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  1. lindagray

    Ted Bundy Album

    Images of Ted Bundy, a famous Serial Killer
  2. Number 3: The death penalty condemns the innocent to die. Since 1973, 123 people in 25 states have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence. Given the way in which the justice system herds the poor through its gates, it is no wonder that it often ensnares innocent people. The use of plea bargains and leniency in exchange for snitch testimony often results in the least guilty serving the most time. Often, police and prosecutors—-whether under pressure or in the effort to further their careers-—make quick arrests and ignore evidence that might point in another direction. In January 2003, Illinois Governor George Ryan commuted the sentences of all the state’s death row prisoners on the grounds that the system was so flawed that it could not ensure that the innocent were spared. There can be no doubt that some people who were innocent have been executed. Criminologist Michael Radlet notes that between 1900 and 1992, there were 416 documented cases of innocent persons who have been convicted of murder or capital rape—a third of whom were given a death sentence. He discovered that in 23 of these cases, the person was executed. The Death Row 10: Madison Hobley Upon leaving office in 2003, Illinois Governor George Ryan pardoned four death row prisoners—Aaron Patterson, Leroy Orange, Madison Hobley and Stanley Howard. They were members of a group of known as the Death Row 10. These men were all sent to death row under the supervision of Jon Burge, lieutenant of Chicago’s Area Two Violent Crimes Detective Unit. Burge was later fired from the Chicago Police Department on February 10, 1993, for overseeing torture. It was revealed that Burge was responsible for torturing more than 40 Black men during interrogations. Methods of torture included electric shocks, suffocation hoods, Russian roulette, burns, beatings and threats of death. Madison Hobley was sentenced to death based on a coerced confession. Police at Area Two handcuffed him to a wall ring and beat him, after which he was taken downtown, where he was handcuffed to a chair and kicked by Sgt. Patrick Garrity. Then, according to Hobley, three cops suffocated him with a plastic type- writer cover until he blacked out. Though police claimed that he confessed to setting a fire in an apartment building that killed his wife and child, no document was ever produced, and Madison insisted he never confessed. A witness who identified Hobley as purchasing a canister of gas an hour before the fire could not initially pick him out of a lineup. A 2002 hearing uncovered evidence that the jury had been intimidated, and that the gas canister, which had no signs of being burned by fire (including an intact plastic cap!), had been planted at the crime scene. Number 4: The death penalty is not a deterrent to violent crime. Over the past 10 years, studies have attempted to prove the death penalty deters murder. But as Professor Jeffrey Fagan of the Colombia Law School notes, these studies contain so many “serious flaws and omissions” that “this work falls well within the unfortunate category of junk science.” The South, where 80 percent of all executions take place, has a higher murder rate than the North. More executions, more murders If anything, credible evidence points in the other direction. One study by Thorsten Sellin found that between 1989 and 2002, California (one execution), Texas (239 executions) and New York (no executions) all had almost identical patterns of murder rates from year to year-—though overall, Texas’ average was highest. Number 5: The death penalty is “cruel and unusual punishment.” In 2007, executions are on hold in over a dozen states and botched executions have put the lethal injection process under increasing scrutiny. In April 2005, in the British medical journal The Lancet, a team of medical researchers found serious flaws in how lethal injections were being administered, causing extreme suffering to the prisoners being executed. The report found “that in 43 of the 49 executed prisoners studied the anesthetic administered during lethal injection was lower than required for surgery. In 43 percent of cases, drug levels were consistent with awareness.” Tortured to death On December 13, 2006, Angel Nieves Diaz was the victim of a botched execution so terrible that it led Florida’s Republican Governor and death penalty enthusiast Jeb Bush to issue an executive order halting executions in the state. Technicians wrongly inserted the needles carrying the poisons that were to kill Diaz. The caustic chemicals poured into his soft tissues instead of his veins, as intended. This left Diaz struggling and mouthing words in pain for over 34 minutes, when a second set of needles were inserted. The county medical examiner found 12-inch chemical burns inside both of his arms after the execution. Number 6: The death penalty fails to recognize that guilty people have the potential to change, denying them the opportunity to ever rejoin society. The death sentence says some people are beyond redemption, beyond second chances, beyond being allowed to live in society. We disagree. We believe people deserve second chances. We actually think many people are on death row and in our prisons because they never got any first chances. Poverty, racism, neglect, violence and mental illness are all issues impacting who becomes a “criminal.” Countless prisoners have also transformed their lives, in spite of the horrific conditions behind prison bars that they are forced to endure. Executing those individuals or condemning them to die in prison denies their ability to fully participate and contribute in society. Executing a peacemaker While on death row, Stan Tookie Williams, a former leader of the notorious Crips gang in Los Angles, renounced his past and wrote a series of anti-gang books geared towards youth. Teachers arranged for Stan to address students in their classrooms—he would speak via telephone hookup, urging the students to stay clear of the gang life. His message resonated. The youth who listened to him were captivated by his words. His work to curb gang violence was probably more effective than any legislative action our “leaders” have taken. But instead of recognizing the good work Stan was doing, he was executed in 2005.
