Saturday, February 28, 2015

Invitation to Submit Testimony -- Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections

Invitation to Submit Testimony -- Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Washington, DC
The Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections is inviting written testimony on issues and challenges with the federal corrections system. The Colson Task Force, established by Congressional mandate, is a nine-person, bipartisan, blue ribbon panel charged with examining challenges in the federal corrections system and developing practical, data-driven policy responses. The insights shared in written testimony will inform the Task Force as it works to identify opportunities for criminal justice reform. Written testimonies should provide specific examples and recommendations for the Task Force to consider, and should focus on one or more of the following areas:
  • the impact of current federal prosecution, sentencing, release, and supervision policies and practices, and suggestions for reform;
  • the consequences of the current size of the federal prison population and its associated costs, and options to reduce the population and/or avert further growth;
  • the nature and impact of overcrowding in Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities and proposed measures to address its consequences; and
  • the status of current BOP risk and needs assessment practices, substance abuse treatment, and rehabilitation and employment programs, and opportunities for improvement.
We encourage you to submit testimony of no more than five pages on one or more of the above topics. Written testimony should be double-spaced and no smaller than 12-point type. Citations should be included as endnotes and do not count towards the five-page limit. Written testimony must be emailed in Portable Document Format (PDF) to by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3, 2015.

The Task Force will also hold a public meeting in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 to hear public testimony. If you are interested in delivering in-person testimony to the Task Force at its March 11th hearing, please email your registration request to Following registration, all those invited to deliver oral testimony must provide complementary written testimony in accordance with the guidelines above by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3, 2015. Space is limited, and slots will be filled based on order of registration. Only one speaker per organization will be accepted for in-person testimony. Further information on the March 11th public hearing will be provided as details become available. If you have any questions, please contact Lilly Yu at the Urban Institute at 202-261-5297, or
The Task Force looks forward to receiving your testimony.

For more information on the Colson Task Force, please visit:

Life Sentences in the Federal System

The U.S. Sentencing Commission has published a new report highlighting life sentences in the federal system. In fiscal year 2013, life sentences were most common in cases involving drug trafficking, firearms, & murder. Forty-five percent of offenders serving life imprisonment were Black, 24.9% were White, and 24.2% were Hispanic. Read the full report.

The Commission also released results of its 2014 Survey of U.S. District Judges on Modification and Revocation of Probation and Supervised Release. Half of the U.S. district judges responding to the USSC survey handle more than 20 revocation cases annually. Read the survey results: Key data points are summarized here:

United States Sentencing Commission
One Columbus Circle, NE | Suite 2-500 | Washington, DC 20002
main (202) 502-4500 | fax (202) 502-4699

Everything You Wanted to Know About the Bee Die-Off

For years, honeybees were dying, and no one knew why.

There have been some glimmers of hope recently. The number of bee deaths wasn't as dramatic last winter. Studies began pointing the finger at pesticides.

But a simple fact remains: Bees still are on the decline, and no one's sure why.
They're dying in large numbers, and scientists are scrambling to identify the cause. Beekeepers used to see about 5 or 10 percent of the bees in their hives die every year, but starting in 2006, losses jumped to 30 percent. About 10 million beehives, worth an estimated $2 billion, have been lost since then. The numbers are down slightly for last winter, when beekeepers lost about 23 percent.

A lot has changed since the issue exploded into public consciousness. Here's what you need to know about what could be causing the bee die-off and what can be done about it.


Net Neutrality Is Back! But the Fight Isn't Over Yet

The FCC approved the rules in a 3-2 vote along party lines, with Democrats in the majority. The rules prevent internet providers like AT&T and Verizon from blocking legal content; degrading or slowing down their competitors' traffic; and favoring traffic in exchange for special fees.

"The internet has redefined commerce, and as the outpouring from 4 million Americans has demonstrated, the internet is the ultimate vehicle for free expression," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, referring to the 4 million people who commented on the agency's net neutrality proposals over the past year. "The internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules."

The open internet debate has taken some twists and turns since last January, when a federal appeals court threw out the FCC's last batch of net neutrality rules and sent regulators back to the drawing board. As public comments piled up and activists rallied across the country, Wheeler eventually shed the skin of a former industry insider and scrapped a milquetoast proposal in favor of a plan rooted in Title II, which advocates say gives the FCC the legal authority it needs to defend the rules against inevitable court challenges from the industry.

