Archive for June 11th, 2012

News Digest: 6/11/12

Monday, June 11, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

Justice Department orders “zero tolerance” for prison rape

Monday, June 11, 2012 at 4:53 pm by

Nearly 10 percent of former state prisoners said they had been sexually victimized behind bars, according to a 2008 study by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. This shocking figure includes incidents by both other inmates and prison staff. After a three-year delay, the Obama administration finally has taken measures to ensure zero tolerance for prison rape and promote greater safety for prisoners.

Although Congress had passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003, sexual harassment in confinement facilities still persists. On Thursday, May 14, the Department of Justice announced a new set policies to eliminate rape and other forms of sexual violence in federal prisons and state correctional institutions.Jail Cells

These stronger standards require adult and juvenile offenders to be housed in separate facilities, screening inmates for signs of sexual victimization, and banning cross-gender strip searches, to name a few measures. The Justice Department would cut funding by 5% for prisons that fail to comply with these procedures.

Hopefully these measures can prevent sexual abuse. Take the case of Garrett Cunningham:

Garrett Cunningham was raped in a Texas prison by a guard in 2000, and now works with Just Detention International, an anti-prison rape group. “If strong national standards had been in place when I was in prison, my abuse may have never happened. Now that the standards have been released, we can make sure it never happens again,” said Cunningham, who testified to Congress about his ordeal. (more…)

Big data is big trouble

Monday, June 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm by

 phoneWe are thisclose to being thoroughly put under a microscope for all (corporations and governments) to see.

You probably don’t know this, but there are people studying where you work and how you get there, how long you’re stuck in traffic and what red lights you avoid.

And it’s all coming from your cell phone.

The grand experiment is in full play:

Morristown (NJ) has become the laboratory for (AT&T’s) experiment in “big data” — the massive amounts of information we unwittingly share every day that can reveal minute details of our lives…

There is a glut of information valuable to retailers and planners alike that companies hope to extract from our phones.

This is getting quite scary. Consider what AT&T has done.

(Chris) Volinsky (director of AT&T research department) and his team have mapped the movement of workers in and out of Morristown each day — as well as the arrival and departure of crowds who frequent bars and restaurants at night — by isolating cell-phone users who make calls in the town at certain times throughout the week.

What the team ended up with was a clear snapshot of where Morristown’s labor pool lives and where its late-night revelers go when the bars close. Roughly 41 million phone calls and text messages laid out on a map show trends not readily apparent: Workers commute from as far east as Queens, and Morristown’s nightlife draws people not only from North Jersey, but from Brooklyn as well.

On the positive side of this noble experiment is

Volinsky’s team’s research will give Morristown access to a wealth of real-time data, and officials there hope it will help them answer questions about infrastructure, housing and zoning, as well as transportation. The patterns of how people move between cities will also help in coordinating with neighboring municipalities, said town administrator Michael Rogers.

The negative side?

But privacy advocates worry information about people will be exposed, despite measures taken to protect consumers.

“Big data’ is the mantra right now. Everyone wants to go there, and everyone has these stories about how it might benefit us,” said Lee Tien, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization specializing in free speech, privacy and consumer rights.

“One of the things you learn in kindergarten is that if you want to play with somebody else’s toys, you ask them,” Tien said. “What is distressing, and I think sad, about the big data appetite is so often it is essentially saying, ‘Hey, we don’t have to ask.”

Unfortunately, it is inevitable that once the information is collected there will be those in power who will use it to the detriment of the population at large.

DC council passes Immigration Detainer Compliance Emergency Amendment Act

Monday, June 11, 2012 at 9:55 am by

In 2009, Jai Shankar, an immigrant living in Washington, DC, was arrested, detained for five months, and forced to wear a tracker ankle bracelet for two years. Not for committing a crime, but for reporting one. Such counterintuitive, counterproductive measures have been common under the federal Secure Communities program (S-Comm). Under S-Comm, immigrants like Jai, “who have committed no crime or have committed a minor offense can be held for ICE, without ever having been convicted of anything.” This is an obvious infraction of our constitutional freedoms.


Thankfully, communities and cities across the US have been speaking out against such atrocities. On June 5, Washington, DC,  achieved a major victory by passing the Immigration Detainer Compliance Emergency Amendment Act, which limits ICE’s use of District facilities and equipment and also narrows S-Comm’s deportation dragnet by only responding to immigration detention requests for individuals who are over 18 and have been convicted of a dangerous crime. This is a huge step in the right direction.

However, individuals and organizations need to continue to speak out. In order to prevent the negative consequences associated with S-Comm from permanently damaging our nation, it is important to show the government that people are opposed to S-Comm and the unconstitutional measures it produces. Only in that way will we be able to ensure our privacy, protect our communities, and prevent the unjust persecution of the innocent.