongful-convictions/