aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Change the Juvenile Justice code in Georgia
The AJC has a Q&A with former prosecutor and DeKalb County district attorney Tom Morgan:
A 17-year-old high school student takes a nude picture of his 17-year-old girlfriend and sends it via cellphone to his friend.
Does he realize he’s trafficking in child porn?
Two things I’ve learned from working with teenagers,” says J. Tom Morgan, former DeKalb County district attorney. “Either, one, they don’t know the laws, or two, they don’t appreciate the consequences of their actions.”
Know the laws??? How could they??? Morgan says himself that he didn’t know of the one above until it resulted in child porn charges against both the sender and the recipient of the photo. And what public policy good do such laws serve?
Here’s the lesson we teach - uneven application of the law, there’s no rhyme or reason and happenstance gets you caught:
Q: How do you tell a kid to drive 55 mph on I-285?
A: There is no good answer. Don’t kill the messenger because you don’t like the message. It’s 55. You may be the one busted for driving 70.
I tell the college kids at school that they are our future, that they can accept a system with such bad outcomes or they can go out and fix what my generation has so clearly screwed up!
In the meantime, I support the efforts of JUST Georgia to change the juvenile justice system in Georgia. I’ll do everything in my power to help them.
RELATED: The NYTimes says Missouri has turned its juvenile justice system into a nationally recognized model of how to deal effectively with troubled children:
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Sex offender residency restrictions rise again in Georgia
The Daily Report tells us that Georgia will try again to ban where sex offenders may live. You will recall that the state’s Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the strict residency requirements approved by state lawmakers two years ago:
Under the new bill being pushed by House Republicans, a sex offender who owns his or her home would no longer have to vacate it if a center where children gather later opens up in the neighborhood. The bill would carve out a similar exception for sex offenders who have established employment, allowing them to keep their job if they had it first. [...]
The residency portion of the new bill would apply only to homeowners. Renters would still have to relocate if a childcare center, church or school moves into the neighborhood after they do.
House Republicans said they took their direction from the court’s own ruling, which hinged on home ownership. The court said that to force a homeowner to abandon his property or be in violation of the law amounts to an illegal taking of property.
Via Maggie at Of Counsel:
Also, for the die-hard-residency-restriction types, how does this help anything? It’s creating situations where sex offenders will be close to schools or day cares or playgrounds or all those other things they want to keep them away from. It seems to me like a rather large compromise. If they don’t mind letting some of them do it, why are we bothering?
The biggest problem remains the one-size-fits-all approach. The danger of someone who’s committed a misdemeanor sexual battery against another person ever hurting a child is slim to none. People who committed statutory rape twenty years ago? Pretty low. And yet we continue to treat all sex offenders like pedophiles. Worse, I don’t know of any treatment regimes in place to try and better assist or monitor those who may be at risk of re-offending. It seems like a lose-lose situation, and it continues to create mountains of work for local law enforcement and probation officers, which means it’s costing the state more money to do something that seems to have little value and risks losing track of offenders all together.
RELATED: Sex offender residency restrictions DO NOT WORK.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Souring on Barrow
Maybe I’ve been living here too long. Defending Andrew Young, twice (contradicting my own first instincts in the process!), and standing by Jim Marshall and John Barrow no matter what they say or do because I believe they’re the best we’re going to elect around here.
That’s fundamentally depressing.
All the more so this weekend, with Amy Morton pointing to reported Barrow quotes in opposition to any form of federal aid for undocumented workers including emergency medical care and public school education for their children.
[D]oes he not understand that failure to educate children-regardless of how they came to be here-creates a public safety problem for all of us? It is not as if we can pretend that these children are not here, so if they’re not in school, what does Barrow think they’ll be doing with their time? If they grow up unhealthy and illiterate, what impact does he think that will have on the quality of life in our communities?
Given that children who do not complete high school are incarcerated at a higher rate than others, unless Barrow also proposes that we withhold from the children of undocumented workers the privilege of appearing in juvenile court and becoming residents of the nearest jail, all he’s doing is asking taxpayers to spend the most money possible in the least effective manner. That makes zero sense.
Well, I do totally agree. Now what?
Saturday, December 08, 2007
More on Broun and the SAFE Act
While Broun finds people who make or look at child pornography “beneath contempt” and has “nothing but disdain and disgust for them,” he thinks the bill is unconstitutional and could lead to police harassing innocent people, said his spokesman, John Kennedy.
When police investigate child pornography based on information turned over as a result of the bill, or when police discover child pornography that wasn’t reported by the service provider, it will be difficult to tell who was responsible, Kennedy said.
“It puts an innocent person potentially in the position of having to fight off the presumption of guilt,” he said.
Broun believes states, not the federal government, should pass and enforce laws restricting pornography, Kennedy said. The bill also lacked a clear definition of child pornography and was rushed through without a committee hearing, giving lawmakers little time to read it before voting, he said.
States Rights aside, I’m right there with him.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Paul Broun votes against SAFE Act. Why?
