Climate Change Makes Some Americans More Sick than Others

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The White House has published a new report that evaluates the effects of climate change on Americans’ health.  A significant contributor to climate change is carbon pollution, which is resulting in the following negative effects, among others:

  • Increasing ground-level ozone
  • Rising particle pollution
  • More instances of extreme heat
  • Higher rates of infectious diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile virus
  • Increased concentrations of pollen
  • More frequent heavy rainfall and flooding

Not all Americans are impacted equally by the negative effects of climate change.  Communities where pre-existing conditions are prevalent have increased risk of being harmed by climate change.  For example, communities with higher rates of diabetes, obesity and asthma tend to have more occurrences of climate change-related health problems.  This is seen by the fact that African-American children are likely to be hospitalized for asthma at a rate twice as high as white children, with many occurrences ending in death for African-American children.  Comparatively, the chances of dying from asthma are 40 percent greater for Latino children than they are for white children.

Proposed solutions to the problem of carbon pollution-impacted climate change are to continue to implement changes such as the EPA’s restrictions on power plant emissions, which will result in healthier communities.  Some of the health benefits include fewer heart, asthma, and heat attacks.  Also, improvements will be seen in school attendance rates by children who normally miss school because of poor health due to poor air quality.

 

Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School 

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Sixth Amendment Disparities in Delaware Criminal Courts, Part One

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The Sixth Amendment Center published a recent report which examines the disparate access to counsel in Delaware criminal courts.  The study researched how equally the sixth amendment right to counsel applies.  Part one of the analysis involved determining whether Delaware meets the American Bar Association’s Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System, which was created as a guide to policy makers for implementing steps necessary for the criminal justice system to provide criminal defendants with high level and efficient legal representation. 

The first part of the report analyzes the ABA’s third principle, which is a criminal defendant’s constitutional right to early appointment of counsel. In Delaware this applies to proceedings in the Justice of the Peace Court where the beginning of the justice system process.  Although defendants are told that they have a right to counsel, defendants usually do not meet with counsel until they are actually in jail.  So, if a defendant is not required to be in jail before the trial starts, he does not receive the benefit of meeting with counsel as soon as possible.  Also, in Delaware Family Court, if a child does not request an interview with the public defender’s office prior to his arraignment, the child is automatically named as a pro se litigant, with no representation by legal counsel. 

Counsel representation is critical for defendants to fully understand their rights and the implications of the court proceedings they face. For example, a defendant who represents himself or who has not met with counsel as a result of not being kept in jail before the trial might accept a plea at the preliminary hearing to avoid the increased court fees that come with proceeding to trial without accepting a plea.  A court-appointed attorney  would be able to advise the defendant of his options and if the defendant could not afford to hire an attorney. 

The study also finds a high rate of incidents where critical stages of court proceedings go on before a defendant even declares whether or not he waives his right to counsel. 

Unfortunately, since minorities are involved in the criminal justice system at disproportionately higher rates than whites, disparate access to counsel has particularly unfortunate implications for communities of color. 

Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School

Racial Disparities in Michigan’s Foster Care System

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A recent report by the Michigan Race Equity Coalition in Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice discusses racial disparities in the Michigan adoption system.  Children of color enter into the foster care system at a higher rate due to abuse and neglect (1.3 times more than white children).  Children of color also more likely to age out of the foster care system and not return to their families. Of the 13,000 children in Michigan’s foster care in 2013, minority children are 2.1 times more likely to age out of the foster care system.  Broken down by race, black children are 2.3 times more likely, American Indian children are 1.4 times more likely, and Hispanic kids were 1.1 times more likely to have to leave the foster care system because of their age.  Also, black children live with families that are investigated for abuse or neglect at a rate 1.6 times higher than white children. 

Key suggestions from the report are as follows: 

  • Continue to increase the number of foster care workers
  • Increase the level of assistance available to foster care students who are in college or who are working until they reach 21
  • Improve data collection and increase data-driven decisions for improvement
  • Increase funding to improve measures to prevent foster care neglect and abuse

 

Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School

 

Addressing School Discipline Disparities

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A recent Indiana University publication by The Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative discusses the disparities in school discipline among racial groups.  Over the past 40 years, black males have been disciplined at disproportionately higher rates than any other group.  Unfortunately, the disparities have lasting negative effects on the students such as lower academic achievement, higher risk of school drop outs, and increased likelihood of involvement with the juvenile system. The report asserts the following key suggestions for improving school discipline systems and making them equitable: 

