proposed to charge inmates for food, doctor's visits, and booking.
The Elko County Jail houses 120 inmates and is almost always at capacity.
At $85 per day between food, services, housing, and utilities for
inmates, taxpayers are paying $10,000 per day and millions of dollars
a year, according to Sheriff Jim Pitts, reports Elko Daily Free Press.
Pitts' proposal to offset costs to the prisoners is seen as not only a
fiscal concern, but he believes it is "unjust for law-abiding residents
to pay the full price for incarceration."
"These guys shouldn't have a free ride," Pitts said. "Society
shouldn't be paying for their wrongs."
Tod Story, executive director of the ACLU Nevada, does not agree.
"I was aghast that anyone was even thinking of doing this," Story
said. "It is unconstitutional -- cruel and unusual punishment. There is
no value in trying to punish them further than the sentence that they
are already serving,"
The new policy states that Elko County inmates will be exempt from the
fees if they work at the jail or are incarcerated for less than 24
hours. Any inmate found innocent will be reimbursed, reports the Las
Fees for inmates services will be deducted from their commissary
account. Should an inmate not have any money they will incur a
negative balance, and that balance will remain on their "account"
if they are released and return to jail later.
"It has nothing to do with them getting out of jail, but if they ever
come back with any money, that will be applied to what they owe us,"
Pitts said. "All I'm doing is taking my cut first, before they buy
their candies. They need to pay for their food first before they get
As for the doctor visit costs...
Pitts said the fees to go to the doctor are to help offset the
increase in inmates faking illnesses.
"Once they hit our jail, they're sick. And then when they get into the
cells they talk to each other," Pitts said. "They say, 'Oh, you got
aspirin for that? Or you got a prescription for that?' So everyone in
that cell ... (claims to have) the same disease."
The cost of the doctor visit will be $10; a prescription will cost an inmate $5.
The county commission has approved the general request to charge
inmates. The final details are now being worked out.
A judge in Missouri ruled that motorists can now legally flash their headlights to warn other drivers of speed traps. The right to do so, federal judge Henry E. Autrey ruled, is protected by the First Amendment.
The lawsuit stems from a 2012 incident in which Ellisville resident Michael Elli was pulled over by an officer who noticed that Elli was blinking his headlights, warning other drivers “of RADAR ahead.” Elli himself had just passed through the speed trap.
Elli pleaded not guilty on the charge; if convicted, he faced up to $1,000 in fines and points on his license.
At a hearing last year, Ellisville officials claimed that “flashing headlights could interfere with a police investigation.”
Autrey, however, refuted the point by ruling that flashing headlights is simply a reminder for people to bring their driving “in conformity with the law – whether it be by slowing down, turning on one’s own headlamps at dusk or in the rain, or proceeding with caution.”
Although the charges against Elli were dropped, the American Civil Liberties Union sued on his behalf, claiming that his First Amendment rights had been violated.
Numerous other towns and cities across the country have laws that prevent drivers from warning other drivers of speed traps. The ACLU has expressed hope that the Ellisville ruling will send a strong message to lawmakers throughout the country.
Tony Rothert, Legal Director of the ACLU, said that headlight flashing prompts people to drive responsibly. He noted that “people really do slow down when you flash your lights at them, and that’s safer for everyone.”
Sources: Fox News, www.consumerist.com
Photo Source: www.wptv.com
Mercy Health Muskegon in Michigan is a Catholic hospital whose religious directives demand that an unborn baby’s life be protected by all means possible, even if it comes at potential risk to the mother.
In December of 2010, when Tamesha Means’ water broke at 18 weeks of pregnancy, she rushed to this hospital, only to be denied accurate information and care, and to be exposed to dangerous infections. Turned away not only once but twice, Means returned to the hospital two days after the initial visit. This time, when she began to deliver the baby, she was admitted, but the infant died mere hours later.
Means now finds herself at the center of a lawsuit filed in federal court. She, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), is suing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which runs Mercy Health Muskegon, for the treatment she and the unknown number of women around the country have received at Catholic hospitals.
