They Call Us Monsters – A Look Inside the Juvenile Justice System: A Film Review and Commentary

Author: Kennedy Womack

Throughout my time in quarantine due to COVID-19, I have been watching many movies that I may not have had the chance to watch prior to the pandemic. I recently watched an incredibly moving documentary, titled They Call Us Monsters, currently being shown on the Starz channel. I happened to catch onto this documentary, knowing nothing about it. I later learned it was quite popular and won a lot of awards.. I turned it on because the subject matter piqued my interest, as I have been interning in the Hamilton County Juvenile Public Defender Office for almost a year now, and I wanted to hear a story regarding juvenile justice that would give me more insight into the topic. What I did not realize is how truly moved I would be following the documentary, as it followed the story of three young men in the system. 

As a matter of background, They Call Us Monsters goes behind the walls of the Compound, a high-security facility where Los Angeles houses its “most violent” juvenile criminals. PBS Independent Lens posits the following message when describing the film’s juvenile protagonists: “To their advocates, they’re kids. To the system, they’re adults. To their victims, they’re monsters.” 

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Source: The M Report

The film follows three young offenders who sign up to take a screenwriting class with producer Gabe Cowan as they await their respective trials. Arrested at age 16, Jarad faces 200-years-to-life for four attempted murders. Juan, also arrested at 16, faces 90-to-life for first-degree murder; Antonio was arrested at 14 and faces 90-to-life for two attempted murders. As the boys work with Gabe on their screenplay, their complex life stories are revealed. Halfway through the screenwriting class, Antonio returns to juvenile court and is released with time served but, back in the neighborhood he came from, he quickly falls into the same patterns of drug use and gang life that led to his incarceration in the first place. Meanwhile, the realities of Jarad’s and Juan’s crimes and their pending trials set in. One of the victims of Jarad’s shooting is only 17 and is permanently confined to a wheelchair. And, even if he is released, Juan faces deportation and separation from his family, including his infant son.  

In the film’s Director’s Statement, director Ben Lear writes:

The Compound is a jail within a jail—a high-security facility in the middle of Sylmar Juvenile Hall. Outside its gates, kids play soccer and kickball on a grassy field. These minors are being tried as juveniles for non-violent crimes. They will return home in a matter of months. Inside the Compound, the kids look the same—almost entirely Hispanic and African-American boys dressed in county grays—only they’re not allowed on the grass. They won’t be going home anytime soon. They are LA County’s high-risk juvenile offenders, tried as adults for violent crimes and facing decades, if not hundreds of years in adult prison.

Lear continues in the statement: 

When I first entered the Compound in early 2013, I expected to find stocky, steely-eyed gangsters staring me down, wishing to jump me if given the chance. Either I’d forgotten how young teenagers really look, or I’d watched too much Locked Up Raw, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead I met a classroom full of kids, giddy and eager to tell their stories. They went around the room and shared their career goals. Sixteen-year old Martin said, ‘I might want to be an architect. Or an artist. There are so many things I don’t even know about yet. But I’m excited to learn!’ Then he paused and added, ‘I just hope I get the chance.’ He faced 100 years to life for first-degree murder. For days after, I couldn’t stop thinking about this world I’d stumbled into. The narrow space between a lost childhood and a stolen adulthood where these kids managed to live, laugh and discover their potential. When I learned about an upcoming California Senate Bill that would provide them the opportunity for a second chance, I knew I had a film to make. 

As a law student who has worked in juvenile justice, I can attest to exactly what Lear describes. His words, “the narrow space between a lost childhood and a stolen adulthood” hit home for me. Time and time again, I have witnessed children charged with crimes that could put them behind bars for years. But they are CHILDREN. I constantly think about where I was at that age. I cannot imagine being 15 or 16 and forced to live the rest of my life in a cell. These juveniles are so young and have their whole lives ahead of them, so how can our system take that away? 

