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Publication of Your Privacy in 2017

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State Lawmaker Wants to Tax Companies That Profit from Prisons

With the current national focus on law and order, some statewide organizations and lawmakers are working on what they say are solutions that promote investment in young people and reduce California’s privately-owned prison population. Assemblymember Tony Thurmond has sponsored AB 43, a bill that would levy a 10 percent tax on "private prisons and prison-related services."

The bill is aimed at what experts call the Prison Industrial Complex, a process where the correctional system turns inmates and their families into sources of revenue. Inmates and their families have complained about exorbitant fees charged for making calls to and from prison. Also, some privately-owned companies have contracts with states to employ inmates. However, inmates are often paid way below minimum wage, allowing firms to maximize their profits.

Thurmond said the Prison Industrial Complex is a "modern form of slavery." He was motivated to sponsor the legislation after watching Ava Duvernay's documentary "13th."

"We want the state to switch from investing in prisons to investing in schools," said Thurmond, a former social worker who is also running for state superintendent of public instruction.

Thurmond's legislation would raise funds that would go to prison prevention programs and universal preschool. Funds would be deposited in the State Incarceration Prevention Fund.

There have been some policies that have been said to contribute to the rise in prison population. From The War on Drugs to California's "Three Strikes" law policies have all been said to have caused overcrowding situation that led to a Federal judge ordering a decrease in the state's prison population.

According to the bill, California currently spends about $4.5 billion per year on the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Some of that money also trickles down to companies that provide services to inmates. According to an article in the East Bay Times, CoreCivic, a company that owns several private facilities in the state, has received $2 billion from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

"Companies continue to profit as a result of high state incarceration rates. These for-profit companies provide necessary goods and services to state facilities, often at a markup. In effect, taxpayers are stuck footing the bill, enabling companies to see large profits for goods and services due to California's prison population," says the proposed bill.

AB 43 is supported by the California Teachers Association, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, California Nurses Association, Californians for Justice, and First 5 Association of California. The bill will be voted on later this month.

Thurmond and supporters of the bill say that investing in early education and prison prevention programs are key to stopping the School-to-Prison pipeline.

"Children who start kindergarten behind, are more likely to stay behind – a trend that feeds into the school-to-prison pipeline," said Moira Kenney, executive director of the First 5 Association of California. "Early interventions like quality child care and preschool can break this cycle and put children on a path that leads to success in school and in life."

But not everyone is happy about AB 43.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB/CA) said the bill would harm small companies who want to do business with the state. NFIB/CA placed AB 43 on it's "The Good, The Bad and Ugly" list. According to NFIB/CA State Communications Director Shawn Lewis, the list tracks bills that could negatively impact small business.

"Imposing a tax on a business that has been awarded a state contract is punitive and counterproductive to the goals of keeping costs down and creating jobs," said Ken DeVore, NFIB legislative director, in a letter to Thurmond. “Such a tax serves no purpose for the state, and will only hurt small business.”

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Kimberly Ellis Says California Democratic Party Needs New Blood

The effort to repeal and replace health care is generating headlines, and the attempt to investigate Trump’s Russia connections is of high importance. The specious claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, too, has generated interest, largely because it is unprecedented for one president to accuse another of a felony, and because “45” has absolutely no proof that President Obama has done any such thing. While President Obama, with a multi-million dollar book deal tucked into his pocket, is living his life like its golden, “45” has indulged in several public tantrums, with episodic moments of calm. Too many of us have been riveted to the drama, while there is a more quiet revolution happening in Congress, with the approval of the White House.

There has been an attack on education, with legislation being introduced as early as January 23, 2017. That legislation, HR 610, is titled the “Choices in Education Act.” It would repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), and limits the authority of the Department of Education so that it should only award block grants to states. It also sets up a voucher system. If states do not comply with the rules of this legislation, they would be ineligible for block grants.

The legislation would also repeal nutritional standards for the national school breakfast and lunch programs, which were set by the No Hungry Kids Act of 2012. Schools would no longer be required, as First Lady Michelle Obama advocated, to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods at lunch. Are we going back to the days when officials with the Reagan Administration tried to classify ketchup as a vegetable? Seems like it.

The ESEA was passed as civil rights legislation, providing more opportunities to a broader range of children, including disabled children. It also requires reporting around issues like the achievement gap, bullying, and underperforming schools. All of these provisions would be eliminated, if HR 610 were passed.

Not to be bested by legislation that would limit the reach of the Department of Education, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) has introduced a sentence-long piece of legislation. HR 899 reads, in total, “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.” Of course, Massie hasn’t put the thought into considering how things like Pell grants would be administered, or would he eliminate those, too? HBCUs are part of the education budget. What would that mean for us? The bill has been cosponsored by several of Massie’s colleagues. It speaks to a national antipathy to education, so that even as we hunger for jobs, and elected “45” so that he could “create” them, we are prepared to limit pathways to job preparation. Efforts to eliminate the Department of Education are, at best, shortsighted.

Even though Trump nominated the extremely limited Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, his pre-campaign policy book advocated for the elimination of the Department of Education. Is the hidden agenda to run the department into the ground to the point that elimination is the only option? “One-note Betsy,” with her focus on school choice, must be gratified, especially by HR 610.

