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The Arbitrary Practice of Handcuffing US Children: Why Ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child is Crucial for Children Rights

The Arbitrary Practice of Handcuffing US Children: Why Ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child is Crucial for Children Rights

The Arbitrary Practice of Handcuffing US Children: Why Ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child is Crucial for Children Rights

The US Government should implement a more compassionate approach to policing children. Recently, the Sacramento Police Department released body-worn camera footage of a 10-year-old crying, “I’m scared. I’m scared. I’m scared, Mommy. I’m scared. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do,” after a Sacramento officer placed her in handcuffs.

If you think the Sacramento case is an isolated incident of a child handcuffed by police in the US, you be sadly mistaken. Based on the reporting of Yaron Steinbuch, “nearly 30,000 children under the age of 10—and a staggering 228,017 kids between the ages of 10 and 12—have been arrested” in the US during a recent five-year span[1] and placed in handcuffs.

6 Incidents Where Children Have Been Handcuffed

2007 Handcuff Incident—Law enforcement officers handcuffed a 6-year-old girl after she had a temper tantrum at school.[2] It was disturbing to learn that law enforcement officers took the 6-year-old girl to jail, where she was given a mugshot.[3] Reports further indicate law enforcement officers had placed handcuffs around the young girl’s biceps because her wrists were so small.[4]

2013 Handcuff Incident—An impoverished family sent their 5-year-old son to school with painted shoes to observe the school’s dress code. However, the family’s creativity resulted in law enforcement placing the 5-year-old in handcuffs. He was later escorted away in the back of a police car.[5]

2019 Handcuff Incident—A Douglas County Sherriff handcuffed an 11-year-old boy with autism while he banged his head against the wall. Although Douglas County initially charged the boy with misdemeanor assault, misdemeanor harassment, misdemeanor resisting arrest, and second-degree felony assault of a police officer, all charges against the boy have since been dropped.[6]

This wasn’t the only incident where a child with autism was restrained. In 2020, a school resource officer handcuffed a 7-year-old boy and left him restrained on the floor for nearly 40 minutes.[7]

2021 Handcuff Incident—A New York police officer handcuffed, pepper-sprayed and violently subdued a 9-year-old girl, which inspired protest across the city.[8]

2023 Handcuff Incident—A Walpole police officer handcuffed a 9-year-old boy with functional needs while he was having a mental health crisis in his third grade classroom.[9] A disturbing trend between 2016 and 2017 illustrated more than 9,000 public school students were physically restrained at schools across Massachusetts.[10]

Handcuffing of Children in International Law

While there may be circumstances when handcuffs are necessary to effect the arrest and transport of a child,[11] in my opinion, the circumstances above do not meet such a test.

First, handcuffs on children have been shown to invoke feelings of fear, inferiority and anxiety.[12]

Second, handcuffing a child may rise to the level of degrading treatment. In Ireland v. United Kingdom, the Court held that treatment arousing fear, anguish, or inferiority capable of humiliating or breaking the resistance of a person will amount to degrading treatment.[13]

While this case initially dealt with the treatment of adult suspects by authorities, Tobin argues the case’s underlying principle remains applicable to the treatment of children in a range of circumstances where they remain under the control of another person.[14]

Handcuffing Children May Not Meet the Rational Connection Test

Handcuffing a child must pursue a legitimate aim; be undertaken pursuant to a valid law, and must meet the rational connection test and the minimal impairment principle.[15]

Essentially, the rational connection test means the limit of rights must be rationally connected to the objective.[16] There must be a causal link between the impugned measure and the pressing and substantial objective.[17]

It is clear the Sacramento officers were conducting raid on a home. However, the Sacramento Police Department have yet to release to the public evidence that the 10-year-old girl was the subject of their investigation.  

A review of the body-worn camera footage further illustrate the 10-year-old girl was not ‘combative’ nor ‘belligerent.’ Therefore, the Sacramento officer’s handcuffing of the young girl was not an appropriate action to achieve a proper purpose: the execution of the alleged search warrant.

Handcuffing Children May Not Meet the Minimum Impairment Test

Sacramento officer’s handcuffing of the young girl also fails the minimum impairment test. In Carter v. Canada (Attorney General)[2015] 1 S.C.R. 331,[18] the Court stated the limit must impair the right or freedom no more than is reasonably necessary to accomplish the objective.

Sacramento Police officers cannot demonstrate there were no less rights-impairing means available to achieve their objective “in a real and substantial manner,”[19] when they handcuffed the young girl to get access to the home.

It is worth stating at this point that law enforcement officers cannot handcuff a child who do not pose an imminent threat of injury to themselves or others.[20] Even when children may pose an imminent threat of injury to themselves or others, law enforcement officers must still show all other means of control have been exhausted.[21] Indeed, the General comment makes clear that handcuffs should never be used on children to secure compliance or as a means of punishment.[22]

Handcuffing a Child Constitutes Detention

Article 37(b) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that the principle of last resort and shortest appropriate period is associated with arrest, detention, and imprisonment.[23] When law enforcement officers handcuff a child they are fundamentally placing the child under their custodial care (i.e., detention).

The US Government may argue that handcuffing children is contemplated under domestic law and is therefore consistent with the requirement that any deprivation of liberty is lawful. However, Tobin makes clear that compliance with domestic law alone is insufficient.[24] Moreover, any deprivation of liberty must be consistent with international law.[25]

The Arbitrary Practice of Handcuffing US Children: Why Ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child is Crucial for Children Rights

The US is the only country that has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. While this critique of the US will be ineffective, ratification indicates that a State consents to be bound to a treaty. One of the most important benefits of ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is the protection against arbitrary and caprious practices by those with rank.

In light of this fact, I would urge the US to strongly consider ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to protect those most vulnerable from abuses of authority.


[1] Steinbuch, Yaron. “Nearly 30,000 US Kids under Age 10 Have Been Arrested in the Past 5 Years.” New York Post, 30 Sept. 2019,

[2] Trounstine, Jean, et al. “Keep Kids Out of Handcuffs.” Truthout, 15 May 2015,

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Ockerman, Emma. “Cops Allegedly Handcuffed an 11-Year-Old with Autism While He Banged His Head against the Wall.” VICE, 10 Mar. 2021,

[7] Burke, Minyvonne. “7-Year-Old Boy with Autism Handcuffed, Held on Floor by School Resource Officer.” NBCNews.Com, 13 Oct. 2020,

[8] Abrams, Laura S., and Elizabeth S. Barnert. “Children in Distress Aren’t Criminals. Stop Handcuffing Them.” The Washington Post, 24 Feb. 2021,

[9] Jarmanning, Ally. “A Black 9-Year-Old Was Handcuffed in His Classroom, Walpole Family Says.” WBUR News, 5 May 2023,

[10] Id, this includes physical holds like bear hugs, straps or belts.

[11]Tobin, John W. “Time to remove the shackles: The legality of restraints on children deprived of their liberty under international law”. The International Journal of Children’s Rights 9.3 (2001): 213-239, see p. 230, Web.  

[12] Id., p. 228.

[13] Ireland v. UK (n 66) para 162.

[14] Tobin, John W.  “Article 37: Protection against Torture, Capital Punishment, and Arbitrary Deprivation of Liberty”. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: A Commentary. Oxford University Press (2019): p. 1459.

[15] Tobin, John W.  “Article 16: The Right to Protection of Privacy, Family, Home, Correspondence, Honour, and Reputation”. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: A Commentary. Oxford University Press (2019): p.563.

[16] Government of Canada, Department of Justice. “Section 1 – Reasonable Limits.” Charterpedia, 14 Apr. 2022,

[17] Id.

[18] Carter v. Canada (Attorney General)[2015] 1 S.C.R. 331, at paragraph 102; citing Hutterian Brethren[2009] 2 S.C.R. 567, at paragraph 55

[19] Id.

[20] United Nations. “General Comment No. 24 (2019) on Children’s Rights in the Child Justice System.” United Nations General Assembly, CRC/C/GC/24, 18 Sept. 2019, para. 9,

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] Supra, note 14, p. 1473.

[24] Supra, note 11, p. 222.

[25] Id.

The Zaru Effect May Explain US Law Enforcement’s Persecution of Trans Women

The Zaru Effect May Explain US Law Enforcement’s Persecution of Trans Women

The Zaru Effect May Explain US Law Enforcement’s Persecution of Trans Women


This article explores the issue of state-sanctioned violence against trans women in the United States of America (hereinafter “United States”) and argues the enactment of violent policies in the nation exacerbates discrimination and violence towards trans women.

