Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ice storm devastation in Indian country

See stories from the New York Times here and from the Wall Street Journal here. Interestingly, the WSJ story led the NYT report by a full five days.

Some 500 power lines went down on Lakota Sioux land in central South Dakota in November 2008 storms; as many as 3,000 more were lost in ice storms that struck about 10 days ago. This excerpt from the WSJ story elaborates on the consequences:
"These events are showing just how painfully inadequate our emergency response capabilities are. Because of one ice storm, we had over 3,000 downed electrical lines and mass power outages," said Tracey Fischer, chief executive and president of First Nations Oweesta Corporation, a national nonprofit working on economic development in Indian country.

"There has been looting of homes and businesses by people desperate for food and water. Schools have been out of session for a week and will likely be unable to open their doors for at least another week," said Ms. Fischer, a member of the Cheyenne River tribe.

With just 10,000 residents spread across 2.8 million acres, many Cheyenne River families depend on electricity transmitted across hundreds of empty miles to run pumps for drinking water, or to power the ignition modules on natural-gas and propane heaters.

A new federal endorsement of urban farming?

See today's story in the New York Times regarding plans to take a federal building in Portland green. We're not just talking solar panels and LED lighting. We're talking a garden on the side of the building! Here's an excerpt:
The federal government plans to plant its own bold garden directly above a downtown plaza. As part of a $133 million renovation, the General Services Administration is planning to cultivate “vegetated fins” that will grow more than 200 feet high on the western facade of the main federal building here, a vertical garden that changes with the seasons and nurtures plants that yield energy savings.

“They will bloom in the spring and summer when you want the shade, and then they will go away in the winter when you want to let the light in,” said Bob Peck, commissioner of public buildings for the G.S.A. “Don’t ask me how you get them irrigated.”

Not surprisingly, some U.S. Senators think this is another example of wasteful, government excess, and they have placed it second on a list of the worst stimulus-funded projects.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Update on rural broadband and the stimulus package

An NPR story on Friday was headlined "Mobile Device Use Constrained by Bandwidth." Journalists Ari Shapiro and Steve Inskeep wrapped up the segment with this update on the somewhat related topic of the boost the stimulus package gave to rural broadband.
INSKEEP: Some pockets of the country have no real high-speed Internet access at all. Last years stimulus package included more than $7 billion to increase broadband access to rural communities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is in charge of distributing some of the money.

SHAPIRO: And this week, they awarded more than $300 million in grants. The money funds 14 projects from Alaska to Alabama. Not everyone is happy with the program. Yesterday, Alabamas Republican Senator Richard Shelby called it wasteful spending by the Obama administration.

A tale of racial healing in the Missouri Ozarks

Read Sean Hamill's report in the "Religion Journal" feature of the New York Times. The dateline is Ash Grove, Missouri, population 1,430, in the southwest part of the state, a region known as a KKK stronghold in years past. Indeed, as the story notes, Ash Grove's population was more than a tenth Black at the turn of the twentieth century, but dwindled following the lynching of three black men in nearby Springfield in 1906.

Hamill's story focuses on Reverend Moses Berry, an Orthodox minister who moved back to Ash Grove, where he had grown up, about a dozen years ago. An excerpt follows:

By founding a black history museum here, cleaning up his family’s cemetery and telling his family’s sometimes controversial story, beginning with its roots in slavery, Father Moses, as everyone calls him — an African-American, Orthodox Christian priest in a flowing black cassock — has tried to remind people of a part of the region’s often-forgotten past, and to open up hearts and minds along the way.

“He brings peace to people. I’ve seen it,” said Gail Emrie, 56, a local history buff who helped get the Berry family’s 135-year-old cemetery — one of the region’s few black cemeteries not located on a plantation — listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. “It is reconciliation, and it is his mission, reconciliation of our history between the races.”

