On the calls for peaceful protest: Talk to the police, first.

Kara Walker, 40 Acres of Mules

In the lead up to and following the release of the videos of the brutal murder of 29-year-old, 140-pound, skateboard- and sunset-loving, loving father and son, Tyre Nichols, killed by at least five Memphis police officers for the crime of Being Black, people from the President of the United States to Mr. Nichols’ family have called on people to engage in `peaceful protest’. While they called for a quick and just response to the violence, while they called for local and national legislation, they did not call on the police to be `peaceful’ as well. Why? Because in this nation, and historically, a peaceful police force is unimaginable. That is all.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, American, August 1963, 60 years ago

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Image Credit 1: Kara Walker, 40 Acres of Mules / Museum of Modern Art)
(Image Credit 2: Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture)

Where are the women? In England and Wales, in prison awaiting trial, under attack

 

Yesterday, England’s House of Commons Justice Committee delivered its report, “The role of adult custodial remand in the criminal justice system”. The Committee’s summary opens, “At present, the number of defendants being held in custodial remand while awaiting trial is at the highest level it has been for 50 years. They are also being held for longer periods of time, often beyond the statutory six-month limit. Recent figures show that 770 prisoners have been held on custodial remand for over two years, awaiting trial.” The highest level in 50 years. Longer periods of detention. Since 1976, the Bail Act was supposed to avoid precisely this situation, securing the “general right to bail of accused persons”. The idea was to reduce and then keep at a minimum the size of the population of people incarcerated while awaiting trial or any process: “Section 4 (1) raises the presumption that all unconvicted defendants in criminal proceedings will be granted bail.” With a fifty-year high in size and historical record lengths detained as remand incarcerated people, it’s clear the State has refused to recognize its own law, and with that, the dignity and rights of people, especially of women. Where are the women in England and Wales? According to the House of Commons Justice Committee, they’re incarcerated and awaiting trial: “The use of custodial remand for non-violent offences is a particularly acute practice for women. 85% of women on remand in prison have been charged for a non-violent crime.” 85% of women on remand in prison have been charged for an offense that, if found guilty, would not result in incarceration, and yet there they sit, incarcerated.

Two-thirds of the women remanded to prison are found not guilty or given a community outcome. There are little to no services in the remand sections of prisons, and yet “acutely mentally unwell women” are remanded to prison, often. When pressed to at least collect data on the situation, the government “rejected” the proposal, on the grounds that it was moving to implement reforms. The highest level in 50 years must be the result of those reforms. According to various support organizations, most women remanded to prison have no fixed abode, at the moment of reception.

The report goes on to describe “The female estate”: “The number of women received into prison on remand increased by 9% between April to June 2020 and July to September 2021. Women entering prison on remand account for over half of the women received into prison in a given year. The size and geography of the women’s estate means women tend to be held further from home, creating difficulties in maintaining contact with their families and within the remit of local services. 40% of women remanded into custody do not go on to receive a custodial sentence …. Almost nine in 10 women held on remand are low or medium risk of serious harm to the public …. Women can be held in prison on remand due to a lack of available appropriate accommodation in the community rather than because they are a threat to the public.”

Finally, “an acting prison governor at Bronzefield Prison, which has the highest number of remanded women in the country, noted that the large number of women on remand had restricted the capacity for prison staff to work constructively with the sentenced women in their care.”

It took decades for this deplorable and utterly predictable situation to occur. In 2012, the Chief Inspector of Prisons noted that remand incarcerated people were treated worse than convicted incarcerated people, and that women were “over-represented” in that population. Eleven years later, women are more over-represented and for longer periods of time. And then there’s Covid. Decades of defunding public services, throwing women into prison `protection’ for `their own good’ as well as the `public safety’, and ignoring, and violating. laws, because, really, what does the law mean for women, have resulted in a thoroughly outrageous and, again, altogether predictable situation. Where are the women in England and Wales today? In prison, under attack.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: Gabriel Saints / UK House of Commons Justice Committee)

Landmark cases: In Massachusetts, Nebraska, Black women demand housing justice for all!

