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This Week in Civil Liberties (11/4/2011)

The text, "Week in Review."
The text, "Week in Review."
Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
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November 4, 2011

Which constitutional amendment did the Oakland Police Department need to be reminded of this month?

What special interest group capitalizes on our nation’s addiction to incarceration to the tune of billions of dollars in annual revenues?

How many people stand to have their sentences reduced beginning this week as a result of the reduction in the racially biased crack-cocaine sentencing disparity?

What hopeful sign did the Texas Forensic Science Commission provide in a new report it issued this week following the wrongful execution in 2004 of Cameron Todd Willingham?

Which new ACLU resource helps students fight discrimination, harassment and violence?

This Is What the First Amendment Looks Like
Following an enormous peaceful demonstration and the first general strike this country has seen since the 1940s, some of the focus has unfortunately turned to bonfires and tear gas. But as we continue looking into what happened during late-night clashes between demonstrators and police in Oakland, Calif,. this week, let’s not forget the voices of the thousands upon thousands of people who peacefully came together and marched through the city’s streets. That’s the First Amendment in action.

Stop For-Profit Prisons
This week, the ACLU released Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration, an in-depth examination of the destructive impact of prison privatization. The report finds that mass incarceration provides a gigantic windfall for one special interest group — the private prison industry — even as current incarceration levels harm the country as a whole.

Chance at Freedom: Retroactive Crack Sentence Reductions For Up to 12,000 Began This Week
This week, Hamedah Hasan, given an unjust 27-year sentence for a first time, low-level, nonviolent offense under racially biased mandatory minimum sentencing laws for crimes involving crack cocaine, can finally apply for her freedom. Behind bars for more than 17 years, Hasan is one of more than 12,000 people — 85 percent of whom are African-American — who will have the opportunity to have their sentences reviewed by a federal judge and possibly reduced under the Fair Sentencing Act, passed by Congress last year.

Junk Fire Science: Too Scary to be Believed
In a sign of hope for people imprisoned for arson in Texas, a report issued last Friday by the Texas Forensic Science Commission included a commitment from the state fire marshal’s office, which will partner with the Innocence Project of Texas, to identify and reinvestigate old arson cases that may have been built on the same faulty “fire science” that led to the wrongful execution of Cameron Todd Willingham.

Start a GSA Today
Research has shown that students at schools with Gay-Straight Alliances experience less harassment and are more likely to feel safe — which makes every day a whole lot easier. That’s why we at the ACLU are such big fans. And that’s why we’ve put together this step-by-step video on how to start a GSA! It guides you through five steps for starting a GSA, from explaining why you want a club to things to do when you start meeting.

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