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March 2019 – Youth Caucus of America
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death penalty 3 yca

The Death Penalty

The Death Penalty

An Age-Old Debate Examined In A Modern Context

WHAT YOU CAN DO...

  • Donate to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty at http://www.ncadp.org/

  • Contact your state and federal representatives expressing your opposition to the death penalty by either leaving a voicemail or speaking with a criminal justice staffer

By Alexandra Bixler

        The death penalty is alive and well in the United States, as the majority of states continue to use it. However, support for the policy is waining. On February 22, 2019, Kansas’ Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee decided by a narrow 7-6 vote to not repeal the state's death penalty policy, enacted in 1994.[1] This close vote demonstrates just how divided Kansasians, a state traditionally in support of capital punishment, are on the issue, even within the samepolitical party. Former Republican Johnson County Senator, Greg Smith, believed that repealing the death penalty would be an injustice to the families of homicide victims such as his daughter, Kelsey.

“I am not here to cast judgment on the validity of another homicide survivor’s feelings,” Smith stated. “Yet, every time the Legislature decides to bring this issue up, you force every homicide survivor to relive their worst day. The pain, the grief, the shock and the horror all comes back as fresh as the day our loved one was murdered.” 

On the contrary, former Republican Rep. Steven Becker claimed, “How can we impose the absolute certainty of death when we do not require the absolute certainty of guilt?”

Becker’s ideology is adopted in most nations. The United States is one of the only 54 countries that still utilizes the death penalty, which is allowed in 30 states. The death penalty has been employed since America’s colonial years; while the practice was temporarily outlawed with the Supreme Court Case, Furman v. Georgia in 1972, which ruled that the death penalty was a violation of both the 8th and 14th amendments, it was legalized once again by Gregg v. Georgia in 1976 when the court decided it was not in violation of the amendments if the sentence was delivered at the time of the trial and the jury responsible for sentencing the individual reviewed case details. Since this ruling, 7800 people have received the death penalty and 1400 people have been executed.[2]

        Nonetheless, the use of the death penalty has growless popular in recent years, demonstrating a cultural shift in public attitudes. According to a 2010 study published by Lake Research Partners, 61% of voters said they would prefer alternative punishments, such as life in prison, to the death penalty. Delaware overturned its death penalty in 2016 followed by a quiet reversal by Vermont in 2018, adding to a trend of weaning support for the once popular opinion reached in Gregg v Georgia.

        One of the primary arguments used to defend the death penalty relies on the notion that it deters crime. This argument is inherently misleading since crime statistics suggest that no such effect exists. National crime rates from 2016-2017 by state and region demonstrate that states with the death penalty have higher murder rates than states without it. This is not to say that the death penalty caused more crime, but instead to argue that there is no indication that it is acting as a deterrent. The region categorized as the “south” has the smallest amount of states without the death penalty (one, Delaware) but the highest murder rate at 6.6 for every 100,000 people in comparison to the “West,” “Midwest,” and “Northeast.”[3] The “South” is not only where the death penalty is the most legal, but is also where it is used far more often. Oklahoma and Texas alone contribute more to nationwide executions than the Midwest, West, and Northeast regions.

        The death penalty not only fails to deter crime but also imposes an expensive burden on the taxpayer. Oklahoma found that the death penalty cost $700,000 more to execute, while New Mexico found that the state’s death penalty would cost it $7.2 million dollars over a span of three years.[4] Colorado found that the costs associated with the death penalty were not only financial: resolving cases with the death penalty, on average, took three times longer to solve than similar cases without it.

While the American justice system has come a long way in terms of social equality, systematic discrimination is still alive and well. This is not to say that all judges and other legal officials are actively discriminating against certain groups, but rather unintentional discrimination and biases still rampantly occur, often costing minoritites their lives. Non-hispanic blacks make up roughly 12% of the American population but have represented 34% of executed defendants, demonstrating the justice system’s systematic dehumanization and lack of sympathy for black defendants. Additionally, while only 50% of murder victims are white, this statistic hikes to 76% for cases that result in death penalty. The fact that minorities, especially when the victims of the killer are white, are disproportionately put to death illustrates the inequalities present in the current justice system that causes officials to hold different levels of sympathy for different races.