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Source: American Structurepoint

On October 8, 2014, the 20th anniversary of his 1994 crime bill, President Bill Clinton predicted that sentencing reform would become one of the hot-button issues in 2016. “We basically took a shotgun to a problem that needed a .22,” he admitted in his statement. Many years later, we are still dealing with the consequences of “tough on crime”: heavily overpopulated prisons, a dearth of educational programming and reentry services, and a recidivism rate of over 80percent, according to the Department of Justice . Chief among these problems is our treatment of juvenile offenders. While juvenile crime has steadily decreased since 1994, we have continued to pass tougher and tougher juvenile crime laws. 

State juvenile courts with delinquency jurisdiction handle cases in which juveniles are accused of acts that would be crimes if committed by adults. In 45 states, the maximum age of juvenile court jurisdiction is age 17. Five states – Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Texas, and Wisconsin – now draw the juvenile/adult line at age 16. Missouri raised the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to age 17 in 2018 and the law will go into effect January 1, 2021. Michigan raised the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 17 in 2019 and that law, too, will go into effect in 2021. 

However, all states have transfer laws that allow or require young offenders to be prosecuted as adults for more serious offenses, regardless of their age. Four forms of transfer laws are: 

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Source: The Playlist
  • Statutory Exclusion – State law excludes some classes of cases involving juvenile age offenders from juvenile court, granting adult criminal court exclusive jurisdiction over some types of offenses. Murder and serious violent felony cases are most commonly “excluded” from juvenile court. 
  • Judicially Controlled Transfer – All cases against juveniles begin in juvenile court and must literally be transferred by the juvenile court to the adult court. 
  • Prosecutorial Discretion Transfer – Some categories of cases have both juvenile and criminal jurisdiction, so prosecutors may choose to file charges in either the juvenile or adult court. The choice is considered to be within the prosecutor’s executive discretion. 
  • Once an adult, always an adult” Transfer – The law requires prosecution in the adult court of any juvenile who has been criminally prosecuted in the past, usually regardless of whether the current offense is serious or not. 

The message of state legislatures regarding treatment of juvenile offenders rings loud and clear: “These kids are lost, defined by and no better than their worst act.” But due to recent advances in brain science and a handful of Supreme Court decisions, we have started to once again see juveniles as different from adults. A series of recent landmark cases in the U.S. Supreme Court has evolved to change our legal responses to juvenile offending. They have abolished the death penalty for crimes committed during adolescence, found mandatory life-without-parole sentences for murder in violation of the 8th Amendment, and eliminated life-without-parole sentences for crimes less than murder. In Massachusetts, life sentences for juveniles were ruled unconstitutional, and the review of cases in which those sentences were given in the past has already started. A significant part of the argument for these decisions included an understanding of adolescent brain development. While society’s attitudes will ultimately dictate the shape of law, science can be used to confirm and dispel common ideas about teenage behavior to forge a more scientifically sound and financially viable system for adolescent reform.  

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Source: Ohio Department of Youth Services

Scientists have confirmed that the adolescent brain is still developing, that it is highly subject to reward and peer influence, and that its rate of development varies widely across the population. They have developed basic tools that offer data with which to judge the potential for juvenile desistance, recidivism, and rehabilitation. With its ability to examine the workings of the teenage brain, neuroscience is improving our understanding of adolescents, and potentially, juvenile offenders. Through their window into the brain, neuroscientists understand, for example, that adolescents mature at markedly varied rates. The presumed trajectory of brain development, demonstrated in existing “bright line” age cutoffs for voting, military service, and drinking, however, is not reflective of this variability in brain maturity. Similarly, neuroimaging research by CLBB faculty clarifies that it is teenagers’ heightened vulnerability to reward that drives risky behavior, contrary to long-standing beliefs that teenagers are unable to gauge risks. They can often recognize risks, but incomplete development of brain mechanisms related to modulation of impulsive behavior reduces their tendency to heed those risks. 

Science may also help us understand which juvenile offenders are likely to commit future crimes and which may not. A longitudinal study, “Pathways to Desistance,” has collected significant data on factors such as substance abuse and instability in daily routine that lead to youth recidivism. The seminal paper, “Rewiring juvenile justice: the intersection of development neuroscience and legal policy,” elucidates how key new scientific findings about the development of the adolescent brain may inform policy. 

