June 06, 2013
By Chris Kardish
About 140 people have been arrested during the latest weekly demonstration led by the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP against the state's Republican-led General Assembly.
Police estimate that roughly 1,000 people attended a rally late Monday afternoon behind the Legislative Building. Hundreds later entered the building, with those intending to get arrested wearing green wrist bands.
Those arrested were taken away in plastic bindings. They bring the total arrested in the weekly demonstrations to about 300. The rallies have taken place nearly every Monday since April.
Hundreds more waited outside to cheer on those arrested as they were transported to a detention facility.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has spearheaded demonstrations to protest cuts to social programs, changes to voting laws and other issues championed by the GOP.
June 06, 2013
By TAMI ABDOLLAH Associated Press
An internal review by the Los Angeles Police Department concluded that rogue ex-officer Christopher Dorner was justifiably fired, a lawyer who reviewed the findings told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Civil rights attorney Connie Rice said the lengthy examination found no basis for allegations of racism and bias that Dorner made in a manifesto vowing revenge on his former colleagues and their families.
Authorities said Dorner killed four people, including two law enforcement officers, during a weeklong rampage in February that involved a massive manhunt and ended with his apparent suicide in a mountain cabin following a gunbattle with police.
The findings, which are expected to be made public this month at a Los Angeles Police Commission meeting, concluded that Dorner had a history of embellishing stories, misperceiving slights and making bogus complaints against his fellow officers, Rice said.
He took more than twice as long as most officers to complete his training, was nearly incomprehensible during the hearing over his firing, and only filed a complaint against his training officer when he learned she gave him a bad performance review, Rice said.
The department said in a statement the review had not been finalized.
"Any comments or conclusions about the contents of the review are premature," it said. "The LAPD will announce the review once finalized."
Police Commission President Andrea Ordin said the report still needed to go to the inspector general for review and then to the Police Commission.
Chief Charlie Beck ordered the review as Dorner was on the run after being accused of killing the daughter of his former union lawyer and her fiance and releasing the manifesto saying he would get even for being unfairly fired because he was black.
Rice, a longtime department watchdog and frequent critic, was allowed to review the findings.
"The firing was justified and his allegations are completely unfounded," said Rice, who spent two weeks reviewing the findings. "This guy needed to go. And the question was, even if he needed to go, did the LAPD get rid of him in a way that was illegitimate? And the answer for me was no."
The roughly 40-page report relied on about 80 documents, including 900 pages of transcripts from the Board of Rights hearing that concluded Dorner lied when he claimed a training officer had brutally kicked a mentally ill man during an arrest. He was fired for making a false report and a Los Angeles Superior Court judge sided with the department during a 2010 appeal.
The internal LAPD review conducted by Gerry Chaleff, the department's special assistant for constitutional policing, also re-examined at least 10 complaints Dorner officially lodged with the department while he was an officer, Rice said.
In his manifesto, Dorner said the LAPD had tarnished his reputation, ruined the former Navy reserve's military career, and destroyed his life.
"He raised all that racism stuff in my mind because he knew he'd get a rise out of them," Rice said. "He did everything he could to hurt the department."
The department is also conducting a review of the overall discipline system and will also review the cases of a handful of former officers who have since formally requested reviews of their firings.
Rice said she spoke with many black officers in the department who said that though the department still had issues with racism, it had changed a great deal over the past decades.
"Just because racism didn't play a leading role in what happened to Dorner doesn't mean the LAPD is now an inter-racial nirvana," Rice said. "It does still have serious problems like every department does and we shouldn't forget that."
May 30, 2013
LAWT Wire Service
On May 24, 2013, Charles Ramsey was present at an event to meet the public when a statue of him was unveiled. The unveiling took place in Stanville, Kentucky at the Eric C. Conn Law Office. Eric C. Conn was the host of the event and is known for his love of statues.
Conn stated, “I can’t think of a better way to commend my friend Charles than having a statue made in his honor.”
The sculptor decided to depict Ramsey as he was on the day he became a hero.
The sculptor has stated, “The most difficult part of making the statue is sculpting Ramsey’s unique hair style.”
