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.

Uniontown's New Treasurer Says Racist Officials Won't Seat Her

Jan 8, 2020
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The newly elected treasurer of a small city in western Pennsylvania asserted in a lawsuit Wednesday that city officials plotted to block her from taking office because she is black.

Uniontown Treasurer-elect Antoinette Hodge alleged that a city councilman, Martin Gatti, took action to prevent her from being sworn in as scheduled this week and called her a “colored girl” in a discussion with officials at a bonding agency.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

On today's program: Meet the PSO’s new principal pops conductor; a look back at 2020’s potential biggest business story; why a judge would bar reporters from the courtroom in a capital murder case; a new book explores the business of immortality; and how residents are affected when their neighborhood becomes a hotbed for development.

Keith Srakocic / AP


On today's program: Gov. Tom Wolf discusses the odds of a minimum wage hike in Pennsylvania; a local woman empowers her neighbors in the "forgotten" West End; and advocates are hoping a change in state law could restore thousands of suspended or revoked drivers licenses. 

Philadelphia Names 1st Black Female Police Chief

Dec 31, 2019
Craig Mitchelldyer / AP

The first black woman named to lead Philadelphia’s troubled police department pledged to be a “conduit” between the community and police and to address the racist and sexist tensions dividing the force.

Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney named Portland Chief Danielle Outlaw to the job on Monday, four months after the last commissioner resigned abruptly in the wake of a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Dave Klug / AP

Lawyers for the suspect in the synagogue shooting that killed 11 people in Pittsburgh have challenged the potential death sentence as unconstitutional.

Pennsylvania Dioceses Offer $84M To 564 Clergy Abuse Victims

Dec 26, 2019
Julio Cortez / AP

Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses have paid nearly $84 million to 564 victims of sexual abuse, a tally that’s sure to grow substantially in the new year as compensation fund administrators work through a backlog of claims, according to an Associated Press review.

Amy Sisk / 90.5 WESA

To hold jobs like accountant, nurse or funeral director, Pennsylvanians must first obtain a license. Licensing boards today can automatically deny certification to those with criminal records. But last week the state House voted 193 to 4 to change that policy, in a bill similar to one the Senate passed in November.

Poorest PA Families Struggle Through Holidays As Cash Welfare Stuck At 1990s Levels

Dec 23, 2019
Matt Smith / Keystone Crossroads

Christmas is Carissa Coolbaugh’s favorite holiday.

Huntingdon Passes LGBTQ Anti-Discrimination Law, A First For Rural PA

Dec 23, 2019
Emma Lee / WHYY

It was a 2010 announcement about a Civil War cemetery that galvanized 58-year-old Anthony Bullett to act.

Pennsylvania Takes More Steps To Reduce Prison Population

Dec 19, 2019
Carolyn Kaster / AP

Pennsylvania enacted a new law Wednesday that is designed to limit the stays of lower-risk offenders in prison in its latest effort to reduce the state's prison population and to stop first-time offenders from becoming repeat offenders.

Ed Mahon / PA Post

For the first 15 years that Rodger Ollis worked as a police officer, he walked away from a lot of domestic abuse calls wondering if he had done enough.

Marc Levy / AP

The state House has taken a significant step toward passing a long-awaited package of criminal justice overhauls—moving two of the three bills out of the chamber and to the Senate for concurrence.

Gene J. Puskar / AP


On today's program: the author of a new book chronicling the history of the Association of Pittsburgh Priests; banking in the marijuana industry is tricky business; the local impact of proposed food stamps changes; and how racism can have a negative impact on health. 

Policymakers Order Review Of Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice

Dec 16, 2019
Marc Levy / AP

Pennsylvania policymakers announced a task force Monday that will take a broad look at the state's juvenile justice system in hopes of improving the results it produces.

Legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf announced formation of the group at a Capitol news conference, giving it nearly a year to issue recommendations about how to make people safer, improve accountability and save tax dollars. Its members will be appointed by Wolf, the court system and the Legislature.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The county prosecutors' association in Pennsylvania gave its members guidelines Wednesday about informing defendants when police officers on their cases have been shown to be dishonest or biased, or may have committed crimes or engaged in certain types of misconduct at work.

Joseph Darius Jaafari / PA Post

Ever since Cindy Keller’s son, Matthew, was locked up for a second time this past November in Lebanon County Correctional Facility, she worries about how much he eats.

Ex-Lifer Back On Track For Release Amid Old Shoplifting Case

Dec 10, 2019
Matt Rourke / AP

A Pennsylvania man who earned a reprieve from a life sentence only to be held on a long-ago shoplifting charge is back on track to be released.

Marc Levy / AP

A man whose life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison was just commuted by Gov. Tom Wolf may be facing arrest as soon as he's released Friday.

Emma Lee / WHYY

Governor Tom Wolf is commuting the life sentences of eight more people in prison, bringing the total to 19 since he took office in 2015.

Far From Home, New Wave Of Immigrant Truckers Find Comfort Food Along PA Highways

Dec 4, 2019
Matt Smith / Keystone Crossroads

By morning, truck driver Aman Singh, 30, must traverse the 660 miles from northeastern Pennsylvania to Louisville, Kentucky.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Lawrenceville-based mental health services organization Persad Center will vote whether to unionize Thursday. The facility has served the local LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS communities for more than 40 years with locations in Pittsburgh and Washington, Pa.

Pennsylvania’s Sexual Abuse Laws Leave Survivors Conflicted

Dec 2, 2019
Marc Levy / AP

When Pennsylvania overhauled its child sexual abuse laws this week after a years-long battle, absent from the bill-signing ceremony were some of the people who had worked hardest for the changes.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania is creating the criminal offense of sexual extortion to help combat what authorities say is a growing crime targeting children, enabled by the internet.

Pennsylvania Task Force Urges End To Public Grand Jury Reports

Dec 2, 2019
Matt Rourke / AP

A task force appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is recommending an end to public grand jury reports.

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Eighty percent of students at the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh have previously been incarcerated, and according to the Homewood-based nonprofit, about 30 percent of them are homeless at any given time.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Legally, it’s a lot easier to get married than divorced. After all, while getting married usually doesn’t require hiring a lawyer, a divorce often does. And paying thousands of dollars for legal help is not an option for some.

Ed Mahon / PA Post

The effectiveness of a law aimed at protecting victims of domestic abuse from gun violence is difficult to measure, according to the leader of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Jacqueline Larma / AP

Pennsylvania’s governor approved legislation Tuesday to give future victims of child sexual abuse more time to file lawsuits and to end time limits for police to file criminal charges.

Matt Rourke / AP

Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman said Monday that he has one goal for his tenure in Harrisburg that eclipses all the others: to make sure people don’t needlessly die in prison.

Courtesy Urban Rural Action

People from Adams and Philadelphia counties are hoping their shared views on the criminal justice system can make a difference.