Implicitly referring to the region's history, Emrie also comments, “Every little town down here could use” a museum like the one Father Moses started.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hunter education for Hmong in northern California

Read the New York Times story here. It's about a unique and informal hunter education initiative aimed at the Hmong community in northern California:
Along the barren airwaves of AM radio in Northern California, somewhere between gospel music and traffic updates, Yia Yang can be heard telling his devoted listeners to always be aware of their gun muzzles.

A 50-year-old Hmong immigrant from northern Laos, Mr. Yang is the host of a regular all-things-hunting program on KJAY 1430-AM. The station serves one of the nation’s largest Hmong populations — one for whom the link between hunting and survival is still palpable.

Yang notes that, in his native Laos, wildife was a significant source of food. Many Hmong immigrants in the U.S. still hunt, and officials note a great need for hunter education classes in languages other than English, even as the number of hunting licenses issued overall has diminished in recent years. The story makes the point that Wisconsin and Minnesota are also home to large Hmong communities, and those states thus face issues similar to California, in part because of Hmong distrust of government authorities. Part of that distrust also relates to fear about whether hunting is safe, especially after a white hunter killed a Hmong squirrel hunter in Minnesota a few years ago. But, traditions like hunting die hard, as suggested by the final quote from Yang:
“People are calling on the radio asking me, ‘How many squirrels can I bring home?’ I tell them four. Squirrel soup with a lot of hot peppers is very popular.”

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rural Alaskan community a headliner in climate change litigation

Read the story here from yesterday's New York Times. The dateline is Kivalina, Alaska, population 377, which is north of the Arctic Circle. Kivalina filed a suit in 2008 accusing more than 20 fuel and utility concern of causing climate change that is causing the village's barrier island perch to erode. Here's an excerpt:
Blocks of sea ice used to protect the town’s fragile coast from October on, but “we don’t have buildup right now, and it is January,” said Janet Mitchell, Kivalina’s administrator. “We live in anxiety during high-winds seasons.”

The village wants the companies, including ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, and many others, to pay the costs of relocating to the mainland, which could amount to as much as $400 million.
The Kivalina lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge in Oakland, California, in October, but Kivalina is appealing.

One question that occurs to me is how Kivalina found lawyers to represent it--or perhaps more likely, lawyers hoping to set a precedent for environmentalists, found Kivalina. If this all sounds far fetched from a law perspective, I found interesting the comment of a law professor who likened cases like Kivalina's to early suits against tobacco companies. They looked shaky early on, but ultimately succeeded as lawyers experimented with different legal theories.

Acknowledging rurality in State of the Union address

President Obama got to rural Americans in about paragraph 4 of his State of the Union address, within the first few minutes of his speech. He did so with these remarks, referring to the current economic climate and suggesting particular concern for nonmetropolitan hardships:
But the devastation remains. One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. And for those who'd already known poverty, life has become that much harder.
And he came back to rurality in this expression of the span of humanity, in relation to educational opportunity:
Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform--reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to inner city.
The next line is especially interesting because it acknowledges the problem of spatial inequality, the extent to which where one lives dictates opportunity and the quality of government services one receives--in this case, the quality of education.
In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education. And in this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential.
On the matter of spatial inequality, see an earlier post here.

Read the full text of the President's speech here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A placid place where idle youth are not a problem

I was struck listening to this NPR story yesterday that, for such a small town, Lake Placid, New York, does not suffer from the problem of idleness among rural youth that has received some recent attention, such as here.

Lake Placid, population just 2,638, has hosted two winter Olympics, and it has sent at least one resident to each winter Olympics since they began in 1932. This year, 10 athletes from the Lake Placid area will compete in Vancouver. Listen here to the rest of the story, which explains how the area's sports-related infrastructure keeps kids busy--and setting high goals for themselves.

Lake Placid is in upstate New York, in Essex County, population 38,851.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part XLVII): Kidnapping plot foiled

The two most recent issues of the Newton County Times report on a plot by a jailed defendant and his family to kidnap the county sheriff''s son and/or to escape from custody. Other recent posts have mentioned the charges against David Middleton, most recently and notably for his alleged involvement in methamphetamine production. These more recent stories indicate that Middleton engaged his brother and some other family members to assist him in attempting to escape.