  3. The death penalty is racist. The death penalty punishes the poor. The death penalty condemns the innocent to die. The death penalty is not a deterrent to violent crime. The death penalty is "cruel and unusual punishment." The death penalty fails to recognize that guilty people have the potential to change, denying them the opportunity to ever rejoin society. The United States is the only country in the Western industrialized world that still uses the death penalty. Since 1990, 30 countries have abolished the death penalty. Among the 74 countries who continue to execute, a tiny group accounts for the vast majority of the world’s executions each year— China, Iran, Vietnam and the United States. In the U.S., more than 3,200 people live on death row. Since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated, more than 1,200 people have been executed in the United States. More than three-quarters took place in southern states—and over 35 percent in Texas alone. For decades, both Republicans and Democrats have competed to be “tough on crime,” and throughout the 1980s and ’90s, executions skyrocketed. More recently, however, public support for the death penalty has declined. An October 2005 Gallup Poll found support for the death penalty was 64 percent, down from a high of 80 percent in 1994—and 2006 also saw the lowest number of executions in 30 years. What follows are six reasons why you should oppose the death penalty. Number 1: The death penalty is racist. The death penalty is applied in a racially biased manner. This bias extends not only to the race of the defendants singled out for death sentences but also to the race of the victim. When it comes to the death penalty, the lives of minorities are valued less than that of whites. African Americans are 12 percent of the U.S. population, but 42 percent of prisoners on death row. In Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Maryland, and in the U.S. military and federal system, more than 60 percent of those on death row are Black; Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Ohio all have death rows where more than 50 percent are African American. Although Blacks constitute approximately 50 percent of murder victims each year, 80 percent of the victims in death penalty cases were white, and only 14 percent were Black. Of the over 18,000 executions that have taken place in this country’s history, only 42 involved a white person being punished for killing a Black person. According to Amnesty International, more than 20 percent of Black defendants executed since 1976 were convicted by all-white juries. In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that death penalty laws in the U.S. were unconstitutional, in part because capital punishment was rife with racial disparities. Murder by the pound Michael Goggin, a former prosecutor in Cook County, Illinois, admitted that the district attorney’s office ran a contest to see which prosecutor could be the first to convict defendants whose weight totaled 4,000 pounds. Men and women upon conviction were marched into a room and weighed. Because most of the defendants were Black, the competition was known by local officials as “Niggers by the Pound.” Number 2: The death penalty punishes the poor. “One searches our chronicles in vain for the execution of any member of the affluent strata in this society." --Justice William O. Douglas “There is something wrong in this country; the judicial nets are so adjusted as to catch the minnows, and let the whales slip through.” --Eugene V. Debs If you can afford good legal representation, you won’t end up on death row. Over 90 percent of defendants charged with capital crimes are indigent and cannot afford an experienced criminal defense attorney. They are forced to use inexperienced, underpaid and overworked lawyers. Many capital trials last less than a week—-hardly enough time to present a good defense. The results are predictable. It is clear that had O.J. Simpson been poor, he would now be on death row, innocent or guilty. Good representation is a luxury “The reality in the United States today is that representation by a capable attorney is a luxury, one few of those accused of a crime or in prison can afford. There is a temptation to give up hope that the poor person who faces the loss of life or liberty or languishes in prison will ever receive adequate representation. Legislatures will not pay for it, most courts will not order it, and most members of the bar are unwilling or financially unable to represent a poor person in a criminal case without adequate compensation.” (Source: “Neither Equal nor Just,” Stephen Bright, president, Southern Center for Human Rights)
  4. The last execution in Texas was more than five months ago, the longest gap since 2008. While the hiatus eight years ago reflected a nationwide pause as the U.S. Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of lethal injection, this time the reasons for the slowdown are less clear. Execution dates are still being set, but judges and courts have been rescheduling or stopping executions. At least two judges on the state's highest criminal court say better lawyering by defense attorneys has contributed to the recent stays. Death penalty opponents are looking for a silver lining, hoping the court is more deeply scrutinizing the constitutional use of the punishment. Six men have been executed so far this year, while 13 death sentences have been halted or delayed. Six were stopped by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which recently issued four stays in four weeks. Though executions and new death sentences have decreased in recent years, it is still rare for Texas to see a gap this long between executions. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, Texas has killed nearly five times as many people as the state with the second-most executions, Oklahoma, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The recent bout of stays is “unusual,” said Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Elsa Alcala, who is well known for writing opinions criticizing the death penalty and how it is applied in Texas. Every stay the court issues is specific to its case, she said, but the surge in stays might indicate that defense lawyers have gotten better at presenting the right legal arguments to the court. “The defense lawyers are getting better and better,” Alcala said. “They’re able to bring things forth that have never been brought forward before.” Though unable to talk about specific cases, Alcala mentioned arguments regarding changed witness testimony and junk science. In two cases this year, Charles Flores and Jeff Wood, the court stopped executions and sent cases back to the trial courts to examine claims related to faulty or junk science. Alcala also thinks a new Texas law may be playing a role in improving the filings the court receives. Senate Bill 1071, signed into law last September, requires district courts setting execution dates to notify the last lawyer who represented the inmate as well as the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs, a group of post-conviction public defenders in Texas. “Back then, [an inmate] would be set for execution and they didn’t even have an attorney,” Alcala said. “So nothing would be filed or something very poor would be filed, and those would come and go with little litigation.” Neither