WANT PRIVACY OR PROTECTION?

3 Apr

 

WANT PRIVACY OR PROTECTION?

Louise Annarino

April 3, 2012

I hesitated over the original title of this piece – Want Privacy or Protection? Shoot a Police Officer. I worried some readers might not understand the ironic tone it is meant to impart to my words. The NSA and others may be trolling the internet for just such a word pattern. The following three stories jumped off the page and struck me down today and I believe the title is apt, if absolutely disgusting. But, the thought was so distasteful I could not use the words “Shoot a Police Officer” even though that seems to be where this analysis takes us. Writers should be fearless; but, also responsible.

1.U.S. Supreme Court rules  that jailers may perform invasive strip searches for even minor offenses. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled against Albert Florence, who faced strip searches in two county jails following his arrest on a warrant for an unpaid fine that he had, in reality, paid. “Florence, who is African-American, had been stopped several times before, and he carried a letter to the effect that the fine, for fleeing a traffic stop several years earlier, had been paid.” Nevertheless,officers handcuffed him and took him to jail. Mr. Florence had already passed through  metal detectors, submitted to  pat down searches, had his clothing searched, and showered with delousing agents at 2 jails. But Justice Kennedy insisted being in the jail population, for whatever reason, justified such an invasive search. Further, he stated that the court must defer to the judgement of corrections officers “unless the record contains substantial evidence showing their policies are an unnecessary or unjustified response to problems of jail security.”

http://www.suntimes.com/news/nation/11682964-418/supreme-court-strip-searches-ok.html

2.Indiana Governor Republican Mitch Daniels signed into law Senate Enrolled Act 1 which allows homeowners to shoot police officers entering their home. Proponents argue that the law is meant to keep police safe! But, “Democratic Rep. Linda Lawson, a former police captain, says the bill would create an ‘open season on law enforcement’.” http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/03/23/indiana-governor-signs-bill-allowing-citizens-to-use-deadly-force-against-police-officers-into-law/

3.The Georgia legislature passed bill criminalizing abortion after 20 weeks with no exception  for rape or incest. “Commonly referred to as the ‘fetal pain bill’ by Georgian Republicans and as the ‘women as livestock bill’ by everyone else, HB 954 garnered national attention this month when state Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn) compared pregnant women carrying stillborn fetuses to the cows and pigs on his farm. According to Rep. England and his warped thought process, if farmers have to ‘deliver calves, dead or alive,’ then a woman carrying a dead fetus, or one not expected to survive, should have to carry it to term.”  Following a firestorm  over this remark, the Act was amended to allow abortion in those situations considered “medically futile”, i.e. one in which a woman’s life or health is threatened. However,  mental or emotional health,including suicide,mental illness etc are specifically excluded. And, “In order for a pregnancy to be considered ‘medically futile,’ the fetus must be diagnosed with an irreversible chromosomal or congenital anomaly that is ‘incompatible with sustaining life after birth.’ The Georgia ‘fetal pain’ bill also stipulates that the abortion must be performed in such a way that the fetus emerges alive. If doctors perform the abortion differently, they face felony charges and up to 10 years in prison.      http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/314-18/10765-at-11th-hour-georgia-passes-qwomen-as-livestockq-bill

The above decisions are not occurring in a vacuum; they are, in fact, related. Each situation addresses our right to privacy, and our right to feel secure in our own homes and in our own skin. Each involves some form of government intrusion. It is ironic that these decisions are made and supported by Republicans legislators and judges who generally stand for a citizen’s right to privacy and protection from government intrusion. The very group which attacks ObamCare insurance requirements as intrusive, and unconstitutional.

