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Criminalization

Albany Must Do More To Stop The Criminalization Of Our Communities

As Black, Brown, immigrant, and trans New Yorkers continue to take to the streets, it’s clear that the mass uprising taking place across the state, and indeed the country, is far from over. In New York, this movement moment has already helped produce real results for long-fought campaigns: we have already won major policy victories in the fight for police accountability, including the repeal of 50a (a police secrecy statute), the STAT Act (a data reporting bill), and special prosecutor legislation. But the criminalization of our communities continues. With Albany legislators slated to return next week, they must take further action to keep community members with their loved ones, and youth in their schools—not in cages.

In Sea-Watch And No More Deaths Cases, Courts Rule That Saving Lives Isn’t A Crime

After six months of detention at the Sicilian port of Licata, the Sea-Watch 3 humanitarian search and rescue ship is now free to resume its operations in the Central Mediterranean. On Dec. 19, Sea-Watch, a German NGO, finally won an appeal to the Italian civil court securing the ship’s release. Human rights advocates deemed its confiscation and sustained detention to be both illegal and racist — with the aim of preventing the ship from rescuing primarily black Africans and bringing them to Italy for safe harbor.

Ecuadorian Opponents Reject Lenin Moreno’s Economic Reform

The Lenin Moreno Administration is moving in two fronts since the mass mobilizations that took place in Ecuador about a month ago. On the one hand, it is criminalizing social protests so opponents can be charged with “rebellion.” This is how they managed to imprison members of Rafael Correa’s political party, Citizen Revolution, as well as leaders of indigenous organizations. Three legislators of this movement requested asylum at Mexico’s Embassy to Ecuador in this connection. On the other hand, the Government is trying to impose economic measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Days ago, opponents rejected a mega economic reform bill adapted to the markets.

Federal Court: Cities Cannot Criminalize Homelessness

The likes of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have come out hard against anti-homelessness laws in cities nationwide. The organization derided laws encouraging homeless people in Houston to go to shelters — which are often full — as rules that "are ineffective, waste limited public resources, violate basic human and constitutional rights, and strip homeless Houstonians of their dignity.” In an interview with Curbed, Eve Garrow, a homelessness policy analyst at the ACLU, said the organization plans to start an education campaign making sure cities are aware of the ruling and how they can ensure they are not in violation.

Single Mother And Healthcare Worker Jailed For Three Days In Indiana Over Unpaid Ambulance Bill

Melissa Latronica is a 30-year-old healthcare worker and single mother of three who lives in La Porte, Indiana, 65 miles southeast of Chicago. On February 11, Melissa was pulled over by police in a traffic stop. She was then arrested and jailed for three days over an unpaid ambulance bill. “I was on my way to turn in some important paperwork that would let me keep my home,” she told the World Socialist Web Site. She was heading to a county agency in nearby Valparaiso, Indiana.

All Laws That Make It A Crime To Be Homeless Should Be Repealed

When San Diego resident Gerald Stark’s rent increased and he couldn’t afford another apartment, the retired union pipefitter moved into his RV. But because he lacked an address, San Diego law made it almost impossible for him to park his RV legally. Soon the city confiscated it, leaving him out on the streets. There, he was ticketed for violating another law prohibiting sleeping in public. Faced with thousands of dollars in fines and fees he was unable to pay, Stark lived every day in fear of being arrested — for simply trying to survive. He’s not alone. There isn’t a single county in the United States where you can rent a two-bedroom, market-rate apartment working a full-time, minimum-wage job.

Devaluing Survivors, Criminalizing Dissent & Creating Utopia

It took one woman 10 years to see her rapist brought to justice because that's when they finally tested her rape kit. Her story is not uncommon. This week, we dive into the backlog of untested rape kits and what we as communities need to do to support, defend and protect. Next, the J20 trials continue and with 36 defendants still facing decades in jail, here are some actions and some conversations we need to have. Cheri Honkala and the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign came to DC - not to ask for help - but to invite fellow poor folks to join them. And to demand the justice and human rights that have been denied to poor Americans.

Cops Rebranded As “School Resource Officers” Can Injure And Criminalize Schoolkids

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – Last month a video emerged of a La Mesa police officer violently slamming a 17-year-old student onto the ground at a San Diego charter school. The juvenile, who had complained of feeling ill, was accused by a teacher of being on drugs. When the student consented to a search of her belongings, no drugs were found but some pepper spray was. Since the spray was classified as a weapon, the student was suspended and asked to leave the campus. The student felt the suspension was unfair and refused to leave; that’s when police were called. A statement by La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez says the girl, who had been handcuffed, tried to escape from the officer, who used force to subdue her...

Policy Road Map To Reparations For ‘War On Weed’

Over the past 50 years, the city of Baltimore and the State of Maryland’s active investments in policing the War on Drugs have created conditions of concentrated poverty in Baltimore City. While not limited to marijuana, cannabis prohibition has been, and continues to be, the vanguard of the War on Drugs in terms of social impact. Even today, despite the perception of increased tolerance of marijuana and many states’ pursuit of legalization, marijuana possession is the number of cause of arrest in the United States. In fact, in recent years marijuana arrests have continued to increase. Currently, over 100,000 Americans are incarcerated for marijuana possession, racking up a total cost of over three billion dollars. From 1990 to 2000, 75% of the increase in arrests for drug charges nationwide came from marijuana related offenses.

