“There is a narrative that explains how we got here. Mass incarceration was created by policy decisions. We decided to deal with drug addiction and drug dependency as a crime issue rather than a health issue . . . We didn’t do that for alcoholism. We said, ‘Alcoholism, that’s a disease,’ and now we don’t have a consciousness that when we see an alcoholic going into a bar that we have to call the police — but we didn’t do that for drug addiction. The reason why we didn’t do that was because of a narrative. And there’s a narrative of fear and anger out there.”
America’s water crisis: as with all environmental injustices, this one falls especially hard on non-whites.
Aging infrastructure + warming climate = rising prices. That’s the basic conclusion of a new report showing that clean water is getting more expensive in cities across the country — in some cases, far more expensive than what poor residents can reasonably afford for what should be a basic human right.
Rates vary hugely across the country — water will cost you five times as much in Seattle as in Salt Lake City, for example — but on average, the cost of clean water and wastewater services has risen 41 percent over the last five years, according to an examination of national data by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, a human rights advocacy organization.
The new report blames rising water costs on a variety of factors, including:
- Pollution from industry, agriculture, and fossil fuel production, requiring more communities to clean and treat their drinking water. Climate change, by increasing salinity and algal blooms, makes the problem worse.
- Population growth and drought in the arid Southwest and elsewhere (the new normal due to climate change), which means water is traveling farther to reach consumers, increasing costs accordingly. Drought surcharges can bring a family’s bill above $300 per month in some places.
- Increased rainfall from climate change in the East and Midwest, which causes flooding and fills water systems with pollution. Detroit struggles with overflowing sewers during heavy rainfalls, while New York City has to discharge sewage into its harbor after a storm. These situations can require costly upgrades to wastewater treatment facilities.
As with all environmental injustices, this one falls especially hard on non-whites. “Today, one in every two African-American Michiganers live in cities that violate their human rights to water and sanitation,” the service committee reports. Detroit and Flint, whose water problems have made national news over the past year, have majority black populations, as does Lowndes County, Ala., which has no functioning sewer system.
From an article at GRIST
Scores like this — known as risk assessments — are increasingly common in courtrooms across the nation. They are used to inform decisions about who can be set free at every stage of the criminal justice system, from assigning bond amounts — as is the case in Fort Lauderdale — to even more fundamental decisions about defendants’ freedom. In Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, the results of such assessments are given to judges during criminal sentencing.
Rating a defendant’s risk of future crime is often done in conjunction with an evaluation of a defendant’s rehabilitation needs. The Justice Department’s National Institute of Corrections now encourages the use of such combined assessments at every stage of the criminal justice process. And a landmark sentencing reform bill currently pending in Congress would mandate the use of such assessments in federal prisons.
In 2014, then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder warned that the risk scores might be injecting bias into the courts. He called for the U.S. Sentencing Commission to study their use. “Although these measures were crafted with the best of intentions, I am concerned that they inadvertently undermine our efforts to ensure individualized and equal justice,” he said, adding, “they may exacerbate unwarranted and unjust disparities that are already far too common in our criminal justice system and in our society.”
The sentencing commission did not, however, launch a study of risk scores. So ProPublica did, as part of a larger examination of the powerful, largely hidden effect of algorithms in American life.
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Virginia disproportionately suspends African-American boys and those with disabilities for issues that are often minor, frequently entangling children in the law enforcement system.
Virginia, the state that leads the nation in the school-to-prison pipeline, also disproportionately suspends African-American male students and those with disabilities from school for issues as minor as a sarcastic tone, a cell phone, or too many unexcused absences.
“Suspended Progress,” a report released today by the Legal Aid Justice Center, says that the fix would be for school administrators to shift away from so-called zero tolerance policies, which often mandate punishment for even slight infractions, in favor of working with families and installing more preventive and supportive discipline.
In Virginia, students do not have a right to alternative education during suspensions or expulsions, meaning they fall further behind with each day of punishment.
Virginia’s “pipeline” is among the worst, according to the Center for Public Integrity, which analyzed schools’ law enforcement-referral rates in 2015. The state’s students werereferred to law enforcement at a rate of almost 16 per 1,000, the study found, compared to 6 per 1,000 nationwide. Across the country, black and special-needs kids tend to be referred more than others.
In total, Virginia public schools issued 126,000 out-of-school suspensions to approximately 70,000 individual students, according to Thursday’s report, compiled by the JustChildren (JC) program of the Legal Aid Justice Center in Richmond. Those suspensions and expulsions were given to black boys and children with disabilities at a disproportionately high rate, the authors report.
Read the rest at CSMONITOR