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Mississippi Mayor Stops Release of Mug Shots of People Shot by Police
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba of Jackson, Mississippi signed an executive order that stops the Jackson Police Department (JPD) from releasing mugshots of people shot by police and of youth charged as adults, reports the Jackson Free Press. “The last image of any person should not be on the worst day of their life or the worst image that we could possibly provide of them,” said Lumumba on the sixth anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death. Attorney C.J. Lawrence, the mayor’s friend and creator of the 2014 “If They Gunned Me Down” social-media campaign, also spoke at the press conference.
While acknowledging that communities of color have historically had a tense and complex relationship with law enforcement, Mayor Lumumba said that Jackson’s majority-black police force created a “unique relationship” between residents and the police. But the mayor’s order does not affect the JPD’s reluctance to release the names of officers responsible for shooting residents. In 2016, the International Association of Chiefs of Police noted that the timely release of officer’s names in these cases “serves to enhance public trust in the investigative process, and adds to the transparency and perceived integrity of the investigation.”
Federal Judge Halts Enforcement of Existing Los Angeles Gang Injunctions
The city of Los Angeles has been barred from enforcing nearly all of its remaining gang injunctions, reports the Los Angeles Times. Anticipating that the American Civil Liberties Union will prove that most of those affected by the injunctions suffered due process violations, Chief U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Philips is preventing the city from enforcing any injunctions granted before January 19, 2018. Gang injunctions are civil court orders that bar suspected gang members from associating with friends or family members in areas where the gang is known to exist and disproportionately affect African Americans and Latinos. Los Angeles can continue to seek new gang injunctions if individuals have a chance to challenge the orders in court. Following an audit from the Los Angeles city attorney’s office and the Los Angeles Police Department, the city had already reduced the number of people subject to such injunctions from 8,900 to 1,450.
Decrease in Black Jail Incarceration Rate and Stabilization of White Rate
A new report by the Vera Institute of Justice finds that while African Americans are still overrepresented in local jails nationally, the black jail incarceration rate has begun to decline while the white rate has only stabilized. In “Divided Justice: Trends in Black and White Jail Incarceration, 1990-2013,” authors Ram Subramanian, Kristine Riley, and Chris Mai use jail incarceration figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics to calculate incarceration rates among people aged 15 to 64. The report reveals that African Americans remain 3.6 times as likely as whites to be incarcerated in local jails nationally. But while the black jail incarceration rate declined by 20% between 2005 and 2013, the white jail incarceration rate rose by 1%.
The white jail incarceration rate has grown most significantly in rural areas and small cities. Possible explanations for this trend include the opioid epidemic, rural communities misidentifying Latinos as whites, and these communities’ reluctance to adopt jail reduction strategies. Meanwhile reforms to policies that have disproportionately impacted black Americans, such as stop-and-frisk policing and drug law enforcement, have reduced the black jail incarceration rate. The report recommends improving data collection on racial disparities in jails, measuring how system actors exercise their discretion, and studying the root causes of racial disparities in jail incarceration.
Source: Subramanian, Ram, et al. “Divided Justice: Trends in Black and White Jail Incarceration, 1990-2013.” Vera Institute of Justice.
Trump Administration Targets Obama-era School Discipline Reforms
In the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, President Trump and Senator Marco Rubio have blamed the Obama-era “Rethink School Discipline” policies which sought to reduce the suspensions and expulsions of students of color, reports the New York Times. Rubio wrote a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions questioning whether the guidance, which encouraged schools to examine their discipline disparities and to take stock of discriminatory policies, contributed to the shooting at Stoneman Douglas—even though the shooter was white and had been expelled from the school. Trump announced that DeVos, who the New York Times reports “has been eyeing the guidance for reversal since she took office,” will lead a White House school safety commission tasked with examining whether to repeal the discipline guidance. In response to Rubio, Broward County superintendent Robert Runcie said on Twitter, “We’re not going to dismantle a program that’s been successful in the district because of false information that someone has put out there. We will neither manage nor lead by rumors.”
North Carolina Supreme Court to Rule on Racial Justice Act Commutations
The North Carolina Supreme Court will hear the cases of Marcus Robinson, Quintel Augustine, and Christina Walters—three incarcerated individuals whose death sentences were commuted to life without parole under the short-lived Racial Justice Act but were later reinstated, reports The News & Observer. The state Supreme Court will determine whether the repeal of the Racial Justice Act invalidates the defendants’ ability to appeal the latest decision in their case and seek to regain commutations under the old law. Passed in 2009, the Racial Justice Act gave individuals on death row the opportunity to have their sentences commuted to life without parole based on statistical evidence of racial bias in jury selection. “This is a chance for the state’s highest court to declare, definitively, that racial bias in the death penalty is an urgent civil rights issue that cannot be swept under the rug,” says James Ferguson, a longtime civil rights attorney.