the OCFW nor the bill’s author, Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, could be reached for comment. Court-ordered stays of executions aren’t rare, and many times an inmate will receive multiple stays during the course of their appeals. By this time last year almost the same number of stays had been issued, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, but executions continued as well. Like Alcala, Judge Larry Meyers, who has served on the court for more than two decades, believes that perseverance by defense lawyers has impacted the recent stays. He also thinks changes in forensic science and the appeals process have affected the court. “There’s just a lot more to look at,” Meyers said. “Our court is trying to be as diligent as we can to observe all these changes. That’s why a lot of these stays of execution are being issued.” The shift isn’t limited to Texas, either. It’s a trend mirrored nationwide. The country has seen 15 executions so far this year compared to 20 by this time last year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. In 2014, there were 29 executions before mid-September. The last execution in Texas was on April 6, when Pablo Vasquez was killed by lethal injectionfor the 1998 murder and mutilation of a 12-year-old boy. His was the sixth execution of the year. By this time in 2015, there had been 10 executions. Kathryn Kase, executive director of Texas Defender Service, believes changing ideologies on the court are contributing to the recent stays. Alcala and Meyers have both publicly acknowledged that their beliefs about the death penalty have changed since they started serving the court. “I think there is a broader conversation going on at the Court of Criminal Appeals,” Kase said. “This punishment is becoming more and more unusual and when that happens it’s natural for appellate courts to start to talk about whether we’re bumping up against constitutional limits.” A previous supporter of executing those convicted of capital murder, Meyers now believes the best alternative to the death penalty is actually life without parole, claiming the punishment is just another version of the death penalty. When a person is convicted of capital murder, he believes it would be better if the choice for a jury was between life without parole and life with parole, as opposed to death or life without parole. “Right now we just have two different options for the death penalty,” he said. “I’m saying remove the execution option.” Meyers voted against the first four of six stays issued by the court this year. Alcala has been even more vocal in her opposition of Texas’ death penalty laws. She said in a recent Tribune interview that if she were a legislator, she wouldn’t have the death penalty because she’s seen “so many problems.” As a judge, she said, her efforts are focused on implementing it responsibly and determining if the death penalty as it is applied in Texas is still constitutional. “If you’re going to have the death penalty, then do it right,” she said. “If 70 percent of people on death row are minorities, at least let [an inmate] litigate that he got there because he’s a minority. Don’t deny him that hearing.” Not everyone on the court appears to have shifting views, however. Presiding Judge Sharon Keller voted against four of the stays as well, including the last three. A request for comment from Keller was not returned. In Harris County, where more death sentences have been handed down than in any other country in the nation, the recent stays don’t change much, said Assistant District Attorney Lynn Hardaway. “It’s not going to change what we do, or what we think about when we’re getting ready to set a date,” Hardaway said. “We’ll continue to set dates.” The Attorney General’s Office, which represents the state in federal appeals of death penalty cases, declined to comment. Three other executions are slated for the rest of the year. Even if none are stopped, this year will have the lowest number of executions since 1996 if no other executions are set.
  5. Voices From California's Death Row. By: CEDP There are two initiatives that have made it on the ballot for the November election– Proposition 62 is called "The Justice that Works Act" and seeks to replace the death penalty with life without possibility of parole. The other is Proposition 66 and is called the "Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act". CEDP mailed a questionnaire to everyone on death row in California to ask what their opinions of the propositions. We hope that folks will take the time to scroll through the dozens of responses presented in this blog. The CEDP feels that it is critical to hear the voices of prisoners who will be most affected by the passage of either of these pieces of legislation. A few years ago, similar legislation to end the death penalty was proposed, and we hosted a forum much like this to discuss that legislation. Many abolitionists were critical of that legislation, in part because of it's promotion of life without parole as an alternative, but also because of the money, earmarked exclusively for police and prosecutors, written into the bill. However, things are different this time around. The competing legislation to restart the death penalty puts many prisoners perilously close to execution. A de facto moratorium has been in place in California since 2006 because of a legal challenge to execution protocol. As the state moves closer to instituting a new "humane" execution method, the danger of the moratorium being lifted grows ever closer. Many cases have exhausted their appeals and there is a danger that several executions will be planned as soon as the moratorium is lifted. These are important considerations in discussing the impact of death penalty repeal in California. Prisoners are crucial to this discussion - this forum is one platform where their voices are amplified. Among the 46 people represented here there are a variety of opinion. Only one prisoner is in favor of the death penalty. All others oppose the death penalty, and many also oppose life without parole as an alternative to the death penalty. 17 are in favor of the Justice that Works Acts and 21 are against. Another 7 respondents are critical of the death penalty and prison system, are ambivalent about the legislation, and take no clear position. Here, with their permission for us to publish, are their responses to our survey questions. The survey questions were as follows: 1) Would you like to see “The Justice that Works Act” passed or not? Why or why not? 2) How do you feel about the replacement of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP), instead of the death penalty? 3) How do you feel about the requirement that all those with LWOP sentences have to work (this would include all those currently on death row)? 4) How do you feel about the mandate that all those with LWOP sentences have to pay 60% of their wages earned toward restitution if they have restitution orders in their case? 5) There is also a ballot initiative called “The Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act” that seeks to speed up executions. If both pass, the one with the most votes will go into effect. Does that change how people should vote? Does that change your opinion of “The Justice that Works Act? 6) If you have other opinions about these initiatives please tell us.