Sex is another problem facing the justice system’s application of the death penalty. Our often patriarchal justice system is more easily convinced of a female defendant's “emotionally fragile” state than it is of a man’s, demonstrating that, while women may face the brunt of misogyny, men still suffer consequences.[5] Even when the murder rate of men is accounted for, currently standing at 90% of all murders, they are still more likely to receive the death penalty than women. This, unfortunately, is an outcome of a patriarchal legal system because if one receives the death penalty is determined by “aggravating” factors, like a history of violence. Since women are far less likely than men to have a history of violence, this is one of the many reasons they are more able to avoid the death penalty. Additionally, women are more likely to kill people they know, while men are more likely to kill strangers. Killing strangers is more likely to result in the death penalty than an intimate partner, leading to sentence discrepancies.

While wrongful convictions can be undone, death is irreversible. Capital punishment is ultimately expensive to the taxpayer, does not deter crime and discriminates against both minorities and men. America must fight to end this expensive, imperfect practice and instead advocate to invest resources and time into more humane alternatives.

 


[1] Carpenter, Tim. “Kansas bill repealing death penalty evokes moral, religious, justice arguments.” The Garden City Telegram20 February 2019

[2] “Death Penalty Information Center: Facts about the death penalty.” 12 March 2019.

[3] Crime in the United States by Region, Geographical Division, and State, 2016-2017” FBI, 10 September 2018

[4] “Costs of the Death Penalty,” Costs of the Death Penalty | Death Penalty Information Center, 25 March 2019

[5] Oliver, Amanda. “The Death Penalty Has a Gender Bias” Huffington Post. 01 October 2018.

misdiagnosis article pic 2

The Consequences Of Medical Misdiagnosis

The Consequences Of Medical Misdiagnosis

How Sexism In The Healthcare Industry Is Hurting Women

WHAT YOU CAN DO...

  • Lobby for changes in medical school curriculums to move away from a solely diagnosis-oriented approach and teach doctors to not discount patients’ reports of pain by contacting the Association of American Medical Colleges https://www.aamc.org/

  • Spread awareness of this bias among healthcare providers by calling for more scrutiny from healthcare quality and ethical reviewers by contacting the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) https://www.jointcommission.org/report_a_complaint.aspx

  • Contact your Representative about including women in tests conducted by all healthcare organizations and expanding the NIH 1993 Act to ensure that female and male results are studied separately to allow for proper scrutiny and differentiation

By Josette Barrans

In America, there is an epidemic of women being systematically misdiagnosed by healthcare providers. Women are consistently not given strong enough medication or urgent enough care for their true conditions. Their pain is not taken as seriously as men’s, even being reduced to “female hysteria.'' Not only is this sexist, it forces women to endure more unnecessary pain or face even worse consequences. The last policy which attempted to address this issue was a section in the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 in which Congress ordered the National Institute of Health to include women in all of its clinical trials[1]. But this did not solve the knowledge gap in women’s medicine. Most studies lump data from all participants together and fail to compare women’s and men’s results separately[2]. As a result, doctors are not focusing in on how women specifically are affected by certain diseases and conditions. Consequently, there are no current policies actively working to prevent the misdiagnosis epidemic affecting female patients. Additionally, drug companies and medical device manufacturers are not required to follow the 1993 rule, meaning women are not accurately represented in their studies[3]To solve this issue, policies are needed that address the knowledge gap of female health starting in medical school curriculums and extending to include women in studies conducted by all healthcare providers.