An argument made in this article is law enforcement’s transmisogynistic ideology prevent trans women from receiving the protection and consideration warranted by law. This is what I call the Zaru Effect, a sociological theory that states law enforcement officers will fail to protect victims of violence if they are transgender. Lastly, I expound on the United States failure to provide for specific criminal legislation that would punish law enforcement’s unlawful conduct in this area of research and propose merging the Yogyakarta Principles into United States legislation.


Qualified immunity, state-sanctioned violence, trans panic defense, transmisogyny, Yogyakarta Principles, Zaru Effect.

Trans Women and Transmisogyny

Trans women are defined as a group of women who were assigned male at birth. It is often said that trans women face particular oppressions at the intersection of their transness and their womanhood (Edward, 2019, p. 293) and are subjected to majority of the gendered violence under patriarchy (Edward, 2019, p. 280). This oppression and gendered violence is cleped “transmisogyny.” If one builds on Stark’s (2020) explanation of misogyny, then it follows that transmisogyny is a property of social systems wherein noncompliant trans women are subjected to various kinds of hostility. According to Stark, this persecution enforces certain cisheteropatriarchal norms and demand that trans women be castigated for ‘pretending’ to be women.

This oppressive ideology further exposes trans women to bullying, harassment and a high risk of violence from private actors. For example, a recent study showed majority of trans participants experienced an extremely high proportion of violence due to their gender identity or presentation (Arayasirikul, et al., 2022). Studies further illustrate violent private actors use terms as ‘shemale’ to mark trans women. The ‘shemale’ inference categorize trans women as a subset of gay men rather than of women. The term also marks trans women for violent conduct, given the historical fact that trans people experience ostracism and violence (Canada, 2022).

Persecution of Trans Women

Since 2013, trans women comprised of 85% of the 302 victims of fatal violence in the United States (Lenning, Brightman, & Buist, 2020; HRC, 2022). In 2022, they constituted 81% of the 32 trans persons killed (HRC, 2022). Evidence seems to indicate the discrimination and violence that Black trans women experience is exacerbated by the intersection of racism and sexism. Indeed, the HRC’s report converges with Arayasirikul et al. (2022) findings that Black trans women are mostly affected by violence (Carpenter & Marshall, 2017).

Blaming the Victim

In keeping with Stark (2019), a suspect may concede that he did something harmful to the victim but maintain that the trans victim brought the incident upon herself. For example, he may say: “Why was ‘he’ wearing makeup?” “Why did ‘he’ have breast?” “Why was ‘he’ behaving like a woman?” The defect attributed to the trans victim is a character flaw: ‘he’ had it coming because ‘he’ is a liar—a promiscuous and reckless liar. Such testimony charges trans women for expressing a gender identity. It is further used to prosecute trans women on the spot for ‘provoking’ a violent reaction.

Even when private actors react violently to trans women, their testimony against the trans woman exonerates them, given that male law enforcement officers often view their testimony as more credible. According to Stark (2019), trans women who contacted law enforcement after a violation of their rights were not taken seriously. This contention is supported by Carpenter and Marshall (2017), who reported law enforcement officers failed to respond to situations where trans victims report instances of domestic or intimate partner violence (p. 9). When trans women find themselves in situations where law enforcement officers fail to protect them because they are transgender, they are experiencing the Zaru Effect.

The Definition of the Zaru Effect

The Zaru Effect is when law enforcement officers ignore the allegations made by trans women, while accepting as true, the allegations made by men or other individuals.

The word ‘zaru’ is derived from the Three Exemplary Monkeys: Mizaru, who sees no evil; covers his eyes. Kikazaru who hears no evil and covers his ears. Lastly, Iwazaru who speaks no evil and covers his mouth (Aston, 2018). See no evil and speak no evil is integral to the discussion because law enforcement officers often ignore and rarely speak up against the legal and moral wrongs perpetuated against trans women. Hear no evil is also vital, given law enforcement officers often minimize the complaints and harmful experiences of trans women. Thus, the Zaru Effect happens when law enforcement officers:

(1) close their eyes to harms perpetuated by private actors against trans women;

(2) arrest trans women for making complaints (Carpenter & Marshall, 2017, p. 9), and

(3) fail to speak out against abuses that either causes the physical and sexual assault, or the incarceration and death of trans women.

Another element of the Zaru Effect is gaslighting. Gaslighting occurs when law enforcement officers deny, on the basis of another’s social identity, the trans woman’s testimony and the harms or wrongs done to her (Stark, 2019). It is also a form of testimonial injustice, wrongful manipulation and emotional abuse (Stark, 2019). Gaslighting further places a barrier between trans women and law enforcement officers, and justifies the wrongs perpetuated against her by private and state actors (Carpenter & Marshall, 2017, p. 9).

Each element of the Zaru Effect prevents trans women from receiving the protection and consideration warranted by law. While this may be so, this article makes no argument that all trans women will experience the Zaru Effect.

The Zaru Effect May Explain US Law Enforcement’s Persecution of Trans Women and How They Use Other Ideologies to Oppress Them

Violent Ideologies, Tropes or Prejudicial Archetypes Used to Define Trans Women

There are several violent ideologies, tropes and prejudicial archetypes society used to define trans women. Lenning, et al. (2020) defines “violent ideologies” as those which carry the belief that a group of people (i.e., trans women) are less than or unequal to a dominant group. One violent ideology is that trans women are “deceivers” because they are successful in their gender role. Violent ideologies such as this justifies and results in discriminatory and exclusionary policies and laws like the Trans Panic Defense (“TPD”), which I will expound on later.

A. Julia Serano’s Deceptive Archetype

Another violent ideology is what Julia Serano calls the “deceptive” archetype (McKinnon, 2014). According to McKinnon (2014), the deceiver trope portrays the trans woman as dominant and powerful; still full of “male” energy (McKinnon, 2014). As mentioned above, opponents argue trans women are “deceivers” because they may successfully “pass” as women. In their view, no one can easily determine her trans status without the trans person revealing herself (McKinnon, 2014). While some opponents may argue that trans women are not women but male parodies of women arrogantly performing a shallow femininity, this assertion reduces all trans women to an inaccurate monolith of femininity (Edward, 2019). It also vilifies all feminine women as agents of patriarchy reinforcing stereotypes, trans or otherwise (Edward, 2019). Should a trans woman’s history be discovered, the ramification is to ‘out’ her as a man emulating a woman, which has negative and even devastating consequences for trans women (Canada, 2022).

B. Tropes

Evidence further indicates law enforcement officers ‘slut shame’ and stereotype trans women as being sex workers. Stark (2019) compared the experiences that Black, Latino, Native American and White trans women had with law enforcement, and found trans women of color (Black, Latino, and Native American) were slut shamed, not taken seriously and labelled sex workers more often (Stark, 2019, p. 557). Law enforcement’s slut shaming of trans women marks them as different and as of lower status. Further, it marks them as deserving of disrespect and mistreatment (Canada, 2022). In my opinion, it associates the trans victim with a disdained and abject identity—that of the slut—an archetype of failed womanhood (Canada, 2022).

C. Law Enforcement’s Use of the Archetype

An important issue emerging from the findings above is that it is likely that male law enforcement officers think trans women are stealthy and “hiding” their trans status (McKinnon, 2014). If law enforcement is of the view that a trans woman’s ‘deceptiveness’ led to violent conduct, they are more likely to remain inactive and less likely to investigate complaints made by trans women. This renders the complaints made by trans women null and void: the complaint is no longer about the original violent conduct; it’s about what law enforcement perceives to be deceptive. Based on this suggestion, law enforcement will not act on the complaint. On reflection, I am inclined to say this is why trans women are harassed and not given the protection and consideration that is commensurate with their vulnerability to violence.

D. What Previous Statistics Show

Trans women regularly encounter transmisogyny in their confrontations with male law enforcement officers, which increase the likelihood of being denigrated, harassed, attacked, sexually assaulted and developing a criminal record.

It cannot be denied that trans women who seek assistance from law enforcement are often harassed by them (Carpenter & Marshall, 2017, p. 29). For instance, 38% of Black trans women reported being harassed by the police, where the overall rate of police harassment of trans people was reported at 22% (Carpenter & Marshall, 2017, p. 13; Stark, 2019, pp. 554-555). This makes trans women even more vulnerable to abuse, as they suffer from law enforcement officers’ transmisogynistic violence.

E. Black Trans Women and Law Enforcement

A growing body of survey-based evidence demonstrates that trans women, and particularly Black trans women, are not given the protection and consideration by law enforcement that is commensurate with their vulnerability to violence (Carpenter & Marshall, 2017, pp. 12-13).

As reported in Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 6 % of trans women reported that police have physically assaulted them, while 2% reported that police have sexually assaulted them. Assault by law enforcement officers were even higher for Black trans people, with 15% reporting physical abuse and 7% of them reporting sexual assault (Canada, 2022).

