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Arizona prisons ban book on black men in the justice system

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PHOENIX , Arizona (AP) — Arizona has banned prisoners from reading a book that discusses the impact of the criminal justice system on black men, drawing outcry from First Amendment advocates who say the move is censorship.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called on the Arizona Department of Corrections this week to rescind the ban on Chokehold: Policing Black Men. The book by Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor, examines law enforcement and mass incarceration through its treatment of African American men.

“In order for them to ban a book, they have to show the restriction is related to a legitimate prison interest,” said Emerson Sykes, an ACLU attorney. “There’s no interest to keep inmates from learning about the criminal justice system and policing.”

Butler, a criminal law professor at Georgetown University, said his publisher was notified by e-mail in March that his book had “unauthorised content.” The notice did not specify what led to the decision but warned that some aspect of the 2017 book was “detrimental to the safe, secure, and orderly operation of the facility”.

Butler said he is mystified as to what raised alarm bells. He uses the title, which is a manoeuvre police have used to restrain a suspect by the neck, throughout the book as a metaphor for how society and law subjugate black men. Nowhere does Butler advocate violent or retaliatory behaviour.

“I disavow violence because first, I think it’s immoral, and second, because it wouldn’t work,” Butler said. “I’ve received letters from several inmates who have read Chokehold while they are serving time. No one has indicated that reading Chokehold has caused any problems in prison.”

Arizona’s corrections department prohibits inmates from receiving publications that contain any depictions or descriptions that would incite or facilitate a riot, a resistance or stopping work. They also can’t contain pictures, illustrations or text that encourage “unacceptable sexual or hostile behaviours.” Any publications with sexually explicit material or sexual representations of inmates and law enforcement also are not permitted.

Corrections spokesman Andrew Wilder said the department had not yet received the ACLU’s letter asking for the ban to be reversed and declined further comment Monday.

The agency is in a court battle over a similar case. Prison Legal News, a monthly journal, sued corrections officials in 2015 for refusing to deliver four issues in 2014. The publication said in court documents that there were descriptions of “non-salacious” sexual contact between jail guards and prisoners when talking about incidents where inmates were sexually harassed. The case is set for trial later this year.

Supporters say access to books for the more than 2 million people incarcerated in the US can make all the difference for life outside the prison walls. More education decreases the likelihood of repeat offenses and can lead to better job prospects later, according to inmate advocates. They point to studies showing the literacy rates of incarcerated white, black and Hispanic people are significantly lower than their non-incarcerated counterparts.

About half of the adult prison population doesn’t have a high school degree, said Christia Mercer, a philosophy professor at Columbia University who has taught classes in New York prisons. Reading books can be transformative and help them feel like they are using their time to make something of themselves.

“Unless the book itself promotes violence, there is never reason not to allow it,” Mercer said.

Arizona’s population of 7.1 million is roughly five per cent black, according to the US census. As of October 2018, the corrections department found black people make up 14.5 per cent of the 42,000 inmates in the Arizona system.

“One in 19 black men are in prison in Arizona right now,” Butler said. “Rather than acknowledge it’s a good thing that inmates want to read about and debate important public policy, Arizona pushes back against rehabilitation, against literacy, against the Constitution.”

Sykes, of the ACLU, said the group is prepared to sue if corrections officials fail to respond to its written request to end the book’s exclusion. He believes the ban was made based on content, which would be unconstitutional.

It’s not uncommon for state prisons to ban books, Sykes said. Chokehold is also not the first book dealing with racial justice issues to be prohibited.

In January 2018, New Jersey banned from two prisons The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. The 2010 book looks at how black felons convicted of minor crimes are seemingly set up to fail. Officials reversed course after receiving a letter from the ACLU.

“When these issues come up, we try our best to push back against them,” Sykes said. “Unfortunately, the reality is I think in many cases, no action is taken because people whose rights are being affected are not in a strong position to push back.”

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Residents disarm man who pulled gun during dispute

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Residents disarm man who pulled gun during dispute

Saturday, August 24, 2019

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WESTMORELAND, Jamaica — Residents from Beeston Spring in Westmoreland handed over a .38 revolver along with three cartridges to the police on Thursday after disarming a man in the community.

Reports from the Bethel Town police are that about 8:00 pm, there was an altercation between two men when one of the men pulled a firearm.

On seeing the firearm, residents reportedly intervened and in the process of disarming him, he was injured with a machete. The firearm and ammunition were subsequently handed over to the police.

The injured man is admitted in hospital under police guard. His identity is being withheld pending further investigations.


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UK’s Johnson ‘very worried’ about trade tensions, tariff hikes

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UK’s Johnson ‘very worried’ about trade tensions, tariff hikes

Saturday, August 24, 2019

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BIARRITZ, France (AFP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday that he was “very concerned” about the trade tensions between the US and China, saying their tit-for-tat tariff hikes were harmful for the global economy.

“I’m very worried about the way it’s going, the growth of protectionism, of tariffs that we’re seeing,” Johnson said as he arrived at the G7 summit in the French resort of Biarritz, where he was to make his full international debut as Britain’s premier.

“Those who support tariffs are at risk of incurring the blame for the downturn in the global economy,” he said. “This is not the way to proceed.”

The question of tariffs is of particular concern for Johnson as he prepares to lead Britain out of the EU with the prospect of a no-deal Brexit on October 31 looking increasingly likely — which experts warn would cost both sides dearly.

His remarks echoed earlier warnings from the European Union, which warned that the escalating trade spat between Washington and Beijing could drive economies around the world into recession.

“Trade wars will lead to recession, while trade deals will boost the economy,” EU President Donald Tusk as G7 leaders descended on Biarritz for a three-day summit.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who is hosting the summit, also weighed in, saying trade tensions were “bad for everyone”.

“We have to achieve some form of de-escalation, stabilise things, and avoid this trade war that is taking place all over,” he said, just hours after Trump threatened to impose heavy punitive tariffs on France over its tax on US tech giants.

Trade disputes appear set to dominate the agenda of this year’s G7 summit, with Tusk and Macron warning that an ambitious deal between the EU and Latin America’s Mercosur bloc was at risk over Brazil’s response to wildfires in the Amazon.

But Tusk also said the EU would respond in kind if the US imposed tariffs on French wine.

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Trump names Jamaica among illicit drug producing nations

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Trump names Jamaica among illicit drug producing nations

Saturday, August 24, 2019

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WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The United States has named four Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries as major drug transit or illicit drug producing countries.

President Donald Trump in his “Presidential Determination on Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2020,” named The Bahamas, Belize, Haiti and Jamaica.

The other countries named by Trump are Afghanistan, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.

In his statement, Trump noted that a country’s presence on the foregoing list is not necessarily a reflection of its government’s counter narcotics efforts or level of cooperation with the United States.

“The reason countries are placed on the list is the combination of geographic, commercial, and economic factors that allow drugs to transit or be produced, even if a government has engaged in robust and diligent narcotics control measures.”

Trump said his administration has devoted unprecedented resources to combating the scourge of illicit drugs in the United States.

He said this includes strengthening the US borders and expanding programmes to prevent illicit drug use and aid the recovery and treatment of those who need it.

“We are making steady progress to turn the tide of our country’s drug epidemic, but more needs to be accomplished. This includes further efforts beyond our nation’s borders, by governments of countries where dangerous illegal drugs originate,” he said.

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