Harsh conditions in immigrant detention facilities

The U.S. Civil Rights Commission released a report this month detailing potential violations of human rights in immigrant detention facilities. In particular, the report highlighted concerns about sexual assault and access to nutritious food. Due to these conditions, the report recommended that the Department of Homeland Security act to immediately release all families held in detention centers. This report comes just two months after a California court ordered detained families be released as soon as possible, finding such detention violates a previous court settlement requiring minors apprehended at the border be placed in facilities that are licensed to take care of children rather than prisons.

Government declares CIA torture details classified

Government officials have blocked the release of 116 pages detailing the torture of Guantanamo Bay detainee Abu Zubaydah, who has been held for nine years without ever being charged with a crime. During this time, Zubaydah lost one eye and was waterboarded 83 times in a single month. The news comes after the CIA was forced to issue new classification rules permitting the release of information regarding torture and the conditions of confinement in Guantanamo Bay in January. Zubaydah’s lawyers maintain they followed the new rules “to the letter” but that the CIA is attempting to “guarantee that Abu Zabaydah never discloses what was done to him.”

Campaign to create a national park honoring Stonewall

Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York and Representative Jerrold Nadler of Manhattan have begun a petition to urge President Obama to grant the Stonewall Inn protected status as a federal national park. Stonewall, which is known as the site of a pivotal clash with police in the LGBTQ rights movement, was also a place of celebration this past summer in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to recognize marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges. While New York City already designated Stonewall a landmark, supporters argue that making the site a federal national park, like similar sites from the Women’s Rights and Civil Rights movements, will confer proper recognition to the fight for LGBTQ rights.

Health care in prisons

The state of Virginia has recently agreed to settle a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of 1,200 prisoners who did not receive adequate health care behind bars. Attorneys with the Legal Aid Justice Center, who filed the suit, claim at least 10 deaths could have been prevented at one state women’s prison. In the settlement, the state has agreed to issue new formal guidelines to address problems with health care in the prison, as well as being monitored by an outside party. This is just the most recent in a series of lawsuits and controversies alleging inadequate health care services in prisons. Some of these cases blame for-profit service providers attempting to cut costs and failing to deliver an adequate level of care to inmates.

The fight over Planned Parenthood begins

Last week, the House voted to place a one-year moratorium on taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood pending an investigation into the organization’s practices. The vote comes two months after videos were released allegedly showing Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of fetal body parts and partial-birth abortions and causing a wave of reactions against the organization. This legislation, which was passed with only 5 Democrat votes, sets the stage for a possible government shutdown in the near future, with the Republicans deciding whether to use the September 30 funding deadline to strip Planned Parenthood of all taxpayer funding immediately.