Archive | November, 2010

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Police Seek Teen-Aged Burglary Suspect


HARTFORD — Police are seeking a teenager, who allegedly fled the scene on Friday after being caught with an accomplice in the middle of a burglary at Nelton Court.

The teenager is reported to be a Hispanic male with a light complexion, 15-17 years old, about 5’6” tall and weighs 170 lbs.  He was last seen wearing a gray “puffy” coat, police said.

According to a police report, officers  responded to the area of Nelton Court for an active burglary last Friday at about 4 p.m.  Upon arrival, Lt Michael Manson saw two males cutting copper pipes inside the apartment building at 71 Nelton Court. 

After a foot pursuit, Lt. Manson secured one of the males, a 15-year-old whose identity is not being released due to his age.

The Hartford Police Department isis asking anyone with information regarding this burglary to contact Sgt. Garth Perri at 860-757-4309 or to call the Hartford Crime Stoppers tip-line at 860-722-8477.

Anonymous, confidential tips may be made by calling Hartford Crime Stoppers at 860-722-TIPS (8477).

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SCHOOL MATTERS: Why My Days as a Teacher Are Numbered


By Matt Amaral

“Teaching is not a profession. It is a never-ending entry-level vocation, divorced from foundational understandings of training, accountability, and advancement. If we are to enact meaningful reform, we must rescue teaching from its status as vocation and volunteerism, and recast it as a profession of rigor, creativity, and unlimited impact.”
—a former teacher, writing in “Teaching in the 408”

I had Friday off a couple weeks ago, so I went to a Spanish Meet-Up group to struggle through the language with others just like me. At the meeting, I ran into a woman I recognized.

“Didn’t you teach at [insert school here]?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she smiled. The woman, let’s call her Jo, introduced me to two of her friends.
I learned Jo was no longer teaching. She gave it up the year I met her; I was student teaching at the time. For a while, she worked on curriculum for a textbook company. Now she works as a school psychologist.

Her two friends were nice, knowledgeable, goal-oriented women who talked with confidence and swagger. Like her, all had been teachers at one point. Not anymore.

In conversation, we all agreed that teaching isn’t a profession in the “professional sense.” Rather, it feels like a volunteer day job—high stress, high frustration, high reward (sometimes), ridiculous pay.
Jo said she’s back in the classroom, but this time around, she is observing instead of teaching.

“I look at the teacher and thank my stars I don’t have to be her,” Jo said. “I get to return to my office, use the bathroom, check my email, get coffee, take a one-hour lunch break, and concentrate in silence.” She’s happy and relaxed—and she collects a paycheck the whole year round. Who wouldn’t want that?

I took last year off because I was burnt out from three years of teaching. My wife and I went to Central and South America. We learned Spanish. I did a lot of writing. It was the kind of year I’ll always remember. But while I was in Peru, I began to miss the job, and I realized how important teaching was to me.

I’m back in the classroom, and things are good. I’m loving the kids. They are writing stuff I only dreamed of teaching them a few years ago.

The problem is: The day-to-day tribulations of being a teacher are brutal. I don’t think I can keep this up. Not for three more years. Not for five years. Certainly not for a decade.
Isn’t that horrible? To say with such certainty that, though in many ways I love my work, I will not be teaching a few years from now?

I don’t mean to get too down on my job. We just need more time. Time to prep, so the day is more manageable. Time to grade papers. Time to collaborate with our colleagues. Time to use the bathroom, get coffee, take a break, check our email, talk to our colleagues, and act like professionals. We need time to just sit and breathe.

I’m not teaching my students enough this year. I’m not giving them the feedback they need. I’m not doing the job as it should be done because of oversized classes, lack of preparation, lack professional collaboration and development.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m doing great as a teacher this year—just as good as any effective teacher out there. But I’m willing to admit that one day, when my body can’t take this brutal day-to-day anymore, when my spirit isn’t into the work, when my own children need new clothes, I will have to stop teaching.

And that makes me sad.

Matt Amaral is a writer and high school English teacher in the East Bay. He is also the founder ofwww.teach4real.com, a website dedicated to teachers in our toughest schools.

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Become All You Can Be—and a Citizen


New America Now, Audio, Sandip Roy

At a time when immigration reform keeps floundering in Congress, the US Army still offers a fast track to citizenship for immigrants who enlist. Emma Cott, co-director/producer of New American Soldier, discusses her documentary, which focuses on immigrants who join the armed forces and on the way the military is portrayed in films.


