Tag Archives: racial bias

Admitting Failed Experiment, DOJ to Phase Out Private Prisons

Private prisons more dangerous and costly, Justice Department finally admits

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-18-2016

Corrections Corporations of America is one of the largest private prison corporations in the country, and currently runs 47 prisons nationwide. (Photo: CCA.com)

Corrections Corporations of America is one of the largest private prison corporations in the country, and currently runs 47 prisons nationwide. (Photo: CCA.com)

After years of documented human rights abuses by the private prison industry, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is finally ending its use of privately-run, for-profit prisons, the Washington Post reports.

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates issued a memo Thursday announcing that the federal government is ending its contracts with the private prison industry, days after the department’s Inspector General issued a damning report about the danger and abuse facing inmates in private federal prisons. Continue reading

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Blue Lives Matter: Police Exceptionalism Leading America Toward Second Civil War

By Claire Bernish. Published 7-23-2016 by The Anti-Media

PORTLAND OREGON - NOV 17: Police in Riot Gear Holding the Line in Downtown Portland Oregon during a Occupy Portland protest on the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street November 17 2011

PORTLAND OREGON – NOV 17: Police in Riot Gear Holding the Line in Downtown Portland Oregon during a Occupy Portland protest on the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street November 17 2011

United States — Lurched back and forth in the ever-quickening spiral of an American empire circling the drain, we — as a people — have chosen battle lines on nearly every issue from politics to foreign policy, domestic surveillance to policing.

Thrust back into national focus, the last issue — policing in the U.S. — might even surpass in contention the ongoing race to the White House. And it stands to reason, with the world lashing out against failed globalism in its various nefarious incarnations — largely driven by American exceptionalist military presence nearly everywhere on the planet — the empire sees expediency in heading off a possible insurrection. Continue reading

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With Arms in Air, Unarmed Black Caregiver Shot by Police

As long as I’ve got my hands up, they’re not going to shoot me, is what I was thinking. Wow, was I wrong.’

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-21-2016

"All he has is a truck. A toy truck. I'm a behavior therapist at a group home," Charles Kinsey pleaded with officers, holding his arms in the air and trying to help an autistic patient before he was shot. (Screenshot)

“All he has is a truck. A toy truck. I’m a behavior therapist at a group home,” Charles Kinsey pleaded with officers, holding his arms in the air and trying to help an autistic patient before he was shot. (Screenshot)

Charles Kinsey, a black man and caregiver at a group home, was shot by police on Monday in North Miami, Florida.

Cell phone video footage released late Wednesday showed that Kinsey was lying on the ground, holding his arms in the air to show he was unarmed, and trying to help a distressed autistic patient in the moments before he was shot in the leg.

“As long as I’ve got my hands up, they’re not going to shoot me, is what I was thinking. Wow, was I wrong,”said Kinsey to local TV station WSVN from a hospital bed on Thursday. Continue reading

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Bahamas to Its Citizens Traveling to the US: Beware of out of Control Cops

By Clarice Palmer. Published 7-9-2016 by The Anti-Media

The International Arrivals Hall at Boston Logan International Airport's Terminal E. Photi: hildgrim/flickr/CC

The International Arrivals Hall at Boston Logan International Airport’s Terminal E. Photi: hildgrim/flickr/CC

It appears even foreigners are scared of United States law enforcement.

The Bahamian government is warning its citizens to use extreme caution when traveling to the United States. The recommendation follows the “extrajudicial killings” of blacks, Caribbean outlet Antillean Media Group (AMGreports, “which have spurred increased unrest across America.” Continue reading

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“Why Do You Have to Make These Shootings About Race?” Because They Are

By PM Beers. Published 7-9-2016 by The Anti-Media

#BlackLivesMatter protest in St. Paul- September 2015. Photo: Fibonacci Blue from Minnesota, USA [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

#BlackLivesMatter protest in St. Paul – September 2015. Photo: Fibonacci Blue from Minnesota, USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Baton Rouge, LA —Why do you always have to make it about race?

