Five Links from a Criminal Justice System

Five Links from a Criminal Justice System October 2, 2015

I have a ton of these lying around so you’ll be getting them in small chunks. Trying to give each batch a range of themes and moods.

“How Some Alabama Hospitals Quietly Drug Test New Mothers–Without Their Consent”:

In Alabama, a positive drug test can have dire repercussions for pregnant women and new mothers. Their newborns can be taken from them. They can lose custody of their other children. They can face lengthy sentences in the most notorious women’s prison in the United States and thousands of dollars in fees and fines.

Yet the hospitals that administer those drug tests — and turn the results over to authorities — are exceedingly reluctant to disclose their policies to the public. In many cases, they test mothers and babies without explicit consent and without warning about the potential consequences, ProPublica and have found.

According to a review of hundreds of court records, drug testing is ubiquitous in some Alabama counties — sometimes of mothers, sometimes of infants, sometimes both. In some parts of the state, hospitals test on a case-by-case basis, employing criteria that virtually ensure greater scrutiny for poor women.

more–yes, definitely, locking up a child’s mother for ten years will be much better for the kid than offering treatment and support, that sounds reasonable. Also, the Fourth Amendment? That’s the one about quartering soldiers, right?

“Justice After Injustice: What happens after a wrongfully convicted person is exonerated–and the witness finds out she identified the wrong man”:

…Baliga was skeptical. Restorative justice demands that the offender take responsibility for the wrongdoing, and in her eyes, none of these men and women had done anything wrong. “The exonerees really were blameless, and the crime victims really were victims,” she said. “It was impossible to hold any of them accountable, particularly those who had followed every proper legal procedure and had the state validate their actions.”

But the urgency behind Onek and Thompson’s request and undeniable, unmet needs of exonerees and crime victims ultimately swayed Baliga. The restorative justice theory—shared suffering, mutual understanding, forgiveness, and a will to move forward with positive concrete action—could be made to fit the circumstances of a false conviction case. Baliga explained that those affected by wrongful convictions had “the wisdom and learned experience to heal very broken things that the legal system did not have the capacity to address, much less repair.”

more–a harrowing but truly powerful story, probably the must-read from this set

“Five Things You Didn’t Know About Clearing Your Record”:

In the Internet age, expungement only goes so far.

If you record is approved for expungement, the court agrees to toss out its records. But what about Google? News archives? “It’s impossible to expunge information in this cyber-age,” said James Jacobs, a law professor at New York University and author of “The Eternal Criminal Record.” “You can have an official expungement, but to actually erase the events from history, I don’t think so.”

more (but also, if you’re seeking expungement “there’s an app for that”)

“My Police Academy Teaches the ‘War on Cops’ Myth”:

The trumpets of the thin blue line and right-wing news sources have been sounding, piping out warnings of a “War on Police.” You may have heard it on talk radio, seen it on Fox News or even read it in the New York Post, but now the rhetoric of charlatans has reached me in class at my police academy in a Northern red state.

The War on Cops is a grossly inaccurate response to recent police killings which are on track for another year that will rival the safest on record. Gunfire deaths by police officers are down 27 percent this year, according to the Officer Down memorial page, and police killings in general are at a 20-year low, given current numbers for 2015. Police deaths in Barack Obama’s presidency are lower than the past four administrations, going all the way back to Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

Not a single iota of evidence supports a War on Police, but it has become a battle cry among some in the academy.


“Is a Black ‘Silent Majority’ Responsible for Some of America’s Harshest Drug Laws?”:

In a recent interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, Fortner described his book as a “fundamentally tragic” “Cain and Abel story” in which black New Yorkers advocate for repressive laws that will come to ensnare their own “sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers.” Viewed from a zoomed-out, global perspective, Fortner’s narrative appears more profoundly tragic still, for the Rockefeller Drug Laws formed part of a transnational drug control regime whose targets included not just Harlem and Bed-Stuy junkies but indigenous coca farmers in the Andes, opium sellers in China, and anyone in-between on the wrong side of the ever-shifting border between licit and illicit trade. As Suzanna Reiss, a historian at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, argues in her recent book We Sell Drugs: The Alchemy of US Empire, “The United States government has never waged a war on drugs” so much as it has waged war with the weapon of drug control, exploiting “the ability to supply, withhold, stockpile, and police drugs, and to influence the public conversation about drugs” to build and maintain power both at home and abroad.

more–dual book review; second half is, if anything, better than the first

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