Identity & Justice

The identity and justice desk explores how the makeup of the Pittsburgh community is changing, and digs into issues of diversity and equity.

Jose Luis Magana / AP

Pennsylvania will double the number of National Guard members it's sending to help secure Washington after the violent riot last week in which angry supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

A Delaware County man linked to the white supremacist Proud Boys has been charged with assaulting three Capitol Police officers with a fire extinguisher during last week’s violent riots at the U.S. Capitol.

Pennsylvania Capitol Closing; More Security Being Added

Jan 14, 2021
Jacqueline Larma / AP

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday ordered the Pennsylvania Capitol closed for two days next week around the swearing-in of three statewide officials and the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Jacqueline Larma / AP

After insurrectionists breached the U.S. Capitol last week, the FBI warned armed protests have been planned in all 50 state capitals.

Pennsylvania Office of Victim Advocate

On today's program: Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court strikes down a proposed constitutional amendment that would build victim’s rights into the state constitution; and Julie DeSeyn, United Way Chief Programming and Policy Officer, discusses how the local chapter is helping Pittsburghers through the pandemic. 

Police Move To Increase Security At Pennsylvania Capitol

Jan 11, 2021
Patrick Doyle / 90.5 WESA

Police who guard the Pennsylvania Capitol are working to be more visible and have been coordinating plans with other agencies to secure the building since a violent mob stormed and occupied the U.S. Capitol last week, a Department of General Services spokesperson said Monday.

Jared Murphy / 90.5 WESA

Charges against two dozen protesters from last summer's demonstrations against police brutality are being refiled, but Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala disagree about the circumstances for that move.

Split Court Tosses Pennsylvania Victims' Rights Amendment

Jan 7, 2021
Matt Rourke / AP

A victims’ rights constitutional amendment that Pennsylvania voters apparently passed by a wide margin was thrown out Thursday by a divided state court that ruled it bundled too many changes together.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

One of the first actions by President Donald Trump when he took office was to ban transgender people from serving in the military. Now that President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office on Jan. 20, local LGBTQ advocacy groups are cautiously optimistic about the Democrat’s proposed policies and protections for the community

Matt Rourke / AP

Domestic violence shelters in western Pennsylvania say they’re seeing an increase in hotline calls, amid worries that a difficult and isolating winter is on the way.

Ariel Worthy / 90.5 WESA

Dannielle Brown spent much of 2020 on a hunger strike to protest her son’s death at Duquesne University. And while the school has taken action in response, it seems likely the dispute will continue in the new year.

Jacqueline Larma / AP

As health care workers and nursing home residents are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, officials are still finalizing the distribution plan for the so-called Phase 1B group. This next phase of vaccine distribution includes first responders, critical workers and those with pre-existing conditions that put them more at risk of severe illness from the coronavirus.

Courtesy Bureau of Prisons

On today's program: The Pennsylvania Prison Society says while facilities have followed COVID-19 safety guidelines, quarantine protocols have made it hard for those incarcerated to stay in touch with loved ones; The Allegheny Conference on Community Development launched a campaign to encourage Pittsburghers to follow public health guidelines and slow the spread of COVID-19; and the City’s Public Works Director, Mike Gable, retires after 45 years in government.

Kiley Koscinski / 90.5 WESA News

Free electronic tablets have been distributed to those incarcerated at the Allegheny County Jail as a way to connect them to the outside world through video calls, movies, eBooks and messaging. But there have been complaints about reliable connection and costs associated with accessing many of the tablet’s features.

An Inmate Died Of The Coronavirus, But PA Corrections Never Told His Family

Dec 18, 2020
Tim Tai / Spotlight PA

Yvonne Newkirk would talk to her 60-year-old brother Edward Ball on the phone almost every day. He was serving time at a state prison in Luzerne County, where he would also write to her every week. Then, in mid-November, all contact ended.

Ian Sterling / WITF

Harrisburg’s city government is adding 18 new jobs to its police department in 2021, 16 of which are meant for civilians. 

PA Corrections Dept. Tells Officer With COVID-19 Symptoms To Return To Work Early

Dec 14, 2020
Commonwealth Media Services

The state Department of Corrections defied federal guidelines and a doctor’s order last week, demanding that an officer who tested positive for COVID-19 come back to work at a Pennsylvania prison struggling to contain the spread, Spotlight PA has learned.

DOJ probe Of Catholic Church Abuse Goes Quiet 2 Years Later

Dec 13, 2020

Two years ago, the U.S. attorney in Philadelphia joined the long line of ambitious prosecutors investigating the Roman Catholic Church’s handling of priest-abuse complaints.

Piles Of Records And Months Of Reporting Lead To Eye-Opening Report On PA District Judges

Dec 10, 2020
Dan Gleiter / PennLive

Magisterial district judges are the gatekeepers of Pennsylvania’s legal system.

Rogelio V. Solis / AP

Drug companies are on the verge of releasing coronavirus vaccines to the public, but getting Black people and Latinos to trust the vaccine is yet another hurdle in the pandemic that has affected people of color the most.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh paid out $19,237,000 to victims of sexual abuse by its clergy members through a compensation fund launched after the release of a grand jury report in 2018. That report found widespread child sexual abuse in Catholic churches across Pennsylvania.

The settlements were paid out by the Kenneth Feinberg Group, an independent mediator hired by the diocese in 2019, to 244 claims, according to a statement from the diocese Thursday.

Kiley Koscinski / 90.5 WESA News

A ban on buying books for people incarcerated at the Allegheny County Jail was lifted Wednesday. The policy prevented people at the jail and their loved ones from purchasing books from approved third party providers. The ban lasted a little more than two weeks.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Racial disparities persist in Allegheny County’s criminal justice system, according to a report the Abolitionist Law Center’s Court Watch program released Tuesday. The study documents racial imbalances at the earliest stages of the criminal court process.

Female Ex-Inmates Allege Excessive Force At Allegheny County Jail

Dec 2, 2020
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

An Allegheny County Jail sergeant used excessive force on three female former inmates, one of whom was pregnant, with psychiatric disabilities, according to a federal lawsuit.

Cosby's Sex Assault Conviction Goes Before High-Level Court

Dec 1, 2020
Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania's highest court questioned Tuesday whether Bill Cosby's alleged history of intoxicating and sexually assaulting young women amounted to a signature crime pattern, given studies that show as many as half of all sexual assaults involve drugs or alcohol.

Ex-Penn St. President's Sandusky-Related Conviction Restored

Dec 1, 2020
Matt Rourke / AP

A federal appeals court on Tuesday reinstated former Penn State President Graham Spanier's conviction for child endangerment over his handling of a report that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused a boy in a team shower.

Maria Scapellato 90.5 WESA

Soup kitchens are typically busy places on Thanksgiving Day. They have always offered people in need a place to come in from the cold and share a turkey dinner with their neighbors in the community.

Evan Vucci / AP

Lawyers representing families detained at the Berks County Residential Center say Immigrations and Customs Enforcement may deport two families as soon as this weekend. They argue those families and 21 other families detained in Dilley, Texas, never received a fair chance to state their case for asylum because their cases were decided under policies that courts later struck down.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Officials at the Allegheny County Jail announced Monday that 10 jail employees were diagnosed with COVID-19 over the past weekend, with another 50 quarantined. Since March, some 33 staffers at the jail have tested positive for the virus.

Marc Levy / AP

The state Senate denied the commonwealth’s victim advocate, Jennifer Storm, another term by a vote of 32 to 18 Monday. Supporters of the move said Storm is both unqualified and under investigation by the State Ethics Committee