The Title II decision could also have a deep impact on the effort to hold broadband companies accountable to the needs of the public and close the "digital divide" that has left low-income and rural consumers, as well as people of color, with few options to stay connected.


Friday, February 27, 2015

#TDIH Occupation of Wounded Knee - 27 February 1973

The Wounded Knee Incident began on February 27, 1973, when approximately 200 Oglala Lakota and followers of the American Indian Movement (AIM) seized and occupied the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to protest the United States government's failure to fulfill treaties with Indian people and demand the reopening of treaty negotiations.

We Shall Remain - Episode 5: Wounded Knee

Jon Stewart Goes After Obama Admin. Prosecution of Whistleblowers

Jon Stewart used a case about an HSBC whistleblower to go after the Obama White House for its repeated prosecution of whistleblowers under the Espionage Act.

Stewart went over the many uses of the Espionage Act by the White House, and while he mistakenly believed whistleblowers are normally rewarded with “ten million dollars and unlimited blowjobs,” it turns out that they actually get in trouble.

He cited a few examples of whistleblowers getting in trouble, including the one that involved Fox News reporter James Rosen, and one whistleblower who was prosecuted for trying to reveal what the NSA’s up to. No, not that one, the other one.

Mike Allen interviews Attorney General Eric Holder

In his final weeks in office, Attorney General Holder plans to push for an easier standard of proof for civil-rights offenses, saying in an exit interview with POLITICO that such a change would make the federal government "a better backstop" against discrimination in cases like Ferguson and Trayvon Martin. "I think some serious consideration needs to be given to the standard of proof that has to be met before federal involvement is appropriate, and that's something that I am going to be talking about before I leave office," Holder, 64, said.

The attorney general's comments appeared to be aimed partly at preparing the country for the likelihood that no federal charges would be brought in the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer. Holder said the inquiry will be completed before he leaves office, expected around the second week of March. In a lengthy discussion, Holder said some of his own struggles with Republicans in Congress were driven partly by race. "There have been times when I thought that's at least a piece of it," Holder said. "I think that the primary motivator has probably been political in nature ... [but] you can't let it deflect you from ... your eyes on the prize."

Asked what book he'd recommend to a young person coming to Washington, like his 32-year-old aide Kevin Lewis, who started at the White House at age 26, Holder said: "I say this not to every African-American of his age, but for every American, that you read 'The Autobiography of Malcolm X' to see the transition that that man went through, from petty criminal to a person who was severely and negatively afflicted by race, to somebody who ultimately saw the humanity in all of us," Holder said. "And that would be a book I would recommend to everybody."

Holder also told us he's writing a letter to Trayvon Martin's parents: "[O]ne of the things it's certainly going to talk about is my admiration for the way in which they have conducted themselves." And he said the country is ready for Hillary.

Story Transcript ... Video: Touring the A.G.'s office - messy or neat desk?

Eric Holder's parting shot: It's too hard to bring civil rights cases

In an exit interview, the attorney general says his critics may be partly driven by race.

Attorney General Eric Holder plans to push, during his final weeks in office, a new standard of proof for civil-rights offenses, saying in an exit interview with POLITICO that such a change would make the federal government “a better backstop” against discrimination in cases like Ferguson and Trayvon Martin.

In a lengthy discussion ranging from his own exposure to the civil rights movement of the ’60s to today’s controversies surrounding the shootings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, Holder also acknowledged that he felt some of his own struggles with Republicans in Congress during his six years in office were driven partly by race.

Read more:

Bipartisan sentencing bill gets White House support

WASHINGTON — President Obama is throwing his support behind a bipartisan proposal to change the nation's sentencing laws by cutting many mandatory minimum sentences in half.

That commitment came out of a meeting with 16 members of Congress at the White House Tuesday night, called by the president to gather their ideas on how to overhaul the criminal justice system.

Members of Congress who attended said the main topic of conversation was the Smarter Sentencing Act, a bill sponsored by Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, that would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders.

Obama supported a similar bill in the last Congress, but the current proposal goes even further. Mandatory life sentences would be reduced to 20 years — effectively cutting life sentences in half because the current life sentence averages 40 years.

Another change: Those convicted of importing drugs into the United States would not be eligible for the reduced sentences unless they were merely couriers whose role was limited to transporting or storing drugs or money.