Although the United States has invested in public resources to address the mistreatment of trans people (Arayasirikul, et al., 2022), policies like the Trans Panic Defense (“TPD”)— when used directly or indirectly—increases discrimination and violence towards trans women.

Trans Panic Defense as Doctrinal Persecution

Perpetrators in several states can rely on the TPD doctrine to justify their violence toward trans women. The LGBT Bar defines TPD as a “legal strategy which asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction, including murder” (Holden, 2020). While the TPD is thought to be applicable only in trial situations, a keen analysis of the literature used in this paper suggest there is an indirect use of the doctrine before an arrest or trial occurs. If we examine the attacks on LGBT people and how they are rarely prosecuted as hate crimes (Parker & Dwyer, 2016), we begin to understand how the TPD is being used to harm a vulnerable community.

Qualified Immunity as Doctrinal Persecution

Discriminatory laws, such as the Qualified Immunity doctrine (“QID”), also prevent trans women from receiving the protection and consideration warranted by law. The QID is a judicial doctrine that protects public officials from liability, even when they break the law (Schweikert, 2020). According to Schweikert (2020), the doctrine regularly denies justice to victims whose rights have been violated. It severely undermines official accountability, especially for members of law enforcement, and has been argued to have no valid legal basis. Further, this state-sanctioned doctrine emboldens state, federal and law enforcement officers to single out trans women and to commit violence against them (Lenning, Brightman, & Buist, 2020, pp. 153-154).

A. Its Difficult to Punish Law Enforcement Officers in the US

The United States government gives imprimatur to the maiming of trans bodies through the TPD and QID. Despite evidence showing law enforcement officers continue to single out trans women for violence, the United States Federal Government has failed to provide for specific criminal legislation that would make it easier to punish their unlawful conduct. This imprimatur codifies the violent and transphobic ideology into law and increases violent actions on an interpersonal level (Lenning, Brightman, & Buist, 2020, p. 153). As stated by Lenning, et al. (2020), violent laws reaffirm violent ideologies in the eyes of the public which, in turn, emboldens both private and State actors to take violent actions against the subjugated and marginalized groups in society (e.g. trans women), with little sense of culpability or fear of consequence (p. 153).

B. Trans Women as a Powerless Social Group

It is worth mentioning here that many trans women lack the power and means to prove to law enforcement superiors, attorneys and NGOs that the unfair or violent treatment she has experienced is occurring with regularity (Rodríguez-Roldán, 2021). Trans women are also less likely to afford legal counsel and have the necessary privilege to fight back criminal charges or false arrests (Rodríguez-Roldán, 2021). According to Rodríguez-Roldán (2021), a criminal record makes it more likely that a victim will encounter barriers and risks of violence.

TPD & QID Doctrines are Inconsistent With the Yogyakarta Principles

It is conceded that TPD and QID cannot, in itself, infringe upon human rights. However, when domestic policies or doctrines harm trans women, they violate international policies such as the Yogyakarta Principles.

According to Principle 30, trans women have a right to state protection. In other words, the United States must exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, prosecute, punish and provide remedies for discrimination, violence and other harms, whether committed by State or non-State actors.[1]

The United States must also take effective measures to eradicate all forms of violence, discrimination and other harms.[2] It should also be mentioned that the United States must ensure trans women have access to effective complaints procedures and remedies, including reparations for victims of violence, discrimination and other harm on grounds of their gender identity and gender expression.[3]

Trans Women in International Law

Human rights bodies have consistently held that domestic legislation and policies may violate protected rights. To be sure, in Rodriguez v. Uruguay, the Human Rights Committee (“HRC”) argued that legislation can violate the Convention, regardless of whether it is enforced in a particular case.[4] While trans women can submit a petition in state and federal courts for the violation of their rights in the United States, many petitions never result in a remedy.

Further, in Velásquez Rodriguez v. Honduras, the Court said “…the free and full exercise [of] a legal system…requires the government to conduct itself so as to effectively ensure the free and full exercise of human rights.”[5] In terms of due diligence, the Special Rapporteur Yakin Ertürk (2006) remarked that States cannot delegate its obligations, even where the State outsources functions to other actors. While it may not be sufficient for trans women to only show the United States violated her human rights, it is observed that trans women may be able to establish the government failed to apply diligent measures even though it had knowledge of a particular risk.

For example, in Vicky Hernández v. Honduras, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (“IACHR”) found that the victim’s death occurred in a context of discrimination based on prejudice that included police violence against trans persons, especially trans women who were survival sex workers.[6] Hernández’s case further showed a resistance on part of the State to investigate forms of fatal violence against trans women.[7]

There are endless cases like Hernández’s in the United States that I believe warrant international oversight. To ensure trans women have access to legal remedies, the United States must strongly consider becoming a party to the IACHR. It must also consider merging Principle 30 of the Yogyakarta Principles into federal legislation.


This article explored the Zaru Effect, which explained how law enforcement officers ignore—and rarely speak up against the legal and moral wrongs perpetuated against trans women. It further showed how the Zaru Effect is vital to the discussion of state violence and inaction, by virtue of law enforcement’s minimization of trans women’s complaints.

It was argued that the enactment of violent policies in the United States exacerbates discrimination and violence towards trans women, and showed how doctrines such as the TPD and QI oppress trans women and bar them from legal redress. On the whole, this article highlighted the failure of the United States to provide for specific criminal legislation that would punish law enforcement’s unlawful conduct, and proposed that the State adhere to Yogyakarta Principles and join the IACHR.


[1] Yogyakarta Principles, Principle 30 (A)

[2] Id., Principle 30 (B).

[3] Id., Principle 30 (J)

[4] Rodriguez v. Uruguay, Decision of 19 July 1994, Communications No. 322/19888, UN Doc. CCPR/C/51/D/322/1988, para. 12.4.

[5] Velásquez Rodriguez v. Honduras, Judgment of 29 July 1988, Series C., No. 4, para. 167

[6] IACHR, Report no. No. 157/18, Case 13.051, Merits, Vicky Hernández & Family v. Honduras, December 17, 2018, para. 108

[7] Id.


Arayasirikul, S., Turner, C., Trujillo, D., Sicro, S. L., S. S., McFarland, W., & Wilson, E. C. (2022). A global cautionary tale: discrimination and violence against trans women worsen despite investments in public resources and improvements in health insurance access and utilization of health care. International journal for equity in health, 21(1), 1-11.

Aston, W. (2018). Transactions and Proceedings of the Japan Society, London. Hawthrone: Palala Press.

Canada, Q. (2022). Out of the Miqlaatun Into the Fire: The Shariazation of Ireland’s Direct Provision Institution and its Impact on Transgender Asylum Seekers. SSRN, 1-35. doi:

Canada, Q. (2022). Report on the United States: Racial Discrimination Against Sexual Minorities in the United States of America. Cork: Quianna Canada, available at:

Carpenter, L. F., & Marshall, R. B. (2017). Walking While Trans: Profiling of Transgender Women by Law Enforcement, and the Problem of Proof. Willam & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, 24(1), 5-38.

Edward, H. M. (2019). The A–Z of Gender and Sexuality: From Ace to Ze. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Ertürk, Y. (2006). The Due Diligence Standard as a Tool for the Elimination of Violence against Women. UN Doc. E/CN/4/2006/61.

Holden, A. (2020, March 31). The Gay/Trans Panic Defense: What It is, and How to End It. Retrieved from American Bar Association: https://groups/crsj/publications/member-features/gay-trans-panic-defense

HRC. (2022). An Epidemic of Violence 2022: Fatal Violence Against Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People in the United States in 2022. Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved from

Lenning, E., Brightman, S., & Buist, C. L. (2020). The Trifecta of Violence: A Socio-Historical Comparison of Lynching and Violence Against Transgender Women. Critical Criminology, 151-172.

McKinnon, R. (2014). Stereotype threat and attributional ambiguity for trans women. Hypatia, 29(4), 857-872. doi:

McLaughlin, H. U. (2010). Sexual Harassment, Workplace Authority, and the Paradox of Power. American Sociological Review, 77(4), 625-647.

Parker, N., & Dwyer, M. (2016, June 28). Special Report: Attacks on LGBT people rarely prosecuted as hate crimes. Retrieved from Reuters:

Rodríguez-Roldán, V. M. (2021). Like a Candle Flickering in the Mist: Violence Against the Trans Community. In E. M. Lund, C. Burgess, & A. J. Johnson, Violence Against LGBTQ+ Persons: Research, Practice, and Advocacy (p. 115). Cham: Springer.

Schweikert, J. (2020, September). Qualified Immunity: A Legal, Practical, and Moral Failure. Retrieved from CATO Institute:

Stark, C. A. (2019). Gaslighting, Misogyny, and Psychological Oppression. The Monist, 221–235.

