Women with Cancer: Prisoners’ rights versus the Profit of Corporations

Sherrie Chapman
Rahul Gupta and Danisha Christian
Contributed to this Series

Sherrie Chapman found a lump in her breast. A prisoner in a California Corrections facility, Sherrie persisted in demanding an examination by prison medical personnel. Her pleas were not answered until 9 years later, when lumps were visibly protruding from her breast.  Even after receiving a mammogram that revealed immediate follow-up tests were needed, medical personnel denied Sherrie personnel any sort of additional testing including a biopsy, ultrasound or fine needle aspiration.

She eventually underwent two mastectomies.  Subsequently, staff ignored her chemotherapy appointments and confiscated her medication. She filed a lawsuit against the prison, received a settlement of $350,000, but sadly, at the age of 42, Sherrie died in prison from the cancer she fought so tirelessly to beat.

Her death was one of many, among other violations against women and men, which forced the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to be under federal court supervision. “In California, inmates’ health care has been under federal court supervision for the past six years after a judge found that the state failed to provide inmates with adequate medical treatment. Continue reading “Women with Cancer: Prisoners’ rights versus the Profit of Corporations”

Inadequate Healthcare in Prisons: A Death Penalty Conviction for Profit (3-Part Examination)

Danisha Christian and Rahul Gupta contributed to this series

“In the last ten years alone, there have been instances of medical neglect, sexual abuse, and preventable suicide in private facilities [throughout the state], said Bob Libal, Director of Grassroots Leadership. Libal and others are part of the Texas Civil Rights Project and Prison Legal News lawsuit against Corrections Corporation of America. CCA is one of the top two private prison companies in the country.

Private prisons throughout the country have faced charges from family members and advocates, alleging the wrongful death of inmates whose medical conditions were not only treatable, but routine and preventable. While many of the cases included in this article point to the state of Texas—that state is not an outlier, but part of the norm. Continue reading “Inadequate Healthcare in Prisons: A Death Penalty Conviction for Profit (3-Part Examination)”

The Alliance Hosts Our First National Conference in Baltimore and DC

A week ago, to the day, the Alliance for A Just Society hosted our 2013 Summer Conference with all our national affiliates (#Justice2013). There was no better way to kick it off than taking close to 200 participants into Washington DC and hosting three separate actions on the Hill.

As of this year, we are proud to note the following states affiliated with the Alliance for a Just Society and Main Street Alliance: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, New York, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Maine, Florida, Colorado and Connecticut.


State affiliate.Alliance and MainStreet

The morning of July 18 began with The Main Street Alliance hosting a forum on “Too Big To Fail”—addressing the policy conundrum where favors are given to Big Banks at the expense of the common good. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), FDIC Vice Chairman Thomas Hoenig, economist Simon Johnson, and a panel of small business owners and policy experts each spoke of the need for renewed attention to megabank limits in order to stabilize the financial system and support the Main Street economy. Continue reading “The Alliance Hosts Our First National Conference in Baltimore and DC”

The Acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Murder of Trayvon Martin re-Energizes the Movement to End Racial Profiling


On Saturday night, July 13, 2013, you could hear the people next to you breathing as thousands of civil rights leaders huddled together listening to the court verdict of the George Zimmerman trial.

Not Guilty.

On the night of the verdict—at first there was silence, then tears, then anger that could only yield by taking action.  Action fueled by a renewed commitment to end racial profiling based on the color of their skin, the clothes they wear, or the visual signifier of their religion. Continue reading “The Acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Murder of Trayvon Martin re-Energizes the Movement to End Racial Profiling”

The Long Journey for Immigration Reform

Last week, “approximately 140 people, ranging in age from 7 to 80 years old, walked various distances along the 30-mile road from Wilder to Meridian raising awareness for the number of families affected by a lack of immigration reform. Along the way walkers said they celebrated their struggle for citizenship in the presence of family, BOH6MT6CcAAfI3r.jpg_largefriends and the community.” (Boise Weekly) Continue reading “The Long Journey for Immigration Reform”

Minority Dissent: The Voting Rights Act Decision

Cite as: 570 U.S. _____ (2013)
No. 12-96

[June 25, 2013]


The Alliance respectfully dissents from the majority in Tuesday’s Court ruling; and joins the opinion of Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan.

The question before the Court was whether Congress had the authority under the Constitution to reauthorize preclearance for another 25 years. While the Court correctly notes that Congress had the proper authority; we depart from the opinion that requires Congress the duplicative analysis of recalculating the formula.

In 2006, when reauthorization was at issue, Congress had already assembled a legislative record justifying the initial legislation.  As Justice Ginsburg appropriately points out, “Because Congress did not alter the coverage formula, the same jurisdictions previously subject to preclearance continue to be the remedy.” Dissent at 19.

Based from the conclusion of the majority Court’s rationale, the need for enforcement must have magically disappeared.

Reality however, shows otherwise.

