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.

California passes strictest law in the land against pumping up meat with antibiotics

California just passed a bill to sharply limit the use of antibiotics in farm animals, making it the first state to ban the routine use of the drugs in animal agriculture.

The law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday bans medically important antibiotics to promote growth in cows, chickens, pigs, and other animals raised for profit. Meat producers will only be able to administer the drugs with the approval of a veterinarian when animals are sick, or to prevent infections when there’s an “elevated risk.” They can’t use the drugs “in a regular pattern.” The policy is more restrictive than the FDA’s national guidelines, which don’t restrict use for disease prevention.

Overuse of antibiotics, both in medicine and in animal agriculture, contributes to the rise of drug-resistant superbugs that kill 23,000 Americans each year and sicken 2 million. Brown vetoed a weaker bill last year. The new law is a win for consumer and environmental advocates who have sought tougher rules for years.

Just seven lawmakers voted against it.

…Consumer demand is driving more companies to kick the antibiotic habit. In March McDonald’s announced plans to stop selling chicken raised with antibiotics. One of its suppliers, Tyson Foods, made a similar commitment the next month. Foster Farms and Perdue are cutting back too. Wal-Mart is asking suppliers to do the same.

“I think we’re seeing the marketplace change, and this legislation will continue to push it in that direction,” said Jason Pfeifle, public health advocate at the California Public Interest Research Group, a consumer group that supports the new law.

Overdue? You betcha.

Like so many progressive policies which grew in size and strength among the general populace – until the two old parties recognized they need to get on board – we still will get to see the most backwards political hacks and pundits crank up their public whining machine. The self-proclaimed Freedom Caucus in Congress, no doubt the majority of Republican candidates for president, probably even the NRA will stand up for God, Country and the right to eat crap food.

I expect the ranks of cowards in Blue Dog caucuses in every Democrat Party in every state East of California will call for more study, preferably until after they reach retirement age or at least until after the next possible primary they might face.

Thoughtful human beings will rejoice – and spend their money buying meat from retailers smart enough to recognize a trend without needing Google to tell them when to do something healthy and modern.

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.