Criminal Justice System

Our Prisons Are Scarring People For Life And Democratic Lawmakers Want To Know How To Help

Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Grace Napolitano want the National Institute of Mental Health to research post-traumatic prison disorder.

Every year, 640,000 people are released from US prisons. As disappointing as this probably is for "tough on crime" folks who would prefer that everyone convicted of a crime just stay in prison forever (whether or not they are actually guilty), this is a fact.

It is also a fact that being incarcerated is an incredibly traumatic thing for people to experience. I hate the term "common sense," but the logical conclusion that most people would draw after thinking about it for more than 30 seconds is that of course it's traumatizing to be locked up in a jail or a prison for any amount of time. How could it not be?

Given this, Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Grace Napolitano (CA-31) have written a letter to the National Institute of Mental Health, asking them to do more research on post-traumatic prison disorder, also called post-incarceration syndrome — so that when people leave jails or prisons, we know how to help them better adjust to the world outside.

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campaign finance

Herschel, Grifty Walker

Wait that headline doesn't make sense.

Herschel Walker — Hey! Stop throwing stuff at me, this is real news! — appears to have been up to some some mind-blowingly grifty shenanigans during his failed 2022 run against Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia) last year, according to reporting from the Daily Beast Wednesday. The Beast acquired a bunch of emails between Walker and a company owned by a longtime family friend of Walker's, billionaire industrial mogul Dennis Washington, who made it big in molybdenum and copper mining in Montana in the '70s and then expanded into industrialist stuff. (His novelty record, "Big In Molybdenum," flopped, however.)

In March 2022, the Beast reports, Walker emailed an executive for one of Washington's companies, conveniently named The Washington Corporations, to ask for money, which candidates do all the time, no big whoop. Except, as reporter Roger Sollenberger explains, candidates definitely don't make the kind of ask Walker did, because it's almost certainly illegal as fuck:

Walker wasn’t just asking for donations to his campaign; he was soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars for his own personal company—a company that he never disclosed on his financial statements.

Emails obtained by The Daily Beast—and verified as authentic by a person with knowledge of the exchanges—show that Walker asked Washington to wire $535,200 directly to that undisclosed company, HR Talent, LLC.

And the emails reveal that not only did Washington complete Walker’s wire requests, he was under the impression that these were, in fact, political contributions

In the best possible circumstances, legal experts told The Daily Beast, the emails suggest violations of federal fundraising rules; in the worst case, they could be an indication of more serious crimes, such as wire fraud.

The story is very careful to point out that even though he'd never run for office before, Walker was very well briefed on campaign finance rules from the time he started running in 2021. In one of the emails to Washington, Walker even explained the limits that could be given to his campaign and to his super PAC, "34N22," so he can't very well claim he was just a simple country millionaire former football player who'd like to be a werewolf maybe.

While we do have to talk about donation amounts and such, we won't be going into all the financial ins and outs, because 1) that's already in the Daily Beast story, and also 2) that would be Math.

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Congratulations On Your CPAC Speaking Slot, Subway Vigilante Choke Hold Killer Guy

There should've been another way.

The New York Times greeted us this morning to the following headline: "Man Dies on Subway After Another Rider Places Him in Chokehold." The subhed continues the passive writing style: "Video shows the man flailing his arms and kicking his legs as he attempts to free himself."


The actual story here is that a subway rider put a man into a chokehold, held him there for 15 minutes, and killed him in front of people. Yes, the 30-year-old dead man was, as witnesses report, acting in a “hostile and erratic manner” toward other passengers.

Juan Alberto Vazquez, a freelance journalist, filmed the encounter and posted it on his Facebook page.

From the Times:

"‘I don’t have food, I don’t have a drink, I’m fed up," the man screamed, according to Mr. Vazquez. "I don’t mind going to jail and getting life in prison. I’m ready to die."
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Zooey Zephyr's Taking The Bastards To Court

Nevertheless, she persists.

Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, the state's first transgender lawmaker, isn't going to let Republicans in the Montana House of Representatives silence her. At least, not without a fight. Last week, you'll recall, the GOP supermajority voted to censure Zephyr for speaking up too transly against bills banning gender-affirming care and writing trans people out of Montana law. Rather than expelling her like the jerks in Tennessee did to their meddlesome Democrats, the Montana House barred Zephyr from the floor and hearing rooms of the Capitol until the legislative session ends later this week, preventing her from participating in debate while allowing her to vote, remotely and silently, and to watch the same public stream of House proceedings as anyone else can on the internet. So generous!


Montana Silences Zooey Zephyr

Montana Republicans Want In On That 'Expel Democrats' Thing That Worked So Well For Tennessee

Montana House Republicans Officially Punish Zooey Zephyr For Legislating While Trans

Monday, Zephyr, with help from the Montana ACLU, filed a lawsuit in state court asking for an emergency injunction returning her to the House floor for whatever days remain in the session, arguing that her First Amendment rights had been stomped on. The suit also names several of her constituents as plaintiffs, arguing that the House's action effectively denied them and the rest of Zephyr's 11,000 constituents representation.