MP3

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Governor’s Open House Begins This Week


HARTFORD — Whose house? Your house. At least that’s the messages Connecticut governors have tried to convey by having an open house at the governor’s residence.

Beginning this Friday, Gov. M. Jodi Rell will continue the tradition by inviting  the public to visit the Holiday Open House at the Governor’s Residence, 990 Prospect Avenue in Hartford.

The Open House runs from:

  • 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, December 3
  • 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, December 4
  • 12:00 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, December 5

Rell said this free open house gives families from across the state the opportunity to see the residence decorated for the holidays.

The tour will be given by about 35 volunteers, some whom have volunteered for over 20 years.

Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will be handing out candy canes to children on Friday and Sunday. There will also be live entertainment provided by area businesses and schools.

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Job Growth Up, Unemployment Remains High


HARTFORD — Unemployment in the state remains steady at 9.1 percent, but there is a ray of light, according to one jobs report.

That’s because Connecticut added 5,300 jobs in October.

According to the state’s Labor Department said last month nonfarm employment in the state was 1.6 million.

The sectors with the biggest gains included trade, transportation and utilities (2,300 new jobs), professional and business services (1,800 jobs), and leisure and hospitality (1,500 jobs).

Sectors with job losses include, construction, information, manufacturing, and educational and health services.

But the news of last month’s job growth is something to celebrate, according to Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

“These are 5,300 reasons to be thankful,” said , Rell told Myrecordjournal.com. “Five of our 10 major industry sectors showed strong growth last month.”

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African-American Politicians Under Attack in Washington


News Report, Charles D. Ellison

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In 2010, African-American politicians find themselves under siege.

Black political power and influence appears strafed and demolished in less than two weeks time. Even President Barack Obama is not immune as he fends off assaults from both left and right, including a Washington Post column by two prominent Democratic strategists recommending he pass on re-election in 2012.

A combination of scandal, Republican electoral tsunamis and lack of a coordinated response to the new political climate have left Black politicos trapped in a smoky wilderness of uncertainty.

It could not have come at a worse time for African Americans, near paralyzed by unemployment double the national average, record foreclosure rates and a recession which vaporized a quarter of the Black middle class.

Two of the most senior Black Members of Congress — Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., — are faced with full-blown ethics “trials” this lame duck session of Congress, with two additional Members — Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., and Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., — in the House Ethics Committee pipeline for further consideration.

Rangel’s inquiry ended with the Harlem congressman being found guilty on 11 counts and the House Ethics Committee voting for censure. Rangel’s demise quickly devolved into the heartbreaking embarrassment of a celebrated, longtime founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus — who once wielded the gavel to the most powerful committee in Congress — unable to afford a lawyer.

Yet, observers are left wondering why it went that far, especially after Ethics Committee lead counsel Blake Chisam reluctantly admitted at one point on the record that he saw “… no evidence of corruption” in the Rangel case.

“We’re in a period here where due process is inconvenient,” says Lauren Victoria Burke of Crewof42.com.

“I hope that my colleagues in Congress, friends, constituents and anyone paying attention will consider my statement and how the Committee has been unfair to me,” complained Rangel, rambling defensively in a statement released shortly after his abrupt and reality show-like exit from an adjudicatory subcommittee hearing last Monday. “They can do what they will with me because they have the power and I have no real chance of fighting back.”

Waters, once a rhetorical titan and activist member who would famously dress-down House committee witnesses, is barely audible and under the radar. While she vehemently denies any wrongdoing, she’s been largely quiet, reserving comment until her trial scheduled before the end of the session.

Rangel, for his part, won’t go down without a fight. The New York lawmaker plays hardball with plans to run for ranking minority member on the committee he previously chaired. Obviously, that will be a long shot given the recent censure rebuke.

But, it’s not just Rangel and Waters that have the tightly knit, 40-year old CBC worried. The Black Caucus is frantically searching for some footing on the new political landscape. Its predominant Democratic make-up creates a problematic political calculus as it enters a Republican-led Congress next year.

How they decide to interface with the two new Black Republicans on the block, Rep.-elect Tim Scott, S.C., and Rep.-elect Allen West, Fla., is unknown. Still, the newly elected chairman of the CBC, Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., is famously known for his ability to reach across the aisle.

And Cleaver, who barely managed to beat back a belligerent Republican challenger two weeks ago, won’t be expected to play defense for the White House all the time.

