Can Three Women Really Change the Supreme Court?

By , August 31, 2010 6:52 pm
Kagan Prepares Statement For SCOTUS Hearing
Image by talkradionews via Flickr

Much has been made of the fact that Elena Kagan’s ascent to the Supreme Court means that for the first time in American history there will be three women on the high court. But beyond the fact that the court will be slightly more representative of the American people, and the possibility of yet more white lacy scarves from on high, what does the difference between having one, two, or three women at the court really signify?

Social scientists contend that the difference is more than just cosmetic. They cite a 2006 study by the Wellesley Centers for Women that found three to be the magic number when it came to the impact of women on corporate boards: after the third woman is seated, boards reach a tipping point at which the group as a whole begins to function differently. According to Sumru Erkut, one of the authors of that study, the small group as a whole becomes more collaborative, and more open to different perspectives. In no small part, she writes, that’s because once a critical mass of three women is achieved on a board, it’s more likely that all the women will be heard. In other words, it’s not that they bring any kind of unitary women’s perspective to the board—there’s precious little evidence that women think differently from men about business or law—but that if you seat enough women, the question of whether women deserve the seat finally goes away. Women speak openly when they don’t feel their own voice is meant to reflect all women.

via Can Three Women Really Change the Supreme Court? – Newsweek.

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Coroner Probing Marijuana Raid Killing of Unarmed Man

By , August 18, 2010 3:08 pm

On the night of June 11, 21-year-old Trevon Cole and his nine months pregnant fiancé, Sequoia Pearce, were sitting at home in their Las Vegas apartment, settling in for a quiet Friday evening in front of the TV. But Cole didn’t live to see the next day. Instead, he was the target of a drug raid and was shot and killed by a Las Vegas narcotics detective as he knelt on his bathroom floor, hands in the air. (Read our earlier coverage here.)

Trevon Cole, killed in his bathroom by a police officer, had just 1.8 ounces of marijuana

Since then, questions and outrage have mounted as the circumstances surrounding Cole’s death have emerged. A coroner’s inquest, which is done with all fatal shootings by Las Vegas police, is set for Friday. Given the history of such inquests — only one police killing out of 200 in the past 35 years was found unjustifiable — justice is unlikely to be done there.

The affidavit in support of the search warrant targeting Cole gave the impression that police thought they had a major drug dealer on their hands. Detective Brian Yant, the officer who wrote the warrant and who pulled the trigger on Cole, wrote that “almost all” drug dealers keep “sophisticated and elaborate” records and that police expected to find such records, as well as guns and drug paraphernalia. Cole had a “lengthy criminal history of narcotics sales, trafficking and possession charges,” Yant wrote.

Police found no guns. They found no evidence of a “major drug dealer.” They did find a small, unspecified amount of pot (Pearce contends they found no drugs and were angry they could not), a digital scale, a cell phone, and $702 in cash (of which $350 was found to have come from jewelry Pearce pawned days earlier to pay rent). Oh, and a spent .223 caliber rifle cartridge in the bathroom.

The search warrant affidavit also misidentified Cole, confusing him with another Trevon Cole from Houston, Texas. The other Trevon Cole had a different middle name, was seven years, older, is three inches shorter and a hundred pounds lighter. His “lengthy criminal history”? Three misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests. The only criminal record the now dead Trevon Cole had was for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle as a teenager.

via Coroner Probing Marijuana Raid Killing of Unarmed Man [FEATURE] | StoptheDrugWar.org.

Agents’ Secrets | The News Observer

By , August 17, 2010 7:20 pm

This series, the product of months of reporting, reveals deep trouble at North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation. “Agents’ Secrets” shows an agency in line with prosecutors’ wishes. Agents and analysts ignore or twist the truth and push past the bounds of science.

Agents’ Secrets | The News Observer.

Aging inmates straining prison systems

By , August 17, 2010 11:53 am

Connell, Wash. — Curtis Ballard rides a motorized wheelchair around his prison ward, which happens to be the new assisted living unit — a place of many windows and no visible steel bars — at Washington’s Coyote Ridge Corrections Center.

A stroke left Ballard unable to walk. He’s also had a heart attack and he underwent a procedure to remove skin cancer from his neck. At 77, he’s been in prison since 1993 for murder. He has 14 years left on his sentence.

Ballard is among the national surge in elderly inmates whose medical expenses are straining cash-strapped states and have officials looking for solutions, including early release, some possibly to nursing homes. Ballard says he’s fine where he is.

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“I’d be a burden on my kids,” said the native Texan. “I’d rather be a burden to these people.”

That burden is becoming greater as the American Civil Liberties Union estimates that elderly prisoners — the fastest growing segment of the prison population, largely because of tough sentencing laws — are three times more expensive to incarcerate than younger inmates.

The ACLU estimates that it costs about $72,000 to house an elderly inmate for a year, compared to $24,000 for a younger prisoner.

The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that the number of men and women in state and federal prisons age 55 and older grew 76 percent between 1999 and 2008, the latest year available, from 43,300 to 76,400. The growth of the entire prison population grew only 18 percent in that period.

