ACLU

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Pennsylvania state police are expected to tell the state Supreme Court in arguments Tuesday that their policy for monitoring social media should remain secret. But the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania argues that state’s open records law requires police to publish the guidelines for how police track online activity.

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On today's program: The Pittsburgh Film Office is having to turn a lot of big productions away; Andy Warhol’s faith goes on display; the city is giving away its plants Downtown; and mental health treatment remains elusive for some defendants waiting to stand trial.  

Matt Rourke / AP

On today’s program: Artworks by artists of color open in a new exhibition Saturday; Carnegie library workers take steps in unionize; and a debate between the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the Center for Victims about Marsy’s Law.  

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is ending a seven-year lawsuit over a lack of funding for public defense in Luzerne County.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that doesn’t provide any funding or central oversight for criminal defense of its poorest people.

It leaves the job totally up to counties and some, like Luzerne, have been found lacking.  

Mark Scolforo / AP

Three weeks ago, the state prison system settled a lawsuit brought by the ACLU and other groups who said the Department of Corrections was violating inmates’ constitutional rights by making copies of legal mail.

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A trial is slated to start Tuesday in a federal court in Harrisburg over the way the state prison system delivers legal mail to prisoners.

The Department of Corrections policy was changed over fears drugs could get in, but the American Civil Liberties Union and three other prisoner-advocacy groups say it's infringing on inmates' rights.

The problem started late last summer.

Mel Evans / AP

 

Many substance use disorder treatment centers expect their patients to immediately stop using when they enter treatment. But this approach, often referred to as quitting “cold turkey,” is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Public Schools’ board members will vote on whether to arm the 22 police officers the district employs later this month. 

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

Criminal-justice reform advocates kicked off a “Campaign for Smart Justice” in Allegheny County this week, with the goal of reducing mass incarceration. Led by the American Civil Liberties Union, the campaign aims to engage local activists and organizations in promoting what it calls “smart justice” policies.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Some Pennsylvania State Police troopers are now wearing body cameras as part of a federally funded six-month pilot program. Select troopers from Troop B in Uniontown, Troop J in Avondale and Troop T in Somerset underwent special training before being deployed with the cameras.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Ohio's voter registration law in a 5-4 ruling Monday that loosens restrictions on how and when the state can purge its voter rolls. Proponents of the law argue it keeps their record books cleaner, while voting rights activists argue it punishes registered voters for not exercising that right, and disproportionally removes minority and Democratic names.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Activists in other states are looking to Pennsylvania’s redistricting case as they attempt to get their own congressional districts overturned.

In particular, lawyers involved in an Ohio case say their situation has a lot in common with the one in the commonwealth.

The Ohio lawsuit differs from Pennsylvania’s in that it’s a federal matter, not a state one.

But attorney Freda Levenson, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said a lot of the principles underlying the situations are the same—and that means the successful PA suit is a learning opportunity.

Marc Levy / AP

Pennsylvania is being sued by five inmates for a blanket policy that keeps all death row prisoners in solitary confinement.

Matt Rourke / AP

Recent allegations suggest sexual harassment is part of the "culture of silence" in Harrisburg, LNP Media reports.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is threatening to sue a Pittsburgh city councilwoman for blocking constituents on Facebook.

ACLU Legal Director Vic Walczak says City Councilwoman Darlene Harris is censoring critical comments from her Facebook page, and is thus violating the First Amendment. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports Walczak wrote a letter Tuesday asking Harris to unblock four residents from her Facebook page by Dec. 4.

Brian Bohannon / AP

The American Civil Liberties Union announced Thursday it had reached an agreement with Allegheny County regarding the solitary confinement of pregnant inmates at the county jail.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

A lawsuit filed Monday against the Allegheny County Jail and its administration claims the jail allowed a transgender inmate to be repeatedly sexually abused while she was incarcerated with male inmates.

The suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and The Law Offices of Timothy O’Brien on behalf of Jules Williams is seeking damages.

U.S. Department of Education / Flickr

The American Civil Liberties Union is again threatening to sue a Pennsylvania school district for allegedly failing to enroll refugees as students.

The ACLU in February sent a warning letter to the Harrisburg Area School District on behalf of four students. The district enrolled the students in March.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

In a public hearing this week, dozens of advocates spoke to Pittsburgh City Council about what legal distinction would come from declaring itself a "Sanctuary City" legislation. Pittsburgh is not a sanctuary city, and Councilman Dan Gilman has said that label doesn't matter as much as the city's actions.

Damian Dovarganes / AP

Automatic license plate readers – those cameras on police cars and light poles that capture plate numbers – have been in widespread use since the 1990s. But some argue regulations for how and how long police can use and store that information hasn’t kept up with the technology.

Associated Press

The state House has passed a bill to keep certain drug and violent crime offenders in prison longer.

David Goldman / AP

Families of people hurt or killed by police would not learn the identity of the officer involved for 30 days or until the completion of an investigation under a new bill making its way through the Pennsylvania legislature.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Social justice advocates worry misinformation is preventing formerly incarcerated men and women from casting their ballot.

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Usually, inadequate representation lawsuits go like this: your lawyer does a bad job defending your case, you're found guilty, and then you seek a new trial on the grounds of insufficient counsel. It's a single response to a single instance of misrepresentation. 

But what if a public defender system is so chronically underfunded and understaffed that criminal defendants know going into their case that they won't be able to get a proper defense? Must they wait, individually, for their case to be tried and then hope for some sort of relief? 

Pa. Immigrant Detention Center Strikers Pause For A Week, Citing Threats

Aug 25, 2016
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

 

*UPDATED

More than a dozen women who crossed into the U.S. illegally with their children continue to protest their long detention in a Pennsylvania facility.

A hunger strike that started Aug. 8 has paused for a weeklong "fast" of one meal a day, before the women resume the strike next week.

"We have been pushed to suspend the hunger strike by the threat of immigration officials, who have told us that, if our health weakens, the government will take away our children and send us to adult prisons," said the mothers in an emailed statement.

Months after the Obama administration advised school districts that transgender students should be given access to bathrooms based on their gender identity, a federal judge in Texas has blocked the guidance from going into effect — for now.

U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor has granted a preliminary, nationwide injunction in response to a lawsuit filed by Texas and a number of other states.

Lawsuit Brewing Over Refugee Education In Lancaster

Jul 19, 2016
Alex Brandon / AP

 

About 17,000 school-aged refugees move to the U.S. in an average year, an estimate that's a few years old and likely growing along with overall resettlement activity.

But no one is tracking how young refugees fare in school here.

Georgetown University released a study earlier this year looking at education access by students with limited English proficiency.

It focused on undocumented immigrants.

J. Chan / flickr

Pennsylvania’s incarceration rates are the highest of any northeastern state.  Beginning in the 1980's with the advent of the “War on Drugs,” Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union director Reggie Shuford said the commonwealth has a history of mass jailing. He told Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer about an upcoming ACLU roundtable discussion at the August Wilson Center addressing the incarceration debate.

sashikag / Flickr

  The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has filed a suit to deem two state statutes unconstitutional. The group's client, Joshuaa Brubaker, was charged two years ago for flag desecration.

Brubaker, part Native American by birth, hung the American flag upside down outside his home with letters "AIM" -- an acronym for the American Indian Movement -- spray painted across it in protest of plans for the Keystone Pipeline, which is slated to run through sacred territory in South Dakota.

PhotographyMontreal / flickr

After a lawsuit launched by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth has agreed to use more resources to house and treat criminal defendants with mental illnesses. ACLU of Pennsylvania Legal Director Vic Walczak led the legal battle and spoke to Essential Pittsburgh about the case.

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