Look, kiddie porn and terrorism are bad. Obvious. But what better way for a government to push through controversial legislation quickly than to harness their emotive properties? After all, what self-respecting member of the US House of Representatives would vote against legislation called Securing Adolescents From Exploitation-Online, or SAFE? Only 2 it turns out (Rep. Paul Broun from Georgia and Rep. presidential candidate, Ron Paul) with 409 members voting yesterday in favor. The new bill requires everyone (that includes you and Starbucks) offering an open WiFi connection to the public to be on the lookout for “illegal images” and “obscene” cartoons and drawings which you must report. The reporting requirement extends to cover social networking sites, ISPs, and email providers. Failing to dutifully report what you’ve seen (or haven’t seen but are unwittingly complicit in) could leave your data seized and in debt from fines of up to $300,000. As is the custom of our elected representatives, we also haven’t read the Act in full so this isn’t a call to arms. However… [READ ON]
My gut reaction is to recoil from such a bill (summary) as an ineffective sop subject to abuse. But, more, it isn’t immediately apparent to me why the Republican congressman representing a neighboring district is one of ony 2 to have voted against it.
More on the SAFE Act vote from CNet:
Wednesday’s vote caught Internet companies by surprise: the Democratic leadership rushed the SAFE Act to the floor under a procedure that’s supposed to be reserved for noncontroversial legislation. It was introduced October 10, but has never received even one hearing or committee vote. In addition, the legislation approved this week has changed substantially since the earlier version and was not available for public review.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Michelle Bruce, transgender pol, loses reelection bid
She blames bigots. I do too:
Georgia’s first transgender elected official lost her bid Tuesday for a second term on the Riverdale City Council.
Michelle Bruce, who fell to political newcomer Wayne Hall, blamed people she referred to as “bigots” who questioned her gender in a lawsuit. [...]
In Riverdale, Bruce - surrounded by supporters from Georgia Equality and the Human Rights Campaign - dabbed her eyes as the results were read. Her loss came a day after a Superior Court judge threw out a lawsuit by two losing City Council candidates that alleged she lied to voters when she ran as a woman.
“I think the lawsuit had something to do with it [the loss],” she said. “I think we have a lot of work to do in Clayton County, especially Riverdale. I think we need to come together and the bigots need to go.”
LATER: The vote count:
“I lost,” Bruce said after hearing she lost to political newcomer Wayne Hall in an unofficial count of 223 votes to 308 votes. A total of 543 votes were cast.
I thought the lawsuit had something to do with the loss, too, but the numbers don’t really tell me anything about that. Bruce says she will “will continue to fight for LGBT rights and for all the citizens.”
And bring a civil lawsuit against those who sued her.
The AJC puts the election in context.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Judge finds no Michelle Bruce gender fraud
The Riverdale runoff election will proceed on Tuesday:
A Spalding County Superior Court judge threw out a petition to halt the runoff after nearly four hours of testimony Monday.
“The court finds no facts shown of illegality or irregularity,” Judge Johnnie Caldwell Jr. said. “There has been no fraud perpetrated to the citizens of Riverdale.”
It will be interesting to see how this affects turnout - less than 800 people voted in the disputed city council election.
The targeting of Michelle Bruce
The small-town politics in Riverdale, Ga., features some big-time mudslinging in the final weeks before the Nov. 6 election, with a website accusing Georgia’s first transgender elected official of being a man who “used an alias and fooled everyone into thinking he was a woman.”
The website - operated by anonymous supporters of Riverdale Mayor Phaedra Graham - also notes that transgender City Councilmember Michelle Bruce is under investigation by the Georgia Attorney General’s office for allegations of election fraud during an attempt to recall Graham from office in 2005. Filed with the Secretary of State’s office in November 2006 and forwarded to the attorney general last month, the complaint accuses Bruce and her mother of forging signatures on recall petitions, a charge Bruce denies.
..."The referral to the attorney general’s office is in no way an implication of significance,” said Matt Carrothers, media relations director for the secretary of state’s office.
...More troubling to Bruce than the pending attorney general’s investigation is what she calls a “hate website” that features pictures of her and ridicules her for being transgender.
“The man at the left tricked us last election. He used an alias and fooled everyone into thinking he was a woman,” reads an entry on www.getinvolvednowga.com. “Riverdale is the laughing stock of the county with him presently in office.” [...]
Bruce, who was born intersexed and identifies as transgender, said the website is a result of Graham’s “cronyism.”
“They’re just trying to use anything they can to smear me and get me out of office,” Bruce said. “The website itself is nothing, but - it hurts, don’t get me wrong - but it’s a shame someone has to go after someone’s race or gender and that’s all they can use.”
“They’ve made comments previously [about being transgender],” Bruce said of Graham and her political allies. “She’s gone around and said we need to get that transvestite out of office - that freak of nature.”
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Barrow oponent emerging? Marshall staying put?
Let me be clear, I watch these guys because they represent my area but neither is my ideal Democratic candidate. They both, however, have my full support because I firmly believe that, for the time being at least, they are the best we can get.
