Illinois Town Wants To Outlaw Eye-Rolling

Illinois Town Wants To Outlaw Eye-Rolling

The Consumerist
July 21, 2010

Next time you’re in line at the grocery store and you roll your eyes at the person with two carts full of items refusing to leave the 10-items-or-fewer line, you might be in trouble with the law — at least if you live in Elmhurst, Illinois. Officials of the Chicago suburb are looking into finding a way of putting an end to the practice by legal means.

The idiocy stems from a recent city council meeting where an Elmhurst resident was ejected from the room after rolling her eyes in reaction to something that was said by a council member.

Members of the Elmhurst city council have asked the City Attorney to look into the creation of a “disturbance and disorderly conduct” violation and to see if eye-rolling could somehow be shoehorned into its definition.

Illinois state law defines disorderly conduct is “an act in such unreasonable manner as to alarm or disturb another, or to provoke a breach of the peace.”

While she apparently is against a prohibition on eye-rolling, the Elmhurst citizen who was booted from the meeting says she’s all for having a definition of disorderly conduct in the city’s books.

“I’d like for them (city officials) to have a better understanding of the open meetings act and its meaning and to understand what disorderly conduct is,” she explained.

As for the City Attorney, who is slated to report back to the council on his findings on Jan. 26, he seems doubtful that rude behavior at a city council meeting should be an issue for law enforcement.

“It’s not in any way a punishable offense by a fine,” he said. “It’s a matter of decorum.”

What do you think: At what point does eye-rolling and such behavior cross the line and become something that could be considered disorderly conduct?

Elmhurst considers violation for eye-rolling []


Prison guards get away with raping female inmate

…like putting bacon in a cage full of dogs
Prison guards get away with raping female inmate

Mother Jones
May 8, 2010

Michelle Ortiz was serving one year at the Ohio Reformatory for Women, a state prison in Marysville, when she was molested by a male guard. A recent article in the Columbus Dispatch describes what happened next:

    When Ortiz reported the first assault to prison official Paula Jordan, the official told the inmate that the male guard was being transferred from the facility and was “just a dirty old man.” That same evening, the male guard assaulted her again.

    Rebecca Bright, another prison official who launched an investigation, ordered Ortiz placed in solitary confinement, where she was handcuffed. Bright reportedly argued that Ortiz was talking about the incident with other inmates.

Other accounts were more specific: In the first assault, Ortiz was “fondled” by the guard, who then told her “I’ll get you tomorrow, watch.” In the second, which took place after she had appealed for help, the guard returned while Ortiz was asleep and raped her. The assaults took place back in 1996. Subsequently, Ortiz sued both prison officials in federal court for doing nothing to protect her from the guard and punishing her instead. A jury awarded her $625,000 in damages.

But Bright and Jordan appealed the verdict, and the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals “ruled 2-1 that the prison officials had qualified immunity, shielding them from paying damages” to Ortiz. The third judge, however, issued an outraged dissent. As the AP reported:

    It is extremely rare for a prison inmate’s civil rights complaint to overcome preliminary legal obstacles and persuade a jury there was a violation, said Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, the dissenting appeals court judge. Given the statistics, Daughtrey said, “I view this result as a legal travesty.”

    The evidence against Bright and Jordan was strong, she said. “The majority’s decision to overturn the jury’s verdict strikes me not just as an unfortunate result in this case, but as one that is thoroughly senseless.”

    Against the objections of Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, the US Supreme Court–also not known for its sympathy to “prison inmate’s civil rights complaints”–has now agreed to review the case, and will hear arguments in the fall.

The wheels of justice move slowly, when they move at all. Back in 2003, the organization Stop Prisoner Rape–now renamed Just Detention International–published a report on the sexual abuse of prisoners by guards at the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW) Alerted to the problem by a prison psychiatrist, Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR) interviewed several staff whistleblowers, as well as prisoners, and discovered a “climate of abuse.”

    Inmates described a range of incidents, including violent encounters, threats and pressure to submit to sexual advances, trading sex for goods and favors, and relationships that were seemingly consensual. However, for women under near-total control of prison staff, the concept of “consenting” to sex is virtually meaningless (and Ohio law reflects this). The problems arising from this power imbalance are compounded by the past history of sexual abuse that many female inmates have endured.

    SPR learned that women who report sexual misconduct are routinely sent to solitary confinement, unusually harsh conditions in the hole at ORW may compound the trauma. This use of isolation emboldens perpetrators who know that the practice discourages women from reporting abuse.

SPR concluded that the problem was compounded by the Ohio prison system’s “instututional response”–or lack of it. They found a “culture of silence and denial” at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction that began its director, Reginald Wilkinson. Head of the sixth-largest prison system in the country, Wilkinson “repeatedly made public statements denying that any problem exists and discouraging suggestions for reform,” including the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which was passed unanimously by Congress in 2003. In an op-ed opposing the legislation, Wilkinson argued that the data on prison sexual assaults was “highly exaggerated” and based on “disingenuous data (self reporting).”

While investigating allegations at the Ohio Reformatory for Women, SPR interviewed Warden Deborah Timmerman. According to SPR’s report:

    Timmerman-Cooper confirmed that prisoners who complained of sexual abuse were transferred to segregation, losing their privileges while there. She justified this policy by saying that it was necessary in order to protect the inmate while officials investigated the incident, but could not explain why those inmates should be stripped of basic privileges and locked in isolation for 23 hours a day….

