The Ferguson uprising was triggered by the police assassination of Michael Brown, but even before that killing, the city was a powder-keg, thanks to the practice of financing the city government by levying fines on the poor and putting those who couldn't pay in debtors' prison to encourage the rest to cough up.
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The 2018 election included a Florida ballot initiative to restore felons' voting rights (with the exception of convicted murderers and sexual offenders): the 1.4 million Americans who will get their votes restored today as a consequence are the largest cohort of Americans to get access to the ballot since women's sufferage in 1920.
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Last year saw a wave of teachers' strikes across America, but mostly in red states where public education has been starved of funds, putting teachers on starvation wages, subjecting kids to dangerous conditions, and stripping schools of resources and even putting schools on four-day weeks.
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In ADGN: An Algorithm for Record Linkage Using Address, Date of Birth, Gender, and Name, newly published in Statistics and Public Policy, a pair of researchers from Harvard and Tufts build a statistical model to analyze the impact of the voter ID laws passed in Republican-controlled states as part of a wider voter suppression project that was explicitly aimed at suppressing the votes of racialised people, historically likely to vote Democrat.
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In 2016, the Obama DoJ issued guidance to US courts telling them to cease the practice of levying fines on poor people that exceeded their means to pay, especially fines for failure to pay earlier fines. This week, Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed that order.
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Louisiana has always been a backward place for criminal justice, the only state in the union that funds its public defenders' office with conviction fees, leaving a public defender's office that averages $238 spent on each accused. Read the rest
Black American wage disparity can be offset by education; but even though black American families -- one parent, two parent, educated, uneducated, employed, unemployed -- save more and spend less than their white counterparts, white families have substantially more wealth than black families -- college-educated white adults have 7.2 times the wealth of their black counterparts. Read the rest
Ta-Nehisi Coates's 17,000-word history of the Obama presidency in the Atlantic is called "My President Was Black," but it's about the very special kind of blackness that Obama embodied -- not because whites saw the biracial politician differently, but because Obama's extraordinarily supportive white family and unique boyhood in Hawai'i spared him the racial trauma visited on other young black people in America. Read the rest
When the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, it meant that the 2016 presidential race would be the first one in 50 years without the fundamental protections the act promised, as a check against racist voter suppression. Read the rest
Leroy Switlick, a 67-year-old visually impaired man who has voted in every election for the last 40 years may not get to vote this year, because he lives in Wisconsin, where Republican governor Scott Walker passed a voter-suppression law that requires people like Switkick, who've never traveled and never held a driver's license, to show photo ID (like a passport or driver's license) to vote, and the DMV has failed in its duty to issue him a non-driver ID. Read the rest
America imprisons more people than any other country in history, in both absolute and relative terms. American prisoners -- disproportionately racialized and poor people -- are held in inhumane conditions that include long periods of solitary confinement, in violation of international protocols against torture. Read the rest
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has invalidated parts of North Carolina's voter suppression laws, ruling that the requirement to show photo ID was enacted "with racially discriminatory intent." Read the rest
Towns in Mississippi and other Tea Party-ruled states with large (often private) prison industries are totally reliant on state/fed funding transfers to local prisons for cash and jobs, forced prison labor to provide local services for free, and War on Drugs arrests and minimum sentencing to fill those jails. The first tiny steps toward criminal justice reform have eroded the underpinnings of the whole system, leaving the towns facing collapse. Read the rest
In the aftermath of the Ferguson uprising, much ink was spilled on the reliance of the predominantly black city on fines from its residents to pay its bills -- and on the use of what amounted to debtors' prisons that locked up those who wouldn't or couldn't pay the constant stream of fines and scared the rest into begging and borrowing to pay their own fines. Read the rest
Three years ago, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, a 50-year-old piece of civil rights legislation that ended the Jim Crow practices of poll taxes and other restrictions that disproportionately denied people of color and poor people the right to vote. Read the rest
John Oliver hosts his first show of the new season -- and his first-ever election-season episode -- and as you might expect, it's amazing. Read the rest