  6. Kalief Browder was imprisoned in New York City’s Rikers Island prison complex for three years, awaiting a trial that never came. He was just sixteen years old when he was picked up by the New York City Police Department as he walked home from a party. Browder was accused of stealing a backpack, but no physical evidence tied him to a robbery and he steadfastly maintained his innocence. Browder spent the majority of his time at Rikers in solitary confinement. Like many people charged with petty crimes he was offered several plea deals, but refused to plead guilty to a crime he swore he did not commit. Solitary confinement, and beatings at the hands of guards and other prisoners, took a massive psychological toll on the young man. He attempted suicide several times, once just a few months before he was released in May 2013. After his release, Browder suffered severe bouts of paranoia and depression. Just six months after he came home, he tried to kill himself again, resulting in hospitalization. Despite these challenges, he was working hard to put his life back together. He agreed to share his story with Jennifer Gonnerman at the New Yorker, which led to television appearances and help with his tuition at Bronx Community College. For a while, it looked like Browder was going to be able to put the torturous effects of his imprisonment behind him. But on June 6 this year, he fatally hung himself at his parents’ home in the Bronx. Just four days later, eighteen-year-old Kenan Davis took his own lifeat Rikers, the second suicide at the jail this year. Then on June 15, the story of Carlos Montero, who has been imprisoned at Rikers for seven years waiting for a trial, came to light. Montero was seventeen when he was sent to jail for a crime of which he says he is innocent. “I’m depressed in here. I just want to go home,’’ he told the New York Post. Even before these stories exposed the conditions at Rikers Island, the prison has been the subject of scrutiny and a target for reform. The New York Times reported in April that over four hundred people have been at Rikers for over two years without trial. In recent years, city officials have introduced a series of reforms intended to reduce overcrowding and curtail abuse, including the provision of therapeutic programs for prisoners and a ban on the use of solitary confinement on sixteen- and seventeen-year-old prisoners. This week, the city reached a deal with the US Justice Department that includes adding thousands of new surveillance cameras to the prison and developing a computer system to track use-of-force incidences. But while brutal, Rikers Island is hardly an anomaly. As Amnesty International reports, “The USA stands virtually alone in the world in incarcerating thousands of prisoners in long-term or indefinite solitary confinement.” And over the last few decades, the US prison system has ramped up the use of this barbaric practice. The Supermax Era A 2013 report from the Government Accounting Office found that the federal system holds about 7.1% of its 217,000 prisoners in some form of solitary confinement, and “from fiscal year 2008 through February 2013, the total inmate population in segregated housing units increased approximately 17% — from 10,659 to 12,460 inmates.” Because of the lack of reliable reporting from state to state, it is difficult to determine how many prisoners are being held in solitary on any given day in the United States. In 2005 the Bureau of Justice Statistics conducted a census of state and federal prisoners and found that over 80,000 people were being held in solitary confinement — over 25,000 in supermax prisons. The rise of these high-security facilities — designed specifically for solitary confinement — is one reason for the increase in segregated prisoners. Many state death row populations are housed in supermax prisons, as are inmates serving sentences of life without parole. Over forty-four states now have supermax prisons; the federal government also runs one: the infamous ADX prison, in Colorado. The growth in supermax prisons was spurred by the death of two guards at a federal penitentiary in Marion, IL, in 1983. What followed was a twenty-three-year lockdown and calls for a better system for housing prisoners classified as high security risks. The proliferation of supermax facilities in the the late ’80s and ’90s was predicated on this idea that a safer environment was needed to house “the worst of the worst” prisoners. The wellbeing of the prison staff was paramount, and concerns about human rights violations were shunted aside. The ADX prison typifies this brutal approach: inmates spend twenty-three hours a day in small concrete cells where they receive their meals, have no joint recreation time with other prisoners, and no access to educational, job training, or religious programs. “The ADX is a far more stark environment than any other prison I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to all of the federal prisons,” former ADX warden Robert Hoodwas recently told the Boston Globe. “When I call it a clean version of hell, I mean that it’s squeaky clean and quiet, because everyone there is locked down. It’s a very abnormal environment.” Darrell Cannon, who was housed in Illinois’ Tamms supermax prison for nine years, describes the conditions this way: “Everything you do, you do alone . . . It was designed to break you mentally, by not allowing you to have another human being right there with you that you can interact with.” A Tool of Torture While the use of solitary confinement has spiked, prisons have done little to determine the punishment’s long-term effects on prisoners’ mental health. Early research on animals and people had catastrophic results. One study undertaken by McGill University researchers in 1951 placed volunteers in a small room and had the subjects wear goggles, earphones, and gloves to deprive them of sensory input. The study was intended to last for six weeks, but after only seven days, the participants began to show limited cognitive ability, and many of them experienced visual and sonic hallucinations. Universities today typically won’t sign off on such studies because of the dangerous consequences — making our nation’s prisoners the guinea pigs for a barbaric experiment in physical and mental isolation. More recent studies have been similarly arresting. One looking at California’s prison system discovered that almost half of all suicides were prisoners in