Two “landmark cases” hit the news this week, both involving the rights and dignity of Black women. In Massachusetts, Mary Louis, of Malden, and Monica Douglas, of Canton, both Black women with housing vouchers, sued SafeRent and Metropolitan Management Group in US District Court for applying racial discrimination in their tenant screening software. This week, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Housing filed a statement of interest in support of Louis’ and Douglas’ claim. In Nebraska, Teresa Holcomb, a Black resident of Omaha, faces eviction, filed by NP Dodge Management. Ms. Holcomb’s attorneys, from Legal Aid of Nebraska and Nebraska Appleseed, are arguing that Ms. Holcomb has the right to a trial by jury. The Nebraska Supreme Court began hearings on Wednesday.

On May 25, 2022, attorneys representing Mary Louis, Monica Douglas, and the Community Action Agency of Somerville filed a lawsuit, in federal court, arguing that SafeRent, a national tenant screening provider, had been violating the Fair Housing Act for years by consistently giving low scores to Black and Latino rental applicants holding federally funded housing vouchers, causing them to be denied housing. This week, U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins for the District of Massachusetts explained, “Algorithms are written by people. As such, they are susceptible to all of the biases, implicit or explicit, of the people that create them. As the housing industry and other professions adopt algorithms into their everyday decisions, there can be disparate impacts on certain protected communities. Stable and affordable housing provides a unique pathway to success, opportunity and safety. We must fiercely protect the rights and protections promulgated in the Fair Housing Act. Today’s filing recognizes that our 20th century civil rights laws apply to 21st century innovations.”

SafeRent Solutions used to be called CoreLogic Rental Property Solutions. CoreLogic was sued, in Connecticut, “for violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminatory use of criminal records as rental criteria.” That court ruling is pending.

On Wednesday, January 11, Nebraska’s Supreme Court began hearing NP Dodge Management Company v. Holcomb. Teresa Holcomb got into an argument with two other tenants in a common area. NP Dodge Management Company filed for eviction, claiming Ms. Holcomb had violated the crime-free housing clause by threatening residents. Ms. Holcomb disputed that claim. The original court found in the landlords’ favor. Ms. Holcomb appealed, arguing that she had a constitutional right to a trial by jury to determine whose narrative, the tenant’s or the landlord’s, should prevail. In an Amicus brief, the local ACLU and NAACP opened their arguments in support of Teresa Holcomb, “This appeal puts before the Court a historical issue of the right to a jury trial on factual issues in an eviction trial, a matter of special importance to women, especially Black women, and their children, as well as people with disabilities.”

Last year, 9.3 million people in the United States received housing assistance. Of households receiving public housing assistance, 75% were female-headed. From discrimination in credit screening to discrimination in court, eviction, the right to decent and secure housing, and justice in housing are a matter of special importance to women, especially Black women, and their children, as well as people with disabilities.

 

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Image Credit: Silver State Fair Housing Coalition) (Photo Credit: WNYC / Michael Dwyer / AP)

His father returned

His father returned

Goods stolen
we bite the hand
that feeds
(same old story)

His father returned
whatever his son
brought home
from his (and others)
ransacking expedition

A ransacking expedition
they bit the hand
that helps others
in their time of need

His father returned
items his druggie son
(same old story)
took without permission
from the Gift of the Givers

His father returned
as many others did
from the community
and the surrounds

one wishes others
would do so too
from wherever

and from whoever
they have liberated
worldly goods
and the like

His father returned

SAFM radio’s Beyond the Headlines presenter – and many others – express disbelief at the ransacking of the Gift of the Givers’ office (Tuesday afternoon, 11 January 2023).

 

(By David Kapp)

Image Credit: Radio 947)

In the Philippines, prisons are at 332% capacity. Releasing a few people will do little to nothing

In the Philippines, detained people, incarcerated people, are referred to as PDLs, persons deprived of liberty. At Monday’s Cabinet meeting, the first of the year, Philippines President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. directed the Department of Justice to release those PDLs who are already eligible for parole in order to relieve overcrowding in the prisons. If history is any guide, this gesture may reduce overcrowding, slightly, and even that is doubtful, but it will not relieve overcrowding. According to the Bureau of Corrections latest data, as of November 2022, the prison capacity is 12, 145, and the prison population at that time was 50,226, or 414% of capacity. The one women’s prison, the Correctional Institution for Women – Mandaluyong, CIW-Mandaluyong, has a capacity of 1,008. In November, according to the government, it housed 3,341 WPDLs, women persons deprived of liberty. That is, it was at 332% of capacity. Releasing a few persons here and a few there will not do anything, especially since the prisons take in more people than they release anyway.

