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Sandra Bland Raises Black Women's Visibility As Police Victims

Sandra Bland has become the public face of a largely male province: #blacklivesmatter. For more than a year, that Twitter hashtag and the wider media had been focused on the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and other men and boys. Bland’s arrest on July 10, and her death in a Texas jail cell three days later, changed all that, says The Marshall Project. It elevated black women to the status of black men in protests against police brutality. Several factors figured in why this happened. The amount of footage in the Bland case helped fuel attention: the police dashboard camera, the violent arrest taped by a bystander, and the question of what might not have been caught on tape. Bland herself had an active role in the social media movement against police brutality, and her posts and videos, still on the Internet, continue to resonate.

The public has been slow to take up the cause of black women as victims of police abuse,but  that seems to be changing. “There has been a slow drumbeat to say the name of black women who have been killed by the police,” says Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw of the African American Policy Forum at Columbia University. Crenshaw co-wrote the report Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women, which documents the stories of dozens of black women killed by police. The police have killed six unarmed women already in 2015, says to The Guardian, which has been maintaining a database, compared with 50 unarmed black men.

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Philadelphia Can't Locate Victim, Drops Fugitive Case; Reporter Finds Her

For 18 years, Thomas Terlecky has been on the run from charges that he sexually assaulted a teenage girl, though the police never really bothered to chase him. Now a Philadelphia judge said he can stop running, reports USA Today. Prosecutors charged Terlecky with assaulting the 14-year-old in 1996. He fled to Miami, and authorities have turned down one opportunity after another to bring him back to face the charges, saying he was too far away. “Now this man has gotten away with a crime that is so sinister it makes me sick,” the alleged victim says. She asked not to be identified.

The case was highlighted in a USA Today investigation of fugitives who escaped justice by crossing state lines. The newspaper found more than 186,000 accused felons who police and prosecutors said they would not pursue beyond their own state borders. Cameron Kline, a spokesman for Philadelphia's district attorney, said officials decided to drop Terlecky's case because the woman he was accused of assaulting "was not cooperative with the prosecution." He said officials made one last attempt to locate her before dropping the case but were not successful. "You found me," the woman told a reporter. "Maybe they should have looked on Facebook."

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Study Suggests Racial Bias In MO's Use Of Death Penalty

In mid-Missouri’s Callaway County, there were 22 homicides from 1984 to 2012. Five were punished by execution, or about 23 percent. If the same rate applied to 4,462 homicides in St. Louis, a caseload of overwhelmingly black victims, the state would have executed 1,014 people from those cases but there were just eight, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That disparity shows that Missouri’s application of the death penalty is arbitrary and so unfairly administered that it could be unconstitutional, says a new study from University of North Carolina professor Frank Baumgartner. It’s proof that black lives don’t matter as much as white lives, when it comes to applying the harshest penalty available, he said.

 

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch called Baumgartner’s methodology “bogus” and said he was misusing statistics to create a cloud around the death penalty “without having the decency to say the death penalty is wrong and we don’t support it.” Kent Scheidegger of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento called the study meaningless. “Unfortunately there is an awful lot of violence in the inner-city areas, and a lot of that is gang-related and those tend not to be prosecuted as death penalty cases,” he said. “Another factor is the local jurisdiction. Black victim homicides tend to be in jurisdictions that have a high proportion of black population, and support for the death penalty is lower in that population (and) those jurisdictions tend to elect (prosecutors) who seek the death penalty less often..."

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MD Club Won't Host Blackface Routine To Raise Money For Accused Cops

A former Baltimore police officer plans to perform an Al Jolson routine in blackface to raise money for the six Baltimore officers who have been indicted in the death of Freddie Gray, the Associated Press reports. Bobby Berger, whose performances as Jolson created tension with the department in the 1980s, said 610 tickets have been sold in eight days at $45 each for the Nov. 1 fundraiser. The place where Berger intended to hold the event, Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie, Md., posted a notice on its website that the fundraiser will not be hosted there. "No contract was signed with Mr. Berger," the notice said. "Michael's does not condone blackface performances of any kind."

Berger said in an interview he doesn't believe there is anything racist about his routine. "It's coincidence," Berger said about the fact that the entertainer he impersonates wore blackface. "There's no racial overtones to this show. There's nothing racial to the show." Michael Davey, an attorney for the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police, said officers do not support the fundraiser. Gray was black. He died of injuries received in police custody. Davey said no money would be accepted from the fundraiser. (The Baltimore Sun described the event as cancelled and said Berger had been fired from the city police force in the 1980s after his off-duty performances in blackface drew the ire of the NAACP.)

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At Least 38 States Charge Prisoners Co-Pays For Medical Care

Going to prison doesn’t spare patients from having to pay medical copays. In response to the rapidly rising cost of providing health care, states are increasingly authorizing the collection of fees from prisoners for medical services they get in state prisons or local jails. At least 38 states now do it, says the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and Stateline. The fees are typically small, $20 or less. States must waive them when a prisoner is unable to pay but still needs care, in keeping with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prisoners have a constitutional right to “adequate” health care.

The rationale for charging copays is the same for prisoners as it is for people not behind bars: to discourage seeking medical care when it is not really needed. “We do it for the same reason your insurance company does — to eliminate abuse by making the inmates put a little skin in the game,” said Tommy Thompson, jail administrator at the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee. Critics argue charging fees may cause ill inmates to forgo treatment, which can lead to worsening health and higher medical costs down the road as well as the possibility of spreading infections in the close quarters of prison. “There are ways to deal with high demand other than copays, which are punitive,” said Robert Greifinger, the former chief medical officer of the New York Department of Corrections. “It may not seem like a lot of money but, typically, the prisoners are impoverished and, often, so are their families,” Greifinger said. “Sometimes, their choices come down to a medical appointment or shampoo.”

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TCR at a Glance

Jailhouse Medicine

July 22, 2015

A private contractor flourishes despite controversy over inmate deaths