Now that science has confirmed what juvenile justice advocates have been pushing for, there is a new movement for a change in societal attitudes towards juveniles. But the fight is not over. Sentencing reform must be enacted in states where juveniles are possibly subject to a “life without parole” sentence. Juveniles should be given the opportunity to go before a parole board for possibility of release when tried as adults. Juveniles should be given graduated sentencing, rather than immediately being locked up. And, importantly, rehabilitation should be considered as the main goal for juvenile justice. These are, ultimately, kids. As the film They Call Us Monsters illustrates, at the end of the day, they are adolescents who made mistakes. They deserve a second chance and a life to lead. They have the ability to be upstanding citizens, if we give them the chance. This film deeply motivated me to fight for them, and you should too. I encourage each of you to watch this film, follow their stories, and empathize with each of them. And then get out there on the frontlines and push for justice – for them and for all juveniles incarcerated. 

72485825_2788363118056691_6498498089664380928_n Kennedy Womack is a University of Cincinnati College of Law Graduate (Class of 2020). During her time at UC Law, she was active in various student organizations, including the Freedom Center Journal, Human Rights Quarterly, Student Ambassadors, Student Bar Association, and the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot Court Team. She has shown a consistent dedication to community and pro bono work, holding volunteer internship positions at the Ohio Justice & Policy Center and the Hamilton County Public Defender – Juvenile Division. She currently is studying for the bar exam and will be moving to Florida afterwards, where she has accepted a position as a public defender in Fort Myers.

Whiteness and The Benefit of the Doubt

Guest Contributor: Caitlin Cliff-Perbix 

One swampy afternoon in September I made the mistake of convincing myself that I had time during my lunch hour to run a few errands and get a quick, healthy lunch. In the frenzy of grabbing my garment bag filled with thrifted blazers that I had planned to alter (a tip for all you public interest folks) as well as my stack of nearly-overdue library books, I forgot my wallet.

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I was sweating through my jumpsuit when I arrived at Allez —a community bakery in Over-the-Rhine.  I picked out a seltzer (lime) and a veggie sandwich from the fridge but realized my mistake when I reached into my pocket to pay.

“Don’t worry about it! Just get us back the next time you’re here!” chirped a man bustling behind the counter—kindly waving-off my stuttered apologies as he slung fresh, crusty loaves to the lunch crowd.

I am built to worry though. I rummaged through my backpack while I asked for another option to pay.

“Do you have the Cash App? Or Venmo maybe? I really don’t want to walk out of here with a sandwich without paying.”

“It’s really fine! Just come back and pay when you have your wallet on you again.”

Still, I persisted. The idea of not paying a small business for my meal made me uncomfortable.

“Could I write down my order so that when I come back you know that I’m paying for what I took?”

He smiled, shook his head, and reassured me again.

“Really, it’s okay. Just pay us back when you can.”

That week I stewed over the interaction at Allez. I wondered how the interaction would have played out if I had a visible disability, or if I appeared to be experiencing homelessness, or if I had not been white-presenting in a gentrified neighborhood.  How did the man at Allez make the judgment call to give me a free meal and believe that I would pay him back?

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Businesses have no obligation to give away their labor, services or products for free; and as long as they do not refuse a patron service based on a legally protected status, they are not breaking the law. However, what I really wanted to know was if my whiteness was acting as a symbolic promissory note. Did it make me more trustworthy? No. But did it signal to the man at Allez that I was more trustworthy? That was my concern.

The following week I returned to Allez to pay my sandwich-debt when the lunch rush had quieted.

I learned that the man who I had spoken to is the owner of Allez—Tom Mckenna. I thanked him for giving me the benefit of the doubt, then quickly added “but why did you do it? What about me indicated to you that I would come back?

To that, he simply responded “I do it for everyone.”

