Archive for March 5th, 2012

A constitutional right against unwanted videotaping in public?

Monday, March 5, 2012 at 7:36 pm by

In Montana State Fund v. Simms, a case decided by the Montana Supreme Court, two Justices suggested that the Fourth Amendment limits the government’s ability to videotape individuals in public. At issue in the case was whether videotapes taken of Simms could be used in relation to his claim for worker’s compensation. Simms had been injured in the course of his employment and was awarded over $600,000 by the Montana State Fund (MSF). Subsequently, the MSF decided to verify Simms’ ongoing disability and launched an investigation led by the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) which produced multiple videos of Simms in public settings. The videos showed that Simms’ condition had improved and, according to MSF, that Simms had faked or feigned his disability. MSF disseminated the videos to Simms’ treating physician.

Simms objected to the use of the videos in the worker’s compensation claim proceedings. The majority concluded that the videos were properly deemed “confidential criminal justice information” and could be disseminated for the purpose of the worker’s compensation claim because Simms’ privacy did not clearly exceed the need for public disclosure.

In a concurrence, two Justice argued, however, that the videotaping is illegal in light of the recent US Supreme Court decision in United States v. Jones. In Jones, the Court held that a GPS device attached to Jones’ car without his consent and without a warrant was unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. The two justices emphasized that like a GPS device, the videotaping could reveal extensive information about the individual such as “familial, political, professional, religious, and sexual associations.”

They explained:

These observations resonate with respect to SIU’s admitted practice of tracking, monitoring, and videotaping workers’ compensation claimants as they go about their daily lives. MSF and SIU are flat wrong in their belief that this sort of surveillance and information gathering does not implicate constitutional rights because “a person has no privacy expectation for what he or she does in plain view in public.” Montanans do retain expectations of privacy while in public. And Montanans do not reasonably expect that state government, in its unfettered discretion and without a warrant, is recording and aggregating their everyday activities and public movements in a manner which enables the State to ascertain and catalog their political and religious beliefs, their sexual habits, and other private aspects of identity.

News Digest 3/5/12

Monday, March 5, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

Campaigns against the NDAA take root across the country

Monday, March 5, 2012 at 4:37 pm by

With each passing day, more and more Americans are joining the transpartisan movement to repeal or nullify the National Defense Authorization Act’s unconstitutional detention provisions. The NDAA allows the government to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone suspected of a “belligerent act” without charge or trial, but We the People are determined to undo this dangerous law.

We at the Bill of Rights Defense Committee are working with the Tenth Amendment Center, Demand Progress, and others to build a nationwide movement that brings people together from across the political spectrum to stand up for our most basic due process rights. And today, we’ve launched a map to show you where campaigns are underway and how you can get involved in this critical effort.

Anti-NDAA campaigns are in progress in cities listed in the following map. Zoom in to see your local area and click on a pin to find out how to get involved in a campaign.

View NDAA: Local Campaigns in Progress in a larger map

To submit your local campaign to appear on this map, fill out our NDAA campaign submission form.

Visit our NDAA map page to see maps showing the seven cities that have already passed resolutions against the NDAA and the ten states where anti-NDAA bills have been introduced.

And to learn more about how you can get involved, check out our campaign to restore due process and the right to trial.

Coalition urges governors to reject sale of prisons to corporation

Monday, March 5, 2012 at 8:28 am by

Hands Behind Prison Bars Vector ArtLast week, a coalition of policy and religious organizations encouraged every governor in the country to reject an offer by the country’s largest private prison corporation, which had hoped to buy up and privatize more state prisons. The coalition’s letter exposes the privatization of prisons as an unsound investment and lists persistent human rights violations committed by private prisons.

The letter comes as a response to a document uncovered by Huffington Post last month, which revealed backdoor invitations from Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) to purchase and operate $250 million worth of corrections facilities. In their offer to take over government-owned prisons, CCA advertised “safe and efficient operations and high quality educational and rehabilitation programming,” as well as millions of dollars in savings and a boost to local economies.

These claims could not be further from the truth, as study after study finds that private prisons do more harm than good. Because private companies are driven by profit, they inherently seek to cut costs at every corner, and this poses a great threat to inmates’ safety. Reports show that private prisons have higher incidence of violence and recidivism, and unacceptable living conditions have been discovered in many of these facilities.

While states might be tempted by the quick cash gained from the purchase, such a deal would be detrimental to taxpayers in the long run. Provisions in CCA’s offer require states to enter a contract of at least 20 years and to maintain a prison population of at least 90 percent of the maximum occupancy rate.

It may seem bizarre that a private corporation could dictate just how many people the state throws into prison, but this effort fits a longstanding pattern by CCA to increase prison populations. As a member of ALEC, a forum for state lawmakers and corporations to write legislation together, CCA has been actively involved in drafting bills that increase prison time for drug offenses and create obstacles to prison alternatives.

This country already incarcerates more people than any other, and measures like this only exacerbate the problem. David Shapiro of the American Civil Liberties Union declared,

It is unconscionable to line the pockets of private companies whose existence depends on the nation’s addiction to incarceration, a grave social crisis that exacts a huge toll on taxpayers while providing no public safety benefit and leaving a disproportionate number of people of color behind bars. In order to reduce corrections spending, we need to commit to the systemic reform of our criminal justice system.