The Marshall Project
Opening Statement
December 20, 2021
Edited by Andrew Cohen
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Pick of the News

TMP“You can walk around and see the change in people.” The men on death row in a Texas prison turn their dials eagerly to 106.5FM The Tank. It’s a low-wattage operation the prisoners can hear on the radios many have in their cells. The men say it has connected the prisoners to one another; the warden says it was a low-risk experiment that has exceeded expectations. The programming extends to all the 3,000 men in the prison, but provides special daily comfort and company to the condemned men in solitary confinement. In collaboration with The Guardian, TMP’s Keri Blakinger has our story. The Marshall Project

The longest sentence yet for a Capitol rioter. A federal judge on Friday sentenced Robert Palmer to 63 months in prison for his role in the January insurrection. The Florida man was seen on surveilance video attacking U.S. Capitol police with a fire extinguisher while wearing an American flag sweatshirt emblazoned with the words: “Donald Trump.” HuffPost Related: A Capitol rioter who bragged that “infamy is just as good as fame” was also sentenced Friday– to one month in prison for joining the mob on Jan. 6th. Gracyn Courtright, a college student, started crying in court as she read her pre-sentence statement. HuffPost

A push for unity loses its energy. Black and Asian American community leaders agree that much more needs to be done to limit hate-crime violence and fix ineffective policing in their neighborhoods. But they continue to disagree on how to achieve those goals. They divide over whether more or fewer police are the answer. Asian Americans are the least likely to be harmed in police encounters; nearly 200 Black people were killed by police last year. The New York Times TMP Context: Police data in New York fails to accurately account for hate crimes against elderly Asians. The Marshall Project

40 Biden judges in the first 11 months. The Senate early Saturday voted to confirm 10 more federal judges nominated by President Joe Biden, bringing the 2021 total to 40. That’s the most since the Reagan administration and twice as many as former president Donald Trump got confirmed in 2017. Among them were the first Muslim-American federal judge and the first openly lesbian federal appeals court judge. The New York Times Thirty of the judges are women; many are former public defenders. CNN Now comes the hard part; successfully nominating judges from states with two Republican senators. The Washington Post

The Battle of Austin, Texas. Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza had no experience as a prosecutor when he was elected as a reformist last year. He moved in his first year to hold local police more accountable for episodes of brutality and other misconduct. Garza has also moved swiftly to change attitudes inside his own office and those efforts, too, have caused upheaval. Nineteen prosecutors have quit since Garza took office, in many cases openly criticizing the quick pace of the reforms. The Washington Post


Police in Boston, Massachusetts, used money obtained from civilians through broad civil forfeiture laws on controversial surveillance technology that allowed them to track cell phone locations and usage. WBUR

Survivors of sexual assault in Louisiana are frequently denied access to their own medical records, even years after they are attacked, under rules that allow police and prosecutors to shield that information with little justification. Louisiana Illuminator

Arizona prison officials blame the private company providing health care services inside the state’s prisons for systemic failures to adequately care for and treat prisoners. Last week a company executive blamed state corrections officials for denying their requests for more staff. Arizona Republic

The rise in gun violence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, poses a particular threat to young students at the Juvenile Justice Services Center School. Nearly 100 students at that school were shot in the academic year that ended in April 2021. Chalkbeat

Water “with a brown tinge.” Advocates say that prisoners inside the Stateville Correctional Center in Illinois aren’t getting enough clean, safe water to meet their basic needs. Prison officials say supply-chain problems are forcing them to take drastic measures. Injustice Watch


Preview of coming attractions. As the Capitol Riot committee proceeds, House Republicans threaten retribution against Democrats if the 2022 midterm elections go their way. The New Republic More: “Conservative media leaders were in a genuine panic—not so much over the threat to our democracy and the lives of legislators, but over the consequences of the incident to the conservative movement and to Trumpism itself.” The Washington Monthly

For elderly, ailing prisoners, the lights go out in Georgia. The Georgia parole board has almost unlimited power and uses it mercilessly, often without meaningful evaluation, to deprive worthy parole candidates of relief. Inquest

When 311 calls go unheeded. What’s the point of having a government services hotline in New York City if the NYPD is just going to blow it off? The Atlantic

Second Amendment, second thoughts. California Gov. Gavin Newsom isn’t going far enough with his threat to enact a state law allowing private citizens to sue gun makers for the damage done by gun violence. Los Angeles Times

Massachusetts’ parole board remains shrouded in secrecy. There are no requirements to record hearings for prisoners serving non-life sentences. Counsel for prisoners aren’t allowed to attend and usually the reasons for denying parole are withheld from public view. Dig Boston TMP Context: Probation and parole in a time of the coronavirus. The Marshall Project


When QAnon comes for your teenage daughter. An Internet mob of conspiracy theorists, wedded to the unfounded claim that Donald Trump was saving the nation from a Satanic cult of pedophiles, mistakenly turned its attention to a 13-year-old girl whose image popped up on an online Wayfair advertisement. She wasn’t missing or endangered, the company had nothing to do with her, and the kerfuffle caused officials fighting actual child sex trafficking to devote precious resources to tracking down the scam. The Washington Post

Did solitary confinement ever end at the Rikers Island jail in New York? Now the new mayor says he will bring it back. Gothamist TMP Context: Rikers doesn’t put teenagers in solitary but other New York jails do. The Marshall Project More: Officials say they want to close the infamous jail. So far no one has. Will Eric Adams be different? The New York Times

The beginnings of an apology from a very successful (former) gunseller. Ryan Busse’s new book, “Gunfight,” chronicles the new radicalism of the gun rights movement. The New York Times

It’s legal. And it’s unfair. Philadelphia took $5 million in social security payments from foster children without telling them. Philadelphia Inquirer TMP Context: How (and why) foster care agencies take millions from children. The Marshall Project

Just said no. Drug and alcohol use among teenagers declined sharply in 2021, a new national survey concluded last week. USA Today

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