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 Smith / WHYY

A recent report from the Pennsylvania Attorney General shows that law enforcement across the state made over $15 million through the use of civil asset forfeiture between 2017 and 2018.

This controversial legal mechanism allows police departments and district attorney offices to profit from property seized during arrests, even if a suspect is never convicted of a crime. This property — which is often tied to drug suspects — ranges from cash, cars and homes to jewelry and flat screen televisions.

Courtesy photo

More than 5,000 people are serving life sentences in Pennsylvania prisons, without the possibility of release. Ralph “Malakki” Bolden is one of them. He was convicted of first-degree murder after killing a man during a robbery in 1994.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Black women in Pittsburgh are more likely to die during pregnancy than their peers in 97 percent of U.S. cities, according to a sweeping new report from the city's Gender Equity Commission. There's also significant inequity when it comes to employment, poverty and college readiness for black women when compared to white women and men.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Tom Schilk didn’t see the tourist he robbed fall from the third floor of his West Philadelphia apartment building.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Jerry Sandusky's resentencing on a 45-count child sexual abuse conviction is on hold, and it's not clear when it will happen. 

Matt Rourke / AP

On today's program: A local leader is coordinating a national strategy for how the government can better support family caregivers; how Allegheny County tracks and treats a Hepatitis A outbreak; a Duquesne University forum digs into the mind of a serial killer; and City Council wants some control over how a proposed park tax would be spent. 

Courtesy of Corry Sanders

The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons recommended a pardon Wednesday for a local man whose criminal record has stopped him from holding public office.

Courtesy of George Trudel

One night in 1986, a fight broke out at a party in Philadelphia. George Trudel was 20 years old at the time and saw the brawl, between his friends Bobby and Kaz, unfold. A knife fell from Kaz’s coat, and Trudel remembers rushing to get it away from him.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvanians sentenced as adults to life in prison without parole can only be released if the governor commutes their sentences. For most of the past 25 years, that's happened no more than once annually.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

When Pittsburgh Police Officer Calvin Hall was fatally shot while off duty in July, friends and family remembered him for wanting to make a difference. And his partner, Reggie Eiland, remembers that Hall believed strongly that the police force should resemble the community it served.

U.S. Investigation Of Priest Sex Abuse Produces First Charges

Sep 5, 2019
Matt Rourke / AP

Federal prosecutors filed their first charges Thursday in a sweeping investigation of child sexual abuse by clerics in Pennsylvania, accusing a former Roman Catholic priest of lying to the FBI about whether he knew an accuser and his family.

Feds Say Man Sold Rapper Mac Miller Drugs Before Overdose Death

Sep 4, 2019
Owen Sweeney / Invision Via AP

A Los Angeles man was arrested Wednesday on charges that he sold counterfeit opioid pills to Mac Miller two days before the rapper died of an overdose.

Michael Sohn / AP

Pennsylvania's governor will be traveling next week to visit National Guard troops stationed in Lithuania and to honor the victims of last year's Pittsburgh synagogue shooting during a stop at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

People with criminal backgrounds can get help clearing their records at an event in Wilkinsburg Tuesday evening.

Attendees at Pathways 2 Pardons can receive free background checks and talk with state troopers about whether to ask the governor for a pardon. Attorneys from Duquesne University’s Civil Rights Clinic are also set to help attendees explore the possibility of clearing their records through expungement.

Matt Rourke / AP

A recent Pennsylvania court ruling is breathing new life into old claims of childhood sexual assault in spite of state law that puts time limits on legal action.

Provided by attorney Christopher Casazza

Cruz Eduardo Tinoco Salvador was an obvious target for immigration officials. On his left hand, a tattoo read “Sur 13.” On his middle finger, three small dots indicated the same affiliation.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

All across the country, students are returning to school, and in Pittsburgh, that includes youth housed at the Allegheny County Jail. The jail runs a full high school for juveniles charged as adults.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

On today's program: Black newspapers can weather shifts in community news; parents worry about a controversial herbicide being used on school property; some Tree of Life congregants disagree with a death penalty for Robert Bowers; the nation's largest Amish settlement is being encroached on by development; Amazon partners with the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance; and NPR's David Greene hopes the Steelers can overcome a distraction-filled postseason. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

When Alex Herisko entered the PennDOT Driver License Center in downtown Pittsburgh, they took a number -- 715 -- and looked up at the sign to see how many customers were ahead of them: about 60. Herisko settled in for a long wait.

Brett Sholtis / WITF

The Department of Corrections is recommending policy changes following five incidents where people were killed, allegedly by parolees.

Pennsylvania Plans To Close Another Prison

Aug 28, 2019
Marc Levy / AP

Pennsylvania prison officials are planning to close another prison, as the inmate population continues to decline and prison costs rise, lawmakers and union officials said Wednesday. 

Julio Cortez / AP

Four men have filed suit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton and its current and former bishop over claims a priest sexually abused them when they were children.

Richard Vogel / AP

On today's program: Bomb and shooting threats are up in schools nationwide, even in Pittsburgh; the Clean Air Council is taking the Clairton Coke Works to court; and a new program helps prepare African American leaders for future corporate success.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Prosecutors have announced plans to seek the death penalty in the slaying of an off-duty Pittsburgh police officer shot to death in a street confrontation last month.

The Allegheny County district attorney's office informed the court Monday of intent to seek capital punishment should 30-year-old Christian Bey be convicted of first-degree murder.

Keith Srakocic / AP

A judge has imposed a six- to 22-year sentence in a drive-by shooting that preceded the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager fleeing a Pennsylvania traffic stop last year.

Antonio Licon / 90.5 WESA

A year after it was established, the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs has helped local governments pass inclusive laws, establish policies for transgender students and worked to end discriminatory practices in the state. 

Marc Levy / AP

A string of homicides allegedly committed by five Pennsylvania men following their release from prison prompted an investigation by the state’s corrections department last month. The five parolees were charged with committing a total of six homicides over a two-month period, the Associated Press reported.

Man's Death While Held In PA County Prison Raises Questions

Aug 20, 2019
Michael Rubinkam / AP

Carmen Riley bent over her unconscious son, looked into his eyes and knew. It didn't take a mother's intuition or a doctor's prognosis to figure out that Ty'rique was gone.

Several days earlier, 21-year-old Ty'rique Riley had been jailed after an altercation with his father. Now he lay in a hospital bed, his body covered in lacerations and deep, dark bruises. He was missing teeth. His kidneys were failing.

How did this happen? And who was responsible?

Seven weeks after his death, Riley's family and supporters are pushing for answers.

Ross Mantle / BuzzFeed News

On today's program: Allegheny County is a hotbed for false insurance fraud claims; Pittsburgher David Greene sheds a tear for another lost Pirates season; the airport solicits local venders to be part of its new terminal build; and WESA's Chris Potter draws a fuzzy line between political rally and campaign stop.

Governor Wants Answers On 4 Kids Separated From Families

Aug 12, 2019
Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania's governor says at least four children from his state were recently separated from their parents by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and wrote Monday to demand the agency halt the practice until it has a plan to ensure the welfare of children.