In September, the Bureau of Corrections, BuCor, released 371 PDLs. 37 were WPDLs. Since then, every month the government has called for more releases. Meanwhile, every month the prison population has risen: 49,515 in September; 50,141 in October; 50,226 in November. How is this possible, if people are being released to decongest the prisons? In September, 788 PDLs died; 5,011 were released; and 6,625 were admitted. Similarly, in October, 857 PDLs died; 5,627 were released; 7,358 were admitted.

Where and who are the women? In November 2021, 874 WPDLS, almost half the female prison population. listed unemployed or jobless as their profession. Next `businesswomen’, 454; then vendors, 394; then housekeeper/housewife/caretaker, 376; then laundrywoman, 111. After that, the categories drop even more significantly. Who are the women? Overwhelmingly low-income women operating in the informal sectors.

When Marcos suggested the release of PDLs, he noted, “Wala naman silang magaling na abugado (They don’t have good lawyers). So that’s why we are in favor now to release many of them. They just needed representation to set them free.” They just need representation to set them free. Why are the prisons so fatally overcrowded in the Philippines? They don’t have good lawyers. They just need representation to set them free. The deprivation of liberty begins and ends right there. Don’t build more prisons, which is what is being planned. Don’t release 300 here, 300 there, when you know they will be replaced by 400 one month, 500 the next. And as pretty much everywhere else in the world, the prison sentence doesn’t end when people are released, and this is especially true for women who have been deprived of liberty. Women face particular stigma post-incarceration. As human rights attorney Catherine Alvarez explained, “There is a perspective in society that a woman is not fit to become a mother because she committed a crime.” Rather than relieving congestion, try preserving and sustaining liberty.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: Jire Carreon / Rappler) (Image Credit: Pacita Abad, “Caught at the Border” / PacitaAbad)

Over the past three years, Scotland’s prisons saw record deaths. Where are the women?


In November, a study appeared, “Still nothing to see here? One year update on prison deaths and FAI outcomes in Scotland”. As the title suggests, a year earlier, the same research team produced, “Nothing to see here? Statistical briefing on 15 years of FAIs into deaths in custody”. FAIs are Fatal Accident Inquiries, which, since 2016, are required for all deaths in custody. In 2015, the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Act 2016 was passed and signed into law in 2016. Its intent was to regularize and speed up the holding of inquiries on the job as well as in custody. At the same time, the hope was such a regularized system might also shed some insight into the pattern of deaths, both at work and in custody. In 2019, it was noted, “The passing of the Act has made absolutely no difference.” The recent reports suggest that assessment was either premature or too kind. Since 2016, the situation has worsened, considerably. In that deteriorating climate, where are the women?

Still nothing to see here?” begins” “There were more deaths in prison over the past three years than in any other three-year period in Scottish prison records: 121 people died in prison between January 2020 and September 2022 compared to 98 deaths between 2017-19, and 76 deaths between 2014-16. Covid was not the main cause of the increase in the current period. Suicide and drug-related deaths are the driving forces in rising levels of death. Together, they were the leading cause of death in prison in 2022. Comparison with earlier periods shows that the chance of dying in prison in 2022 is double that for someone who was in prison in 2008. Rough comparisons with England and Wales show Scotland’s prisons had higher rates of deaths due to Covid, suicide and drugs.” As to FAIs, the situation has remained abysmal. The inquiries tend to take over two years to complete and almost never provide insight into means of prevention.

While Covid impacted the prisons, the main cause of death, again, was suicide and drugs. “Suicide is the leading cause of death of women in prison.”