    In summary, SPR has found extensive and credible evidence that an environment consistently conducive to sexual abuse exists at the Ohio Reformatory for Women and that a pattern of abuse may exist at other Ohio women’s facilities…

    The isolation and punishment of inmates who report sexual assault is a practice that punishes victims and encourages staff misconduct. In Ohio, it is a policy that has fostered a climate of abuse and intimidation and undercut respect for human rights.

This happens to be a pivotal moment in the effort to combat the epidemic of sexual assaults in detention. The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, which was created by the PREA in 2003, has issued recommendations for a new set of national standards to address the problem. As David Kaiser and Lovisa Stannow wrote earlier this year in their two excellent articles in the New York Review of Books on prison rape and how it can be stopped:

    One of the most pernicious myths about prisoner rape is that it is an inevitable part of life behind bars. This is simply wrong…In well-run facilities across the country it is being prevented—and this shouldn’t be surprising, the government has extraordinary control over the lives of those it locks up. Stopping sexual abuse in detention is a matter of using sound policies and practices, and passing laws that require them.

Attorney General Eric Holder has until June to review the recommended standards proposed by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission and turn them into federal regulations, which would make them binding on prisons and other detention facilities. Predictably, they are being opposed by some leaders of the powerful corrections industry, and questioned on the basis of cost.

The Department of Justice has opened a 60-day public comment period on the standards. That comment period ends in one week, on May 10. Just Dentention International is hosting a petition urging Attorney General Eric Holder to enact the strongest possible standards. You can sign the petition on JDI’s web site here, or its Facebook page here.


The Obama DOJ’s warrantless demands for e-mails

The Obama DOJ’s warrantless demands for e-mails

April 15, 2010

I want your emails.

A very significant case involving core privacy protections is now being litigated, where the Obama Justice Department is seeking to obtain from Yahoo “all emails” sent and received by multiple Yahoo email accounts, despite the fact that DOJ has never sought, let alone obtained, a search warrant, and despite there being no notice of any kind to the email account holders:

    In a brief filed Tuesday afternoon, the coalition says a search warrant signed by a judge is necessary before the FBI or other police agencies can read the contents of Yahoo Mail messages — a position that puts those companies directly at odds with the Obama administration.

As part of a case conducted largely under seal and thus hidden from public view, the DOJ demanded these emails from Yahoo without any effort to demonstrate probable cause to believe the email user was involved in the commission of any crime, but instead merely based on the vague claim that there is “reasonable grounds to believe” the emails “are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.” If the DOJ position were accepted, Americans would have substantially less privacy protections in their email communications.

Federal law is crystal clear that a search warrant is required for the Government to obtain any emails that have been stored less than 180 days — one that requires a showing of probable cause and that the documents sought to be described with particularlity. In contrast to the nation’s largest telecoms’ eager cooperation with Bush’s illegal surveillance programs, Yahoo — to its credit — refused to turn over any such emails to the Government without a search warrant. As a result, the DOJ is now seeking a federal court Order compelling the company to comply with its demands, and a coalition of privacy groups and technology companies — led by EFF and including Google — have now filed a brief supporting Yahoo’s position. Both Yahoo and that coalition insist that federal law as well as the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure protection bar the Obama DOJ from acquiring these emails without a search warrant.

Read Full Article Here

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Obama Supports DNA Sampling Upon Arrest

Obama Supports DNA Sampling Upon Arrest

March 10, 2010

Josh Gerstein over at Politico sent Threat Level his piece underscoring once again President Barack Obama is not the civil-liberties Knight In Shining Armor many were expecting.

Gerstein posts a televised interview of Obama and John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted. The nation’s chief executive extols the virtues of mandatory DNA testing of Americans upon arrest, even absent charges or a conviction. Obama said, “It’s the right thing to do” to “tighten the grip around folks” who commit crime.

When it comes to civil liberties, the Obama administration has come under fire for often mirroring his predecessor’s practices surrounding state secrets, the Patriot Act and domestic spying. There’s also Gitmo, Jay Bybee and John Yoo.

Now there’s DNA sampling. Obama told Walsh he supported the 18 states, including the federal government, that have varying laws requiring compulsory DNA sampling of individuals upon an arrest for crimes ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. The data is lodged in state and federal databases, and has fostered as many as 200 arrests nationwide, Walsh said.

The American Civil Liberties Union claims DNA sampling is different from mandatory, upon-arrest fingerprinting that has been standard practice in the United States for decades.

A fingerprint, the group says, reveals nothing more than a person’s identity. But much can be learned from a DNA sample, which codes a person’s family ties, some health risks, and, according to some, can predict a propensity for violence.

The ACLU is suing California to block its voter-approved measure requiring saliva sampling of people picked up on felony charges. Authorities in the Golden State are allowed to conduct so-called “familial searching” — when a genetic sample does not directly match another, authorities start investigating people with closely matched DNA in hopes of finding leads to the perpetrator.

Wondering whether DNA sampling is legal?

The courts have already upheld DNA sampling of convicted felons based on the theory that the convicted have fewer privacy rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that when conducting intrusions of the body during an investigation, the police need so-called “exigent circumstances” or a warrant. That alcohol evaporates in the blood stream is the exigent circumstance to draw blood from a suspected drunk driver without a warrant.


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