Recriminalizing Cannabis Is Worse Than 1930s “Reefer Madness”

In the 1930s, parents across the US were panicked. A new documentary, "Reefer Madness," suggested that evil marijuana dealers lurked in public schools, waiting to entice their children into a life of crime and degeneracy.  The documentary captured the essence of the anti-marijuana campaign started by Harry Anslinger, a government employee eager to make a name for himself after Prohibition ended. Ansligner's campaign demonized marijuana as a dangerous drug, playing on the racist attitudes of white Americans in the early 20th century and stoking fears of marijuana as an "assassin of youth."  Over the decades, there's been a general trend toward greater social acceptance of marijuana by a more educated society, seeing the harm caused by the prohibition of marijuana. But then, on Jan. 4...

Sessions Reverses DOJ Policy, Allows Marijuana Prosecutions In Legal States

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration threw the burgeoning movement to legalize marijuana into uncertainty Thursday as it lifted an Obama-era policy that kept federal authorities from cracking down on the pot trade in states where the drug is legal. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will now leave it up to federal prosecutors to decide what to do when state rules collide with federal drug law. Sessions’ action, just three days after a legalization law went into effect in California, threatened the future of the young industry, created confusion in states where the drug is legal and outraged both marijuana advocates and some members of Congress, including Sessions’ fellow Republicans. Many conservatives are wary of what they see as federal intrusion in areas they believe must be left to the states.

How It Became A Crime To Be Poor In America

By Peter Edelman for The Guardian - In the United States, a system of modern peonage – essentially, a government-run loan shark operation – has been going on for years. Beginning in the 1990s, the country adopted a set of criminal justice strategies that punish poor people for their poverty. Right now in America, 10 million people, representing two-thirds of all current and former offenders in the country, owe governments a total of $50bn in accumulated fines, fees and other impositions. The problem of “high fines and misdemeanors” exists across many parts of the country: throughout much of the south; in states ranging from Washington to Oklahoma to Colorado; and of course in Ferguson, Missouri, where, in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown, revelations about the systematic criminalization of the city’s poor black residents brought these issues to national attention. As a result, poor people lose their liberty and often lose their jobs, are frequently barred from a host of public benefits, may lose custody of their children, and may even lose their right to vote. Immigrants, even some with green cards, can be subject to deportation. Once incarcerated, impoverished inmates with no access to paid work are often charged for their room and board. Many debtors will carry debts to their deaths, hounded by bill collectors and new prosecutions.

Opiod Crisis Demands Care Not Criminalization

By Ellie Hamrick, Katherine King and Neil Hamrick for Socialist Worker - After Tori was arrested on drug charges in 2015, she began suffering from heroin withdrawal in jail. She was denied medical treatment, and her cellmate was threatened with punishment for attempting CPR when Tori collapsed. By the time medical staff arrived, Tori hadn't been breathing for 10 minutes. "I would've loved to see what her future would've been," Tori's mother, Stephanie Moyer, told the local news. But as Moyer points out, Tori was "sentenced to death before she even saw the judge." Tori's death was not an isolated incident. More and more women are dying from causes related to opioid use, and the state's response has been criminalization, not care. In 2015, 418 women in Tori's home state of Pennsylvania died from opioid overdoses, a marked rise from previous years. This increase mirrors a rise in overdose deaths among women across the nation. Although men still use opioids at higher rates than women, women are quickly catching up. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported in 2013 that "deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses among women have increased more than 400 percent since 1999, compared to 265 percent among men."

How The Government Is Turning Emerging Activists Into Felons

By Natasha Lennard for Esquire - Alsip only knew one other person at the protest march that day. The political science graduate student from the University of Chicago had met her partner in November, when the two had joined the camps at Standing Rock opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline. When they heard about calls to protest Donald J. Trump's inauguration in D.C. on January 20th under the banner "Disrupt J20," they felt they had to be there. "I identify as an anarchist, and I've been an activist for women's and queer rights since the 8th grade," Alsip told me over the phone from Chicago. Alsip is among 214 defendants facing felony riot charges, up to a decade in prison and a $25,000 fine for their participation in the anti-capitalist, anti-fascist march, which ended with a mass arrest on the morning of Inauguration Day. As far as the student understands, the evidence against her amounts to little more than proof of her presence at the unruly protest, as indicated by her arrest. Like the vast majority of her co-defendants, Alsip didn't break or throw anything. Now she lives in shock over the steep price she and her fellow protesters might pay as the new administration and police forces set the tone for how they will deal with the spike in organized dissent.

Republican Lawmakers In 5 States Propose Bills To Criminalize Peaceful Protest

By Spencer Woodman for The Intercept - ON SATURDAY, THE Women’s March on Washington will kick off what opponents of the incoming administration hope will be a new era of demonstrations against the Republican agenda. But in some states, nonviolent demonstrating may soon carry increased legal risks — including punishing fines and significant prison terms — for people who participate in protests involving civil disobedience. Over the past few weeks, Republican legislators across the country have quietly introduced a number of proposals to criminalize and discourage peaceful protest. The proposals, which strengthen or supplement existing laws addressing the blocking or obstructing of traffic
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