WILMINGTON TEN AND THEIR FAMILIES - Members of the Wilmington Ten, led by Dr. Benjamin Chavis (center), and their families, posed for pictures recently in Wilmington. A faith community rally for the Ten will be held there on June 26th. See story [Cash Michaels video clip]
RALLY FOR THE WILMINGTON TEN PARDON EFFORT JUNE 26
By Cash Michaels
Rev. William Barber, president of the NC NAACP, will be the keynote speaker during a faith community rally in support of the Wilmington Ten pardons of innocence effort, scheduled for Tuesday, June 26th, 7 until 8:30 p.m. at Gregory Congregational United Church of Christ at 609 Nun Street in Wilmington.
The event, still being planned at presstime, is a joint effort of the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Pardon Project, the New Hanover County NAACP chapter, the Local Advisory Committee of the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project, and the NC NAACP.
Rev. Barber, along with attorney Al McSurely of Chapel Hill, and national NAACP Board member Carolyn Q. Coleman of Greensboro, was instrumental is securing a May 19th unanimous resolution from the national NAACP Board of Directors in support of a petition for ten individual pardons of actual innocence for the Wilmington Ten that was filed with Governor Beverly Perdue’s office last month.
Letters of support have already come in from three North Carolina congresspeople, several members of the NC General Assembly, and others.
An online petition at Change.Org has already netted over 350 signatures from as far away as Canada.
During the June 26th event, beyond Rev. Barber’s keynote, there will be gospel singing, and remarks from members of the Wilmington Ten, their families and supporters.
Gregory Congregational UCC is historically significant because is was the only black church in Wilmington in 1971 that would allow demonstrating black students who were protesting racial bias in the New Hanover County Public Schools to meet, and coordinate their protest efforts during the height of racial tensions there.
Authorities would later allege that after a white-owned grocery store down the block had been firebombed, snipers from the roof of Gregory Church fired upon firefighters. In 1972, several of the black students, a white female community worker, and their leader, UCC minister Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis, were arrested and charged with conspiracy in connection to the firebombing.
When they went to trial forty years ago, they became know as the Wilmington Ten. They were falsely convicted, and sentenced to a total of 282 years in prison. Individually, they served between four and six years in prison before an early release by then Gov. Jim Hunt.
These convictions and sentencing sparked national protests and gained international attention and condemnation. In 1977, the three State’s witnesses, who testified against the Ten, recanted their testimonies in court. The CBS News’ program “60 Minutes” then exposed the State’s evidence as “fabricated” by prosecutors, and in 1980, the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions based upon that Court’s independent determinations that the Prosecutor and the Trial Judge allowed the introduction of perjured testimony and with-held critical evidence which defense attorneys were entitled to receive.
For the past forty years, the Wilmington Ten have had to live with a cloud over their heads. The state of North Carolina has never declared them innocent.
For more information about the Wilmington ten case, go to https://www.change.org/petitions/nc-governor-bev-perdue-pardon-the-wilmington-ten.
NCNAACP BLASTS GOP RACIAL JUSTICE ACT REPEAL
By Cash Michaels
Calling the Republican-led state House vote this week “shameful” for effectively gutting the 2009 NC Racial Justice Act, NC NAACP President Rev. William Barber, in a fiery statement issued Wednesday, goes on to charge that the vote, “…is a refusal to deal with the systemic racism and racial disparities that have already been proven by the court of law to exist in our judicial system as it relates to the application of the death penalty.”
The current Racial Justice Act (RJA), signed into law by Gov. Beverly Perdue three years ago, allowed North Carolina death row inmates to challenge their convictions or sentencing in court if they could prove that there was prosecutorial racial bias during their trial.
When the GOP-led NC Legislature tried to repeal the 2009 RJA last year, Gov. Perdue vetoed their attempt, and the House didn’t have the votes to override.
This week, after modifying their new attempt to repeal RJA, Republican House leaders were able to convince five conservative Democrats - Jim Crawford of Oxford, Bill Owens of Elizabeth City, William Brisson of Bladen County, Dewey Hill of Columbus County and Timothy Spear of Washington County - to join House Republicans in the 72-47 vote Tuesday, in effect, making the new version veto-proof.