“We’re reaping the fruits of bad public policy like Three Strikes laws and other mandatory minimum sentencing laws,” said David C. Fathi, director of the ACLU National Prison Project in Washington, D.C. “One in 11 prisoners is serving a life sentence.”

via Aging inmates straining prison systems | detnews.com | The Detroit News.

The Right-Wing Hardliner Immigration Approach Would Create a Police State — Is That What Those Supposed Freedom Lovers Want?

By , August 15, 2010 6:47 pm
Last year, the federal government filed more charges for immigration violations than all other crimes and misdemeanors combined — it charged more people for breaking our immigration laws than it charged drug traffickers, bank robbers, counterfeiters and everything else under the sun. Yet right-wing lawmakers and pundits who oppose a comprehensive re-think of our immigration system continue to insist the opposite is true: that the government is just sitting on its hands.

It’s really a lie of epic proportion, a distortion so great that it turns reality on its head. Yet immigration hardliners in the Congress and their lickspittles in the right-wing media have used it to convince a sizable chunk of the population that the federal government refuses, or at least has shown little zeal, to “enforce the law.” A Google search for “federal government won’t enforce immigration laws” returns 25 million hits; the narrative is often used to justify harsh local ordinances like Arizona’s draconian SB 1070.

via The Right-Wing Hardliner Immigration Approach Would Create a Police State — Is That What Those Supposed Freedom Lovers Want? | Immigration | AlterNet.

SBI ignores years of warnings on confession called ‘fiction’

By , August 10, 2010 11:57 am

On July 16, 1993, SBI Agent Mark Isley hauled Floyd Brown to jail. The charge: beating a retired schoolteacher to death.

The proof: a six-page confession that Isley said Brown uttered word for word in a single telling, one elaborate detail stacked on another.

Then and now, Brown can’t get past the letter K when reciting the alphabet. He is a 46-year-old man with the mind of a 7-year-old boy, his IQ hovering at about half that of a person with average intelligence.

“The confession is a work of fiction,” said Mike Klinkosum, a Raleigh attorney who represented Brown until his release in 2007. “It’s that simple.”

Doctors employed by the state were skeptical about Brown’s confession as early as 1993, and they sounded alarms in court in 2005. In court documents and arguments, those warnings became more convincing as years passed, reaching Attorney General Roy Cooper’s most trusted advisers. The Charlotte Observer and national media pressed Cooper for answers in 2007. But for four years, SBI leadership and the Attorney General’s Office failed to investigate Isley’s work.

Cooper, a Democrat, didn’t act until 2009, in the face of a lawsuit that will likely cost taxpayers and their insurers millions of dollars. He ordered a special review of the Brown case, but the agency has refused to provide any conclusions or results.

The Brown case stands out, but it is hardly the State Bureau of Investigation’s only troublesome work. SBI agents have cut corners, bullied the vulnerable and twisted reports and court testimony when the truth threatened to undermine their cases, a News & Observer investigation of the SBI’s work, policies and practices reveals.

via SBI ignores years of warnings on confession called ‘fiction’ – Agents’ Secrets – NewsObserver.com.

Contemporary Critical Criminology Paperback – Routledge

By , August 6, 2010 6:11 pm

The concept of critical criminology – that crime and the present day processes of criminalization are rooted in the core structures of society – is of more relevance today than it has been at any other time.

Written by an internationally renowned scholar, Contemporary Critical Criminology introduces the most up-to-date empirical, theoretical, and political contributions made by critical criminologists around the world. In its exploration of this material, the book also challenges the erroneous but widely held notion that the critical criminological project is restricted to mechanically applying theories to substantive topics, or to simple calling for radical political, economic, cultural, and social transformations.

This book is an essential source of reference for both undergraduate and postgraduate students of Criminology, Criminal Theory, Social Policy, Research Methodology, and Penology.

Contemporary Critical Criminology Paperback – Routledge.

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From Incredible to Inevitable: How the Politics of Criminal Justice Reform May Be Shifting

By , August 4, 2010 5:37 pm

Yesterday, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act into law. Though this new law retains an unjustifiable federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses, it is a remarkable criminal justice reform measure. Ten years ago, advocates working to repeal the notorious 100-to-1 sentencing disparity were thought of as naïve. Yet 2010 saw a bipartisan bill aimed at reforming a mandatory minimum actually get through Congress and receive the president’s signature for the first time since the Nixon administration. Yesterday’s passage of the Fair Sentencing Act is one of several recent developments signaling that the political landscape of criminal justice reform truly has shifted — perhaps not seismically, but significantly. The opportunity to cut and reform our bloated, inefficient system is now.

via Vanita Gupta: From Incredible to Inevitable: How the Politics of Criminal Justice Reform May Be Shifting.

The destructive narcissistic pattern

By , August 2, 2010 11:08 am
The Wall of Fame
Image by a2gemma via Flickr

This chapter is very helpful for anyone trying to cope with a destructive narcissist. Flight is a logical and healthy response.

The destructive narcissistic pattern – Google Books.

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