Another win has been declared for reproductive rights this week. On Monday, a federal judge declared an Alabama law that restricted women's access to abortion was unconstitutional. HB 57 required that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The bill, similar in nature to bills in Texas and Wisconsin, would have forced three out of five abortion providers in the state to cease providing abortions.


Perhaps one of the most insidious aspects of our prison system is that even after serving their sentence, the majority of former offenders find themselves unable to extricate themselves from the system. In addition to having the dubious honor of being the largest incarcerator in the world, the United States also has the highest rate of recidivism of any country in the world. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over two-thirds of people released from prison will be rearrested within three years.


Last month, the ACLU joined several other groups in filing a nationwide, class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of children, challenging the federal government’s failure to provide them with lawyers in their deportation hearings.


A new infographic out from the ACLU debunks the notion that putting more people in prison means safer streets. In fact, as the infographic shows, many states are reducing crime while at the same time reducing their reliance on the prison system and its crippling economic and human costs. 


Finally, some good news in the world of reproductive rights! On Tuesday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 against a Mississippi law that would close the state’s lone abortion clinic. The case brought into question the constitutionality of a 2012 law requiring physicians at the clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. The clinic and Dr. Willie Parker challenged the law, arguing that it interfered with a woman’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion.


Last week, we got the news of yet another botched execution, this time in the state of Arizona. After being given an experimental combination of lethal drugs from an unknown source, Joseph Woods took nearly two hours to die, snorting and gasping for air 660 times.


This fall, we will host our annual student conferences at three different locations across Maine, each featuring a series of workshops on different civil liberties topics that directly affect young people. Between these conferences and our many classroom visits we were able to reach more than 1,800 students last school year, but as we’ve been looking ahead to the 2014-15 school year we’ve been searching for ways to reach even more.


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.


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