Hard Evidence on Why Domestic Violence Victims May Think Twice About Calling 911

When a man in Binghamton, New York was restrained, stabbed, and robbed in his home, his neighbor called 911. Although he told the police that he did not know the attackers or why he was targeted, the city designated this episode of random violence as a “nuisance” under local law. Officials later informed the man’s landlord of this incident and others that led to the police being called to the property.  In response, the landlord assured the city that every tenant in that building would be evicted to address this issue.

Alarmingly, this kind of story is not uncommon. Nuisance ordinances – also called crime free or disorderly house laws – are on the books in towns and cities across the country. In Binghamton, the city defines many crimes as public nuisances, such as assault, disorderly conduct, and sex offenses. All too often, when these crimes occur, the resident is the victim. Once the nuisance law is triggered, the property owner is told to address the issue or face penalties that include an order from the city closing the building. The majority of landlords respond to such warnings by removing the tenants who were the subject of a police call.

A new report issued by the ACLU, in partnership with the Social Science Research Council, reveals the devastating consequences of nuisance ordinances for victims of crime in New York and domestic violence survivors in particular.  

Silenced: How Nuisance Ordinances Punish Crime Victims in New York uncovers how victims of domestic abuse are too often further victimized by nuisance laws. The report focuses on an analysis of records from both Binghamton and Fulton, NY. Though the cities structured their ordinances differently, domestic violence was the single largest category of activity that led to enforcement of both laws. Domestic violence accounted for 38% of nuisance “points” in Binghamton and 48% of incidents in Fulton’s nuisance warnings. Both cities also routinely penalized tenants who reported other crimes committed against them, including incidents of rape, theft, and assault, or sought medical assistance.

By penalizing calls to police, nuisance laws deter the reporting of crime and force vulnerable people from their homes. Survivors of domestic violence are especially impacted by these policies because they often have to call 911 in the face of crimes that occur in their home.

Another Binghamton woman was the victim of repeated domestic violence incidents and enforcement of the local nuisance ordinance when the city declared two episodes of this violence to be nuisance conduct. In the first instance, neighbors called 911 when her boyfriend threw her to the ground and began choking her. The boyfriend was arrested and the tenant got an order of protection against him. When the boyfriend returned, uninvited, he got in a fight with another person at the property, causing a police response. Although police arrested her abuser, first for assaulting her and then violating the protection order, her landlord responded to a warning letter from the City by telling officials that the “first order of action” was to evict the woman.

The documented consequences of nuisance ordinances make clear that these policies do not further their often-stated goals of community improvement. Moreover, nuisance ordinances can also be unlawful. A number of federal lawsuits, including one brought by the ACLU on behalf of a domestic violence survivor, have successfully challenged their enforcement as violating constitutional and federal protections.

Thankfully, New York has an opportunity to take action. The New York Assembly unanimously passed legislation that would protect landlords and residents from unjust application of nuisance ordinances. The Senate and Governor Cuomo should ensure, before the end of this legislative session, that no New Yorker must choose between calling 911 and staying in their home. The bottom line is that in New York, a crime victim is not a nuisance.

Domestic violence victims too often punished for seeking help under “nuisance” laws penalizing calls to police.

Moving Toward Equality for Transgender Students in Virginia

Things were going just fine at Gloucester High School for sophomore Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy. It was the first school year he was fully out as male and the school was doing everything it should. Administrators, teachers, and students began using his new legal name and referred to him with male pronouns, and Gavin was able to use the boys’ restroom without incident.

All of this was consistent with established treatment standards for gender dysphoria, which recognize that it is essential for individuals to live consistently with their gender identity.  Or, as Gavin says, “I’m a boy, and it’s important for me to live like other boys do.”

He is right, which is why we filed a lawsuit this week against the Gloucester County School Board for revoking Gavin’s access to boys’ facilities – a violation of both the Fourteenth Amendment and federal law prohibiting sex discrimination by schools.  Gavin’s story says a lot about the prejudice and unfairness that many trans youth face in Virginia.  Fortunately, it also gives us a spark of hope that things might be improving.

