The US by saying that “in practice, the United States is alone among developed countries in insisting that while human rights are of fundamental importance, they do not include rights that guard against dying of hunger, dying from a lack of access to affordable healthcare, or growing up in a context of total deprivation. . . at the end of the day, particularly in a rich country like the USA, the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power. With political will, it could readily be eliminated”.
In August 2016, the United States Department of Justice issued a report following its investigation into the policies and practices of the Baltimore Police Department. The report was in response to the 2015 police-involved death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray and the subsequent unrest that gripped the city. During that historic week in April 2015, the world watched as Baltimore residents took to the streets to call for an end to police brutality and demand reforms in police accountability. In response to the death of Freddie Gray, what surfaced was communal anger and frustration at a dynamic that has plagued Baltimore communities for decades: an overreliance on incarceration and a divestment in economic opportunities. Given growing national attention and local concern around the impact of incarceration on working families, the Job Opportunities Task Force sought to define and determine the extent to which the criminalization of poverty is occurring in Maryland. Indeed, the August 2016 United States Department of Justice report on the Baltimore Police Department created a greater sense of urgency around issues of poverty, race and criminal records.
By Becca Curry for ACLU - Municipal judges have incredible power over the lives of the people who enter their courtrooms. When these judges refuse to follow the law and instead run their courtrooms like fiefdoms, they can ruin lives. This is starkly true for people already living in poverty who must appear in Colorado’s Alamosa Municipal Court. In our new investigative report, “Justice Derailed,” we examine Alamosa’s local court, which operates under the sole leadership of Judge Daniel Powell. This court stands out for the frequency and seriousness of its constitutional abuses, which most often affect low-income individuals. The striking inequity in treatment between defendants with means and those without reveals the unfairness of a system that is supposed to be just, but which is actually the opposite. While Alamosa is the focus of this report, it is not alone in its abuses. Colorado has more than 200 local city courts that deal mostly with low-level offenses, which are often tied to drug addiction and poverty. For six years, the ACLU of Colorado has been investigating injustices in municipal courts. We have challenged debtors’ prison practices through letters sent to several municipalities and settlements reached in Colorado Springs and Aurora. We also brought evidence to the state capitol resulting in legislation to address debtors’ prisons, the lack of counsel in municipal courts, and lengthy waits in jail to see a municipal judge when an individual cannot afford to post bond. While courts are meant to address violations of the law, many municipal judges violate the law themselves by abusing their power.
By Pete Williams for NBCNews - Holding defendants in jail because they can't afford to make bail is unconstitutional, the Justice Department said in a court filing late Thursday — the first time the government has taken such a position before a federal appeals court. It's the latest step by the Obama administration in encouraging state courts to move away from imposing fixed cash bail amounts and jailing those who can't pay.
By Jack Shuler for Truth Out - When Chris Wills got out of prison, he could not find a job. He applied, but no one would hire him because of his record. And then he started using drugs again. In a moment of desperation, he went to talk with a friend who ran programs in the local jail. His friend didn't tell him to just get clean. He didn't tell him to just get a job. He gave him some advice that, in the moment, Wills thought was just weird. His friend told him to go meet with some community organizers from a group called the Newark Think Tank on Poverty.
By Ann Garrison for Counterpunch. It was a struggle but we were adamant and told the ACLU over and over again for 48 hours that we would not change our permit request, and we have won the right to march on the south side of city hall at 3:00 o’clock, going all the way up Broad Street to the front door of the Democratic National Convention. And so we’re hoping that anybody that was afraid before will turn out in droves and join us. Our march has turned into a real symbol of the fight for political independence from the two corporate controlled parties. And I think we’re gonna look back and see this as an important historical marker. It’s really important that people understand that our march begins at 3:00 on the south side of city hall, because the Democratic Party is going to stop at absolutely nothing to make sure that the voices of poor and other front line communities are not heard in the Democratic National Convention.
By Samuel L. Dickman et al for PNHP - US medical spending growth slowed between 2004 and 2013. At the same time, many Americans faced rising copayments and deductibles, which may have particularly affected lower-income people. To explore whether the health spending slowdown affected all income groups equally, we divided the population into income quintiles. We then assessed trends in health expenditures by and on behalf of people in each quintile using twenty-two national surveys carried out between 1963 and 2012.
By Mumia Abu-Jamal for Counter Punch - The adage that there are different systems of justice for rich and poor, Black and white, is horrifically confirmed in Flint, Michigan, where the white supremacist, capitalist state poisoned a majority Black and poor population. Yet, in U.S. society there is no punishment to fit such a crime. “In Michigan’s prisons, there ain’t a single prisoner who committed a more vicious crime than the Governor of that state.” “The state’s emergency manager created an emergency.”
By Amanda Starbuck for Center for Effective Government. The Center for Effective Government released a new report and interactive map to coincide with the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. The report demonstrates that the struggle for social justice is far from over. Across the country people of color and the poor are disproportionately impacted by chemical facility hazards, and in many areas, the amount of inequality is profound. We mapped all 12,000+ facilities reporting to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Risk Management Program (RMP). These facilities use large enough amounts of extremely hazardous chemicals that they must submit risk and response plans to the EPA. Communities near these facilities face the greatest danger from a toxic chemical release or explosion and are often exposed to toxic emissions on a daily basis. We compared the demographics of people living within one mile of these dangerous facilities to the rest of the population. The results are stark.