        In a recent report, a woman underwent eight rounds of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) because she was misdiagnosed with severe depression and other psychiatric issues. This ECT was essentially forced upon her, despite the woman’s consistent protests that she didn’t have depression, and made her lose around six years of her memory. After continuously begging her doctors to reexamine her, they discovered that she had myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS), an autoimmune disease that affects many bodily systems. Though it can cause up to 60 differentsymptoms, ME/CFS is often ignored by doctors, with some even believing that it is fake[4]. Consequently, this woman was put through extreme pain and suffering simply due to the inability of her doctors to take her seriously. Her story is not a one-off; countless women in our nation needlessly suffer due to sexism embedded into America’s healthcare system which prevents them from obtaining the treatment they need.

        One prominent example of this epidemic is women suffering from chronic pain. These women are much more likely than men to be given sedative prescriptions rather than pain medication[5]. In fact, research has shown that women experience and report greater and more frequent pain than men[6]. Yet women are consistently treated for pain less aggressively since doctors often hold misperceptions that women are more prone to overreacting and hysteria[7]. This attitude seeps into public discourse as well, causing people to think that women are not accurate portrayers of their pain, essentially discrediting their knowledge of both themselves and their body. It is also typical for women with chronic pain to have no clearly definable conditions, which often leads to doctors taking the easy way out by diagnosing them with a mental health disorder[8]. This indifferent approach not only continues the suffering of the women in pain but  also delegitimizes mental health disorders by making them an extraneous category that women with no clear condition can be lumped into.

        Even more serious medical emergencies are consistently misdiagnosed in women. Women are seven times more likely than men to be misdiagnosed while suffering a heart attack and be discharged from the hospital during the emergency[9]. This can lead to lifelong repercussions or even death. One of the main causes of these mistakes is doctors being taught to recognize symptoms and make diagnoses based on understandings of male physiology. Since women can have completely different symptoms than men for many conditions, including heart attacks, many healthcare providers are not equipped to recognize them. This lack of knowledge costs women dearly. Considering that women represent over half the population, doctors should be taught how to perceive diseases and health issues in both women and men.

        There are many contributing factors for this problem that must be addressed. For instance, even though 78% of healthcare professionals are women, the higher positions are usually filled by men[10]. If more women were making these important decisions, there would likely be less misdiagnoses or dismissals of female patients. This disparity is likely a product of the gender discrimination that still exists in hiring practices, so healthcare organizations need to make a concious effort to make sure women are getting a seat at the table. There also need to be sweeping changes to how medical schools teach symptom recogniziation so that lessons always include both male and female versions of symptoms. There must be more emphasis on evidence-based diagnosis and general awareness of this gender bias in the medical field. Doctors should be trained to take what their patients say into account, and consider their reports of pain seriously. Furthermore, there must be more scrutiny from healthcare quality and ethical reviewers on this issue. One organization that oversees this is the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), which accredits more than 21,000 US health care organizations. JCAHO has on online form where one can report a patient safety concern or event at a hospital, which could be used as a platform to draw attention to instances where gender bias prevent a woman from receiving proper care[11]. We must also call on Congress to extend their policies to force all healthcare organizations to include women in their studies so that their needs can be properly served.

        Doctors must start believing women and be more willing to admit that they may not be an expert on female symptoms instead of pushing false diagnosis and treatment on these patients. Bringing in specialists can easily solve most of these diagnostic problems, rather than searching for the quickest and easiest solution. Additionally, policies are needed that close the knowledge gap by forcing companies in all industries to include women in their studies and focus on their results and reactions separately from men. Clearly, the idea of a one-size-fits-all solution has been hurting women, as the standard of medicine is typically designed around men. Women are suffering, and even dying, because of sexist doctors and healthcare practices; this must be put to a stop.

 

 


[1] “Including Women and Minorities in Clinical Research Background.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019. https://orwh.od.nih.gov/research/clinical-research-trials/nih-inclusion-policy/including-women-and-minorities-clinical

[2] Sagon, Candy. “Women's Health Issues And Medical Gender Bias.” AARP, 2017, www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2016/womens-health-gender-bias-cs.html.

[3] Sagon.