Because it IS about race.”

This is a common, growing conversation in the United States.

PolRacismtweet1 Continue reading

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Legal Experts Raise Alarm over Shocking Use of ‘Killer Robot’ in Dallas

‘The fact that the police have a weapon like this…is an example of the militarization of the police and law enforcement—and goes in the wrong direction’

By Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-8-2016

Dallas Police Chief David Brown giving a press conference on Friday morning. (Screenshot)

Dallas Police Chief David Brown giving a press conference on Friday morning. (Screenshot)

As news emerges that police officers in Dallas, Texas used an armed robot to kill the suspected shooter in Thursday night’s ambush, experts are warning that it represents a sea change in police militarization that only heightens risks to human and constitutional rights.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown said Friday morning during a press conference that police “saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate” where the suspect had taken refuge in a parking garage as police tried to negotiate with him, adding that he was “deceased as a result of detonating the bomb.” Continue reading

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Striking Analysis of Civil Rights Complaints Sheds Light on Why Police Impunity Reigns

Newspaper investigation reveals that federal prosecutors failed to pursue civil rights complaints against police officers in 96 percent of cases

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-14-2016

The findings come against a backdrop of increased attention on police misconduct, including evidence of racial discrimination, unlawful shootings, surveillance, imprisonment, and torture. (Photo: Thomas Hawk/cc/flickr)

The findings come against a backdrop of increased attention on police misconduct, including evidence of racial discrimination, unlawful shootings, surveillance, imprisonment, and torture. (Photo: Thomas Hawk/cc/flickr)

A striking new analysis published this weekend found that federal prosecutors failed to pursue civil rights complaints against police officers a full 96 percent of the time.

The investigation, conducted by Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporters Brian Bowling and Andrew Conte, examined 3 million federal records regarding criminal complaints against law enforcement from 1995 through 2015. The findings come against a backdrop of increased attention on police misconduct, including evidence of racial discrimination, unlawful shootings, surveillance, imprisonment, and torture. Continue reading

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Justice Department Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Against the City of Ferguson

By Jake Anderson. Published 2-11-2016 at The AntiMedia

Photo: Paul Sableman (Ferguson City Hall) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Paul Sableman (Ferguson City Hall) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In response to Ferguson City Council requesting amendments to a consent decree, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday that it will “aggressively” prosecute a civil rights lawsuit against the city. Attorney General Loretta Lynch stated that the lawsuit alleges a pattern and practice of unconstitutional police conduct.

“The residents of Ferguson have suffered the deprivation of their Constitutional rights, the rights guaranteed to all Americans, for decades. They have waited decades for justice,” Lynch said. “They should not be forced to wait any longer.” Continue reading

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Poor and homeless face discrimination under America’s flawed housing voucher system

Project-based housing creates (or strengthens) ghettos of low-income people

Written by and . Published in The Conversation on 1-26-2016.

Vision of the front entrance to the Charlesbank Cooperative high-rise building in Boston from the front walkway. Photo: MaynardClark (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Vision of the front entrance to the Charlesbank Cooperative high-rise building in Boston from the front walkway. Photo: MaynardClark (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

From the time she left foster care at age 18 until her late 20’s, Carly was homeless, staying at shelters or couch-surfing with acquaintances in the Boston area.

In August 2014 she finally got an apartment with the help of a housing voucher from an agency called Home Start. The one-bedroom apartment, located in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, rented at US$1,150 per month. The location wasn’t ideal – the area is where she’d spent time, over a decade earlier, in a gang and dealing drugs. But it was the only apartment she could find with a landlord who was willing to rent to her.

From the outside, the building appears to be quite nice. Inside, it’s a different story: the stairwell is collapsing, and even daily sweeping doesn’t eradicate the fresh mice droppings that dot the floor. Disparate piles of sawdust (likely leftover from some sort of wood-munching insect) appear near the floorboards. The walls are soaked with mold.