A Country Researcher's Review of Brent Staples' Black Men in Public Space

A Country Researcher’s Review of Brent Staples’ Black Men in Public Space

A Country Researcher’s Review of Brent Staples’ Black Men in Public Space

This is my review of Brent Staples’ Black Men in Public Space. I am posting this review and analysis as a journal entry on the assignments I particularly enjoyed reading about while taking my Honours English class.

This piece is a harrowing exposé into the experience of Black men in the United States of America; the micro-aggressions, and implicit bias they repeatedly encounter. My first observation while reading Staples’ piece is that it gloomily shows how Black males—boys, teenagers or university students—are perceived as criminals and aggressors in American society. Whereas, those who they encounter are perceived as victims.

Staples further describes how Blackness is seen as intimidating and threatening to people in the United States. For me, this calls to mind instances of “driving while Black.” Where Blackness meets Whiteness, we often see Whiteness clutching handbags, locking car doors, policing Blackness in neighborhoods, following Blackness around in departments stores, and so on.

A Country Researcher’s Review of Brent Staples’ Black Men in Public Space. Does Society See Black Men in America As Criminals?

Staples’ piece also illustrates how Black men, who may find themselves in respectable occupations, are still perceived by society as criminals and thugs. For example, Staples described how police officers misidentified him as a killer (Staples, 1986). Police officers also held Staples at gunpoint irrespective of his status as a reporter (Staples, 1986). A similar incident happened to Dion Rabouin, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. In the video uploaded to YouTube, we see a police officer arresting Rabouin and commanding him to take a seat. He also threatens Rabouin with a charge of obstruction if he did not comply (Rebel HQ, 2023). In 2020, police in riot gear arrested Omar Jimenez, a Black correspondent for CNN, who was covering the protests in Minneapolis. Despite identifying himself as a reporter and complying with their request, Jimenez was taken into police custody (CNN, 2020). To be fair, Minneapolis police also arrested a CNN producer, who happened to be White.

My last observation is Staples’ attempt at enculturation and assimilation. To read that Staples felt he had to “whistle melodies from Beethoven and Vivaldi” (Staples, 1986) to not be perceived as non-threatening is surreal. It cannot be denied that Black Americans often engage in these self-preserving behaviours to provide those in their environment with comfort, so that Blackness can live to see another day.

If you enjoyed reading Review of Brent Staples’ Black Men in Public Space, be sure that like, share and comment.


CNN. Police arrest CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and crew on live television. 29 May 2020. 19 January 2023.

Rebel HQ. AZ Police Detain Law Abiding Black Reporter. 06 January 2023. YouTube. 19 January 2023.

Staples, Brent. Black Men in Public Spaces. 1986. . 19 January 2023.

US Country Conditions Researcher: Congress Has the Power to Stop Gun Violence; Will They?

US Country Conditions Researcher: Congress Has the Power to Stop Gun Violence; Will They?

US Country Conditions Researcher: Congress Has the Power to Stop Gun Violence; Will They?

The US has seen a rapid increase in gun-related homicides that has consequently affected children, families and communities.

Based on prior research, more than 25% of children will witness an act of gun violence in their lives.[1] Not only will children hear and witness gun-related incidents, such as losing a family member to this form of violence, but they will also be directly exposed to gun-related violence.[2] This exposure can take the form of threats, injury or death.[3]

Research further indicates children residing in the South will experience higher baseline levels of violence exposure than children residing in other parts of the US.[4] Another distressing fact is that Black children were exposed to firearm violence more in their neighborhoods than White children.[5] Earlier this year, this frightening statistic took shape for Aderrien Murry after he called 911 for help. Murry would later find himself shot in the chest by an Indianola police sergeant.[6]

By good fortune, Murry was released from the hospital and is expected to recover. However, other families will not receive such fortunate news. “This is scary. We got kids with firearms,” Sparkle Norman told WMBD News after losing her 15-year-old nephew, Emarion Carpenter, to guns. “It’s not safe. These are our babies leaving us,” Norman continued.

Family members disclosed that Carpenter immediately succumbed to the gun shot injury that penetrated his chest.[7] “We’re human too. We love our babies too. We want our babies when we wake up—we want to tell our babies good night,” Norman implored.

Norman is not the only guardian shaken by the recent spur of gun violence. “Why is it so bad?” Why is there a 7-year-old with a bloody gun!”[8] a Newport News mother anguishly asks a reporter, after a 6-year-old shot a teacher in Virginia.

The difficulties in combating gun violence in the US have induced Canada, Ireland, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and Australia to issue travel advisories for its citizens.[9]

As a counterbalance, President Biden urged Congress to enshrine tough gun restrictions into US legislation. Despite the President’s call-to-action, the Protecting Our Kids Act (H.R. 7910)[10] has been stalled in the Senate. This bill would provide for an increased age limit on certain firearms. It would also prevent gun trafficking, modernize the prohibition of untraceable firearms and encourage the safe storage of firearms.

The Assault Weapons Ban of 2023 (S.25),[11] which President Biden urged Congress to pass, has also been stalled. This bill would limit arms on the street by regulating assault weapons.

Newly introduced bills, such as Gun Trafficker Detection Act (H.R. 2418)[12] and Pause for Gun Safety Act (H.R. 2392)[13] have been introduced for conflict resolution purposes.

The re-introduced Gun Trafficker Detection Act would require lost or stolen firearms to be reported to law enforcement authorities within 48 hours. Additionally, the Pause for Gun Safety Act would require sellers to comply with the Act’s seven-day waiting period before a firearm is released to a potential buyer.

“The fight for the right to life is not the cause of a special few, but the cause of every man, woman and child who cares not only about his or her own family, but the whole family of man.”

Mildred Fay Jefferson

While I commend Representative Slotkin for introducing this bill, these solutions may do more harm than good.

First, an individual purchasing a firearm to harm themselves or to commit a mass shooting may not have a criminal history. It is also likely that systems will not “red flag” a transferee’s alleged mental history, which renders the seven-day waiting period ineffective.

Second, inviting a transferor to determine whether a transferee will use or may intend to use a firearm for a crime opens the appeal to probability. For example, there are beliefs in the US that most Blacks are violent and aggressive.[14]

If transferors were permitted to act on their beliefs, on the assumption that Blacks are more violent, aggressive and must be kept away from firearms, transferors would inevitably reject the sale. To be sure, reports show Blacks have been denied concealed-carry licenses despite not having a criminal record or violent history.[15] A review of the reasons provided show the transferors argued the men had a “propensity for violence or instability,” a stereotype that could befall any potential gun-owner.

While I staunchly condemn the level of gun freedoms the US Constitution and Congress has given to Americans, I cannot deny that the Act would give transferors unfettered discretion to pick and choose who owns a firearm. This discretion could put more children, families and communities at risk.

It is worth stating at this point that it is difficult to tell, just by looking at someone, if they have a propensity for violence or instability. One need only look to the Texas mall outlet shooting earlier this year, where a perpetrator with no criminal history passed the National Instant Criminal Background Check system, later committing one of the most deadliest mass shootings we’ve seen this year. On reflection, it seems more accurate to say amending the Second Amendment is a better solution.

It is abundantly clear that this culture of violence has rocked the nation and has placed communities in fear. In the last 72 hrs., more than a 150 people have lost their lives to guns. This is approximately 50 lives lost per day.

US Country Conditions Researcher: Congress Has the Power to Stop Gun Violence; Will They? If it Does Not, is International Law the Answer?

The prevalence of gun violence in the US violates the right to life and the right to security of person. Under the ICCPR, the US has a positive obligation of due diligence to prevent violations of the right to life. According to Maria Monnheimer, states have a general obligation to provide legislative human rights protection. Should Congress fail to enact gun-control legislation that protects the right to life, this could constitute a failure to comply with its international human rights obligations.

In the words of Mildred Fay Jefferson, “The fight for the right to life is not the cause of a special few, but the cause of every man, woman and child who cares not only about his or her own family, but the whole family of man.”


[1] Collins, Julie, and Emily Swoveland. “The Impact of Gun Violence: On Children, Families, & Communities.” Children’s Voice, vol. 23, no. 1, 2014, pp. 10–13. JSTOR, Accessed 22 June 2023.

[2] Nickerson, Amanda, and Rohan, Sonali. “Effects of Firearm Violence on Children: Implications for its Prevention in Our Schools and Communities.” The Rockefeller Institute of Government. August 2022,

[3] Id.

[4] Holloway, K., Cahill, G., Tieu, T. et al. Reviewing the Literature on the Impact of Gun Violence on Early Childhood Development. Curr Psychiatry Rep (2023).

[5] Id.

