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.

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. 

Catholic Church Boards Reviewing Sex Abuse Fail Victims

Nov 21, 2019
Gregory Bull / AP

Facing thousands of cases of clergy sex abuse, U.S. Catholic leaders addressed their greatest crisis in the modern era with a promised reform: Mandatory review boards.

Marc Levy / AP

Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) has been trying to overhaul Pennsylvania’s statutes of limitations on child sexual abuse ever since he joined the state House seven years ago.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Two former altar boys have filed suit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh over allegations that a priest sexually abused them in the 1980s.

The Tribune-Review reports the suit was filed Tuesday in Allegheny County Court. It also names Bishop David A. Zubik and St. Alphonsus Church in McDonald as defendants.

The plaintiffs say they endured almost daily abuse by the Rev. Francis Pucci, starting in 1981 when they were 11 and 13.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The state House is moving a raft of bills aimed at making prison guards safer by, among other things, establishing longer sentences for inmates who assault staff.

Marc Levy / AP

Conditions in state prison are changing dramatically for the 136 people sitting on death row in Pennsylvania, thanks to a settlement the Department of Corrections made Monday with the American Civil Liberties and several other inmates’ rights groups. 

13 Prison Employees Suspended In Pennsylvania Inmate Death

Nov 17, 2019
Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Thirteen employees at a Pennsylvania state prison have been suspended without pay while the agency investigates the death of an inmate last week.