solitary confinement. Another examining the federal prison system “found that 63 percent of suicides occurred among inmates locked in ‘special housing status,’ such as solitary or in psychiatric seclusion cells.” In testimony against Attica State Prison, Stuart Gassian, a psychiatrist and former faculty member at Harvard Medical School, explained the practice’s adverse effects on prisoners after evaluating “the psychiatric effects of solitary confinement in well over two hundred prisoners in various state and federal penitentiaries.” “I have observed that, for many of the inmates so housed, incarceration in solitary caused either severe exacerbation or recurrence of preexisting illness, or the appearance of an acute mental illness in individuals who had previously been free of any such illness.” Most of the available data regarding the mental and physical health repercussions of solitary confinement corroborate Gassian’s conclusions. In some cases, the effect of this isolation on people’s mental health is irreversible, persisting even after they’ve been released. Often those prisoners are juveniles, many whom are already at risk of developing mental health issues stemming from things like poverty and abuse. Take the case of former death row prisoner Paula Cooper. Convicted of murder at the age of sixteen, Cooper was sentenced to death in Indiana despite revelations of sexual abuse at the hands of a family member. The youngest person given a death sentence in the state’s history, Cooper spent twenty-seven years on death row, at least three of them in solitary confinement. During her time in prison she was raped by guards. Despite this brutality, she eventually graduated from high school and began working on a college degree behind the walls. Like Browder, she was released in 2013, and was struggling to find her place in the world after her long years in prison. Last month — one week before the suicide of Kalief Browder — she tragically took her own life. Partnering with the Marshall Project, NPR recently compilednumbers on how many prisoners came straight out of prison from solitary confinement. Of the twenty-four states with available data, over ten thousand prisoners were released directly from solitary in 2014 alone. These prisoners receive little to no help navigating reentry into society. “Inmates released from solitary often need the most help — and get the least,” noted the report. “In solitary, they’re cut off from things that help with re-entry. There are no education classes, no job training; and when they are released, they often get less supervision than other prisoners.” Fighting Back Browder’s death, as well as the case of Albert Woodfox — held in solitary for decades in Louisiana’s Angola prison — have thrust the barbaric nature of solitary confinement into the national spotlight this summer. But the fight against this practice is not new. Over the last decade, prisoners, family members, and activists have built a series of important campaigns against the supermax and solitary confinement. Beginning in 2008, activists in Illinois rallied, lobbied, held public forums and art installations, and published the voices of prisoners held in Tamms super max prison. In 2013, their efforts paid off when then–Gov. Pat Quinn signed off on closing the facility. In 2011, prisoners at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison — the first supermax prison specifically designed to house inmates in solitary confinement — went on a hunger strike to protest conditions there, demanding an end to solitary confinement and the elimination of group punishment. At its height, the strike spread to thirteen other state prisons and involved almost seven thousand prisoners. Two years later, Pelican Bay prisoners initiated another hunger strike, which lasted sixty days and grew to include over thirty thousand prisoners across California. The 2013 action led to calls for reform in the California legislature and prompted the Department of Corrections to review its policies on solitary confinement. Last year, Alexis Agathocleous and Rachel Meeropol of the Center for Constitutional Rights detailed some of the gains wrested from the prison system: Nearly 400 prisoners have qualified for release into general population and 152 have already been moved, giving lie to California’s frequent refrain that those men subjected to the cruelty of solitary were the worst of the worst, who could not be released without endangering the prison population. These accomplishments would not have happened without the prisoners’ solidarity and organizing. Organizing around the core demands of the Pelican Bay strikers has spread outside the prison walls as well: family members and activists have put on solidarity actions all over California and in other states. While these are substantial victories in state campaigns, the larger struggle against solitary confinement has a ways to go. Solitary confinement and other harsh punishments are the hallmarks of a prison system that has abandoned all pretense of rehabilitation. From arrest to imprisonment to release, the modern criminal justice system provides a powerful tool of repression against populations deemed disposable to ruling elites. The dehumanizing language of criminality and racism makes it especially difficult to organize against the prison system. It’s also what makes the voices of prisoners and families such a vital part of these campaigns. Their stories drag abuses into the light of day, and people are forced to recognize prisoners as human beings, rather than simply a number in cell. Part of our struggle is to advance the idea that prisoners’ lives matter. Also key is solidarity among prison justice activists engaged in campaigns against the many tentacles of the American carceral system. The growth of the Black Lives Matters movement is an important development in the fight for abolition of the prison system as we know it. Many of the most important prison uprisings over the last century were led by political prisoners trained in struggles against racism and oppression on the outside. The same system that allows police to murder unarmed people of color in the streets is the system that incarcerates, tortures, and murders people behind the walls. It is only through these struggles that the cruel practice of solitary confinement will be brought to an end. Because in fighting for a world without prisons, first we must ensure there are no more Kalief Browders.
