The U.S. jails one out of every 223 people, according to information from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. U.S. state and federal prisons held approximately 1,505,400 prisoners in 2016, the latest year of statistics just released by the Bureau. This represented a slight decline from 2015, the third straight year of decline. Black prisoners saw the largest percentage drop at the end of 2016, capping a decade long decline. During the decade between 2006 and 2016, the rate of imprisonment decreased 29 percent for black adults, 15 percent for white adults and 20 percent for Hispanic adults. While 93% of prisoners were male, there were more than twice as many white females (48,900 prisoners) as black (20,300) or Hispanic (19,300) females in state and federal prison in 2016. Racial disparity was also observed among males. Black males ages 18 to 19 were 11.8 times more likely to be imprisoned than white males of the same age. Slightly more than half of state prisoners were serving sentences for violent offenses at year-end 2015. About 47 percent of federal prisoners had been sentenced for drug offenses as of September 30, 2016.
Fifty years ago today, the United States Supreme Court struck down laws prohibiting interracial couples from marrying. In Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (6/12/67), a unanimous Supreme Court, in a decision written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, invalidated a Virginia law that provided "if any white person intermarry with a colored person, or any colored person intermarry with a white person, he shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by confinement in the penitentiary for not less than one nor more than five years."
The Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals had upheld the statute, stating that its purpose was "‘to preserve the racial integrity of its citizens,’ and to prevent ‘the corruption of blood,’ ‘a mongrel breed of citizens,’ and ‘the obliteration of racial pride.’" The U.S. Supreme Court called this rationale an obvious "endorsement of the doctrine of White Supremacy." In declaring the Virginia law unconstitutional, the Supreme Court stated that "there can be no question but that Virginia's miscegenation statutes rest solely upon distinctions drawn according to race. The statutes proscribe generally accepted conduct if engaged in by members of different races. Over the years, this Court has consistently repudiated ‘(d)istinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry’ as being ‘odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality.’" Rejecting various arguments advanced by the State of Virginia, the Supreme Court insisted that "there is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies" the classifications set out by the Virginia law.
Social attitudes have changed in the 50 years since this landmark decision. Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, the respected Pew Research Center finds that 17 percent of couples marrying in 2015 included spouses of different races or ethnicity.
Read the relatively brief but forceful entire decision of the Supreme Court here.
Robert Mueller's appointment as Special Counsel to the Justice Department is limited to investigating Russia's involvement in the campaign of President Trump. The Special Counsel reports to the Deputy Attorney General and his authority is restricted by the order appointing him. We outlined the laws relating to an appointment of a special counsel here. The Order appointing former FBI Director Mueller restricts his authority to investigating "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump," and related matters. The actual order may be viewed here.
You can view President Trump's proposed budget plan here. The budget plan is billed as "A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again." The path this blueprint charts includes cutting funding for the Chemical Safety Board, an independent federal agency investigating chemical accidents to protect workers, the public and the environment, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which consumed 0.012 percent of 2016 federal expenditures. The proposed budget also eliminates funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Also set to lose federal funding is the Legal Services Corporation, an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Legal Services Corporation provides funding to 133 independent non-profit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories. The proposed budget also cuts funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, which only receives $148 million from the government, or .004 percent of federal spending. Almost half of the NEA budget goes to state arts programs. The budget also eliminates the National Endowment for the Humanities, which was established in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson. Another program proposed for elimination is Sea Grant, a 50 year old government program whose mission is to provide research and education programs to coastal communities that lead to the responsible use of the nation’s ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources. Last year, Sea Grant supported coastal communities and over 20,000 jobs.
Under federal law, a "special prosecutor" is known as a "special counsel," and is warranted in a federal criminal investigation when the Attorney General determines "(a) That investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney's Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances; and (b) That under the circumstances, it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter." This law may be found at 28 C.F.R. § 600.1. In all cases, the Attorney General determines the areas to be investigated by the Special Counsel. 28 C.F.R. § 600.4. The Special Counsel is not subject to day-to-day supervision of the Department of Justice, but the Attorney General may review all activity by the Special Counsel, to determine if the Special Counsel's actions are " inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices." 28 C.F.R. § 600.7.
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