The report notes that too often “very unwell people, who did not clearly present a threat to public safety” are detained. Often, they die: “These cases raise further issues of care and dignity in custody.” Here is one such case: “Police were called by members of the public reporting a woman wandering, confused and cold in pyjamas and a coat on a cold autumn evening. They had given her a cup of tea when police arrived, who on checking her record and noting outstanding warrants (for theft), arrested her. She was moved through three different police offices over several hours that night, and at each of these a flag on her record of medical issues requiring her to be seen by a health care professional whenever in custody was missed. The next morning she was taken to court where she spent seven hours waiting in a holding cell. By the time of her court appearance late in the day she could not stand or walk unaided and was placed in a wheelchair where she sat ‘slumped’ as the Sheriff denied her bail. After her bail hearing she was returned to the court holding cell, her health deteriorating for another two hours. At this point paramedics were called and arrived, and she was taken to hospital, where her health continued to deteriorate and she died six days later, never leaving hospital. No corrective findings made.”

The people who found this woman gave her tea. The police put her behind bars. No corrective findings made. According to the earlier report, between 2005 and 2019, “not a single FAI in the case of a woman dying in prison made a finding identifying any precautions, defects or recommendations.” What else is there to say?

In December 2016, the prisons established a suicide prevention strategy called “Talk to Me”: “following the introduction of the Talk to Me strategy there have been 42% more suicides than before it came into effect”. What else is there to say? Again, in Scotland, suicide is the leading cause of death of women in prison. Has been, continues to be.

In 2021, research, funded by the Scottish government, found that 78% of incarcerated women in Scotland suffered from significant head injury, most of which was caused by sustained domestic abuse. How did the government respond to this? Silence. More incarceration, more suicide. What then is the value of a woman’s life? Of women’s lives? Their deaths in custody, where inquiry is mandated, result in nothing, less than nothing, in terms of learning, insight, concern, care, and, if anything, an assault on their dignity and that of their loved ones. How many more reports, studies, commissions are needed? Stop sending women to prison. Don’t close one only to open another. Close them all and rediscover justice.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Image Credit: Louise Bourgeois, Cell XIV (Portrait) / National Galleries of Scotland)

In prisons miles and years apart, Dannielle Lowe and Autumn Harris died of easily curable diseases as staff refused to provide care

The bridge between last year and this could be the story of two women who died of preventable, curable illnesses while in custody, died over long periods calling for help, periods during with other incarcerated women called to the staff to take care of them. No one came … or worse, they came, and the situation worsened. Autumn Harris was 34 years old when she died in the Walker County Jail, in Alabama, on December 5, 2018. Her story was reported on today because her family is suing the company that provided, or refused to provide, health care for those in the jail. Dannielle Lowe, 41, a First Nation woman, mother of eight children died, on December 21, 2022, in the Wandoo rehabilitation prison at Murdoch in Perth, Australia. Her story was reported on today because advocates, like Debbie Kilroy, have brought the incident forward. This is “criminal justice,” and especially for women. Remember, there was no systemic failure, there was systemic refusal.

Autumn Harris’ story is short, as was her life. Autumn Harris was accused of having stolen $40. She failed to appear at her misdemeanor hearing for petty theft. She was picked up and dumped in the Walker County Jail, where she lasted three weeks. When she was brought into the jail, she informed the staff that she was diagnosed with pneumonia. When Autumn Harris was booked, she turned over her pneumonia medications. The staff never provided Autumn Harris with any treatment for pneumonia. Autumn Harris’ condition deteriorated. Staff did nothing. December 1, she reported shortness of breath. Staff did nothing. Other women incarcerated with Autumn Harris reported she neither sit nor stand. Staff advised her to take long walks or practice yoga; staff did not provide Autumn Harris with an inhaler or any other care. Autumn Harris asked many times to be transferred to the hospital. Staff did nothing. December 5, Autumn Harris died. That’s it.

Autumn Harris’ father, Michael Harris, is suing Preemptive Forensic Health Solutions (PFHS), which company, at the time of Autumn Harris’ death, provided, or didn’t provide, health care to those in the Walker County Jail. Michael Harris’ attorney, Justin Jones, said the autopsy showed that Autumn Harris’ lungs were filled with fluid and infection, and weight about four times the normal amount: “The autopsy was a brutal picture of just how far the disease had progressed over time …. I don’t see how any normal person could look at this and not be devastated by just how easily it could have been treated and handled and she’d still be here. Over something as frivolous as $40, she went through a very difficult death experience.” It took three weeks to kill Autumn Harris.

