Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Any death in custody is a tragedy on a personal level, but it also raises civil rights issues that cannot be ignored. For example, race and class are important predictors of vulnerability of incarcerated individuals. Many of the people that die in custody are poor and ethnic minorities. Whether the police admit it or not, the public perceives systemic abuses that culminate in the violation of people’s basic and fundamental rights. The case of Laquan McDonald is no longer that unique. The typical narrative seems to be that of a white officer shooting an unarmed young black man. Although the law enforcement agencies try to argue that this a reflection of criminal proclivities, the reality is that the disproportion is so great as to cause public disquiet.

In the courts, the judges are primed to believe the law enforcement agencies until and unless there is irrefutable evidence against them. The introduction of the video camera and smart phone has meant that local vigilantes can poke holes into the official story that is provided by the police. Whether this is a positive development is open to debate. The mantra of institutional racism has become a catchall phrase for all the ills and mismanagement that are associated with law enforcement agencies across the board, and not just within the precincts of Chicago.

When the Duty of Care is Not Met

elliott-stallion-105205-copy-300x200The battle for same-day voter registration in Chicago highlights some of the constitutional anomalies and controversies that have dogged the USA since its inception. All the judicial decisions made are subject to intense debate. There are those that believe in the absolute right to access the ballot regardless of the bureaucratic inconvenience that it causes. Others are of the view that if you really want to vote, then the government does provide avenues for you to vote. By the same token, if you fail to turn up, there is nobody but yourself to blame for that particular failing.

Meanwhile, the civil rights activists are up in arms about the possible exclusion of whole swathes of the populace who are simply unable to fulfill the bureaucratic requirements for voting in Chicago. The courts have traditionally been reluctant to create rights where none exist and also to prevent the use of arbitrary decision-making. One particular area of contention involves the perceived and actual differences between the rules that apply in rural areas of Illinois and those that are associated with the urban centers.

The Rationale for Voter Registration Law