Tom told me that he came from a background of financial insecurity. When he had the opportunity to become a business owner, he said that he wanted to create a bakery that would feed everyone regardless of their circumstances. It is his practice to always give customers the option to pay later if they don’t have any money and he purposefully does not count his till at the end of each day.

“Most people come back and pay. Some people don’t. The point is that they are getting fed.”

If you’re reading this and thinking “He gave you a free sandwich, and you paid him back. So what?” —then you are asking the right question. What does this seemingly innocuous exchange mean in a broader cultural context?

Tom’s policy is important because instead of making judgment calls based on seconds-long interactions with patrons, he is removing an element of bias from his business practice.

He said that he has a similar blanket policy for his bathroom—the bathroom is for employees only. Although, he added that he has made exceptions for people with children.

Tom’s policy is so significant because when we choose to give people the benefit of the doubt, our biases play a role in determining who is trustworthy, and therefore deserving of our kindness.

What happens when our biases take over and we do not give people of the doubt? In 2018, a Starbucks employee in Philadelphia called the police because an African American patron tried to use the restroom before he bought a coffee. I have personally relieved myself in countless Starbucks, chain restaurants, and miscellaneous gas stations without buying anything.  No one has ever questioned my actions or right to exist in those spaces, and I am willing to bet that no one ever will.

In an even more horrific example, in 2015 a white University of Cincinnati campus police officer shot and killed Samuel Dubose, a 43-year-old African American man. The officer allegedly stopped Dubose because he had a missing front license plate[1]. I once drove my car for five months with a broken taillight. During that time, I drove through the same area where Dubose was shot and killed, and neither my white husband nor I were ever pulled over. We are always given the benefit of the doubt.

This phenomenon is not confined to our daily social interactions. It exists in every facet of American society— even within the professedly “objective” walls of the legal system.

Brock Turner and Amber Guyger are two examples of people who have been given the benefit of the doubt by the legal system because they are white. I am not angry that Brock Turner sat in jail for only three months after he sexually assaulted Chanel Miller while she was unconscious (okay, I am because three months in a county jail is hardly punishment to an affluent Stanford student). I am angry because his judge, Aaron Persky, chose to see Turner’s humanity and potential—however, despite being permitted to use discretion in his position, Judge Persky historically would not give that same benefit of the doubt to the young black and brown men coming before his bench.

I am not angry that Amber Guyger was sentenced to just ten years in prison (which I would argue is substantial, but that is another matter) for murdering Botham Jean. I am angry that it took a majority-black jury to convict a white police officer for the murder of an unarmed black man in his own home. I am angry that black and brown humans are in prison and have been in prison far longer than ten years for non-violent offenses because white judges and juries put those black and brown humans there. This is because judges and juries are given discretion under the guise of “objectivism” while overlooking that we all carry biases.

When we pretend that bias does not exist it creates a ripple effect that may begin with our social interactions but ultimately disrupts our legal system. While policy solutions may exist, what we need is a cultural shift. The United States justice system, despite what some lawyers may believe, does not exist in a vacuum. Confronting our biases is uncomfortable and painful work, but that confrontation is the only route toward creating a society that administers true justice.

I challenge my white-presenting peers to pause and evaluate the mundane social interactions that occur each day and think about how your race, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, ability and the combination of these attributes play into how you are being treated.

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I then urge you to pause and observe others. Do you see the same kindnesses being afforded to others? Do you give others the benefit of the doubt indiscriminately? While it is crucial we hold our systems accountable, we must start by looking inward first.

Caitlin Cliff-Perbix is a 2L at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.  She is the offspring of educators, musicians, & immigrants, and is a fellow for the Nathanial R. Jones Center for Race, Gender and Social Justice. She is a native of Licking County and resides in Northside with her husband.

[1] Front-license plates are required by law in Ohio.

Judge Nathaniel R. Jones: A Life of Wisdom, Courage, and Moderation

Guest Contributor: Dean Joseph P. Tomain

Giants do walk the earth. There are heroes among us. And, on January 26, 2020, Judge Nathaniel R. Jones, a legal giant and a hero to many died at the age of 93 after eight decades of fighting for civil rights, of fighting for justice.

