Category: Justice

When will all states protect poor defendants’ rights?

At any one moment, there are close to half a million people in jails across the U.S. who are locked up simply because their cases haven’t gone through the system, and they are too poor to post bail. Despite retaining the presumption of innocence, they are behind bars.

A Federal Reserve study found that a majority of Americans would not be able to come up with $400 in an emergency situation. As long as the current cash-bail system remains the primary arbiter of who is released before being put on trial, a majority of pretrial detainees will continue to be those who are poor. According to Cherise Fanno Burdeen, executive director of the Pretrial Justice Institute, only 10 percent of those held pretrial actually should be, because they pose a threat to public safety or are a flight risk.

Ironically, it is incredibly expensive to detain so many people pretrial. States and local governments spend roughly $9 billion a year detaining the legally innocent…

For those who cannot afford bail and have to remain in custody prior to trial, their time behind bars can last for months, or in some cases years. The Criminal Law Reform Project at the American Civil Liberties Union reviewed state laws nationwide. Some states—like Vermont, Washington and Wyoming—mandate that charges be presented to a grand jury for indictment or acquittal within days. Others don’t have charging statutes with time limits. As a result, arrestees in 20 states, including Alabama, Massachusetts, and Ohio, could conceivably be held indefinitely while waiting to be formally charged. Depending on how local jurisdictions interpret the right-to-counsel, many poor inmates will also have limited access to legal representation while they wait.

RTFA for some great interactive maps that take you state-by-state.

Angus Deaton and the Nobel Prize

Angus Deaton has won the Nobel, which is wonderful — dogged, careful empirical work at the micro level, tracking and making sense of individual households, their choices, and why they matter…

Deaton is also a fine writer with important things to say about political economy. Cardiff Garcia excerpts a passage in which he explains why we should care about the concentration of wealth at the top:

There is a danger that the rapid growth of top incomes can become self-reinforcing through the political access that money can bring. Rules are set not in the public interest but in the interest of the rich, who use those rules to become yet richer and more influential…

To worry about these consequences of extreme inequality has nothing to do with being envious of the rich and everything to do with the fear that rapidly growing top incomes are a threat to the wellbeing of everyone else.

As if to illustrate his point…Confessore, Cohen, and Yourish documents the remarkable fact that campaign finance this election cycle is dominated by a tiny number of extremely wealthy people — more than half the total from just 158 families. This money is overwhelmingly flowing to Republicans.

…The biggest piece of the super-rich-super-donor story is money from the financial sector…Basically, we’re looking at the people who brought you the financial crisis trying to buy the chance to do it all over again.

While this process continues, expands, we remain trapped within the confines of a Supreme Court dedicated to the worst ethics of capitalism and corporate greed. The old saw may still be true – we need capital to run an economy, not necessarily capitalists – but, the political establishment of the United States is lined up together to assure that premise is never tested.

The checks and balances built into our Constitution in an attempt to give ordinary working families an opportunity to fight for a better life continue to be compromised by each of the tripartite powers. If there’s anything agreed upon wholeheartedly at the top – it is don’t give ordinary folks a chance to fight back.

Deaton does a great job looking at the economic result of such practices.

Pic of the day

Click to enlargeReuters/Mohamad Torokman

A Palestinian protester uses a sling to hurl stones towards Israeli troops during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Bet El, near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah…

Just in case you hadn’t noticed that young people are still being murdered by the apartheid regime in Israel. They fight back against tanks and guns with stones.

Feds counting killings by US coppers — finally

The US government is trialling a new open-source system to count killings by police around the country, in the most comprehensive official effort so far to accurately record the number of deaths at the hands of American law enforcement.

The pilot program was announced by the US attorney general, Loretta Lynch, on Monday and follows concerted calls from campaigners and lawmakers for better official data on police killings, after a nationwide debate about race and policing was sparked by protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

In anticipation of the launch, further details of the Department of Justice program were shared with the Guardian, which publishes The Counted, a crowdsourced investigative project that attempts to track all those killed by US law enforcement in 2015. The program is understood to be already active, with a view to full implementation at the start of 2016.

The program will be run by the DoJ’s statistics division, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), and is seen internally as a more robust version of the currently defunct Arrest Related Deaths Count, which published annual data between 2003 and 2009 using statistics supplied by some of the United States’ 18,000 law enforcement agencies. The BJS eventually stopped collecting this data in 2014 as the level of reporting varied dramatically from state to state, due to the voluntary nature of the program.

The new program, Lynch said on Monday, will start by procuring open-sourced records, such as media reports, of officer-involved deaths, and then move towards verifying facts about the incident by surveying local police departments, medical examiner’s offices and investigative offices.

This approach is near-identical to the one employed by The Counted. A BJS official told the Guardian that the methodology would essentially standardise data collection, meaning the DoJ would no longer have to rely on voluntary reporting by local law enforcement. It is understood that The Counted along with the Washington Post’s police shootings count are being monitored as part of the DoJ program.

RTFA for some discussion, some bullshit, from government officials. Some truth leaks through.

Still, we’re witnessing a good example of citizens and journalism together shaming the government into doing their job. Casual engagement based on budget and happenstance isn’t a productive way to serve the public.

Kudos to everyone from The GUARDIAN to localized groups like #blacklivesmatter for keeping the pressure on.

Secret Service agent bound for prison for stealing what he was investigating

Carlos Amarillo/Shutterstock

A former U.S. Secret Service agent pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection with the theft of $820,000 in bitcoins in the Silk Road website probe.

Shaun Bridges, 32, a forensic analyst involved in the federal investigation which shut down the drug marketplace website, was the second agent caught stealing digital cash. He pleaded guilty to money laundering and obstruction of justice charges during a San Francisco federal court hearing Monday.

During the probe, Bridges used his access authority to move 20,000 bitcoins to an account he controlled. The majority of transactions on the Silk Road website were made using bitcoins, a payment method not involving any government-backed currency.

The website was shut down in 2013. Its operator, Ross Ulbrecht, received life imprisonment in May for operating the site, and former U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agent Carl Force pleaded guilty in July to three charges in connection with the theft of more than $700,000 in bitcoins…

Bridges is scheduled to be sentenced in December.

I would sentence the dude, tomorrow. He’s already pleaded guilty as charged. Are we supposed to let someone from law enforcement disappear into the judicial fog and maybe be allowed a kinder, gentler sentence?

Freedom to marry finally got here for all Americans

Perhaps no advocacy group played a more pivotal role in the fight for same-sex marriage rights than Freedom to Marry. Now, with the Supreme Court’s decision to bring marriage equality to the US, the group plans to shut down in the next few months.

But the group is going down with style, posting the video above that amounts to both a history lesson on marriage equality in the US and an incredibly moving celebration.

Now, if we only had a political party with the same level of progressive understanding and guts to represent mainstream America.

Chief thug in Mumbai massacre asks court to ban film — They did. Surprised?

Hafiz Muhammad SaeedReuters/Fayaz Aziz

A Pakistani court on has banned an Indian film about the 2008 Mumbai attacks in response to a petition filed by the man New Delhi accuses of masterminding the killing of 166 people over three days.

Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba which the United Nations has listed as a terrorist organization, petitioned the court to ban the Kabir Khan-directed feature film “Phantom” on the basis that it maligns Pakistan and vilifies Saeed and his current organization, Jamaat-ud-Dawa.

The Lahore High Court issued a ban on Thursday…

India says it has handed over evidence against him to Pakistan which should have detained him. The issue has stood in the way of rebuilding relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors…

Saeed lives freely in the city of Lahore in a villa with police stationed outside.

Corruption on a scale vile enough to stain the character of a nation.