News Release Archive - Prison/Criminal Justice System

Abortion: Supreme Court Effectively Deputizing Citizens as “Bounty Hunters”

CBS News reports: “The Texas law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy includes an unusual measure designed to ensure the law is enforced: Residents of the state can sue clinics, doctors, nurses and even people who drive a woman to get the procedure, for at least $10,000.

“That financial incentive was singled out by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in her dissent late Wednesday after the Supreme Court declined to block the controversial law. In effect, Texas lawmakers have ‘deputized the state’s citizens as bounty hunters, offering them cash prizes for civilly prosecuting their neighbors’ medical procedures,’ she wrote.”

MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal@gmail.com@marjoriecohn
Cohn, professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, Cohn said today: “Texas Senate Bill 8 bans nearly all abortions in Texas and flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s holding in Roe v. Wade. Nevertheless, in a 5-4 decision, the right-wingers on the Court refused to stop the Texas law from going into effect. John Roberts joined the three liberals in dissent. Although the majority claimed that it was not expressing any opinion on the constitutionality of SB 8, the split indicates that when the high court considers Mississippi’s restrictive abortion law next term, it may well overturn Roe v. Wade.”

In an accuracy.org news release in September 2020, “Packing the Court and Filling the Streets,” Cohn stated: “The Supreme Court now has eight members — three liberals and five conservatives. Until Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, Chief Justice John Roberts had been the swing vote. Roberts, concerned with the legacy of the Roberts Court, voted with the liberals to strike down an abortion restriction and uphold the Affordable Care Act. A Trump appointment would substitute a right-wing member for Ginsburg, resulting in a 6-3 conservative majority. They would most likely overrule Roe v. Wade and strike down the Affordable Care Act.

“As it increasingly appears Mitch McConnell has the votes to proceed with filling  Ginsburg’s seat before the election or inauguration, the Democrats must play hard ball. They should pledge that if Joe Biden wins the election and the Democrats assume control of the Senate, they will raise the number of members on the Supreme Court from 9 to 13. The Constitution does not prescribe how many members will sit on the high court so Congress can raise the number.”

Following Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, Cohn wrote the piece “From a Justice for Gender Equality to a ‘Justice’ for Gender Oppression.”

Relatives of Chicago Police Victims Oppose Ex-Mayor Rahm Emanuel as Ambassador to Japan

Victims and relatives of victims of police brutality in Chicago while Rahm Emanuel was mayor released a joint statement Thursday against the reported plan by President Biden to nominate Emanuel as the U.S. ambassador to Japan.

“During his eight years in office, Emanuel displayed contempt for communities of color,” says the statement. “He showed callous disregard for terrible losses suffered by the families of those who were killed or brutalized by officers of the Chicago Police Department.”

The 28 signers of the statement declared: “The possibility that Rahm Emanuel will become the U.S. ambassador to Japan is abhorrent to those of us who continue to mourn the loss of our loved ones due to police violence that he aided and abetted as mayor of Chicago. … No president who is truly serious about stopping brutality and murders by police would nominate Rahm Emanuel for an important government post. …. Rahm Emanuel became a symbol of lethal disrespect for Black lives. Making him a U.S. ambassador would make the U.S. government a similar symbol.”

Emanuel was mayor of Chicago from 2011 to 2019.

Five of the signers are willing to talk to journalists:

They are reachable via DELMARIE COBB, dlcobb@thepublicityworks.net

DOROTHY HOLMES
Holmes is the mother of Ronald “Ronnie Man” Johnson, who was shot in the back by CPD the same week that Laquan McDonald was killed in 2014. Video featuring Ms. Holmes is being released today. She says: “Rahm Emanuel covered up the murder of my son.”

AREWA KAREN WINTERS
Winters is the aunt of Pierre Loury, killed by CPD in April 2016. Pierre was shot in the back as he was climbing a fence fleeing from the police. Video featuring Ms. Winters is being released today.

EMMETT FARMER
Farmer is the father of Flint Farmer, killed in June 2011. Police officer Gildardo Sierra shot him in the back three times as he lay on the ground. He didn’t have a weapon. Sierra was involved in multiple shootings as an officer.

KENYATTA BRAND
Brand is the sister of Rekia Boyd, who was killed by off-duty officer Dante Servin in 2012. Servin was drinking, then driving when he saw young people in the park. He shot at one of the young men, killing Rekia. State’s attorney Anita Alvarez undercharged him — manslaughter instead of first or second degree murder — and then the judge pronounced a mistrial instead of requiring the state to charge him correctly.

MARTINEZ SUTTON
Sutton is the brother of Rekia Boyd.

