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Your Guide to Meaningful Action

Demand an End to Child Labor

The hands of kids working in tobacco fields

It's not allowed to happen in Russia, or in Kazakhstan—but in the United States, children as young as twelve are allowed to toil on tobacco farms, performing backbreaking work and putting their health and lives at risk. As Gabriel Thompson and Mariya Strauss document in The Nation, agricultural work is dangerous: on top of exposure to heavy pesticides and the possibility of acute nicotine poisoning, young workers are vulnerable to hazards involving farm vehicles, grain silos and manure pits.

The Children's Act for Responsible Employment (CARE Act), introduced by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard but blocked by the GOP-controlled Education and Workforce Committee, would bring child labor standards in line with protections in other industries and increase civil penalties for abuse. The measure faces stiff opposition, but the exploitation of children, in the final telling, should be impossible to defend.

TO DO

Join The Nation in calling for an end to child labor in agriculture. Contact your representatives and demand they fight to bring the CARE Act up for a vote. Then tweet at Representative John Kline (@repjohnkline), chair of the Education and Workforce Committee, and demand his committee act to fight this gross injustice.

TO READ

In the latest issue of The Nation, Gabriel Thompson sheds light on the hazards faced by children working in tobacco fields, while Mariya Strauss documents the ways in which lax regulations have put kids' lives in danger.

TO WATCH

In Fingers to the Bone: Child Farmworkers in the United States, Human Rights Watch takes a close look at the lives of the kids the CARE Act would seek to protect..

Demand Justice for Renisha McBride

Renisha McBride

In the early hours of November 2, Renisha McBride, a 19-year-old black woman from Detroit, was in a car accident in the largely white city of Dearborn Heights. When she sought help by knocking on someone’s door, she was shot in the face and killed.

As McBride’s family grapples with her death and searches for answers, the man who killed her has yet to be charged with any crime. He has said both that he felt threatened and that the gun went off accidentally, and it’s possible, in a case reminiscent of the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, that he will invoke Michigan’s version of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. The law, called the “Self-Defense Act,” could protect him from criminal prosecution if he believed that he was in danger, however wrongheaded or rooted in racial bias that belief may have been.

TO DO

Sign ColorofChange.org’s petition demanding that Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and Dearborn Heights Police Chief Lee Gavin conduct a full investigation and bring the killer to justice.

TO READ

As The Nation’s Mychal Denzel Smith points out, “We have been here before.”

TO WATCH

In her powerful video, dream hampton highlights the calls for justice in the wake of Renisha McBride’s death.

Stop Congress From Handing a Windfall to the Private Prison Industry

Corrections Corporation of America

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the biggest private prison company in the country, earned $1.7 billion last year from locking people up. If immigration reform goes badly, they could make even more.

This summer, the House Judiciary Committee passed the SAFE Act (HR 2278), a toxic measure that would transform millions of undocumented immigrants into criminals overnight. No longer a civil violation, not having papers would become a felony punishable by months or years in a US prison. Companies like CCA would reap huge profits off the changes—nearly half of all people in immigration detention are locked in private jails and prisons.

TO DO

There’s still time to stop this destructive legislation. Tell Speaker John Boehner not to bring the SAFE Act to the House floor.

TO WATCH

Our latest Prison Profiteers video, produced in partnership with the ACLU and Beyond Bars, sheds light on the role CCA plays in growing our already bloated criminal justice system.

TO READ

Jesse Lava from Beyond Bars and Sarah Solon from the ACLU detail some of the horrifying results of CCA’s profit-hungry policies: prisoner suicides, institutions without running water and draconian laws passed expressly to put even more people behind bars.

Legalize Marijuana

A marijuana plant

Despite growing support for legalization and the lack of any clear scientific evidence of marijuana’s health hazards, police departments in the United States make an average of almost 700,000 arrests for marijuana per year. Prohibition has a particularly devastating effect on communities of color; there are racial disparities in pot arrests in nearly all cities and states and the eleven states with the highest disparity arrest black people at six times the rate of whites.

Congress can start to change this by taking up a bill introduced by Dana Rohrabacher that would prevent the federal government from continuing to prosecute citizens who are acting in accordance with their state’s marijuana laws.

TO DO

Join The Nation in calling on Congress to begin to pave the way for nationwide legalization of marijuana.

