Social Justice

June 12, 2005

Were you a youth in Monroe County in the mid-1970s? During this time the governments of Bloomington and Monroe County partnered with Indiana University, MCCSC, and secured funding from the State of Indiana for a home for youth shelter services.

Intensive outreach, counseling services, and innovative programming continue today through relationships with the Juvenile Justice Task Force, a proactive Youth Services Advisory Board, and the Indiana Youth Services Association -- all under the mission-driven leadership of Monroe County Youth Services Bureau Director Ron Thompson.

The heart of the mission is a focus on preventing juvenile delinquency.

May 15, 2005

A cloud of criminality has hovered over the local criminal justice system's treatment of the mentally impaired since a special prosecutor in May 2004 charged a Monroe County jailer in the Taser-linked death of a Bedford man. But according to a letter from the social justice group Citizens for Effective Justice (CEJ), the cloud is darker and more ominous than initially suspected.

"Over the past year we have listened to many horror stories about abuse in our criminal justice system," CEJ leaders Hal Taylor and Vid Beldavs say in a May 8 letter to the Monroe County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. "The combination of poverty and a neurological disorder has resulted in incarcerations in our County Jail that have extended for many months — in some cases beyond one year — for minor offenses, sometimes without criminal charges."

The mentally impaired who end up in jail, they say, tend to be those who simply can't afford mental health care. "In recent years, with restrictions on Medicaid funding, poor people in crisis have been denied access to mental healthcare," Beldavs and Taylor wrote. "Jails and prisons — generally viewed as places of punishment — have all too often become the mental health care providers for the poor."

April 17, 2005

Citizens for Effective Justice (CEJ) started in early 2004 as an ad-hoc study group looking into the TASER-related death of James Borden in the Monroe County Jail in November 2003.

Rev. Hal Taylor, the late Roberta McCloskey and other community activists started holding meetings at the Trinity Episcopal Church downtown, organized town-hall meetings, and met with public officials. Their primary focus was implementing a Crisis Intervention Program to train officers to de-escalate confrontations and identify mental illness so they can divert the disabled toward treatment rather than jail.

It has since grown into a coalition of citizens, advocates and specialized sub-organizations devoted to creating or fortifying rehabilitation programs.

April 3, 2005

Author Derrick Jensen writes passionately about the systemic abuses by industrial society of people, land and culture in acclaimed works such as The Culture of Make Believe and A Language Older Than Words.

His most recent works include Walking on Water, a look at teaching creative writing in college and in prison, and Welcome to the Machine (co-written with George Draffan), a frightening survey of the impact of privacy invasions on civil liberties. He spoke with The Bloomington Alternative from his home in northern California.

What is the importance of creativity and the life of the mind for people who are incarcerated?

My job in that classroom was to help the people become who they are by loving and accepting them. I was teaching both Level 1 and Level 4 prisoners — Level 4 is maximum security, where many were doing life or life without chance of parole — and someone said to me in front of my Level 4 students, "Don't you prefer teaching Level 1 because you know that they're going to get out and these people are here forever so it's a waste of your time?"

I thought it was a really horrible thing to say in front of them. My response was no! First of all there's a long list of brilliant and important writers who have come out of prison — Dostoyevsky and Jean Genet, for example. Second, it doesn't really matter. Remember the old line, no matter where you go, there you are? So whether the students were in a university and going to end up in the cubicles of IBM or whether they were at Pelican Bay State Prison, my main job as a teacher was to accept them and help them to become who they are in those circumstances.

March 6, 2005

Human Rights Watch

NEW YORK — With today's Supreme Court ruling abolishing the execution of child offenders, the United States joins the international consensus rejecting this cruel and inhuman punishment, Human Rights Watch said.

Prior to the decision, the United States was one of only six countries in the world in which the juvenile death penalty was lawful. The United States has been responsible for four out of the six juvenile executions worldwide since 2002.

"The execution of child offenders is barbaric," said Lois Whitman, director of the Children's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch. "Because of the Supreme Court's decision, the United States can now hold its head up as a just society on this issue."