At presstime Wednesday, the House was scheduled to vote on it once more as a procedural requirement. Afterwards, the measure goes to the GOP-led state Senate, where it assured to be passed, and become law with or without Gov. Perdue’s signature.
The new version limits the NC statistical evidence of prosecutorial racial bias from statewide, to just that crime in that county where the crime took place.
Joyner said it is standard to use statewide data in a variety of legal matters to establish for the court “pattern and practice.” Without that, a defendant has no chance of proving their case.
The new RJA also imposes a two-year window for a racial bias claim to be made. Again, Joyner says, another barrier, since evidence of bias in death penalty cases usually isn’t available for eight or nine years after the case has been adjudicated.
And finally, the new RJA will also require more evidence of prosecutorial racial misconduct than is currently required.
“As amended now, basically they’ve killed any effort by anyone to raise these claims of racial discrimination in the jury selection process that resulted in the imposition of the death penalty,” said attorney Irving Joyner, law professor at North Carolina Central University School of Law.
“So the name (of the RJA) is on the books, but there is no real force and effect…that would allow an effective appeal of these convictions,” Joyner added, saying that the constitutionality of the new law could be challenged in the state Supreme Court.
NC NAACP Pres. Rev. Barber is clearly not pleased with the new RJA.
“We know the evidence of this racial disparity is true from
history, we know it's true from certified studies and we know it's true because two judges have ruled in favor of the legislation,” he wrote Wednesday. “The death penalty cannot be reversed, and everyone should want to be sure as possible that there is absolutely no bias in its application. That is why proponents and opponents of the Death Penalty supported the RJA in its current format.”
Rev. Barber continued, “The only conclusion one can come to when you have legislators gut a bill that has already been used in the courts to prove systemic racism exists, is that those legislators do not care about, nor do they want to address, the reality of racial bias in our current legal system. And a refusal to use every tool necessary to root out the racist application of the death penalty is to in fact participate in the injustice itself.”
“We live in a state where seven men have been exonerated from death row, who would have been murdered by the state if the system had only worked faster. Five are black, one is Latino and one is white. ALL were charged with the murders of white victims. Also, support for the Racial Justice Act is not an endorsement of violence or a sign that anyone is "soft on crime." Criminal justice enforcement is only strengthened when the system confronts racial bias directly and attempts to rid it from its practices,” Rev. Barber continued.
“All the evidence shows that the death penalty system is flawed with racial bias. It is bizarre and unthinkable that legislators are striving to maintain the status quo of racism in the death penalty system and steal a tool from the courts to address this abomination. We hope legislators will wake up and hear their humanity calling on them to change their mind and vote against this bill when it comes up for a final vote.”
Finally,” Rev. Barber continued, “We have to ask: If the facts were in the other direction, how would legislators supporting this bill feel about repealing a law that was attempting to address a death penalty system that was 2-3 times more likely to put white defendants to death than their black counterparts? Would they fight to maintain a racially biased system if it was their family members, or members of their community who were being racially targeted for the death penalty? Within constitutional and American principles, as a necessary rationale for our pursuit of justice, we should not excuse or allow to exist patterns of systemic racism and discrimination. To do so is both unconstitutional and immoral.”
“We have to ask: If it had been proven in court that the law was constitutional, if the courts affirmed the significance of a study that showed white jurors are dismissed from jury pools at over twice the rate of their black counterparts, if 31 of the defendants on death row were convicted by all black jurors and another 38 with only one white person on the jury and if the research showed wealthy people were more likely than poor people to receive the death penalty, where would the ultra right extreme leadership stand then?”
Rev. Barber continued, “We must note that not one African American legislator supported this legislative trickery. Every African American legislator supported the Racial Justice Act in its current form. Every legislator who voted for the repeal bill, which removes tools needed by the courts to root out racial disparity, is white. This alone should cause the legislators voting to repeal the Racial Justice Act to pause and rethink their vote.”
“The governor should veto this bill and the five Democratic legislators should sustain their Governor's veto and respect the many African Americans and other North Carolinians of good will who supported them,” Rev. Barber said.