“We recognize the need to support the president, but there’s also the feeling being expressed rather loudly that the White House will become concerned only about the survival of the president in 2012, and we will be out here blowing in the wind,” Cleaver said in a telling interview with the Kansas City Star, his hometown newspaper. “We may be moving down two separate paths toward 2012.”

“With Cleaver at the wheel, look for a more pointed reality-based appraisal of the CBC’s dealings with the White House,” notes Burke.

Also set to lose their House chairmanships in January are Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers, D-Mich., and Homeland Security chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

Republicans, however, are among the least of the CBC’s concerns as the venerable Black political institution finds itself actually having to scrape for leadership positions within its own minority party.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced an impasse-breaking deal to create a brand new No. 3 minority leadership position for loyal deputy and House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., the Democratic Caucus breathed a heavy sigh of relief that a bruising intra-party contest was avoided between Clyburn and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

While many observers said Hoyer had the winning votes lined up, Clyburn still had a spoiler in his pocket: the other 41 House Members of the CBC, including two Maryland Members, who were ready to back their most powerful colleague at all political costs it seemed. Clyburn did not hide his feelings that the contest was about more than just him — he was on a “mission” to preserve the CBC’s influence on the Hill amid devastating losses on Nov. 2.

But, at eleventh hour, Clyburn’s resolve buckled under the weight of devotion to Pelosi, who announced a newly chiseled “Assistant Leader” position that would report to her. In the new spot, finalized by a vote from Democratic Members, Clyburn would report to her in a fashion similar to Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who now holds the “assistant to the speaker” position.

Satisfied that disaster was averted, Clyburn ran to the Caucus for support. “What we are doing is saying that everybody will maintain their relative position in the 112th,” Clyburn said in a CNN interview. “So there is nothing unusual about this, and I was very pleased with the agreement that Speaker Pelosi came with.”

A skeptical CBC, eyeing the move with suspicion, wants details. “You mean ‘assistant TO THE leader,” snapped a source close to the Caucus who did not want to be identified. “Clyburn should have gone all out with it. He looks weak and the CBC doesn’t want to look weak along with him.”

CBC Chair Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., appeared to confirm as much. “We fully support our current whip, Mr. Clyburn, for the No. 3 position and we’re currently reserving judgment on the entire package until we see what the actual portfolio entails in terms of responsibilities,” Lee told a group of reporters after a closed-door meeting of the Caucus which discussed, among other things, its fate in the new Congress.

“It’s that quintessential example of the rules getting changed when it comes to African American politicians,” says The Source Magazine’s political editor Jason Johnson. “The fact that Clyburn’s position has to be eliminated and re-created is absurd.”

But, some observers note that Clyburn did not want ranking Latino Democrat Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) bumped from the leadership caucus, which could have happened under a shake-up.

“Clyburn did not want to bump Becerra, which is smart if you think about it given that [Latino] voting bloc and other issues like immigration. He took the hit, in a way, to keep Becerra in the leadership.”

It’s not like the Caucus hasn’t been in bad spots before. But, this year found the Caucus besieged by an incessant string of high profile troubles peppered with gaffes, missteps and ethics debacles. Lee’s reservations reflect a growing sense that the CBC is losing grip as three of its Members lose powerful Committee chairs and eighteen will no longer Chair subcommittees.

The uncomfortable jolt of reality is already spurring bold bids for ranking member positions on major committees as Black members find their bearing.

Outgoing House Government Reform Committee Chair Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), a longtime king of the Brooklyn political machine, wants to stay on as the committee’s Ranking Member to the chagrin of leading Democrats — including one corner that needs him the most: the White House.

Towns is ready to glove-up and go cage match with an emboldened incoming chair Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the loquacious center-right Congressman who’s promised to blast the Obama Administration with a ceaseless barrage of inquiries, probes and subpoenas.

Appearing on a CNBC program on Election Night, Issa argued that the administration was “corrupt and arrogant.”

And then there’s Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., the West Philly political brawler who had announced back in May that if Democrats retained their majority, he would pursue an unorthodox seniority-bucking bid for chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Willing to shake up the antiquated Democratic seniority system Fattah planned to hurdle from his No. 21 spot all the way to the top, directly bumping heads with longtime lawmaker Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA). Now, Fattah says that he’s switching gears and gunning for Ranking Minority Member, a move certain to rile both Dicks and senior Democrats who’ve been waiting in line.

That prompts a larger question: how bad is it?

“I definitely think it’s a challenging time,” admits Angela Rye, Founder and Director of Strategic Partnerships for D.C.-based IMPACT-DC, an organization closely aligned with the CBC. “But, it’s been a challenging time for years. There is a lot of work we can continue to do.”

