Solving the ‘School-to-Prison Pipeline’

Originally published in The Chicago Bureau

Ordinarily, announcements of school funding awards by the United States Department of Justice are cause for celebration – or at least a mention in the news. Yet the department’s Sept. 27 decision to allot nearly $45 million to hire 356 new school resource officers nationwide was met with mixed reactions.

Some applauded the move as a response to mass school shootings, most notably the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, Conn. in which 20 Sandy Hook Elementary students and six others were killed. Others condemned the Justice Department for investing in school resource officers, claiming that the presence of police officers in schools creates a school-to-prison pipeline.

As it turns out, the Justice Department has seemingly found a solution to quiet  naysayers. It’s a solution so simple that it seems rather obvious: updating the job responsibilities of school resource officers. Read more

New Illinois Interrogation Law Making Effort to Stem Wrongful Convictions

Originally published in The Chicago Bureau

Juan Rivera’s wrongful conviction is one of the most infamous blots on the record of the Illinois justice system’s recent history. Due to coercive interrogation methods, he spent 19 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit before finally being freed in January 2012. With so many exonerations in Illinois – many blamed on the notorious term of Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge, known for and convicted on charges related to running a crew that tortured confessions out of mostly minority suspects – some say it’s about time some teeth were put into the state’s legal system.

Now, a new law, Illinois SB1006 requiring the recordings of interrogations in certain violent crime investigations, is intended to close the Burge chapter for good and to put an end to stories like Rivera’s. Read more

‘Smart on Crime’ Calls for Leniency for Youth Offenders

By Cameron Albert-Deitch and Jason Plautz. Originally appeared in The Chicago Bureau.

In a bid to decongest the nation’s overpopulated prisons, the Obama administration has proposed leniency for certain drug cases, a move with uncertain consequences for juvenile inmates.

The president’s new Smart on Crime initiative has received national attention since Attorney General Eric H. Holder announced the policy at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco on Monday.

Attorney General Eric Holder / Creative Commons

Attorney General Eric Holder / Creative Commons

The initiative – highlighted by an easing of mandatory minimum sentencing laws for low-level drug cases – could help reduce the booming prison population. But it’s unclear what impact that will have on the country’s juvenile incarceration rate, the highest of any industrialized nation. Read more

Same-Sex Couples Fight for Immigration Rights

Originally appeared in Immigrant Connect

UPDATE: Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on June 26, 2013. Same-sex married couples are now eligible for federal marriage benefits, including the ability to sponsor foreign spouses for citizenship.

Center on Halsted, the largest gay and lesbian community center in the Midwest, recently held a seminar on gay and lesbian immigration rights. Panelists had to tell the hopeful audience that same-sex provisions would not be included in the immigration reform bill heading to the Senate floor (click to enlarge)

Attorney Michael Jarecki had a client struggling to help her British partner stay in the United States.

Ordinarily, this situation wouldn’t be a problem. United States immigration law allows American citizens to sponsor a foreign spouse for lawful permanent resident status.

But Jarecki’s client wasn’t married. She was lesbian in a committed relationship, and securing residency for a foreign same-sex partner in the United States is nearly impossible. Read more

Buoyed By Youth Project’s Success, NU Law Begins Focus on Women’s Wrongful Convictions

Originally appeared in The Chicago Bureau

Four women stood at the front of a room, speaking before the small crowd with strong voices despite each going through a harrowing and emotional experience.

Joyce Ann Brown attends the Women’s Project event. Photo credit: Randy Belice

The women – Joyce Ann Brown, Audrey Edmunds, Tabitha Pollock and Gloria Goodwin-Killian – had all been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. In total, they spent 45 years incarcerated, knowing all the while they were innocent and clinging to some hope that this fact would come to light.

Now free, thanks in no small part to innocence projects around the nation, their testimonies before the crowd headlined the commencement of the Women’s Project at the Northwestern University law school’s Center on Wrongful Convictions this month. Read more

Guy Mendilow Ensemble Puts Modern Twist on Traditional Tunes

Guy Mendilow Ensemble photo 1

The Guy Mendilow Ensemble features (left to right) Tomoko Omura, Sofia Tosello, Tareq Rantisi, Guy Mendilow and Andy Bergman.

Once upon a time. Four simple words. Yet we put them together and all of a sudden, we are ready to be mesmerized. These four words are a signal: we are about to be told a story.

On Wednesday, November 7, at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, Guy Mendilow started his show with the words, “This evening, it’s our pleasure to share with you some of our favorite tales. And these stories have a bit of history. And because history is really nothing more than a story, we say, ‘Once upon a time.” Read more

RadioArte: Enhancing LGBTQ Visibility in the Latino Community

RadioArte, based out of North Chicago, is enhancing LGBTQ visibility on the Chicago radiowaves.

RadioArte: Enhancing LGBT Visibility in the Latino Community from Cameron Albert-Deitch on Vimeo.

MEDILL // Cameron Albert-Deitch // Bilal Iftikhar // Megan Thielking // Leah Varjacques

Tricycles for Charity: The Deltona 500

Originally appeared in North By Northwestern


Teams of two raced around the Northwestern University lakefill on miniature tricycles Sunday while competing in the Deltona 500. As Delta Tau Delta’s first philanthropy event since returning to campus, the Deltona 500 raised funds for Drinks on Us, an organization founded by McCormick sophomore Zueber Juma to build wells in Afghanistan.

Tricycles for charity: the Deltona 500 from North by Northwestern on Vimeo.


North By Northwestern // Cameron Albert-Deitch // Mallory Busch

SLIDESHOW: Open Mic Night at Uncommon Ground

Now a ten year tradition, open mic nights at Uncommon Ground (two locations in Chicago) have become a hotbed for musical talent and cultivation.

SLIDESHOW: Open Mic Night at Uncommon Ground from Cameron Albert-Deitch on Vimeo.

Cameron Albert-Deitch // MEDILL

On Winthrop and Bryn Mawr, Weather Can’t Keep Chicagoans Indoors

It’s a cold day with blustering winds, the first in a while that really feels like Chicago.

But weather can’t keep Chicagoans indoors. On the corner of North Winthrop Avenue and West Bryn Mawr Avenue, the sidewalks are as busy as ever.

This particular intersection features a restaurant at each corner and the different scents (Mexican, Indian, sandwich shop and Starbucks) create an unexpected blend. You can tell who’s new to the neighborhood – just take note of who wrinkles their noses as they pass by.

The signs overhead say “Bryn Mawr Historic District” and while historic districts often feel contrived, this feels authentic. Read more

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