With all the talk about gun control lately, Republican-goverened states, urged by the NRA, have been pushing all sorts of crazy laws about refusing to enforce federal changes, making gun ownership easier, etc.
Apparently none of them have ever heard of “the law of unintended consequences.” Sure, passing laws to “protect FREEDOM!” SOUNDS like a great idea, but you have to consider how it might be applied. So today in Louisiana (the state that passed a law basically turning its education responsibilities over to religious schools for “freedom” and then freaked when a couple of Islamic schools applied for the program and said “We didn’t mean THEM!”) we see that their broadly worded constitutional amendment declaring gun ownership a “fundamental right” (a pet NRA project they’re pushing in other states) was used by attorneys to challenge the convictions of several felons found in possession of guns and a judge has decided that, under his interpretation of the law, the state CANNOT ban murderers, rapists, etc from owning a gun.
The NRA and the Republican legislators who pushed the bill have “no comment,” and Governor Jindal (who exhorted voters to pass the amendment, which he described as “an ironclad guarantee of freedom here in Louisiana”) says “that’s not what we meant!” but prosecutors all over the state (who opposed this) are saying “We told you so.”
Right now it looks like the best case scenario is that there’ll be a flurry of legal fights & challenges, costing the already struggling state ridiculous amounts of money, and the result will be a confusing mess of rulings that says “this person who committed a crime can have a gun, but this person can’t,” leaving police & prosecutors unsure of how to proceed, making trials more complicated, and possibly (if attorneys can get this applied retroactively) letting a number of people out of jail… all of which will make the citizens of Louisiana less safe in the name of protecting the “freedom” to own guns even if they’re violent felons.
…this is absolutely insane. Why not just rename the GOP the NRA or the Gun Lobby Party?
A Look at the Racial Disparities Inherent in Our Nation’s Criminal-Justice System
This month the United States celebrates the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965 to commemorate our shared history of the civil rights movement and our nation’s continued progress towards racial equality. Yet decades later a broken criminal-justice system has proven that we still have a long way to go in achieving racial equality.
Today people of color continue to be disproportionately incarcerated, policed, and sentenced to death at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts. Further, racial disparities in the criminal-justice system threaten communities of color—disenfranchising thousands by limiting voting rights and denying equal access to employment, housing, public benefits, and education to millions more. In light of these disparities, it is imperative that criminal-justice reform evolves as the civil rights issue of the 21st century.
Below we outline the top 10 facts pertaining to the criminal-justice system’s impact on communities of color.
1. While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned. The prison population grew by 700 percent from 1970 to 2005, a rate that is outpacing crime and population rates. The incarceration rates disproportionately impact men of color: 1 in every 15 African American men and 1 in every 36 Hispanic men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men.
2. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. Individuals of color have a disproportionate number of encounters with law enforcement, indicating that racial profiling continues to be a problem. A report by the Department of Justice found that blacks and Hispanics were approximately three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white motorists. African Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.
3. Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated. Black and Hispanic students represent more than 70 percent of those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement. Currently, African Americans make up two-fifths and Hispanics one-fifth of confined youth today.
4. According to recent data by the Department of Education, African American students are arrested far more often than their white classmates. The data showed that 96,000 students were arrested and 242,000 referred to law enforcement by schools during the 2009-10 school year. Of those students, black and Hispanic students made up more than 70 percent of arrested or referred students. Harsh school punishments, from suspensions to arrests, have led to high numbers of youth of color coming into contact with the juvenile-justice system and at an earlier age.
5. African American youth have higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison. According to the Sentencing Project, even though African American juvenile youth are about 16 percent of the youth population, 37 percent of their cases are moved to criminal court and 58 percent of African American youth are sent to adult prisons.
7. The war on drugs has been waged primarily in communities of color where people of color are more likely to receive higher offenses. According to the Human Rights Watch, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, but they have higher rate of arrests. African Americans comprise 14 percent of regular drug users but are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses. From 1980 to 2007 about one in three of the 25.4 million adults arrested for drugs was African American.
8. Once convicted, black offenders receive longer sentences compared to white offenders. The U.S. Sentencing Commission stated that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes. The Sentencing Project reports that African Americans are 21 percent more likely to receive mandatory-minimum sentences than white defendants and are 20 percent more like to be sentenced to prison.