“I’m thinking about women all over,” Means has said of the lawsuit. When, in 2012, she was informed that four other women had had similar experiences at Mercy, Means said she “felt worse than when it was happening to me. Something needed to be done.”
Dr. Douglas W. Laube, an obstetrician at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, describes Mercy Health’s treatment of Means as “basic neglect”, and adds that “it could have turned into a disaster, with both baby and mother dying.”
In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Means describes her experience when she first arrived in December 2010, with her water prematurely broken. “I was told to go home,” she says.
When she returned to the hospital a second time, Means says “they sent me home with no answers. I was begging. ‘You guys have to help me. I am in a lot of pain. I can’t keep going home like this.’”
While this is yet another instance of a clash between religious rights and medical care, the case is unique in that Means is not suing the hospital, but rather the larger organization behind it.
Currently, about one in every six hospital beds in America is Catholic. In some regions, this number is growing as they ally with non-Catholic medical groups.
As Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the civil liberties union, has said, “This isn’t about religious freedom, it’s about medical care.”
After delivering the baby and learning of its death, Means, a mother of three other children ages two to 13, stayed in the hospital for two days. Describing the painful process of leaving without her child, she says, “Before we could get on the elevator, we were stopped by one of the nurses and were told, ‘You need to call a funeral home or someone to come pick up your baby.’”
Sources: Cosmopolitan, The New York Times
Photo Source: https://www.aclu.org
Winona, Minnesota homeowners and the American Civil Liberties Union are teaming up to fight a town ordinance that they argue strips homeowners in the area of equal property rights.
The ordinance being challenged restricts the amount of rental licenses granted to 30% of houses on any given block in the town. While the city of Winona argues that the ordinance prevents blocks from being entirely inhabited by often college-aged renters, homeowners say the policy illegally limits what individuals are allowed to do with their properties.
“To me it’s getting beyond what elected officials are supposed to do — starting to dictate who can rent, who can’t rent, who can do this, who can do that,” said Winona homeowner Ted Dzierzbicki. “They’re not the kind of laws that benefit and protect people. It’s more to do with somebody having a bug about something and trying to get a law towards it.”
The 30% block rental cap was instituted in 2006. It was the first law of its kind at the time. Three other towns have passed similar ordinances since. Before the rule was instituted, the Dzierbicki’s rented their house out for roughly $1,000 a month. This helped cover their $800 monthly mortgage payment that they now have to pay themselves.
Everybody has to look at these types of laws and realize at some point in time it’s going to affect them,” Dzierbicki said. “Some of these people that live close to the university that were behind this concept of trying to protect their neighborhood, when they pass on, what are their kids going to do with their house? How are they going to get rid of their house?”
The League of Minnesota Cities supports the rule. A lower court upheld the ordinance and said it was a “good faith attempt to address real problems.” The Minnesota Court of Appeals says they will issue a ruling on the case within 90 days.
A Michigan court has ruled that resident David DeVarti should not be allowed to put a license plate reading “WAR SUX” on his car. Why would a court choose to forbid a relatively harmless license plate message, you ask?
Because the plate would be offensive to children.
In a filing in Grand Rapid Court, the state said the plate would be offensive to children who amuse themselves by reading license plates on passing cars.
“...because vehicles often travel in residential neighborhoods, youth may be exposed to license plates from their yards or driveways,” said assistant attorney general Ann Sherman.
“Courts have often upheld legislation aimed at protecting the physical and emotional well-being of youth, even where First Amendment rights are concerned. Drivers cannot avoid an offensive word on a license plate in front of them because they cannot safely avert their eyes. And physically avoiding the plate by changing lanes may not be possible.”
DeVarti and the American Civil Liberties Union are now suing the state of Michigan in a lawsuit that says the state’s ruling is a violation of DeVarti’s first amendment free speech rights.
As CBS Detroit points out, this isn’t the first time Michigan has made a controversial ruling in rejecting a license plate. Iraq War veteran Michael Matwyuk’s bid for a license plate reading “INFIDEL” was rejected by the state recently as well. Matwyuk said the term had special meaning to him as he and his fellow soldiers were referred to as infidels by enemy combatants in Iraq. After an appeal, the court approved the plate. Something tells me DeVarti’s appeal may yield the same result.