After a few months of smooth transition, some parents and others in Gloucester County besieged the school board with demands that Gavin be barred from the boys’ restrooms.  People lined up at meetings to tell the school board that letting Gavin use the restroom appropriate to his gender identity would create a bathroom free-for-all, allowing all students to use whatever bathroom they wanted.

The speakers’ comments revealed unfounded fears, stereotypes and a misunderstanding about what it means to be transgender. They said that respecting Gavin’s gender identity would lead to teenagers seeing each other’s genitals and sexual assault in the restrooms. Many of them called Gavin a “girl” or “young lady,” and one person called him a “freak.”  In the end, the school board caved under pressure and adopted a policy that boys’ and girls’ restrooms could only be used by students of the “corresponding biological gender” by a vote of 6-1.

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated case. The same frenzy arose in Stafford County this March when a transgender girl began to use the girls’ restroom in her elementary school.  Once again, the school board was deluged with complaints and once again, it responded by barring the student from the girls’ bathroom.  In Fairfax County, there was a similar outcry in May when the school board announced plans to amend its nondiscrimination policy to protect transgender students and employees.

Now, onto the signs of progress in Virginia.  On the state level, Attorney General Mark Herring issued an opinion in March declaring that local school boards have the authority to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their anti-discrimination policies. And similar to Gavin’s experience, it appears that before Stafford County took action against the trans girl there, school officials had provided her a welcoming environment and allowed her to use the girls’ restroom. The school division’s nondiscrimination officer explained to a complaining parent that federal law required the school to treat students appropriately according to their gender identity.  In Fairfax County, the school board passed the policy prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity despite the public hue and cry.

We hope that our lawsuit on behalf of Gavin will add to this positive momentum.  We’re pushing hard against discrimination, district by district, county by county and we’re going to keep fighting until all kids in Virginia are able to go to school to learn and not face bullying and hatred. We have a long road ahead of us.

The unconstitutional restroom policy of Gloucester County School Board isolates and stigmatizes trans students.

Moving Toward Equality for Transgender Students in Virginia

Things were going just fine at Gloucester High School for sophomore Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy. It was the first school year he was fully out as male and the school was doing everything it should. Administrators, teachers, and students began using his new legal name and referred to him with male pronouns, and Gavin was able to use the boys’ restroom without incident.

All of this was consistent with established treatment standards for gender dysphoria, which recognize that it is essential for individuals to live consistently with their gender identity.  Or, as Gavin says, “I’m a boy, and it’s important for me to live like other boys do.”

He is right, which is why we filed a lawsuit this week against the Gloucester County School Board for revoking Gavin’s access to boys’ facilities – a violation of both the Fourteenth Amendment and federal law prohibiting sex discrimination by schools.  Gavin’s story says a lot about the prejudice and unfairness that many trans youth face in Virginia.  Fortunately, it also gives us a spark of hope that things might be improving.

After a few months of smooth transition, some parents and others in Gloucester County besieged the school board with demands that Gavin be barred from the boys’ restrooms.  People lined up at meetings to tell the school board that letting Gavin use the restroom appropriate to his gender identity would create a bathroom free-for-all, allowing all students to use whatever bathroom they wanted.

The speakers’ comments revealed unfounded fears, stereotypes and a misunderstanding about what it means to be transgender. They said that respecting Gavin’s gender identity would lead to teenagers seeing each other’s genitals and sexual assault in the restrooms. Many of them called Gavin a “girl” or “young lady,” and one person called him a “freak.”  In the end, the school board caved under pressure and adopted a policy that boys’ and girls’ restrooms could only be used by students of the “corresponding biological gender” by a vote of 6-1.

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated case. The same frenzy arose in Stafford County this March when a transgender girl began to use the girls’ restroom in her elementary school.  Once again, the school board was deluged with complaints and once again, it responded by barring the student from the girls’ bathroom.  In Fairfax County, there was a similar outcry in May when the school board announced plans to amend its nondiscrimination policy to protect transgender students and employees.

Now, onto the signs of progress in Virginia.  On the state level, Attorney General Mark Herring issued an opinion in March declaring that local school boards have the authority to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their anti-discrimination policies. And similar to Gavin’s experience, it appears that before Stafford County took action against the trans girl there, school officials had provided her a welcoming environment and allowed her to use the girls’ restroom. The school division’s nondiscrimination officer explained to a complaining parent that federal law required the school to treat students appropriately according to their gender identity.  In Fairfax County, the school board passed the policy prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity despite the public hue and cry.