Rye argues, along with other leading Black Democratic strategists, that the CBC still retains some power as former chairs will simply transition into ranking member status.

Johnson partly agrees.

“I’m not willing to claim it’s as bad as the nineties where it seemed as if every single Black mayor was under investigation,” says the political science professor. “Or when every Black cabinet member in the Clinton Administration was under investigation — with one ending up dead in a plane crash,” citing the tragic and untimely death of former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown.

Still, there is a larger issue of waning Black political influence nationwide. Loss of 19 state legislatures to Republicans, who now wield the ruthless magic wand of redistricting, poses a political life-and-death scenario to the 630 Black state legislators (mostly Democrats) spread throughout the fifty states.

Some are nervous they could lose seats to a happily gerrymandering GOP. In Pennsylvania, longtime political powerhouse state Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, lost his position as the top Democrat on the state House Appropriations Committee following the GOP takeover of Harrisburg.

Even on the Republican side — and despite major gains for the party on Nov. 2nd — a chorus of GOP elected officials are calling for the resignation of Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele, the party’s first Black chair. Recently, Steele’s own political director Gentry Collins resigned in a flashy public retort of Steele’s tenure.

“In stark contrast [to 2004 and 2008], we enter the 2012 presidential cycle with 100 percent of the RNC’s $15 million in lines of credit tapped out, and unpaid bills likely to add millions to that debt,” Collins spit in a scathing letter to the RNC.

Republicans, no longer feeling defensive about the lack of diversity in their party after so many GOP minorities winning office, view Steele’s ouster as a risk their willing to take.

“I have long championed Michael Steele, not because I’m a partisan, but because the guy has been winning since he’s been in office,” argues Johnson. “Republicans get the biggest wins they’ve had in six years and now he’s out of a job? I think that’s pure racism.”

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Police Arrest Man After Domestic Violence Call


HARTFORD —  A city man was arrested on Tuesday after police responded to a domestic violence call.

Hanif Solomon, 36, of 255 Sission Ave., was charged with allegedly breach of peace, criminal possession of firearm, interfering with police, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a pistol with an altered serial number  and theft of a firearm.

Police said they responded to a call at about 7: 30 a.m. to 575 Farmington Ave on a report of a domestic violence complaint.

Police gave this account of the incident.

Upon arrival, officers learned that the male suspect, who the victim reported typically carries a firearm, had pushed her down and then fled to an apartment inside 575 Farmington Ave.

Officers searched the area where the male suspect had fled and located the accused in a bedroom fidgeting with a dresser drawer.

The accused was arrested and during a search of the dresser drawer, police recovered a Rossi .38 caliber special pistol. It was later determined that the gun was reported stolen in Nashville, Tennessee.

Police said Solomon is a convicted felon who can not legally posses a firearm.

The victim declined medical attention, police said.

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Festival of Light To Feature ‘Tiny Tim’


HARTFORD — The city’s holiday festivities will begin this week, the day after Thanksgiving.

The Hartford Festival of Light will start Nov. 26 and families are invited to ring in a new era of the city’s tradition.

Tiny Tim and friends from “A Christmas Carol,” the Hartford Magnet Middle Marching Band (weather permitting) and members of the Middlesex Whalers and the Junior Wolf Pack youth hockey leagues will lead a Holiday Procession from Constitution Plaza, across State House Square, down Asylum Street to join Pucky the Whale and Santa (who will be riding his ice sleigh from the XL Center) and head to Bushnell Park.

The Hartford Festival of Light program is scheduled to begin at 5:45PM at the historic park and will include the ceremonial lighting and an announcement by Tiny Tim regarding the Toys for Tots collection— so please bring a new, unwrapped toy to drop off at a collection box at the park.  Then there will be holiday music and an audience sing-a-long with CONCORA-to-Go and a professional skating demonstration on synthetic ice to invite folks back for public skating in Bushnell Park which runs from Dec. 10, 2010 to Jan. 6, 2011.

The Bushnell Park Carousel will be open Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Nov. 26 to Dec. 18.  Santa will return to Hartford the weekend of Dec. 10-12 at the Pump House Gallery in Bushnell Park.

Hartford Parking Authority’s first “Freebie Night” is Nov. 26  after 5 p.m. as part of its Park n’ Dine special in conjunction with the Morgan Street, MAT, and Church Street garages.