Since the 1800’s the concept of debtors’ prison has been anathema to Americans, but a the American Civil Liberties Union says in a new report that Colorado has essentially reinstituted the practice because of routine incarcerations of people who cannot afford to pay court-related fines.
In a 1983 U.S. Supreme Court decision, the court ruled that indigent persons cannot be jailed for failure to pay fines as it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Colorado Supreme Court essentially doubled-down on that ruling in a 1987 case that ruled incarceration because of a failure to pay fines was unconstitutional, citing the Colorado State Constitution which says no one “shall be imprisoned for debt” unless it’s a matter of refusal to pay as prescribed by law or where “there is a strong presumption of fraud.”
In a lengthy report from The Denver Post, a number of anecdotal cases are recounted where citizens were jailed for such minor offenses as traffic violations and possession of alcohol. While, on the surface, these individuals were sentenced to pay fines and failed to do so, they all made gestures of good faith that showed an intention to pay down their fines. In one case, the court returned checks sent on behalf of the offender because “partial payments” were not accepted.
Beyond the question of whether this is an unfair impingement on an individual’s liberty, there is a cost issue. According to a KCCO report from 2010, the daily cost of keeping an inmate in county jail is around $50/per day. 19 year-old Kim Santistevan was arrested for possessing alcohol and ultimately ended up serving 16 days in jail over what was originally a $250 court fine. Forgive the cliché, but the punishment certainly does not seem to fit the crime. At a time when With some states paying more money for prisons than college, it would seem that the preferred goal would be to keep people out of prison who might benefit from some other kind of consequences.
Dicky Joe Jackson, Sold Meth To Pay For Sick Toddler's Bone Marrow Transplant, Now Serves Life Without Parole
There may be some of you out there who still haven’t watched to the end of the much-discussed AMC TV series “Breaking Bad,” the story of Walter White, an otherwise ordinary man who becomes a big-time methamphetamine dealer. No spoilers here.
But we will tell you what happened to Dicky Joe Jackson, the Florida truck driver who was no Walter White, but did sell some meth to help pay for his son’s medical treatments. He got life in prison without parole.
Jackson (pictured) became yet another victim of the seemingly insane sentencing policies for nonviolent offenders, recently documented in a report by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU found 3,278 inmates in U.S prisons currently serving life terms with no hope of parole for minor, often drug-related offenses.
Jackson and his family tried everything they could to raise money for his 2-year-old son who had an extremely rare autoimmune disorder known as Wikott-Aldrich Syndrome. The boy needed a bone marrow transplant, and his 12-year-old sister was a match.
But the operation cost $250,000 — likely more money than Jackson had made in his whole life. And in another familiar and familiarly depressing part of the story, the Jacksons had recently lost their health insurance.
They tried various fundraisers, with some success. They persuaded celebrities to donate memorabilia that added up to $50,000 in sales. But they soon hit a dead end.
Then a local drug dealer offered Jackson a deal. Transport payloads of meth to the west coast on his truck and he’d be paid $5,000 per run. It worked for a while. But eventually, Jackson fell afoul of the law.
Because truck drivers often rely on speed of various kinds to stay awake on long drives, Jackson had two previous meth convictions. His third strike put him away for life.
“I know that what I did was not right or legal, even in a life and death situation, as ours was,” he told the online magazine Salon, in a prison interview. “I’m no angel. But in my 42 years of life, I have never harmed a soul. There are people in here doing less than me for contract killings and child molestation.”
Even the tough-as-nails prosecutor who put Jackson away believes he got a raw deal.
“I saw no indication that Mr. Jackson was violent, that he was any sort of large scale narcotics trafficker, or that he committed his crimes for any reason other than to get money to care for his gravely ill child,” wrote Michael Snipes in a letter pleading for Jackson to be granted clemency.
Jackson has now exhausted his appeals. He tried asking for clemency from U.S. President Barack Obama, but his request was denied.