  • Administrators and policy makers realizing that addressing school discipline problems affects all of schooling
  • Taking preventive steps to prevent school discipline disparity
  • More interventions from educators to resolve school discipline issues, particularly those that are small-scale issues
  • Collecting and using discipline data to drive school decision-making
  • Providing support and funding for alternatives that have been proven to work
  • Aligning discipline polies with education goals

 

Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School

Stanford’s Report on Poverty and Inequality

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Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality’s recent report examines some of the effects of the declining economy resulting from the Recession, as well as institutions’ struggles after the market decline.  People between the ages of 25 and 54 were employed at a rate 5% lower in November 2013 than in December 2007.  Also, the unemployment rate for women and men is at its highest since 2000.  Mirroring that trend, poverty rates have increased from 12.5% in 2007 to 15% in 2012.  Poverty rates among children have risen from 18% to 21.8% from 2007 to 2012.  The report also notes an improvement in safety net programs, which provide a large portion of the support low-income families need to get above the poverty line.  These programs have increased their emphasis on encouraging market work.

 

The report explains that these effects on poverty have additional undesired residual effects. Some of those effects include inequalities in income, wealth, health, and education.  For example, wealth among blacks and Hispanics has decreased more drastically than for whites as a result of the Recession. Also, the number of blacks and Hispanics who reported an inability to pay for health care rose by 0.6% from 1997 to 2012.  And over the last 40 years, disparities in the level of academic achievement between blacks and whites has increased by 40%.

 

Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School

Tackling Poverty through Promise Zones Initiatives

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The Center for American Progress released a new report discussing promise zones and their effects on poor communities.  Under the Obama administration, the Promise Zones Initiative has taken shape.  The purpose of this initiative is to strategically revitalize high-poverty communities, many of which are comprised of minorities particularly in urban areas.  Also, local leaders of the areas to be revitalized receive help in managing additional federal funding that they receive through the initiative.  These extra resources are to improve struggling communities by:

  • encouraging job creation,
  • increasing economic security,
  • expanding educational opportunities, and
  • increasing access to quality, affordable housing, and improve public safety. 

A long history of policies designed to isolate the poor have heavily impacted communities of color. For example, beginning in the 1930’s redlining practices excluded African-Americans from certain communities as banks were allowed to deny African-Americans for home loans.  Also, post-World War II, highways were built through many low-income communities that were also largely African-American.  Disruptions in these communities resulted because many residents were displaced and many businesses were driven out to make room for the highways. 

Concentrated poverty areas remain today and their long-term negative results persist. Some of the disparities within these communities include inferior housing, poor health outcomes, failing schools, substandard public infrastructure, and limited opportunities for employment.  Further, the effects of poverty-stricken communities have deep impacting negative effects for children including genetic aging and impaired cognitive ability.  Subsequent future effects include poor health, low educational outcomes, and limited employment opportunities. Further, more stressors are tied to increased crime and decreased air quality. 

Key suggestions for improving the Promise Zone Initiatives are as follows: 

  • Initiative goals should be driven by social mobility research
  • Congress-supported tax incentives should be in place for Promise Zone efforts
  • Planning grants should be awarded
  • Connections to regional opportunities should be emphasized more 

 

Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School

 

 

 

 

Listening to Our Students to Prevent Drop Outs

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Tufts University’s America’s Promise Alliance and its Center for Promise released a new report on the circumstances surrounding students’ choices to drop out of school.  This is a particular issue of concern for communities of color where school graduation rates are significantly lower than white students.  According to the Center for American Progress, high school graduation rates in 2009-2010 were as follows: 

  • 83% for whites
  • 66% for blacks
  • 71% for Hispanics
  • 69% for Native Americans 

For the Tufts University report, researchers interviewed students who dropped out of school and found that their decisions were influenced by 25 different factors or events. Some of these factors include family health challenges, peer influences, school safety, incarceration, becoming parents, and school policies. All of the interviewed students had to deal with a combination of toxic home, school, and neighborhood environmental issues, which weighed heavily on their decisions to leave school.  Also, all of the dropouts indicated needs for connectedness that were not met in school.  The report also shows that student who stayed out of school did so because even after having bounced back from difficult situations, the support they needed to reengage was not there.

 The report shows that there are risk factors that lead to interrupted enrollment to which school professionals should pay close attention so that students can be encouraged to stay in school or return to school if they have left. These factors are: homelessness, incarcerated parents, moving homes, changing schools, and foster care.