[6] Valencia, Nick, and Sayers, Devin M. “11-year-old Mississippi who was shot by responding police officer after calling 911 is released from the hospital.” CNN. May 2023,

[7] WMBD News. “Family of Peoria 15-year-old killed in weekend shooting begs for gun violence to stop.”

[8] NowThis. “British Mom Slams U.S. Gun Laws: How Does a 7-year-old Have a Gun?” NowThis News. January 2023,

[9] Phang, Katie. “Gun violence and U.S. Tourism.” MSNBC YouTube. May 2023,

[10] “H.R.7910 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): Protecting Our Kids Act.”, Library of Congress, Accessed 22 June 2023.

[11] “S.25 – 118th Congress (2023-2024): Assault Weapons Ban of 2023.” Congress.Gov, Library of Congress, Accessed 22 June 2023.

[12] “H.R.2418 – Gun Trafficker Detection Act .” Congress.Gov, Library of Congress, Accessed 22 June 2023.

[13] “H.R.2392 – 118th Congress (2023-2024): Pause for Gun Safety Act.” Congress.Gov, Library of Congress, Accessed 22 June 2023.

[14] Hurwitz, Jon, and Mark Peffley. “Public Perceptions of Race and Crime: The Role of Racial Stereotypes.” American Journal of Political Science, vol. 41, no. 2, 1997, pp. 375–401. JSTOR, Accessed 22 June 2023. See p. 380.

[15] Moyer, Justin Wm. “D.C. Won’t Give 3 Black Men Concealed-Carry Licenses. They’re Suing.” The Washington Post, 26 Oct. 2022,

A Hefty Price to Pay: Quianna Canada Condemns Lethal Violence Against Suspected Shoplifters in the US

A Hefty Price to Pay: Quianna Canada Condemns Lethal Violence Against Suspected Shoplifters in the US

A Hefty Price to Pay: Quianna Canada Condemns Lethal Violence Against Suspected Shoplifters in the US

American citizens have recently paid a hefty price for shoplifting—one thought to occur only in regimes judged as non-democratic—and that price is death. Earlier this year, police officers shot and killed a Virginia man after a shop owner suspected the man of shoplifting designer sunglasses.

In April, a Walgreens security guard stopped a trans man for shoplifting. After a confrontation ensued, the security guard fatally shot him. Then in May, a South Carolina store owner fatally shot a 14-year-old boy in the back after wrongly accusing him of shoplifting.

While this article does not argue the US government or its legislatures have passed a law that makes shoplifting punishable by death, each incident has raised the question as to whether there is an oral code that makes shoplifting in the US punishable by death. According to the Marshall Project, 11 states seek to amend legislation as it relates to shoplifting. These new amendments seek to mete out harsher punishments for individuals who steal.

Although legal scholars in the US have asserted that life in prison for shoplifting rises to an Eighth Amendment violation, it may be difficult to show that a sentence is so disproportionate as to constitute cruel and unusual punishment. However, it cannot be denied that death is an indisputably disproportionate sentence for shoplifting.

“The US is the only democratic state that has not ratified the ICESCR.”

Quianna Canada

The Human Rights Committee has articulated that countries such as the US—that have not abolished the death penalty—only may impose the death penalty for the most serious crimes.[1] This means the U.S. must interpret the term “most serious crimes” restrictively and should appertain only to crimes of extreme gravity, involving intentional killing.[2] Crimes not resulting directly and intentionally in death, such as economic crimes, can never serve as the basis for the imposition of the death penalty under Article 6.[3]

A Hefty Price to Pay: Quianna Canada Condemns Lethal Violence Against Suspected Shoplifters in the US and Offers Recommendations

Quianna Canada condemns extreme punishments for minor theft offenses, and calls on the US to:

(1) Encourage stores to use alternative methods of shoplifting prevention besides confronting, physically detaining, or, using lethal violence against the alleged suspect;

(2) Increase penalties for excessive or lethal use of force deployed by shop owners and law enforcement officers;

(3) Raise awareness regarding excessive use of force and lethal violence dangers through public service announcements and other educational campaigns;

(4) Encourage stores to adopt restorative justice practices that focus on repairing harm and amends rather than lethal force.

Include Persons Attempting to Reintegrate in SNAP Boost Benefits Exemption

The temporary boost to SNAP benefits put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, known as emergency allotments, ended nationwide in February 2023. While veterans, people experiencing homelessness and young adults transitioning out of foster care will no longer be bound by work requirements at any age, this exemption does not include previously incarcerated persons.

Evidence shows previously incarcerated persons are impacted by collateral consequences and have a difficult time obtaining employment once they are released. Therefore, I renew my recommendation for the Biden Administration to make it easier for Americans to reintegrate.

The US is the only democratic state that has not ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Therefore, I urge the US to ratify the Covenant, as this would make it easier for citizens to access their rights.


[1] HRC (2019). Capital punishment and the implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty. A/HRC/42/28, at para. 8. Available at:

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

Publicizing America’s Persecution of African-Americans is a Moral Duty, Not Treason

Publicizing America’s Persecution of African Americans is a Moral Duty, Not Treason

Publicizing America’s Persecution of African Americans is a Moral Duty, Not Treason

As Human Rights Defenders (HRD), we have a moral obligation to speak out against acts that violate human rights, such as government wrongdoing and impunity. In my personal opinion, it is important to bring these concerns to light because of the damaging influence it has on disenfranchised communities, such as African Americans.

Over the years, the US government has hired private security firms to surveil African Americans who protest police brutality.[1] It has militarized its police departments and trained them in global counterinsurgency tactics to intimidate Black communities who make public complaints about racism. The US has also used surveillance, monitoring, informants,[2] colluders and other illicit practices to classify Black activists and HRDs as a threat to national security. Its framing of Black activists and HRDs as a threat gives it imprimatur to criminalize dissent both domestically and abroad.

These tactics, according to Mian, are reminiscent of the Counter Intelligence Program (“COINTELPRO”). While some suggest the FBI has abandoned its use of the term ‘BIE’, Mian contends there are no signs that it has retracted the label it has given to African American dissidents.[3] Indeed, evidence reveals the US government still frames Black dissidents who are critical of law enforcement as violent, so that it can quell dissent.[4]

Can the Expressions I Make Against the US Government Abroad be Interpreted as Treason?

As a HRD who actively speaks out against the US government’s ill-treatment of African Americans while abroad, my research and activism got me thinking: Would the US government interpret my expressions abroad as treason?

What is Treason?

The Encyclopædia Britannica defines treason as crime of betraying a nation or a sovereign by acts considered dangerous to security.[5]

What is Aid and Comfort in US Treason Law?

According to Article III, § 3 of the US Constitution, “treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort…” However, in Young v. United States, the US Supreme Court clarified that “aid or comfort to the rebellion” should be interpreted in its hostile sense,[6] such as furnishing warships or giving secret intelligence relating to the strength, movements, or position of an army.[7]

Publicizing America’s Persecution of African Americans is a Moral Duty, Not Treason

Do American HRDs Owe Fidelity to the US if Abroad?

It is argued that “every individual owes fidelity and allegiance to the government under which [they] are living in return for protection which [they] receive from the government.”[8]  The key word is “protection,” but, how it is defined in the eyes of international law? Protection or the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) entails a State safeguarding its citizens from “…genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and Crimes against Humanity.”[9]  Yet, the Inquiry Commission found the systematic killing and maiming of unarmed Black people, who posed no threat of death or serious bodily harm to police or others, was so widespread that it constituted Crimes against Humanity.[10]

This raises the question as to whether an American HRD or activist residing abroad is permitted to pass on evidence of US human rights violations, if one has formed the belief that facts warrant disclosure, and does so on the basis of such belief.[11] Indeed, American HRDs often form and hold opinions, and draw public attention to human rights violations,[12] such as Crimes against Humanity, which the US government could interpret as a treasonable act. Yet, Philosopher Cécile Fabre contends that an individual is robustly justified to commit, what she refers to as permissible treason, if an individual acts on the basis of such belief.[13] To be sure, Fabre specifies there is a moral duty owed to both the victim and the rescuers when the latter are under a duty to rescue.[14]

This leads me to believe that American HRDs do have a moral duty to bring global attention to the human rights violations transpiring in the US[15] because the international community has a duty to protect and rescue.

Are American HRDs Committing Treason by Calling for the Nullification of Laws?

It has been suggested that an American could be charged with treason by calling for the nullification[16] or the repeal of law or amendments, such as the Second Amendment. Even if the US government argued that such may weaken its position militarily, this argument cannot stand, as the epidemic of gun violence in the nation indicates the Second Amendment may be interfering with protected rights, such as the right to life.

