Welcome to the 21st century, and welcome to an era of 3-D printed guns. New technology is not only bringing the manufacturing of guns into the garage, but is also forcing us to question what effective gun control would look like, and how it must be adapted to meet current technological advances.
As we head into the height of election season, we’re hearing more and more reports of increased restrictions on voter rights. States are limiting early voting periods, enforcing new restrictions on registration drives, and passing voter ID laws requiring citizens to show photo identification before casting their vote. Yet another voting rights debate is often lost in the media shuffle: Whether ex-felons should be denied the right to vote.
She only says a few words, but our friends’ granddaughter Stella has one expression down cold: “Uh-oh.” She says it when she drops a toy on the floor or sees a dog trying to sneak food off the table. She feels the stirrings of guilt – her sense of right and wrong forming in her agile brain. The day we will expect her to be fully responsible for all her actions and their consequences seems far off. After all, she is only a child.
On June 25, the Supreme Court ruled that the line between child and adult precludes mandatory life sentences without parole for those under age 18 convicted of murder. The Justices agreed that such mandatory punishment is cruel and unreasonable because the judge or jury must take the age of the defendant into account. Life sentences might still be imposed, but age and circumstance cannot be ignored.
As a rabbi, I agree.
Anthony Graves has seen lucid men go insane.
Anthony Graves has seen, lived and survived hell. But a part of him remains forever stuck there. Found innocent and released from death row in Texas two years ago, Graves still hasn’t slept more than 2 ½ hours a night. After having spent 18 ½ years in prison and 10 of those years in solitary confinement in an 8’x12’ cage, after having slept on a steel bed with a thin plastic mattress and pillow, and after having humiliatingly relieved himself with his steel toilet in front of male and female guards, Graves can’t rest. After having known a man who took out his own eye which he then swallowed and after having learned of a wretch who enveloped himself in a sheet only to light it afire, Graves can’t sleep.
On any given night in America, more than 640,000 people are homeless. Though such studies often encounter serious methodological difficulties, this estimate nonetheless helps us understand the extent of homelessness in America. What’s more, homelessness is on the rise, as a December 2011 study by the US Conference of Mayors reported a 6 percent increase in homelessness in the 29 major cities surveyed.
Amid rising numbers, new hope for the homeless has come from Rhode Island, where the state House of Representatives and the state Senate have passed a “homeless bill of rights,” which Governor Lincoln Chaffee is expected to sign soon. The legislation prohibits police, health care workers, landlords or employers from treating homeless people unfairly because of their housing status. As the Boston Globe explained, though “state law already prohibits discrimination based on characteristics such as a person’s religion, gender, race or disability, there is no formal, specific protection for the homeless.”
On Wednesday, the State of Ohio is set to execute Abdul Hamin Awkal, despite ample concerns about his mental health. Awekal was convicted of shooting his estranged wife and her brother at a Cleveland area courthouse in 1992.
Though there is no dispute over Awkal’s conviction, his punishment—in particular, his ability, or lack thereof, to understand the reason for it—have been called into question several times as his date of execution has neared. Cleveland-area CBS affiliate WOIO notes that Awkal “suffers schizoaffective disorder and has a well-formed delusional system,” pointing out that:
Due to his mental illness, Mr. Awkal sincerely believes that he has orchestrated the U.S. military’s efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan from death row, and that he has been in direct communication with the CIA and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In Mr. Awkal’s mind, he is not being executed for the crimes he committed in 1992, but rather because the CIA wants him dead.
A year ago I was sitting in my apartment at college, hogging the TV from my roommates who just wanted to watch the newest episode of The Bachelor, as I anxiously awaited President Obama’s press conference. Twitter had indicated 15 minutes earlier that Osama bin Laden had been killed at the hands of Navy SEALS, but it didn’t seem real until I heard the President say: “The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.”
But after I listened to this statement, I felt inexplicably empty. How was I supposed to feel? Joyous? Safe? Relieved? Sad? Should I join members of my campus who had wrapped themselves in American flags and were parading around the library? Was I supposed to say the Mourner’s Kaddish for bin Laden, as I might for a family member or friend? I wanted to immediately identify a nuanced reaction to the news, but wasn’t I allowed to just embrace my gut instincts? And what were those, anyway?
In California last week, a ballot measure to end the death penalty qualified for the November elections. If passed into law, life imprisonment without possibility of parole would replace the death penalty as the sternest penalty in the state’s criminal code. Additionally, more than 700 current death row inmates would see their sentences commuted to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. The measure, if passed, would make California the 18th state without the death penalty (Connecticut is one signature away from becoming the 17th state).
As Franklin Zimring, a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Law, noted in a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed, the death penalty in California, has been “a dismal failure: expensive, slow, arbitrary, complicated, and inconclusive.” Zimring continued:
After 34 years, California now has – by far – the largest Death Row of any state in American history and the most expensive death penalty litigation process in world history. With more than 720 condemned prisoners on Death Row, the state has executed only 13 since 1978, when Proposition 7 reinstated the death penalty.