The January 7, 2010 headline is, "Plot to kidnap sheriff's son thwarted." It's lede is: "A 51-year-old man is being held in custody under $1 million bond for allegedly conspiring to help his brother escape from jail and attempting to kidnap Newton County Sheriff Keith Slape's son." Ricky Middleton, the brother of David Middleton, is that man. David Middleton was being held in the Benton County jail awaiting prosecution on federal drug charges. Authorities monitoring his phone calls, which is apparently standard practice, discovered the plot. Meanwhile, Sheriff Slape moved his family to a "safe house."

The next week's paper, dated January 14, 2010, reports in more detail on the alleged plot, under a headline reporting Ricky Middleton's not guilty plea. According to the story, following his November arrest on drug charges, David Middleton was initially held in the Boone County Jail. After he complained of chest pains, he was taken to the North Arkansas Regional Medical Center, where he allegedly tried to escape. Following a federal indictment based on events that led to the November arrest, Middleton was moved to the Benton County jail. The recorded phone conversations revealed Middleton asking his wife, adult daughter and brother to "line up 15 or 20 people to try and free him from custody while going to or coming from a hearing in Fort Smith." At one point, the daughter, Tracy Waits, is quoted as saying, "We'll be there, I'm not going to let you down, I promise." David Middleton responds at one point, "Ricky knows, he knows all about it. You have one chance and that's it."

Following his arrest, Ricky Middleton also admitted that he and his brother had discussed "finding out about Slape's children and following the school bus, as well as who would assist" in a plan to kidnap one of the Sheriff's children.

In other crime-related stories, the January 14, 2010, of the paper reports:
  • "Third suspect named in plot" reports on the search for David Middleton's daughter, Tracy Waits, also of Newton County. It notes that she was last traced by use of her food stamp card to a grocery store in Harrison.
  • "Breedlove's bond remains at $250,000" reports that the woman accused of killing her male intimate partner in early December, 2009, remains held on the same bond as initially set, but that any release is further conditioned on the woman, Kerry Breedlove, going directly into drug rehabilitation. However, evidence of drug use--at least as reported in the story--was scant and appeared to be based on hearsay evidence. Of particular interest in relation to lack of anonymity was testimony by a sheriff's office investigator that he knew the defendant's family and he didn't think they would be able to "control" her. The investigator noted that while the defendant's mother is a secretary to State Senator Randy Laverty--apparently indicating that she is an upstanding citizen--Breedlove's two children are supposed to be in the custody of her mother, but one, a 16-year-old, was living with Breedlove at the time of the shooting and, in fact, her present was the cause of the dispute between Breedlove and the man she allegedly shot and killed. The investigator said that "if the mother couldn't control a 16-year-old girl, she wouldn't be able to control a 35-year-old woman."
  • "Daryl Kolb arrested on meth charge" is a report of a 41-year-old man (incidentally, one with whom I went to high school) being arrested following a four-month investigation into his delivery of methamphetamine. His 1998 Camaro, "which was used in the trafficking of narcotics," was seized. Bond has been set at $100,000.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Neglect of rural development worsens post-quake situation in Haiti

NPR reported tonight on how recent development strategies (or the lack thereof) in Haiti have worsened the situation in the wake of last week's quake. An excerpt that quotes Professor Gerald Murray, an anthropologist at the University of Florida, follows:
Murray suggests that the decline of agriculture exacerbated the quake's toll. Haitians left the countryside for Port-au-Prince, creating a dense population in poorly built housing that couldn't withstand the quake.

"[In] the village I lived in, people were still planning a future for their children on the farm, they would try to acquire more land and purchase more land. Now it is more common to find people selling more land to finance emigration," Murray says — emigration not only to Port-au-Prince but to Haiti's neighbor, the Dominican Republic, which is not eager to see more Haitian immigrants. He adds that the quake will probably propel even more Haitians to leave the country.
Listen to the full story here, which touches on issues of migration, development policy, agriculture and sustainability.

