July 10, 2014
By Michael McGee
Special to the NNPA from The Dallas Examiner
“The most disadvantaged, troubled students in the South and the nation attend schools in the juvenile justice systems,” the 2014 report from the Southern Education Foundation begins. The document, Just Learning: The Imperative to Transform Juvenile Justice Systems into Effective Educational Systems raises a number of questions: If so many children with educational needs are segregated or incarcerated, what will become of them and the society they will enter once they age out of the system? Are their needs being met? What can be improved?
Data within the report suggests that the current condition the juvenile justice system is in creates the potential for lifelong disadvantage for many youth who are a part of the system. Dr. Kent McGuire, president of the Southern Education Foundation, is concerned by what he saw in the report.
“The first thing I think we need to remember is that we’re talking about kids, not adults,” he said. “Kids need help and support as they grow up, as they develop, and they’re entitled to and deserve opportunities to learn through education so that they can participate fully in the economy and the democracy.” The president noted that all children have such needs, be they in an off-campus alternative school, a boot camp or high school in a suburban community.
“So we’re talking about school,” McGuire said. “The good news is that they’re set up to do education. The bad news is, from our look in, is that the education function, we think, gets short shrift.” He said if education was understood to be a primary focus to juvenile justice the dividends would be greater in the future.
“In terms of lower recidivism rates, high school graduation rates and smoother transitions into post-secondary opportunities and the world of work,” McGuire stated. “So there’s just lots of reasons, before we even get to the cost associated with the population of that system, lots of reasons to get the education piece right.”
The report from 2010 suggests that there were 70,000 young people across the U.S. detained within the system on any given day. About one-third of those kids were found in 15 states of the Southern U.S. McGuire reflected upon how those numbers got to be so high.
“Most things we come to worry about don’t happen overnight, which means that they’re long, slow, developing trends which take a trained eye to see,” he admitted. To some extent, he praised aspects of the No Child Left Behind legislation for identifying problem areas for many school-aged children.
“On the other hand, [there’s] this preoccupation with accountability to the absence of what I’ll call capacity-building,” McGuire criticized. “It’s one thing to hold adults accountable; it’s another to actually help them get better results. We’ve done a lot of one. We haven’t done very much of the other.”
Many kids within the system have learning disabilities, behavioral and emotional problems, and are behind in their education to begin with, the SEF report cites. The report also notes that, of the total number of youth detained in 2010, almost two-thirds “did not involve any wrongdoing directly against another person.” Most kids in the system were there not due to violence, but because of property damage, drug issues, or they “had been unruly, incurred technical violations, or had committed a status offense,” the SEF said.
July 10, 2014
City News Service
Deputies hoping to stem the illegal sale of “designer” drugs such as “bath salts” and “spice” found the contraband in two of four tobacco shops they checked in the Santa Clarita Valley, it was announced. The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Juvenile Intervention Team conducted the operation July 8 and issued two citations to the shopkeepers, said Deputy Joshua Dubin of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. Selling the contraband is a misdemeanor punishable by county jail time and/or hefty fines, Dubin said.
Cannabinoids, which include synthetic marijuana or “spice,” and synthetic cathinones, otherwise known as “bath salts,” are increasingly available over the counter, according to authorities and referral networks that help get addicts into treatment. According to a recent report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the number of synthetic drugs being sold on the streets or over the counter rose by more than 50 percent over the past three years. The unregulated “designer” drugs are sold as tablets, capsules, or powder — often with names such Vanilla Sky and Bliss —and purchased in places such as tobacco and convenience stores, gas stations, head shops and via the Internet.
A study published in the August issue of Neuropharmacology shows that “bath salts” appear to be more addictive than methamphetamine.
July 03, 2014
By MICHELLE FAUL
Leaders at an African summit have voted to give themselves and their allies immunity from prosecution for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide at a new African Court of Justice and Human Rights.
The decision comes as the continent confronts human rights violations and has two sitting presidents and one ousted president facing charges at the International Criminal Court.
Amnesty International called it “a backward step in the fight against impunity and a betrayal of victims of serious violations of human rights.”