  7. For the first time in almost half a century, support for the death penalty has dipped below 50 percent in the United States. Just 49 percent of Americans say they support capital punishment, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted from late August to early September. That represents a seven-point decline in about a year and a half. Support peaked at 80 percent in 1994. The death penalty has had majority support among Americans for 45 years. The last time support was as low as it now stands was in 1971. Pew has surveyed Americans on the subject for the past two decades and relies on the polling organization Gallup for older data. Despite the large overall decline since the 1990s, attitudes toward executions differ drastically by political affiliation. “Much of the decline in support over the past two decades has come among Democrats,” wrote Baxter Oliphant, a research associate at Pew. Just 34 percent of Democrats support the death penalty today — less than half as many as in 1996, research shows. Support among Republicans declined over that period, too, but remains high: 72 percent back capital punishment today, down from 87 percent two decades ago. Independents, for the first time in decades, are about evenly split on the practice. Americans are divided on the subject by gender, generation and race. Men are more likely than women to support the death penalty; whites are much more likely than Hispanics or African-Americans to support it, the survey found. Fewer Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 support the death penalty than any other age group today. The flagging support for the death penalty aligns with a decline in the number of executions nationwide, which peaked in 1999 when 98 people were put to death, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. There have been 15 executions so far this year, and a few more are scheduled. Nine states have suspended capital punishment in the past five years, and 30 still allow it, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Californians will weigh repealing capital punishment when they go to the polls in November.
  8. After at 1996 mass shooting left 35 people dead in Australia, the country said "enough." Leaders swiftly enacted gun-control legislation and set up a program for citizens to sell their weapons back to the government so they could be destroyed. The initiative seems to have been successful: firearm suicides dropped by 65% and homicides by 59% over the next 10 years. While Australia had seen 13 mass shootings — defined as five or more deaths — in the 18 years before the 1996 massacre, there has only been one in the 22 years since. It's possible that some of those declines were due to other trends. But either way, getting many guns off the streets and out of shops was connected to big drops in gun deaths in Australia. The American Association for the Surgery of Trauma has called for regulations that they say will make the population safer. In a statement published in the journal Trauma Surgery & Acute Care Open on August 7, the Board of Managers for the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma issued 14 recommendations "in an attempt to stem the tide of deaths from firearm violence and support safe firearm ownership." Their recommendations include removing firearms from domestic violence perpetrators (and those threatening violence while their cases are underway); regulating the sale of high volume ammunition, semi-automatic weapons, bump stocks, and trigger actuators; and requiring reporting of all firearm sales. The US has a higher rate of gun violence than any other similarly wealthy country. Why not try to change that? The US has far more mass shootings than just about any country in the world. Of countries with at least 10 million people, there are more mass shootings per capita in only Yemen, which has the second-highest per-capita rate of gun ownership (the US has the highest). Even other countries with lots of guns, like Switzerland, have far fewer firearm deaths. In Switzerland, however, most people gain access to weapons because of military service that provides training; other prospective purchasers have to go through a multiweek background check. Authorities there also prohibit some citizens whom psychologists deem a potential risk from owning weapons. The US is not inherently a more violent society. What sets the country apart is that it has a lot of guns that are still really easy to get. The data that we have indicates that some gun-control measures — like banning some types of weapons, improving background checks, and putting more restrictions on weapon access — could help. At the very least, gathering and analyzing data could help leaders determine what sort of changes might help prevent another Parkland, Las Vegas, or Sandy Hook. Or we could do nothing and wait for the same thing to happen again.
  9. Arguments about the exact meaning of "assault weapon" obfuscate an important point: When people in the US were allowed to start buying military-style firearms with high-capacity magazines, the number of people killed in gun massacres (defined as shootings in which at least six people die) shot up. The number of gun massacres and massacre deaths decreased by 37% and 43% respectively after the 1994 ban on assault weapons went into effect, one researcher found. After it expired in 2004, they shot up by 183% and 239%. There's debate over the effectiveness of this legislation in reducing overall gun crime or firearm deaths, since most gun deaths in the US are suicides and most murders involve a handgun. But most of the deadliest mass shootings in recent US history have one thing in common: They involved a military-style weapon with a high-capacity magazine. According to one study, replacing medium- and large-caliber weapons with small-caliber guns would dramatically reduce gun homicide rates. For a study published in July, researchers examined data about 511 gunshot victims from files kept by the Boston Police Department. They found that weapon caliber — which refers to the diameter of the firearm barrel and is an indication of the diameter of the bullet — played a big role in how fatal shootings were. Caliber didn't affect where on the body people got shot. But people who were shot with larger bullets were more likely to die. People shot with medium-caliber weapons (defined as .38, .380, and 9 mm) were more than twice as likely to die as those shot with small-caliber guns (defined as .22, .25, and .32 mm). People shot with large caliber weapons (.357 magnum, .40, .44 magnum, .45, 10 mm, and 7.62 × 39 mm) were more than four and a half times as likely to die as those shot with small-caliber firearms. All in all, the researchers found that replacing large- and medium-caliber guns with small ones would have reduced homicide rates by 39.5%. Reducing access to guns could reduce the number of suicides in the US. Some gun-rights advocates argue that if you limit access to guns, people will just find other ways to kill themselves or others. But data indicates that this "substitution hypothesis" is not correct. More than 60% of gun deaths in the US are suicides, and research has found that people are most likely to try to kill themselves shortly after they decide to do so. People who attempt to do that with a gun as opposed to another method are much more likely to kill themselves. Data from other countries supports restricting gun access, too. When the Israel Defense Forces stopped letting troops bring weapons home on the weekends, suicide rates dropped by 40%, one study found. Historically, suicides also dropped after the UK switched from coal-gas ovens — which used a gas that people inhaled to kill themselves — to a different type of fuel. The country saw an increase in the use of other methods to attempt suicide, but it did not offset the drop in suicides by coal gas.
