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This Week in Civil Liberties (02/01/2013)

Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
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February 1, 2013

The son of which celebrity is currently being held in solitary confinement, a method of extreme isolation that costs taxpayers money and does not contribute toward rehabilitation?

A school in which state has ended its ban on a book about a family with two moms after the ACLU challenged the book ban in court?

Which member of the executive branch announced his support for federal immigration reform this week?

Which private prison company earns $1.7 billion annually for incarcerating 81,384 prisoners?

Which bill should you ask your member of Congress to co-sponsor to ensure equal pay for equal work for women?

If You Thought “The Game” Was Terrifying, Consider the “Hole” Where Michael Douglas’ Son is Currently Locked Alone

Celebrity gossip blogs and major papers are reporting that Cameron Douglas, the son of actor Michael Douglas, is currently being held in solitary confinement, also known as the “hole.”

Let’s take a second and think about what that means. It means that Cameron, and the 80,000 others subjected to this torturous practice nationwide, will likely be locked alone in a cell for 22-24 hours day. It means that Cameron will be subjected to a form of psychological pressure so intense that it has been shown to dramatically heighten suicide rates. It means that Cameron will likely be fed through a slot in the door.

School Promises in Settlement to Stop Removing Library Books for ‘Advocacy of Homosexuality’

Last year, Davis School District in Utah removed a children’s book about a family with two moms from its elementary school library shelves after receiving complaints from some parents that the book “normalized a lifestyle we don’t agree with.”

When the school district refused to reconsider its decision, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of a mother with two children in one of the schools where In Our Mothers’ House was restricted. Our client, Tina Weber, explained that she filed the suit because “nobody should be able to tell other people’s kids what they can and can’t read.”

Earlier this month, the school district reversed its decision and put the book back on the library shelves where it can be checked out on the same terms as any other children’s book. And yesterday, we announced a final settlement agreement with the school district that ensures that this mistake won’t happen again.

ACLU Responds to President’s Immigration Announcement

The ACLU welcomed President Obama’s announcement to prioritize federal immigration reform, and stressed the need for a common-sense system that is fair, just and respects everyone’s civil liberties.

The president’s speech in Las Vegas came shortly after a bi-partisan group of senators – ‘the Gang of Eight’ – put forth its proposal. The ACLU has released a framework for immigration reform, which urges policymakers to ensure a crucial set of priorities is adopted in order to ensure people’s civil rights are protected.

Happy Birthday to the Corrections Corporation of America? Thirty Years of Banking on Bondage Leaves Little to Celebrate

Thirty years ago this week, two retired military officers and a former prison administrator founded the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the first for-profit prison company in modern America. Today, CCA is the nation’s largest owner and operator of for-profit prisons, with annual revenues topping $1.7 billion. On an average day, the company incarcerates 81,384 people – more than the states of New York and New Jersey combined.

“Our Journey is Not Complete” – Equal Pay Requires Passage of Paycheck Fairness Act

In the 50 years since President John Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act of 1963, wages for women still do not equal those of men when they work the same job. According the U.S. Census Bureau, women who work full time, on average, earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn. Women of color fare far worse, with African American women earning 64 cents and Latinas earning 55 cents for each dollar earned by a white man.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would require that employers who pay their male and female employees differently for doing the same work must have a business justification that is not based on the employee’s gender. It would also provide more remedies for wage discrimination and prohibit retaliation against workers who inquire about wages or disclose their own wages to their co-workers.

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