We hope that our lawsuit on behalf of Gavin will add to this positive momentum.  We’re pushing hard against discrimination, district by district, county by county and we’re going to keep fighting until all kids in Virginia are able to go to school to learn and not face bullying and hatred. We have a long road ahead of us.

The unconstitutional restroom policy of Gloucester County School Board isolates and stigmatizes trans students.

Two Stains on Our Nation as Anti-LGBT Bills Pass in Michigan and North Carolina

As the country awaits a decision from the Supreme Court on marriage equality, anti-LGBT forces who want to use religion to allow discrimination have pushed bills through in Michigan and North Carolina. Both North Carolina’s marriage refusal bill SB 2 and Michigan’s adoption refusal House Bills 4188, 4189 and 4190 have gotten final approval and are about to be law.

The North Carolina bill would allow magistrates to refuse to perform marriages and was clearly prompted by the marriages of same-sex couples.  There was hope when Gov. Pat McCrory did the right thing and vetoed the legislation. But the Speaker of North Carolina’s House  called for a vote – when many legislators who would have voted ‘no’ were out of the room, no less – and overrode the governor’s veto.

The intent to harm gay and lesbian couples and their families is clear.

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder today enshrined discrimination against LGBT people that will limit the pool of loving families available to the state’s most vulnerable children. Michigan’s adoption refusal law now authorizes state-paid child placement agencies to turn away qualified prospective foster or adoptive parents based solely on the religious beliefs of the agencies, regardless of their ability to care for a child. .Denying loving homes to children who so desperately need them is downright cruel and should be criminal – which is why legislatures in Texas, Alabama, and Florida rejected similar measures earlier this year.

Perhaps most shockingly, Gov. Snyder has publicly stated that he would not sign a Religious Freedom Restoration Act  into law in his state because it is discriminatory —  yet he failed to recognize the discriminatory intent behind HB 4188, 4189 and 4190 and its potentially devastating consequences for children.

States across the nation from Indiana to Arizona to Texas and beyond have defeated anti-LGBT bills this year that would have granted licenses to discriminate, indicating a promising turning point in our nation’s history. These two new laws are out of step with the direction in which our country is moving and only aim to harm. With the Supreme Court expected to rule on  marriage for same-sex couples this month, one can’t help but wonder if these actions are simply last ditch efforts to discriminate based on fear and ignorance. What else could they be given that these laws help no one and stand to hurt many?

A sad day for equality in Michigan and North Carolina, as anti-LGBT bills pass

Two Stains on Our Nation as Anti-LGBT Bills Pass in Michigan and North Carolina

As the country awaits a decision from the Supreme Court on marriage equality, anti-LGBT forces who want to use religion to allow discrimination have pushed bills through in Michigan and North Carolina. Both North Carolina’s marriage refusal bill SB 2 and Michigan’s adoption refusal House Bills 4188, 4189 and 4190 have gotten final approval and are about to be law.

The North Carolina bill would allow magistrates to refuse to perform marriages and was clearly prompted by the marriages of same-sex couples.  There was hope when Gov. Pat McCrory did the right thing and vetoed the legislation. But the Speaker of North Carolina’s House  called for a vote – when many legislators who would have voted ‘no’ were out of the room, no less – and overrode the governor’s veto.

The intent to harm gay and lesbian couples and their families is clear.

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder today enshrined discrimination against LGBT people that will limit the pool of loving families available to the state’s most vulnerable children. Michigan’s adoption refusal law now authorizes state-paid child placement agencies to turn away qualified prospective foster or adoptive parents based solely on the religious beliefs of the agencies, regardless of their ability to care for a child. .Denying loving homes to children who so desperately need them is downright cruel and should be criminal – which is why legislatures in Texas, Alabama, and Florida rejected similar measures earlier this year.

Perhaps most shockingly, Gov. Snyder has publicly stated that he would not sign a Religious Freedom Restoration Act  into law in his state because it is discriminatory —  yet he failed to recognize the discriminatory intent behind HB 4188, 4189 and 4190 and its potentially devastating consequences for children.