  10. The so-called Lautenberg amendment to the 1968 Gun Control Act disqualifies people with a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence from buying or owning weapons. Researchers found that gun murders of female intimate partners decreased by 17% as a result of the amendment. Laws that call for longer sentences for gun crimes also seem to help a little. Gun-robbery rates have gone down in states that have approved longer sentences for assault or robbery with a gun. In the 1970s and 1980s, there were 30 "add-on" sentencing laws calling for additional prison time for people convicted of robbery or assault with a gun. A 40-year-analysis found that gun-robbery rates dropped by about 5% in the years after the sentencing laws were enacted. States that have stricter gun-control laws and spend more money on education and mental-health care have fewer school shootings. One recent study found that states with fewer school shootings tended to have stricter background checks for weapon and ammunition purchases, and also spent more money on education and mental-health care. Though school shootings are not the most common form of gun violence, a recent spike in these types of events in the US has prompted concern. There was an average of one school shooting per year from 1966 to 2008, but an average of one per week from 2013 to 2015, the study found. The researchers said that based on available data, it was difficult to say which factor was most important in reducing shootings in schools. However, mental-health treatment is unlikely to be solely responsible, as people with mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violence than a perpetrator. Though about 20% of Americans have some form of mental illness, people with a serious mental-health problem account for only about 3% of violent crime.
  11. In states that have so-called right-to-carry laws, anyone who is allowed to own guns and meets the necessary conditions can also get a concealed-carry permit. Many people have argued that right-to-carry laws deter crime because there could be more armed people around to stop a shooter. Though that idea was supported by a controversial 1997 analysis, recent and more thorough analyses have found the opposite effect. One recent study found that such laws increased the rate of firearm homicides by 9% when homicide rates were compared state by state. That could be because confrontations were more likely to escalate to involve guns or because there were more guns around that could be stolen. Other factors could also be at play. A spike in gun purchases after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School led to an increase in accidental gun deaths, especially among kids. Research has found that when people are around more guns, they're more likely to end up dying from accidental shootings. After a 20-year-old man killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012, there were calls for legislation that would limit some people's access to firearms. That push resulted in what's now become a predictable phenomenon after shootings: people bought lots of guns. With more guns around in the months after the school shooting, the rate of accidental deaths related to firearms rose sharply, especially among children, according to a recent study published in the journal Science. The researchers' calculations showed that 40 adults and 20 children died as a result of those additional gun purchases.
  12. There are more than 38,000 gun deaths in the US every year, and approximately 85,000 non-fatal injuries. Despite some restrictions on gun research, scientists have sought to evaluate how certain policies affect gun deaths. Policies that seem to reduce rates of gun violence include stricter background checks, limiting access to dangerous weapons, and prohibiting domestic abusers from owning weapons. On Sunday, a gunman opened fire at a Madden NFL video game tournament in Jacksonville, Florida. The shooter killed at least two victims and himself, and shot at least nine others. As the country tries to figure out what — if anything — can be done in the wake of yet another mass shooting, it's worth taking a look at the evidence we have on the effects of gun regulations. There are close to as many guns in the US as there are people. There may be more, or there may be fewer, depending on which study you look at — there's no exact count, since there isn't a national database of gun purchases or firearm owners, and federal law does not require a prospective gun owner to get a license or permit. That's one of the many obstacles researchers come up against when trying to evaluate why so many people die from guns in the US. But what they do know is that the number of gun deaths in the US is incredibly high. Most of these deaths are not from mass shootings, but from firearm suicides and murders. According to the American Public Health Association, guns kill more than 38,000 people per year and cause approximately 85,000 non-fatal injuries. There's still a lot we don't know about this recent recent shooting, including whether the shooter purchased his weapon legally or if any common policy recommendations would have stopped him from obtaining a weapon. Yet we do have evidence on effective policies that could have helped prevent some incidents. Despite some congressional limitations on gun research, scientists have sought to evaluate the effects of gun-control legislation in the US and in other places around the world.