9. Voter laws that prohibit people with felony convictions to vote disproportionately impact men of color. An estimated 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote based on a past felony conviction. Felony disenfranchisement is exaggerated by racial disparities in the criminal-justice system, ultimately denying 13 percent of African American men the right to vote. Felony-disenfranchisement policies have led to 11 states denying the right to vote to more than 10 percent of their African American population.
10. Studies have shown that people of color face disparities in wage trajectory following release from prison. Evidence shows that spending time in prison affects wage trajectories with a disproportionate impact on black men and women. The results show no evidence of racial divergence in wages prior to incarceration; however, following release from prison, wages grow at a 21 percent slower rate for black former inmates compared to white ex-convicts. A number of states have bans on people with certain convictions working in domestic health-service industries such as nursing, child care, and home health care—areas in which many poor women and women of color are disproportionately concentrated.
Theses racial disparities have deprived people of color of their most basic civil rights, making criminal-justice reform the civil rights issue of our time. Through mass imprisonment and the overrepresentation of individuals of color within the criminal justice and prison system, people of color have experienced an adverse impact on themselves and on their communities from barriers to reintegrating into society to engaging in the democratic process. Eliminating the racial disparities inherent to our nation’s criminal-justice policies and practices must be at the heart of a renewed, refocused, and reenergized movement for racial justice in America.
There have been a number of initiatives on the state and federal level to address the racial disparities in youth incarceration. Last summer Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the Schools Discipline Initiative to bring increased awareness of effective policies and practices to ultimately dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. States like California and Massachusetts are considering legislation to address the disproportionate suspensions among students of color. And in Clayton County, Georgia, collaborative local reforms have resulted in a 47 percent reduction in juvenile-court referrals and a 51 percent decrease in juvenile felony rates. These initiatives could serve as models of success for lessening the disparities in incarceration rates.
Sophia Kerby is the Special Assistant for Progress 2050 at American Progress.
early shoutout to the eventual dildo who always comes along to imply this is somehow because black and brown people are just more violent or guiltier — stay basic
This is a receipt for the payment of a Louisiana poll tax in 1917. The fee was $1 (which is equivalent to $18.14 in today’s money). This tax was meant to keep recently-enrachised people of color, as well as poorer working-class folks, from voting.
Poll taxes, or any voting fees for that matter, were outlawed by the 24th amendment. But the new Voter ID laws being passed by republicans are designed to do the same thing as a poll tax. They require all voters to have photo ID on them when they go to the polls. But how much does photo ID cost? Well, It depends on the state…
Alabama – $23
Florida – $3
Georgia -$20 for 5 years, $35 for $10 years
Indiana – $13 under 65, $10 for over 65, last for 6 years
Kansas – $18 under 65, $14 over 65
Louisiana – Average $21, free for over 60
Michigan – $10, free for seniors.
Mississippi – $13
Pennsylvania – $10
South Carolina – $5
South Dakota – $8
Tennessee – $12.50. For those 65 and up, they never expire
Texas – $15. 60 and up, $5 and never has to be renewed
*NOTE: The states in boldare where photo IDs are more expensive than the original (unconstitutional) poll taxes.
And yes, I know part of the Voter ID laws are that the states are required to give out free photo ID but…
And forcing eligible-voters to go wait in the DMV for several hours is just going to further discourage people from voting, free ID or otherwise. Which is bad for America, considering we have awful voter turnout as it is.
As Naomi Klein detailed in The Shock Doctrine, post-Katrina New Orleans has been Ground Zero for efforts to privatize schools and weaken teacher unions—hallmarks of education reform. After the hurricane, the vast majority of New Orleans public schools were taken over by the states’ Recovery School District—the district that was subsequently headed by John White. Nearly all of the city’s 7,500 public school employees were fired, although a few were later rehired. The post-Katrina shock also saw the advent of a limited voucher program and a massive expansion of charter schools, many of them for-profit. Education Secretary Arne Duncan actually said that Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” and Michael Bloomberg repeated this position almost verbatim in a profile in Fast Company in 2011. And yet, the Recovery School District received a “D” on the state’s evaluation system in 2011, making it the second-lowest-performing district in the state.
Yesterday, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited Louisiana, where much of the state was flooded due to Hurricane Issac. While visiting the Pelican State, however, Romney had some odd advice for one victim of the hurricane who had lost her home due to the flooding. According to Jodie Chiarello, a suddenly homeless resident of the state, Romney advised her to “go home and call 211.” 211 is a telephone number in Louisiana that provides information to residents about health and human services programs.