Your weekly justice news 1.18

Fires and inmate crews; defunding police; Trump's pardon; racial impact of traffic fines; Transgender and imprisoned - your weekly justice news


Fast Burn: As I sit in smoke writing this newsletter in Colorado, fires are lighting up the West and underpaid and under-valued firefighters - prisoners - are no longer available to fight the flames due to COVID-19. Context. [Now This]

Still a Pandemic: Updated COVID-19 visitation restrictions at prisons. [The Marshall Project]

More complicated: Mostly Black Atlanta city councilors shot down a proposal to defund the police. From the end “But the complexity of the law, and the complexity of the politics, are the enemy of instant solutions.” [The Intercept]

Abuse: Deputy shoves handcuffed teen against wall, threatening to show him what ‘freedom of speech is’. [Sun Sentinel]

Exported: Eighty percent of Vermont inmates held in Mississippi private prison are infected with COVID-19. [Jackson Free Press]

Pardoned: Trump pardoned Susan B. Anthony, a suffragette, while simultaneously attacking voting. Would she have been happy? The suffrage movement wasn’t just about white women: Read more. [The New York Times]

Opinion: “Defunding the police is the first step in a longer process that may culminate in the end of policing in the United States.” [The New Yorker]

Free them?: “California could cut its prison population in half and free 50,000 people. Amid pandemic, will the state act?” [San Francisco Chronicle]

Immigration: New York bans immigration arrests at courthouses. [Brennan Center]

Violence: New York prisoner kills himself after brutal beating by guards. [Prison Legal News]

Money: Private companies are looking to profit off of police reform across the nation, including New York. [The Intercept]

Long read: Misgendered with violent and often deadly consequences behind bars. [The Tampa Bay Times]

“It’s so stupid to cry about hair and about makeup,” she told the Tampa Bay Times, her voice breaking. “But when they take who you say you are away — oh my God.”

By day seven, she was suicidal, under close observation by jail staff.

“I’m going to die in here,’” she remembers thinking. “I’m just going to end my life.”

Incarceration is already dehumanizing. But it can be even more unforgiving for those who faced discrimination and marginalization before they were locked up.

What Bello endured is emblematic of the way transgender people are treated while incarcerated, advocates for transgender rights say.

Studies show they are disproportionately locked up and more likely to be abused by staff and fellow inmates. That can lead to trauma and depression and, in extreme cases, murder or suicide.

Educate yourself: Fines and fees impact people of color worse than white people. [Bloomberg City Lab]

COVID-19 resources: State policy changesNewsBureau of Prisons updatesState court changes. Prison holistic self care and protection.

We want to hear from you about how COVID-19 is impacting you and the people connected to you. What is not being talked about? What story do you have that needs to be heard? Who do you want answers or explanations from? Reach out to

The Des drops into your inbox weekly with a collection of small and digestible snippets concerning the criminal justice system. It promises to be humanizing, spunky, and educational. Our name: The Des is short for Desmoterion or “place of chains”, used to describe prisons in ancient Athens. We like the idea of the chains because incarceration impacts our entire country in every aspect of society. We are here to cover it all.