“And even if they override the veto,” Rev. Barber continues, “we will work with our attorneys in the NAACP and in our coalition to make sure all the provisions in our current law are provided to all death row defendants based on the principles of equal protection under the law.”
TRIANGLE NEWS BRIEFS
WAKE PUBLIC SCHOOLS ACCUSED OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AGAIN IN FEDERAL COMPLAINT
For the second time in three years, the Wake County Public School System has been accused of racial discrimination in a federal complaint, this time against Hispanic students. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Advocates for Children’s Services, two advocacy groups, filed a complaint with the US Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) this week, alleging that WCPSS is violating the rights of Hispanic families by not providing proper translation services for them. The groups want WCPSS to provide printed information in Spanish to Hispanic families with limited English skills about policies concerning special education and suspensions. Prior to the complaint, WCPSS officials counter that the system does provide special services for Hispanic children.
FORMER NC DEMOCRATIC PARTY STAFFER APOLOGIZES FOR CALLING FORMER BOSS A “PREDATOR.”
A stern notice from an attorney apparently threatening legal action has forced a former staffer with the NC Democratic Party to apologize for calling Jay Parmley, the former executive director of the state party, a “predator.” Sallie Leslie told the media that she ,”… could not be a part of any organization that protected a predator,” when she resigned from party headquarters after news broke that Parmley had been accused of sexually harassing a male staffer. Parmley has steadfastly denied the allegation, and resigned from his post. Parmley’s attorney, Woody Webb, now says that Ms. Leslie’s written apology now settles the matter. Leslie wrote that she apologized, “…for my unfortunate and unsubstantiated use of the word “predator” to describe your client to the media.”
DURHAM FIREFIGHTER CHARGED WITH MULTIPLE ROBBERIES
They called him the “Green Goblin” because he wore the character’s mask when he allegedly committed eight robberies between May 8 and June1. Durham firefighter Damon Quick, 35, faces 43 charges after he was arrested Tuesday night during a robbery on Guess Road. Those charges include 19 counts of second-degree kidnapping, 11 counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon, two counts of attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon, seven counts of assault by pointing a gun, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and two counts of communicating threats. Quick is in the Durham County jail in lieu of a $9 million bond.
STATE NEWS BRIEFS
NC SENATE IGNORES EUGENICS COMPENSATION IN BUDGET PROPOSAL
[RALEIGH] With adjournment of the NC General Assembly’s short session perhaps two weeks away, it became clear this week that the Republican-led NC Senate isn’t interested in taking up the House-passed bill that sets aside $10 million to compensate victims of the state’s forced sterilization program. GOP Senate budgetwriters failed to include it in their budget proposal, and the latest word is that the measure is stuck in a Senate Appropriations Committee. During a hearing Tuesday morning, Mark Bold, of the Justice for Sterilization Victims Project, asked Senate lawmakers to include the House eugenics compensation bill in their budget. As of press time Wednesday, nothing has changed.
VETO-PROOF STATE HOUSE VOTE WEAKENS RACIAL JUSTICE ACT
[RALEIGH] The Republican-led state House, by a 72-47 vote Tuesday and finalized on Wednesday, significantly weakened the 2009 Racial Justice Act, which allowed death row inmates to use statewide statistics of prosecutorial racial bias to earn life in prison without parole. The new, weaker version now limits those stats to the county where the crime took place, provides a short window for when the bias claim could be made in court, and requires further evidence beyond racial bias, to justify the claim. Five conservative Democrats in the House voted to make it veto-proof. The bill now goes to the state Senate, which will certainly pass it, making it law.
When that happens, it will undermine a Superior Court judge’s recent ruling in Fayetteville that a defendant had made valid claims of racial bias under the current law.