My experience leaves my confident that those who are agitating against Barrow and Marshall both from outside and within Georgia are wrong-headed and if they are successful we will be left with far more conservative Republican representation.
Barrow and Marshall may both be Bush Dogs but they do, in fact, reflect their districts. The work that needs to be done is empowering the Democrats here to persuade their neighbors.
On to the topic at hand…
It looks as if the Republicans may have finally found someone to go up against Barrow:
The Associated Press is reporting that John Stone, who served as a top aide to two of Georgia’s former Republican congressmen, is seeking the GOP nomination for a shot at defeating U.S. Rep. John Barrow, the Savannah Democrat.
Stone said Thursday he recently moved back to his hometown of Augusta from Virginia so he could run in the 12th District, which includes parts of Augusta and Savannah, the AP reported.
The 51-year-old Stone served on the Republican congressional staffs of U.S. Reps. Charlie Norwood, who died in February, and Max Burns, who lost his seat to Barrow in 2004 and ran unsuccessfully for a comeback last year. Burns has already passed on a re-match.
Stone was a consultant to Jim Whitehead, who lost to Paul Broun for Georgia’s 10th District seat.
Whitehead should have been a shoo-in but bungled so badly (remember his “probably ought to bomb” UGA comment) that the liberals among us hoped for him to beat Braun so that Democrats would have had a shot at winning the seat.
It looks like we may get to see if it was Stone’s advice that sealed Whitehead’s fate.
As for Marshall, in a piece that finds things are looking good for our Senator Chambliss’ reelection, Grigs Crawford says:
It is still possible for other candidates to enter the race for the July 15 Democratic primary, as the filing deadline is not until May 2. There are Democrats who would like to see three-term 8th District Rep. Jim Marshall jump in, citing his success at projecting an image as a conservative Democrat in a district that generally has a strong Republican lean.
But Marshall appears so far to be sticking with his determination to run again in the 8th District, where he defeated former Republican Rep. Mac Collins by only 1 percentage point in 2006 — the second-closest outcome for a Democratic incumbent in a national campaign year that was strong for the party. And Democratic House campaign strategists would be happy if he does run for re-election, as the seat would be much harder for them to hold if Marshall were to move on.
I’m at least glad to see that the “Democratic House campaign strategists” he talked to see things the way I do.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Judges need leeway in teen sex cases
Maureen Downey for the AJC editorial board on the Widner plea deal and calling for a fairer approach to teen sex sentencing:
A judge ought to be able to look at those facts and determine how long Widner should serve rather than be bound to a 10-year sentence. Voters elect judges in Georgia to make those tough calls.
Yet lawmakers eroded the powers of judges by mandating the sentences they can impose. “We should trust our judges to make decisions and not pen them in with mandatory minimum sentences,” says [Widner’s attorney, J. Scott ] Key. “We now have a system where there is little opportunity for the punishment to fit the facts.”
Widner is leaving jail a felon, which means he’ll be on the state’s sex offender registry. The registry is another example of the Legislature’s abandoning common sense and fairness, putting consensual sexual activity between teens on the same level as violent rape or child molestation. [...]
The courts must have greater flexibility in teen sex cases where force is not involved and where both teens are willing participants. Neither Widner nor Wilson is a hero for what he did. But antiquated laws that view older teens as dangerous predators and younger ones as helpless victims ignore the realities of high school society where seniors and freshmen often date.
Most Georgians understand that a world of difference exists between two classmates having sex and a 35-year-old molesting a 10-year-old. Georgia’s laws and its sex offender registry need to recognize that distinction.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Josh Widner accepts life sentence for release
I promise you, I’m not second guessing the young man. What choice did he have?
Like Genarlow Wilson, Joshua Widner received a mandatory 10-year sentence for nonforcible sexual activity with a fellow teenager.
Like Wilson, Widner argued through his lawyer at the Supreme Court of Georgia that his sentence was unconstitutionally cruel and unusual.
Widner last year lost in a unanimous decision from the high court, while Wilson last month prevailed in a 4-3 ruling. One key difference between the cases, the court’s majority said, was that Widner was about 4 1/2 years older than the 14-year-old girl involved in his case, while Wilson was about two years older than the 15-year-old girl in his case.
But on Monday, a Henry County, Ga., judge signed off on a plea deal that will allow Widner out of prison within days, less than five years into his sentence. [...]
Widner still will need to register as a sex offender, McGarity explained to him. That was a primary complaint by Wilson’s supporters about his sentence.
Asked about the sex offender registry, Widner’s lawyers said they didn’t think they should look a gift horse in the mouth.