Also, the Star Shuttle will be running that evening and there is parking at the state lot near the Bushnell.  Additional handicapped street parking spaces will be reserved around Bushnell Park.

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Rethinking Criminal Justice—Why Black Prosecutors Matter


NAM News Report, Marjorie Valbrun

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Nearly three weeks after the midterm elections, the winner of the hard-fought race to become California’s next attorney general has not been determined. Kamala Harris, the San Francisco district attorney, holds a razor-thin lead over Steve Cooley, her Los Angeles County counterpart, with some 680,000 votes remaining to be counted.

While the stakes are highest for California residents, the AG race is also being watched closely in legal circles nationwide, especially by people concerned about criminal justic policies and practices that have a harmful affect on communities of color. They support Harris’ efforts to address these issues.

As San Francisco’s chief prosecutor, Harris is among a current crop of elected black DAs who are transforming the way crime is addressed, suspects are prosecuted, and punishment is meted out. Her innovative approaches for being “Smart on Crime,” instead of simply “tough on crime” are have gained political currency for being thoughtful and pragmatic and are being borrowed by DAs around the country, particularly those in communities with large black, Latino or other minority populations.

Underlying Harris’ “smart” philosophy is a commitment to “preserving civil rights and ending cycles of repeat offenses,” which she expounds on in her 2009 book Smart on Crime. If she becomes California’s chief prosecutor, she could apply those innovations statewide and potentially turn the state into a national model for crime-fighting through novel prosecutorial practices. If she loses, she’s likely to have lasting influence nonetheless.

“One of the fundamental requirements in building a fair and just criminal justice system is ensuring that, from top to bottom, that system is representative of the communities it is mandated to protect,” Harris says in an e-mail statement. “I am proud to be in this new and growing group of African-American district attorneys. But as my mother always told me, while it’s an honor to be the first, it’s more important to make sure you’re not the last.

“For me, that means building a legacy around the adoption of smart criminal justice policy that focuses on back-end enforcement with strict accountability and swift consequences for serious and violent offenders, and crime prevention and early intervention on the front end.”

Addressing Racial Disparities

Harris, Craig Watkins of Dallas County, Texas, and Seth Williams of Philadelphia form a triumvirate of popular black DAs who work in large urban areas and have made headlines for their efforts to be more responsive to communities they serve and to address racial disparities in the legal system. Civil rights groups and others have long blamed these disparities for the disproportionate incarceration of people of color.

Though they are among the most visible, they are not the only black DAs taking innovative approaches to prosecuting crimes. David Soares, the district attorney of Albany County, N.Y., is often cited.

The ideas they are promoting are being taken up by some white prosecutors as well. For example, in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, DA John Chisholm’s office conducted extensive data analysis to identify whether some of its charging decisions had a racially disparate impact.

In the 2007 study, Chisholm collaborated closely with the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonpartisan research center that works with local, state and national officials to improve justice system policies and practices. When charges for possession of drug paraphernalia were analyzed, they found that black defendants were being charged, while whites were diverted to alternatives such as drug treatment programs. So Chisholm changed policy to require that prosecutors obtain prior approval before charging defendants with possession of drug paraphernalia instead of allowing them to participate in an alternative program.

Watkins’s Innocence Project

Still, Harris, Watkins, and Williams get much of the attention for their creativity in addressing high recidivism rates and charging and sentencing practices that historically punished minority defendants more harshly than white defendants.

Watkins has been lauded for his Conviction Integrity Unit, which has reviewed more than 400 convictions involving DNA evidence and discovered more than a dozen wrongful convictions. This approach is in stark contrast to that of many other Texas DAs as well as his own predecessors in Dallas.

The trio readily admits borrowing ideas from each other and from best practices elsewhere nationwide, and Williams and Watkins cite Harris as a role model. Like her, they have focused on the shortage of reentry programs that provide job training and socialization skills for inmates leaving prisons, intending to keep them from returning.

“They and other DAs are taking a more thoughtful approach to justice policies,” says Seema Gajwani, program officer for criminal and juvenile justice at the Washington, D.C.–based Public Welfare Foundation. “They’re interested in more thoughtful views of their role in the criminal justice system. Most district attorneys evaluate themselves on rates of convictions and lengths of sentences, but some of the newer prosecutors, especially those in urban areas, are thinking about the role of the prosecutor in pubic safety.”

