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  1. #61
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    ICE Plans to Start Destroying Records of Immigrant Abuse, Including Sexual Assault and Deaths in Custody


    Immigration and Customs Enforcement recently asked the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA), which instructs federal agencies on how to maintain records, to approve its timetable for retaining or destroying records related to its detention operations. This may seem like a run-of-the-mill government request for record-keeping efficiency. It isn’t. An entire paper trail for a system rife with human rights and constitutional abuses is at stake.

    ICE has asked for permission to begin routinely destroying 11 kinds of records, including those related to sexual assaults, solitary confinement and even deaths of people in its custody. Other records subject to destruction include alternatives to detention programs; regular detention monitoring reports, logs about the people detained in ICE facilities and communications from the public reporting detention abuses. ICE proposed various timelines for the destruction of these records ranging from 20 years for sexual assault and death records to three years for reports about solitary confinement.

    For years, advocates and communities across the country have denounced human rights abuses in the detention system. Many of the records that ICE proposes for destruction offer proof of the mistreatment endured by people in detention. Given the Trump administration’s plans to increase the size and scope of the system substantially, it is all the more disturbing that the agency wants to reduce transparency and accountability.

    NARA has provisionally approved ICE’s proposal and its explanations for doing so are troubling. In cases of sexual assault and death, for example, NARA states that these records “do not document significant actions of Federal officials.” It’s hard to believe that the actions of a federal official are not significant in the death or sexual assault of an individual who is in federal immigration custody. NARA also posited that in cases of sexual assault, that the “information is highly sensitive and does not warrant retention.”


    MAKE THE CALLKeeping these documents available is necessary for the public to understand and fully evaluate the operation of a system that is notorious for inhumane and unconstitutional conditions affecting hundreds of thousands of people every year. Even 20 years is far too short for keeping the record of a death or sexual assault of an individual in government custody.

    Recent reports by advocacy groups document sexual assaults in detention without adequate investigation or remedy, sub-standard medical care, the overuse of solitary confinement as well as threats and physical assault by custody staff. Since October 2016, there have been 10 deaths in immigration detention. Many of the records used in these reports and analyses would not have been made available without sustained public pressure to force ICE to maintain and divulge this information.

    The impacts of detention are devastating on immigrants, their families and communities. For an individual who has been sexually assaulted in detention or for a family member whose loved one died in detention, having a full and thorough record of ICE’s actions, its policies and investigation can be an important step toward vindicating their rights.

    If the Trump administration has its way, the number of immigrants in detention will increase, detention conditions will deteriorate further and more people will be subjected to life-threatening circumstances and denied their most basic rights. ICE shouldn’t be allowed to purge important records and keep its operations out of the public eye.


  2. #62
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    Police officer tells woman ‘we only kill black people’ during traffic stop

    A police officer is under investigation after he told a woman ‘we only kill black people’ during a traffic stop.

    Dashcam footage shows Cobb County Lt. Greg Abbott trying to put the woman at ease as he speaks to her through the window of her car in Georgia.

    He tells her to use her phone which is on her lap, but she explains she’s cautious after seeing ‘videos of cops’.

    The cop replies: ‘But you’re not black. Remember, we only kill black people. We only kill black people, right?’

    The woman is heard nervously laughing.

    Police chief Mike Register told WSB-TV that it should not have been said ‘no matter what context it was said in’.

    An investigation was launched on Friday.

    Suri Chadha Jimenez, who is representing the woman, said he believes the officer was being sarcastic. He added it’s ‘unacceptable’ and ‘makes you cringe when you hear it’.

    Attorney Lance LoRusso said Abbott was trying to ‘escalate’ a situation.

    He said: ‘Lt. Greg Abbott is a highly respected 28-year veteran of the Cobb County Police Department.

    ‘He is cooperating with the department’s internal investigation and will continue to do so. His comments must be observed in their totality to understand their context.

    ‘He was attempting to de-escalate a situation involving an uncooperative passenger. In context, his comments were clearly aimed at attempting to gain compliance by using the passenger’s own statements and reasoning to avoid making an arrest.’