Unfortunately, that’s a gift horse that promises to keep on giving. While Georgia’s draconian sex offender residency restrictions have been struck down by the GA Supreme Court, Maggie at Of Counsel suspects they’ll be back soon:
...Law enforcement had decided that it didn’t matter that the law was unconstitutional and they were going to enforce it anyway. The Attorney General has thankfully clarified the issue, telling police that unconstitutional does in fact mean unconstitutional, no matter the person’s circumstances. However, it’s not the end. In this article, a Republican congressman from Sandy Springs says the legislature will re-draft. Based on my reading, it seems all they’ll have to do is allow grandfathering of sorts, that offenders can stay where they are if something new shows up after a certain date. I’m betting that’s the route they’ll take, though it completely ignores the bigger issue.
I recently attended a JUSTGeorgia Town Hall meeting. The group aims to rewrite the juvenile justice code in Georgia. They are conducting a survey right now which can be found here. If you care, as I do, about the serious injustices we are perpetrating on our youth through an inadequate and outdated legal system, take a moment to complete the survey.
In the meantime, good luck Josh. We’re pulling for you.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Michelle Bruce update. And gay Republican elected in GA.
The Riverdale City Council voted unanimously Monday to move forward with a runoff election despite a pending lawsuit asking a judge to halt the race.
But the real decision will be made Dec. 3 - a day before the election - when a Clayton County Superior Court judge will decide whether a transgender Riverdale City Council member lied to voters when she ran as a woman. That allegation, along with accusations of voting machine tampering and improper campaigning, could push the election back even further. [...]
Bruce says she became the first transgender elected official in the United States when she took her seat on the Riverdale council in 2003.
The National Center for Transgender Equality said they have seen gender disputes arise in custody battles and insurance claims, but never in an election.
“There is nothing to hide. She is who she is,” said Mara Keisling, the center’s executive director. “She has served for four years and never lied to the people.”
On Monday night, Bruce and the rest of the council voted to move forward with the Dec. 4 runoff election. Several residents and council members at the meeting encouraged citizens to support Bruce.
Also in today’s AJC, Georgia’s first openly gay Republican elected:
Brian Bates is a 36-year-old business owner in charge of Doraville’s annual Police Appreciation Day.
He’s active in his neighborhood association and staunchly supports popular police Chief John King, who became a major issue in elections earlier this month.
So Bates’ victory in a race for city council didn’t come as a major surprise in this town of about 10,000 residents. But, it was, in fact, groundbreaking.
Bates is now the state’s first openly gay Republican elected to office Ã¢â‚¬” a development that has gained the attention of politicos and pundits across the country.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Simon: Southern pol wears dresses to be popular?
Just a couple of weeks ago, Michelle Bruce was reelected to her second term on the city council there. She’s 46 years old, tall, sturdy and repossesses cars for a living. She wants to attract more industry to Riverdale. Michelle Bruce, frankly, in fact, proudly identifies herself as transgender, which the dictionary defines as appearing as; wishing to be considered as; or having undergone surgery to become a member of the opposite sex. Ms. Bruce finished first in a field of three.
But this week, Georgia Fuller, who finished third, filed a lawsuit, charging election fraud, a phrase usually tied to bribery or stuffing ballot boxes. Georgia Fuller charges that Michelle Bruce misled voters by identifying herself as transgender. She says that Ms. Bruce is merely a man who masquerades as a woman to keep her seat in the Riverdale City Council.
Now, I think this is a moment to note in Southern political history right alongside Bobby Jindal being elected governor of Louisiana. Not so many years ago, a Southern politician running for governor ridiculed his opponent, who’d been in a high school drama club, as an admitted thespian. Now, we have a losing candidate in the Southern city council election who charges that her opponent pretended to be transgender just to be popular, the way candidates used to boast that their great, great grandfather fought with Stonewall Jackson. [...]
Now, if being transgender has become a political asset in some parts of the South, like getting endorsed by Pat Robertson or the NRA, it could have urgent implications for the presidential campaign ahead as both parties try to win votes there. Everyone running for office says I’m the candidate of real change; a transgender candidate can add, and that’s not just talk.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
GA trans pol accused of gender fraud
This in the reelection battle after she served as openly transgender for four years:
One of the few openly transgender elected officials in the U.S. faces a lawsuit from opponents who allege she deceived the public by identifying as female.
Two losing candidates in the Nov. 6 city council election in Riverdale, Ga., filed a lawsuit last week in Clayton County Superior Court against incumbent City Councilmember Michelle Bruce, accusing her of fraud for identifying as female.The lawsuit also alleges election fraud and seeks to stop a Dec. 4 runoff election between Bruce and the second-place finisher for her post. [...]
Deana Johnson, city attorney for Riverdale, said an answer to the lawsuit was filed Nov. 20 and denies all allegations in the suit including fraud by Bruce. She said the city is awaiting a hearing date.
“She is Michelle Bruce and has been for the past four years,” Johnson said. “She is identified as female on her drivers license. This is a frivolous suit. I really don’t understand what the allegation is.”
Matt Carrothers, spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office, said there is no place to identify gender on the form people file to run for political office in state, county or municipal elections.
“Nowhere on the form does it ask for the sex of a person,” he said. [...]
Bruce, who lives with her mother, said Tuesday that the lawsuit is painful, as is an anti-transgender website administered by anonymous opponents to mock her.