[4] Hirsch, Michele Lent. “9 Rounds of Electroshock Therapy. 6 Years Lost. All Because Her Doctors Got It Horribly Wrong.” Cosmopolitan, Cosmopolitan, 22 Jan. 2019, www.cosmopolitan.com/health-fitness/a25362145/electroshock-therapy-misdiagnosis/.

[5] Kiesel, Laura. “Women and Pain: Disparities in Experience and Treatment.” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, 7 Oct. 2017, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/women-and-pain-disparities-in-experience-and-treatment-2017100912562.

[6] Hoffmann, Diane E. and Tarzian, Anita J., The Girl Who Cried Pain: A Bias Against Women in the Treatment of Pain (2001). Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Vol. 29, pp. 13-27, 2001. https://ssrn.com/abstract=383803

[7] Seegert, Liz. “Women More Often Misdiagnosed Because of Gaps in Trust and Knowledge.” Association of Health Care Journalists, 16 Nov. 2018, healthjournalism.org/blog/2018/11/women-more-often-misdiagnosed-because-of-gaps-in-trust-and-knowledge/.

[8] Hirsch.

[9] Kiesel.

[10] Joyce, Trish. “Does Healthcare Have a Gender Problem?” Health ECareers, Everyday Health Group, 24 Apr. 2018, www.healthecareers.com/article/healthcare-news/does-healthcare-have-a-gender-problem.

[11] “Report a Patient Safety Concern or Event.” Jointcommission.org, www.jointcommission.org/report_a_complaint.aspx.

civic education article

Restoring Civics Education

Restoring Civics Education

Using Education To Create A Politically Informed And Engaged Population

WHAT YOU CAN DO...

  • Visit https://www.civicsrenewalnetwork.org/ to support the efforts of the Civics Renewal Network, a group of 30 non-partisan organizations committed to advancing civics education and providing teachers with free, high-quality resources.

By Gillian Hand

Following an era of shockingly low political participation, activism, and awareness, we find ourselves in a fiercely polarized political climate. A study from the Pew Research Center found that only a third of Americans can name the three branches of the United States government, much less their functions and privileges.[1] It is evident that the American population suffers from extreme ignorance on the concepts of government, limiting the number of citizens who fulfill their civic duties and participate actively in our democracy. Although the 2016 election certainly launched an increase in youth activism, only 23% of eighth graders performed at or above the proficiency level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress civics exam, indicating that the lack of civic knowledge stems from the curriculum at local schools.[2] While STEM opportunities and courses are undeniably essential to youth education, their growing domination has pushed civics education aside, discontinuing equally important government-based educational offerings.[3] In this era of extreme polarization, it is crucial that schools across the nation prepare their students to become active citizens in American democracy by providing them with knowledge and abilities that will keep these future voters engaged throughout their lives.

        A key player in the push to create engaged and informed American citizens is the Civics Education Initiative. This program requires that all high school students pass a basic test about American history and politics with questions taken from the United States Citizenship Civics Test. By bringing civics back into the classroom, students could learn more about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, how the government is meant to operate, and the founding ideologies behind American values.[4] While the use of the citizenship test certainly has its merits, critics argue that the exam does not truly measure an individual’s comprehension of the material and creates another obstacle to graduation. Some states have instead opted to mandate civics classes, provide teachers with specific curricula, designate community service as a graduation requirement, or make Advanced Placement classes more available to the student population.[5] The Civics Education Initiative highlights various factors that have essentially functioned as roadblocks to effective civics education at the school level. Beyond the widespread emphasis on STEM education, the Initiative highlights the growth of standardized testing as another opponent to civics; because standard testing has become a popular method of measuring performance, teachers are prompted to prioritize the exam material in their teaching, pushing civics courses and lessons aside.[6]

Colorado, for example, demonstrates the true value of comprehensive civics education in schools. The only statewide graduation requirement in Colorado is to complete a government and civics course, and schools offer a variety of initiatives such as “Judicially Speaking,” a program that teaches students about the role of the judicial branch in American politics, to fulfill this requirement. The Colorado Department of Education does its part by providing teachers with course guidelines and resources, helping them instruct students on topics including the structure of the government, responsibilities of citizenship, and methods of public participation.[7]

