YPP Network Description

The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

Blog
  • Facebook, Reddit and what “social media” means

    by Ethan


    I have a brief piece on The Atlantic’s website today that contrasts Facebook and Reddit in terms of how they build online communities and direct their users to new content. I argue that Reddit, with the assumption of anonymity and an organization around topics and sections has some resemblance to the Internet of the 1980 and 90s, while Facebook has changed the shape of internet communities, demanding real-name registration and building online social networks that mirror our offline networks. By paying attention to social media communities that work along the Reddit model as well as those that follow the Facebook model, I hope that people can increase their cognitive diversity and expose themselves to a wider range of ideas, opinions and perspectives.
    My friend Anthea Watson Strong pointed out on Twitter that Reddit is an odd example to use when talking about cognitive diversity. It has a reputation for being white, male, young and American… and that reputation is not unjustified. (This study of US Reddit users by Pew’s Internet and American Life Project suggests that the audience is broader and larger than we might think – in particular, I was surprised to see the large reach with Latino youth.) In Rewire, I spend a decent amount of time beating myself up for my Reddit habit, pointing to my tendency to return to the site as an example of seeking out familiar, comfortable voices rather than seeking diversity.
    So why the praise for Reddit? I’m not trying to argue that Reddit is superior to Facebook, or that Reddit is the solution to problems of increasing cognitive diversity. But Reddit is a good example of a site that’s reached a large audience by using a different model of community than Facebook’s model of real-name, real-world network community. Other examples include Twitter (which features asymmetric following, no assumption of real name, and support for topic-based organization through lists), and Wikipedia (which features communities based around common practice and collaboration and a citizenship model for participation).
    My argument isn’t even against Facebook’s ordering of community, though I think it reinforces homophily effects that plague offline communities. It’s for people building new internet tools to consider the idea that there are multiple ways of building an online community, and that different communities have different strengths and weaknesses. The people you meet by exploring a common topic is different than the group of people you meet by migrating your offline social network online. I worry that when we talk about “social media”, we talk too much about networks that work like Facebook and not enough about networks that work like Reddit or like Wikipedia. In particular, I see a lot of tools that are using social networks to customize search and use only a narrow definition of social network to look for recommendations and inspirations.
    Commenting on my piece, David Aron Levine notes, “This article by @EthanZ on Reddit highlights as much a latent demand for something more as it does Reddit”. Yep – that’s right. I like Reddit and use it (as a lurker, as my dismal karma numbers will show), but what I’d really like to see is a wave of new communities organized around different ideas of what it means to be social. Some might connect people around topics of common interest, as Reddit does. Others might bring people together around a common project, as Wikipedia does. I’d particularly like to see – or perhaps build – a community that helps people discover each other via a common interest but emphasizes connecting people who would be highly unlikely to meet in the physical world, or who come from very different backgrounds.
    Would love your thoughts on who’s doing good work defining online community in terms other than “people I know in the physical world” and how these communities can help people discover information online.