TO READ

In The Nation’s special issue on marijuana, editor Katrina vanden Heuvel sums up the only sensible way forward in our country’s approach to a drug that our three most recent presidents—along with 40 percent of Americans—admit to using.

TO WATCH

Last weekend, Nation contributors Dr. Carl Hart and Laura Flanders joined Melissa Harris-Perry to discuss the growing support for legalization and the importance of putting race at the center of the fight against prohibition.

Tell President Obama: Pardon Prisoners and Commute Unjust Sentences

A hand behind bars

While the Obama administration has fallen short on many of the policy changes needed to end the “war on drugs,” there’s one tool at the administrative’s disposal that could have a sweeping and immediate impact: the pardon power. Although Attorney General Eric Holder has called on federal prosecutors to avoid mandatory minimums, which require automatic sentences for certain crimes and take away judges’ power to consider individual circumstances, prosecutors continue to pursue them and offenders continue to serve decades-long sentences for nonviolent drug crimes.

TO DO

Join The Nation in calling on President Obama to pardon or commute the sentences of federal prisoners serving excessive sentences for nonviolent drug crimes.

TO READ

In our special issue on marijuana, Harry Levine, a sociology professor and co-director of the Marijuana Arrests Research Project, sheds light on the stark racial disparity in marijuana arrests in the United States.

TO WATCH

Members of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, which has been at the forefront of fighting harsh sentencing in the “war on drugs,” describe the often heartbreaking impact of mass incarceration on their lives.

Stop Policing for Profit

Police tape

Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police can take people’s money and property without even making an arrest. They just have to suspect the assets are tied in some way to illicit activity and, in many cases, they can keep the profits without an indictment, much less a conviction.

Some states are working to stop this type of abuse. But thanks to a statutory loophole called “equitable sharing,” state police can still take people’s money and property under federal law and pocket up to 80 percent of the proceeds.

TO DO

Help end policing for profit. Tell the Department of Justice to stop cops from using federal law to ignore stronger state level forfeiture protections.

TO WATCH

The latest video from Prison Profiteers, The Nation’s partnership with the ACLU and Beyond Bars, sheds light on the astonishing abuse of civil asset forfeiture and the organizations that have fought hard to prevent much needed changes.

TO READ

Sarah Solon of the ACLU and Jesse Lava of Beyond Bars describe how civil asset forfeiture has lead to people losing cash, cars and even their homes. In an award-winning and shocking investigative report in The New Yorker last year, Sarah Stillman became the first journalist to expose the use and abuse of civil forfeiture laws.

Meet the Company That Makes Huge Profits From Locking Up Immigrants

A prisoner

Private prison companies like the GEO Group pull in millions of dollars a year locking up immigrants in federal custody. If Congress passes draconian new immigration legislation, they stand to profit enormously.

This summer, the House Judiciary Committee passed the SAFE Act (HR 2278), a toxic measure that would transform millions of undocumented immigrants into criminals overnight. No longer a civil violation, not having papers would become a felony punishable by months or years in a US prison. The legislation would also dramatically expand the civil immigration detention system. Companies like GEO Group would reap huge profits off the changes—nearly half of all people in immigration detention are locked in private jails and prisons.

TO DO

There’s still time to stop this destructive legislation. Tell Speaker John Boehner not to bring the SAFE Act to the House floor.

TO WATCH

In our latest Prison Profiteers video, produced in partnership with the ACLU and Beyond Bars, criminal justice advocates and former inmates detail the appalling conditions at GEO Group facilities around the country.

TO READ

The Nation’s Liliana Segura gives an overview of the massive scope of the crisis of companies profiting off of mass incarceration: “With 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States,” she writes, “prisons are big business.”

Should It Cost Less to Get Out of Jail if You’re Rich?

From 1992 to 2006, the average bail amount for people who are detained more than doubled from $39,800 to $89,900. Bail in the United States has become so expensive that eight in ten people would have to pay over a full year’s wages just to make the average amount.

Of course, most people don’t have that kind of money lying around. This is where the commercial bail industry steps in. Loans from bondsmen allow pretrial defendants to stay out of jail, but with a catch: the bondsmen keep a nonrefundable fee of around ten percent, even if the defendant is found innocent.

There are better systems; in fact, the United States is one of only two countries that use commercial bail. But any changes would entail fighting the American Bail Coalition, a powerful lobbying group that spends millions of dollars fortifying the bail industry.