States across the nation from Indiana to Arizona to Texas and beyond have defeated anti-LGBT bills this year that would have granted licenses to discriminate, indicating a promising turning point in our nation’s history. These two new laws are out of step with the direction in which our country is moving and only aim to harm. With the Supreme Court expected to rule on  marriage for same-sex couples this month, one can’t help but wonder if these actions are simply last ditch efforts to discriminate based on fear and ignorance. What else could they be given that these laws help no one and stand to hurt many?

A sad day for equality in Michigan and North Carolina, as anti-LGBT bills pass

ACLU and Partners File Suit Against US Border Patrol for Savage Treatment in Detention Facilities

Imagine fleeing your home, traveling thousands of miles to escape a life-threatening situation, unable to reunite with your children or feed your family. Along the way you are robbed, beaten, or sexually assaulted. You are forced to cross a barren desert, physically unable to carry enough water to survive.

Then imagine that you are detained by U.S. immigration officials — and subjected to prolonged abuse and mistreatment all over again while held incommunicado in government custody.

This is the experience of tens of thousands of men, women, and children who find themselves denied food, water, and medical care while detained in the frigid, filthy, and overcrowded detention facilities the U.S. Customs and Border Protection operates along the United States’ border with Mexico.

Earlier this week, the ACLU of Arizona and a group of civil rights organizations filed a class action lawsuit to end the daily brutality that Border Patrol inflicts on migrants in southern Arizona.

This suit aims to improve the horrific conditions in detention facilities in Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, which covers 262 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border and is traditionally one of the most heavily enforced. Every year, scores of people die attempting to pass through the Tucson Sector, while tens of thousands more are detained by the Border Patrol.

After countless complaints, government and NGO reports, and media accounts, there are few domestic human rights issues more thoroughly documented than the degrading conditions in Border Patrol’s notorious hieleras, or “iceboxes” — so named because of the freezing cold temperatures in which detainees are held for days on end. One man described lying on the cold, concrete floor of one of these facilities as “trying to sleep on ice.” To ensure maximum discomfort, individuals — including young children, some of them U.S. citizens — are stripped of outer layers of clothing and denied beds, mattress, and blankets.

The stories of the people detained in these conditions are horrific, their sheer consistency shocking: children left crying through the night from cold and hunger, or denied medical attention; detainees sick, exhausted, and shivering, pleading in vain for Border Patrol agents to turn up the temperature; others forced to lie next to filthy toilets or unable to even sit down due to overcrowding; and the repeated response of agents that this mistreatment is their punishment for coming to the U.S.

The government is well aware that this is going on. In response to a 2014 ACLU complaint, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security acknowledged “recurring problems” with Border Patrol detention conditions. Still, the government failed to implement any meaningful reforms and continues to deny access to outside observers, including attorneys.

Perhaps none of this should be surprising, given Border Patrol’s culture of abuse and refusal to hold agents accountable. Indeed, notwithstanding long-overdue efforts to reform local police departments, Congress and the Obama administration have continually given the U.S. Customs and Border Protection — the largest federal law enforcement agency – a free pass to violate rights on a massive scale and with near total impunity.

The persistence of punitive detention conditions is also the result of the government’s inhumane border enforcement strategy, which seeks to discourage migration by imposing “consequences,” or suffering, on immigrants — intentionally driving them into the deadliest desert regions, warehousing them in private prisons, and, in this case, brutalizing them in detention cells.

There is no justification for these savage policies. The systemic mistreatment of individuals in Border Patrol custody is both cruel and unconstitutional. We hope that this lawsuit will be the first step to holding Border Patrol accountable for this cruelty and abuse. No human being should have to suffer this way at the hands of the U.S. government.

We must end the daily brutality that Border Patrol inflicts on migrants.

ACLU and Partners File Suit Against US Border Patrol for Savage Treatment in Detention Facilities

Imagine fleeing your home, traveling thousands of miles to escape a life-threatening situation, unable to reunite with your children or feed your family. Along the way you are robbed, beaten, or sexually assaulted. You are forced to cross a barren desert, physically unable to carry enough water to survive.