February 13, 2005

When it comes to left and right, meaning the respective voices of sanity and dementia, we're meant to keep two sets of books.

Start with sanity, in the form of Ward Churchill, a tenured prof at the University of Colorado. Churchill is known nationally as a fiery historian and writer, particularly on Indian matters. Back in 2001, after 9/11, Churchill wrote an essay called "Some People Push Back", making the simple point, in his words, that "if U.S. foreign policy results in widespread death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned."

That piece was developed into a book, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens. On the matter of those killed in the 9/11 attacks, Churchill wrote recently, "It is not disputed that the Pentagon was a military target, or that a CIA office was situated in the World Trade Center. Following the logic by which U.S. Defense Department spokespersons have consistently sought to justify target selection in places like Baghdad 1991 this placement of an element of the American 'command and control infrastructure' in an ostensibly civilian facility converted the Trade Center itself into a 'legitimate' target."

February 13, 2005

News Release
Indiana Civil Liberties Union

INDIANAPOLIS - In a suit filed by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, a federal district judge has ruled that an Indianapolis Police Department lieutenant violated demonstrators' First Amendment rights by blocking them from walking on certain city sidewalks where they wished to register their protest. The case stemmed from a protest coinciding with the August 2003 National Governors Association meeting in Indianapolis.

The court found that Lieutenant Michael O'Connor, by positioning IPD officers on bikes and in cars in their path, blocked the group of about 25 protesters from walking through Monument Circle, the symbolic center of Indianapolis. Saying that "peaceful marching on public sidewalks is a quintessential First Amendment activity," the Court rejected the argument that possible traffic delays were a valid reason for blocking the protesters, who were nondisruptive and obeying all traffic signals.

January 23, 2005

"All reformers are rebels, because they aim to change society."
-Doris Faber, regarding Susan B. Anthony

Seeds of the American Women's Movement can be traced back as far as the American Revolution. New Jersey, in the spirit of revolutionary reform, actually allowed women to vote for a period of about twelve years in the late 18th century. In 1920, the 19th amendment was ratified, granting woman the right to vote. And it has been over 40 years since the first printing of Betty Friedan's, The Feminine Mystique. Modern women walk treaded ground. Yet the struggle for equality in this nation continues and disparities between men and women are still everywhere.

In an October 2004 article entitled, "Wage Gap Gives Indiana Women Reason to Wonder," the Bloomington Herald-Times reported that women in Indiana earn only 68% of men's pay (that number is 75% nationally). Yet women need equal pay now more than ever. According to the 2000 US Census, women head-of-households (that is households with one or more children and no man present) increased from 6 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2000. Households headed by women are more likely to live in poverty. Households headed by minority women are especially likely to live in poverty.

And what about within the home?

January 16, 2005

Boxcar Books
Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project
Bloomington Peace Action Coalition

Rachel King, author of Capital Consequences: Families of the Condemned Tell Their Stories (2004, Rutgers University Press) will speak Sunday, Jan. 16, at 5 p.m. at Boxcar Books in Bloomington. King, who works for the Capital Punishment Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, spoke in Indianapolis on Saturday.

Her free talk will precede a screening of the documentary film Deadline, which tells the story of Republican Governor George Ryan granting clemency to all 167 people on death row in Illinois.

October 17, 2004

What do the following public figures have in common? William Jefferson Clinton, George W. Bush, Joe Kernan, Mitch Daniels, Al Gore, Rush Limbaugh. Answer: They have all used illicit drugs or been addicted to licit drugs.

In a recent debate here in Indiana, Governor Kernan mentioned his youthful use. Mitch Daniels has been dodging issues related to a drug law arrest many years ago. The only other candidate for governor in Indiana, Kenn Gividen, has never use alcohol or illicit drugs. Kernan and Daniels' use was passed off to youthful indiscretions, of no current importance.

However, that brushes aside a quite serious problem, not only here in Indiana, but the entire country, namely what really happens today to those arrested on drug law violations. Laws addressing drug law violations result in multiple punishments for even minor infractions.

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