Ramsey was accompanied by two members of what he refers to as “Team Charles.” He had to endure more free burgers as burgers and refreshments were served at the event. The statue, will be donated to a museum in Cleveland, Ohio, which is Ramsey’s hometown.
May 30, 2013
By Charlene Muhammad
LAWT Contributing Writer
LOS ANGELES-Youth advocates, activists and lawmakers are pushing for a bill that would set clear standards to help limit solitary confinement of youth in all state and county facilities.
Authored by Senator Leland Yee, the bill seeks to establish a legal definition of the tactic widely condemned as torture and overused in California’s juvenile justice systems, according to advocates.
Solitary confinement contributes to recidivism, mental illness and youth suicides, particularly because weak standards and guidelines allow different departments extreme leeway to determine how the measure can be used, expressed Kim McGill of the Youth Justice Coalition.
“The bill’s also important because it says that solitary confinement will only be used when a young person poses an immediate or substantial risk of harm to others, so it can’t be used for punishment,” McGill stated.
Solitary confinement cannot be used because staff need a break from a young person or doesn’t know what to do with mental health issues, she continued.
At press time, SB61 supporters were on a phone drive to help get the bill out of the Senate and on to the California State Assembly, where the process would start all over again.
The next two to three months of work is worth the effort to get SB61 passed because it would clearly define the measure and severely limit how it can be used, McGill stated.
“We would like to eliminate it all together...There are federal guidelines and state guidelines that can be applied in some ways but the ones around solitary confinement are way too loose and way too vague,” she argued.
SB61 would specifically define solitary confinement as the involuntary placement in a room or cell in isolation from persons other than staff and attorneys.
Youth would be held only to address the safety risk and, if law, would require facilities to report on when the special imprisonment was used, including demographics and the length of confinement.
As a government agency, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) typically doesn’t take a position on pending legislation and has no position on SB61, a spokesperson informed.
In 2011, a CDCR internal audit found that youth were often locked up in their cells for over 21 hours a day, according to a fact sheet provided by Sen. Yee.
The document continued, in one 15-week period, there were 249 incidents of solitary confinement, and in one case, a youth received only one hour out of his cell in a 10-day period. In local juvenile facilities, there have been reports of youth locked up in isolation for 23 hours a day.
Tanisha Denard was among them, she told a Senate Public Safety Committee during a recent hearing.
Arrested at school for fighting, Denard said she was put on probation. A series of truancy tickets for being late landed her in Los Angeles County juvenile hall on a probation violation, according to the youth.
Negative experiences behind bars rendered her distant. She wouldn’t eat. She became unsure and uncomfortable but, instead of trying counsel her, staff just stopped talking to her, the 19-year-old alleged.
“I guess the staff thought I was depressed, so then they put me on lockdown for real - no cell mate, no dayroom time, no hope,” Denard continued.
“It is by far the worst feeling I had ever experienced...From 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. until 6 a.m., you are locked into a single person cell that looks exactly like the box. It’s also freezing, and if you’re found with an extra blanket or sweatshirt, you are accused of having contraband and punished,” she continued.
Denard further stated she and other youth in solitary confinement had no books or writing materials, so their nights were endless.
“... just you, your thoughts and the screams or crying of the young people in the cells next to you...Your family and the community expect that you are safe and unharmed. In reality you might be safe from other youth – but not from yourself. Being locked down makes you feel that you are worthless to society. You start to think about any way to escape – even if it means suicide,” the young activist elaborated.
She recommends creating a nature park as one alternative to 23-hour cells to help incarcerated youth calm down. “...or have us work outside to grow food, or take vocational trainings so we are ready to start our lives over after release,” Denard suggested.
May 30, 2013
By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Both the House and Senate have passed bills that would reduce funding of the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called food stamps, but the extent of the cuts will not become known until negotiators from both chambers agree to a compromise measure.
SNAP was reduced as part of a 5-year House farm bill by $2 billon, slightly more than 3 percent. A similar farm bill passed by the Senate would reduce SNAP funding by $400 million a year, about half of 1 percent.
Both actions were taken last week.