  13. Did you know that there have been at least 1,216 mass shootings in America since the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting and firearm deaths in America totaled more than 32,000 in 2013 (Lopez)? In America, there are approximately two hundred seventy million firearms possessed by civilians but only 897,000 are carried by police (Karp, Aaron 2011). It is very important to raise the issue of gun control because there have been an enormous amount of violent acts and massacres caused by guns. Thirty-thousand people should not be killed every year due to the open use of guns. The shooting at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado is very touching because going to the movies is a place where one should enjoy themselves. It’s unimaginable and absurd that innocent lives were taken based on one person’s mental illness. Gun deaths could be easily preventable with a few stricter regulations. Gun laws should be revised to make sure there is a mechanism in place requiring states to provide records relevant to selling guns and predicting gun violence. States should also adopt stronger laws to prevent children from accessing guns and should also rely on an honor system to disarm felons. In the majority of states, there is no system in which the law enforcement can retrieve firearms previously owned by felons. Felons are expected to hand over guns themselves. Only California has made an effort to use the government and take away guns themselves. According to the Washington Post, in most states, you cannot have guns if you’re a felon. Many states also prohibit gun ownership by domestic violence offenders or drug abusers. You’re supposed to get rid of your guns if you fall into any of these categories. According to the Gun Control Act of 1968, if the police later catch a felon with a gun, they can charge him or her with illegal possession. The gun control mechanism is very weak in repossessing guns that felons previously owned. Guns continue to fall into the wrong hands which creates more violent acts. We need new rules and regulations that allow guns to be taken away from felons and prevent the senseless killings of thirty thousand people per year. Several mass shootings could have been prevented if millions of records in the federal background check system were provided by state and local agencies to private gun sellers. According to The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “Private sellers are not required to conduct background checks. As a result, convicted felons and other ineligible people are able to easily buy guns in most states nationwide”. States aren’t required to give information on ineligible people that possess firearms to the federal agencies that perform background checks. As a result, the Virginia Tech shooter, who murdered 32 people, was able to obtain a firearm despite having a history of mental illness. As long as a gun seller does not receive accurate information on a felon’s history, mass shootings and gun violence could continue to become a recurring phenomenon. States need to create stronger laws to prevent children from accessing unsecured guns at home by authorizing criminal charges if a gun owner negligently stores his or her gun. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, at least 100 children were killed in unintentional shootings from December 2012 to December 2013. Seventy percent of these cases could have been prevented if the firearm had been stored, locked and unloaded. Many children were killed due to improper storage and the easy accessibility of guns. More than half of these senseless calamities could have been prevented if the states adopted laws that would result in criminal charges against the negligent and unconcerned parents. The Second Amendment guarantees every American the inalienable right to own any weapon or bear arms. A large majority of citizens believe they should have the right to own weapons to protect themselves and for recreational activities such as hunting. The Second Amendment in the U.S. Constitution states “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Citizens believe they should have the fundamental right to own and bear arms for the purposes of self-defense against violence and tyranny. But this is not the case, former Chief Justice Warren Burger of the United States declared “The real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies - the militia - would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires” (Burger). Although many people have different interpretations of the Second Amendment and gun ownership, we should still maintain a judicious use of guns. Although we have many gun control laws, tight restrictions still aren't being made. Every year about 100,000 people are victims of gun violence and many lives are drastically changed due to gun violence. If we have stronger restrictions that enforce gun laws, we would see a significant reduction in the number of deaths related to gun violence.
  14. Differential association The theory of Differential association also deals with young people in a group context, and looks at how peer pressure and the existence of gangs could lead them into crime. It suggests young people are motivated to commit crimes by delinquent peers, and learn criminal skills from them. The diminished influence of peers after men marry has also been cited as a factor in desisting from offending. There is strong evidence that young people with criminal friends are more likely to commit crimes themselves. However it may be the case that offenders prefer to associate with one another, rather than delinquent peers causing someone to start offending. Furthermore there is the question of how the delinquent peer group became delinquent initially. Labeling Labeling theory is a concept within Criminology that aims to explain deviant behavior from the social context rather than looking at the individual themselves. It is part of Interactionism criminology that states that once young people have been labeled as criminal they are more likely to offend. The idea is that once labelled as deviant a young person may accept that role, and be more likely to associate with others who have been similarly labelled. Labelling theorists say that male children from poor families are more likely to be labelled deviant, and that this may partially explain why there are more working class young male offenders. Social control Social control theory proposes that exploiting the process of socialization and social learning builds self-control and can reduce the inclination to indulge in behavior recognized as antisocial. The four types of control can help prevent juvenile delinquency are: Direct: by which punishment is threatened or applied for wrongful behavior, and compliance is rewarded by parents, family, and authority figures. Internal: by which a youth refrains from delinquency through the conscience or superego. Indirect: by identification with those who influence behavior, say because his or her delinquent act might cause pain and disappointment to parents and others with whom he or she has close relationships. Control through needs satisfaction, i.e. if all an individual's needs are met, there is no point in criminal activity.
  15. There are a multitude of different theories on the causes of crime; most, if not all, of are applicable to the causes of juvenile delinquency. Rational choice Classical criminology stresses that the causes of crime lie within the individual offender, rather than in their external environment. For classicists, offenders are motivated by rational self-interest, and the importance of free will and personal responsibility is emphasized. Rational choice theory is the clearest example of this idea. Delinquency is one of the major factors motivated by rational choice. Social disorganization Current positivist approaches generally focus on the culture. A type of criminological theory attributing variation in crime and delinquency over time and among territories to the absence or breakdown of communal institutions (e.g. family, school, church and social groups.) and communal relationships that traditionally encouraged cooperative relationships among people. Strain Strain theory is associated mainly with the work of Robert Merton. He felt that there are institutionalized paths to success in society. Strain theory holds that crime is caused by the difficulty those in poverty have in achieving socially valued goals by legitimate means. As those with, for instance, poor educational attainment have difficulty achieving wealth and status by securing well paid employment, they are more likely to use criminal means to obtain these goals. Merton's suggests five adaptations to this dilemma: Innovation: individuals who accept socially approved goals, but not necessarily the socially approved means. Retreatism: those who reject socially approved goals and the means for acquiring them. Ritualism: those who buy into a system of socially approved means, but lose sight of the goals. Merton believed that drug users are in this category. Conformity: those who conform to the system's means and goals. Rebellion: people who negate socially approved goals and means by creating a new system of acceptable goals and means. A difficulty with strain theory is that it does not explore why children of low-income families would have poor educational attainment in the first place. More importantly is the fact that much youth crime does not have an economic motivation. Strain theory fails to explain violent crime, the type of youth crime that causes most anxiety to the public.
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