Rights Group Calls on Biden to Reverse Trump’s Treatment of Gitmo Prisoner Attempting Suicide

The Center for Constitutional Rights has put out a detailed news release: “Gitmo Torture Survivor Asks Court to Reject Eleventh-Hour Trump Bid to Deny Medical Evaluation,” which states: “Lawyers representing Guantánamo prisoner Mohammed al Qahtani are urging a federal judge to deny an effort by the Trump administration in its final days to reverse a court order to convene a panel of medical experts to evaluate him. A former Defense Department official appointed by Trump attempted to avoid convening the panel by purporting to make an exception excluding men imprisoned at Guantánamo from the military regulation requiring such an evaluation.

“Mr. al Qahtani is the only person imprisoned at Guantánamo whose torture has been formally admitted to by a U.S. government official, and he suffers from schizophrenia, diagnosed years before his detention, and major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stemming from his torture. He has attempted suicide multiple times, including twice within the last four months, when, in a haze of hallucinations, he swallowed broken glass and cut veins in his arms. He is legally entitled to a neutral medical evaluation to determine whether the United States may continue to detain him.

“In an unclassified phone call with his lawyer, Mr. al Qahtani said, ‘I feel so much worse. I tried to kill myself again. I was in a state of madness. I don’t know what I did. … Even the psychiatrists here told me I’ve reached a stage where I might kill myself without even realizing it. These are dangerous behaviors. They put me in the clinic at first and now I’m back in the cellblock. They’re watching me but it’s as if they’re just waiting for me to kill myself. …’

“Al Qahtani experiences a host of symptoms, including hallucinations, screaming, insomnia, crying for hours, banging his head against walls, impaired concentration and memory, hypervigilance, hopelessness, and physical pain throughout his body, among others.”

Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights said: “Our government knowingly tortured a man who was already suffering from schizophrenia from his teenage years, long before he was brought to Guantanamo. Eighteen years later, it serves no purpose to hold him alone in a largely-empty prison, where he is losing what little touch with reality he still has.”

“The Biden administration can and should reverse course on Trump’s effort to resist the independent medical examination of a mentally ill prisoner that the U.S. government has admitted torturing,” said Ramzi Kassem, a professor at CUNY School of Law and the director of the CLEAR Clinic, which also represents Mr. al Qahtani.

Contact: Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, jnessel@ccrjustice.org

Will Biden End the Militarization of Police?

JARIBU HILL, jaribu.hill@gmail.com@truthteller711@blacks4peace
NETFA FREEMAN, netfa@ips-dc.org@Netfafree

Hill and Freeman are both on the coordinating committee of the Black Alliance for Peace. Freeman is writing a forthcoming book: Community Control Over Police.    The group recently released a statement calling for an executive order to end the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which siphons military equipment to police in the U.S.

The group states: “The gratuitous militarization of police forces across the United States through this program has helped to turn these agencies into brutal weapons of repression. Therefore, nothing short of complete abolition of this program is acceptable.

“BAP has demanded abolition of the 1033 program since BAP’s 2017 founding. It now asks the public to sign a petition (available in English and Spanish) demanding the Biden administration and Democrats commit to abolishing this racist and brutal program.”

Hill is also executive director of the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights. She added: “Here in the belly of the Deep South beast, we understand the harsh and irreversible effects measures like 1033 have had and continue to have on those who languish in poverty, forced to live in shanty shacks and tenements.” She formerly served as municipal judge for the city of Hollandale and is a human rights attorney and a veteran community organizer.

The group noted: “The National Defense Authorization Act of 1997 that then-Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) supported and President Bill Clinton (D) signed into law created the 1033 program by expanding on a previous program.”Responding to outrage about the heavily militarized police response to protests after Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama enacted a policy in 2015 that appeared to limit the program, but made little difference in any department’s ability to acquire and use military weapons.

“Even with the scale-back, the Obama administration managed to transfer a $459 million arsenal to police agencies. …

“President Donald Trump came into office and reversed Obama’s cosmetic changes. What the Biden administration is now proposing by reversing Trump’s reversal to the Obama policy is not enough, as reverting the policy to Obama’s altered version is not justice.”

Over 100 Groups Call for Biden to Close Guantánamo

More than a hundred human rights and civil liberties groups are calling on President Joe Biden to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and end indefinite military detention.