Sarah Poston, Policy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina said, ““This effort is a direct attack on the entire Racial Justice Act, a nationally recognized civil rights law that would be gutted by this bill. In the first case ever heard under the Racial Justice Act, state Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks found overwhelming evidence of racial bias in North Carolina’s capital punishment system. This bill is an attempt to sweep that evidence under the rug by allowing the state to ignore mountains of statistics pointing to the pervasive and disturbing role that race plays in jury selection and sentencing. We cannot turn our backs on such evidence, as this bill seeks to do. If we are truly dedicated to giving every North Carolinian fair and equal treatment under the law, we must confront that evidence head on and seek ways to reform our system. This bill is a giant step in the wrong direction.”
CASH IN THE APPLE FOR JUNE 14, 2012
By Cash Michaels
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY - The best blessings in the world that I have beyond my fading health and hair, are my two daughters, Tiffany and KaLa - born twenty years apart - two extraordinarily beautiful young ladies I am immensely proud of.
Both are hopelessly crazy, but tremendously lovable and extraordinarily intelligent. Though one is nine and the other twenty-nine, they share so much in common it’s a great joy seeing them together when Tiff comes back home to visit from Washington.
When I say both are smart, I’m not kidding. Tiff, a 2005 college graduate, has also earned her Master’s of Business Administration.
And KaLa just got through acing her EOGs, and has been accepted into fourth grade academically gifted and talented classes.
I proudly go one about my two girls because being a father is one of the most frightening jobs on the face of the planet. We are wired to, of course, love our children, but also provide for them, and protect them. It’s that last part that is always upper most in my mind and heart. Are they always safe when they’re out of my sight?
Tiff is an adult who lives in another city, so I can’t be there at all. So my only constant way to watch over her is to keep up with her posts on Facebook.
It’s not perfect, but sure beats the days before Facebook.
And of course, my youngest, KaLa.
Protecting her isn’t just about keeping her safe, but watching what she pays attention to by way music, movies and TV shows. Monitoring those forces and influences that would shape and mold her attitudes. Having to put my foot down when I know something isn’t right for her, all in the interest of doing all I can to make sure that KaLa grows up to be a wholesome, decent, God-fearing, productive human being.
Like I said, being a Dad isn’t easy, and can be downright scary.
But at the end of the day, after you watch your children make their growing up mistakes (the same ones you made when you were young and thought you knew everything), and then come back and make you proud, it is all worth while.
That’s why my most important job on Earth is being dear-old (KaLa keeps reminding me about the “old” part) Dad.
And I love it.
So Happy Fathers Day to all of you men who know what I’m talking about, and love every minute it.
OH. BY THE WAY - I am honored to say that I will be the Annual Men’s Day Program speaker at First Cosmopolitan Baptist Church, 1515 Cross Link Road, Raleigh, for this Sunday, June 17th 11 a.m. service.
The theme this year is "Men of Valor" with the background scripture coming from Joshua 8:3:
So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against A-i; and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valor, and sent them away by night.
I look forward to sharing part of my Father’s Day with my old friend, Pastor W. B. Lewis, and the rest of the church family there.
For more information call First Cosmopolitan Baptist Church at 919-833-3283, or go to http://www.firstcosmopolitan.org/
Pray for me!
HOW DID WHITNEY’S DEATH AFFECT THE GRAMMYS? - Last February when troubled superstar Whitney Houston died in a Beverly Hills hotel, it was Grammy Awards weekend. All of the biggest stars in the music industry were in L.A. for the next day telecast, and producers were immediately scrambling to figure out a way to pay tribute to the fallen songstress in a tasteful, dignified manner.
We’ve all heard about it, but now we can see it in the new documentary, “ A Death in the Family: The Show Must Go On.” This is a behind-the-scenes look at what it took to make that memorable Grammy Awards show happen, and it features interviews with Grammy host LL Cool J, singer Jennifer Hudson, Bruce Springsteen and an bevy of other great stars.
You have to watch it online at http://www.grammy.com/news/a-death-in-the-family-reveals-how-the-grammy-show-went-on. It’s 25 minutes long, but it’s worth it. Check it out.
PASTOR DOLLAR - First the community is divided over same-sex marriage (please, PLEASE let’s not talk about that again).
Now it’s the controversy between TV Pastor Creflo Dollar and his two daughters.
