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8 July 2010

Product Placement

via Community by javacia on 6/8/10

**Crossposted on GeorgiaMae.com

I have been rocking my natural hair for several years and there are some questions I get sick and tired of hearing: Is that your real hair? How do you get your hair to curl like that? Are you mixed? I could go on forever.  But there's one question that actually makes me smile: What products do you use? Your hair smells so good!

Unfortunately, that's not the reaction an 8-year-old biracial Seattle girl received from her teacher while wearing Organic Root Stimulator Olive Oil Moisturizing Hair Lotion. 

Charles Mudede, the girl's father, told The Seattle Times, that his daughter, the only black child in her honors class at Seattle's Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, came home from school last month and announced her teacher made her leave the classroom because the girl's hair was making the teacher sick. The girl was moved to the hallway, then another class.

Mudede was left with many perplexing questions: 

Why did the teacher think the problem was his daughter's hair? Why hadn't the school called the parents? How could the girl return to her own class if they didn't first figure out what had made the teacher sick?

What investigation was being done to pinpoint the source of the problem? And, finally, why did the school seem oblivious to the racial overtones of a white teacher singling out her only black student?

On Friday, the NAACP announced it would file a complaint about the situation with the U.S. Department of Education.

The Seattle Times reports that Mudede seemed surprised the situation had reached the point where there was talk of a lawsuit. He just wants answers. 

Mudede, who is black, said he has talked with his daughter about valuing her natural beauty and resisting pressures to straighten her hair in an effort to look more like her white classmates.

"I want her to know she's beautiful," he told The Seattle Times. 

I get having severe allergies. Really, I do. But how can a teacher be so insensitive to the feelings of a student to do something like this? Think of the message this incident will send to this little girl or the embarrassment she must have felt, especially considering she's the only student of color in the class. 

How do you think this situation should have been handled? 

Below is KING-5's report on the incident

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

Chinese Internet Addicts Stage Daring Boot Camp Escape [China]

via Kotaku by Mike Fahey on 6/8/10

A group of adolescents interred at an internet addiction boot camp rose up against their oppressors last week, restraining their supervisor and fleeing the facility to taste sweet, sweet freedom. At least until their parents sent them back. More »

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

6 July 2010

Linda

via InvisiblePeople.tv by invisiblepeople on 7/6/10

If it wasn’t for Linda’s sign I would have never thought she was homeless. Can you picture this woman sleeping outside by the Santa Monica Library?

Years ago she moved to San Fernando Valley with her boyfriend looking for work. He was a union welder for 30 years. The work ended and because of health issues they ended up homeless.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

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Sunday Secrets

via PostSecret by postsecret on 7/4/10

PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people
mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.


See More Secrets. Follow PostSecret on Twitter.



PostSecret Community



After five years and 500,000 postcards our PostSecret mail-carrier has retired to England. You'll be missed Kathy.


Sonia Warren now delivers our secrets. Welcome Sonia!


The following message arrived from a New Zealand postal worker and was originally published in the second PostSecret book.

I just finished up seven years working at a mail center; and over that time I would come across PostSecret postcards, and take the time to read them. Some were funny, some touching, some heartbreaking. But every time I read them I knew I was in a privileged position-- not only because I was perhaps one of the first people to read these beautifully crafted cards, but also because I was being let into somebody's soul and sharing with them whatever emotion they invested into creating the card.

I just want to let people out there know that even if your postcard doesn't show up on the website, there's a hardworking postal worker who is taking the time to read your secret, and who identifies with this brave, faceless, nameless sender.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

Tell Congress: Let Prisoners Go to College

via Change.org's Criminal Justice Blog by Matt Kelley on 7/6/10

President Bill Clinton may have benefited from a number of second chances himself over the course of his career. But when he was in office, he was still no friend of prisoners' rights.

Back in 1994, Clinton signed a law denying prisoners access to the Pell Grants — access that had previously made a college education possible behind bars. The impact of this disastrous stroke of the pen is still felt today, as prisoners struggle to access an education and prisons likewise struggle to fill the education gap with thin budgets and the help of nonprofits. Since Clinton denied Pell Grants to those in prison, the number of college programs available to prisoners — even to those who want to pay — has dropped from 350 to just a handful.

Today, though, as more states move toward exploring innovative approaches to reduce crime, recidivism and incarceration — the climate is right to restore prisoner access to Pell Grants.

