Tag Archive: aclu

ACLU sues Mississippi city over ‘debtors’ prisons’

via jursit.org

by Emelina Perez

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [official website] filed a federal class action lawsuit [complaint] on Wednesday against the city of Biloxi, Mississippi, the Biloxi Police Chief, a Municipal Court judge and Judicial Correction Services, Inc. for allegedly arresting and jailing poor people illegally in debtor’s prisons. The plaintiffs were arrested [press release] for failing to pay traffic fines and held in jail for up to seven days without a hearing and were not informed of their right to counsel. The ACLU argues that the detentions violate citizens’ rights under the Fourth Amendment to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause and the Fourteenth Amendment right to hearings on the ability to pay, which was granted by the Supreme Court in 1983.

Although the US Supreme Court [official website] outlawed the practice of incarcerating people for court-imposed debts over 30 years ago, many local and state governments are still accused of jailing poor people in “debtors’ prisons.” The ACLU filed a lawsuit against Benton County [press release] in Washington earlier this month, claiming it unconstitutionally collects court-imposed debts. In March the ACLU filed a similar suit[press release] against DeKalb County in Georgia. In 2014 the Supreme Court of Ohio [official website] warned state judges to end the policy [JURIST report] of imprisoning people who are unable to pay court fines. The ACLU of Ohio had released a report [JURIST report] the previous year urging the Ohio Supreme Court to bring an end to the debtors’ prisons.

Carrboro Aldermen Examine Guidelines for Police Body Cameras

(Click here for an article on some of the many problems with body cameras)

From Chapelboro

Carrboro police officers may soon be required to wear cameras on their bodies.

Last year’s incidents in Ferguson and New York invigorated conversations across the nation about police misconduct and racial discrimination. Earlier this month the United States Department of Justice issued a damning report on Ferguson police, finding explicit racial bias among officers against African Americans (including racist emails sent by officers).

At Tuesday’s Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting, Member Michelle Johnson said body cameras will not end police racial profiling. But some think body cameras could reduce police misconduct by recording interactions between officers and the public.

Carrboro officials have been discussing police body cameras for the last half year. Carrboro’s draft policy sets guidelines for use of cameras and management of the video taken. (more…)

Report shows extent of police surveillance in North Carolina

surveillanceFrom Indy Week

More than 70 North Carolina law enforcement agencies are using automatic license plate readers, cell phone location trackers and surveillance cameras to keep an eye, and a mass of data, on ordinary citizens. And soon, they could be able to add unmanned drones to that list.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) uncovered a wealth of information about surveillance technologies that police and sheriff’s departments use in jurisdictions across the state, through a series of public records requests. Thursday morning, ACLU-NC policy director Sarah Preston and staff attorney Nathan Wessler joined former state Senator and criminal defense attorney Thom Goolsby to host a legislative briefing on privacy and surveillance issues.

While surveillance technology is not new, its use by law enforcement is becoming more widespread in the digital age, and the laws regulating its use have fallen far behind. The federal statute that governs warrantless access to cell phone and email records, for example, has not been updated since 1986. Now, regulating surveillance technology is falling to the states, and the ACLU-NC is pushing for legislation that protects the Fourth Amendment, by requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before collecting certain kinds of digital information on citizens. (more…)

Mississippi: Prison health faces poor quality accusations

View from the door at blood on the floor at East Mississippi Correctional Facility where a mentally ill inmate had cut himself.

View from the door at blood on the floor at East Mississippi Correctional Facility where a mentally ill inmate had cut himself.

From Corporate Media

State corrections officials disregarded risk to the health and safety of young prisoners at the Walnut Grove prison, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves concluded in a scathing March 22, 2012, report on the then GEO Group-run facility.

The sum of “these actions and inactions” by those officials, GEO and Health Assurance, which was contracted to provide medical and mental health care, “paints a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world,” he wrote.

Despite these words, the Mississippi Department of Corrections gave Health Assurance a contract to provide health care at East Mississippi Correctional Facility, paying the company $12 million over the past three years, according to state records.

In a lawsuit filed against MDOC in September, the ACLU called conditions at East Mississippi barbaric with a “callous denial of prisoners’ serious medical and mental health needs.” (more…)