1.In the early 70’s I was a social worker at The Ohio Reformatory For Women, a maximum security prison. I had been hired under a minority recruitment program to address racial issues within the prison, given my field of graduate study. I believe prison officials hired me to avoid hiring an African-American while getting credit for a minority hire. They had no intention of addressing racial issues. I was warned the approved Racial Justice Program I organized was not to be implemented even though it had been officially approved;the approval was for “show only”. Despite this warning, I conducted race relations training for corrections officers, taught a course in Black History at the school, ran racial mediation groups for Black and white inmates, emceed a Black Culture awareness group using local Black achievers once a week, set aside a Black media/book center within the library etc. I was fired 8 months later for “teaching these N*****s they are human beings”.

At Christmas time each social worker was handed a polaroid camera to take a single photo of each inmate which she could then mail home to her family. We were admonished to take a good shot because we were allotted one shot per inmate, no matter how bad that shot was. I warned the corrections officer overseeing the operation that I am a horrible photographer and he could be sure I would screw up at least one photo. “One shot, Annarino! That’s the rule,” he responded. I did fairly well until my camera slipped and I cut off the head of one woman. Let’s call her “Sally”. We looked at one another in horror. She had nothing to send home to her children, no Christmas gift. I explained to the officer, and I took a second shot. I placed the headless photo in the trash can. When the administrator arrived and asked the corrections officer how things went, he informed her I had taken an extra shot, which she demanded I return to her. I had already given the good shot to Sally. She was told she could have only one photo and must return the second shot. I searched the can, but could not find the bad shot, hoping it would be accepted in place of the good shot. Sally insisted she had only the second photo.

The corrections officer was told to take Sally into the bathroom to do a strip search. Sally begged me to do it instead, preferring a woman over a man. Other inmates indicated to me by “sign” that he was not one a woman should be alone with. I reluctantly agreed to do it. I was told to check mouth, throat, anus and vagina. Seriously? How could  a Polaroid hide there?

Once inside the bathroom, Sally went immediately raised and pressed her hands to a wall, feet spread and pulled back. Obviously, this was not her first time. I explained I had never done such a thing, and had no need to do it as I accepted her word.

Sally insisted, “You must do it. They will ask you, and if you say you didn’t they will send him in. Please don’t let him near me. You have to help me.”

“OK,” I replied, but you have to tell me how to do it.”

So, Sally instructed me in the proper way to  do a strip search. I did the pat down along her right and left flank, top to bottom and back up. Then the inside seams of her legs,the frontal cross and down then up. I used as light a touch as possible, apologizing every few seconds. Sally indicating it was OK, not to worry. I thought I was finished, but Sally then advised me I still had to do the internal search. She removed her dress and undergarments over my protests, insisting I had to finish it or “he” would. She opened her mouth so I could peer down her throat. I looked  for a Polaroid photo hiding inside her throat! This was absurd. Drugs? Maybe. Photo? Crazy. Sally then spread her legs so I could reach inside her vagina and anus.

“NO! If that useless photo is so important you would hide it in your vagina or anus, you can keep it! No one deserves this disgrace for a stupid photograph; not you, and not I.”

Outside the bathroom the administrator and corrections officer waited. I snarled at them, “It is done. There was no photo. Never do this to anyone on my caseload again.” I later told the inmates on my caseload to never get into a situation requiring a strip search! I would never do another one.

I know that prison security is always an issue, for protection of both the corrections officers and the inmates. Drugs, weapons, contraband of any kind pose a threat. But, and Justice Breyer would agree, corrections officers ought to have a reasonable suspicion someone may be hiding something which threatens security before conducting a strip search. Reasonableness should be a matter for court review. The 5 Justices, all Republican appointees, have abdicated their judicial oversight responsibility, failing to protect an innocent citizen, Mr. Florence, from jailhouse abuse. We can’t simply rely on the sound judgment of prison workers. Ask Sally.