Via Autumn Sandeen:
As a transwoman, It’s a little frustrating to have the word “deceit” frequently linked the to “transgender” and “transsexual”—based on the concept that my transgender peers’ and my gender presentation is a bald-faced lie as too our “real” sex.
When I know how I present my gender isn’t a lie, but knowing that it’s widely perceived as one—well, it’s a little frustrating.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Sex-offender residency restrictions don’t work!
More on Wednesday’s GA Supreme Court ruling striking down residency restrictions for sex-offenders:
“It is apparent that there is no place in Georgia where a registered sex offender can live without continually being at risk of being ejected,” the ruling said.
The Georgia law had been considered one of the most comprehensive in the nation, not only for the breadth of its residency limits but also because it covered even the mildest types of sex offender, such as those convicted of having consensual sex acts as high school students. [...]
In finding the residency restrictions unconstitutional, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that, by forcing a sex offender from his home, the law violated his Fifth Amendment right to be safe from the government “taking” his property.
While the argument for these laws is always about protecting children, experience tells us they don’t work:
You can find a very good discussion of issues presented by the residency restrictions on sex offenders by Lior Strahilevitz and many commentors at PrawfsBlawg’s “Sex Offender Residency Restrictions and the Right to Live Where You Want,” Aug. 3, 2005, and Michael Cernovich reviews many of the relevant legal issues at Crime & Federalsim, in his posting Doe v. Miller: The Legal Theories. Residency restrictions have been in the news a lot recently, and have been covered well by Corey Rayburn Yung at Sex Crimes (e.g., here), and by Prof. Douglas A. Berman, at Sentencing Law and Policy weblog. Last year, Prof. Berman pointed to “A potent and important prosecutorial statement against sex offender residency restrictions” (Feb. 9, 2006). The document was released by the Iowa County Attorneys Association, an organization of county prosecutors seeking “to promote the uniform and efficient administration of the criminal justice system.” In its five-page statement ICAA explains that Iowa’s broad sex offender residency restriction “does not provide the protection that was originally intended and that the cost of enforcing the requirement and the unintended effects on families of offenders warrant replacing the restriction with more effective protective measure.”
In Boston, nearly two-thirds of 136 high-risk sex offenders lack permanent addresses. In New York City, more than 100 registered at two homeless shelters. In Miami last month, 22 reported living under the Julia Tuttle Causeway that links the city to Miami Beach.
“People should be concerned about this,” says Jill Levenson, sex-crimes policy analyst at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. She says homeless sex offenders are more likely to commit another crime.
“Being homeless is also demoralizing,” Levenson says.
Sex offenders are likely to behave better if they have a stake in their community and “something to live for,” says psychiatrist Fred Berlin, founder of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic. Sex offenders are increasingly being shunned and isolated. “They are the modern-day lepers,” he says.
Here I propose the death penalty for all of them. It is very clear to me that this is not about safety or prevention. It is naive and dangerous caving to the retributive proclivities in all of us.
Our punishment judgments are rooted in outrage - deterrence is secondary - and it would be better for all of us if we’d understand that. Maybe then we could start to come up with some measures to honestly and effectively address the very real problems of sexual dysfunction, abuse and deviance.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Marshall in Iraq for Thanksgiving
While thousands of Americans hit the highways to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends, U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall caught a flight to Iraq.
It marked the 12th time the congressman toured the war zone. This trip, Marshall toured downtown Fallujah and the West Rashid area of Baghdad. [...]
“It’s just remarkable the turnaround that’s occurred in Fallujah, Ramadi and the Al Anabar Province,” Marshall said. “This kind of tour by a congressman to a market in downtown Fallujah wouldn’t even have been dreamed of six months or a year ago.”
He’s nothing if not consistent.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
GA court strikes down sex offender residency restrictions
It was a unanimous Supreme Court victory and I’d never have guessed the grounds:
The Georgia Supreme Court on Wednesday declared unconstitutional a provision of a 2006 state law that prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of day care centers, schools, churches and other places where children congregate.
In striking down the residency restrictions, the justices said they can amount to an “illegal taking” because they force sex offenders who are homeowners to abandon their homes if a place where children congregate is suddenly built nearby.
“Sex offenders face the possibility of being repeatedly uprooted and forced to abandon homes in order to comply with the [law’s] restrictions,” Justice Carol Hunstein wrote.
“It is apparent that there is no place in Georgia where a registered sex offender can live without being continually at risk of being ejected,” Hunstein added.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, there are almost 15,000 sex offenders on the state’s sex offender registry. While the court’s ruling focused on the issue of sex offenders who are homeowners, it appears to also extend to all sex offenders because the entire residency restrictions were stricken.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
The NYTimes says the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 is up for reauthorization, and that’s an opportunity for needed reform:
As incredible as it seems, many states regard a child as young as 10 as competent to stand trial in juvenile court. More than 40 states regard children as young as 14 as “of age” and old enough to stand trial in adult court. The scope of the problem is laid out in a new report entitled Jailing Juveniles from the Campaign for Youth Justice, an advocacy group based in Washington. Statistics are notoriously hard to get, but perhaps as many as 150,000 young people under the age of 18 are incarcerated in adult jails in any given year.
