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

bodycam4

(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…)

Do We Really Want Cops With Body Cameras Filming Everything They See?

policecameraFrom Mother Board

Police departments across America are eagerly fitting their officers with surveillance cameras that record the public from a cop’s point of view. The technology was trotted out as a way to keep police accountable—to cut back on brutality, acquit wrongfully accused officers, and bust the ones that abuse their power.

Framed with that noble intention, there’s plenty to commend about law enforcement’s latest toy. But folks are singing the praises so loudly it’s drowning out a host of crucial privacy questions that need to be asked as we creep toward nationwide police surveillance.

And creeping we are: A growing number of police departments are adopting the cameras, which are worn attached to glasses or a uniform. The New Orleans police jumped on the bandwagon yesterday, joining the likes of Oakland, Las Vegas, Seattle, and others that already use the cameras. Los Angeles is in the middle of a Hollywood fundraising campaign to purchase 500 body-worn cameras for the LAPD. In New York City, a federal court suggested the NYPD try out a pilot program to cut back on unconstitutional stop-and-frisks.

Lord knows the police need policing, and there’s logic in assuming that if your actions are watched and recorded all the time you’re more likely to behave responsibly—be you civilian or cop. But seen another way, camera-fitted policeman smacks of a surveillance-happy government that’s gone a bridge too far. Even if it’s possible to privacy-invade someone into good behavior, that doesn’t mean it’s not an unsettling can of worms to open. (more…)

Raleigh, Durham police using device that tracks cellphone data

stingrayFrom WRAL

— Police in Raleigh and Durham are using a controversial tool to fight crime.

Commonly called Stingray, the small suitcase-sized technology acts like a cell tower and allows police to track cellphone data. Critics say the devices, which are also in use in Charlotte and Wilmington, invade people’s privacy because they can collect information on the location and activity of cellphones.

“It is a very concerning technology because of its capability, but it’s also concerning because it’s so secretive,” said Sarah Preston, policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s North Carolina chapter.

Raleigh police have used Stingray for five years, police department spokesman Jim Sughrue said Monday, but he didn’t provide any other information regarding use of the device. (more…)

Carrboro Police To Increase Surveillance Capabilities

Carrboro Police using cameras against activists

Carrboro Police using cameras against activists

From Chapel Hill News

 — As the Carrboro Police Department makes plans to buy in-car and eventually body-mounted cameras for its officers, it is developing a policy the chief says will protect the rights of both the officers and the people they film.

Police Chief Walter Horton recently told the Board of Aldermen that he hopes to purchase eight car cameras in the coming year and add additional cameras each year as the department buys new vehicles.

The department has not budgeted the money to purchase any body cameras for officers this year.

Cameras will record traffic stops, searches, encounters with people on the street and for some investigations, Horton said. (more…)

The US government doesn’t want you to know how the cops are tracking you

stopitFrom The Guardian

All across America, from Florida to Colorado and back again, the country’s increasingly militarized local police forces are using a secretive technology to vacuum up cellphone data from entire neighborhoods – including from people inside their own homes – almost always without a warrant. This week, numerous investigations by major news agencies revealed the US government is now taking unbelievable measures to make sure you never find out about it. But a landmark court ruling for privacy could soon force the cops to stop, even as the Obama administration fights to keep its latest tool for mass surveillance a secret.

So-called International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers – more often called their popular brand name, “Stingray” – have long been the talk of the civil liberties crowd, for the indiscriminate and invasive way these roving devices conduct surveillance. Essentially, Stingrays act as fake cellphone towers (usually mounted in a mobile police truck) that police can point toward any given area and force every phone in the area to connect to it. So even if you’re not making a call, police can find out who you’ve been calling, and for how long, as well as your precise location. As Nathan Freed Wessler of the ACLU explained on Thursday, “In one Florida case, a police officer explained in court that he ‘quite literally stood in front of every door and window’ with his stingray to track the phones inside a large apartment complex.”

Yet these mass surveillance devices have largely stayed out of the public eye, thanks to the federal government and local police refusing to disclose they’re using them in the first place – sometimes, shockingly, even to judges. As the Associated Press reported this week, the Obama administration has been telling local cops to keep information on Stingrays secret from members of the news media, even when it seems like local public records laws would mandate their disclosure. The AP noted: (more…)

It’s Very Easy to Get Onto the Terrorist Database, and Impossible to Get Off It

Image removed at demand of License Compliance Services, Inc (09/2016)

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/12/eff-responds-after-license-compliance-services-attacks-fair-use

From Vice News

The Department of Justice released an audit of the FBI’s Terrorist Watchlist protocol on Tuesday. This claimed that while the agency has improved its speed when it comes to adding — and removing — names to the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), it still isn’t adding them fast enough.

The heavily redacted report makes clear that individuals who are not being officially investigated by the FBI can be, and often are, added to terrorist lists. What the audit doesn’t make clear is why. And that’s causing a growing unease among civil liberties groups, lawyers, and activists.

A week earlier, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a paper claiming that the TSDB grew from about 158,000 listings in 2004 to over 1.1 million in 2009. That was before the “underwear bomber,” a 2009 incident that greatly increased monitoring.

The “no-fly list” more than doubled in one year after that failed bombing attempt. But that is just one of eleven lists that include the Consular Lookout and Support System, the Interpol list, and the Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File (VGTOF). (more…)