Then imagine that you are detained by U.S. immigration officials — and subjected to prolonged abuse and mistreatment all over again while held incommunicado in government custody.

This is the experience of tens of thousands of men, women, and children who find themselves denied food, water, and medical care while detained in the frigid, filthy, and overcrowded detention facilities the U.S. Customs and Border Protection operates along the United States’ border with Mexico.

Earlier this week, the ACLU of Arizona and a group of civil rights organizations filed a class action lawsuit to end the daily brutality that Border Patrol inflicts on migrants in southern Arizona.

This suit aims to improve the horrific conditions in detention facilities in Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, which covers 262 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border and is traditionally one of the most heavily enforced. Every year, scores of people die attempting to pass through the Tucson Sector, while tens of thousands more are detained by the Border Patrol.

After countless complaints, government and NGO reports, and media accounts, there are few domestic human rights issues more thoroughly documented than the degrading conditions in Border Patrol’s notorious hieleras, or “iceboxes” — so named because of the freezing cold temperatures in which detainees are held for days on end. One man described lying on the cold, concrete floor of one of these facilities as “trying to sleep on ice.” To ensure maximum discomfort, individuals — including young children, some of them U.S. citizens — are stripped of outer layers of clothing and denied beds, mattress, and blankets.

The stories of the people detained in these conditions are horrific, their sheer consistency shocking: children left crying through the night from cold and hunger, or denied medical attention; detainees sick, exhausted, and shivering, pleading in vain for Border Patrol agents to turn up the temperature; others forced to lie next to filthy toilets or unable to even sit down due to overcrowding; and the repeated response of agents that this mistreatment is their punishment for coming to the U.S.

The government is well aware that this is going on. In response to a 2014 ACLU complaint, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security acknowledged “recurring problems” with Border Patrol detention conditions. Still, the government failed to implement any meaningful reforms and continues to deny access to outside observers, including attorneys.

Perhaps none of this should be surprising, given Border Patrol’s culture of abuse and refusal to hold agents accountable. Indeed, notwithstanding long-overdue efforts to reform local police departments, Congress and the Obama administration have continually given the U.S. Customs and Border Protection — the largest federal law enforcement agency – a free pass to violate rights on a massive scale and with near total impunity.

The persistence of punitive detention conditions is also the result of the government’s inhumane border enforcement strategy, which seeks to discourage migration by imposing “consequences,” or suffering, on immigrants — intentionally driving them into the deadliest desert regions, warehousing them in private prisons, and, in this case, brutalizing them in detention cells.

There is no justification for these savage policies. The systemic mistreatment of individuals in Border Patrol custody is both cruel and unconstitutional. We hope that this lawsuit will be the first step to holding Border Patrol accountable for this cruelty and abuse. No human being should have to suffer this way at the hands of the U.S. government.

We must end the daily brutality that Border Patrol inflicts on migrants.

Despite Global Recognition, the Plight of Guantánamo’s Best-Selling Author Worsens

Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s 13th year of captivity in Guantánamo has been remarkable in many ways.

Guantánamo Diary,” his story of torture and unlawful detention by the United States, was finally published and has become a best-seller, earning rave reviews around the world and a Hollywood movie deal. Readers continue to marvel at a book that’s been called a “masterpiece” and “literary magic,” written by a man whose “unfailing humanity is the constant thread throughout.” Celebrities like Jude Law and Benedict Cumberbatch are reading Mohamedou’s work for a global audience. Almost 50,000 people have signed the ACLU’s petition calling for his freedom.

But Mohamedou’s despair only grows, because the Obama administration is still denying this innocent man what he most urgently needs: freedom.

Today, we asked a federal judge to order the Defense Department to give Mohamedou a hearing mandated years ago by President Obama. That hearing, before a Pentagon body called the Periodic Review Board (PRB), would give Mohamedou the opportunity to show that he poses no threat to the United States and must be set free. He’s entitled by law to this administrative process, and it could be the key to sending him home. 

We also asked the court to end harsh restrictions the Defense Department recently imposed on Mohamedou without any explanation, depriving him of personal items that give him comfort, including family photos and gifts from U.S. military prison guards who became his friends. These cruel deprivations are making Mohamedou’s ordeal even more unendurable.