TO WATCH

Our new Prison Profiteers video, produced in partnership with the ACLU and Beyond Bars, sheds light on the bail bondsmen, insurance companies and wealthy investors behind the skyrocketing cost of bail in the United States—and the devastating effect their lobbying has on prisoners and their families.

TO DO

The commercial bail industry isn’t alone in profiting off mass incarceration. Visit our Prison Profiteers action page to learn about other profiteers and to find out how you can fight back.

TO READ

The Nation’s Liliana Segura gives an overview of the massive scope of the crisis of companies profiting off mass incarceration: “With 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States,” she writes, “prisons are big business.”

President Obama Nominates Janet Yellen to Head the Federal Reserve

Janet Yellen
Janet Yellen, vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve Bank, speaks at the Economic Club of New York (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

In a ceremony scheduled for 3 pm today, President Obama will nominate Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve. If appointed, she will become the first woman ever to hold the post, a considerable accomplishment in a field that has remained stubbornly male-dominated. Her nomination comes after President Obama’s presumed first pick, Larry Summers, withdrew from consideration amid intense opposition to his appointment. The former Treasury secretary’s support of the deregulation policies that lead to the financial crisis—The Nation’s William Greider said that his appointment would be akin to “rewarding the same guys who got things disastrously wrong for the country”—and comments implying women were naturally less apt in science and math lead progressive and women’s rights organizations to mount a successful fight against his nomination.

The Nation played a role in this campaign, joining groups such as the National Organization for Women and Daily Kos, as well as a number of Democratic senators. We began with a petition demanding that the president reject Summers, then followed it up with one calling on him to “Break Up the Old Boys’ Club” and appoint Yellen. All together, we garnered over 10,000 signatures, many from readers who expressed disappointment that a president they fought to get elected would appoint someone so closely aligned with the policies that crashed our economy.

Supporters of Yellen’s nomination have expressed hope that she will make addressing our unemployment crisis a top priority and have noted her prescience in raising concerns about the housing bubble before many were aware of the danger. Still, others have pointed out that her policies skew close to those of the centrist wing of Democratic party—in the 1990s, she backed the repeal of Glass-Steagall, advocated for cutting Social Security through Chained-CPI and supported the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In a blog post responding to Summers’ decision to withdraw his name from consideration, Greider pointed out that Yellen “well understands that much deeper change must be considered to get the US economy back in balance” and summed up the significance of the role progressives had already played in the nomination process:

But the defeat of Larry Summers tells the White House and this president they had better start listening to the restless reformers on the left of the party. Senators and progressive Democrats in the House have serious ideas for reform. Having won this pivotal victory, they are sure to push for larger goals. Instead of running away from the liberal-labor progressives, Obama’s presidency should put an arm around them.

Janet Yellen’s nomination speaks well to the president’s commitment to addressing the nation’s unemployment crisis. Now progressives must keep the pressure on the administration to fight for an economy that works for all of us.

Meet the Medical Company Making $1.4 Billion a Year Off Sick Prisoners

The healthcare provider Corizon makes an estimated $1.4 billion off sick prisoners every year. With profits like those, you would think it was actually treating prisoners. But in states that are using Corizon to provide healthcare in their prisons—and right now twenty-nine are—medical neglect and abuse run rampant.

As Liliana Segura reported in her introduction to the Prison Profiteers series, Corizon’s attitude toward the debilitating virus Hepatitis C is especially alarming: They just don’t treat it. “The result could be deadly,” Segura writes,

Last year alone, no fewer than seven sick prisoners died at Metro Corrections, a jail in Louisville, Kentucky, while on Corizon’s watch. The company made headlines when six employees quit their jobs, according to local press, “amid an investigation by the jail that found that the workers ‘may’ have contributed” to two of the deaths. This summer, it was announced that the contract between Corizon and the city would not be renewed.

TO WATCH

In our new Prison Profiteers video, produced in partnership with the ACLU and Beyond Bars, prisoners’ family members describe the horrendous treatment that their loved ones received in institutions that use Corizon.

TO DO

Corizon isn’t the only company profiting off mass incarceration. Visit our Prison Profiteers action page to learn about other profiteers and find out how you can fight back.

TO READ

The Nation’s Liliana Segura gives an overview of the massive scope of the crisis of companies profiting off mass incarceration: “With 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States,” she writes, “prisons are big business.”

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