Sources: Salon, ACLU, Sunshine State News
A 43-foot-tall cross at the top of Mount Soledad in La Jolla was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge and ordered to be removed within 90 days.
The cross is a part of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial and was first challenged in 2006 by the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals first ruled the cross to be unlawful in 2011.
The case was then sent to the San Diego federal court where a federal judge ruled Thursday that the cross violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits the government from establishing or endorsing a religious.
“It is unfortunate that the Ninth Circuit left the judge no choice but to order the tearing down of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross,” Bruce Bailey, president of the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association told Fox News on Thursday. “However, we are grateful for the judge’s stay that gives us an opportunity to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court.”
The cross was placed in La Jolla in 1954 and dedicated at an Easter Sunday ceremony being described as “a gleaming white symbol of Christianity,” according to the ACLU.
“We support the government paying tribute to those who served bravely in our country’s armed forces,” said the director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief Daniel Mach in a press release Thursday. “But we should honor all our heroes under one flag, not just one particular religious symbol.”
Executive Director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties Norma Chavez-Peterson said it is “inappropriate and unconstitutional to declare a deeply religious symbol that excludes those out of the faith as a monument to all veterans."
However, Congressman Darrel Issa, supports the cross and its inclusion in the war memorial.
“Our founding fathers did not seek to scrub all religious expression from public spaces, but rather sought to create a government and a society that respected the practice of all religious,” Issa said. “The Mount Soledad war Memorial and the landmark cross honor the veterans in the same vein as crosses that mark the grave sites of soldiers entombed at Arlington National Cemetery and other U.S. veterans cemeteries worldwide.”
The case could be appealed by the Department of Justice, but as long as the current decision stands, the cross must be taken down within 90 days.
Sources: NBC San Diego, Buzzfeed, Fox News
Comedian Billy Eichner and "Parks and Recreation" TV star Amy Poehler recently ran around the streets of New York City asking people to sing Christmas carols with them for a dollar.
The Funny or Die video (below) is part of Eichner's “Billy on the Street” web series.
However, many New Yorkers could not sing along to famous Christmas tunes because they didn't know the words, while others did not want to croon with Poehler and Eichner. Several people seemed annoyed by the stunt.
In another Christmas-themed video (below), the ACLU did a parody of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," which they renamed "The NSA is Coming to Town."
According to Salon.com, the video shows Santa snooping on people as holiday music plays with the lyrics: "You're making a list / They're checking it twice / They're watching almost every electronic device / The NSA is coming to town."
The ACLU's YouTube page links to an online petition for Congress to limit the spying powers of the NSA.
A bill currently in the Michigan State Senate would become the latest in a series of laws across the country that seek to protect a student’s right to freedom of expression (specifically with respect to religious expression). According to MLive.com, similar bills have been passed in Mississippi and “were also introduced in North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Alabama earlier this year.” Essentially, the point of bills like these is to ensure that students are able to publicly express their personal religious faith without being silenced by school officials or other representatives of the government.
As many armchair church-and-state historians will tell you, the prohibition against establishing a State religion only applies to the federal government. Many of the first states firmly established churches as their official religions, although that practice has fallen by the wayside by the mid-19th century. Of course, these bills in no way establish a religion and, in fact, the Mich. bill does not mention a specific denomination in the text.
Critics of the bill suggest it is a useless piece of legislation, because it establishes rights that students already have under the Bill of Rights, as evidenced by a recent Huffington Post article. The unnamed author writes, “this bill does not guarantee any right that isn’t already established in the U.S. Constitution and enforced by law.” Also, there is concern that students whose religious beliefs are in the minority may feel marginalized, especially if another denomination is more “popular” (to use high school parlance).
While perhaps these bills are redundant to both the U.S. Constitution and—according to MLive.com— “the Michigan Constitution [which] also includes protections for religious expression,” there is also an argument to be made that expression can never have enough protection, especially for minors—a group that already has limited rights.
The Mich. bill has since been referred to the Senate Education Committee and has sponsors from both parties. The similar bill in Miss. became law, but the American Civil Liberties Union or ACLU said it would likely draw a lawsuit. However, no such lawsuit appears to have been filed.