As many as half of the young people who are transferred to the adult system are never convicted as adults. Many are never convicted at all. By the time the process has run its course, however, one in five of these young people will have spent more than six months in adult jails.
Some jails try to protect young inmates by placing them in isolation, where they are locked in small cells for 23 hours a day. This worsens mental disorders. The study says that young people are 36 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile facility. Young people who survive adult jail too often return home as damaged and dangerous people. Studies show that they are far more likely to commit violent crimes - and to end up back inside - than those who are handled through the juvenile courts.
The rush to criminalize children has set the country on a dangerous path. Congress must now reshape the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act so that it provides the states with the money and the expertise they need to develop more enlightened juvenile justice policies. For starters, it should rewrite the law to prohibit the confinement of children in adult jails.
I recently attended a community forum on rewriting the Juvenile Justice Code in Georgia. I was the only non-professional, the only interested citizen, to attend. Hosted by JUST Georgia, they have an ambitious plan to overhaul the entire outdated inadequate system here.
I was impressed by everyone there and all I heard. My one piece of feedback to them was that there will need to be citizen participation, broad citizen support and understanding, if they imagine they will get such an overhaul through the Georgia legislature.
RELATED: Can a 9-year-old be a rapist?
Can a 9-year-old be a rapist?
I don’t think so. He can be sick; he can need help or treatment. But a criminal rapist in the sense that I understand it? The answer is just plain no!
I’ve been watching this story since it broke, speechless and wondering. How can a rational evaluation of even the basic facts be made through the filter of a sensationalist market press that has only one interest - making money.
A 9-year-old rapist is a market opportunity, three a market bonanza in today’s media ecology. Most especially, it seems, here in the Bible Belt. One of the boys is characterized as a third grader at a local Baptist school and a batboy for his church’s softball league.
We know that factoid for what reason except as an exclamation point for our disgusted outrage?
The only reasoned response I’ve seen is digby’s:
I do not have any doubt that it’s possible that these boys “raped” this girl. The legal definition doesn’t require penetration (and for all I know maybe that happened too.) If they did it, then they need to be dealt with in the juvenile system and given intense psychological counseling.
But what if it was “consensual” in the sense that the kids were all playing a game or the boys thought they were, or any number of other possible scenarios? Remember, we are talking about 8 and 9 year olds. They’re all hardly more than babies. No matter what it was, it cannot, by definition, be legally equivalent to a gang rape by adults or even teen-agers.
But this police chief says that even if it was a game or there were some other mitigating factors, the girl cannot, under the law, consent. Again, I’m not saying that it couldn’t have happened just as this little girl said it did. But it’s obvious to me that if an 8 year old can’t consent to sex --- which I agree, she can’t --- it’s equally clear that 8 and 9 year old boys cannot “rape” in the legal sense.
American culture has always been violent and somewhat backwards in these ways, at least compared to other first world countries. But in the last couple of decades we seem to be nurturing it to the extent we have lost all common sense and certainly any sense of proportion. Arresting little boys on charges of felony rape is not only ridiculous on it’s face, it demeans the entire justice system.
There is such a thing as prosecutorial discretion, something that is in very short supply in the Georgia legal system, apparently.
I whole-heartedly blame the prosecutor, but it’s the population that needs to wake up.
Or will John win Macon?
Ahem...all love here for Obama, but John Edwards will win Macon in the primary. Yes, Bibb County has traditionally voted for Democrats, when taken as a whole, and the City of Macon is decidedly Democratic. Sen. Robert Brown, who drives GOTV in Democratic primaries in Middle Georgia, has endorsed John Edwards as have other key local leaders in the mid-state. Add to that the often ignored fact that despite Obama’s haul in Atlanta, Edwards has out-raised Obama by a greater than three to one margin in South Georgia zip codes, including Macon. Did I mention that south of I-20, Edwards has out-raised every single other candidate-Democrat or Republican? That may be because the Edwards have visited Macon three times since January, plus going to Americus, as a guest of Carter, where he drew a crowd of over 2,000 people. I think the moral of the story here is that you have to actually campaign in Macon to win Macon. Edwards’ roots are deep here, as is his support. He carries Bibb County on February 5th-and again in November.
To make my own position a tad clearer, I am thrilled with the Democratic field and could vote for any of them, though I think that now I’m tilting towards Hillary. Until I fall for any one candidate, I’ll revel in the positives of all of them.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Can Obama win Macon?
Of course he can. Go with me here…
My dad grew up in Macon, Georgia in an all-white school he describes consistently as having gone to hell thanks to integration. He has never been personally racist to anyone of any background in his life, but he really thinks the world went to hell starting about 1960 and that civil rights went too far too fast. His dislike for the Sharptons and Jacksons of the world couldn’t be fiercer. The N-word is pretty much the standard noun many of his family members use to describe black people. His only vote for a Democrat in his lifetime was for Carter, out of Georgia patriotism.