Judge Jones was a direct legal descendent of Walter White, William Hastie, Thurgood Marshall, and Robert Carter. As a recipient of the highest awards given by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Freedom Conductor Award, and by the NAACP, the Spingarn Medal, his name is forever linked with artists such as Marion Anderson, Duke Ellington, and Richard Wright; with historical figures such as Rosa Parks, Dorothy Height, John Lewis, and John Hope Franklin; and with friends such as Leon Higginbotham and Quincy Jones. His life and service have also been recognized by world leaders including Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. Impressive company, indeed.

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Judge Jones, along with his wife Lillian Jones, speaking with Nelson Mandela. Source — Cincinnati Enquirer.

As a lawyer, he served in private practice, as Assistant U.S. Attorney, as General Counsel of the NAACP, as a Supreme Court litigator, and, after 23 years on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit he was a valued Biglaw partner for two decades. His resume as a lawyer is incomparable. However, being the giant that he was even a field as capacious as law was insufficient to contain his talents and his interests. Does any reader know, for example, that he harbored a desire to captain an Ohio River coal barge? His daughter Stephanie made that happen.

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Judge Jones standing outside of the Nathaniel R. Jones Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Youngstown, Ohio.  AP Photo/Ron Schwane

Judge Jones’ life story from his Youngstown youth to the well of the United States Supreme Court and from his membership on the Kerner Commission to serving as an election observer in South Africa is told with great grace in his 2016 memoir Answering the Call: An Autobiography of Modern Struggle to End Racial Discrimination in America. Judge Jones heard the call to fight for justice when he was a 10-year-old and he never wavered, he never ignored racial injustice, he never stopped fighting against it. He was answering the call right up to his last speech on civil rights at the dedication of the Nathaniel R Jones Center on Race, Gender and Social Justice at the University of Cincinnati College of Law on November 14, 2019.

Answering the Call is required reading for anyone who wants to know about the many lives of Judge Nathaniel R. Jones; it is also required reading for anyone who wants to understand the history of civil rights over the last 80 years.

 

One of the lesser-known aspects of Judge Jones’ career is that he was a superb teacher and scholar. His scholarship can be found in law review articles and is manifest in his many public speeches. He was a remarkable teacher in many venues. For over 30 years he served as an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. He also taught at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, any number of other United States law schools, and in Cincinnati public schools. Even though he was a formidable classroom teacher, his teaching role transcended the classroom and affected every phase of his life. Just ask any of the dozens of law clerks that he has shepherded throughout his 23 years on the bench. Those clerks have become leaders in private practice, law professors, cabinets secretaries, and outstanding public servants.

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Judge Jones hearing a case at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1989. John Curley/Cincinnati Enquirer

Still, his teaching reached beyond his chambers and beyond the court room. He was unstinting in his community service. As a member of corporate and nonprofit boards his teaching continued. Indeed, as a board member he might best be characterized as a CCO – chief conscience officer. His participation in board meetings was always germane and on matters of justice and civil rights indispensable.

What qualities, gave Nathaniel R. Jones such stature as a civil rights voice and leader and as a citizen committed to justice?

 

Judge Jones possessed an abundance of the virtues needed to live an outstanding life; to live the life of a hero. He possessed wisdom; he possessed a piercing intellect. Judge Jones was a principal actor in many of the key civil rights activities over the last half-century and more. He knew everyone. He knew his history, his politics, his society, and his community. He remembered everything. And, he was able to bring all of that intellect and knowledge and all of those experiences together to confront racial discrimination in the United States and in other parts of the world.

He possessed the courage to keep his eyes open and speak his mind when confronted with injustice and he had an extraordinary capacity to focus. He never wavered in his commitment to civil rights; he never lost sight of the need for constant awareness of civil rights violations and the need to recognize them where they existed. No forum was inappropriate for him to acknowledge racial bigotry and discrimination. No audience could prevent him from talking about his passion.