In Cramer v. United States, the Court said so long as a citizen commits no act of aid or comfort to the enemy, they are free to harbour convictions that may be at odds with the government’s policies and interests.[17] In other words, American HRDs can make speeches critical of the government or oppose its measures while abroad, so long as they do not adhere to the country’s enemy or have an intent to betray the US.

It is worth stating at this point that when the US enacts amendments that adversely affect human rights, it contradicts human rights through the conduct of its constitutional organs, thereby violating its negative duties.

Can the US Government Use Treason Laws to Silence a HRD’s Dissent?

In the 1700s, courts found “letters of advice and correspondence…to enable [enemies of the US] to annoy us or to defend themselves, written and sent in order to be delivered…” may constitute an overt act of treason.[18] However, I disagree with this law in part, as anything could be considered “correspondence” that “annoys” the US. Indeed, history is full of examples of individuals who spoke out against US injustice and persecution while abroad, like Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, James Meredith and Marian Wright to name a few.

“The American people have this to learn: that were justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property is safe.”

Fredrick Douglass

“I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticise her perpetually.”  

James Baldwin

  “When it comes to my rights as an American citizen and [African Americans], I am a triumphalist and an absolutist. Anything less is an insult.”

James Meredith

Moreover, if letters of advice, correspondence and annoyance were interpreted in its broadest sense, all HRDs would be in jail for educating others on their rights, and persuading international organs to investigate human rights wrongs.[19] As clarified in Grossymeyer v. United States, there must be an intention to aid the enemy or, an intent to promote its power and success.[20] This leads me to believe the US government cannot use treason laws to silence an HRD’s dissent abroad.

To be sure, the Human Rights Committee (“HRC”) asserted that restrictions imposed on free expression to protect the rights of others must be construed with care. Extreme care must also “be taken…to ensure that treason laws and similar provisions are crafted and applied in a manner that conforms to the strict requirements of para. 3.”[21] The HRC delivered another warning: It is not compatible with para. 3 to invoke such laws to suppress or withhold from the public information of legitimate public interests that does not harm national security. That is to say, States may not use treason laws to prosecute journalists, researchers, environmental activists or human rights defenders for having disseminated such information.[22]

One conclusion that can be drawn from these facts is publicizing America’s persecution of African Americans is a moral duty, not treason.

[1] Mian, Zahra N. “‘Black Identity Extremist’ or Black Dissident?: How United States v. Daniels Illustrates FBI Criminalization of Black Dissent of Law Enforcement, from COINTELPRO to Black Lives Matter.” Rutgers Race & the Law Review, vol. 21, no. 1, 2020, p. 63.

[2] Id., p. 55.

[3] Id., p. 89.

[4] Id., p. 82.

[5] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “treason”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 17 Apr. 2023, Accessed 26 May 2023.

[6] 97 U.S. 39 (1877).

[7] Warren, Charles. “What Is Giving Aid and Comfort to the Enemy?” The Yale Law Journal, vol. 27, no. 3, 1918, pp. 331–47. JSTOR, Accessed 22 May 2023. See p. 336.

[8] Id., p. 346.

[9] General Assembly. “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect.” United Nations, 12 Jan. 2009,

[10] Inquiry Commission. “Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against the People of African Descent in the United States, 2021,”, p. 119, para 438.

[11] Fabre, Cécile. “The Morality of Treason.” Law and Philosophy. 26 Jun. 2020, pp. 427-461. Springer, See p. 446.

[12] General Assembly. “Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.” OHCHR, 1999,

[13] Supra, note 11, p. 446.

[14] Id., p. 451.

[15] In my case, human rights violations against African Americans.

[16] Supra, note 7, p. 339.

[17]  325 U.S. 1 (1945)

[18] Supra, note 7, p. 346.

[19] Supra, note 12, Arts. 9, 12 and 16.

[20] (1868) 4 Ct. C1. 1, 13.

[21] HRC. “General Comment No. 34 Article 19: Freedoms of Opinion and Expression.” CCPR/C/GC/34, 11 Sept. 2011,

[22] Id., p. 7, para. 30.

How to Overshadow a Criminal Record and Move On With Your Life

How to Overshadow a Criminal Record and Move On With Your Life

How to Overshadow a Criminal Record and Move On With Your Life

We all make mistakes. In fact, it was Catherine Pulsifer who said, “we all make them, the difference is what we do after we make the mistake, how we see the mistake – a learning experience or a failure.” Mistakes, failure, and the sheer stupidity of having been convicted can toy with an individual’s mental health and invoke feelings of embarrassment. It can also cause a person to doubt their worthiness and position in the world. If that’s you, this article will show you how to overshadow a criminal record in 6 super smart ways.

According to Kathryn Schulz, these “terrible feelings come from realizing wrongness, not the feeling of actually being wrong. Because often, people are wrong for a while before they realize it, and in that intervening time, being wrong feels eerily like being right.”[1]

But what if after serving a sentence and acknowledging the wrong, the individual is limited by public opinion, harshly criticized by family members, and still encounter difficulties in the arena of gaining access to employment?

How to Overshadow a Criminal Record and Move On With Your Life Now

In approaching this issue, one should note that change can be daunting for the de-centered self, and even, most of society. Individuals who enter their moral career will face challenges from a fraction of members of the establishment, as they will seek to put a ‘glass ceiling’ between that individual and what they want to accomplish. This barrier can take the form of publishing the individuals’ past on the internet and  faillisting them from future employment opportunities. In view of this, it’s quite likely that individuals seeking a second chance may not know exactly how to overshadow their criminal record.

Sit With the Truth

First, sit with the truth. It is generally agreed today that previously incarcerated persons have accepted the wrong. While it may not be possible to make amends for the wrong in every case, I believe one of the smartest ways to overshadow a criminal record is to sit with the truth. This is often done within the confines of a prison cell or in isolation. According to Erving Goffman, this ‘mortifications of the self’ or sitting out period, makes it easier to eradicate the old self and create a new one.

Create the Best Ascription of Yourself is How to Overshadow a Criminal Record

Second, create the best ascription of you. An ascription gives, imputes, or attributes certain features to a person without justification. Let’s say an individual volunteers at a homeless shelter and uploads several photos of their action on social media. People may see them as being reliable, selfless, and passionate about social causes. Another way an individual can create the best ascription of themselves is to start their own business. For example, if an individual opens a barber shop and donates a percentage of the proceeds to a victim’s fund, people may associate that person with philanthropy and ‘giving back.’ As can be seen, these attributes are starkly different from terms such as inmate, offender, and criminal.

Ask Search Engines to Remove Negative Results

Third, ask webmasters to remove these negative results from their websites. For example, under the Right to Be Forgotten law in Ireland, people can request search engines to rectify or erase search engine results that are inaccurate, incomplete, outdated, or no longer relevant. This is arduous to accomplish in other jurisdictions outside of the EU, which will be discussed in another article. Be that it may, it is settled law that even individuals with criminal convictions have a right to privacy, and the right to be left alone.

Educate Others on Differential Association is How to Overshadow a Criminal Record

Fourth, individuals should educate those around them on what Edwin H. Sutherland refers to as differential association. While and individual may be wholly responsible for the commission of past criminal conduct, crime is often learnt by individuals in primary groups whose members were criminally inclined. It is often thought that previously incarcerated individuals become criminal by being socialized, in that, the weight of views favourable to crime exceeds those that encourage them to be law-abiding.[2] At times, individuals are merely a product of their environment.

How to Overshadow a Criminal Record and Move On With Your Life By Understanding the Hierarchy of Credibility

Fifth, understand the hierarchy of credibility. According to Howard S. Becker, those at the top (individuals without a criminal past) usually appear much more credible than those at the bottom.[3]  While Becker’s specifically mentioned those in an organization or society as being at the top, we cannot ignore the fact that previously incarcerated individuals are treated as an underclass. As a previously incarcerated person or underdog, the individual might be so completely discredited by a criminal record, as effectively to have no voice at all.[4]

While some employers might sympathize with, for example, marijuana users, it is hard to imagine many employers feeling obliged to assist ‘thieves’ or ‘crack cocaine dealers’ in their search for work. When this happens, use vocabularies of motive. These are the verbalizations of motives and intentions a person uses, not just to describe their actions, but also to justify them to others. For example:

“I burglarized that home when I was 21-years-old because I lived in an environment where I had to fend for myself. I was wrong. But now, I have changed, and I have made amends to my victims….”

“You should hire me for the following reasons: first, as a previously incarcerated individual, my lived-experience placed me directly in environments to understand crime and its impacts on people of color and the community….”

“The truth of the matter is that the content you are seeing online about me is factually incorrect. While that content may be persuasive because it is contained on a government website, its important to know [explain]….”