The details concerning Dannielle Lowe’s death are even sparer. Dannielle Lowe was in Wandoo Rehabilitation Prison, allegedly. She began suffering what she described as “massive migraines.” When she reported her pain and suffering to the staff, they gave her Panadol, and that’s it. She told her partner she was in agony. She stayed in agony for weeks. Then she died. The Department of Justice reported the staff gave first aid and that there were no suspicious circumstances. The Western Australian Commissioner for Corrective Services offered condolences, adding, “”I trust they took some comfort in being able to say their goodbyes.” The family is not comforted. As Debbie Kilroy noted, “It’s clearly distressing for the family. Eight children have lost their mother … women who were in prison with Dannielle are grieving.” The family is trying to raise money for Dannielle Lowe’s funeral. They are not comforted.

Three days later, a 45-year-old Aboriginal man died in police custody in Queensland.  Meanwhile, the families of Kathryn Milano and Shannon Hatchett are “searching for answers” and demanding transparency as to how and why their loved ones died, separately, last month in the Cleveland County Detention Center, in Oklahoma. Families are protesting outside the Yerawada Central Jail, in Pune, India, trying to find out how and why their loved ones, three people awaiting trial, died of `natural causes’ on December 31.

“Dannielle was a beautiful person,” remembered Debbie Kilroy. Dannielle Lowe was a beautiful person, Autumn Harris was a beautiful person. They were both trying their best to get back to family, community. They cried out repeatedly in pain, they cried out for help. Women who were in prison with them are grieving. This is criminal justice, especially for women.

 

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Image Credit: Daniel Pressley, “The Soprano at the Mourning Easter Wake of 1969 / Smithsonian American Art Museum)

 

As 2022 ends, around the world, mass evictions threaten all that is human

“Housing should not be a privilege”. After years in shelters and on the streets, 41-year-old Dwayne Seifforth and his nine-year-old daughter D’Kota-Holidae Seifforth live in an apartment in Harlem, in upper Manhattan. Having a stable and decent place to live has made all the difference. Mr. Seifforth moved from working part-time and living on food stamps to a full-time job. His daughter went to school and settled in. Unbeknownst to them and their neighbors, the landlord’s ownership of the building was tenuous, at best, and now they face eviction, through no fault of their own. “Housing should not be a privilege”. It’s a sentiment expressed around the world, and, sadly, with increasing frequency, given the rise this year in mass evictions. Consider just the last month or so, 2022.

In the United Kingdom, November ended with the revelation that, in the depths of the pandemic and its economic and existential hardships, housing associations, home to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable tenants, had secretly lobbied the government to let them charge more rent. At the same time, the typical salary for a housing association executive was around £300,000 a year, close to $400,000. At the same time, Michael Gove, the `levelling up’ secretary, reported that `at least’ tens of thousands of rental properties across the UK were unsafe, due to lack of maintenance. One minister’s “lack of maintenance” is a thousand landlords’ refusal to maintain. Meanwhile, end of the year reports showed that no-fault eviction notices rose 76% in the past year. 48,000 households in England alone were served with no-fault eviction notices.

In Canada, evictions marked the end of the calendar year. Quebec’s non-urban areas saw a marked increase in “renovictions”, forced evictions under the pretense of renovation. Non-urban Quebecois renovictions rose 43% in the past year and look to continue rising. The Coalition of Housing Committees and Tenants Associations of Quebec describes the situation as “alarming”. In metropolitan Quebec, evictions rose from 1,041 in 2021 to 2,256 in 2022, a 154% increase, again in the midst of a pandemic and its hardships.

For the state of Assam, in northeast India, in December, the state went on an eviction spree, and this in a state that has used mass evictions often since May, 2021, when the BJP assumed power. These eviction campaigns have targeted `encroachers’, who are almost Muslim. At the time of the last census, Assam’s population was around 27 million, of whom around 19 million were Hindu and 11 million were Muslim. From May 2021 to September 2022, 4,449 families have been evicted, almost all Muslims of Bengali origin, most of whom have lived in the area for generations. In November, 562 families were evicted from one site, without notice. In the first week of December, 70 families were evicted. On December 19, another 302 families were evicted. On December 26, 40 families were evicted from one site. On December 28, another eviction drive was announced, in Guwahati, Assam’s most populous city. Repeatedly, the government and its supporters have boasted that there was no resistance to the evictions.