On a somewhat related note, the New York Times reports today on the challenges of delivering relief to rural Haiti. See a video here under the headline "Confusion in the Haitian Countryside; Roadblocks Delay Aid to Rural Haiti."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What does a pickup truck have to do with Scott Brown's victory in Massacusetts?

I'm not sure, but here's the lede on the initial New York Times report of his victory over Martha Coakley.
Scott Brown, a little-known Republican state senator, rode an old pickup truck and a growing sense of unease among independent voters to an extraordinary upset Tuesday night when he was elected to fill the Senate seat that was long held by Edward M. Kennedy in the overwhelmingly Democratic state of Massachusetts.
What does the rural-urban divide--or rural-urban symbolism--have to do with this race? anything substantive?

Is this Brown victory being presented by the NYT as representing "rural" backlash against our urban President? I don't tend to think of Massachusetts as being a pick-up/farm kind of state, but there's plenty I don't know about New England. Or, maybe the NYT is just playing into rural-urban symbolism (a proxy for the culture wars after the 2008 Presidential election) with more prominence than is merited.

Another victory for city chickens

Two stories in last week's Sacramento Bee reported on a family keeping chickens in the yard of their Sacramento home. Read the reports here and here. A Sacramento County ordinance prohibits keeping chickens on parcels that are smaller than 10,000 square feet, and a local family caught the attention of the Bee when the county threatened removal of the chickens they kept on the smallish lot of their rental home. Here are some excerpts from the Bee's coverage, which provides interesting history and context.

Keeping urban chickens is a growing trend in a society increasingly interested in where its food comes from. The city of Sacramento is considering legalizing egg-laying chickens, drafting policies that are expected to go before the legislation committee in March.

* * *

In the city of Sacramento, a vocal group of residents is lobbying for a relaxation of the law that bans chickens. The city's legislation committee is expected to review the chicken laws in March.

"The city and county are a little in the past," said Paul Towers, who is part of CLUCK, or the Campaign to Legalize Urban Chicken Keeping. "Everyone deserves the right to healthy, local food, and cities and counties should make that a priority for their citizens."

Backyard chickens went out of favor after World War II, when Americans saw two cars and the suburbs as the ideal dream, said Valerie Taylor, a resident of Montgomery, Ohio, who successfully fought last year against that upscale community's chicken laws.

"Chickens were seen as something that was downscale, kind of like having sidewalks," she said. "Who would want to walk when you could drive? And who would raise their own birds when you could go to the grocery store and buy eggs?"

Zoning codes were established in Sacramento County in 1950, when areas were specified as being residential or agricultural, said code enforcement manager Tammy Derby.

Chickens were barred from residential zones until 1985, when they were allowed as part of an educational program such as 4-H on plots larger than 10,000 square feet, said county spokeswoman Annie Parker.

People can apply for a conditional-use permit to have chickens on smaller plots, but no one has done so in the almost 30 years that Manuel Mejia has been with the county.

The cost to apply for the permit is more than $6,000 and, even when paid, may not be granted, said Mejia, a senior planner.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Networks of "kith and kin" matter more in urban places, too--at least in an economic downturn

At least that is the message from this post by Katherine Newman, a sociologist at Princeton University, to the Room for Debate blog on The subject of this particular exchange among experts was "A Nation of Hunkered Down Homebodies," and it discusses possible reasons why the nation's mobility rate fell last year to the lowest since World War II. The editors note that the current recession and lack of jobs are certainly factors, but that the trend has gained force since the 1950s, when a fifth of all Americans moved every year. They summarize the query put to the blog's contributors:
Greater labor mobility helps the economy, but are there other kinds of effects — negative or positive — related to a more rooted population? Is there an upside to more Americans staying closer to their hometowns?
Of course, immobility has long been associated with the poor, and it has also long been associated with rural communities, where reliance on networks of so-called kith and kin have been seen as a sort of capital that ameliorated some of the hardships associated with rural living. Indeed, such networks have long been viewed as features of rural informal economies. I have written about this aspect of rural living, among other places, here and here.