I understand there will be circumstances where the opportunity to explain convictions will be foreclosed; however, an individual should not allow this to choke off the flow of their enthusiasm or their resolve to create the best ascription of themselves. Where possible, individuals should explain the nature of their convictions in their cover letter or insert it into the objective on their CV.

For example, if an individual is applying for a job in home security, an objective may be “I used to steal stuff for a living, but I left that game behind years ago. I seek to use my criminal skills to test the security devices of corporations and to use my criminal “know how” to help make security devices more effective.”

Own Your Rite of Passage is How to Overshadow a Criminal Record

The sixth and final way on how to overshadow a criminal record is to own your rite of passage by drawing public attention to the changes in your status and social identity. You may also want to document how you handle the strong emotions that may be involved in such a transition.[5] As a previously incarcerated individual, pupil in society will use you as a scapegoat for their ignorance, phobias, political ideology, biases, and frustrations. When employers are unable to identify the real source of their own problems—having identified the source—are unable to challenge it, they may turn on some convenient target—you.[6] Indeed, evidence demonstrates previously incarcerated persons are disproportionately the victims of scapegoating. Thus, it has been argued that police should stop making mugshots public, as it only compounds the problem.

While this is not to be used as a ruse to justify prior criminal conduct, it is your right to change the course of your life. If English poet, John Marston, were alive today, he’d tell you, “Every man has a right to change, a chance of forgiveness.”

Overshadowing the past is the death of the subject. With these 6 super smart ways, I am confident these tools will be the demise of how perhaps your criminal record will be used as an unquestionable reference point, and how, employers may judge it in the future.

How to Overshadow a Criminal Record and Move On With Your Life was Originally published on November 24, 2022.

[1] Mindshift. (2015). Why Making Mistakes Is What Makes Us Human. KQED. Available at:

[2] Bruce, S. & Yearley, S. (2006). Differential Association. In The Sage Dictionary of Sociology. SAGE Publications Ltd. See pp. 71-72.

[3] Id., Hierarchy of Credibility, p. 135.

[4] Id.

[5] Id., Rite of Passage, p. 263.

[6] Id., Scapegoating, p. 269.

Opinion: President Joe Biden Should Use His Executive Privilege to Make it Easier for Americans to Reintegrate

Opinion: President Joe Biden Should Use His Executive Privilege to Make it Easier for Americans to Reintegrate

Opinion: President Joe Biden Should Use His Executive Privilege to Make it Easier for Americans to Reintegrate.

The World Prison Brief puts the U.S. at number one at incarcerating the most people in the world. With over 2 million Americans incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails, approximately 70 million are left with criminal records, raising the question as to whether there is a fresh start for incarcerated Americans.

Vox’s Senior Policy Reporter, Rachel M. Cohen, expressed that job applicants with criminal records are half as likely as those without them to get a callback or job offer. Moreover, Sen. Maria Elena Durazo found “about 75 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals are still unemployed after a year of their release.” These views are consistent with Gabriel Chin’s research, who found that a conviction can restrict one’s ability to live in public housing; to obtain government licenses and permits, and to receive other benefits.

The denial of employment and housing opportunities, and the deprivation of privileges and rights due to a past criminal conviction is often referred to as collateral consequences. That is to say, collateral consequences are legal disabilities imposed by law as a result of a criminal conviction, regardless of whether a convicted individual serves any time incarcerated.

“One of the things I never been accused of is not caring for people.”

President Joe Biden

The secret nature of collateral consequences, as Chin asserts in Reforming Criminal Justice: Punishment, Incarceration, and Release, has resulted in a criminal justice system that is arbitrary, unpredictable, costly, unfair, and in some ways counterproductive.” For example, dozens of sites who publish booking photos in the U.S. are demanding payment for their removal. Third party individuals are also republishing the mugshots to cyberbully and shame those who were previously incarcerated. Although the alleged owners were eventually arrested on charges of extortion, money laundering, and identity theft in 2016, similar websites remain accessible online without constraint. 

President Joe Biden Should Use His Executive Privilege to Make it Easier for Americans to Reintegrate by Taking Most Mugshots Offline.

While mugshots are not considered public records at a federal level, the government’s position has precluded Americans from successfully claiming infringements on their private life against private media reportings. To illustrate this point, one need only refer to the government’s statement in Google Spain, where it ridiculed the European Court of Justice’s recognition of the right to be forgotten, arguing that such right remains inapplicable in the nation. 

Joe Biden Should Use His Executive Privilege to Make it Easier for Americans to Reintegrate May 23, 2023 by Quianna Canada
Courtesy of Quianna Canada

It is worth stating at this point that the judicial branch has held collateral consequences are not punishment. Therefore, collateral consequences do not come within the gambit of the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments, or the Fifth Amendment prohibition against double jeopardy. 

President Joe Biden Should Use His Executive Power to Expand Automatic Sealing Eligibility for PIAs.

When previously incarcerated Americans (“PIAs”) cannot reintegrate into society, they are likely to recidivate to support themselves and their families. That is why, in my opinion, President Joe Biden should use his executive power to expand automatic sealing eligibility for PIAs. How would this look? An examination of Durazo’s bill, if passed, would give all PIAs, except registered sex offenders, the opportunity to have their convictions sealed. PIAs with violent, serious felony records would not be offered the automatic “clean slate.” However, they could petition to have their records sealed too.

It cannot be denied that the respect of one’s private life finds no explicit direct protection in the U.S. Constitution. Be that as it may, it is settled law amongst human rights courts that even individuals with criminal convictions have a right to privacy, and the right to be left alone. The state of California has created a template; the only action for the Biden administration to take is directing federal officials and administrative agencies to expand automatic sealing eligibility for PIAs.

If one weighs the pros and the cons, one soon realizes that collateral consequences and the shaming of American citizens by publicizing their mugshots only compounds the problem. It is for this reason that President Biden should alleviate the expenditure of energy used to help PIAs reintegrate by making use of his Executive power to seal their felony convictions. This executive action will show both, the U.S. and other nations, that the administration truly cares about its people.

Originally published November 22, 2022.

Does the United States Have an Obligation to Provide Adequate Housing?

Does the United States Have an Obligation to Provide Adequate Housing?

Does the United States Have an Obligation to Provide Adequate Housing?

Homelessness Persons Defined in International Law

The United Nations has defined homeless households as “households without a shelter that would fall within the scope of living quarters. They carry their few possessions with them, sleeping in the streets, in doorways or on piers, or in any other space, on a more or less random basis.”[1]

Who Figures Strongly in the Homelessness Demographic?

Black Americans in the US strongly figure in the homelessness demographic. It is well known and widely acknowledged that Black adults have been systematically denied—often explicitly by the law itself—equal civil rights and myriad socio-economic opportunities in the US[2] that has resulted in their homelessness state.

Why Are Black Americans Homeless in the United States?

The Special Rapporteur on adequate housing has highlighted that poverty is a common denominator in the experience of people experiencing homelessness.[3] Homelessness and poverty are inextricably linked.[4]

Concentrated poverty and residential segregation have increased during the post-civil rights era creating settings in which the behaviours that define antisocial personality, as seen with the Neely and Brown cases, are more likely to reflect the social environment rather than individual psychopathology.[5] To be sure, Rhee and Rosenheck found race-based inequalities in lifetime homelessness were primarily associated with differences in income, incarceration history, exposure to traumatic events, and to a lesser extent by antisocial personality disorder, age and parental drug use.[6]  

According to General Resolution 34, States should develop and implement policies and projects aimed at avoiding the segregation of communities in housing, such as Black Americans. The involvement of “communities of people of African descent” should be seen “as partners in housing project construction, rehabilitation, and maintenance.”[7]

Does the United States Have an Obligation to Provide Adequate Housing?

What Does the Right to Adequate Housing Guarantee?

While some articles claim that Americans are provided a bundle of protections through the Fair Housing Act, research demonstrates there are still particularly high levels of segregation in metropolitan areas with large Black populations. Indeed, Jargowsky, Ding and Fletcher found the racial and economic segregation in the nation points to the failure of the US to fully implement the FHA, particularly the law’s directive to affirmatively further fair housing. The Researchers also stated the large goal of integrated living patterns – the polar opposite of “two societies…separate and unequal” – has not been achieved. In other words, the patterns of Jim Crow are still alive.

The Obligation to Fulfil

Obligations to protect rest primarily with the US legislature, who is required to adopt laws ensuring that housing is available for people experiencing homelessness and persons in distress.[10] Indeed, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing has called homelessness “perhaps the most visible and most severe symptom of the lack of respect for the right to adequate housing.”[11] States’ obligations towards the full realization of the right to adequate housing include taking measures to prevent homelessness.[12] Under the obligation to fulfil, the US must prevent and address homelessness; provide the physical infrastructure required for housing to be considered adequate, or ensure adequate housing to individuals or groups unable, for reasons beyond their control, to enjoy the right to adequate housing, notably through housing subsidies and other measures.[13]

[1] UN. “The Right to Adequate Housing.” United Nations Office of the High Commissioner, Accessed 15 May 2023.

