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Injustice

Coronavirus Crisis Shows Need For Permanent Bail Reform

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Matt Morgan
Matt Morgan

As the world anxiously feels the effects of coronavirus seeping into all facets of our lives, we must be vigilant about recognizing and fending off the deadly consequences it could have on our vulnerable, marginalized populations. I am particularly concerned about the potential impact on the innocent inmates awaiting trial in our jails. Luckily, Florida is among a handful of states working to prevent utter devastation among this population.

State Attorney Andrew Warren of the 13th Judicial Circuit in Florida took several important steps to help contain the virus in our jails. Among other measures, he has ordered police to minimize arrests for nonviolent misdemeanors, to release pretrial detainees who do not pose a threat to public safety and is dismissing certain nonviolent misdemeanor and criminal traffic cases. He has also halted filing charges for local ordinance violations, nonviolent misdemeanors and criminal traffic offenses.

State Attorney Aramis Ayala of the 9th Judicial Circuit is also working to reduce the number of people held in jails unnecessarily.

Nationwide, every person currently sitting in a jail awaiting trial for a low-level offense should be released immediately. To do this, state attorneys should be reevaluating and easing how they charge people and set bonds, increasing the stipulations to release on one’s own recognizance and lowering bonds, and working with jails to identify all pretrial inmates that could reasonably be released without risking public safety. These are just some of the steps Ayala is taking in her district.

Further, police should be stopping all arrests of nonviolent misdemeanors and traffic violations (DUIs and those driving with permanently revoked licenses notwithstanding). These actions now will save lives.

I applaud the state attorneys for being leaders on this issue, and I urge the rest of the country to take note. This should be a model for every state and county jail in the country. When the coronavirus hits our jails, I expect we will see a terrifying number of severe infections and deaths.

However, the efforts to reduce our jail population should not stop once we get the coronavirus under control. While this pandemic is laying bare many of this country’s broken systems, the criminal justice crisis in America is largely swept under the rug. It began long before the coronavirus hit, and if we don’t act now, it will continue long after.

To understand the depth of this issue, consider some of the startling statistics. The U.S. has 5% of the global population, but 25% of the world’s prison population.[1] This disproportionately impacts African American and Latino communities. One out of every three black boys born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime and one of six Latino boys will go to prison, in comparison to one out of 17 white boys.[2]

It’s blatant racism in broad daylight, and collectively we allow it to happen. We all need to stand together and begin to scream at the top of our lungs about this injustice. It goes against every ideal this great country was founded upon. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, for all the people. There is no greater loss than the loss of one’s freedom.

Beyond the prison populations, a shocking number of people are incarcerated who have not yet been convicted of a crime — in jail at this very moment all because they do not have $100 to bail themselves out. They sit there, many on nonsense charges, for 30 to 50 days while they await their court date. A staggering 76% of the jail population is currently innocent, convicted of no crime.[3]

I see a lot of injustice in my line of work, but this tops the list for me. It’s unfair, and it’s un-American. Innocent until proven guilty — a tenet of American democracy and justice — just doesn’t apply to people of color in our country. Instead, our system runs on the basis of “incarcerated until proven rich.”

Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, we should not be arresting and jailing people who commit low-level, nonviolent offenses. Driving with a suspended license is one of the most common and repeated themes about why people are incarcerated. Homeless people sleeping where they’re not supposed to be sleeping is another common arrest. Detaining these people until their trial when they aren’t able to post bond creates what Ayala calls a poverty penalty that punishes them for not having financial resources.

It should become common practice for prosecutors to recommend to judges defendants accused of certain low-level nonviolent offenses be released without having to post bail while their cases are pending. We should also stop holding low-level probation violators without bond.

As a nation, we should consider scrapping monetary bond altogether, opting instead to release those charged without bond or keep them in jail until trial, depending on the charges, as New Jersey has. At the very least, judges should be directed to consider whether a person can make bail before they set it, which is how it works in Maryland.

Mass incarceration hurts all of us. It destroys lives, devastates families and robs us of the potential of all those who are unjustly imprisoned. But it also costs us, the American taxpayers, $80 billion per year.[4] We sure could use that $80 billion at times like these.

It’s past time we level the playing field for low-income nonviolent offenders, and I’m so encouraged to see state attorneys Warren and Ayala be leaders on this issue. I urge all states across the country to follow their lead, and for everyone to use this tragic time as a catalyst to make lasting change in our criminal justice system.


Matt Morgan is an attorney at Morgan & Morgan and the founder of the Community Bail Fund.

“Perspectives” is a regular feature written by guest authors from the access to justice field. To pitch article ideas, email expertanalysis@law360.com. 

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/04/30/does-the-united-states-really-have-five-percent-of-worlds-population-and-one-quarter-of-the-worlds-prisoners/

[2] https://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Race-and-Justice-Shadow-Report-ICCPR.pdf

[3] https://www.prisonpolicy.org/factsheets/pie2019_allimages.pdf

[4] https://eji.org/news/mass-incarceration-costs-182-billion-annually/

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Injustice

Corruption of EU nationality law: a perfect injustice

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Infringements highlighted by the EU over sale of golden passports may not be solid in law

By Alper Ali Riza

 

The golden passports scandal is a misnomer. A passport is evidence of nationality so the scandal is a nationality scandal. Nationality is a much deeper bond between the individual and the society he or she belongs to and selling nationality is more egregious than selling a travel document.

Nationality is normally acquired by birth, parentage or long residence because each of these suggests a sense of belonging that cements the individual to the society of the country of which he is a national.

But what if instead of birth, parentage and long residence someone purchases a nationality from a state willing to sell it? Is that in and of itself corrupt or abuse of an idea? Most people would say it is obviously a corruption of some sort, but of what?