Of particular importance, even after 40 years and thousands of discriminatory changes blocked by preclearance, condition in the covered jurisdictions demonstrated that the formula was still justified by “current needs” Id., citing Northwest Austin, 557 U.S.., at 203.

In some ways, things have changed dramatically since the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed.  Voter turnout and registration rates for African Americans and Whites are almost on par in jurisdictions covered by §4, and the tests and devices blocking access to the polls have been forbidden nationwide—all of which the majority notes are due in large part to the success of the Act itself.

While the majority contends that §4 is no longer valid due to changed conditions in those jurisdictions, the formula, specifically, is a large part of what has allowed the success of the Voter Rights Act.


If the formula is irrelevant, one would expect that the rate of successful lawsuits authorized by other parts of the Act would be more or less the same in both covered and non-covered jurisdictions.  Yet, evidence has shown that racial discrimination in voting in fact is “concentrated in the jurisdictions singled out for preclearance.”  Northwest Austin Municipal Util. Dist. No. One v. Holder, 557 U.S. at 203 (2009).  For example, as the Katz study indicated, jurisdictions covered by the §4 formula account for 56% of successful §2 litigation (since 1982), even though the jurisdictions make up less than 25% of the population.   To Examine the Impact and Effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act: Hearing before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 109th Congr., 1st Sess., pp. 964-1124 (2005).


Additionally, one would also expect, if the formula were not representative of current conditions, that the degree of racial polarization would be equivalent in covered and non-covered jurisdictions.  Yet, evidence indicates rates are the highest in covered jurisdictions.  H.R. Rep. No. 109-478, at 34-35.


Alliance for a Just Society joins in the opinion that §4 of the Voter Rights Act itself accounts for changing conditions.  If a state can show it has complied with the Act for 10 years, and has engaged in efforts to eliminate intimidation and harassment of voters, it may bail out.  42 U.S.C. §1973b(a) (2006 ed. and Supp. V).  Had Alabama complied with the Act beginning in 1973, and made efforts towards ending racially discriminative voting practices, this case would never have been presented to this Court.  Instead, Alabama would have escaped subjection to pre-clearance in 1983, like nearly 200 other jurisdictions who have successfully bailed out since the Act was passed.  See Brief for Federal Respondent 54.  Jurisdictions may be added to the preclearance requirement if they violate the 14th or 15th amendment, essentially installing a bail in mechanism.  The concept is simple:  if a state does have racially discriminatory practices in motion with regards to voting access, a state will not be subject to preclearance.


Yet, many covered jurisdictions, including Alabama, have clearly shown they are unable to comply with measures of the Voter Rights Act.  Alabama, specifically, is second only to Mississippi in the highest rates of successful §2 suits between 1982 and 2002 (679 F. 3d, at 897 (Williams, J., dissenting)).  Additionally, multiple cases have occurred even as recently as 2011, in which racial discrimination was at issue.  (See Dillard v. Crenshaw Cty., 640 F. Supp. 1347, 1354-63 (MD Ala. 1986), holding at large election systems in several Alabama counties violated §2, and United States v. McGregor, 824 F. Supp. 2d. 1339, 1344-1348 (MD Ala. 2011) where an FBI investigation found Senators referring to African Americans as Aborigines, and captured their conversations aiming to quash a referendum because it might increase African-American voter turnout).


Moreover, the majority ruling ignores the enormous impact of second generation barriers inherent in so many covered jurisdictions:  racial gerrymandering, and system of at large voting (just as examples).  While there are not direct tests required for voting in covered states, processes diluting the African-American vote have essentially the same effect as overt discrimination.  This is why Congress continued to reauthorize the Voter Rights Act in 1970 for 5 years, in 1975 for 7 years, and in 1982 for 25 years.


§4 of the Voter Rights Act is essential to ensuring that the rest of the Act is complied with.  As the Court had repeatedly recognized, other solutions to racial discrimination in voting access have failed.  The Act was created specifically to address the inadequacy of litigation:  its often prohibitive cost and lengthy procedures yielding untimely results with serious consequences.  Yet, the majority’s legislation will allow states, who have shown they are incapable of complying with the Act, to enact radical racially discriminatory voting practices whose consequences cannot be fixed without additional years of litigation and elections.


The formula of §4 was the method Congress chose for good reason, and not for the court to undermine.  Unfortunately, while recognizing the problem of racial discrimination in voting, the majority refused to enforce a working solution.

The United States failed for over a century to fulfill promises of Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments, and it has yet to correct its mistakes.

  Breanne Schuster, Alliance 2013 Policy Intern, helped immensely to write this piece.

The Times They Are A Changin…

But Racism Stays the Same

There is no way to put a good face on it. The U.S. Supreme Court cut the guts out of the 1965 Voter Rights Act, one of the seminal achievements of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.

True, they didn’t throw it out entirely. They just made it useless. They eliminated the formulas that the U.S. Justice Department employed to determine where the Act should apply.

The ruling was 5 to 4, with the reactionary wing winning the day. Continue reading “The Times They Are A Changin…”