See the letter they have signed, noting that Guantánamo was “designed specifically to evade legal constraints, and where Bush administration officials incubated torture. … United States government has viewed communities of color — citizens and non-citizens alike — through a security threat lens, to devastating consequences. … It is long past time for both a sea change in the United States’ approach to national and human security, and a meaningful reckoning with the full scope of damage that the post-9/11 approach has caused. Closing Guantánamo and ending indefinite detention of those held there is a necessary step towards those ends. We urge you to act without delay, and in a just manner that considers the harm done to the men who have been imprisoned without charge or fair trials for nearly 20 years.”

Among the groups signing the letter are the Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Victims of Torture, American Civil Liberties Union, Immigrant Advocacy Project, Physicians for Human Rights, Muslim Solidarity Committee and Witness Against Torture.

Available for interviews:

ALIYA HUSSAIN, via Jen Nessel, jnessel@ccrjustice.org@theCCR
Hussain, a Center for Constitutional Rights advocacy program manager said: “That so many groups are calling for an end to the indefinite detention of Muslim men without charge or fair trial at Guantánamo, and see it as part of a broader movement to uphold human rights, demand accountability for U.S.-sanctioned torture and violence, and fundamentally change the flawed criminal legal system, is significant. There is wide-ranging public support for President Biden to close Guantánamo. He must take bold and decisive action, and we will hold him accountable until he does.”

Over 100 Groups Call for Biden to Close Guantánamo

More than a hundred human rights and civil liberties groups are calling on President Joe Biden to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and end indefinite military detention.

See the letter they have signed, noting that Guantánamo was “designed specifically to evade legal constraints, and where Bush administration officials incubated torture. … United States government has viewed communities of color — citizens and non-citizens alike — through a security threat lens, to devastating consequences. … It is long past time for both a sea change in the United States’ approach to national and human security, and a meaningful reckoning with the full scope of damage that the post-9/11 approach has caused. Closing Guantánamo and ending indefinite detention of those held there is a necessary step towards those ends. We urge you to act without delay, and in a just manner that considers the harm done to the men who have been imprisoned without charge or fair trials for nearly 20 years.”

Among the groups signing the letter are the Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Victims of Torture, American Civil Liberties Union, Immigrant Advocacy Project, Physicians for Human Rights, Muslim Solidarity Committee and Witness Against Torture.
Available for interviews:

ALIYA HUSSAIN, via Jen Nessel, jnessel@ccrjustice.org@theCCR
Hussain, a Center for Constitutional Rights advocacy program manager said: “That so many groups are calling for an end to the indefinite detention of Muslim men without charge or fair trial at Guantánamo, and see it as part of a broader movement to uphold human rights, demand accountability for U.S.-sanctioned torture and violence, and fundamentally change the flawed criminal legal system, is significant. There is wide-ranging public support for President Biden to close Guantánamo. He must take bold and decisive action, and we will hold him accountable until he does.”

You Can’t Fight Fascism by Expanding the Police State

EVAN GREER, evan@fightforthefuture.org, @fightfortheftr

Greer is deputy director of Fight for the Future and recently wrote the piece “You can’t fight fascism by expanding the police state” for Fast Company, which states: “In the coming days and weeks we are likely to see pundits and lawmakers call for things like passing a new domestic terrorism law, expanding mass surveillance programs, increasing funding for the FBI and law enforcement, installing backdoors in encrypted messaging apps, and arming police with more technology like facial recognition and social media monitoring software. …

“This is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing. Expanding the U.S. government’s already bloated surveillance state will only bring more terror and harm to the same communities that Trump targeted with his racist policies and rhetoric. …

“President-elect Joe Biden has already expressed that he supports the creation of a new domestic terrorism statute. Experts warn that a new law isn’t needed — acts of terrorism are already illegal. Creating a new designation would fail to prevent right-wing attacks while threatening marginalized communities with increased surveillance, prosecution, and harassment for engaging in First Amendment protected activities. In the last few years, top Democrats and Republicans have called for billions of dollars in additional funding for the FBI, and have scuttled attempts to rein in the phone and internet spying programs enabled by the USA Patriot Act, which was rushed through Congress faster than lawmakers could read it in the immediate wake of 9/11.”

Kamala Harris Fought to Keep Nonviolent Prisoners Locked Up

ALEXANDER SAMMON, asammon at prospect.org, @alex_sammon, Sammon just wrote the piece “How Kamala Harris Fought to Keep Nonviolent Prisoners Locked Up” for The American Prospect: “Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a leading candidate to be Joe Biden’s running mate, repeatedly and openly defied U.S. Supreme Court orders to reduce overcrowding in California prisons while serving as the state’s attorney general, according to legal documents reviewed by the Prospect. Working in tandem with Gov. Jerry Brown, Harris and her legal team filed motions that were condemned by judges and legal experts as obstructionist, bad-faith, and nonsensical, at one point even suggesting that the Supreme Court lacked the jurisdiction to order a reduction in California’s prison population.

