Last week, the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments regarding President Biden’s $400 billion debt relief program. Two cases will be up before the Court that challenge President Biden’s Federal regulatory authority. The program aims to forgive $10,000 in student debt for borrowers earning less than $125,000 per year, while Pell grant recipients will be entitled to an additional $10,000 in debt forgiveness.
Five years after the introduction of the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act(EFASASH) by Senator Kristi Gillibrand and Senator Linsey Graham, President Biden signed it into law on March 3, 2022. Without this law, employers could prohibit their workers who have experienced sexual assault or harassment from seeking recourse in court. With EFASASH, sexual predators and their employers will no longer be able to evade public accountability. In a world where eighty-one percent of women have reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and or assault in their lifetime, forced arbitration of sexual assault and harassment claims have only worked as a silencing mechanism.
Policing is a settler colonial creation to control native populations and is exported aboard to teach other empires how to do the same. In 2007, the FBI found that cops averaged roughly four hundred “justifiable homicides” every year, whereas nearly eighty cops were murdered in the line of duty. These disparities have only further developed, where since 2014, cops averaged nearly one thousand homicides each year, and the number of cops killed in the line of duty remained around forty-eight. Policing and prison systems are premised on punishment, rather than transformative healing, health, and prevention. Thus, as stated in Decriminalization Is Not Enough, Abolition Is a Must, resources and funding which are currently given to our present system of policing and prisons should be reallocated to tools that actually serve the community, rather than on incarceration.
Justice is a means through which people can discuss, decide, and create environments that encourage them thrive and it involves the people who are most impacted by those conditions. In that vein, abolition will look different in each community. The goal of abolition should be prioritizing the needs of each community by allowing the community control and ultimate decision-making ability. Abolition allows each community to communicate, prioritize, and enact methods and means that will make that community the best environment for its members. As Dereka Purnell wrote in Becoming Abolitionists, “activists or abolition-curious people will often ask me, ‘What does abolition look like to you?’ My answers change all the time during conversation, especially since I believe that the dreaming and practicing should happen together. This is what I’m thinking about today as I’m writing the conclusion to this book. Every neighborhood would have five quality features: a neighborhood council; free twenty-four-hour childcare; art, conflict, and mediation centers; a free health clinic; and a green team.” Upon community needs, discussion, and approval, funds currently spent on police and prison systems should be reallocated to education, housing, health care, and public spaces.
In October 2021, ProPublica published an article about a rare and virulent strain of salmonella infantis outbreak that occurred in May 2018, afflicting at least a dozen people across the country. Many who reported being sick reported that they ate chicken, and federal food safety inspectors found the infantis strain in packaged chicken breasts, sausages, and wings during routine inspections at poultry plants.
In the United States, since the 1980s, the federal prison population has increased by roughly 790%. Specifically, presently within Illinois, there are approximately 76,000 citizens who are incarcerated. In 2014, Illinois appropriated and spent nearly $1.3 billion on prison budgets. Where even though cannabis is now legal, in Illinois, roughly 90 inmates are still incarcerated for offenses relating to the use, manufacturing, and selling of cannabis. According to the Last Prisoner Project, inmates remain incarcerated even though House Bill 1438 establishes that persons who have been convicted on an offense are granted a pardon because the Bill provides no resentencing or commutation procedures, and the process to have sentences pardoned is slow.
In examining the injustices of carceral punishment, statistics like these show that these injustices are not an anomaly, but rather the norm. Because prisons are premised on punishment, rather than transformative healing, health, and prevention, prisons are a human rights issue, rather than a criminal justice issue. Prisons are premised on punishment, rather than transformative healing and health, and prevention. As a result, resources and funding which are currently given to our present system of policing and prisons should be reallocated to tools that actually serve the community, rather than on incarceration.
In the United States, according to a HG study, every year, between 70,000 and 80,000 people are arrested for prostitution related offenses, where roughly seventy percent of arrests are made against women sellers, twenty percent of arrests are made against men sellers, and a mere ten percent are made against buyers. In Chicago, the number of arrests are comparable, where according to a Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation study, in 2013, approximately seventy-four percent of prostitution-related arrests were for selling, and in 2017, ninety percent of prostitution-related arrests were for selling.
Following the enactment of similar laws in other states, in 2014, Illinois passed Public Act 98-1013 which creates a financial incentive for the enforcement of prostitution laws against buyers and traffickers, rather than sellers. However, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) continues to prioritize arrests of sex sellers over buyers. Criminalization of sex work disproportionately harms LGBTQ people, communities of color, and immigrants. At a local level, Chicago needs to decriminalize sex work and reallocate CPD’s enforcement budget to social welfare services.
On June 1, 2021, a new policy went into effect in New Jersey, requiring police officers to wear body cameras. In November 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation mandating and regulating law enforcement officers’ use of body-worn cameras during encounters with the public. Specifically, the governor signed two bills: S1163 and A4312. The former establishes the requirement for officers to wear body-cameras, while the latter regulates their use. These bills have received support from both law enforcement officials and civilians.
Under Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court found that states could not create onerous requirements which interfered with a patient’s right to an abortion up to the point of viability of the fetus, which was around 24 weeks. However, Texas’ new law erodes that decision. On May 9, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Texas’ new abortion law commonly known as the fetal “heartbeat” bill, and on September 1, 2021, the Supreme Court refused to block Texas’ “heartbeat” bill. The new law bans abortions as soon as cardiac motion can be detected in the embryo, roughly six weeks into a pregnancy.
The “heartbeat” bill contradicts the purpose of standing and adversely impacts not only the patients but people working in the medical field, families and friends of the patients, people who support a person’s right to choose, and society as a whole. Congress cannot continue to idly sit by. Congress must codify the principles of Roe v. Wade to protect an individual’s right to health care.
Peloton has a coined the term “together we go far” as their company slogan, and over the course of this year that is exactly what this company has done. Since the company launched in 2012, Peloton has gone far and wide delivering their fitness technology to millions of people across the globe. Peloton is an international company that designs at-home gym equipment and produces virtual workout classes for their customers to live-stream or watch on-demand through their Peloton products. Peloton provides an outlet for fitness and competition while building a positive and inclusive community for their members across the United States and the world. Of the millions of members in the Peloton community, one is our leading man in office President Joe Biden.
The incoming Biden administration includes Dr. Miguel Cardona as the new Secretary of Education. Advocates for students with disabilities recently met with Dr. Cardona to voice concerns about issues ranging from school discipline to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on special education services. In this meeting, Cardona stressed the importance of inclusivity in public schools and the need to promote the rights of people with disabilities, as well as to increase civil rights law enforcement by Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”). Providing a “free appropriate public education” or FAPE during this time came with tremendous costs to budgets and other burdens for school administrators who, in “good faith” tried to meet these standards. However, after the DOE initiated four investigations in the past month over concerns districts nationwide have failed to provide appropriate services to students with disabilities during the coronavirus pandemic. These investigations will be one of the first tasks Dr. Cardona will take on as Secretary of Education.