  3. #63
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    Slavery in the US prison system

    If you want to find an example of modern day slavery, look no further than US prisons.

    Today marks one year since the largest prison labour strike in US history. More than 24,000 prisoners across 29 prisons in 12 states protested against inhumane conditions, timing it around the anniversary of the Attica Prison uprising, a prisoner strike now 46 years old.

    That violent uprising originated from prisoners rebelling against overcrowded cells, unsanitary conditions, medical neglect and abuse. From Attica to the strike led by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee last year, these protests draw attention to an ugly truth: Prisoner abuse runs rampant and it has extended into modern-day versions of slavery. Last year's strike organisers described slavery-like conditions in prisons in the nationwide call to action.

    Slavery persists by another name today. Young men and women of colour toil away in 21st-century fields, sow in hand. And Corporate America is cracking the whip.

    Influenced by enormous corporate lobbying, the United States Congress enacted the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program in 1979 which permitted US companies to use prison labour. Coupled with the drastic increase in the prison population during this period, profits for participating companies and revenue for the government and its private contractors soared. The Federal Bureau of Prisons now runs a programme called Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) that pays inmates under one dollar an hour. The programme generated $500m in sales in 2016 with little of that cash being passed down to prison workers. Stateside, where much of the US addiction to mass incarceration lies, is no different. California's prison labour programme is expected to produce some $232m in sales in 2017.

    These exploited labourers are disproportionately African American and Latino - a demographic status quo resulting from the draconian sentencing and other criminal justice policies ransacking minority communities across the United States. African Americans are incarcerated at a rate five times higher than that of whites. In states like Virginia and Oklahoma, one in every 14 or 15 African American men are put in prison.

    We lock people of colour up at alarming rates. We put them to work. Corporations gain. This story is an age-old American tradition. Throughout history, our nation has successfully pulled back corporate greed, but private corporations have always found new ways to reap enormous wealth from cheap labour.

    The historical circumstances following the abolition of slavery provide the necessary context to understand how corporations function in a de facto replacement for slavery. Although the US Constitution's Thirteenth Amendment prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude, it made an exception - a loophole for "punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted", which made prison labour possible.

    Following the Civil War, the Southern economy was in shambles and the slaves were emancipated. A cheap labour source was needed, and the convict lease system was invented. States leased out their convicts to industrialists and planters to work in locations such as railroads, coal mines and plantations, and entrepreneurs bought and sold these leases.

    With little capital investment required and no need to care for the health of the prisoners, the system of economic exploitation became highly profitable for businesses and states and even cheaper than slavery. For example, in 1883 convict leasing provided Alabama with 10 percent of its revenue, 73 percent in 1898. Leased convicts were treated abysmally, with death rates 10 times higher than prisoners in states that did not employ leased convict labour. Secret graveyards contained the bodies of prisoners who had been tortured and beaten to death.

    The viability of the convict lease system required that black people be returned to their former status as a source of labour. Hence, the Black Codes were enacted to suppress the rights of the recently emancipated African Americans, and criminalise them for minor offences such as vagrancy. Under the vagrancy laws, any black person under the protection of a white person could be swept up by the system for simply loitering, as black people were rounded up in this manner to provide a source of nearly free labour.

    Today, prison labour is a billion-dollar industry, and the corporate beneficiaries of this new slavery include some of the largest corporations and most widely known brands. For example, Walmart has purchased produce from farms, where women prisoners face bad working conditions, inadequate medical care and very low pay.

    Workers flipping burgers and frying french fries for minimum wage at McDonald's wear uniforms that were manufactured by prison labourers.

    Further, UNICOR manages 83 factories and more than 12,000 prison labourers who earn as little as 23 cents an hour working at call centres, manufacturing items such as military body armour, and in past years, defective combat helmets. In 2013, federal inmates made $100m worth of military uniforms.

    UNICOR has also provided prison labour in the past to produce Patriot missile parts for defence contractors Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, and parts for others such as Boeing and General Dynamics.