“The intransigence of this legal work resulted in the presiding judges in the case giving serious consideration to holding the state in contempt of court. Observers worried that the behavior of Harris’s office had undermined the very ability of federal judges to enforce their legal orders at the state level, pushing the federal court system to the brink of a constitutional crisis. This extreme resistance to a Supreme Court ruling was done to prevent the release of fewer than 5,000 nonviolent offenders, whom multiple courts had cleared as presenting next to no risk of recidivism or threat to public safety.

“Despite a straightforward directive from the Supreme Court to identify prisoners for release over a two-year period, upholding a 2009 ruling that mandated the same action over the same timeline, the state spent the majority of that period seesawing back and forth between dubious legal filings and flagrant disregard. By early 2013, it became clear that the state had no intention to comply, leading to a series of surprisingly combative exchanges.

“While Harris’s ultimately unsuccessful presidential campaign saw questions raised about her criminalization of truancy and her tough-on-crime reputation during her time as San Francisco’s district attorney, her role in California’s prison reduction case largely flew under the radar, though it was decried at the time. As concerns grow about Donald Trump’s subversion of the law — he, along with his attorney general, William Barr, is currently defying a Supreme Court ruling by refusing to restart the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — the potential Democratic vice-presidential nominee engaging in relatively similar obstinacy is jarring.

“Sen. Harris’s office has yet to respond to a set of questions from the Prospect.”

Biden Advisor an “Apologist for Torture,” an Architect of “Kill Lists”

JEFFREY KAYE, jeffkaye at sbcglobal.net, @jeff_kaye
Author of Cover-up at GuantanamoKaye said today: “According to former Obama senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, putative Democratic Party candidate for president Joe Biden picked a ‘superstar‘ when he appointed ex-CIA Deputy Director and White House attorney Avril Haines to head his national security and foreign policy team.

“No matter how much Obama/Biden administration officials praise her, Avril Haines’ role always seems to be making the unpalatable palatable, whether it’s prettifying companies like [data mining] contractor Palantir, agencies like the CIA, policies like ‘targeted killing,’ or war criminals like current CIA chief, ‘Bloody’ Gina Haspel.

“During Haspel’s contentious Senate confirmation, the Trump administration turned to Haines to legitimate Haspel, whose crimes included helping destroy CIA torture tapes, as well as participating in an unspecified management role at more than one CIA black site. Haines called Haspel ‘intelligent, compassionate, and fair.’ But that wasn’t all that Avril Haines has done for the CIA. She also participated in an ‘accountability board’ inquiry into CIA interference in the Senate investigation of CIA torture. She, of course, found no wrong-doing by the CIA.

“Haines claims to find torture immoral, yet she supports known torture official Haspel. Additionally, she was a White House lawyer when the UN Committee on Torture condemned the Obama-supported Army Field Manual on interrogations for using methods of interrogation, including sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation, that can cause psychotic reactions in prisoners, raising serious concerns of U.S. current use of torture. Did Haines agree with the Obama administration’s decision to defend the condemned techniques?

“We don’t know, as many questions haven’t been asked in the rush to anoint her a ‘superstar’ appointment. One anonymous progressive leader told The Daily Beast, ‘Being where any decent person should be on a few issues doesn’t cancel out an endorsement of torturers.’ It is sad that in 2020 ‘the leader of a progressive nonprofit that works on national security issues’ would fear ‘professional reprisal’ for daring to criticize Biden’s choice!

“The problems with Haines don’t stop with her shady connections to torture. It’s known that Avril Haines was Obama’s CIA deputy director. But most of the public doesn’t know she was also Obama’s direct advisor in constructing his targeted assassination ‘Kill List’ policy.

“Haines supposedly made Obama’s drone assassination program more transparent and less liable to kill innocents. But a 2016 ACLU examination of the policy Haines helped construct concluded it fell ‘far short of the standards for transparency and accountability needed to ensure that the government’s targeted killing program is lawful under domestic and international law.’ In particular, the Haines-influenced policy relied on ‘looser, law-of-war standards that govern conduct in war, rather than the more protective rules that apply under international human rights law.’

“Avril Haines is presented as a humane, intelligent and compassionate alternative to the typical white male elite that run the CIA and other such agencies. But her record is clear. She is an apologist for torture operations. She helped create kill lists for the CIA and U.S. Special Forces. She is not an alternative to the barbarism of the Trump administration, but a dire predictor of Biden’s obeisance as president to an out-of-control national security establishment.”