I had the fun experience of watching Obama’s electrifying 2004 convention speech with him. My dad, who hadn’t heard of him, just said “He’s good.” As in, “ok, I liked this guy, but he’s a Democrat, so he must be a huckster. But he’s a talented one.”
Then, late last year, his updated view on Obama: “I think I could vote for him.” I could only turn around and smirk, once I’d picked my jaw up from the floor.
Then there’s Time Magazine on Obama’s Red State appeal:
On Monday, the Obama campaign announced that over 300 Iowa and New Hampshire Republicans had decided to cross party lines to support Obama. At Obama events in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Virginia and Georgia, a good 20% of audiences routinely raise their hands when emcees ask for Republicans in the crowd. A “Republicans for Obama” website has 11 state chapters with 146 members. An August University of Iowa even found Obama running third in the state among Republican candidates, behind Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani but ahead of both Fred Thompson and John McCain. And a national Gallup poll this month also found that nearly as many Republicans like Obama - 39% - than the 43% that dislike him, compared with the 78% of Republicans who held an unfavorable opinion of Hillary Clinton.
And Barack’s been pulling in some Georgia cash:
One year before they go to the polls, Georgians have opened their wallets to candidates for the White House in unprecedented fashion. But unlike in years past, residents of the red state have given a majority of their cash to Democrats.
Contributions funneled to the Democratic field from Georgia - Barack Obama has raised more than any other candidate - are twice what they were at the same point four years ago, and five times larger than they were in the fall of 1999, according to new Federal Election Commission figures.
Finally, as this Purple America county by county map of 2006 Congressional Election Results clearly shows, there is a blue swath that stretches up through the center of Georgia. Macon’s right in the middle of that.
Oprah in Macon why???
My nephew was shocked to find himself standing next to her on College Avenue on Friday, so much so that he neglected to snap a cellphone photo for the blog. Or go to the show and get us a refrigerator with an HD TV in the door:
Macon will set up free, public viewing areas of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on Tuesday at the Terminal Station and in the City Council chambers at City Hall.
The show, which was filmed Saturday in the Macon City Auditorium and featured the talk show host giving away her “favorite things” to the audience members, starts at 4 p.m.
Apparently this is the hottest ticket in daytime TV “because of the thousands of dollars in loot each person in the audience takes away.” 4,500 people applied for the 300 tickets.
So why Macon?
Oprah, who stages the “Favorite Things” show every year at holiday time, usually tries to find a deserving group to put in the audience.
In past years, the audience was made up entirely of teachers or rescue workers from Hurricane Katrina.
This year, she took the show to Macon because it consistently has the nation’s highest percentage of viewers tuned into her afternoon talk show.
Local reports say that 45 percent of homes in Macon watch Oprah at 4 p.m. - a huge market share. (In New York, the local share of audience is closer to 20 percent.)
Taking the “Favorite Things” show to Macon was a thank-you to the fans, she told the audience.
Emphasis mine. I’m dumbstruck.
LATER: Here’s the gift list.
Drought or desertification? Atlanta’s hardly alone
It sounds like there’s going to be more sand everywhere for all of us to stick our heads in:
According to the How Dry I Am Chart of “livability expert” Bert Sperling, four cities in Southern California, not parched Atlanta, top the national drought ratings: Los Angeles, San Diego, Oxnard and Riverside. In addition, Pasadena has had the dubious honor, through September, of experiencing its driest year in history.
“Resource wars” are things that happen elsewhere. We don’t usually think of our country as water poor or imagine that “resource wars” might be applied as a description to various state and local governments in the Southwest, Southeast or upper Midwest now fighting tooth and nail for previously shared water. And yet, “war” may not be a bad metaphor for what’s on the horizon. According to the National Climate Data Center, federal officials have declared 43 percent of the contiguous U.S. to be in “moderate to extreme drought.” Already, Sonny Perdue of Georgia is embroiled in an ever more bitter conflict with the governors of Florida and Alabama, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers, over the flow of water into and out of the Atlanta area.
He’s hardly alone. After all, the Southwest is in the grips of what, according to Davis, some climatologists are terming a “‘mega-drought,’ even the ‘worst in 500 years.’” More shockingly, he writes, such conditions may actually represent the region’s new “normal weather.” The upper Midwest is also in rainfall-shortage mode, with water levels at all the Great Lakes dropping unnervingly. The water level of Lake Superior, for instance, has fallen to the “lowest point on record for this time of year.” (Notice, by the way, how many “records” are being set nationally and globally in these drought years; how many places are already beginning to push beyond history, which means beyond any reference point we have.)