Finally, on December 17, a group of people identifying themselves as part of or related to Operation Dudula, an anti-immigrant group in South Africa, invaded a derelict building in the New Doornfontein neighborhood of Johannesburg and evicted over 300 people, almost all migrants. Included among those cast out were more than 60 people living with disabilities, most of whom were blind, and over 200 women and children. As in Assam, the purpose was to remove `encroachers’ who were somehow `foreign’.

That’s the end of 2022, along with mass evictions of slum dwellers in Nigeria, villagers and small shop owners in Cambodia, Afghan refugees in Greece, long term residents in Mexico forced out to `welcome’ the new remote workers from the United States and Europe, Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, and especially Jerusalem, and, in the United States, from Connecticut to Oklahoma to Missouri to California to Oregon, and beyond and between, eviction filings and evictions are surging, often to record heights. When it comes to access to decent, stable, and affordable housing, the world map is one of violence, devastation and existential crisis.

Globally, the common theme is fear. In India, for example, the government assured the world that everything was fine because there was no resistance. According to residents, the reason there was no resistance was years of police violence against those who protested.  Ajooba Khatoon, whose house was demolished, explained, “We did not resist them because there were hundreds of policemen. The police had already instilled a sense of fear among us since their arrival on December 13. We were not allowed to step outside on the eviction day.” Across the United Kingdom, renters live with dangerous conditions because they are fearful of revenge evictions if they speak up. In South Africa, one of the survivors of the eviction in Johannesburg, Lazarus Chinhara, explained, “‘We are not scared of deportation or anything. If we remain quiet, we will become prisoners of conscience.” Tadiwa Dzafunwa added, “I don’t know if we will ever recover from this”.

Around the world and around the corner, neighbors are living with histories of State violence, perpetrated by landlords with the assistance of the police. Thinking of the residents’ and the world’s silence at the evictions in Assam, Moumita Alam wrote, “The silence around eviction however can be attributed to the history of violence that has marked the fate of the protestors …. If every protest begets dead bodies to be buried in silence, ‘peace’ of the burial ground shrouds our memory.” If we silently accept the forced disappearances of neighbors, the web of trauma thickens and tightens as the corpses pile up. What threatens all that is human is the cooperative architecture of violence, silence, and trauma of eviction. I don’t know if we will ever recover from this. Housing should not be a privilege.

 

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Image Credit 1: Next City)     (Photo Image Credit 2: LibCom)

Abuse in K-pop?

I recently came across a new (well, new to me) K-pop girl band called NewJeans. I was curious about the band because one of its members is Vietnamese-Australian. One of their debut songs, “Cookie,” evoked mature overtones based on the translated lyrics. When I first listened to this song, I felt that it was inappropriate for a K-pop girl band that included minors to sing these lyrics. I acknowledge that translations are not always accurate, but I was also not the only one that noted the inappropriateness of the combination of the lyrics and the age of the members. I felt the song was too mature and sexualized its young members. However, the sexualization of minors in K-pop is not new and abuse of all types has long been a problem within the K-pop industry.

It is true that some forms and varying degrees of abuse are common experiences within all entertainment industries and realistically, in most personal and professional spaces across the world. However, I want to focus on K-pop specifically because of the unique nature in which bands and idols are created. For example, there is a rigorous training process where hopefuls or trainees devote long hours in singing and dancing lessons to make the cut and eventually debut as a member of an idol group. Due to the years-long timeline, auditioning starts at a very young age. If they are able to make it past the auditions, the trainees are expected to leave their parents and live in dormitories that are supervised by the entertainment agencies. Such an environment is ripe for abuses: physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and abuses of power against minor trainees.

It is no wonder that countless articles and exposés from former idols or trainees have shared their horrific experiences. Most recently, the New York Times reported an altercation between a member of a band named Omega X, and an executive of the band’s management agency, Kang Song-hee. The filmed incident showed this executive pushing the member to the ground. When the executive spoke to the press, she denied any wrongdoing and claimed that the member had fallen down himself. Soon after, the members of the band flew back home and sued their agency to be released from their multiyear contracts. They later held a press conference to allege sexual and physical abuse from their agency.