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Judge Jones speaking with former President Clinton, former First Lady Carter, and former President Carter. Glenn Hartong/Cincinnati Enquirer

He also possessed moderation. Politics of any kind can be intense and contentious. Racial politics can draw bloodshed and has been fatal. In the face of such contention his voice was always steady and clear; forceful and persuasive; and never shrill, never false, never expedient. He spoke his mind in the world with dignity, diplomacy, and deep humanity.

In Judge Nathaniel R. Jones, the virtues of wisdom, courage, and moderation that he possessed in such abundance contributed to and advanced the cause of justice for all of us.

Joseph P. Tomain is Dean Emeritus and the Wilbert and Helen Ziegler Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. He served as Dean of the College for 15 years, where he continues to teach now. His areas of expertise include energy law, land use, government regulation, and contracts. He has written numerous books, papers, and articles covering those topics and more. Dean Tomain has presented his scholarship in front of numerous distinguished groups including the Conference of Chief Justices, the Association of American Law Schools, the American Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association, the Cincinnati Bar Association, and the US Sixth Circuit Conference. He also serves on the Boards of a number of professional and civic organizations, including the Ohio Justice and Policy Center.

With Great Discretion Comes Great Responsibility.

Brady Violations in the Story of Michael Sutton’s Wrongful Conviction.

Nikita Srivastava (’19)

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Michael Sutton with his sister, Lucretia Sutton.  

Do you remember the day you finished high school? I want you to go back to that time. Imagine, you’re 17 years old again: You’re hanging out with your friends; you’re excited about the end of high school and the start of a new beginning.  Days before your graduation, you go out with your closest friends and stay out all night. You dance, laugh, and celebrate the first steps to a bright new future. For most of us, that celebration night ends with hugging good-bye, quietly sneaking into our houses without waking up our parents, and sleeping in the next day. For most of us, it’s a great night. And, for most us, the night does not end with us being arrested for an attempted murder we did not commit. Unfortunately, that is what happened to Michael Sutton.

On the night he celebrated finishing high school, Michael found himself with three of his closest friends being arrested. Instead of hugging their friends goodnight and returning to the comforts of their home, Michael and his best friends spent the night in jail for a crime they did not commit. Instead of going off to college and getting his degree in business, Michael was sentenced to 41 years to life in prison.

Continue reading “With Great Discretion Comes Great Responsibility.”

T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E: Tupac’s Message Manifested Through a Fictitious Reality of America in 2018

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Khalil and Starr in The Hate U Give. Image from 20th Century Fox

The Hate U G[a]ve Little Infants F**ks Everybody, meaning What you feed us as seeds grows and blows up in your face”

– Tupac Shakurpac.jpg

The Hate U Give is a powerful, must-see-drama/thriller. While the film is heart-wrenching, its message leaves its viewers with much optimism. The film was inspired by a phrase coined by the late, iconic rapper Tupac Shakur: “T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E.” Throughout his 25-year life, Tupac revolutionized the music industry with hits like “Dear Mama,” “Keep Ya Head Up,” “Changes,” and dozens more that would inspire generations to come. ‘Pac also used his platform to shed light on how racism was the catalyst for social and political issues facing the Black community, such as poverty and police brutality. These are constant themes present in The Hate U Give.

In The Hate U Give, director George Tillman, Jr. highlights one of American society’s most sensitive topics: racism. Particularly, it examines racism manifested through police brutality, microaggressions, implicit bias, and cultural appropriation. The plot emanates from the shooting death of an unarmed Black teen, Khalil, at the hands of a white policer officer. Starr Carter, the main character in the movie and Khalil’s lifelong best friend, witnesses the shooting.

Continue reading “T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E: Tupac’s Message Manifested Through a Fictitious Reality of America in 2018”

Issue One: Light At The End of the Tunnel or a Risky Gamble?