“At a time when the African continent is struggling to ensure that there is accountability for serious human rights violations and abuses, it is impossible to justify this decision which undermines the integrity of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, even before it becomes operational,” said Amnesty’s Netsanet Belay.
The decision came June 27 at an African Union summit vote in Equatorial Guinea from which journalists were excluded, Amnesty International said. News of the vote was imparted obliquely in a statement recently, about the summit outcomes. A paragraph listing legal instruments agreed at the meeting included the “Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.”
That amendment bars the court from prosecuting sitting African leaders and vaguely identified “senior officials.”
Forty-two African and international civil society and rights groups had objected to the amendment, noting in an open letter before the summit that the impunity violates international and domestic laws as well as the constitution of the African Union.
Simon Allison of the South African-based Institute for Security Studies wrote in an op-ed piece before the vote that “there are enough compromised African leaders who might stand to benefit from the immunity on offer.”
He noted that there is an argument to be made that guaranteed immunity for presidents and senior officials might actually encourage African states to engage more enthusiastically with the proposed new court, and to abide by its rulings.
“If Africa’s leaders aren’t worrying about their own fate, they won’t have anything to lose by cooperating,” he wrote.
And it might keep the court clear of the complicated political issues that have bogged down the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
That court has been accused of unfairly singling out African leaders. Earlier this year the African Union urged its members to “speak with one voice” to prevent criminal proceedings at ICC against sitting presidents. Only Botswana objected then, as it has now against the promised impunity at the African court.
The African Union has failed to persuade the U.N. Security Council to defer the trials of Kenya’s president and his deputy on charges of crimes against humanity for allegedly orchestrating postelection violence that killed more than 1,000 people in 2007. Both men deny the charges. The Africans also wanted the deferral of criminal proceedings against Sudan's president, who has been charged with genocide in Darfur.
July 03, 2014
By Stacy M. Brown
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer
Not even the Supreme Court can stop the Congressional Black Caucus from moving forward in its mission to protect African-American voters and others at the polls.
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), led a contingent of caucus members and several minority groups in a public plea to Republicans on June 18 to take up legislation that would restore the voting rights protections shot down last year by the nation’s highest court.
“Voter discrimination is real in America,” said Fudge, 61. “We have a voting rights bill that has been sitting in the House for months and months and it’s being held up by Chairman Bob Goodlatte.”
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and other Democrats have urged lawmakers to update the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In 2013, the High Court voted to strike down key components of the law, including allowing nine states to change their voting requirements without advance approval from the federal government.
Fudge and other Democratic legislators said Goodlatte, (R-Va.), who serves as the House Judiciary Chairman, has blocked efforts to get a bill passed that would restore portions of the law that the Supreme Court struck down.
Democrats are seeking greater protection for minority voters and they want to ensure that individuals aren’t turned away from the polls because they don’t have proper identification or for other reasons.
Goodlatte, 61, has vowed to protect voting rights.
“I fully support protecting the voting rights of all Americans,” he said. “As Congress determines whether additional steps are needed to protect those rights, I will carefully consider legislative proposals addressing the issue.”
However, with June quickly coming to a close and legislators preparing to return to their home states for summer break, without a resolution Congress would be hard pressed to pass a bill prior to the November midterm elections.
It’s that scenario that Democrats said they fear because many minority voters could find it difficult to cast their ballots with the way the law currently stands.
“Voting is the language of the American democracy, if you don’t vote, you don’t count,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in Northwest.
“This principle has been echoed time and again by resounding bipartisan majorities in Congress and by presidents from both parties,” said Henderson, 66. “The issue of voting rights has historically been, and will forever be, bipartisan. The House Judiciary Committee cannot shrink from this historic obligation.”
CBC members and leaders of several other groups said they recognize this time as being crucial in the battle to achieve a more balanced voting rights law.
Lorraine Miller, interim president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said it’s imperative that Congress act now.
“This is a critical time for action. As we approach the anniversary [of last year’s Supreme Court decision], we must act with renewed urgency in advancing the Voting Rights Amendment Act through the congressional process,” Miller said. “The looming risk of voter disenfranchisement threatens our democracy and failure to advance this legislation gives a free pass to voting discrimination.”