[2] Id.

[3] Id., p. 22

[4] National Coalition for the Homeless. “Why Are People Homeless?” Why Are People Homeless?, Accessed 15 May 2023.

[5] Id., p. 168.

[6] Rhee, Taeho Greg, and Robert A Rosenheck. “Why Are Black Adults Over-Represented among Individuals Who Have Experienced Lifetime Homelessness? Oaxaca-Blinder Decomposition Analysis of Homelessness among US Male Adults.” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2020,, p. 167.

[7] Thornberry, Patrick. “The Right to Housing.” International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: A Commentary, Oxford University Press, Croydon, 2016, p. 370.

[8] Kälin, Walter, and Künzli, Jörg. The Right to Adequate Housing. The Law of International Human Rights Protection. Oxford University Press, 2019, p. 300.

[9] Id.

[10] Id., p. 302.

[11] Supra, note 1, p. 21.

[12] Id., p. 23.

[13] Id., p. 34.

Flawed Reasoning: Sean Fitzgerald’s Arguments Fail to Stand Up to Scrutiny in the Jordan Neely Case

Flawed Reasoning: Sean Fitzgerald’s Arguments Fail to Stand Up to Scrutiny in the Jordan Neely Case

Flawed Reasoning: Sean Fitzgerald’s Arguments Fail to Stand Up to Scrutiny in the Jordan Neely Case

Sean Fitzgerald is a popular YouTube commentator who reacts to political controversies in the media. On May 08, 2023, Fitzgerald published Leftists Turn Jordan Neely Into Floyd 2.0 to his YouTube Channel Actual Justice Warrior, where he made several claims about the Jordan Neely case that fail to stand up to scrutiny.

While I will address most of Fitzgerald’s claims in this article, I will not address claims that Fitzgerald did not make himself. For instance, I will not evaluate the arguments made by Briahna Joy Gray and Robby Soave. I will also not address Fitzgerald’s claim that New Yorkers did not protest the strangulation of Jordan Neely, as this claim is easily disproven in several YouTube videos, such as the protest on the subway train tracks. With this in mind, I will not address the argument on that, as I feel it does not go to the core of Fitzgerald’s better claims.

However, there are 4 claims Fitzgerald makes in his video that I will address, and they are:

(1) Whether Black Americans Are Punished for Crimes

(2) Whether Daniel Penny Did Not Intend to Kill Jordan Neely

(3) Whether No Bystanders Cautioned Daniel Penny About His Strangulation of Jordan Neely

(4) Whether Jordan Neely’s Predicament is the Direct Result of State’s Failure to Incarcerate

Whether Black Americans Are Punished for Crimes

First, Fitzgerald believes “If you see a Black person committing a crime and you’re White – let it go.” Fitzgerald also thinks that Black people have achieved a “God tier status,” and that, victims of alleged Black criminality go unpunished.

It is an incontrovertible fact that Black Americans are disproportionately punished for crimes. The arrests of Black Americans far outweigh that of White Americans in the United States (6,109 vs. 2,795 per 100,000).[1] Further, Prison Policy Initiative found there were more Black Americans imprisoned in the country (2,306 v. 450 per 100,000).[2] Thus, it would seem, that Black Americans are punished for crimes.

Another claim Fitzgerald makes is that if the shoe were on the other foot, and a Black marine killed someone, the public would not be hearing about it. Is this true? Absolutely not. In 2022, a Black army veteran named Andrew Johnson was arrested in San Jose for attempted murder.[3] However, Johnson refused to plead guilty, insisting that he was defending himself during a confrontation. Irrespective of this defense, Johnson was arrested and spent 16 months in solitary confinement.

Although Fitzgerald fallaciously argues Black Americans are not punished for crimes in the United States, and that they can harm homeless people and evade arrest, this is a baseless claim. In 2022, a Black man was arrested and found guilty of shooting a homeless man outside of his apartment.[4]

As can be seen, Black Americans are punished for crimes in the United States. Even when Black Americans claim self-defense, as with the case of Johnson or, when they do not actually commit the alleged crime, they are imprisoned. A conclusion that can be drawn from these facts is Black Americans certainly do not have the God tier status Fitzgerald believes they have in the United States.

Flawed Reasoning: Sean Fitzgerald’s Arguments Fail to Stand Up to Scrutiny in the Jordan Neely Case

Whether Daniel Penny Did Not Intend to Kill Jordan Neely

Second, Fitzgerald argues that Daniel Penny did not intend to Kill Neely. To support this claim, Fitzgerald argues that Neely was “violent” and threatening people on the subway. I concede, subway riders did report that Neely made threats and was erratic. However, Fitzgerald conveniently omits that subway riders reported that Neely was nonviolent.[5] According to Alberto Vasquez, Neely did not appear to want to attack anyone. This piece of evidence is fatal to Fitzgerald’s claim that the murder of Neely was justified.

Even if we found Penny was justified in approaching Neely,[6] as reported by subway riders, the same cannot be said for the 15-minute chokehold. As per the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, it takes 10 seconds for someone to lose consciousness from strangulation.[7] Think about it: 10 seconds. Penny knew or should have known that the length of time he had Neely in a chokehold far exceeded what was reasonable to bring him under compliance.

To be sure, Gael Strack and Casey Gwinn in the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice assert that individuals do not strangle to kill; they strangle to show they can kill. If Penny placed Neely in a chokehold for 10 seconds and released him, this would demonstrate no intent to kill. However, Penny’s chokehold lasted for 15 minutes. In view of Penny’s training as a marine and knowledge of strangulation tatics, a reasonable person would conclude that Penny did intend to kill Neely.

Whether No Bystanders Cautioned Daniel Penny About His Strangulation of Jordan Neely

Third, Fitzgerald argues that no bystanders “behind the camera” cautioned Penny about his strangulation of Neely. However, this claim is inaccurate. In the original video, a man enters the train and warns Penny that the chokehold could be lethal.[8] For instance, the man said “If you suffocate him, that’s it.” The man also said, “You don’t want to catch a murder charge.” The man warned Penny two minutes into the chokehold.[9] Despite this warning, Penny continued to strangle Neely.

Whether Jordan Neely’s Predicament is the Direct Result of State’s Failure to Incarcerate

Fourth, Fitzgerald claims that Neely’s predicament is the direct result of the State’s failure to incarcerate him. However, the bucket which Fitzgerald attempts to place this watery claim inside cannot sustain it. The argument that the State should not have released Neely is undemocratic, as it suggest that criminality equals a life sentence of imprisonment. Humans are not infallible; they often make mistakes. Indeed, the media has consistently reminded us that Neely has made his share. However, if we take a glimpse at the government’s role in Neely’s predicament, we begin to understand that our own government, either advertently or inadvertently, hobbled this man by creating barriers that made it nearly impossible for him to reintegrate into society, such as persistent patterns of discrimination in political and social participation in the country.


I have shown that Black Americans are disproportionately punished for crimes. I have further shown Black Americans are disproportionately arrested and incarcerated in the US. Fitzgerald’s own evidence indicates that Penny most likely intended to kill Neely. The sources provided clearly illustrate bystanders cautioned Penny about his strangulation of Neely. My own case for Neely demonstrates his predicament is not the direct result of the State’s failure to incarcerate. Based on these reasons, it can be argued that Sean Fitzgerald’s arguments fail to stand up to scrutiny in the Jordan Neely case.

[1] OJJDP. (2018). Arrest rates by offense and race, 2018. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

[2] Prison Policy Initiative. (n.d.). U.S. incarceration rates by race. U.S. incarceration rates by race | Prison Policy Initiative.

[3] Trent, S. (2022, June 15). A Black Army vet spent 16 months in solitary. then a jury heard the evidence against him. The Washington Post.

[4] Clement, I. (2022, December 2). Buffalo man found guilty for shooting homeless man outside of his apartment. WKBW 7 News Buffalo.

[5] Gulino, E. (2023). Jordan Neely wasn’t just killed – he was failed by bystanders around him. Jordan Neely & The Dangers Of The Bystander Effect.

[6] Id.

[7] (2016, April 4). Strangulation Can Leave Long Lasting Injuries. Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention.

[8] Aceves, P., & Stieb, M. (2023, May 7). The outrage over Jordan Neely’s killing isn’t going away. Intelligencer.,to%20catch%20a%20murder%20charge.%E2%80%9D

[9] Id.

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