The significance of such networks loomed large enough in discussions in my law and rural livelihoods class a few years ago that an alum of that class emailed me this week to point out what Professor Newman had said in this Room for Debate exchange. A quote from Newman follows:
One of the virtues of being stuck is that we can continue to rely on the friends and family nearby to help us get through hard times. “Social capital,” the stock of trust and support we draw on in daily life, is especially important when families are under stress. A child care emergency can be patched up if grandma is next door rather than 2,000 miles away. Borrowing $50 to get by is easier if you have someone close to turn to and much harder if you are a newcomer.
In sum, as Newman writes, staying put may help us retain our ties to one another, including a greater sense of community and a range of benefits associated with it. This is something long-time rural residents have long known--and tended to act upon--by staying put.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Rural Arizona boy sentenced to mental treatment facility

Ten-year-old Christian Romero was sentenced yesterday, some 14 months after he allegedly killed his father and another man in their St. Johns, Arizona, home. The sentencing comes about a year after the boy pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of the other man, a boarder in the Romero home; as part of that plea, charges for the father's death were dropped. Read earlier posts about the matter here and here.

In the past few months, the Apache County, Arizona judge who was to decide Romero's sentence, Michael Roca, was removed from the matter after he indicated that he would not comply with the plea agreement. Roca wanted to send the boy to a state facility, but Arizona juvenile justice authorities protested that they had no facility appropriate for a boy Romero's age. As a consequence of Roca's intent, presiding Judge Stauffer of neighboring Greenlee County was brought in to make the sentencing decision. She sentenced the boy, who was only 8 years old when the crimes were committed, to a mental treatment facility where he will live until he is 18. He will undergo periodic psychological counseling.

The removal of the Apache County juvenile court judge Roca from the case was based in part on a phenomena associated with small-town lack of anonymity. Roca referred to St. Johns as "poison" for young Romero, but in doing so he was apparently influenced by off-the-record communications from St. Johns' residents, who objected to having Christian Romero, who was living in St. Johns with his mother and his paternal grandmother, in school with their children. Read more here about how money--or the lack thereof in Apache County--also appeared to influence Roca's plans for Romero.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Historic rural black schools being restored

Read Erik Eckholm's report in today's New York Times, "In the South, Black Schools Restored as Landmarks." The story tells of efforts to restore some of the 800 black schools that remain from among about 5,000 that were built with funds from philanthropist Julius Rosenwald in the early 20th century.

Rosenwald, the president of Sears & Roebuck, was influenced by Booker T. Washington's message of black self-help. His Rosenwald Foundation donated "seed money, architectural advice, and supplies."

Here are some excerpts from the story, including one about the role of community in the construction of these schools:
The schools were a turning point, sparking improved, if still unequal, education for much of the South, historians say.
* * *
The need for them reflected the segregation of the age and the paltry financing of black schools. But historians say their blossoming also demonstrated the strong community ties forged by rural blacks and a fierce determination to educate their children despite official indifference.
Not only are some of the school buildings being saved, Eckholm reports that the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African-American History and Culture is also undertaking to capture oral histories associated with some of these humble but incredibly important institutions.

Interestingly, the story focuses on a school in Pine Grove, South Carolina, which is not even a Census Designated Place. In fact, wikipedia indicates that three places in South Carolina bear the name Pine Grove.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part XLVI): New leads in 2005 disappearance

The December 31, 2009 issue of the Newton County Times features this front-page crime headline, "Police searching for Middleton's remains." The story indicates that authorities have some leads about a 20-year old man who went missing in January, 2005, and is thought to have been killed. The man, Josh Middleton, disappeared just a day after his 56-year-old friend, Charles House, was found shot to death.