Everyone agrees that we need to fight drug addiction in Ohio. The Cincinnati area has had some of the highest opioid overdoses and deaths in the country. There aren’t many local families that haven’t been touched by the opioid crisis in some manner, my own family included.On the ballot in 2018 in Ohio, there is a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would reduce the crime of possession of personal amounts of illegal substances to misdemeanors not resulting in jail terms. Additionally, the amendment would make it harder to incarcerate drug users on probation or parole for failing drug tests. This proposed amendment on the ballot is known as Issue One, and it has strong proponents and opponents.

Continue reading “Issue One: Light At The End of the Tunnel or a Risky Gamble?”

Brett Kavanaugh’s Confirmation: The Dangerous New Narrative.

Nikita Srivastava (’19)

The_Boy_Who_Cried_Wolf_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19994We’re all told at some point the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. A young boy would repeatedly and continuously cry wolf when no wolf was present. His village would panic and run to his rescue but found the boy with no wolf. The villagers always ran to his rescue when no wolf was present. Eventually, the villagers collectively decided that when the boy cried wolf, they would not come to the boy’s rescue. One day, the boy saw a wolf. Scared and alone, he cried wolf – no one showed up. The boy died, eaten by a wolf.

The moral of the story: don’t lie or you’ll die. Women were treated like the boy who cried wolf. When women scream “sexual assault,” they were met with disbelief.  However, after the confirmation hearing for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, that narrative changed significantly. Women are no longer met with disbelief, but rather ignorance of their experience. John Oliver said it best on his show Last Week Tonight: “it is not that women aren’t believed, [society] simply does not care.” The narrative now changed to not caring about a woman’s harassment/abuse/assault. Ultimately, this dangerous new narrative will cause more harm to women. By not caring, society will accept that women face sexual harassment, or have been assaulted, but won’t take action against it. By taking this stance, we are basically saying to women, “hey, you got harassed/assaulted/abused? Well, you’re going have to deal with that because you’re a woman. No one is going to help you. Your abuser won’t get punished or reprimanded for it.”

Continue reading “Brett Kavanaugh’s Confirmation: The Dangerous New Narrative.”

Litigating Sexual Harassment Cases

Guest Contributor: Sandra F. Sperino

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Professor Sandra Sperino. Image from UC Law’s Website.

The #metoo movement has increased the focus on sexual harassment cases and how courts analyze them. One way to increase the reach of harassment law is hidden in plain sight: the text of Title VII itself.

Title VII, the federal law that prohibits harassment based on race, sex, and other protected traits, has two main provisions.  Under Title VII’s first provision, it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to do the following:

(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Continue reading “Litigating Sexual Harassment Cases”

Who Are Those Living In Homelessness in Cincinnati?

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buddy gray, the founder of the Cincinnati Homeless Coalition.

Hamilton County, Ohio, home of Cincinnati, is seeking to ban homeless camps from its county. Its District Attorney argues that the homeless must go into shelters or leave the county.
I spent about twenty months as a live-in, full-time volunteer in a homeless shelter, which was an opportunity that brought me to Cincinnati in the summer of 2014. During that time, I lived as a Catholic Worker, a movement founded by Dorothy Day in the 1930s whose proponents devote their lives to fighting injustice, poverty, and violence. My time there informed my understanding of the plight of those living in homelessness and who it is that makes up that population.

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Grace Place, the homeless shelter in Cincinnati’s College Hill neighborhood where the author served for about two years.

Continue reading “Who Are Those Living In Homelessness in Cincinnati?”

Nowhere to Sleep: The Homelessness Problem in Cincinnati

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Image from Cincinnati Enquirer

This past month has been quite eventful for individuals who once called home a particular area in downtown Cincinnati – a group stricken by homelessness.

The downtown area that a group called home was under a cluster of overpasses at Third and Plum Streets. The group – comprised of around 50 individuals – set up a tent encampment under the overpass where they had slept for months, or maybe even years. The area, which is close to several parking lots used by people working downtown, housed the tent camp; hundreds of individuals passed by and through the area every day to get to and from work.

Continue reading “Nowhere to Sleep: The Homelessness Problem in Cincinnati”