    Corporations such as Starbucks, AT&T, Target, and Nordstrom have also profited from prison labour at some point in the past as well.

    Some critics oppose the characterisation of the US prison system as a slave labour camp. For example, James Kilgore argues that prison labour is infrequently used, and identifying multinational corporations that profit from it loses sight of the key issues behind mass incarceration.

    Kilgore is correct in his analysis that a lack of economic opportunity coupled with draconian laws results in a perverse private incentive to drive up mass incarceration. We should enhance employment options for former inmates to reduce recidivism and integrate returning citizens back into society. However, this does not mean that corporations do not profit from prisons and prison labour today and it is obscene that this still happens.

    The Trump administration reversing the Obama-era order to phase out private prisons and enacting new law-and-order policies to increase arrests and fill these prisons will only increase opportunities for profit for Trump's corporate donors and their many investments in mass incarceration. Exploiting prison labour is consistent with this troubling trend.

    Over a century and a half since the abolition of slavery, the dreaded institution still lives on in another, dressed up form. Taking advantage of a constitutional loophole, corporate profiteers continue the modern-day version of the convict lease system. In the land of the free, the dollar still takes precedence over human rights, and that which can be monetised and exploited for profit will be, regardless of ethical or moral considerations.

    Once again, race, criminal justice and capitalism have joined forces to deprive captive black and brown bodies of their human rights. In the age of President Donald Trump and hardliner Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the return to "law and order" and a war on drugs signals a reversal of progress the US was making untethering itself from the expansive grip of a carceral state.

    The anniversary of last year's prison strike is a chilling reminder that one need not point to authoritarian regimes in distant countries to find examples of blatant labour rights violations. If you want to find slavery in the US, look no further than its penitentiaries, jails and detention centres where the consequences of being locked-up extend much farther than doing time.


  4. #64
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    Supreme Court Rules that Cops DO NOT Need a Warrant to Search Your Home

    By Matt Agorist | February 26, 2014

    In another devastating blow to freedom, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police don’t need a warrant to search your property. As long as two occupants disagree about allowing officers to enter, and the resident who refuses access is then arrested, police may enter the residence.

    “Instead of adhering to the warrant requirement,” Ginsburg wrote, “today’s decision tells the police they may dodge it, nevermind ample time to secure the approval of a neutral magistrate.” Tuesday’s ruling, she added, “shrinks to petite size our holding in Georgia v. Randolph.”

    Georgia v. Randolph was a similar case the Supreme Court addressed in 2006, in which a domestic violence suspect would not allow police to enter his home, though his wife did offer police consent. The police ultimately entered the home. The Court ruled in the case that the man’s refusal while being present in the home should have kept authorities from entering.

    “A physically present inhabitant’s express refusal of consent to a police search [of his home] is dispositive as to him, regardless of the consent of a fellow occupant,” the majority ruled in that case.

    The majority, led by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., said police need not take the time to get a magistrate’s approval before entering a home in such cases. But dissenters, led by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, warned that the decision would erode protections against warrantless home searches. The court had previously held that such protections were at the “very core” of the 4th Amendment and its ban on unreasonable searches and seizures, reports the LA Times.

    According to the AP, Justice Samuel Alito wrote the court’s 6-3 decision holding that an occupant may not object to a search when he is not at home.

    “We therefore hold that an occupant who is absent due to a lawful detention or arrest stands in the same shoes as an occupant who is absent for any other reason,” Alito said.

    In other words, you have no property rights slave, and we can snoop through your personal belongings if we wish.

    The implications for such a Stasi-esque interpretation of the 4th Amendment are staggering. This can and will open the door to even more unscrupulous police behavior. They will only need to say that someone may be in danger, and now they are justified in ransacking your home.

    While this doesn’t particularly allow for police to choose and enter any home they wish, it is nothing to be downplayed, especially since Justice Ginsburg, one of their own, even stated that this could lead to even more erosion of what is left of the 4th Amendment.



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