The PRB process isn’t the only way the U.S. government could set Mohamedou free. The Defense Department could also stop fighting Mohamedou’s federal habeas corpus lawsuit, which challenges the legality of his initial detention. In the case, Mohamedou has argued that his capture by the U.S. in his home country of Mauritania in 2001 — far from any battlefield — and his subsequent detention and torture in Jordan, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo, are unlawful. In 2010, the federal judge in his case agreed, rightly discounting evidence obtained from torture and finding that the government failed to show Mohamedou was “part of” al-Qaida at the time of his capture. But after the judge ordered Mohamedou released, the Obama administration appealed as part of a strategy it pursued for all Guantánamo habeas cases, in which it successfully persuaded the appeals court to adopt looser legal and evidentiary standards to keep some Guantánamo prisoners indefinitely detained — but never charged with a crime.  

That case is still pending. In the meantime, we’re asking for a prompt PRB hearing for Mohamedou. Despite President Obama’s 2011 order that the hearings take place within a year, the Defense Department has dragged its feet. As we told the court, this is a hearing to which Mohamedou is entitled by the Constitution, statute, and the laws of war.

Even as the Pentagon has denied Mohamedou a process that could set him free, it’s dealing harsh blows to his emotional and mental well-being.

Guantánamo prison officials have taken from Mohamedou photos of his brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews — family he hasn’t seen for over 14 years. They didn’t stop there. During Mohamedou’s imprisonment at Guantánamo, he became friends with several of his military guards. Some of them gave him books with personal dedications to him, which he describes in Guantánamo Diary. For example: “I wish you good luck, and I am sure I will think of you often,” and “I hope you think of us as more than just guards. I think we all became friends.” These books and dedications are gone. So is the computer an interrogator gave him several years ago. That computer didn’t have internet capability, and Mohamedou used it to write programs, including for chess games, and to give prison guards programming lessons. For Mohamedou, the computer was a means of keeping his mind active — he used it to try to recover from the torture he suffered in U.S. custody.

We are hopeful that the court will order the relief Mohamedou seeks, and that this will be the year he is finally free to rebuild his life in peace. And we are mindful that it has now been six years since President Obama first vowed to close Guantánamo. The clock is ticking.

The ACLU has asked a federal judge to order the Defense Department to give Slahi a hearing mandated by the president.

Despite Global Recognition, the Plight of Guantánamo’s Best-Selling Author Worsens

Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s 13th year of captivity in Guantánamo has been remarkable in many ways.

Guantánamo Diary,” his story of torture and unlawful detention by the United States, was finally published and has become a best-seller, earning rave reviews around the world and a Hollywood movie deal. Readers continue to marvel at a book that’s been called a “masterpiece” and “literary magic,” written by a man whose “unfailing humanity is the constant thread throughout.” Celebrities like Jude Law and Benedict Cumberbatch are reading Mohamedou’s work for a global audience. Almost 50,000 people have signed the ACLU’s petition calling for his freedom.

But Mohamedou’s despair only grows, because the Obama administration is still denying this innocent man what he most urgently needs: freedom.

Today, we asked a federal judge to order the Defense Department to give Mohamedou a hearing mandated years ago by President Obama. That hearing, before a Pentagon body called the Periodic Review Board (PRB), would give Mohamedou the opportunity to show that he poses no threat to the United States and must be set free. He’s entitled by law to this administrative process, and it could be the key to sending him home. 

We also asked the court to end harsh restrictions the Defense Department recently imposed on Mohamedou without any explanation, depriving him of personal items that give him comfort, including family photos and gifts from U.S. military prison guards who became his friends. These cruel deprivations are making Mohamedou’s ordeal even more unendurable.

The PRB process isn’t the only way the U.S. government could set Mohamedou free. The Defense Department could also stop fighting Mohamedou’s federal habeas corpus lawsuit, which challenges the legality of his initial detention. In the case, Mohamedou has argued that his capture by the U.S. in his home country of Mauritania in 2001 — far from any battlefield — and his subsequent detention and torture in Jordan, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo, are unlawful. In 2010, the federal judge in his case agreed, rightly discounting evidence obtained from torture and finding that the government failed to show Mohamedou was “part of” al-Qaida at the time of his capture. But after the judge ordered Mohamedou released, the Obama administration appealed as part of a strategy it pursued for all Guantánamo habeas cases, in which it successfully persuaded the appeals court to adopt looser legal and evidentiary standards to keep some Guantánamo prisoners indefinitely detained — but never charged with a crime.  