Call on Congress today to remove the restriction on federal Pell Grants for prisoners. The cost is minimal, and we'll all benefit, as prisoners will return to society with potential and motivation to contribute.

Michael Santos, a federal prisoner who blogs regularly in this space, wrote last fall at his Prison News Blog that Pell Grants helped him obtain a bachelor's and master's degree and prepared him to build a life after prison (a day he's still waiting for after serving 23 years in prison for drug trafficking). Santos has seen Pell Grants help many prisoners, and now he sees a federal prison system that virtually guarantees recidivism by denying educational opportunities to those it keeps locked up.

As he wrote, "Those who have committed the discipline necessary to earn high-level academic credentials stand much more prepared to contribute to society in meaningful ways. Those contributions lead to higher earnings and more tax revenues for society. Offering high-level academic programs to those in prison represent a wise investment of public funds. Only the foolish would choose to invest in more prison cells."

Join Change.org members and take action today: Le'ts urge Congress to teach our way out of the nation's sprawling prison system.

Photo Credit: Werwin15

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

Red-light camera backlash brewing

via Grits for Breakfast by Gritsforbreakfast on 7/6/10

Following up on the Texas Tribune's publication of statewide red-light camera revenues, the writer Theodore Kim at the Dallas News has a pair of notable stories (thanks to the reader who notified me) on the growing public backlash against red-light cameras, highlighted most recently by a plebiscite in College Station to take them down.
A grassroots backlash against the cameras is growing, says the News:
In Texas, College Station voters last fall forced their city to take down its cameras. Houston opponents say they have enough petition signatures to put the cameras to a vote this fall. And the Texas House of Representatives last year passed a measure that would have phased out the cameras. Though it failed in the Senate, camera opponents say they plan to try again.

"There is a backlash, for sure," said state Rep. Solomon Ortiz Jr., D-Corpus Christi, who co-sponsored the anti-camera push. "City budgeters are counting on these fines as a revenue stream and simply using the argument of safety as cover."

Don't know how I missed the College Station vote. The News could have added that in 2008, Lubbock discontinued use of cameras after accidents increased at intersections using them. The article also provides no update on provocative litigation (which I assume is still pending), where a judge said in December 2008 that the companies operating cameras in Texas weren't properly licensed. The Dallas News linked to the class action suits when they were filed, but I don't know where they are in the process and can't find any recent coverage.

The News also found that lobby reports filed with the state:

do not include money that the companies may have spent on lobbying efforts in cities such as College Station and Houston, which have grappled with local ballot initiatives related to red-light cameras.

Jim Ash, leader of College Station's anti-camera movement, contends that American Traffic Solutions spent a significant sum to keep red-light cameras in the city.

George Hittner, vice president and general counsel for American Traffic Solutions, said the company does not view its advocacy efforts as lobbying but as "more of an education program."

Finally, at the end of the main story, a lobbyist for red-light cameras made this interesting argument:
Jim McGrath, a consultant who works for a group tied to Houston's camera vendor, American Traffic Solutions Inc., said red-light cameras are easy targets for criticism. After all, he said, they raise the specter of Big Brother and "are something everyone can identify with."

But he added, "If these cameras were catching child molesters, we would insist on having them on every corner. ... Critics who say this is just a money grab are really saying that the city of Houston is being too efficient at enforcing the law."

Awhile back I'd posed the second-hand question, "if it were possible to construct a machine that would allow detection of every law violation and ensure 100% enforcement, should the machine be built?" Red-light cameras are just such a machine aimed at one crime (out of thousands) at a particular location. Judging from the College Station vote, the general public appears far less than certain 100% enforcement of the law is a good idea.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

The Visual Du Jour – One Week of Food

re-issued

via The Global Sociology Blog by SocProf on 7/4/10

Via Roger Ebert, this amazing series of photos. The quantitative and qualitative differences are obvious as well as the contrast between staple foods, grown and cooked versus processed and packaged.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

Does it get harder the closer to his release?

via Prison Talk by helpaworriedmom on 7/4/10

Maybe I should give just a little background info. My son has been incarcerated since 2006. Late last year, he called and asked me what high school I went to and told me that another inmate was asking if we were related. well to make a long story short, it was an old boyfriend from high school. We were always crazy about each other then and come to find out we still are. He has been wonderful in helping my son (who has a chronic illness) and we all know how well the DOC takes care of their medical needs. Anyway, my friend which is now my boyfriend, will be coming home soon. But it seems that the closer the day gets, the worse the waiting gets. Since my son still has quite a bit of time, I have not gone through this release thing before. Is it going to get even harder as we count down the last little bit of time?? Just wondering.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

The Trial Tax and Hypocrisy

via Norm Pattis by Norm Pattis on 7/6/10

One of the worst days I ever had in a courtroom took place a decade ago. My client was a young man accused of selling crack cocaine. Police officers testified they saw him hand a small bag to another man and receive cash in return. The cops caught my client; the other guy got away. Shortly after handing his wallet to the police, my client fled, the police said.