Their story raises concerns of a larger problem plaguing the K-pop industry. Certainly, these problems are not special to this industry but as mentioned above, the unequal establishment of relationships between adult managers and often juvenile members is a dangerous setting where abuses can run rampant. Such unchecked power has resulted in great harm to those who have less.

It is difficult to offer appropriate solutions to abuses of power but awareness of the issue is a significant step to addressing the problem. The industry should do more to learn from experiences of abuse to regulate and offer stronger protections for its current and soon-to-be K-pop idols. Whatever the safeguards may be, it is important that they protect those chasing their dreams.

Artists protest against unfair working conditions at Gwanghwamun Plaza in downtown Seoul, 2017

 

(By Michelle Nguyen)

(Photo Credits: Jihyun Kim / Korea Exposé)

In Mexico, Aurelia García Cruceño left prison. She never should have been there in the first place.

Last Tuesday, December 20, Aurelia García Cruceño walked out of, or was released from, Centro de Readaptación Social de Iguala, the local jail in Iguala, in Guerrero, in southwestern Mexico. She never should have been in prison in the first place. In 2019, Aurelia García suffered a miscarriage and was arrested for having had an abortion. Today, Aurelia García is 23. She spent the last three years in jail, in a state that decriminalized abortion in May 2022, in a country whose Supreme Court unanimously declared penalizing abortion as unconstitutional. And yet …

In 2019, Aurelia García Cruceño, a 19-year-old Náhua woman, lived in the town of Xochicalco, in the Chilapa de Álvarez Municipality, in the state of Guerrero. A town leader raped Aurelia García, who, because of the man’s stature in the community, felt she couldn’t accuse him, at least not successfully and not without further endangering herself. And so, in June 2019 she fled to her aunt’s house, in Iguala. Aurelia García had no idea that she was pregnant. She also spoke no Spanish.

Four months later, on October 2, 2019, Aurelia García began suffering intense pain and bleeding. Finally, after a week, she endured a miscarriage, an “involuntary abortion”. Her aunt walked in, saw Aurelia García lying, passed out, on the bed, covered in blood, and called the ambulance, who took her to the hospital. When Aurelia García awoke, she was handcuffed to the bed. She was then charged with homicide, tried, convicted, sentenced, imprisoned.

Again, Aurelia García Cruceño was 19 years old at the time and spoke no Spanish. The lawyers assigned to defend her spoke to her in Spanish, without any Náhuatl speaking translator present. The attorneys told her to plead guilty and take a 13-year sentence. Otherwise, they explained, she’d be imprisoned for 50 years. Aurelia García agreed and signed papers. She had no idea what she was agreeing to nor understood the papers she signed.

At no time was a Náhuatl speaking translator provided, not in the hospital, not by the police, not by her attorneys, not by the Court. And yet …

Feminist and human rights attorneys, organizations and activists jumped to Aurelia García’s defense, once they heard of the case. They brought Aurelia García’s case to court for five separate hearings, and finally arrived at something like justice, or at least the beginnings thereof.

When Aurelia García walked out of prison, she was accompanied by her parents, Agustina Cruceño Naranjas and Alberto García Palazin, and her defense attorneys Verónica Garzón Bonetti and Ximena Ugarte Trangay. Aurelia García, who learned to speak Spanish while in prison, smiled and said, “I made myself strong to be able to move forward and beyond … I am going to study hard and hopefully I will achieve my dream of becoming a teacher … And I want to make sure that what happened to me never happens to anyone else. We cannot stay silent; we must talk and tell what is being done to us.”

Aurelia García Cruceño should never have been in prison. Her abuse by the State is an assault on women generally, on young women, on Indigenous women, on working poor women. As Aurelia García and her allies have noted, she was not alone in Iguala’s Center for Social Readaptation, far from it. In fact, the court has yet to hear the case of Maira Onofre Gómez, held in the same prison for exactly the same `crime’. How many more women must suffer this form of injustice, in Mexico and beyond? For now, Aurelia García Cruceño is with her family and supporters, waiting and preparing for the next trial, where she is suing the State for damages, and preparing for her future life, her dream, of becoming a bilingual teacher for Náhuatl-speaking indigenous children. May that kind of justice prevail.

Aurelia García Cruceño

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Image Credit: Amicus / Twitter) (Photo Credit: La Jornada)