Last updated 6:56 p.m. ET, March 11, 2016
In 1977 when she was 21, Etta Myers was sentenced to life in prison plus five years. She spent most of her adult life incarcerated and has never voted. At 62, she’ll be voting for the first time this year. After she was released, she fought for legislation, which took effect March 10, that restored the right to vote to 40,000 people on probation and parole in Maryland. “Prison in itself is punishment enough, and society should trust that those of us incarcerated are already paying for all of our sins,” she writes. Read why she says restoring the right to vote to ex-offenders is crucial in the link below.
Solitary confinement is a protective measure
President Obama’s ban on the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons fails to take into consideration the realities that correction officers face each day, says Norman Seabrook, president of the New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association. He says the use of punitive segregation needs to remain an option to ensure the safety of officers and other inmates in prisons. Read more of his perspective in the link below.
Obama is wrong on solitary confinement: Column
More cops should have non-lethal weapons
The video showing police shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times in October 2014 has prompted questions about police use-of-force policies. Too few officers are equipped with non-lethal weapons and many fail to defuse encounters before resorting to their guns, says USA TODAY’s Editorial Board. Meanwhile, a former New York police officer argues that giving police Tasers would make situations worse. Read more of the editorial debate in the links below.
Change incarceration laws to end legalized discrimination
African Americans are four times more likely to be jailed than whites; and many policies make it nearly impossible for anyone with a criminal record to find a job, get housing, apply for financial aid and vote. Those policies push many blacks from participating in society, according to former attorney general Eric Holder. His solution is for our nation to “consider how policies and regulations that impose unnecessary burdens on individuals re-entering society, and that had no legitimate law enforcement purpose, might be eliminated.”
Investigation into Chicago police justified
It took more than 13 months for a video to be released showing the death of Laquan McDonald, a black teen shot allegedly 16 times by a white officer. It also took more than 13 months for the county prosecutor to charge the officer with first-degree murder and for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to fire the police superintendent. In the view of USA TODAY’s Editorial Board, videos are a game-changer, providing evidence of police brutality as well as false accusations. However, public scrutiny and independent prosecutors who aren’t beholden to police unions are also needed to ensure justice.
Emanuel, who has apologized for the handling of the McDonald shooting writes in a commentary: “The shooting of Laquan McDonald was indefensible.” In the piece, he welcomes the Justice Department investigation of the Chicago Police Department and talks about how he intends to implement significant, long-term reform. Read more in the links below.
Improve screening of police candidates
The video of a white cop in Chicago shooting a black teen is the latest case that fits a disturbing pattern. Recall these names: Eric Garner. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. Commentary writer Gerry Spence, a trial lawyer, asks the question: “How do we save ourselves from the brutality and murders of our own employees — the police?” He suggests rigorous testing to try to identify and eliminate the most violent, sadistic candidates who shouldn’t be officers. Read more of his column, and more commentary on protests at the University of Missouri and free speech on college campuses below.
How do we identify killer cops? Spence
Voices: Chicago officials face tough road after police shooting video
Athletes for fair play: Lipsyte
Remembering Woodrow Wilson’s racism isn’t enough: Column
Campus adults, protect free speech: Our view
Critics ignore historical context: Opposing view
Glenn Reynolds: Obama right again on P.C. campus speech
Voices: Standing with Mizzou starts at home
Glenn Reynolds: After Yale, Mizzou, raise the voting age — to 25
What Mizzou, Yale students need to learn about free speech: Column
FBI chief jumps gun on ‘Ferguson effect’
A downward trend in violent crime has persisted in the USA since the mid-1990s. But now, a few cities are showing an increase. FBI Director James Comey suggested in October that the “Ferguson effect” — the idea increased scrutiny of police after the Michael Brown shooting is causing officers to be less aggressive, which encourages criminals — might be to blame. However, statistics don’t support that assertion. Although the gut-sense explanation might resonate with officers, it’s too early to know. Regardless, body cams on officers and civilians with smartphones aren’t going away. And the intense spotlight on police behavior that comes with the videos they capture is part of a new reality to which police will have to adjust. Read more of USA TODAY’s editorial. However, Frank Scafidi, a former FBI agent and Los Angeles deputy sheriff, says some cops are hesitant to act out of fear of being charged with improper behavior. The “Ferguson effect” is a very real phenomenon affecting law enforcement that leaves no trail, he says. Read more of his opposing view.
Germany provides model for reintegrating prisoners
Commentary writer Ellis Cose describes what he learned after visiting prisons in Berlin. What could U.S. correctional officials could learn from a system that treats prisoners as neighbors? Read more in his column.
Are dashcams the answer?
After the Michael Brown shooting, USA TODAY’s Editorial Board said, “Police have enraged the public they serve by showing little respect for constitutional rights and little recognition of how Brown’s killing has tapped into a deep vein of distrust of law enforcement among African Americans.” After the grand jury decision not to charge Darren Wilson, the officer who fatally shot Brown, we called for the decision to be met with deference, but “no indictment of Wilson doesn’t mean there should be no change in Ferguson or elsewhere.” We urged street police to have more access to non-lethal weapons and to wear body cameras. In addition, law enforcement should behave less like an occupying force in communities.
Our bottom line: More should be done, beyond Department of Justice investigations, to hold police accountable and create a system that promotes better behavior. Most cops are trying to do the right thing. Is more transparency in the form of dashcams and better reporting on police use of force the answer to ensure safety?
Some thoughts from people who attended a rally in Washington, D.C., in December:
More USA TODAY editorials, opposing views and columns on police, justice and media:
When police embrace ‘In God We Trust’: Column
Cops die, too: Our view
‘All lives matter’ is off-point: Other views
Is #blacklivesmatter protecting police unions? Column
Police recklessness, not racism: Fox
Police ‘waiting period’ laws feed suspicions: Our view
Officers deserve cooling-off period: Opposing view
Wickham: Focus on Freddie Gray’s neighborhood
Wickham: In tense Baltimore, an unexpected partnership
Expand police use of non-lethal alternatives: Our view
Unarmed doesn’t mean harmless: Opposing view
From Ferguson to North Charleston: Our view
Policing for profit perverts justice: Our view
Radar doesn’t discriminate: Opposing view
Bigoted Ferguson was ‘powder keg’: Our view
Benjamin Crump: I’m disappointed, but not surprised
Ferguson’s bloody political opportunism: Column
Why Ferguson reports changed no one’s mind: Column
Track all civilian deaths at the hands of police: Our view
What about attacks on police? Opposing view
Police weren’t the problem in Ferguson: Column
Slow down, police are the good guys: Column
Ferguson needs facts, not passions: Column
Chokehold decision seems inexplicable: Our view
‘You cannot resist arrest’: Opposing view
Fatal shooting wasn’t Wilson’s only option: Our view
Police curb use of lethal force: Another view
If Ferguson officer wore a camera: Our view
Test police cameras carefully: Opposing view
Tavis Smiley: Justice for Michael Brown still possible
Ferguson decision deserves deference: Our view
Unbelievable Ferguson police: Our view
Ferguson police chief: ‘We want to build trust’