The AP interviewed one of those plaintiffs, Anna Wong, who has a transgender child and said she'd voted for Zephyr in 2022 because she knew Zephyr would "speak out against the onslaught of bills targeting transgender youth."

“Suicide amongst transgender youth is not imaginary,” Wong said. “It is not a game and it is not a political foil. It is real. It is heartbreaking. And it is the responsibility of my representative to speak out against bills promoting it.”

That's exactly what Zephyr was getting at when she spoke against Senate Bill 99, which bans gender-affirming care for trans youth. Zephyr accurately said forcing trans kids to undergo puberty as the sex they don't identify is "tantamount to torture" and said she hoped that those voting for the bill would "see the blood on your hands" the next time they pray during a House invocation. (Technically, the censure resolution only cited Zephyr's refusal to leave the floor last week during a demonstration by her supporters. But c'mon, we know why she was silenced.)

While there are only a few days left in the session, the Legislature still hasn't passed a budget, and Zephyr's lawsuit seeks her immediate reinstatement so she can represent her constituents in debate on that and other last minute bills.

Emily Flower, a spokesperson for Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen (R), whose office will manage the defense in the lawsuit, dismissed it as "performance litigation — political activism masquerading as a lawsuit," and said that the courts have no power to intervene, because separation of powers.

As Hayes Brown notes at MSNBC, that argument may win out, unfortunately, because the US Constitution gives the US House and Senate the power to "determine the Rules of its Proceedings," and that generally applies to state legislatures too, because 14th Amendment. Montana's constitution does indeed allow the Legislature to expel or punish legislators for "good cause," with a two-thirds vote of the appropriate house.

Zephyr's lawsuit acknowledges that, but also argues that the House GOP leaders applied the rules unfairly and capriciously, so they were

acting within the “color of the law” — technically allowed but acting against the spirit of the law and beyond the scope of its reach.

Brown notes that the argument that the House is depriving Zephyr's constituents of representation may be more compelling than the First Amendment claim, since that's "the most immediate harm that a court could rule on given the closing window for participation."

But hey better a long shot than no shot at all. Zephyr has, since last week's vote, been dutifully showing up and sitting on a bench near the entrance to the House chamber to work on her laptop, although yesterday when she arrived, she found the bench had been taken already. So she worked at a table instead, standing up for her community.

Some folks showed up early this morning and sat on the public benches near the entrance to the House, so Seat 31 has moved.

I'm up and ready to work. Plus, I hear stand desks are all the rage these days.

But who were those ladies who made a point of arriving early to occupy the bench where Zephyr had been sitting? Ha ha it was a very funny trick by the wives of several prominent Republicans in the state Lege, including Jolene Regier, the mother of Speaker Matt Regier and wife of Senator Keith Regier. Wasn't that clever of them? It's inspiring to see how every aspect of governing in Republican-run states is now given over to trolling the libs!

That is very humorous! Their husbands and sons kept Zephyr off the floor, and then the clever lady tricksters kept her off the bench, haha! Today, supporters of Zephyr made sure to be on the benches as soon as the Capitol doors opened, to save her a spot.

But also this morning, some unidentified opponent of trans rights took a less harmless approach to trying to silence Zephyr, calling the police in an attempt to send a SWAT team to the home of Zephyr's partner, journalist Erin Reed. Such SWATting attempts have resulted in at least two deaths — one from a police shooting, one from a heart attack — and many incidents in which police arrived at someone's door ready to use deadly force against a nonexistent threat.

Reed tweeted that the SWATting attempt against her failed, largely because "I've worked closely with the police in my community anticipating this," so there's one more tip for the journalist toolbox: If you write about issues that make the far-Right insane, let the police know they may get false reports of a hostage situation or other nonexistent crime at your home.

Update/clarification: The SWATting attempt may very well have come from outside Montana, because as indy reporter Alejandra Caraballo said on the Twitters, the dangerous hate troll site Kiwi Farms, which targets trans people and reporters for harassment in hopes that they'll kill themselves or die in a SWATting, added Reed to its page shortly before the attempted SWATting. They're pure evil.

This shit can't be tolerated. Zooey Zephyr isn't about to let herself be silenced, and neither should any of us who care about equality and freedom. Let your electeds, especially your Republican electeds, know that trans rights matter to you, and that if they think beating up on trans people will win them votes, it'll also get them very loud opposition, to say nothing of how they may end up in the history books on the same page as the Bull Connors and the George Wallaces.

And if you have some spare Ameros for Zooey Zephyr's 2024 reelection campaign, keep that in mind too. Montana needs her voice — and hey, she could use some company in the Montana House too.

[AP / MSNBC / Zephyr et al v. Montana]

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