New County Prosecutor Bell Expands Alternative Courts

By Free Radical

New St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell has already made his imprint on the office.

New St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell has already made his imprint on the office.

Newly elected St. Louis County Prosecutor wasted little time to make reforms he promised while on the campaign trail. At a Tuesday news conference he announced that he would expand the county’s drug and mental health court system.

He explained, “When non-violent offenders receive treatment, they are less likely to reoffend, which can help break the cycle of escalation that so often starts with addiction or mental illness and ends in violent crime or death by drug overdose. By turning these lives around, we will make St. Louis safer for everyone.”

Drug and mental health courts generally tend to be less punitive and more rehabilitative. Defendants are usually spared from having felonies on their record if they complete a treatment program.

Bell’s plan also includes linking indviduals accused of crimes with job opportunities through the St. Louis Urban League and housing assistance with Beyond Housing.

In the first days of Bell’s tenure he has also announced that St. Louis County will no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases when there are less than 100 grams. Parents who fail to pay child support will not be prosecuted. Also, individuals who are accused of misdemeanors will not be subject to cash bail.

Cyntoia Brown Granted Clemency

Cyntoia Brown is now scheduled to be released in August after being granted clemency.

Cyntoia Brown is now scheduled to be released in August after being granted clemency.

By Malcom Speaks

Cyntoia Brown was granted executive clemency by Tennessee governor Bill Haslam last Monday. Therefore her life sentence for murder was commuted and she is now eligible for release on August 7.

Brown is a victim of child sex trafficking and was sentenced to life in prison for the killing of 43-year-old Johnny Allen in 2004. She was 16 at the time and living with her 24-year-old boyfriend, a pimp known as “Kut Throat” who forced her into prostitution. Allen solicited her for sex, and she shot him dead at his home, saying she thought he was reaching for his gun to kill her, according to court documents.

Miss Brown was tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder, among other charges. She was sentenced to life in 2006.

“Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16,” Governor Haslam said in a statement on Monday, according to the Tennessean. “Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life.”

“Transformation should be accompanied by hope.  So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”

This past December, Tennessee’s Supreme Court ruled that Brown was to remain in prison for at least 51 years before she can be eligible for release. A lawsuit was filed on her behalf, stating that mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles are unconstitutional. However, the court rejected that contention, thus prompting a Women’s March to announce nationwide protests for Brown and other sex-trafficking victims.

Celebrities, including Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna publicly joined those supporting Brown after PBS produced a documentary, “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story” in 2011.

In the documentary Miss Brown speaks about being forced into prostitution at a young age, sex-trafficked, and raped repeatedly.

“The first time he did something to me is when he choked me and I passed out,” Brown recounts of her alleged pimp in the documentary. “I made him money…he wasn’t going to let me go nowhere. He told me he’d kill me.”

Report: Police Killed 1,165 People In 2018

imagesBy Free Radical

A report by Mapping Police Violence and the Washington Post revealed that 1,165 people were killed by police in 2018. For 343 of the 365 days of 2018, someone was killed by police.

African-Americans bore the brunt of police violence, accounting for more than a quarter of all police killings (26.7%), though comprising just 12.6% of the national population. At this rate, Blacks were three times more likely to be killed by police than Whites.

The report also showed that Black People represented 30% of the victims of police violence who were unarmed. Whites comprised just 21%.

Recently released data from 2015 showed that of all the cases involving police killings, cops were not charged 99% of the time.

Mapping Police Violence is a research collaborative that collects comprehensive data on police killings nationwide to quantify the impact of police violence.

Kenyan Passport is the Eighth Most Powerful

By Shujaa Kwanzaa

A Kenyan passport allows one to travel to 71 nations without a visa.

A Kenyan passport allows one to travel to 71 nations without a visa.

According to new research, the East African nation of Kenya has the eighth most powerful passport in Africa. The research does show however, that the passport slipped down three places compared to the previous years.

The ranking by Henley & Partners, a citizenship and planning firm, takes into account how many countries can be visited without applying for a visa.

Kenyan citizens can travel to 71 countries without visas out of a possible 218, ranking behind Seychelles, South Africa, Mauritius, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Globally, Kenya was in position 72, which is an improvement from last year’s 73, in a ranking that placed Japan on the top, with Japanese citizens able to travel to a record 190 countries without visas.

“Kenya ranked 72nd in 2019 with 71 destination visa free access,” says the report that is produced in partnership with International Air Transport Association (IATA).

“As the world economy has become increasingly globalised, the need for greater visa-free access has grown steadily,” said the report.

Some of the countries that Kenyans can access without visa or get one on arrival include Singapore, Hong Kong, Jamaica, and Fiji among others. In the eastern African region, Kenya was ahead of its peers with Ethiopia, arguably the fastest growing economy in the region, ranked among the bottom five in Africa.

Countries linked to terror networks like Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq were at the bottom of the pile, with their citizens requiring visas to access the majority of countries. A recent survey by the African continental body showed East Africa leading in free movement of people in the region, affirming the gains of an open visa policy for the continent aimed at spurring trade and tourism. The liberalized visa regime was set up to promote more open borders across the continent and to boost trade, security and Africa-wide integration.

It has been widely publicized, with the African Union Commission voicing the need for countries to follow Kenya’s example.