China’s One-Child Policy Adopts Change

For over three decades, China has endorsed the one-child policy, officially known as the Family Planning Policy.  The policy was enacted in 1979 as a form a population control deemed necessary to alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems in China.  Interestingly, there are some exceptions to this policy: rural families can have a second child if the first child is a girl or disabled, families in which neither parent has siblings are also allowed a second child, and ethnic minorities are completely exempt.

This policy appears to be under reform as according to the Wall Street Journal on Saturday the Chinese legislature “formally eased two restrictive social policies of its authoritarian system, allowing some couples to have a second child and ending a form of extralegal detention.”

The reforms are evidence of the country’s broader efforts to reduce governmental control over the personal affairs of the country’s increasingly modern society, as well as practical factors that local experts say begged for adjustment. “Unpopular at home, the one-child policy and extralegal detention are also longtime lightning rods for criticism by foreign governments and human rights groups.  The one-child policy change will have broader popular ramifications at home…”

Policy changes to the one-child policy follow demographers’ predictions that China will soon face labor shortages due to the declining birthrates.

Family planners say China’s one-child policy, adopted in 1980, has prevented 400 million births.

The new changes will allow partners where one spouse is an only child the ability to have a second child.  Experts predict the change will result in one to two million new births annually in China nationwide. 

While still restrictive on the number of births families can ultimately have, the policy changes do move the country one step closer to social freedom. Many negative consequences have arisen from the one-child policy such as an increase in forced abortions, female infanticide, and underreporting of female births.  Amazingly, a 2008 survey undertaken by the Pew Research Center reported that 76% of the Chinese population supports the policy.

Department of Justice to Investigate St. Louis County Family Court

Picture from freerepublic.com

Across the country each day, family and Juvenile courts have children passing by their benches on the way to a future that may involve severe limitations on their freedom.  Armored in the protections of the constitution and federal law, each child should have a fair and just trial and, if applicable, appropriate rehabilitations and punishments.  This should all transpire blind to all but truth.  Occasionally we wonder however if lady justice is peeking from behind her blindfold, and if what she is seeing is guiding her sword hand.  The Department of Justice is asking this question with regard to St. Louis county family courts:

The Justice Department announced today [November 18] that it has opened a pattern or practice investigation of the Family Court of St. Louis.  The investigation will focus on whether the court provides constitutionally required due process to all children appearing for delinquency proceedings and whether the court’s administration of juvenile justice provides equal protection to all children regardless of race.

This investigation will include a comprehensive review of policies, procedures, court documents and statistical data.  As part of this investigation, the department will reach out to juvenile justice stakeholders, including community members and groups with knowledge of the Family Court’s processes.

In this investigation the focus seems to be on self-improvement,

“Protecting the constitutional rights of all children appearing in court is critical to achieving our goals of improving juvenile courts, increasing the public’s confidence in the juvenile justice system and maintaining public safety,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division.  “During the course of this investigation, we will consider all relevant information, particularly any efforts the court has undertaken to ensure compliance with the Constitution and federal law.”

While any wrongdoing is yet to be determined, in a system ran by fallible people it is nice to know that when these questions arise the system is occasionally willing to self-correct.  These investigations are rare, however there have been a few over the last handful of years leading to lawsuits and settlements across the country.  When our blindfolds start to slip, its nice to know we can be willing to set down our sword and scale long enough to tighten the knots on our blindfold.

 

How the City of New York Stole the Last Three Teenage Years of Kalief Browder’s Life

photo courtesy of: http://www.worldwidehippies.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/trialll.jpg

Three years.  1,095 days.  26,280 hours.  1,576,800 minutes.  94,608,000 seconds.  Imagine spending that much of your life behind bars without ever having been convicted of a crime.  This is exactly what happened to Kalief Browder.  On May 14, 2010, Browder, then a 16-year-old sophomore in high school, was arrested in the Bronx while walking home from a party and subsequently charged with robbery in the second degree.  After being arrested, Browder was taken to Rikers Island Correctional Facility, the place where he would spend the next three years of his life.  With his family unable to afford the $10,000 bail, Browder was stripped of his ability to complete his high school education, attend prom, and do things with other kids his age.  He also missed his sister’s wedding, nephew’s birth, and many other special family events.  While detained, Browder attempted to commit suicide on six different occasions.

Up until this point, one might have assumed that obviously, there must have been ample, or at least sufficient evidence to suggest Kalief Browder committed the crime he was charged with, thereby justifying his lengthy stay in detention otherwise he would not be there.  Disturbingly, that was by no means the case.  Browder’s three year incarceration was the result of one man’s actions.  On May 14, 2010, a complete stranger told police “that kid” (identifying then 16-year-old Browder who was walking down the street) robbed me two weeks ago.  Based on one man’s “identification” of the individual who allegedly robbed him a few weeks prior, with no further evidence subsequently supporting the stranger’s allegations, and despite Browder maintaining his innocence throughout, Kalief Browder’s life was changed for eternity.  In January, after spending 33 months in Rikers, Browder refused a judge’s plea deal of time served because he did not want to plead guilty to a crime he did not commit.  Five months later, in June, Browder, now 20 years old, was released from detention without explanation or apology and the case against him was dismissed.

Currently enrolled in GED classes and attempting to get his life on track after spending three years behind bars, Browder, represented by civil rights attorney Paul Prestia, has filed a civil suit against the Bronx District Attorney, City of New York, New York Police Department, and New York City Department of Corrections as well as against various individuals employed by the state of New York.  Alleging physical abuse by both inmates and guards and prolonged detention in solitary confinement for an excess of 400 days, Browder’s complaint also asserts that he was deprived of meals on numerous occasions and prevented from continuing or pursuing his education.  In clear violation of his due process rights as afforded by the United States Constitution, including his right to a speedy trial, Browder now suffers from lingering mental health issues and has missed out on the opportunity to live his last three years as a teenager to the fullest.  In what Browder’s attorney says was a “straightforward case to try,” not only was Kalief Browder not even tried or convicted of any crime, but it took New York City officials three years to dismiss the baseless allegations against him.  “We need someone to be held accountable.  This can’t just go unnoticed.  To the extent that [Browder] can be financially compensated – although it’s not going to get those years back for him – it may give him a chance to succeed.”