“The landlord – he’s a slumlord,” Carly explains. “He will not fix anything.”

Now pregnant, she’s received a $1,500 voucher for a two-bedroom apartment. But after weeks and weeks of searching, she hasn’t been able to find one.

We’ve spent months researching how poor and homeless people struggle to find permanent housing. It’s become clear that Carly – and thousands of others like her – are trapped in a system that fails to acknowledge the realities of the housing market, requires navigating a maze of bureaucratic hurdles and allows landlords to easily discriminate against voucher holders.

New strategy doesn’t negate systemic flaws

Throughout the United States, communities have come a long way from the “housing ready” approach. According to this policy, homeless people needed to complete treatment programs before they were deemed “ready” to receive stable housing. Without housing, however, many found it immensely difficult to undergo successful treatment and become eligible.

Today, most public housing agencies use the “Housing First” approach, which has been shown to be more successful at achieving stable housing for people who have psychiatric disabilities, substance abuse problems or are underemployed. Even if chronically homeless clients have addictions, they’ll be offered supportive housing and the opportunity to choose where they live.

But as Carly’s experiences demonstrate, the actual available choices may be limited – or altogether nonexistent.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocates funding to states through the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, which provides government and social service agencies with funds to help pay the monthly rents of low-income people.

The agencies that distribute housing choice vouchers pay the housing subsidy directly to the landlord, but most of the housing search is left to voucher holders, many of whom lack the skills and perseverance of savvy apartment hunters.

For example, in Massachusetts in 2014, 4,000 people who received vouchers didn’t end up using them, typically because they couldn’t locate an affordable, acceptable apartment.

Booming housing costs render vouchers useless

With cities across the nation becoming gentrified and more desirable to high-income tenants, poorer populations have been priced out.

America’s 2007 foreclosure crisis pushed large numbers of people into the rental market, increasing the competition for available rental housing.

Gentrification is not just an American problem. The British government is having difficulty controlling rental costs, and there’s an affordable rental housing crisis in Australia.

Challenges to the U.S. housing voucher program extend across the nation. A Baltimore study found that landlords can manipulate the rules to their favor by selecting tenants they prefer and segregating voucher holders to undesirable neighborhoods. In New York, voucher holders can afford rental housing only in the most dangerous neighborhoods.

And in Boston, high housing costs mean stable housing is hard to find. Paula Saba, chief of leased housing programs at the Boston Housing Authority, notes that Massachusetts has the highest rent prices in the U.S., with a vacancy rate of less than one percent.

In the Boston metro area, the permitted monthly rent for voucher holders ranges from $1,056 for an efficiency apartment to $1,567 for a two-bedroom apartment. Compare that to the average apartment rent within 10 miles of downtown Boston: $2,283 a month and $2,758 a month for a one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartment, respectively.

As Joe Finn, president and executive director of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, explains, “Cost is the single biggest factor in people not being able to find apartments when paying with vouchers… The voucher values are behind market value.”

GoSection8, an online rental resource for voucher holders, listed only nine apartments in Boston within the “fair market” rent ranges.

The barrier of brokers

Carla’s been desperate to move. The adverse living conditions of her apartment set off her asthma, and over the past year, she’s had half a dozen stints in the hospital in order to get her breathing under control.

Asked to estimate how many phone calls she’s made since October (when she began her most concerted effort to move), she looked over her papers and replied, “About a hundred.”

The problem, she explained, is that even apartments listed on Craigslist are handled by real estate agents and brokers.

These people “screen you. They ask where you work and other questions and then when you say you have a voucher they say that the landlord will only take cash.”

After scouring the Boston area, she expanded her search to other parts of the region – and still hasn’t gotten to the step of viewing an apartment.

