Sweden closes 4 prisons, not enough prisoners

Various global headlines over the years have made Swedish prisons famous for their almost-gentle, humanitarian approach to punishment, and it could be that those efforts are paying off.

The head of Sweden’s prison operations Nils Oberg announced that 4 Swedish prisons would be closing due to a 6% drop in the prisoner population.

Sweden’s jailtime policies seem relaxed almost to the point of fantasy from an American perspective. The maximum sentence for even the worst offenders are rarely more than ten years, and whenever possible the Swedish justice system attempts to use non-prison rehabilitation methods rather than jail time.

Post prison rehabilitation is also a lot stronger in Sweden. Unlike the US, the Swedish government offers a supervised transition back into society for ex-cons and guarantees treatment for those suffering from drug addictions or mental health problems.

The programs and situation sharply contrast the US, where decades-long sentences are handed out for non-violent crimes regularly and prisons are at 39% over capacity as of 2011.

The Debate About Anti-Abortion Legislation in Texas Rages On

Texas has become the focus of great media and political attention after a controversial “special session” was held on Tuesday to allow lawmakers to vote on an anti-abortion bill.

During the session, Democratic Senator Wendy Davis staged a one-woman filibuster to derail the Republican effort to restrict abortions in the state, taking up the allotted time to prevent anti-abortion legislature from being approved. Davis stood and spoke for nearly twelve hours, without a break to use the restroom, to eat, or even to lean on her podium, while the crowd showed her support in their boisterous and impassioned presence. Davis wore a back brace during the end of the filibuster.

Davis’ filibuster successfully prevented lawmakers from voting on an anti-abortion bill, though her drastic measures to do so became a point of contention between the lawmakers. The bill itself is incredibly aggressive and controversial. It is one of the most forcefully anti-abortion pieces of legislature ever created, and if passed, would force nearly all of the abortion clinics in the entire state of Texas to close, as well as enforcing other anti-abortion stipulations. Wendy Davis has achieved overnight fame as a voice advocating for all women who would be impacted by such a bill, as well as infamy in the eyes of Texas Republicans.

One day after the special session and Davis’ filibuster, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced that he would call lawmakers back into another special session starting on July 1st to try to pass the anti-abortion bill. This news comes as a disappointing setback for pro-choice activists and politicians in Texas, who passionately supported Davis on Tuesday as she spoke on behalf of the health and wellbeing of all women. Governor Perry reportedly said “Texans value life and want to protect women and the unborn,” in a statement about his decision to try once again to pass anti-abortion legislature.

There is no doubt that Senator Davis is one of those Texans who values life, but she and other pro-choice advocates also fear for Texan women who will be adversely affected by anti-abortion legislature that will force hundreds of clinics across the state to close.

Texas will have the attention of the entire country next month as lawmakers come to a decision about anti-abortion legislature.

Photo credit Dallas News

School Cracks Down on Leggings

A junior high school in California is cracking down on leggings. Kenilworth Junior High in Petaluma, Calif. is enforcing a dress code that states that girls wearing leggings without something covering up with shorts, skirts or dresses will not be allowed on campus.

The school says they’re trying to prevent students from showing up to class in see-through clothing.
“The concern my staff and I have is basically seeing underwear,’’ Kenilworth principal Emily Dunnagan told TODAY.com. “With girls, leggings can be very, very thin, and leggings are fine as long as there is something over the top of them. We want to keep the learning environment distraction-free.’’

Dunnagan says she’s received two dozen phone calls and emails from parents supporting the new dress code, and about seven from parents who were against it. The school has more than 900 students.

Girls who violate the dress code won’t be sent home, but instead sent to the main office to change into pants or shorts. If boys wear baggy pants that expose underwear, they’ll also be in violation and will be given a rope to pull their jeans up.

Recently, a high school in Washington DC made headlines after a principal told a student that her outfit was inappropriate. The student’s shirt wasn’t longer than finger-tip length.

Ken Mehlman Gains Support from GOP for Same-Sex Marriage

Ken Mehlman has gained support from the Republican Party in an effort to strike down Proposition 8, a ballot measure that outlaws same-sex marriage.

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Photo from Out.com

Mehlman was able to drum up support with 75 signatures from prominent Republicans. The brief will be presented to the Supreme Court this week. A feature about Ken Mehlman in The New Yorker today, is calling him one of the smartest political operatives since he understands better than anyone how moderate and persuadable Republicans think.

Many of the conservative officials and influential thinkers aren’t ordinarily associated with gay rights advocacy, including some who are speaking out for the first time and others who’ve changed their previous stance. Among them are Meg Whitman, who supported Proposition 8 when she ran for California governor, Richard Hanna of New York; Stephen J. Hadley, a Bush national security adviser, and Deborah Pryce, a former member of the House Republican leadership who is retired from Congress.

Ms. Pryce said, ““Like a lot of the country, my views have evolved on this from the first day I set foot in Congress. I think it’s just the right thing, and I think it’s on solid legal footing, too.”

After Mehlman came out of the closet in August 2010, it represented a turning point. The gay and lesbian political community now had a conservative leader.

Mehlman is on the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which brought the California suit. He’s spent months reaching out to fellow Republicans for support.

In the 2012 Presidential election, the Republican party failed to reach out to women, minorities and gays. Polls show that public attitudes have shifted over same-sex marriage in the past decade. The latest New York Times survey found that a third of Republicans favor letting gay people marry and that is also changing.