An Examination of Compensation Following Wrongful Convictions

(Source) As mass incarceration continues to plague the United States criminal justice system, improved technology and evidence-gathering techniques seek to identify and exonerate the wrongfully convicted. Those accused of a crime may be wrongfully convicted for a variety of reasons such as eyewitness misidentifications, coerced false confessions, faulty forensics science, incompetent public defenders, and suppression of important evidence by prosecuting attorneys. Organizations such as The Innocence Project have been instrumental in helping to uncover cases of previous wrongful convictions. The increase in exonerations such as with the Central Park 5 (recently renamed the Exonerated 5) brings into focus the issue of compensation for errors in convictions that result in an innocent person time in prison for crimes he or she did not commit. In order to properly examine the issue, it is necessary to first evaluate the current system that is in place on the federal and state levels. In 2004, Congress passed the Justice for All Act which guarantees individuals exonerated of federal crimes $50,000 for every year they spent in prison and $100,000 for every year they spent on death row. This Act specifically delineates the federal compensation scheme; however, from state to state, the exonerated individuals do [read more]

Policy Reflection: Should We Affirm Affirmative Action?

(Source)   “Life is a marathon, but minority runners often start the race from further back than do whites.” Do you agree or disagree with this quote? How about in the context of higher education? It is no secret that increasing diversity in higher education is a goal for many educational institutions. Affirmative action is one of the main avenues for institutions to strive to achieve this goal. Affirmative action refers to policies that stem from the idea that certain disadvantaged groups should receive preferential treatment based on race and sex. It has been a long-time practice in the higher education admissions process to use affirmative action to help those disadvantaged groups progress educationally and professionally. There are varying views on whether we should consider affirmative action as a form of discrimination, as well as whether it is an unfair practice. Those in favor of affirmative action believe that it helps to ensure that minorities and women have equal access to a college education. Advocates make the argument that this practice benefits campuses and universities because all students will learn “to interact with and respect people who are different from you, skills that are essential to living and working in [read more]

Leaving the Kids Table: Giving Labor a More Prominent Place at the Bargaining Table

(Source)   Since the late 1950’s the National Labor Relations Act has not seen any significant changes, allowing laws that were meant to govern a very different time period to remain as the bedrock of collective bargaining. Today, unionization rates demonstrate the challenges that unions are facing, with only 10.5% of the American workforce being represented by unions. It is time to approach collective bargaining from a new vantage point, in order to strengthen workers’ voices and ensure a more equal balance of power between labor and management.  One concept that has begun to gain national attention during the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries is the idea of sectoral bargaining.  As more candidates support sectoral bargaining and push to reimagine the system under which workers collectively bargaining with their employers, a strong case can be made for a drastic change to federal labor laws.  Following in the footsteps of many other industrialized nations, sectoral bargaining would enhance political and economic equality, while giving labor a more prominent seat at the negotiation table. Sectoral bargaining allows workers to bargain with employers within an entire industry, while also allowing elected officials to have a seat at the bargaining table.  Workers choose a union [read more]

National Labor Relations Board Gives Graduate Student Unions Whiplash

(Source)   As the unionization rate in America continues to decline, union leadership has been searching for new industries, groups, and workplaces in which they might have success with unionization campaigns.  One sector of employees that unions have been exploring is graduate students.  While the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) has swapped positions on allowing graduate students to organize over the last few decades, unions have continued to work towards ensuring that teaching assistants and research assistants have the opportunity for their voices to be heard through the collective bargaining process.  Graduate students face a variety of issues in the workplace.  As students struggle to grade papers, teach classes, perform research, and ensure the education of undergraduate students is fulfilling, the working conditions are rarely ideal.  Although compensated, many have argued that graduate students performing this type of work are only performing part of their academic duty, which allows them to graduate with their degrees.  Yet, graduate students are hard-working employees, who are employed by the universities that they attend to perform specific job functions. Recently, the NLRB, under the Trump administration, has sought to codify a new regulation that would recognize graduate students as students rather than actual employees; [read more]

Student-Athletes Getting #Sponsored?: A Look at the NCAA’s Vote to Modernize Name, Image, and Likeness Bylaws

(Source)   On Tuesday, October 29, the governing board of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) voted unanimously to begin the process of “modernizing” their bylaws to allow student-athletes the opportunity to benefit monetarily from the use of their name, image, and likeness. The decision comes after years of discussion by NCAA officials and the formation of an official “working group” to evaluate the issue in May of this year. Recent legislative pressure from numerous states likely forced the NCAA’s hand in making this decision. On September 30, California Governor Gavin Newsom passed SB 206, the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” which directly contradicts the current bylaws of NCAA by allowing college student-athletes to profit off of their name, image, and likeness. New York, Illinois, and Florida have proposed similar legislation and more than a dozen states have expressed interest in creating similar laws in recent months. This state-by-state approach not only complicates and confuses the NCAA’s application of its own rules and exceptions for member universities, it brings about concerns related to fund distribution, recruiting, and sponsorship. Additionally, some of the proposed legislation threatens to blur the line between collegiate and professional programs. The NCAA’s decision to amend its [read more]