  • Me and my metadata – thoughts on online surveillance

    by Ethan


    The NSA documents Edward Snowden leaked have sparked a debate within the US about surveillance. While Americans understood that the US government was likely intercepting telephone and social media data from terrorism suspects, it’s been an uncomfortable discovery that the US collected massive sets of email and telephone data from Americans and non-Americans who aren’t suspected of any crimes. These revelations add context to other discoveries of surveillance in post 9-11 America, including the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, which scans the outside of all paper mail sent in the US and stores it for later analysis. (The Smoking Gun reported on the program early last month – I hadn’t heard of it until the Times report today.)
    The Obama administration and supporters have responded to criticism of these programs by assuring Americans that the information collected is “metadata”, information on who is talking to whom, not the substance of conversations. As Senator Dianne Feinstein put it, “This is just metadata. There is no content involved.” By analyzing the metadata, officials claim, they can identify potential suspects then seek judicial permission to access the content directly. Nothing to worry about. You’re not being spied on by your government – they’re just monitoring the metadata.
    Of course, that’s a naïve and oversimplified view of metadata, which turns out to be a surprisingly rich source of information on who people are, who they know and what they do. Congress has historically recognized that metadata is important and deserves protection – while the Supreme Court ruled in Smith vs. Maryland that phone numbers dialed should not be expected to be private information, as they are exposed to the phone company, Congress put restrictions on the use of “pen registers”, devices that can track what calls are made and received by a phone, requiring law enforcement to go to court to institute such tracking. The same logic in Smith vs. Maryland applies to the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program – since information on envelopes is visible to the public, or at least to mail carriers, it’s monitorable and storable, even without “mail covers“, US Postal Service administrative orders used to trace mail coming to criminal suspects. And, perhaps, the policymakers who approved NSA’s surveillance projects would argue that the logic applies to email headers as well.
    Put aside for the moment the question of whether monitoring metadata is reading public information or is more analogous to a pen register. There’s a scale issue that comes into play here. One major constraint on pen registers and mail covers historically has been the sheer amount of data they generate. Potential overreach by law enforcement is held in check by two factors – the need to get court or administrative approval to trace metadata, and the ability to process said metadata. As a result, USPS insiders report that it processes about 15,000 – 20,000 mail covers a year related to crime, and as security researcher Chris Soghoian discovered, internet and telecommunications companies charge law enforcement agencies for pen registers, putting some practical limits on their use.
    But the NSA surveillance of email and phone networks, and the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program have no such limits. While it’s likely quite expensive to scan all US mail, once you’ve committed to doing so, it’s comparatively cheap to store that information and analyze it at later dates, as investigators evidently did to arrest Shannon Richardson for sending ricin to President Obama and New York City mayor Bloomberg. And, since the costs of NSA surveillance are evidently borne primarily by internet and telephony companies, it’s downright cheap to keep metadata on email and phone calls. All the postal mail, email and phone calls.
    It’s also much, much cheaper to analyze this data than in years past. The current frenzy for “big data” and “data science” has called attention to techniques that allow analysts to pull subtle patterns out of data – a New York Times story that suggests that retailer Target was able to identify pregnant customers based on their purchasing behavior (unscented lotion!) and target ad flyers to them gives a sense for the commercial applications of these techniques.
    Sociologist Kieran Healy shows another set of applications of these techniques, using a much smaller, historical data set. He looks at a small number of 18th century colonists and the societies in Boston they were members of to identify Paul Revere as a key bridge tie between different organizations. In Healy’s brilliant piece, he writes in the voice of a junior analyst reporting his findings to superiors in the British government, and suggests that his superiors consider investigating Revere as a traitor. He closes with this winning line: “…if a mere scribe such as I — one who knows nearly nothing — can use the very simplest of these methods to pick the name of a traitor like Paul Revere from those of two hundred and fifty four other men, using nothing but a list of memberships and a portable calculating engine, then just think what weapons we might wield in the defense of liberty one or two centuries from now.”
    If you are a member of a secret organization planning overthrow of the government, you’ve probably already thought hard about what your metadata might reveal. But if you’re an average citizen with “nothing to hide”, it may be less obvious why your metadata may not be something you are comfortable sharing. After all, Frank Rich recently proclaimed that “privacy jumped the shark in America long ago” and that we are all members of “the America that prefers to be out there, prizing networking, exhibitionism, and fame more than privacy, introspection, and solitude.” Lured by reality television and social networks, we all want to be watched and have therefore have given up our distaste for surveillance.
    I think it’s possible to be both a heavy user of social media, and concerned about the security of your metadata. It simply requires understanding that, for many of us, social media is a performance. When I share links on Twitter, I’m aware that I’m constructing an image to my followers as someone who’s interested in certain topics and disinterested in others. I don’t share every article that I read, both because I suspect not all are interesting to my followers and also because I don’t really want my professional community to know just how much mental energy I spend worrying about who the Green Bay Packers will field at running back in the coming season.
    This may not be how you use social media, but it probably should be. As danah boyd and others have pointed out, youth have had to figure out how to navigate a world in which their interpersonal and social interactions are archived, searchable and persist long enough to present a problem in adulthood – as a result, they’re continually engaged in “identity performance”, as well as in developing codes and other ways to speak on social networks to defy monitoring.
    By contrast, most of us aren’t maintaining a persistent, public performance when we’re using telephones or email. (For an example of what this might feel like, consider this story from This American Life, where lawyers who work with Guantanamo detainees talk about how having the US government monitor their personal phone calls changes their behavior.) Our metadata can reveal things we may not want to share with others, or may not know ourselves.
    As it happens, I have a pretty good sense for what my email metadata might tell an investigator. This fall, I co-taught a class with Cesar Hidalgo, Catherine Havasi and Sep Kamvar at the Media Lab titled “Big Data”. Two of the students who took the class, Daniel Smilkov and Deepak Jagdish, worked on a project called Immersion which uses Gmail metadata to map someone’s social network. I’m one of about 500 alpha testers of the software, developed by Cesar, Daniel and Deepak, and have been one of the poster boys for the project as it’s been on display at the Media Lab, as I’ve got the largest network of Gmail contacts of anyone who’s used the system. (This isn’t because I’m especially popular, I suspect. Most of my MIT colleagues use mit.edu addresses. As someone new to MIT, who maintains a number of different affiliations, I have been a heavy Gmail user.)
    Here’s what my metadata looks like:

    The largest node in the graph, the person I exchange the most email with, is my wife, Rachel. I find this reassuring, but Daniel and Deepak have told me that people’s romantic partners are rarely their largest node. Because I travel a lot, Rachel and I have a heavily email-dependent relationship, but many people’s romantic relationships are conducted mostly face to face and don’t show up clearly in metadata. But the prominence of Rachel in the graph is, for me, a reminder that one of the reasons we might be concerned about metadata is that it shows strong relationships, whether those relationships are widely known or are secret.
    The other large nodes on the graph are associated with specific clusters. Rebecca is my co-founder at Global Voices and Ivan and Georgia run the organization day-to-day – they dominate the green cluster, which includes key people in that organization. Hal is my chief collaborator at the Berkman Center, and Colin is my boss – they dominate the orange cluster, which includes fellow Berkman folks as well as a number of prominent internet law and policy folks who work closely with the Center. Lorrie is assistant director at Center for Civic Media and is the person I work with most closely at MIT – the red cluster represents the people I work with at the Media Lab.
    Anyone who knows me reasonably well could have guessed at the existence of these ties. But there’s other information in the graph that’s more complicated and potentially more sensitive. My primary Media Lab collaborators are my students and staff – Cesar is the only Media Lab node who’s not affiliated with Civic who shows up on my network, which suggests that I’m collaborating less with my Media Lab colleagues than I might hope to be. One might read into my relationships with the students I advise based on the email volume I exchange with them – I’d suggest that the patterns have something to do with our preferred channels of communication, but it certainly shows who’s demanding and receiving attention via email. In other words, absence from a social network map is at least as revealing as presence on it.
    Another sensitive piece of information comes from how Immersion draws and codes clusters. Immersion’s algorithm is sensitive to who you include on the same email. Global Voices emails include Ivan, Georgia, Rebecca and others – people who I email when I email those three get placed in the same cluster. People who exist as bridges between clusters are particularly interesting, as they are people who appear in multiple roles in your social network. Joi Ito appears on my graph twice (as “Joi” and “Joichi”) because he uses multiple email addresses, but in either role, he’s a bridge between my MIT existence, my Global Voices existence and my Berkman life, which reflects my long and multi-faceted relationship with him. But he’s colored red, as a Media Lab person, whereas other bridge figures like danah boyd show up as blue, as they have close relationships with Rachel as well. In other words, I have important, long-standing, multifaceted relationships with both danah and Joi, but danah is part of my family life as well, while Joi is not.
    My point here isn’t to elucidate all the peculiarities of my social network (indeed, analyzing these diagrams is a bit like analyzing your dreams – fascinating to you, but off-putting to everyone else). It’s to make the case that this metadata paints a very revealing portrait of oneself. And while there’s currently a waiting list to use Immersion, this is data that’s accessible to NSA analysts and to the marketing teams at Google. That makes me uncomfortable, and it makes me want to have a public conversation about what’s okay and what’s not okay to track.
    While popular outcry over revelations about the NSA has been somewhat muted so far, it’s possible that widespread protests planned for July 4th will spark more dialog about what represents unconstitutional surveillance. Here’s hoping that conversation will take a close look at metadata and ask hard questions about whether or not this is information we are willing to share with governments and corporations, or whether we need to regulate and limit this power to monitor as we’ve historically done in the United States. Restore the Fourth.