By now you know the story - Dollar’s 15-year-old daughter was going out to a party last weekend when her father confronted her, telling her she wasn’t going anywhere because her grades were lousy. The daughter gets upset and walks away. Dollar follows, and the next thing we know, and this is all alleged, and all denied by Rev. Dollar, he then follows his teenage daughter, and somehow begins beating and choking her, even using his shoe at some point.
As we indicated, Dollar has denied it all, but his 19-year-old daughter backs his 15-year-old up.
The police are called to the Fayette County home in Georgia, talking Rev. Dollar away, charging him with choking his daughter.
So here we have a family in tatters, a TV preacher denying he assaulted his child, and more stuff to shake our collective heads over.
Older folks take Dollar’s side. They are appalled that the cops were called for a family squabble, saying that would never have happened back in the day.
Young people say no parent has the right to choke or beat their children.
Black feminists say no man has any business putting his hands on any female, period.
You see where this is going.
The fact of the matter is, none of us outside the Dollar home actually knows what went on, and why. So we have no choice but to allow the criminal justice system to figure it out, and for that, I am truly sorry.
But I hope there is at least a lesson here for all of us. All of us need to get our family situations in order. We read in the newspapers how Joseph Kennedy accused his wife of abusing him. Next thing you know, she hangs herself, and everybody is angry with him.
Domestic stuff is the messiest stuff of all. Any cop will tell you that.
So let’s straighten it out, y’all!
PRAYERS TO ROBIN ROBERTS - Once again ABC-TV “Good Morning America” co-host Robin Roberts is facing a great personal health challenge. Roberts, who beat cancer two years ago, now has been diagnosed with a blood disorder, requiring a bone marrow transplant. Fortunately, her sister, also a TV anchor, will be the donor, and thus, a match.
All of us wish Robin Roberts the best. She has made us all proud with her class, courage and professionalism. She is one of the greats in the TV business. Our prayers are with her.
WILMINGTON TEN PARDON PROJECT - The Wilmington Ten were nine young African-American males, led by the Rev. Benjamin Chavis, and one white female community worker, who stood up to racism in the New Hanover County Public School System in 1971 amid racial violence in Wilmington, NC. The following year, all of them were arrested and falsely charged, convicted and sentenced to a total of 282 years in prison for conspiracy in connection to the firebombing of a white-owned grocery store.
By 1977, the state's witnesses all confessed in court that they lied, and were paid by prosecutors. CBS' "60 Minutes" uncovered that most of the evidence used to convict the Wilmington Ten had been fabricated.
And in Dec. 1980, the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned all ten convictions.
But the state of North Carolina has never pardoned the Wilmington Ten.
On May 17th, 2012, attorneys for the Ten filed papers for pardons of innocence for the seven surviving members, and the three deceased, with NC Gov. Beverly Perdue's office, asking her to grant them.
Please join the national campaign to ask Gov. Perdue to grant justice, after forty years, to the Wilmington Ten. Please go to the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TheWilmingtonTenPardonOfInnocenceProject) to learn more, and please sign our petition at https://www.change.org/petitions/nc-governor-bev-perdue-pardon-the-wilmington-10
Make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at www.myWAUG.com. And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my new blog, ‘The Cash Roc” (http://thecashroc.blogspot.com/2011/01/cash-roc-begins.html). I promise it will be interesting.
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Columnist Cash Michaels was also honored by the NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009, and was the recipient of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s President’s Award for Media Excellence in Sept. 2011.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian in your life. Bye, bye.
Teen Pregnancies, Dangers on the Rise
By Zach Burgess
Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune
Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune
After more than a decade in decline, the United States teen pregnancy has been rising in recent years.
According to momlogic.com, the estimated public cost for teen pregnancy in the United States is between $6 and $9 billion a year. Eighty percent of teen moms are on some form of public assistance. Seven out of 10 teen mothers are unlikely to receive prenatal care, which of course has great negative health impacts for their children. Aside from the health risks, kids born to teen mothers are at greater risk for emotional and physical abuse, especially if there is no family support.