That case is still pending. In the meantime, we’re asking for a prompt PRB hearing for Mohamedou. Despite President Obama’s 2011 order that the hearings take place within a year, the Defense Department has dragged its feet. As we told the court, this is a hearing to which Mohamedou is entitled by the Constitution, statute, and the laws of war.

Even as the Pentagon has denied Mohamedou a process that could set him free, it’s dealing harsh blows to his emotional and mental well-being.

Guantánamo prison officials have taken from Mohamedou photos of his brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews — family he hasn’t seen for over 14 years. They didn’t stop there. During Mohamedou’s imprisonment at Guantánamo, he became friends with several of his military guards. Some of them gave him books with personal dedications to him, which he describes in Guantánamo Diary. For example: “I wish you good luck, and I am sure I will think of you often,” and “I hope you think of us as more than just guards. I think we all became friends.” These books and dedications are gone. So is the computer an interrogator gave him several years ago. That computer didn’t have internet capability, and Mohamedou used it to write programs, including for chess games, and to give prison guards programming lessons. For Mohamedou, the computer was a means of keeping his mind active — he used it to try to recover from the torture he suffered in U.S. custody.

We are hopeful that the court will order the relief Mohamedou seeks, and that this will be the year he is finally free to rebuild his life in peace. And we are mindful that it has now been six years since President Obama first vowed to close Guantánamo. The clock is ticking.

The ACLU has asked a federal judge to order the Defense Department to give Slahi a hearing mandated by the president.

Let’s Turn McKinney into an Opportunity

On June 5th McKinney police responded to a complaint regarding unwanted teenagers at a community pool. What ought to have been relegated to a footnote in a local police blotter has become yet another variation on a depressingly routine theme in the racial politics of American policing. Rather than exercising common sense and restraint, officers on the scene opted for escalation, intimidation, and excessive force against a group of young black people.


When we see the image of a McKinney cop drawing his weapon on two unarmed black teens while pressing his knee into the back of a 15 year-old girl who’s calling out for her mother, it is a wretched sign of the times that one of our first thoughts is, “It could have been worse.” But it could have been worse, because it has been, for Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and on and on. Mercifully no lives were lost in McKinney last weekend, but the encounter nevertheless calls attention to the fact that we need a fundamental and comprehensive overhaul of our police practices, particularly when it comes to youth and communities of color.

No one should lose his life at the hands of law enforcement for selling cigarettes. No one should lose his life for taking a toy gun off the shelf in a Wal-Mart. And no one should fear for her life for visiting a community pool and objecting to her treatment by law enforcement.

The path forward is clear. According to the President’s report on 21st Century Policing, police departments need to adopt zero-tolerance policies towards racial profiling, and to increase training in implicit bias, use of force, and de-escalation techniques. Officers need to begin thinking of themselves as guardians rather than as warriors, as parts of the communities they patrol rather than as occupiers of those communities. Police departments need to engage in more and more productive dialogues with the communities they serve, to establish transparency and clear chains of accountability, and should stop altogether the aggressive enforcement of low-level infractions in communities of color. Until each and every one of these conditions are met, precisely no one should question why black teens flee when police show up.

If you wonder what that might look like, consider Nashville, where police essentially provided security for peaceful Ferguson protesters rather than lobbing tear gas grenades at them. Consider Las Vegas, which has implemented nearly 80 separate reforms in order to reduce its number of officer-involved shootings. Consider Richmond, where teens are recruited for community outreach rather than being slammed to the ground and handcuffed.

The fact that the offending officer has resigned from the McKinney police department does not settle the issue. The continued insistence that police abuse is the result of “bad apple” officers’ misbehavior actually creates an obstacle to comprehensive reform. We already have the knowledge, the tools, and the road map to bring community policing to every city in the nation. Now all we need is the will.

Take Action: Call for community policing reforms throughout the state of Texas.