    For another example of what metadata may reveal, see Malte Spitz’s phone records. As I discuss in “Rewire”, Spitz sued his mobile phone provider to obtain his records, then worked with Zeit Online to build a visualization of his movements based purely on that set of data.

  • Tracing Brazil’s Guy Fawkes Masks

    by Ethan


    Early this morning, Reddit user “SlartiBartRelative” posted a photo, with the headline “The icon of anti-capitalism, mass-produced”. The post received thousands of upvotes and generated a long comment thread, though the most highly-rated comment argued “Those masks have nothing to do with anti-capitalism… like at all”. Other commentators note that Anonymous, which has famously adopted the Guy Fawkes mask, is anti-corruption or anti-tyranny, which may sometimes manifest itself as anti-corporatism, which can look a lot like anti-capitalism. (There’s also a helpful discourse on the historical Guy Fawkes. Yay, Reddit comment threads!)

    I saw the image as it started appearing on Twitter, usually with a comment about irony or despair that a protest symbol was mass-produced under less-than-salubrious conditions:





    There’s been a good bit written about the Guy Fawkes mask. Friend and colleague Molly Sauter has the definitive article, tracing the mask from Alan Moore’s comic book, back to Catholic revolutionaries, then forward through Epic Fail Guy, 4chan, Anon and to Occupy. But she doesn’t dwell at length on anti-capitalism, focusing more on masks, anonymity and collective identity. Leo Benedictus, writing in The Guardian, explores the irony that the mask, created for the movie version of “V for Vendetta”, provides licensing revenue to Warner Bros.
    Later this morning, Business Insider published an article that borrows heavily from an article by Fabricio Provenzano for Extra Online, a Brazilian newspaper published by the massive Organizações Globo media group. Provenzano’s article, published ten days ago, suggests that the manufacturers are selling directly to protesters, with individuals coming to the factory to pick up hundreds of masks at a time, orders that are significantly larger than those made by wholesalers or distributors. The article doesn’t address the issue of licensing, but suggests that the factory is used to producing mass runs of masks for Carnival, and has also received designs for masks that parody Brazilian politicians, likely also for use in protests as well as in Carnival processions.

    The impression I took from Provenzano’s article wasn’t that the factory, run by a mask company called Condal, was particularly badly run or exploitative – Provenzano was interested in the sudden surge of interest in the design. And I would be stunned if Condal were an official licensee of Warner Bros – I think it’s unlikely that money paid for thee masks is going into the pocket of a Hollywood studio as Condal seems to borrow heavily from the global entertainment industry in its mask design.
    The photo of workers making Guy Fawkes masks is something of a Rorschach test. If you’re primed to see the exploitative nature of global capitalism when you see people making a plastic mask, it’s there in the image. if you’re looking for the global spread of a protest movement, it’s there too, with a Brazilian factory making a local knock-off of a global icon to cash in on a national protest.
    Because the internet is a copying machine, it’s very bad at context. It’s easier to encounter the image of masks being manufactured devoid of accompanying details than it is to find the story behind the images. And given our tendency to ignore information in languages we don’t read, it’s easy to see how the masks come detached from their accompanying story. For me, the image is more powerful with context behind it. It’s possible to reflect on the irony of a Hollywood prop becoming an activist trope, the tensions between mass-production and anonymity and the individuality of one’s identity and grievance, the tensions between local and global, Warner Bros and Condal, intellectual property and piracy, all in the same image.

    If you’d like a Condal-made Guy Fawkes mask, it’s available here – scroll down and look for item 101. It’s near the troll-face mask, which could also come in handy.