“It really is a public health issue,” said Bill Albert, chief program officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “This administration and this Congress have made a historic investment in preventing teen pregnancy. In our view, this investment could not be more timely… given the fact that the teen pregnancy rate in the United States is on the rise. I think one might say, without hyperbole…that one of the nation’s great success stories of the past two decades may be in danger of unraveling. So, this investment is right on for content and right on for timeliness.”
Teenage mothers are also at higher risk of having emotional and academic problems later in life. Another startling statistic: baby boys of teen mothers are at an increased risk for incarceration later in their lives, while girls born to teens are more likely to become teen moms themselves.
In the beginning of 2009, President Barack Obama signed an appropriations bill that ended federal funding for existing abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and put a new teenage pregnancy prevention initiative in the newly funded Office of Adolescent Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that was supported with more than $114 million in federal funds.
The prevention initiative was being hailed by health advocates for its focus on the evidence. Of the $114 million, $75 million will go toward replicating pregnancy prevention programs that had been thoroughly evaluated and provided the strongest evidence of success, while $25 million went to programs that show promise and innovation. There are roughly 400,000 teen births every year in the United States, with about $9 billion in associated public costs.
While the nation’s teen pregnancy rate declined about 40 percent between 1990 and 2005, data released by the Guttmacher Institute in January 2010 showed that the rate rose three percent in 2006. According to the institute, the new data is “especially noteworthy because they provide the first documentation of what experts have suspected for several years, based on trends in teens’ contraceptive use — that the overall teen pregnancy rate would increase in the mid-2000s following steep declines in the 1990s and a subsequent plateau in the early 2000s.”
And like many other health issues, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate is checkered with disparities. In 2006, among Black and Hispanic teens ages 15 to 19, there were about 126 pregnancies per 1,000 women, while among white teens, it was 44 per 1,000. Such statistics mean the United States has the highest teen birth rate among Western, industrialized nations.
First there was a study from the Guttmacher Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that concluded the teen pregnancy rate is on the rise after more than a decade of decline. Then there was a federally-funded report that said the cure to the problem might just be those much-maligned abstinence-only sex education classes – despite experts’ opinions, offered in connection with the previous report, that those classes are the cause of the rise.
Although the Guttmacher report does not discuss the poverty factor in detail, the correlation is easy to see. The report’s rankings of states by teen pregnancy rates look eerily similar to the U.S. Census rankings of states by poverty rates.
Mississippi, for example, has the nation’s highest rate of poverty and the third highest rate of teen pregnancies. New Mexico is third in poverty and second in teen pregnancies. Texas leads in teen pregnancies and comes in ninth in the poverty rankings. Other “risk factors” for teenage pregnancy – being a person of color, being disinterested in school, etc. – similarly dovetail with living in poverty. Pennsylvania is ranked 39th in teenage pregnancies.
According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, a child born to an unmarried teen mother has a 27 percent chance of growing up in poverty. If the mother has not earned a high school diploma or equivalency degree, the child will grow up in poverty 64 percent of the time. If those numbers are correct, the steep decline in teen pregnancy rates between 1991 and 2002 kept an additional 460,000 children from being born into poverty.
“As a society, we have to continually redouble our efforts to sustain these kinds of (downward) trends over time,” said Heather Boonstra, a senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, which conducts research on a range of sexual and reproductive health issues. “We can’t just sit back, because new teens are constantly coming into the field and we have to remain vigilant.”
Factors shaping the recent rise in teen pregnancy are varied and complex, prevention advocates say, ranging from years of federal support for rigid abstinence-only programs to tempered fears of contracting HIV, to less teen contraceptive use. According to the 2007 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates of teens who were sexually active and those who used a condom during their last sexual encounter remained statistically stalled from 2005 to 2007, following years of positive behavior change.
The CDC reported that of the teens who were sexually active, only about 61 percent used a condom the last time they had sex. And according to Lorrie Gavin, PhD, MPH, a health scientist with the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health, current trends point to more than just a teen pregnancy problem — “there’s something else going on … improvements in sexual risk behavior have leveled off in recent years, and rates of some sexually transmitted diseases have increased.”
