In 2009, North Carolina passed the Racial Justice Act (RJA), which allowed defendants to strike the death penalty from their cases if they could show that racial discrimination was a factor in their prosecution. The law came as a response to a series of exonerations of Black people who were falsely convicted of crimes they did not commit by all-white or nearly all-white juries. The legislature took a bold step to address was what suspected to be deeply troubling evidence of racism infecting the death penalty—but no one knew for sure what evidence uncovered by the RJA would find.
via Will North Carolina’s Supreme Court Allow Racism to Remain a Persistent Factor in its Death Penalty? | American Civil Liberties Union
Almost five years to the day of the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Attorney General William Barr descended on New Orleans to deliver a major policy address. His speech dismissed police violence and espoused a dangerous vision for America — one in which ‘90s era tough-on-crime politics shape policies and pro-civil rights attitudes are derided as “anti-police.”
Speaking to the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Barr used war analogies to describe the work of police officers, painting opponents of police brutality as a “vocal minority that regularly attacks the police.” He minimized the type of police violence and racism — like that which took Michael Brown’s life — as being the result of “a few bad apples.” This phrase has been used as code to distract from deeply systemic issues that protect and perpetuate the devaluing of Black and brown lives in the criminal legal system.
via William Barr is Stuck in the ’90s — But Americans Have Moved Forward When it Comes to Criminal Justice Reform | American Civil Liberties Union
In the wake of last weekend’s tragic shootings, President Trump did what he does best: stoked fear and cast blame. He proclaimed that “we must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people, not only get treatment, but when necessary, involuntary confinement.”
There are two things wrong with the idea of involuntary commitment as a solution to gun violence. First, focusing on people with identifiable mental disabilities won’t help. The data is clear: mental disability is not the primary cause of gun violence. Second, making it easier to commit people against their will would repeat one of the great wrongs of the last 150 years. It will rob innocent people of their most basic civil liberty: the day-to-day freedom to live on your own and make your own decisions about whether and what kind of medical treatment to receive.
via Expanding Involuntary Confinement is Not the Answer to Solve Gun Violence | American Civil Liberties Union
Nearly 27 million people are registered to vote in South Africa’s elections on May 8 – that’s less than half the country’s total population.
Six million young eligible voters didn’t even bother to register earlier this year.
So why are young people shunning the elections?
The BBC asked a few rappers in Johannesburg if they had a rhyme to answer that question.
via Rapping for change in South Africa – BBC News
Last week, Mark Chambers, the mayor of Carbon Hill, Alabama, shared an image on his Facebook page that read, in all-caps, “WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY WHERE HOMOSEXUALS LECTURE US ON MORALS, TRANSVESTITES LECTURE US ON HUMAN BIOLOGY, BABY KILLERS LECTURE US ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND SOCIALISTS LECTURE US ON ECONOMICS.”
SOUNDS LIKE AN OKAY WORLD TO ME!
In case the post wasn’t clear enough on just where he stands on the issue of LGBT rights (or abortion, or socialism), after a friend commented that it “will take a revolution” to change society, Chambers then replied, “The only way to change it would be to kill the problem out. I know it’s bad to say but with out killing them out there’s no way to fix it.”
via Alabama Mayor Mark Chambers Wants to ‘Kill the Problem’ of ‘Homosexuals’
Bias on social media has become a highly politicized topic in the US—started mainly by right-wingers crying foul at having their accounts suspended or banned, and snowballing in a series of congressional hearings on the subject. The White House itself spun up a website last week for people to report incidents of censorship due to political beliefs.
We can argue as to whether the fears of the Trump administration or its various howling Twitter goons are grounded in reality (many have), but the fact is: social media platforms are lousy arbiters of speech. Their rules tend to be opaque and their enforcement is capricious. At least, that’s what a newly-launched project from the Electronic Frontier Foundation contends.
via Social Media Censorship Is Hurting Those on the Margins, EFF Project Contends
A computer tool used by police to predict which people are likely to reoffend has come under scrutiny from one force’s ethics committee, who said there were a lot of “unanswered questions” and concerns about potential bias.
Amid mounting financial pressure, at least a dozen police forces are using or considering predictive analytics, despite warnings from campaigners that use of algorithms and “predictive policing” models risks locking discrimination into the criminal justice system.
West Midlands police are at the forefront, leading on a £4.5m project funded by the Home Office called National Data Analytics Solution (NDAS).
via Ethics committee raises alarm over ‘predictive policing’ tool | UK news | The Guardian
Four million. That’s the number of pieces of content on Facebook that the platform claims it took action against for containing hate speech from January to March this year, according to its most recent transparency report. (And to put a fine point on it, that’s just the content it actually caught.) In a press briefing this afternoon, vice president of global operations Justin Osofsky teased a plan to pilot a subgroup of moderators who are specifically tasked with handling hate speech.
via Facebook Pilots Anti-Hate Speech Moderation Team Because, Y’know, All the Nazis and Stuff
With legislative sessions winding down across the country, states have an opportunity to explore an often untapped resource for ending mass incarceration and addressing racism in the criminal justice system: the power of Governors.
The power of the executive presents significant and often untapped opportunities to shrink the jail and prison population. Unlike state legislation, policy decisions by a governor are less vulnerable to political infighting or trading. To address this problem, here are the top three ways a state’s governor should utilize their authority to end mass incarceration and address racism in the system.
via Governors Can Succeed in Criminal Justice Reform Where Legislatures Fail | American Civil Liberties Union
Included on the Judiciary Committee’s speakers list was Julia Beck, a 26-year-old lesbian, self-described radical feminist, and a member of the group Women’s Liberation Front, or WoLF. But Beck was not there to testify in support of the Equality Act. Invited by Republican members of the committee, she was there to decry the protections that it would provide trans women. “If the act passes in its current form as HR5, then every right that women have fought for will cease to exist,” Beck asserted.
Beck is the latest trans-exclusionary radical feminist, or TERF, to become the darling of right-wing media and conservative politicians who, in recent years, have cloaked their transphobia by embracing the talking points of radical feminists like Beck. These seemingly odd bedfellows united publicly during the Equality Act hearing, where Republicans like Doug Collins and Louie Gohmert voiced their opposition to the Act in the name of women’s rights. The Equality Act, Gohmert said, represented “a war on women that should not be allowed.” Collins, an opponent of gay marriage and abortion rights, spoke approvingly of WoLF, before charging that the bill’s protections of trans people “would demolish the hard-won rights of women, putting them once again at the mercy of any biological man who identifies at any moment as a woman.”
via Julia Beck, TERFs, and the Right Wing Form an Unholy Alliance