Even though Massachusetts, like a number of other states, has broadened Fair Housing Act protections to cover housing voucher discrimination, landlords and realtors can find ways to skirt the law.

For example, some landlords require letters from previous landlords and proof of employment – documentation that people who have been living in shelters or unemployed for years cannot provide.

Real estate brokers admit the existence of rampant discrimination. One broker in the Boston area (who asked to remain anonymous) told us, “When the market is tight [landlords] discriminate against vouchers, and vouchers don’t keep pace with market values.”

In these transactions, there’s an element of race involved. Some have argued that “Section 8” has become a racial slur. The broker we interviewed uses an application form that asks if an applicant is a “convicted felon,” which is often used as a subtle indicator for race (25 percent of the adult black population in the U.S. has a felony conviction, compared to 6.5 percent of nonblacks).

In the end, this broker highlighted the primary way landlords weed out undesirable tenants without breaking anti-discrimination laws: real estate agents. Most rentals in the Boston area are handled by agents who are typically paid by tenants, not by landlords.

“The biggest issue is that Section 8 people can’t afford realtors,” he said. “In this market, that’s a problem. It’s an owner’s market.”

The realtor fee is usually one month’s rent, which the homeless often can’t afford.

According to Gabrielle Vacheresse, housing search program manager for HomeStart, Inc., most agencies – including her own – “typically do not have the funding to pay for broker’s fees. Some landlords have caught onto this and are able to weed out folks with vouchers by charging a fee, knowing that most will not be able to pay.”

Simple fixes

When people receive vouchers, they have only a certain window of time to find an apartment. “People typically need all of that time,” one housing search coordinator told us.

Depending on the agency, that window could be 60 days or 120 days. Afterwards, clients will need to ask for extensions. Some housing authorities provide these; some don’t.

Carly, like other voucher holders, is expected to navigate all of these challenges. While she’s in the somewhat enviable position of doing so from her own (albeit dilapidated) apartment, other homeless people are forced to carry out their searches from park benches. They need to hold onto phone numbers and forms, shuttling them to and from the streets and the shelters.

Homeless veteran in Boston. Photo: Matthew Woitunski (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Homeless veteran in Boston. Photo: Matthew Woitunski (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Complicating matters, each municipality and agency has a different list of available apartments, many of which aren’t up-to-date. For someone making calls from a borrowed phone or a prepaid phone with limited minutes, fruitless calls can be a real hurdle.

There are a number of reforms that could improve the process. Shouldn’t it be relatively simple to develop a single, streamlined, up-to-date list of open apartments in a metro area? What if vouchers also covered broker fees? And if the vouchers were increased to be more in line with market rates?

Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect bureaucratic fixes to eliminate the hardships caused by centuries of racial discrimination, historically unequal opportunities to acquire property, a growing class of people stuck in low-wage and insecure jobs, and the pressures of gentrification of America’s cities.

But until these changes are made, voucher holders like Carly will continue to operate under a system that doesn’t acknowledge the realities of their desperate situations.

About the Authors

 is Professor of Sociology, Suffolk University.

 is an Associate Professor of Sociology, Bentley University.

This article was published under a Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivatives licence.

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Nebraska Is Torturing Incarcerated Youth for Having Too Many Books, Passing Notes

By Carey Wedler. Published 1-8-2016 by The Anti-Media

Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility, Douglas County

Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility, Douglas County

A report released by the Nebraska American Civil Liberties Union this week reveals the state’s extensive use of solitary confinement in children across multiple juvenile detention centers. Solitary confinement is considered a form of torture by the U.N., and in recent years, has been outlawed and scaled back in the United States. In Nebraska, however, children are being forced into isolation for offenses as minor as having too many books or passing notes.

According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, in the early 19th century, the United States pioneered solitary confinement as a form of punishment. After its damaging psychological effects became apparent, however, it was discontinued. Though the practice recently regained popularity, it has once again been skewered as excessive and dangerous. Continue reading

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