The Department of Education is one of the lowest-spending government agencies. Eliminating it could save taxpayers more than $68 billion—enough, perhaps, to “build a wall. Of course “45” is finding lots of other funding sources for the wall, with proposed cuts from the Coast Guard to The State Department.

The good news about this odious proposed legislation is that it has not passed. It has been referred to the House Education and the Workforce Committee. After the committee vets it, the Senate must also approve the bill. But these bills need not even come out of committee, if opponents are vocal. Check out www.edworkforce.house.gov to find out who is on this committee. Call and write them and tell them that you support the 1965 ESEA, as most recently amended, and that the Department of Education should not be eliminated. This is an opportunity to unleash our voices and resist Trumpism.

The big headlines are riveting, but we need to look at the fine print. If you spent an hour reading the Congressional Record and looking at the devilment these Republicans are up to daily, you would be repulsed. Let’s turn repulsion into resistance.

Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author, and Founder of Economic Education. Her podcast, “It’s Personal with Dr. J” is available on iTunes (https://tinyurl.com/withDrJ). Her latest book “Are We Better Off: Race, Obama and public policy is available via amazon.com For more info visit www.juliannemalveaux.com.

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Police Brutality Against Blacks Is Becoming International Embarrassment for America

I have several friends in various parts of the world. Sometimes when I talk to them, the first words that come out of their mouths are, “What the hell is going on in America?”

On many occasions, I’m too embarrassed to even answer. Last week was one such occasion. Two African-American men killed in Baton Rouge and Minnesota were the latest casualties in a string of troubling police brutality cases – too many of them fatal.

The situation has gotten so bad that at least three countries -- the Bahamas, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain -- have issued travel advisories warning their citizens about coming to the United States. Can you blame them? If you’re a citizen of these countries and you’re considering sending your son or daughter to college here, there is a very real fear that he or she could be killed in a random encounter with the police.

The United States of America views itself as the most powerful nation on the planet and the standard bearer of global human rights. However, there are some major problems in American society, especially the way it treats racial minorities. This fact is pretty glaring when you look at the statistics.

More than half of the people with wrongful convictions who have been freed from death row are Black, according to The Innocence Project. The organization is a national legal advocacy group whose mission is to free innocent people who are imprisoned.

Results from a close look at New York Police Department (NYPD) data is similarly troubling. Those statistics reveal that even though the New York Police Department (NYPD) stopped and frisked Black and Latino men at a higher rate, White people in America are statistically more likely to be found in possession of drugs and firearms. That is a problem.

America’s treatment of racial minorities, especially Black men, is increasingly becoming an international embarrassment. How can the United States in good conscience criticize treatment of citizens in countries notorious for human rights abuses around the world when police murdering African-American men are becoming so commonplace at home?

These cases are also compromising America’s status as a moral leader in the world. They have the potential to hurt the country’s tourism industry and may significantly impact the United States being regarded as the most-desired destination on earth for international students seeking higher education degrees.

China, often called out for ill treatment of its citizens by the international community, cited America in a 2013 report on human rights abuses. The report stated, “If the United States wants to be the self-proclaimed human rights judge of the world, though China and most countries do not agree, it first needs to sweep its own doorsteps.”

Some international critics are even calling on the United Nations to investigate human rights abuses in the Unite States. They usually point to the mass incarceration of Black men; the flawed death penalty system, which has likely killed hundreds of innocent people; the American prison system, which is rife with rape, torture and exploitation; and extra-judicial killings by the police.

Historically, the legal and law enforcement systems have not been the greatest defenders of Black human rights. This has lead to a widespread lack of trust and frustration among African Americans when it comes to police officers and the courts.

Although cities seem pretty happy to pay millions of dollars to the families of victims of police abuse, those payments do not compensate for the lives lost. And they do nothing to repair the damage to America’s image in the world.

Baltimore, for example, has paid almost $6 million to the victims of police abuse since 2011.

According to the New York Post, the city of New York paid more than $185 million to settle claims against the NYPD in 2011. Last year, the city paid the family of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man choked to death by local police, $5.9 million.

As famed NYPD whistleblower Frank Serpico said in a 2014 Politico article,“the police are out of control.” And they don’t take too kindly to anyone who has the temerity to point out their crimes. Ramsey Orta, the man who videotaped Eric Garner’s fatal encounter with the NYPD, was recently sentenced to four years in jail after being followed, singled out and investigated by the police. Feidin Santana, the man who videotaped a South Carolina cop shooting a black man in the back, initially feared coming forward. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has been called the “worst cop in America,” runs his county like a corrupt, third-world despot. Arpaio had former District Attorney Andrew Thomas target anyone who spoke out against him. And when The Phoenix New Times ran stories critical of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department, Arpaio had the paper’s founders, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, thrown in jail on minor charges. The charges were dropped five days later and Maricopa County settled the case for $3.75 million.

Additionally, police officers rarely face harsh punishment for their crimes. For example, former Bay Area Rapid Transport officer Johannes Mehserle served less than two years in jail for killing 22-year-old Oscar Grant in 2009.

The legal system continues to turn a blind eye to the widespread human rights abuses of Black people in America. Until it does, America will continue to lose its standing as a moral leader in the world and diminish its authority to challenge human rights abuses in other nations.

About the Author

Manny Otiko is Southern California-based journalist who was born in Nigeria and raised in the United Kingdom.

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