  • Youth Radio Partners with Kennedy Center’s ArtsEdge Digital Learning Initiative

    by Youth Radio


    Youth Radio and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts have teamed up to bring digital media learning to the Oakland youth community through creative expression about current affairs. The partnership, which began this year with the launch of the Whats Going On…Now (WGON) campaign, offers Youth Radio participants opportunities to be a part of a national arts project, engage in dialogue about social justice, and share their inspiring artistic work with others across the country.
    WGON is a digital project designed to link the arts and social justice. The project celebrates the 40th anniversary of Marvin Gaye’s performance of the album at the Kennedy Center, a year after its release in 1972. At its heart, WGON encourages young people to express their views on current events and social struggles in creative ways to create projects that span multiple digital media.
    Through Youth Radio’s partnership with ArtsEdge, two Youth Radio participants travelled to Washington DC with Maeven McGovern, Youth Radio’s Community Arts Manager, to the Kennedy Center’s ArtsEdge Youth Summit, where they learned about transmedia storytelling, shared their creative pieces with other students from around the country, and performed at Busboys and Poets, a community gathering place for spoken word poetry. They also received tickets to the May 3rd concert performance of “What’s Going On” and more at the Kennedy Center.
    WGON is the first of many such projects in which Youth Radio and the Kennedy Center will be teaming up. Learn more about WGON and ArtsEdge here.

  • Youth Radio Partners with Kennedy Center’s ArtsEdge Digital Learning Initiative

    by Youth Radio


    Youth Radio and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts have teamed up to bring digital media learning to the Oakland youth community through creative expression about current affairs. The partnership, which began this year with the launch of the Whats Going On…Now (WGON) campaign, offers Youth Radio participants opportunities to be a part of a national arts project, engage in dialogue about social justice, and share their inspiring artistic work with others across the country.
    WGON is a digital project designed to link the arts and social justice. The project celebrates the 40th anniversary of Marvin Gaye’s performance of the album at the Kennedy Center, a year after its release in 1972. At its heart, WGON encourages young people to express their views on current events and social struggles in creative ways to create projects that span multiple digital media.
    Through Youth Radio’s partnership with ArtsEdge, two Youth Radio participants travelled to Washington DC with Maeven McGovern, Youth Radio’s Community Arts Manager, to the Kennedy Center’s ArtsEdge Youth Summit, where they learned about transmedia storytelling, shared their creative pieces with other students from around the country, and performed at Busboys and Poets, a community gathering place for spoken word poetry. They also received tickets to the May 3rd concert performance of “What’s Going On” and more at the Kennedy Center.
    WGON is the first of many such projects in which Youth Radio and the Kennedy Center will be teaming up. Learn more about WGON and ArtsEdge here.

  • Chelsea Clinton Spotlights Youth Radio’s Efforts Towards Clinton Global Initiative Commitment

    by Youth Radio


    In an editorial featured in the Huffington Post on June 19, Chelsea Clinton spotlighted Youth Radio and its 2012 Clinton Global Initiative commitment as an example of an organization working to improve the youth unemployment problem by providing “tangible, real-world opportunities [that] make youth less apt to drop out of school and also more marketable to employers.”
    The article summarized Ms. Clinton’s key takeaways from the proceedings of the Reconnecting Youth working group at the June 2013 CGI America Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL on June 13-14. At each annual meeting, CGI America partners discuss progress towards their CGI commitments and ideas they have for others pursuing common goals. Youth Radio became a part of the working group as a CGI America partner with its 2012 commitment to create a Digital Media and Technology Pathway, connecting at least 60 low-income young adults to jobs in the technology and digital media industry. Additionally, Youth Radio committed to creating a Break Through news desk to examine our nation’s significant youth unemployment program through the lens of young job seekers.
    The Digital Media and Technology Pathway began in January 2013 by building partnerships with local and regional employers seeking low-cost employees with critical digital media skills. These relationships have proven fruitful, and so far this year, Youth Radio has been able to secure job and internship placements for 15 Youth Radio program graduates.
    The Break Through desk is a special reporting  hub that produces stories examining youth unemployment through the lens of young job seekers in Oakland, CA. With each story, policymakers, business leaders and other stakeholders will learn more about why young people are having problems finding good jobs in today’s economy, and which programs are helping young people break through, offering hope where none before existed.
    At this year’s CGI America annual meeting, Youth Radio’s Executive Director Richard Raya interviewed former Youth Radio participant Genesys Sanchez, who talked about her struggle as a teen mother trying to find a job in today’s economy. After the interview in front of the CGI America crowd, Genesys took questions from the audience about her job seeking experience and the training that enabled her to begin building her career.
    Genesys’s story is a great example of how Youth Radio’s training and support programs offer young people the practical skills they need to secure quality jobs and build careers. We look forward to further progress on our Clinton Global Initiative commitment in the months to come, and to our continued involvement in the CGI America Reconnecting Youth working group.