And then there’s the Southeast, 26 percent of which, according to the National Weather Service, is in a state of “exceptional” drought, its most extreme category, and 78 percent of which is “drought-affected.” We’re talking here about a region normally considered rich in water resources setting a bevy of records for dryness. It has been the driest year on record for North Carolina and Tennessee, for instance, while 18 months of blue skies have led Georgia to break every historical record, whether measured by “the percentage of moisture in the soil, the flow rate of rivers, [or] inches of rain.”
And there this from paleontologist and author of “The Weather Makers: The History and Future Impact of Climate Change” Tim Flannery:
It’s not just the Southeast of the United States. Europe has had its great droughts and water shortages. Australia is in the grip of a drought that’s almost unbelievable in its ferocity. Again, this is a global picture. We’re just getting much less usable water than we did a decade or two or three decades ago. It’s a sort of thing again that the climate models are predicting. In terms of the floods, again we see the same thing. You know, a warmer atmosphere is just a more energetic atmosphere. So if you ask me about a single flood event or a single fire event, it’s really hard to make the connection, but take the bigger picture and you can see very clearly what’s happening.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Barrow, Marshall and the contempt citations
Back in July, the House Judiciary Committee approved a contempt of Congress citation against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers for their refusal to testify in response to congressional subpoenas over the firings of nine federal prosecutors.
The vote had been scheduled for this week, but then was put off until December. This latest delay, they say, is attributed to strategic timing and not a lack of votes.
So where do our local Bush Dogs stand?
It looks like we might see the reverse of the SCHIP vote with Barrow bucking the leadership this time:
Democrats who have been quietly whipping the bill say they found only one or two vulnerable House Democrats wary of voting for it on the House floor.
One of those is believed to be Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.). But the former law professor said in a brief interview that he just wasn’t familiar with the measure.
“It hasn’t been widely discussed in the meetings I attend,” he said.
Still, Marshall said, he understood the logic of such a measure.
“If it’s appropriate for a witness to testify, and he or she doesn’t testify, then contempt is the remedy that’s available. I don’t know of any other.” [...]
Only one vulnerable Democratic member, Rep. John Barrow (Ga.), openly expressed serious reservations about moving forward with the bill.
“There has been a serious lack of oversight of this administration,” Barrow said. “But at the same time, I don’t think we should be picking fights we can’t win.”
Of the fourteen endangered and centrist Democrats asked about their support for the politically charged provision, Barrow was the only no.
Friday, November 16, 2007
The parties go duck hunting
The New Republic’s Eric Rauchway says both parties have a history of catering to white racists. The Democrats stopped. Have Republicans?
In the 1890s, southern states began to amend their laws and constitutions to keep black people from voting, in part because they wanted to stop poor whites from joining the Populist Party, which sought to implement an income tax and break up business monopolies. Democrats, then the reigning political power in the South, figured that they could keep some large number of poor whites from worrying about their economic status by appealing to their racism. They proved correct. Thus the South solidified behind the Democratic Party and white supremacy.
Cracks opened in this sectional foundation when the Democrats nominated Al Smith for the Presidency in 1928. The multi-ethnic, Catholic, Manhattanite Smith represented “card playing, cocktail drinking, poodle dogs, divorces, novels, stuffy rooms, dancing, evolution, Clarence Darrow, overeating, nude art, prize fighting, actors, greyhound racing, and modernism,” as one Protestant minister raved. As H. L. Mencken noted, these fears would get “Methodist Ku Kluxers of every state south of the Potomac ... building forts along the coast to repel the Pope.” The Republicans benefited, and picked up a few southern states.
These cracks opened wider in 1948 and 1960, both close elections in part because white southerners punished Democrats for taking small steps toward civil rights. In 1948, Harry Truman’s effort ”to secure these rights“ prompted Strom Thurmond to run on a “states’ rights” ticket, costing Truman electoral votes he could scarcely afford. In 1960, some southern electors fled the Catholic and tepidly tolerant John Kennedy for a ticket with states’ righters Harry Flood Byrd and Strom Thurmond on it. These southerners whose votes had kept Democrats in office--southerners who for generations had been poorer than their northern counterparts--nevertheless let race-baiters woo them away from the New Deal, whose political programs had done them so much good.
By the 1960s it had become clear that the white South would bolt the Democratic Party under the right circumstances. As Barry Goldwater told fellow Republicans in 1961, owing to the New Deal, the GOP would never “get the Negro vote ... so we ought to go hunting where the ducks are.”
With that the catering-to-white-racist baton is handed off to the Republicans. But I’m not seeing how Goldwater’s strategy is a whole lot different than Tom Schaller’s prescription for Democrats in Whistling Past Dixie. The Dems is a sin of omission rather than of commission:
For a generation the Republicans have benefited from keeping Mississippi burning, just as the Democrats did before. Both hoped that racist populism would trump economic populism. The coming year will likely bring more of the same, and the results will tell us whether Americans will be so simply fooled again.
Dems may rightfully claim they’re not the party catering to white racists but so long as they use that fact as a benefit to win rather than actually doing something on the ground to counter and change it, they are complicit in the ongoing structural racism. And that’s not much to be proud of.