Inequality Inquiry >> Category

How We Got Here: Race, Police Use of Force, and the Road to George Floyd

April 1, 2021

Long before the killing of George Floyd, the United States has struggled to mitigate racially arbitrary use of force by the police. This article seeks to explain how we got to the killing of George Floyd. This article contends that that the law—especially the decisions of the Supreme Court and political choices made by politicians—has helped to enable the relatively unchecked use of force against people of color.

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Out of the Cell and Into the Fire: Inherently Dangerous Prison Work Assignments, the Eighth Amendment’s Guarantee of Safe Conditions of Confinement, and California’s AB-2147

April 13, 2022

by River Lord[1]   Using the labor of inmates in the United States has a long and controversial tradition. Many observers have identified how higher rates of policing and incarceration among minority communities, coupled with the widespread use of inmate labor in exchange for sub-minimum wages, create a system of labor exploitation and racial oppression…

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The Injustice of Inconsistency: Language Access in Judicial Proceedings

April 25, 2021

Rachel Pokrzywinski Judicial proceedings are often stressful. The stress is only compounded for an individual who must navigate the complex legal system in a language they are not proficient in. To ensure that these individuals receive adequate guidance and representation, federal law requires that, in all federal judicial proceedings, certified language interpreters must be provided…

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Pass Senate Bill 355: How Proposed Minnesota Legislation Brings the U.S. into Compliance with International Norms

May 25, 2016

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by Maria Warhol
As the 2016 presidential election approaches, the issue of voting rights in the United States is more salient than ever. While millions of people will take advantage of their right to vote in the election, nearly six million U.S. citizens are unable to vote as a result of a felony conviction. Of this disenfranchised population, only 25% are incarcerated. The remaining 75% are in the process of completing supervised release (probation or parole) or have served their sentence entirely. This concern only deepens when data reveals that disenfranchisement policy disparately impacts some communities more than others. These concerning figures impact almost every state in the United States.

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Stretched Thin: Parents Lacking Resources Who Are Accused of Negligent Child Abuse Need Solutions, Not Prisons

January 21, 2020

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The purpose of punishment is not served when the criminal justice system prosecutes poor, and often undereducated, parents for the unintended deaths of their children. Punishment as retribution is excessive for an already grieving parent, and an act cannot be deterred, either specifically to the offender or generally to society, if it was unintended in the first place. Finally, incapacitating parents by way of imprisonment does not ultimately serve the social good because their imprisonment sets up their surviving children for increased risk factors. Punishing a parent who has already received the worst punishment of all—loss of a child—cannot be justified.

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Mental Health & Criminal Justice: An Interview with Kelly Mitchell and Professor JaneAnne Murray

October 11, 2021

Interview by Sarah Coleman* October 3-9, 2021 was Mental Health Awareness Week. The United States’ prison and criminal justice systems are deeply interconnected with mental healthcare and mental illness. For many individuals, a mental illness diagnosis and subsequent treatment aren’t made available to them until after they come in contact with the criminal justice system.…

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Inmate Rights and the Prison/Jail System During COVID-19—Interview with Prof. Susanna Blumenthal

May 9, 2020

Picture of Susanna Blumenthal

JLI staff members Abbie Hanson and Jen Davison recently interviewed Professor Susanna Blumenthal in a conversation about COVID-19’s effects on inmate rights and the prison/jail system. Professor Blumenthal co-directs the Program in Law and History at the University of Minnesota and she is an expert in criminal law. Professor Blumenthal’s research and writing focuses on the historical relationship between law and the human sciences. In this discussion, the group highlights the challenges of containing a virus in inherently constrained spaces, the damaging results on inmate rights, and how groups are working to ensure that incarcerated individuals receive adequate protection during a pandemic.

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The Sex Offender Registry is a Life Sentence for Juveniles

December 2, 2021

by Layni Sprouse* In 1990, in the wake of her 11-year-old son Jacob’s kidnapping, which grabbed the attention of the entire county, Minnesota native Patty Wetterling believed it crucial to take action to protect children against sexually violent offenders. Due to her efforts and the tragic story of her son, the first sex offender registry…

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Avoiding Atkins: How Tennessee is on the Verge of Unconstitutionally Executing an Individual with Intellectual Disabilities

November 18, 2020

Image Courtesy of Attorneys for Pervis Payne

If the state executes an intellectually disabled individual, but no one knows of the intellectual disability, has the state violated the constitution? It is our sincerest hope that Pervis Payne and others in a similar procedural labyrinth that could lead to what everyone agrees would be an unconstitutional execution are provided an opportunity to present the merits of their claims of intellectual disability. Justice, decency, and the Constitution demand it.

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The Rise and Fall of Legalized Recreational Marijuana in South Dakota

January 12, 2022

by Lottie James* By the late evening of November 3, 2020, it had become abundantly clear that a majority of South Dakotans support the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana use. Two separate initiatives related to the legalization of marijuana usage were on the same ballot, and both initiatives passed with a majority affirmative…

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How a New Ohio Law and Other State Reforms Are Changing the Landscape of Mental Health and Criminal Justice

January 24, 2022

By Bailey Martin* In 2021, Ohio became the only active death penalty state with a law that allows for resentencing of people on death row who have serious mental health conditions. While this kind of law provides an important starting point for thinking about mental health and criminal justice, courts have much further to go to protect all persons with mental health conditions from disparate impacts in the justice system.

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Does the Minneapolis Police Department Traffic Stop Data Reveal Racial Bias?

November 24, 2020

This study analyzed Minneapolis Police Department traffic stop data from 2016 to 2020 to determine if racial bias influences MPD behavior. Results of the analysis showed that Black drivers are 10.8% percent more likely to be stopped during the day, when officers can observe the driver’s race for profiling, than when Black drivers’ race is not observable during darkness. The effect was highly statistically significant and demonstrated that Minneapolis Police Department traffic stops are racially biased.

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Are New York’s Bail and Discovery Reforms in Renewed Danger?

February 9, 2022

By Kenneth Cooper* Tracking the status of these New York procedural reforms in particular (one increasing discovery obligations and the other reducing the use of cash bail in pretrial services) can shed further insight into how other attempts at reform, perhaps more substantive in nature, may play out.

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Covid-19 in Prisons: Human Rights Violations and Inmate Exploitation

January 29, 2021

Heather Chang* The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Spring of 2020 required unprecedent changes. While business and individuals have adapted their policies and behaviors to reflect health and safety recommendations, the prison system remains rigid and dangerous.  As of January 12, 2021, The Marshall Project reports that at least 343,008 prisoners tested positive…

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Deadly Force: How George Floyd’s Killing Exposes Racial Inequities in Minnesota’s Felony-Murder Doctrine Among the Disenfranchised, the Powerful, and the Police

March 8, 2021

View/Download PDF Version Greg Egan[1] I. Equity in Peril: How Felony-Murder Charging Discretion and Widely Varying Punishments are Deployed Against White Defendants, Defendants of Color, and Peace Officers Minnesota’s second-degree felony-murder statute represents a unique and creative charging mechanism that affords wide discretion to prosecutors. This makes it ripe for inequitable application. It is the…

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Biden’s Private Prison Ban Must Include ICE Detention

March 16, 2022

By Katie McCoy* Our incarceration-focused immigration system needlessly locks up hundreds of thousands of noncitizens each year. The number of people incarcerated in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody was 15,000 when President Biden first took office, and it now hovers near 29,000. Sixty-nine percent of those detained have no criminal history. Many ICE detention…

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