“We have the tools we need (to prevent teen pregnancy and disease) — and we can always improve on them — but we need to better apply them,” Gavin told The Nation’s Health. “In addition to disseminating evidence-based sexuality education and youth development programs, it is critically important that we make sure that sexually active youth have access to contraceptive services and that there is a supportive social and policy environment.”
With a focus on the evidence, the new federal teen pregnancy initiative could go far in creating such an environment, say prevention advocates, many of whom criticized previous federal support of often ineffective abstinence-only programs. Federal funding of abstinence-only programs increased significantly beginning in the mid-1990s and since 1998; $50 million per year was going toward programs that teach abstinence from sex outside of marriage.
The debate over the effectiveness of abstinence vs. contraception made headlines after a study published in the February 2009 issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that one specific abstinence-based intervention was successful at delaying sexual initiation. However, the study authors noted that the intervention studied “would not meet federal criteria for abstinence programs… (and) was not moralistic and did not criticize the use of condoms.”
For the Obama administration, the sticking point will be evidence, not content, Albert said.
“It used to be, to get this federal pot of money, you had to stick to a certain curriculum — the variable was content, not evidence,” Albert told The Nation’s Health. “Now, our ‘sort variable’ is going to be evidence, and for geeks like us, that’s music to our ears.”
While garnering praise, advocates warn that the new federal teen pregnancy prevention effort is not necessarily permanent, and that abstinence-only-until-marriage proponents are not giving up. In the health reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, successfully included an amendment to restore $50 million a year in abstinence-only state funds — a move that extended abstinence-only funds by another five years. In addition, funds for President Obama’s new teen pregnancy prevention effort must be re-appropriated by Congress every year, which means its future is far from secure.
“We all need to take a moment and breathe and celebrate how far we’ve come, but we can’t sit back and rest on our laurels,” said Jen Heitel Yakush, director of public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. “We need to remain vigilant. We have such an opportunity to get information to young people while they are still thinking about what it means to be sexually healthy.”
The American Public Health Association contributed to this report.
Zack Burgess is the Enterprise Writer for The Tribune. He is a freelance writer and Editor who covers culture, politics and sports. He can be contacted at zackburgess.com and followed on Twitter @zackburgess1.
As Crime Falls, Police Hiring Rises
By Freddie Allen
NNPA News Service
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – For the past three decades, crime in the United States has been declining. The murder rate, for example, has fallen by almost half, from 9.8 per 100,000 in 1991 to 5.0 in 2009. Robberies were down 10 percent in 2010 from the previous year. Yet, there is a steady drumbeat from liberals and conservatives alike for more cops on the street, even as cities and states are forced to slash public sector jobs.
Vice President Joe Biden’s record in the Senate is an example of how, for fear of being accused of being soft on crime, progressives have joined forces with right-wing Republicans in calling for more police officers as crime continues to dip.
“In the last 100 weeks, under this administration, the United States has undergone the worst crime epidemic in its entire history,” said then-Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) in June 20, 1991 as he argued against President George H.W. Bush’s Violent Crime Control Act. Fueled by the crack epidemic that infected inner cities across America, murder, robbery, and rape reached record levels. The United States was the most dangerous nation in the world, Senator Biden said.
That bill, which sought a three-year ban on assault weapons, tougher rules on death penalty cases and limits on federal appeals a criminal could use under state laws, passed the Senate, but crashed and burned in the House.
Three years later, Biden authored the Violent Crime Control and Enforcement Act. The 1994 crime bill called for 100,000 police officers on the streets, a campaign promise President Clinton pledged to keep. Local law enforcement agencies rushed in to claim grants issued by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).
By the time the first wave of new officers funded by COPS landed on the streets in 1995, crime rates across the country were already receding. Property crime (burglary) began to decline as early as 1987 and violent crime fell 4.5 percent between 1993 and 1994.
In the September 2000 report “Diminishing Returns: Crime and Incarceration in the 1990s ” released by the Sentencing Project economic opportunities, stabilization of drug markets, and innovative community policing were all listed as factors that contributed to the reduction in crime in the early 1990s.
Few experts credited COPS grants and hiring new police officers as the driving force behind falling crime rates and when the Justice Department reported that COPS had a significant impact on crime, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) questioned the veracity of the study.