An hour or so after this confrontation, my client called the police to report his wallet missing. At trial, his family and girlfriend testified that he was home at the very moment the police tried to arrest the person holding my client's wallet. 
The jury rejected my client's alibi defense. (Note to practitioners: moms, sisters and girlfriends make horrible alibi witnesses.) My client was convicted. The day he was sentenced, the judge turned savage and sent him away for 18 years. My client's mother was hysterical, and made for the balcony on the sixth floor of the courthouse. She was stopped before she did anything foolish. Her husband, my client's father, watched this unfolding horror in shock until he collapsed with chest pain. He was whisked from the building by emergency service folks.  In sum, I lost three people that day, or at least that's how it felt.
Eighteen years seemed at the time, and it seems now, like an obscenely long period of imprisonment for a young man with no criminal record. What if he had, in fact, sold cocaine? What if he had, in fact, ran from the police? What if his family had, in fact, lied to try to save him? Are these the sorts of crimes that require decades of imprisonment? Who imprisons big tobacco for the death it deals and the lies it tells to escape responsibility for its actions?
I think of this case often because of the story the jury never got to see or even to learn about. You see, the jury was treated like a group of moral imbeciles. The judge told them not to concern themselves with punishment; that was the judge's job. The jury was left to make a decision in a vacuum. Did the defendant commit the crime or not? It is sort of like shopping for art: Comment on the paintings all you like, just don't ask the prices.
But here is the real shocker. Prior to trial, my client had been offered a plea bargain: if he would just admit that he broke the law, the court would accept his plea and his prison sentence would be comparatively brief: two years.
He was not nine times as bad a young man after trial as he was when the plea offer was made. He did not testify at trial, and if he did not stand up in the jury's presence and call his family liars, which is, in effect, what the jury's verdict did, he can be forgiven that. No one wants prison; prison is a wasting place.
My client paid a heavy tax for exercising his right to trial. It is a silent tax all defendants face. It is the tax criminal defense lawyers refer to as the trial tax. This tax is obscene and it is ugly. What's more, it is a lie we never permit jurors to learn about. 
We mouth platitudes about the glories of our way of life and our guarantee of rights to all. But we're not really serious about these rights. If you choose to exercise them and lose, we will punish you, severely, for wasting everyone's time. My client is serving an extra 16 years for choosing to go trial in a case in which justice at first looked like two years, so long as he saved the state the expense and trouble of a trial. What justice required did not change after the verdict, but the taxman needed his due. 
We construct elaborate fictions in the criminal courts to pretend that sentencing judges, like the famous statue of Justice, are blind. The judge trying a case is not supposed to know what the plea offer was. This would influence the trial judge when and if sentence is imposed. This is pretty sounding bull dung: Everyone in the courthouse knows that there is a heavy tax for going to trial. The fact that the exact price might not be known by all participants in the sale hardly matters. The tax is real; it is a heavy tax.
Lawyers and judges talk about the vanishing trial. Many defendants in fear of the tax plead guilty to something or other. Perhaps there'd be more trials, and fewer pleas to crimes that may or may not have been committed, if the lingering specter of terror were driven away. Why not be honest about the trial tax? Or better yet, eliminate it altogether? Put the plea offered a man before trial in a sealed envelop. If he is convicted, let him be sentenced to the term offered before trial. Justice doesn't change its tune so easily, does it? Or why not let a separate panel review the sentence imposed in light of the plea offered?
Purists will say this would undermine plea bargaining. Defendants would have less of an incentive to go to trial if they knew what they were facing. Perhaps. But if we are going to do more than pay lip service to the Bill of Rights and the jury system, perhaps that is the way it should be. Under the current regime, we resort to fear and extortion  to persuade men and women to give up rights we claim are precious. The trial tax cheapens the Constitution. We are hypocrites for imposing it silently, and without any pretense of transparency.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

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