In the News: March 2021

The Trauma-to-Prison Pipeline

Serena Liguori, executive director of New Hour for Women and Children, points out that in New York state, nine out of 10 incarcerated women have experienced sexual or physical abuse before their incarceration. This pattern can be found throughout the country. In Illinois, a 2010 report found that 98 percent of incarcerated women were victims of physical abuse before entering prison; 75 percent of all female inmates had been sexually abused. The Vera Institute of Justice estimates that, nationwide, 86 percent of women had a history of trauma, physical abuse, or sexual abuse before their arrest.

Source: “In Lisa Montgomery, Formerly Incarcerated Women See Echoes of Their Own Stories,” The Lily

Restorative Justice for Veterans Proposed

The Veterans Restorative Justice Act (HF478) was introduced as a bill by Rep. Sandra Feist of New Brighton. If passed into Minnesota law, it would offer veterans statewide access to a specialized sentencing structure for those with lower criminal offenses resulting from a service-related condition. Restorative justice healing from trauma — and treatment for resulting substance abuse and mental health difficulties — would be used instead of jail or prison.

To find webcasts of House legislation, visit house.leg.state.mn.us/htv/schedule.asp

Political Protests and Policing

Police treat protesters differently according to their perceived political identification. A research team tracked police violence in the U.S. from May 1 to November 28, 2020, and authorities were “more than twice as likely to attempt to break up and disperse a left-wing protest than a right-wing one.” When they did intervene, they used force 51 percent of the time for the left and 34 percent of the time for the right.

Source: “The Police’s Tepid Response to the Capital Breach Wasn’t An Aberration,” fivethirtyeight

Bias in Sentencing

“Many people think that when you have a life without the possibility of parole like I did, that I had committed a heinous crime,” says Alice Johnson. “But it meant that there is no parole in the federal system — [that there is a belief that] people are not redeemable, that you should never take a second look at this person who has rehabilitated and poses no safety risks.”

The first time Johnson was ever convicted of a crime, she was sentenced to life in prison plus 25 years for a nonviolent drug offense in the 1990s. She was serving the same amount of time as the Unabomber.

Source: “Women Pardoned by Trump Ask for More Out of Prison Reform,” The Lily

Book Discussion Guide: “The New Jim Crow”

Click here for sections of this pivotal 2010 book by Michelle Alexander and find prompts for thought-provoking conversation with self and others.

Exploring Reparations

“We need to reimagine reparations as a plan to spark the economic development that has systematically been denied Black communities through a cycle of dishonor, death, and dispossession,” wrote a Spokesman-Recorder essayist.

Lawmakers in Minnesota and other states have begun to talk about financially addressing the exploitation of people of color throughout the past 400 years in the U.S. Marginalized communities have also been denied fair wages leading to unequal access to a college degree, home loans, and credit.

Source: “Reparations: A Philosophical Exploration,” Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Minneapolis City Council Bar’s Facial Recognition Technology

(see our related story about Misuse of Data)

The Minneapolis City Council in February approved a new ordinance that prohibits the City from buying facial recognition technology or using data derived from it, with very narrow exceptions. Minneapolis joins Boston, San Francisco, and more than a dozen other cities across the country that have either banned or limited the use of the technology.

“We have heard strong concerns from community about technology that invades their privacy without their consent, and we need to regulate it,” said Council Member Steve Fletcher, who authored the ordinance.

Facial recognition technology uses computer algorithms or other automated processes to analyze images of human faces. Studies have shown facial recognition technology to be significantly less accurate in identifying people of color, women, and other groups, raising concerns that incorrect identifications by law enforcement would further harm already disadvantaged communities.

“Facial recognition technology works pretty well if you look like me — a middle-aged white man — but for everyone else, it can fail at rates that we would not accept anywhere else,” Fletcher added. “It is unacceptable for us to subject people in our city, particularly women of color, to such a high level of risk.”

Along with banning the purchase of the technology, the new ordinance creates a transparent process for City departments to request additional permitted uses of facial recognition programs and data through an exception process.

This new ordinance builds upon the City’s adopted data privacy principles to consider and value the privacy of individuals any time data is collected on individuals, including only collecting this information when there is a reason to do so and being transparent about what’s being collected and why. It creates a regular reporting structure for the City to track and report violations of this ordinance and remedies to those violations.

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1 reply
  1. marilyn j morrissette
    marilyn j morrissette says:

    Excellent info with links to additional good info. A learning experience…in a current teachable moment! Lets hope it brings real change.

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