By voice vote, the Senate also adopted a separate amendment that would prevent convicted murderers, rapists and pedophiles from receiving food stamps for life.
Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the amendment would likely have “strongly racially discriminatory effects.”
“The amendment would bar from SNAP (food stamps), for life, anyone who was ever convicted of one of a specified list of violent crimes at any time – even if the committed the crime decades ago in their youth and have served their sentence, paid their debt to society, and been a good citizen ever since,” Greenstein said in a statement.
He continued, “Given the incarceration patterns in the United States, the amendment would have a skewed racial impact. Poor elderly African Americans convicted of a single crime decades ago by segregated Southern juries would be among those hit.”
Greenstein’s group said the House version would slash $20 billion in spending from the program over the next decade, resulting in nearly 2 million people being kicked off of SNAP if the bill becomes law.
More than 200,000 children would lose free meals at school. Poor families that have managed to scrape together a few thousand dollars for emergencies would get kicked off the program. Other families battling poverty would get kicked off of SNAP for owning a car.
“Many of these families would be forced to choose between owning a reliable car and receiving food assistance to help feed their families,” said the report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
The report also said, “The bill’s SNAP cuts would come on top of an across-the-board reduction in benefits that every SNAP recipient will experience starting November 1, 2013. On that date, the increase in SNAP benefits established by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) will end, resulting in a loss of approximately $25 in monthly SNAP benefits for a family of four. Placing the SNAP cuts in this farm bill on top of the benefit cuts that will take effect in November is likely to put substantial numbers of poor families at risk of food insecurity.”
According to experts, SNAP not only helps families keep food on the table, but also boosts the economy as low-income households pour money into the economy.
Feeding America, a domestic hunger-relief charity, reported that 1 in 4 Black households live with food insecurity issues compared to 1 in 10 White households. Thirty-two percent of Black children don’t have adequate access to food compared to 16 percent of White children.
Republicans who supported the House Agriculture Committee bill lambasted the current spending levels in the program and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said that the growth in the program was responsible for expanding a “dependency class.”
A report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities published March 2013, titled “SNAP Is Effective and Efficient,” found a more likely culprit: the Great Recession.
“The number of people eligible for SNAP increased because of the recession and lagging recovery,” the report stated. “The number of people with income below 130 percent of poverty (the SNAP income limit) increased substantially, from 54 million in 2007, before the recession, to 60 million in 2009 and 64 million in 2011, allowing more households to qualify for help from the program.”
The Center report also found that, “The recent growth in SNAP spending is temporary. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts that SNAP spending will fall as a share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in coming years as the economy recovers and the Recovery Act provisions end.”
Amelia Kegan, a senior policy analyst at Bread for the World, a faith-based international organization that works to end hunger, said that SNAP’s ability to automatically adjust to meet the need of Americans struggling through the recession shows that the program is working.
“The food stamp program, the child nutrition program, and the school lunch programs were able to automatically respond and expand to address the spike in need,” said Kegan. “As the economy recovers and more people get back to work and don’t need these programs anymore, participation falls.”
Feeding America reported that more White households are food insecure than Black households, but the rate of food insecurity in Black households is twice as high. Whites also make up roughly 36 percent of people that use SNAP. Blacks account for 22 percent.
This concerns many advocates that say more Blacks need to be educated about the program that could play a critical role in helping them to escape poverty.
“One major concern that I have within the African American community is that many people don’t have direct access to the program. They are not sure about the program,” said Brian Banks, director of public policy and community outreach for the Capital Area Food Bank. “They don’t understand that the program is there to help and support them.”
Banks said that the proposed cuts to the safety net program are disheartening.
“This is the wrong time to cut this program the biggest safety net program in America,” said Banks, director of public policy and community outreach for the Capital Area Food Bank. “We’re talking about your neighbors, your grandparents, your colleagues. You’d be surprised by who’s suffering from hunger.
Banks added: “The federal government is in place and should have the will to support people without hurting them. People are struggling and if we cut programs that are helping them, where are they going to go to get assistance?”
Read more: http://www.nnpa.org/news/lead/food-stamps-cuts-will-hurt-poor-black-families-by-freddie-allen/#ixzz2UdOaiD00