Cometh the hour cometh the man – or book. Media Corruption in the Age of Information by Dr Edward Spence of the Department of Philosophy, University of Sydney, Australia has just been published by Springer at exactly the right time to help people understand institutional corruption.

Before I go any further, I must declare an interest because Dr Spence is a close friend originally from Larnaca. We were both at the American Academy in the 1960s and remained close friends ever since. So the praise I heap on his book must be taken with a tiny pinch of salt. Also, I speed read through most of it, focusing on the chapters relevant to corruption generally, rather than the main thrust of the book which is corruption of information by Big Tech multinationals like Google and Facebook. Dr Spence’s book is an excellent tool in the war against corruption.

His thesis is that the Big Techs are masquerading as platforms beyond the reach of the law when they are in fact media outlets that should be subject to the usual constraints and legal responsibilities of all media institutions.

He castigates their malign domination of Information as fundamentally corrupt. They wield enormous power as hubs of information yet are answerable to no one. They are in a fiduciary relationship of trust with their users but as the Cambridge Analytica case shows, they are not just neutral information platforms on which information flows but repositories of personal data which they use unlawfully for gain while claiming the moral high ground.

Dr Spence shows them up as institutionally corrupt by reference to the constituent elements of corruption: access and use of power secretly for profit in breach of fiduciary trust. He cites to felicitous effect Plato’s Myth of the Ring of Gyges from which he extrapolates the problem posed by corruption, paraphrasing Plato as follows: “Why not act corruptly, when you can do so for profit or glory and remain undetected and immune from public scrutiny and punishment? Better to pretend that you are moral and act immorally and corruptly in secret.” Plato calls this “a perfect injustice – appearing just when you are not”. To which the short answer Dr Spence provides is that according to the ancients wealth can’t buy you eudaemonia – a kind of perfect happiness humans strive for wittingly or unwittingly.

The storyline of the Myth of Gyges is instructive. A shepherd from Lydia named Gyges found a ring which he put on his finger and discovered that by turning it he could make himself invisible, whereupon he went to the palace with a delegation of shepherds to see the King. Then by making himself invisible, he seduced the Queen, killed the King, and assumed total power by becoming the new King. Thus he was able to act unethically by using a magical ring with total immunity in circumstances of perfect injustice.

It is instructive because a kind of Ring of Gyges was handed to the government of RoC when Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, namely the power to grant EU citizenship. According to EU law every national of Cyprus is automatically a citizen of the EU and as such can travel freely to every other member state in the European Economic Area without let or hindrance. But crucially only member states have competence to decide their nationality laws and naturalisation procedures – the EU has no competence.

Europe is both a playground and a haven for the rich and infamous round the world. But it is also fortress Europe for immigrants and as immigration control became tougher over the years the demand for EU passports by those able to afford purchasing a nationality became more acute.

There is now a huge market round the world for EU passports and where there is a market there are traders and trading nations and Cyprus traded in cash-for-passports with gusto.

So if you are a Russian or Arab billionaire and you want to travel freely in and out of the European Economic Area, which includes Switzerland as well as all the member states of the EU, why not purchase an EU nationality of convenience if there is a country able and willing to sell her nationality?

Selling Cypriot nationality was bound to become a problem when the government of RoC inevitably became infected with corruption and politicians and decision makers were caught on camera on the make and on the take, exemplified by the ex-president of the House of Representatives winking in flagranto delicto, glass of red wine in one hand big cigar in the other – a perfect caricature of corruption if there ever was one

The fault, however, is the EU’s because its treaties handed over competence in nationality matters exclusively to member states. There is nothing to prevent the EU from converting this into a shared competence with member states rather than by way of taking infringement proceedings against Cyprus.

I don’t myself think that the infringement proceedings brought by the EU are sound in law. If a state has exclusive competence about nationality, then it would be interesting to see how the Court of Justice of the EU extrapolates an obligation on Cyprus not to sell her nationality to third country nationals. However crude and corrupt that sounds it is nothing compared to the corruption of the law if the Court of Justice of the EU creates obligations where none exist – a perfect injustice indeed!

  • Alper Ali Riza is a queen’s counsel in the UK and a retired part-time judge

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Injustice

Disunity, injustice threatening Nigeria’s democracy —Tafawa-Balewa | The Guardian Nigeria News

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Billy Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the eldest grandson of the late Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, has said disunity and injustice are major threats to Nigeria’s democracy.

Abubakar, in a chat with The Guardian, said: “There is no unity in the country, people don’t see themselves as Nigerians –perhaps, we see ourselves as enclaves or nationalities under one nation. 

“Secondly is injustice. Virtually all our political parties are not practicing internal democracy. What do we think brought about Boko Haram, kidnapping, bandits, and attacks on government facilities, robbery and others? It is injustice.

“If the common man cannot get justice, I don’t know where we are heading to. These are two most important things I believe, if we don’t work on them… I don’t know. The only way we can have unity in this country is for us to narrow down our common interests.



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Injustice

‘Nobody likes injustice!’ Anthea Turner talks ‘hurt’ after famous feud with Eamonn Holmes | Celebrity News | Showbiz & TV

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Speaking to Express.co.uk, Fiona said of working with him: “We had great fun, we spent a lot of time laughing and always getting told off by producers because we talked too much or we ran over time, and did things we weren’t supposed to but it was great.

“He was often in my dressing room… he’d go on a gossip rant.

“We spent a lot of time in our dressing rooms and we had great fun.

“We had the same working class background and we knew our audience.”

Express.co.uk has contacted a representative for Eamonn for comment. 

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