• August 14, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    In The New York Times, Nick Pinto examines the “bail trap” that exists in our nation’s prison system, an outdated mechanism that excessively burdens low-income individuals.

    Michael E. Miller at The Washington Post writes about the increased rate of violent crimes against transgender Americans despite gains in visibility.

    In The Hartford Courant, Edmund H. Mahony and Matthew Kauffman report that the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional.

    Kathy Pezdek at The Marshall Project argues that police officers should not be able to view video footage of their arrests prior to being questioned about an event. 

  • August 13, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Stacey Dembo, Law Offices of Stacey J. Dembo

    Tomorrow, we celebrate the 80th anniversary of Social Security. The Social Security Act (SSA) was signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on August 14, 1935. In his public statement that day, FDR expressed concern for “young people [who] have come to wonder what would be their lot when they came to old age” and those who were working but did not have job security. He acknowledged that “we can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life,” but stated that he hoped the Act would prevent older Americans from becoming impoverished.

    Few Americans working today can remember a time when Social Security wasn’t part of the social fabric of America. The Social Security program has expanded in important ways since it was initially enacted by FDR in 1935. For example, in 1939, benefits for dependent survivors of wage earners were added. And in 1956, disability insurance benefits were added. Today, as in the past, millions of Americans rely on these programs for income in the event of their own retirement, disability or death of a family wage earner.

    Because Social Security is a vital part of our social fabric, we cannot afford to take its future for granted. As we celebrate the 80th anniversary of Social Security, it is time to ensure that the Social Security programs remain strong for the next generation. Now more than ever, as an increasing number of workers approach retirement, we cannot afford to jeopardize the stability that Social Security provides to millions of families. Further, the risk of becoming disabled or dying before reaching retirement age is greater than many realize. About one-third of workers will become disabled or die before reaching the full retirement age. Social Security offers vital protection to nearly all American workers and their families so that if they face serious disability, illness or injury before reaching retirement age, they will receive a monthly benefit. And, in the event of death, it provides some financial protection to the surviving family members.

  • August 13, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    In The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen opines that reduced mandatory sentencing laws and reformed attitudes toward heroin possession are more attributable to the increased number of white drug users than the evolved attitudes of policy makers.

    Peter Hardin at Gavel Grab discusses the role of state courts in protecting voting rights and spotlights Joshua Douglas’s ACS Issue Brief.

    In The New York Times, Timothy Williams discusses the ramifications of facial recognition software now employed by some law enforcement agencies, quoting the Brennan Center’s Michael German who fears that the lack of oversight and purpose for this technology could negatively impact many innocent people.

    At Slate, Mark Joseph Stern reports that civil rights advocates have filed a complaint in federal court against a Mississippi law that prohibits same-sex couples from adopting children.  

  • August 12, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Tom Nolan, Associate Professor of Criminology, Merrimack College; 27-year veteran of Boston Police Department

    When I was a rookie police officer in the late 1970s, it was the subcultural norm to misrepresent the truth in official recordings and reporting of factual incidents involving the police and those whom they encountered in the performance of their duties.  It was commonly accepted, even expected, that in preparing official police reports for presentation to superiors that the "truth" would be rendered in such a fashion as to extricate line officers from any hint of wrongdoing and portraying the incident in a manner most flattering to the police position. In fact, later in my police career, as a lieutenant, it was part of my responsibility (unwritten of course) to assist subordinate officers and colleagues in preparing such fictitious renditions of events. Although unaware at the time, we were establishing and perpetuating the police narrative.             

    As a young police officer testifying on the witness stand, I could have told the court that I pursued and apprehended the suspect/defendant on the planet Mars and have been believed. Although never having received formal instruction in the art of deception, and although the word “lie” would never be fully articulated or encouraged by any of the actors in the criminal justice system, prosecutors, judges, colleagues and other court officials were all keenly aware that sworn testimony often involved versions of the truth that bore little resemblance to actual events as they occurred on the street.  

    For the police had full “command and control” of the law enforcement narrative and this narrative has, certainly beginning with events in Ferguson, Mo., last August, shifted from the firm grasp that law enforcement has held on it for generations, to one that is openly interrogated, challenged and seen with widespread skepticism on the part of those concerned with social justice and police violence, oppression and the pervasive disregard of the provisions of the Constitution.

  • August 12, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    In The New York Times, Teresa Tritch examines the negative effects of irregular and on-call work schedules and urges Congress to enact legislation that would curb this practice.

    David Siders at The Sacramento Bee reports that Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation prohibiting the use of grand juries in California court cases that involve police officers who used lethal force.

    Brentin Mock at The National Journal writes about current attacks on voting rights and cites a Harvard research study that revealed notable racial biases of election administrators in North Carolina.

    At SCOTUSblog, Lyle Denniston details the final legal hurdles for same-sex marriage.