So, what establishes the foundation of a strong civics education? The Brookings Institution highlights three crucial components: knowledge, skills, and dispositions. “Knowledge” refers to a basic understanding of government structures, processes, and concepts while “skills” references the abilities needed to be a responsible and active participant in American democracy. “Dispositions” indicates the important internal characteristics of an informed citizen, including a sense of civic duty and a genuine concern for the welfare of others.[8] Yet while civics courses are undeniably essential to the creation of a politically engaged population, education experts have emphasized the importance of interactive and participatory learning. To truly understand the democratic process and the functions of the American government, students should be exposed to real, experiential learning opportunities. A recent Brookings Institution study showed that, while 42 states require at least one civics course in their schools, only 26 states and Washington D.C. included hands-on educational offerings. To fix this deficiency, experts encourage activities including simulations, community service opportunities, discussions of current events, participation in student government, and lessons in topics such as news media literacy[9].

In regard to classroom learning, the materials and objectives emphasized in civics courses are starting to experience adjustments. The College Board recently revamped the Advanced Placement United States Government and Politics exam to encourage stronger civics education for high school students. Leaders of the College Board remarked that conditions under the current administration have fed a growing perception that college campuses are no longer safe for the free exchange of ideas and debate, making stronger educational preparation even more important; executives hope that all students applying to college are experts of all five freedoms of the First Amendment, not just Freedom of Speech. The new AP Government and Politics test, remodeled to teach young people these values, is built on a knowledge of the Constitution as well as 15 Supreme Court Cases and nine important documents that experts believe every American should know. Using their knowledge from this course, a class in New Jersey was even credited in a Senate committee report for their content contribution to the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act.[10] When given the tools to become active participants in the political world, young people can evidently make their mark on American democracy.

Studies on civics education certainly reveal the need for stronger programs and offerings in schools across the nation. As recent bursts of youth political activism have revealed the capacity for engagement and influence among young people, it is our nation’s duty to provide them with the lessons they need to become informed citizens who are eager to participate in American politics. However, it is clear that individual state standards are needed to ensure universality in civics education; schools across the nation must implement efficient and comprehensive programs that instruct all young people on the importance of civic activism[11]. By igniting a sense of civic duty in young citizens, schools can establish a lifelong commitment to political participation and awareness, thereby ensuring a more knowledgeable population in the future.

 


[1] “Civics Education Initiative .” Civics Education Initiative: 100 Facts Every High School Student Should Know, 2019, civicseducationinitiative.org/.

[2] Shapiro, Sarah, and Catherine Brown. “A Look at Civics Education in the United States.” American Federation of Teachers, 11 June 2018, www.aft.org/ae/summer2018/shapiro_brown.

[3] “Civics Education Initiative”

[4] Ibid.

[5] Shaprio and Brown, “A Look at Civics Education in the United States”

[6] McClure, Megan. “Tackling the American Civics Education Crisis .” LegisBrief: A Quick Look into Important Issues of the Day, National Conference of State Legislatures , 2017, www.ncsl.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=kBr_Ti5RdHE%3D&tabid=31155&portalid=1.

[7]  Shaprio and Brown, “A Look at Civics Education in the United States”

[8] Hansen, Michael, et al. “2018 Brown Center Report on American Education: An Inventory of State Civics Requirements.” Brookings, The Brookings Institution, 5 July 2018, www.brookings.edu/research/2018-brown-center-report-on-american-education-an-inventory-of-state-civics-requirements/.

[9] Mann Levesque, Elizabeth. “What Does Civics Education Look like in America?” Brookings, The Brookings Institution, 24 July 2018, www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2018/07/23/what-does-civics-education-look-like-in-america/.

[10] Friedman, Thomas L. “The Two Codes Your Kids Need to Know.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 Feb. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/02/12/opinion/college-board-sat-ap.html.

[11] Hansen, Michael, et al. “2018 Brown Center Report on American Education: An Inventory of State Civics Requirements”.

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