It’s too early to tell whether these DAs’ actions are having a significant impact on prosecution rates, death penalty cases, sentencing guidelines and other legal processes that tend to be more punitive toward black and Hispanic defendants. But supporters say that over the long term, the new projects could become influential national models. In the interim, the DAs are making a difference in their jurisdictions.

“What it does demonstrate is the impact their voices and deeds can add to changing the dialogue that being tough on crime is certainly not as effective as being smart on crime,” says Wayne McKenzie, director of Vera’s Prosecution and Racial Justice Project. “While the former has contributed to making us the greatest incarcerator of our citizens in the world and to growing racial disparities, it’s the latter philosophy that will ultimately lead to improving public safety and addressing racial disparities.”

McKenzie, a former Brooklyn prosecutor and past president of the National Black Prosecutors Association (NBPA), says diversifying and increasing the ranks of prosecutors of color, particularly in supervisory positions that carry greater discretionary power, will have a more significant impact on fighting disparities and promoting equal justice than election of state AGs of color.

While the numbers of black DAs and AGs nationwide remains relatively small—about 40, according to the NBPA, not including U.S. attorneys who are White House appointees and work for the federal government, or staff prosecutors at the local, state, and federal levels—McKenzie says they can still have a significant impact.

“They’re demonstrating that with their actions right now,” he says, citing Watkins’ Integrity Control Unit, which is spawning similar projects in other DA’s offices, and Seth Williams’ use of data to influence evidence-based policy and decision making. “It’s all having benefits way beyond just looking at racial disparities.”

Harris, Watkins, Williams and others have acted with an eye toward reducing crime and increasing safety in communities from which lawbreakers come and to which they often return after release. They also work toward building trust and cooperation with communities that often feel abused and disrespected by district attorneys’ offices.

They support alternatives to incarceration for first-time, nonviolent offenders. These include drug treatment intervention programs that help defendants become clean, give them job training, require community service and, after successful completion of the program, remove charges from their records so they will be more likely to find jobs and less likely to continue criminal behavior.

Phillie’s Community-Based Prosecutions

Williams, for instance, uses a community-based prosecution model that assigns prosecutors to specific geographic areas so they can get to know community groups, clergy members, business associations and town watch groups, and track crime patterns geographically. The prosecutors also manage the same cases from start to finish.

“What we’re trying to do here is engage the public,” Williams says. “In a lot of communities, people do not see prosecutors as protectors of the community. They see them as oppressors of the community.” He wants Philadelphia residents to believe that his office is fair across the board, prosecuting people guilty of crimes “and that we’ll have the same standards of justice in every corner of Philadelphia no matter who your father was or what last name you have.”

Williams also created a repeat offender unit and is replicating Harris’ “Back on Track Initiative,” which defers sentences for first-time, nonviolent drug offenders who complete a court-supervised “intensive personal responsibility program.” The program includes job training, education, drug treatment and other services.

Williams says he has raised $1 million in private donations to start a Philadelphia version of the program, which he is calling “The Choice Is Yours.” He says the program will reduce recidivism rates by addressing illiteracy, addiction, lack of a high school diploma and mental or other underlying problems that may have contributed to criminal behavior.

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year signed a bill authorizing counties around California to establish their own Back on Track programs.

In July, the Public Welfare Foundation highlighted national attention and political currency being given to DAs’ innovative ideas by awarding a $165,000 grant to the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys to support an increase in “the participation of prosecuting attorneys in progressive criminal justice reform.

Civil rights groups are watching developments closely but remain unconvinced that these initiatives indicate an actual trend among traditional district attorneys’ offices, not just the isolated work of a few well-intentioned outliers.

“For many years, communities of color have been frustrated by the apparent willingness of prosecutors to turn a blind eye to the ways in which their exercise of discretion causes unjust racial disparities in charging and sentencing, improper systematic exclusion of African Americans and Latinos from service on criminal juries, and unconscionable wrongful convictions,” says Christina Swarns, director of the Criminal Justice Project of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund.

“These prosecutor offices that submit to legitimate and comprehensive analyses of the ways in which their policies do—and do not—effect equal justice and/or implement policies and procedures designed to ensure the fairness and transparency of its decision making process are taking a significant first step towards restoring community trust in law enforcement.”

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Police Identify Enfield Street Homicide Victim


HARTFORD — City police on Thursday identify the victim of a fatal shooting on Enfield Street.

The victim, Eric Kerr, 29, of 13 Enfield St., was shot outside his home, police said.

Police said Kerr’s shooter is a tall, black man wearing dark clothing and was seen running from the scene.

The investigation continues.

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