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.

Matt Rourke / AP

Human-rights groups plan to hold rallies in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia Tuesday to protest state Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s record on commutation. While Pennsylvania's Board of Pardons recommended more commutations last year than at any time in the past quarter-century, rally organizers say Shapiro, one of the board’s five members, stands in the way of granting the relief more widely.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear a dispute over a Philadelphia Catholic agency that won't place foster children with same-sex couples.

Jared Murphy / 90.5 WESA

The number of homeless public school students in Pennsylvania increased by more than 30 percent from 2015-2018, according to a report released last month by the National Center for Homeless Education. 

Opioid Settlement Still Elusive As Some Lawyers Criticize It

Feb 24, 2020
Matt Rourke / AP

State attorneys general are finding a national settlement over the toll of opioids to be elusive, as some lawyers for state and local governments are renewing public criticism of the proposed deal with a group of companies led by the nation's largest drug distributors.

Bankruptcy Judge Wades Into Harrisburg Diocese's Finances

Feb 21, 2020
Joseph Darius Jaafari / PA Post

A federal judge on Friday began the process of figuring out how the Harrisburg Roman Catholic Diocese will remain functioning and able to pay its bills while its 2-day-old bankruptcy filing inches ahead.

PA Post Investigation Prompts Civil Liberties Group To Demand Change At PA Jails

Feb 21, 2020
Joseph Darius Jaafari / PA Post

PA Post investigation into the costs of religious books and other materials prompted a national religious liberties organization to demand that six Pennsylvania jails cease charging Muslim inmates more for religious items than Christian prisoners. 

States Step Up Funding For Planned Parenthood Clinics

Feb 21, 2020
Matt Rourke / AP

In Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation authorizing up to $8 million. In California, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors last year voted to cover a $482,000 expected shortfall for six Planned Parenthood clinics serving 36,274 patients. And Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, has included a $3 million line item in his proposed 2020-21 budget to also help offset the funding loss for Planned Parenthood providers.

Wikimedia Commons

Pennsylvania’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the borough of Jim Thorpe and two of its police officers, for what it says was an illegal traffic stop.

Jacqueline Larma / AP

For years, Pennsylvania’s Corrections Department has been grappling with a growing issue: having to dedicate a lot of its budget to caring for aging inmates.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY


On today's program: The Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg becomes the state's first to file for bankruptcy; a court victory for a species of bat could protect them from extinction; and Central Outreach Wellness Center brings its unique medical care to Beaver County. 

Seth Wenig / AP Photo

A woman who was abused by a priest in Harrisburg’s Roman Catholic Diocese said the diocese’s bankruptcy decision will make it harder for her to know the full scope of cover-up efforts — and for victims to confront those responsible for abuse.

Harrisburg Diocese Bankruptcy Could Tap Into Parish Assets

Feb 20, 2020
Brett Sholtis / WITF

The Rev. Walter Guzman was one of dozens of priests summoned to the Harrisburg Diocese office Wednesday afternoon, where he learned that the diocese was filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Matt Rourke / AP

Leaders of Harrisburg’s Roman Catholic Diocese are outlining a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Jake Savitz / 90.5 WESA


On today's program: The nearly century-old former home of the YMCA in the Hill District is getting a new purpose; a look at what it’ll take to get Pittsburgh ready for 5G; state Attorney General Josh Shapiro goes after medicaid fraudsters and JUUL; and some local progressives aren’t happy with the county Democratic committee’s endorsements. 

Max Marin / Billy Penn

In anticipation of a final court ruling that would clear the way for Safehouse — the nation’s first supervised injection site — to open, the City of Philadelphia has issued a public safety plan outlining how police will protect both those using the site and neighborhood residents.

LM Otero / AP

Barraged with sex-abuse lawsuits, the 110-year-old Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday in an effort to work out a potentially huge victim compensation plan, but local chapters may be insulated from the parent organization's financial troubles.

Could Pennsylvania’s 43K New Citizens Make The Difference In 2020 Election?

Feb 18, 2020
Emma Lee / WHYY

At least 43,000 immigrants have become Pennsylvania citizens since the 2016 presidential election. That’s almost as many voters as the margin Trump won by, according to recent analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania files criminal charges against individuals who sold or shared a drug used during a fatal overdose more than any other state with similar statutes.

New Fund Helps PA Abuse Survivors Pay For Counseling

Feb 17, 2020
Ted S. Warren / AP

Starting this week, Pennsylvanians who have experienced sexual assault and never reported it to police can apply for a share of $5 million to pay for counseling.

After Abuse Scandals, Seminarians Pledge To 'Get It Right'

Feb 16, 2020
Wong Maye-E / AP

The seminarians walk along a hallway lined with photos of classes of priests who came before them. Some are pious alumni who have become their teachers and mentors; others climbed the Catholic hierarchy to be revered as bishops and cardinals.

Emily Previti / Keystone Crossroads

Pennsylvania’s law governing legal name changes was up for debate before the state’s Commonwealth Court in Pittsburgh Thursday. Three transgender women have challenged a provision of the statute that bars people from changing their names if they have been convicted of serious felonies.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

The defendant in the trial for a 2016 mass shooting was acquitted of all counts Friday. Attorneys for Cheron Shelton argued he was not responsible for the attack that left five adults, including a pregnant woman, dead.

Change Agency


On today's program: Community advocate Betty Cruz joins the World Affairs Council; lessons from an Ohio cracker could inform how environmentalists see the Beaver County cracker; PA’s educator of the year is a North Hills history teacher; a local nonprofit collects donations to fight the coronavirus; and the Holocaust Center celebrates the local Jewish immigrant experience. 

Pennsylvania Adds Muscle To Reviewing Convictions For Errors

Feb 12, 2020
Jacqueline Larma / AP

Pennsylvania’s top law enforcement office is starting a conviction integrity unit to review past convictions for mistakes that might result in them being overturned, officials said Wednesday.

Transgender Inmates Seek To Ease State Rules On Name Changes

Feb 12, 2020
Rebecca Boone / AP

A Pennsylvania court this week will consider a legal challenge by three transgender women to a two-decade-old state law that prohibits people who have committed serious felonies from ever changing their names.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

On today's program: How overwhelmingly white Pittsburgh media outlets cover black lives; day-to-day concerns of rural Americans aren’t being addressed in campaign stump speeches; the Wilkinsburg murder trial moves into deliberations; and VA Pittsburgh wants more veterans to try digital health care benefits.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

A lawsuit seeking to make Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses disclose information on predatory priests is getting bigger. 

Bas Slabbers / Keystone Crossroads

Andrew Barrow sat down to dinner with his wife, his teenage daughter, and a gnawing question. What does it mean to be a ‘snowflake’? 

Emma Lee / WHYY

Democratic state senators are trying to pass a resolution that would designate the day after Valentine’s Day as “Love is Love Day,” in recognition of LGBTQ people.

They’ve attempted similar resolutions several times over the last few legislative sessions and say this most recent attempt is hitting a familiar roadblock: some Republicans don’t support the idea.

90.5 WESA

The trial got underway Monday in the case involving a 2016 mass shooting in Wilkinsburg, with attorneys for defendant Cheron Shelton arguing that he “played no role” in the attack.