Proposed New York Legislation Could Be A Novel Way To Address The Decline In Local Journalism

(Source)   More than 1,300 communities in the US have totally lost local news coverage, according to a University of North Carolina School of Media and Journalism study from late 2018. This nationwide decline in local journalism hit two New York State legislators close to home when Verizon announced that it was closing the doors on Fios1, a “hyper-local” network that covers the Hudson Valley, Long Island, and New Jersey. This move by Verizon will not only leave constituents without local TV news, it will also cause 150 of the network’s employees to lose their jobs. In response to this, Senator Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown) and Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti (D-Westchester) introduced Senate Bill S6784 and Assembly Bill A8662, which would require any cable company operating in the state to carry an independently produced local news channel. The bills define “local news channel” as “a channel which is dedicated to the category of locally produced programming, including but not limited to, news, weather and public affairs programming.” Additionally, the bills specify that the channel must be independently produced, and do not allow for providers to rebroadcast another local news station. This would require providers to create new news stations if they are [read more]

Bailing Out: How Bail Reform Can Change the Mass Incarceration Landscape

(Source)   Every year, millions of people presumed innocent are held in prison awaiting trial. For some, this may mean days. For others, years. Khalief Browder, for instance, was a sixteen-year-old held on bail for three years. Two years after his release, he committed suicide. Khalief never stood trial, nor was he ever found guilty of any crime. Khalief’s story sparked an outcry in the United States for bail reform. Throughout the United States, there is broad consensus that the system of pretrial detention is unjust. Scholars agree that the system disadvantages minorities, particularly poorer communities and communities of color. Though reformers have identified these several problem areas, there have not been substantial unified efforts to change the system. Current reform efforts center on creating bail funds, eliminating cash bail on a state level, and furthering national research on the best courses of action for the future. This post outlines the current state of bail systems, their impact, and current reform efforts.   The Evolution of Bail in the United States Money bail has its roots in early Anglo-Saxon history. Bail was used as a means to peacefully settle disputes. The accused was required to find someone, called a surety, [read more]

Over A Year Without Net Neutrality: Do We Really Need It?

(Source)   July marked one full year since net neutrality regulations were repealed. Net neutrality is often defined as “the idea, principle, or requirement that internet service providers should or must treat all internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination.” Internet service providers (“ISPs”) are companies that provide internet access to customers, such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast. The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), the administrative agency charged with regulating communications by wire, radio, television, and cable, first voted to repeal net neutrality regulations in December of 2017. This decision was met with extensive backlash from state attorney generals, public interest groups, and Democratic lawmakers. Regardless of this response, the FCC pushed forward and officially repealed all net neutrality regulations in July of 2018. FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, has argued that net neutrality limits ISP innovation and compromises the agency’s independence. Widespread speculation has contested that Mr. Pai’s far right political views and favoritism of big corporations is the true motive behind this repeal. However, Mr. Pai and the FCC maintain that consumers are better off without these regulations because ISPs will be able to upgrade and expand their services faster. Public outcry from Democratic lawmakers [read more]

Taking a Chance: Loot Boxes in Video Games and the Issue of Gambling

(Source)   Loot boxes in video games are a controversial topic that has many people split on whether we should consider this in-game feature as a form of gambling. Many regard loot boxes as a “gambling-like” mechanic, which raises the concern of conditioning gamers, specifically underage gamers, to develop a gambling problem. Some video games use microtransactions in a way that allows gamers to use real-world money to purchase a guaranteed in-game item of their choosing. However, many popular video games use loot boxes, such as Overwatch. Gamers can earn loot boxes through gameplay or by purchasing them with real-world money. When opened, these loot boxes generate random in-game rewards such as virtual characters, skins, and equipment. Despite a gamer having the ability to unlock loot boxes by merely playing the game, there is concern over the purchasing aspect (with real money) of loot boxes. There is no guarantee of getting specific items when opening loot boxes due to their randomized system, and individuals can spend lots of money without ever receiving the item they want. There are instances in which children have spent a large amount of money trying to get prizes in games. In 2011, an 8-year-old spent [read more]

Unions Should Not Back Down “Just-Cause” They are Afraid of Change

(Source)   Over  the last few decades, union membership has continued to decline within the United States. As of 2018, union membership among all workers in the United States was 10.5%, a far cry from the 34.8% of workers who were represented by unions at their peak in 1954.  While places like New York and California continue to demonstrate a strong union presence, other areas of the country have not.  However, while union membership remains low, there is growing public support, as 62% of Americans approve of labor unions. At a time when union support is at a decade high, why is union membership so low? A variety of factors have contributed to the decline of union membership.  One factor contributing to this phenomenon is that as the job market continues to change, there are fewer manufacturing jobs and more service-based job opportunities in areas like retail, healthcare, and hospitality.  These growing sectors are historically less likely to be unionized, compared to the manufacturing sector, which has always maintained a high union membership rate.  Additionally, even when companies are creating new manufacturing jobs, the factories are typically built in non-union friendly states. Second, right-to-work states have contributed to the downfall [read more]
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