  • Chelsea Clinton Spotlights Youth Radio’s Efforts Towards Clinton Global Initiative Commitment

    by Youth Radio


    In an editorial featured in the Huffington Post on June 19, Chelsea Clinton spotlighted Youth Radio and its 2012 Clinton Global Initiative commitment as an example of an organization working to improve the youth unemployment problem by providing “tangible, real-world opportunities [that] make youth less apt to drop out of school and also more marketable to employers.”
    The article summarized Ms. Clinton’s key takeaways from the proceedings of the Reconnecting Youth working group at the June 2013 CGI America Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL on June 13-14. At each annual meeting, CGI America partners discuss progress towards their CGI commitments and ideas they have for others pursuing common goals. Youth Radio became a part of the working group as a CGI America partner with its 2012 commitment to create a Digital Media and Technology Pathway, connecting at least 60 low-income young adults to jobs in the technology and digital media industry. Additionally, Youth Radio committed to creating a Break Through news desk to examine our nation’s significant youth unemployment program through the lens of young job seekers.
    The Digital Media and Technology Pathway began in January 2013 by building partnerships with local and regional employers seeking low-cost employees with critical digital media skills. These relationships have proven fruitful, and so far this year, Youth Radio has been able to secure job and internship placements for 15 Youth Radio program graduates.
    The Break Through desk is a special reporting  hub that produces stories examining youth unemployment through the lens of young job seekers in Oakland, CA. With each story, policymakers, business leaders and other stakeholders will learn more about why young people are having problems finding good jobs in today’s economy, and which programs are helping young people break through, offering hope where none before existed.
    At this year’s CGI America annual meeting, Youth Radio’s Executive Director Richard Raya interviewed former Youth Radio participant Genesys Sanchez, who talked about her struggle as a teen mother trying to find a job in today’s economy. After the interview in front of the CGI America crowd, Genesys took questions from the audience about her job seeking experience and the training that enabled her to begin building her career.
    Genesys’s story is a great example of how Youth Radio’s training and support programs offer young people the practical skills they need to secure quality jobs and build careers. We look forward to further progress on our Clinton Global Initiative commitment in the months to come, and to our continued involvement in the CGI America Reconnecting Youth working group.

  • The price of life on Florida’s Death Row

    by Ethan


    The world is slowly moving to abolish the death penalty. Around the world, 140 countries have either abolished the punishment in law or in practice, not executing a prisoner in the past ten years. The majority of US states still permit the death penalty, but the total people sentenced to death in 2012 dropped below 100 for the first time since the late 1970s, and executions are slowing as well.
    But not in Florida. The State of Florida has an unusual approach to the death penalty. They are the only state where a simple majority on a jury can vote to sentence a person to death. (In most states, unanimous agreement is required.) And they lead the nation in exonerations, where lawyers and activists uncover evidence that someone sentenced to death is innocent, according to an editorial in the Tampa Bay Times. (The figures in the editorial come from the Death Penalty Information Center, which lists 142 exonerations, with 24 from Florida.) In other words, Florida sentences a lot of people to death, and they seem to get it wrong quite often.
    This situation is about to get worse. Emily Bazelon wrote a powerful article for Slate examining Florida’s new law, the “Timely Justice Act”, which requires the governor to sign death warrants within 30 days of an inmate’s final appeal, and requires the state to execute the condemned within 180 days of that warrant. That’s a lot quicker than executions are generally carried out. Inmates remain on death row in Florida for 13.2 years on average, less that the nationwide average of 14.8 years.
    What’s the rush? The purpose of the bill, sponsors say, is to ensure that executions are carried out in a timely fashion, to increase public confidence in the judicial system. One of the sponsors of the bill, Florida Republican Matt Gaetz quipped, “Only God can judge. But we sure can set up the meeting.” But, as Bazelon points out, Florida’s death penalty system is so flawed that it often requires years to uncover evidence that would exonerate a death row inmate.
    There’s a brutal logic behind Florida’s bill. The Death Penalty Information Center calculates that it costs Florida $51 million a year more than holding them for life, given the extra costs of extra security and maintenance costs for death row facilities. Shorter stays on death row equal lower costs – the only downside is the likelihood of killing people who might well be found innocent with years to explore their cases.
    Consider the case of Clement Aguirre, on death row in Florida since 2006 for the 2004 murders of a mother and daughter found dead in their trailer home. DNA evidence obtained by the Innocence Project in 2011 strongly suggests that Aguirre is innocent of the murders, and he is still fighting to overturn his conviction.
    Fixing Florida’s criminal justice system requires more than building opposition to the death penalty or funding reviews of death penalty cases through the Innocence Project. It requires providing high quality public defenders to those accused of crimes. Bazelon reports that Florida’s death penalty defenders are some of the worst in the nation, and have allowed clients to go to death row without ever meeting them or responding to their letters.
    Unfortunately, this means spending more money on criminal justice, not less. Organizations like Gideon’s Promise are helping young lawyers become public defenders and trying to improve the profession. One modest saving grace in Florida’s atrocious law is modest funding for public defense in northern Florida, but it’s far less support than the state needs to ensure that people facing the death penalty get a fair trial.
    I had a conversation the other day with advisors to Northeastern University’s NuLawLab, which is dedicated to the idea of providing affordable legal services to all 7 billion people on the planet. One of the advisors expressed interest in the idea that new data sets could help make the case that failing to provide people with adequate representation has higher costs than representing them well – i.e., someone who might have fought for their home with legal counsel ends up creating societal costs through needing housing assistance. I’m supportive of the concept, but I worry that such an economic analysis needs to incorporate human rights. It’s cheaper for Florida to fail to represent indigent defendants and rapidly push them to execution than it is to represent them well and give time for the Innocence Project and others to try to establish their innocence. The only cost is the lives of people unlucky enough to be innocent but convicted of murder in Florida.

