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Louisiana Parish Claims Incarcerated 14-Year-Old Consented to be Raped by a Corrections Officer

October 5, 2014 in Blogs

By Katie McDonough, Salon.com

“These girls in the detention center are not Little Miss Muffin,” remarked one official.


A Louisiana parish is arguing that it should not be held liable for the rape of a 14-year-old girl in a juvenile detention center because the victim “consented” to be sexually assaulted by a 40-year-old corrections officer at the facility.

The victim, now 20, filed a civil lawsuit against her assailant, former guard Angelo Vickers, as well as Terrebonne Parish.

The age of consent in Louisiana is 17, but court documents allege that “Vickers could not have engaged in sexual relations within the walls of the detention center with [the victim] without cooperation from her. Vickers did not use force, violence or intimidation when engaging in sexual relations.”

In a comment on the case to the Tri-Parish Times, an anonymous official also remarked that the 14-year-old should share the blame for her assault, saying: “These girls in the detention center are not Little Miss Muffin.”

Attorneys for the young woman — supported by victim rights advocates — argue that consent is not possible in this case.

Carolyn McNabb, an area attorney and child advocate, is one among many local voices harshly criticizing the parish’s victim-blaming: “To say that a 14-year-old mentally and emotionally distressed girl with a history of having been abused and neglected as a child should be found at fault for consenting to be raped by a male guard while in confinement at the hands of my local government, which is charged with the responsibility of keeping her safe, not only sets the cause of children’s advocacy back a hundred years, but I believe the parish government commits ‘documentary’ sexual assault against the child by taking this position in a public record,” she remarked in a letter to parish attorneys.

Marci Hamilton, a sex crime victim advocate and professor at Benjamin Cardozo Law School in New York, also criticized the parish’s defense, arguing that it “has no basis in law,” adding, “she is a victim of statutory rape. The age of consent in Louisiana is 17. The defense is also offensive to sex assault victims everywhere.”

<Img align="left" border="0" height="1" …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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A Poetic Warning About Police Brutality in Ferguson and Elsewhere—From a Black Father to His Son

October 5, 2014 in Blogs

By April M. Short, AlterNet

Albuquerque's poet laureate writes about dehumanization and killing of black people in the US.


The effect of lynching isn’t to execute a black man, poet and journalist Hakim Bellamy tells me. The effect of lynching is to make a hundred other people watch, to send a message of oppression and intimidation: “Be careful, this could be you.”

The same is true, Bellamy believes, of police shootings and other brutality against black Americans. He recalls posting a photo to Instagram of a BART station on a recent visit to the San Francisco Bay Area with the caption, “Is it wrong that I feel afraid right now?” It was a reference to the deadly shooting of Oscar Grant at Oakland's Fruitvale BART station in 2009.

“It sure sends a message about how we are supposed to, or not supposed to, interact with law enforcement,” Bellamy said, remembering various warnings his mother gave him throughout his childhood in New Jersey about how not to talk to the police. “She told me [your white friends] can say, ‘Why'd you pull me over, officer’ and ‘I’ll have your badge number’ and I know that I would never, ever, ever be able to speak to a police officer in that fashion. It would be very dangerous for me to talk to a police officer in the way that some of my friends feel entitled to.”

Bellamy is a radio journalist, poet laureate of Albuquerque and national slam poetry champion. He said when he heard about Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri he knew he wanted to write something to capture the frustration, anger and hopelessness that had been building after the senseless killings of Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant and so many others.

“I was like, oh my god, here we go again again,” he said. “I wrote a poem when Trayvon first passed away. I wrote lots of short haikus and stuff regarding the Zimmerman verdict, but it never felt like I really captured how I felt. I wrote all these little poems and I captured …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Florida's School Choice Law Constitutional, Cost-Effective

October 5, 2014 in Economics

By Jason Bedrick

Jason Bedrick

Florida’s school choice tax credit law benefits taxpayers and tens of thousands of low-income students. Both groups stand to lose if the state’s largest teachers union wins its legal challenge.

In a Sept. 24 editorial, The Palm Beach Post cited the Florida Education Association’s claims that the 13-year-old Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (FTCS) program is unconstitutional and “take[s] money away from public schools.” However, the plain meaning of the Florida Constitution gives ample constitutional space for the FTCS and the government’s own accounting shows that the law saves money overall.

The FTCS grants tax credits in return for corporate donations to nonprofit scholarship organizations that help low-income families afford the school that best meets their children’s educational needs. This year, nearly 70,000 students are receiving scholarships worth nearly $4,700, on average.

Tax credits are constitutionally no different than tax deductions for charitable contributions to religious organizations or property tax exemptions for houses of worship.”

The FEA’s legal challenge rests on two provisions of the state constitution. The first mandates that the state provide a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high-quality system of free public schools.” The FEA interprets “uniform” to mean “exclusive,” barring the state from supporting any alternatives to that system. What the FEA fails to mention is that the end of that sentence explicitly authorizes the state to create “other public education programs that the needs of the people may require.” While the state Supreme Court has narrowly interpreted that clause in the past, a plain reading of the provision clearly authorizes such laws.

The second constitutional provision the FEA invokes forbids “revenue of the state” from being “taken from the public treasury” to aid “any sectarian institution.” However, no high court has ever accepted the FEA’s legal argument.

In a case regarding a similar scholarship tax credit law in Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the tax credit funds were not public money because they had not “come into the tax collector’s hands,” noting that “[p]rivate bank accounts cannot be equated with the […] State Treasury.”

In that sense, tax credits are constitutionally no different than tax deductions for charitable contributions to religious organizations or property tax exemptions for houses of worship. In none of those cases are religious institutions funded by “revenue of the state.”

The Arizona Supreme Court has also ruled that tax credits do not constitute public money. On the same day as the FEA …read more

Source: OP-EDS