2.When can a citizen shoot or kill a police officer for simply doing his job? Anytime according to Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), Indiana. The law he signed was passed in response to a recent Indiana Supreme Court decision. “According to the Evansville Courier Press, an Evansville resident fought a police officer who followed him into his house during a domestic dispute call. ‘The state Supreme Court found that officers sometimes enter homes without warrants for reasons protected by the law, such as pursuing suspects or preventing the destruction of evidence. In these situations, we find it unwise to allow a homeowner to adjudge the legality of police conduct in the heat of the moment,’ the court said. ‘As we decline to recognize a right to resist unlawful police entry into a home, we decline to recognize a right to batter a police officer as a part of that resistance.”

In this case, the court acknowledged police sometimes enter a home unlawfully, recognizing those situations where warrantless entry is justified, but expecting that safety of both police and citizen is best served by reducing conflict levels when passions are raised. This is much different than the prior case, where a calm citizen, is in custody and control, within the confines of a jail – not in his own home. In the home setting,police officers are in the dark as to possible weapons and their location. They were responding to a volatile domestic violence situation, the threat to harm someone was the very  basis of their intervention. It was a fluid enterprise. In this case, the court did not abdicate its role. It reviewed the facts and found no police misconduct. It did its job. As did the police.

This was not satisfactory to the Indiana’s legislature, nor its governor. Although Gov. Daniels almost vetoed it because it could lead to killings of police and citizens. This law, like the Stand Your Ground laws in Florida and elsewhere are loopholes for citizens to kill citizens, and for citizens to kill police officers while claiming self-defense. Indeed, in Trayvon Martin’s murder, the killer has not been asked to plead anything, even self-defense. Merely asserting the law’s existence has been enough  to avoid Mr. Zimmerman’s arrest. There are many people out there who think no police officers have the right to enter homes or property, even if there is a warrant. There are people who believe police have no right to  enforce laws designed to preserve safety and security for all citizens, who believe their victims are not entitled to police protection, whose gun purchases or possession cannot be regulated because it takes away their right to bear arms. When did the rights of bullies become paramount? If this case winds it  way to the U.S. Supreme Court, how will it rule? I dread the thought. People have a right to be secure in their homes. Right? Privacy rights are sacred.

3.Republican Governor Mitch Daniels (see 2 above) blames President Obama for the debate over women’s right to  privacy, but admits his party’s response could have been better. In an interview with Reuters, he stated “Where I wish my teammates had done better and where they mishandled it (women’s preventive health care) is … I thought they should have played it as a huge intrusion on freedom,” Daniels told Reuters. Maybe he should talk to Governor Nathan Deal (R) from Georgia, before HB 954 is signed into law. It appears Georgia’s Republican legislators are happy to invade a woman’s privacy. Not so, Gov. Daniels meant health insurance coverage decisions are an intrusion; not health care itself.

While president Obama advocates for women’s right to make their own health care decisions and reminds us in a recent video supporting Planned Parenthood: “For you and for most Americans, protecting women’s health is a mission that stands above politics, and yet over the past year you’ve had to stand up to politicians who wanted to deny millions of women the care they rely on and inject themselves into decisions that are best made between a women and her doctor.” President Obama recognizes something Georgia Rep. Terry England (R) does not, when he reminds us “Let’s be clear here — women are not an interest group…The are mothers,daughters, sister and wives.” He recognizes woman’s right to privacy within her own skin.

Will the U.S. Supreme Court recognize a woman’s right to privacy? that is the basis of Roe v. Wade. A woman’s right is recognized until the fetus is capable of living outside the womb. That time-line is being shortened by neonatal technology. This is why the Georgia law and laws in other states limiting what is considered a legal abortion, require a method resulting in a live birth. Such language is not included to protect women or fetal health and safety, but a political maneuver to challenge Roe v Wade. It is not a medical consideration, but a political one.

If Republicans really believe in privacy rights, how can they not believe in a women’s right to  make a legal medical decision with her doctor; not, with the legislature, nor with the police. Will miscarriages now be subject to court review in Georgia? Will doctors who cannot abort a fetus and maintain its survival be criminally charged?  The law says they  will. Will courts who hear challenges to such laws trust women and their doctors as easily as Justice Kennedy trusts jailers?

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