In 2005, the GAO stated, “Factors other than COPS funds accounted for the majority of the decline in crime during this period.”
In the beginning, the idea of the COPS program was great, said Paul Ashton of the Justice Policy Institute. The grants were meant to bolster the efforts of local law enforcement agencies in building positive relationships in the neighborhoods that they served and increase community policing.
“Fundamentally that program has now become a jobs program,” said Paul Ashton.
Theoretically, crime usually increases during economic recessions. However, even with high unemployment, the crime rate has continued on its downward journey.
Between 1995 and 2004 the federal government spent $10 billion and hired nearly 90,000 police officers as violent crime continued to slide, decreasing 24 percent over that period.
According to a report issued last month by the Justice Policy Institute, federal, state, and local governments spent more than $100 billion combined for policing in 2010. Even though violent crime fell 47 percent and property crime was down 43 percent since 1991, when the United States was “the most dangerous nation in the world,” the federal government increased spending on law enforcement by 167 percent.
President Obama wants to hire even more cops.
Four months ago, standing in an Arlington, Va. fire station, President Obama pushed a new conservation program to help veterans find work. He proposed $1 billion in firefighter grants and another $4 billion in COPS grants.
The reality is that there is no credible data linking the hiring of more police officers with a corresponding drop in crime.
So why is crime falling?
Criminologists offer four primary reasons for the drop in crime:
- The declining crack epidemic;
- Harsher prison sentences that keep more hardened criminals off the streets;
- A graying U,S. population led by baby boomers reaching senior citizen status;
- Improved technology, including advances in DNA testing and.
- Extended unemployment benefits.
Although crime is down, public opinion polls show that many believe crime is actually up. And to address that perceived fear, police often target poor, Black neighborhoods.
Although crime rates have dropped to a 30-year low, arrests for drug offenses rose 45 percent from 1993 to 2010.
“They have to find something to do with their time,” said Ashton of the Justice Policy Institute. “And one of the ways they’re doing it is looking at drug possession.”
Blacks make up 13 percent of the U.S. population and 31 percent of the total arrests for drug offenses. According to JPI, in 2009 cops arrested Blacks for drug violations at three times the rate of Whites, but numerous studies, including a recent one conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, found that Blacks and Whites use illicit drugs at similar rates.
According to a May 2008 Sentencing Project report, how and where drugs are sold may help to explain the disparity in arrests between Blacks and Whites. The report, “Disparity by Geography: The War on Drugs in America’s Cities,” found that drug sales in low-income African-American neighborhoods often occur in public spaces involving strangers that can leave dealers vulnerable to “buy and bust” quick-hit tactics of police. Drug markets in White neighborhoods are more exclusive and harder to infiltrate because buyers rely on word of mouth references.
So, police settled for the softer targets in the African-American community.
“It goes back to how the war on drugs unfolded, the idea that certain neighborhoods need to be [monitored] more than others,” Ashton said. “When you put more police in a certain area, the police contact rate with the public is going to increase.” And when police contact increases so do the arrests.
New York City’s controversial “Stop and Frisk” program illustrates the perils of over-policing in the Black community. The NYCLU reported that in 2011 “The number of stops of young black men exceeded the entire city population of young black men (168,126 as compared to 158,406).”
New York City police made 685,724 stops in 2011. Blacks make up 26 percent of the population and accounted 53 percent of the stops. Whites account for 44 percent of the total population in New York City and only 9 percent of the stops. When they were stopped, Whites were twice as likely as Blacks to have guns, drugs or stolen property.
“That’s the primary reason we have so much conflict between communities of color and law enforcement,” said Major Neill Franklin a 34-year law enforcement veteran of the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department and executive director of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition). “Cops going in to occupy and search people illegally, search cars and homes illegally. People are fed up with it.”
At a time when both violent and property crimes are dropping, bulking up police forces will likely mean more people arrested for low level and ‘quality of life’ offenses, as police look to justify the additional funding,” said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute. “The administration needs to get on board with ‘smart on crime’ policies; and over-saturating communities with police isn’t one of them.”