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Media Roundup

There’s a lot in the news right now. Some highlighted stories, from the last week:

The Minneapolis Police Department had a chance to adopt meaningful changes before George Floyd’s death— but fell short of weeding out bad cops and lethal choke holds, or “neck restraints.” (TMP) Thursday, prosecutors said they had not decided whether to charge the man who killed Floyd, and protests blazed into a third night across the country. (As of Friday evening, one officer involved had been charged with third-degree murder.)  “There is a deep rift between the city’s police force — which also is predominantly white — and the community, one that seems to grow larger with each killing.” (NYT) 

More midwestern police brutality: Derek Gray bought his 68-year-old mother a TV. A police officer accused him of stealing it. Even after a store employee intervened, confirming they had paid, the officer called for backup, forced them to the ground and arrested them. Gray suffered injuries including a concussion and shattered teeth. His mother, Marvia Gray, charged with interfering with an officer and resisting arrest, was also injured. They have sued the four officers for using excessive force during the wrongful arrest.

“I am heartbroken by the murder of George Floyd,”  Stacy Abrams said Tuesday. “Let’s be clear: police brutality murdered George, ‘no-knock’ warrants murdered Breonna Taylor, and citizen’s arrest laws murdered Ahmaud Arbery. All of them should be alive today, and we—as public servants—have an obligation to demand reforms and repeal these archaic laws.”

A federal judge has made Florida’s poll tax a little less unconstitutional. (Slate) Florida will still require voters with felony convictions to pay court fines in order to register, but the state will at least now have to make clear whether they owe money, and “no one will face perjury charges for registering and voting through this process.”

You shouldn’t need a Harvard degree to survive: “We’re suggesting a hierarchy that says black people have to be exceptional just to be allowed to live. It happens in reverse when some start to search for perceived culpability as a way to explain a black person’s death.” (WaPo)

Longtime death-seeking Fulton County DA Paul Howard says he will now oppose the death penalty, which must come as a relief to the nine people whose lives are currently in his hands.

COVID-19 – Related News

Santiago Baten-Oxlag, 34, is the second person who has died after testing positive for COVID-19 at Stewart Detention Center. He’d been in ICE custody since March. (WABE)

U.S. District Judge James Gwin sided with Ohio prisoners, ordering that 837 medically vulnerable people incarcerated at Elkton, a low-security federal lockup and one of the country’s worst-hit federal prisons, be considered for “compassionate release, home confinement or transfer to a different prison.”  Nine people have died at Elkton, and one in four tested positive for the virus. Yesterday, the Supreme Court refused to stay his order (WaPo), against the wishes of the Trump administration, as the DOJ rushed to make it harder for people labeled “low-risk” to get out. (Propublica). 

Meanwhile, an outbreak of COVID-19 at a North Carolina prison housing some of the sickest men in the federal system has triggered another class action lawsuit, which claims the prison’s efforts to comply with a directive to increase home confinement have been “sluggish and ineffective” and seeks an injunction that would force the identification of people who are particularly medically vulnerable so that they can be released. (Huffpost)

Lumpoc Federal Corrections Complex has over 1,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, accounting for two thirds of Santa Barbara’s infections. After two prisoners died there, the county couldn’t reopen, according to state guidelines requiring two weeks with no deaths. Their solution? Those deaths don’t count. (TMP)

Andrea High Bear’s grandmother: “Now six children don’t have a mom.” (WaPo)

Pregnant women in federal custody fear sharing her fate. (NYT) In Fort Worth, TX, a woman gave birth in a jail cell without assistance or even anyone noticing. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

At a Louisiana poultry plant where people in prison are sent to work, there is no soap, no social distancing. They are forced to make up for a loss of workers and a shortage of meat.

Critics of California’s zero-dollar bail order failed to acknowledge that there are always a number of people who are re-arrested, and 30 out of 1000, who were released from the Alameda County Jail, leaves 970 people who are not in a death trap. “There is simply no evidence that these virus-related jail releases have, on the whole, increased either crime or recidivism.” (The Appeal)

Why, again, should we have to humanize human beings? (USA today)

#MourningOurLosses is a crowd-sourced, national effort to name and memorialize people dying in prison of COVID-19.