As we get closer to the midterms, one of the local offices that will be on a number of ballots is the position of district attorney. The focus on local races comes as criminal justice overhaul efforts have stalled on the federal level. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has vowed to aggressively prosecute nonviolent drug crimes, and President Donald Trump has praised policing tactics such as stop-and-frisk. The push to rethink criminal justice practices has been embraced by liberals and some conservatives, and polls show a majority of voters favor reducing the number of nonviolent drug offenders who are sent to prison. But disagreement remains about exactly how to revamp district attorney offices, which handle most criminal cases in the country. In the past, candidates running to be district attorney — if they were challenged at all — touted their toughness on crime. But now district attorneys' races have become more competitive, attracting large donations and challengers running on pledges to transform the criminal justice system. What is bringing about this change in perspective and approach, and could this be the beginning a turning point for prison reform? Starting in the late '70s and early '80s "tough on crime" was the mantra, and the one thing an elected official or candidate did not want to be called was "soft on crime," a la the infamous Willie Horton fiasco in 1988 with Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Is there a shift in the landscape occurring, and if so, how so?
Georgia election officials must stop rejecting absentee ballots and applications because of a mismatched signature without first giving voters a chance to fix the problem, a federal judge held late yesterday in a ruling that could impact the race for governor in a state where voting rights have become a major issue. US District Judge Leigh May ordered Secretary of State and Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp's office to instruct county election officials to stop the exact match practice for the November midterm elections. She outlined a procedure to allow voters to resolve alleged signature discrepancies. Is this the victory that many are claiming it is?
Google has released a new tool that makes deleting your search history easy right from your search page. They say it's an easy way to control your data. However, can users really control their own data, or is it still a smokescreen for Google to keep your information? Max Blumenthal, in a recent article, analyzes Facebook and Twitter deleting the accounts of hundreds of users, including many alternative media outlets maintained by American users, writing, "Among those wiped out in the coordinated purge were popular sites that scrutinized police brutality and US interventionism, like The Free Thought Project, Anti-Media and Cop Block, along with the pages of journalists like Rachel Blevins." The collection of information and censorship of media outlets could be leading to a bigger issue. Is this just the beginning, and how far will these big data companies go in controlling messages and playing the role of Big Brother?
Udi Ofer — Deputy national political director and director of the Campaign for Smart Justice for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Greg Palast — Author and award-winning investigative reporter featured in The Guardian, Nation Magazine, Rolling Stone Magazine, BBC and other high profile media outlets.
Chris Garaffa — Web developer and technologist.
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