    I encountered Bazelon’s story through This American Life, which ran an excellent set of short, timely stories around the theme, “This Week”. I’m normally grumpy when TAL denies me the long-form stories I so love, but grateful they featured this story.

  • MEMO: Understanding the Latino Youth Vote in 2012

    by Dallas


    Today, the Black Youth Project releases its latest memo: “Understanding the Latino Vote in 2012.”
    This analysis pays special attention to how Latino youth engaged in the 2012 presidential election.
    The results show that Latino youth turnout increased for a third year in a row, and that they were very effectively mobilized.
    Latino youth also had a a highly polarized view of the Democratic and Republican tickets, and showed overwhelming support for Barack Obama.

    “Understanding the Latino Youth Vote in 2012″ is the 10th in a series of memos entitled Democracy Remixed: Black and Latino Youth: the Future of American Politics released by the Black Youth Project.

    Click Here for the Complete Memo 

  • BYP MEMO: Voter ID Laws Disproportionately Impacted Black and Latino Youth in 2012 Election

    by Dallas


    Today the Black Youth Project released its latest memo: “Black and Latino Youth Disproportionately Affected by Voter Identification Laws in 2012 Election.”
    The new analysis finds that voter identification laws are applied unevenly across racial groups and have significant discriminatory effects on Latino and Black youth.
    The results underscore the importance of Section 5 of the Voter Rights Act, which requires states with a history of discrimination to receive pre-clearance from the Justice Department before implementing voting law changes.
    The Justice Department had voter ID laws in South Carolina and Texas struck down, but the Voting Rights Act provision faces a challenge in the Supreme Court.
    Specifically, research showed that:

    Nearly three-quarters (72.3 percent) of young Black voters were asked for some form of identification, compared with 50.8 percent of young white voters and 60.8 percent of young Latino voters.
    Young Black (64.5 percent) and Latino (57.0 percent) voters were considerably more likely to be asked to show photo identification to vote compared to young white voters (42.2 percent).
    Nearly two-thirds (65.5 percent) of Black youth were asked to show identification in states without ID requirements, compared with 55.3 percent of Latino youth and 42.8 percent of white youth.
    In states with voter identification laws, higher percentages of Black youth (94.3 percent) were asked for ID compared with Latino (81.8 percent) and white (84.3 percent) youth.


    “Black and Latino Youth Disproportionately Affected by Voter Identification Laws in 2012 Election” is the eighth in a series entitled Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics released by the Black Youth Project.
    Click Here for the Full Analysis

Pages