Each Friday, we’ll bring you updates on the latest civil liberties news from Maine and the nation.
Arizona’s Botched Execution
On Wednesday, the state of Arizona executed Joseph Wood. However, the execution did not go as planned. He was pronounced dead after one hour and 57 minutes, and was gasping and snorting for more than an hour. This execution is the fifth execution in the United States since Clayton Lockett suffered horrific execution procedure in Oklahoma.
The Director of the ACLU’S Capital Punishment Project, Cassandra Stubbs, stated Wednesday:
Two weeks ago, Mallory Loyola became the first woman to be arrested as a result of Tennessee's new law criminalizing pregnant women. In April, Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill that allows a woman to be charged with criminal assault if she uses narcotics during her pregnancy. The law went into effect early July.
Last Sunday, on the HBO late night talk show Last Week Tonight, comedian John Oliver took on our criminal justice system. He began by showing a clip from Sesame Street, where Muppets were explaining incarceration to children. Like many kids, I grew up watching Sesame Street - most of my memories just involve puppets singing songs about the importance of sharing, counting to 10 in faux accents, or, in the case of Cookie Monster, hunting for cookies.
Earlier today, President Obama signed an executive order to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from workplace discrimination at businesses that contract with the federal government. This was not unexpected, but it is still well worth noting, especially in the context of the blog I posted last week.
In her native country of Burundi, Suavis Furaha was an office manager at the United Food Programme. She left that job behind - along with her country, her husband, and everyone she knew - when she fled the country with her four children in 2013. She fled because she feared for her life and the life of her children; they are safe now but she still fears for the life of her husband, who remains in Burundi. Now Suavis lives in Westbrook with her school-aged kids. She is studying English in Adult Ed; she also speaks French, Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, and Swahili.
On Monday, July 14, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new federal guidance to protect pregnant workers from job discrimination. These revisions are the first the EEOC has made in the last 30 years. The new guidelines make it clear that any form of workplace discrimination or harassment against pregnant workers is a form of sex discrimination and is, therefore, illegal.
Last week, the Pew Charitable Trust Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation released a report examining state prison health care spending. Overall, Maine has the eighth highest percentage of elderly prisoners in the country, with 15.2% of the population over the age of 50.
Late last year, when the U.S. Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), it was viewed by many as one of the highlights of an already-historic year for LGBT people. In Maine we have protections so that no one can be fired or not hired based on their sexual orientation, but the majority of states do not have such a law. So when ENDA passed, we celebrated here in Maine.