Ending the Rape Kit Backlog: What’s the Price of a Survivor’s Peace of Mind?

A nationwide investigation spearheaded by USA Today has found that at least 70,000 rape kits sit untested in laboratories around the country. While Detroit and other cities have made headlines for their determination to clear rape kit backlogs (in Detroit’s case, only after the Department of Justice found its police department guilty of “negative, victim-blaming beliefs” in 2008) this […]

What You Won’t See on Orange Is the New Black

When I heard that Piper Kerman wrote the book Orange is the New Black about her experience at the Danbury, Connecticut federal prison camp, I was excited. I served part of my 15-year sentence with her and I found the book an accurate snapshot of Danbury FPC. (Full disclosure: I am “Esposito” in Piper’s book.) […]

Angela Davis’s Legacy of Collective Solidarity

“The masculinist mode of representing history makes it so that, too often, credit is not given where it’s due.” These words—among an impassioned treasure-trove of others—were delivered by longtime political activist, radical queer feminist, writer and scholar Angela Davis this past Monday night. On the 43rd anniversary of her release from prison following her acquittal […]

The Nation’s Police Have a Sex-Discrimination Problem

The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson, Missouri police officer last month prompted the Department of Justice to launch an investigation into Ferguson’s policing practices. (This investigation comes on the heels of a separate federal probe into the killing of Brown). The new investigation will look at departmental practices that may have […]

How Prison Killed Sex Worker Marcia Powell

In 2009, filmmaker PJ Starr received an email from a friend bringing news of the horrific and unnecessary death of Marcia Powell. Powell had been serving a 27-month sentence for solicitation of prostitution. While in Perryville Prison outside of Phoenix, corrections officers left her out in a metal cage for four hours in searing heat. As a […]

“Orange Is The New Black”: Taking Privilege to Task

Netflix’s brilliant new original series, Orange is the New Black, stars Taylor Schilling as TV’s most unlikely convicted felon. Piper Chapman is a white, upper-middle class, Smith-educated fish-out-of-water in the suffocating air of a low-security women’s prison. During an excruciating visit with her daughter, Piper’s mother tells her, Sweetheart, you’re nothing like any of these women. […]

Supreme Court Punts on Affirmative Action Case

At the beginning of a wild week of decision-making, the Supreme Court stalled on affirmative action Monday, ruling 7-1 in favor of sending Abigail Fisher’s case back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for further examination. By re-directing Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case back to the lower court, SCOTUS avoided taking […]

NEWSFLASH: Judge Condemns Obama Policy on Plan B

UPDATE 5/13/13: Cutting it close to deadline, the Obama administration has filed an appeal to delay sale of emergency contraception over the counter to all ages. Stay tuned. UPDATE 5/10/13: Judge Korman refused to put on hold his order to make EC available over the counter to all ages. He has extended the implementation of his […]

Missoula Isn’t the Only Site of Rape Culture

[TRIGGER WARNING: This story discusses sexual assault and rape culture.] The police department, county prosecutor’s office and university in my hometown of Missoula, Montana, are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. Allegedly, they have failed to correctly handle sexual assault cases, so 80 reported rapes from the past three years will be reviewed. […]

Who’s Watching the Detectives?

Since President Obama took office, the Department of Justice has emerged as a formidable force in holding police accountable. The Department of Justice has initiated 18 investigations into police activities since 2009, including in New Orleans; Seattle; Newark, N.J.; Portland, Ore.; and, of course, in Sanford, Fla., after the tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin. […]