The story seems to implicate a county resident, Rickey Freeman, in the deaths, but the links between Freeman and the back-to-back death and disappearance of Middleton and House are not made crystal clear. The story reads:
Rickey Freeman of Mt. Judea was arrested on varied charges in Harrison that same day. [The county sheriff] Slape said they believe Freeman was the last person seen with House. Freeman's house in Newton County burned shortly thereafter.
Of interest in relation to the "lack of anonymity" characteristic of rural communities are these paragraphs:
Authorities had received numerous reports of sightings of Josh Middleton. They have gone to other states to chase those leads. Slape said one person even reported seeing Josh Middleton dressed in drag and at a school dance.

But Slape said there had never been any truth behind any of those sightings.

In November, 2007, authorities said there may have been a witness to Middleton's killing. Slape told the Daily Times then that "someone with some information" had come forward, leading to the new investigation as a homicide.
The story reports that Slape has denied other rumors that Sheriff's office authorities have been digging and may have found some remains. The Sheriff acknowledged, however, that investigators have been looking for remains on a piece of property in the Mt. Judea area.

All of this makes me wonder what sort of highly trained forensic support the Newton County Sheriff's office has in undertaking this endeavor.

In other news, the Jasper (Newton County) and Kingston (Madison County) schools were recognized on a list of "most improved" schools by the Office of Educational Policy at the University of Arkansas. Jasper was the fourth most improved in the state in its elementary math scores, and it was most improved in the state's Northwest quadrant. Jasper and Kingston are in the same school district, though in different counties.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Bill that would reform NY's rural courts stalled

Read William Glaberson's story in the New York Times. The lede follows:
The most ambitious efforts in decades to reform New York State’s vast network of small-town courts — where sessions can be held in a garage, and where more than 1,450 judges who are not lawyers conduct trials — have stalled in Albany. Even a seemingly modest compromise, one that would allow a defendant to request that
the judge be a lawyer, seems doomed, its sponsor says.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rural constituents and the U.S. Senate

Two stories that are at least implicitly about the intersection of rurality with national politics caught my eye yesterday. One is about Byron Dorgan's plan not to run for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate. Dorgan is a Democrat from North Dakota, a state that is rural by many measures.

The other story is about the prospect that Harold Ford Jr., formerly a congressman from Tennessee, will challenge Kirsten Gillibrand for her seat in the U.S. Senate. When she was selected last year to replace Hillary Clinton as New York's junior senator, Gillibrand was pilloried for being folksy and a bit too closely aligned with positions popular in her upstate (rural) New York congressional district, e.g., opposing gun control. Read posts here and here. Today's story, however, suggests that Ford would be presented as an independent thinker and a conservative alternative to Gillibrand, who is now seen by some as being too closely aligned with the state's other U.S. Senator, Charles Schumer.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part XLV): Bashing the feds on the front page?

The big headline in the December 24 issue of the Newton County Times is "Additional funding sought for jail construction." I've written about the county's jail quandaries here, here, and here. But what was especially interesting to me about this story is not just the detail about how Newton County may finally get a new jail (they've raised $1.5 million from the sale of bonds after last year's sales tax election), but some serious editorializing in the midst of this front-page story.

The story reports on a recent meeting between local officials, the architects for the new jail, USDA Rural Development officials, and staff members of the area's U.S. Congressman. The USDA Rural Development officials reportedly explained that the county is eligible to receive a direct $100,000 construction grant or it could apply for federal stimulus money for 35% of the cost of the project, with a $200,000 maximum. The next section of the story reads:
The stimulus funds come with a lot of red tape and paperwork, however.

Stimulus legislation includes a little-known provision that some critics contend wastes tax dollars and costs jobs. All $188 billion worth of construction projects funded in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (H.R.1) must pay Davis-Bacon prevailing wage rates. This requirement, critics contend, inflate construction costs and depress the economy.
The next paragraph explains details of the Davis-Bacon Act. Both of these paragraphs strike me as boilerplate copied from a conservative publication. They strike me as especially odd--even out of place--given that this tiny, local paper typically features so little in depth reporting on anything, including such national context for local happenings. News analysis is hardly ever seen in the paper.

Finally, the story comes back to a local angle, with a paraphrase of the county judge (chief administrator for county, an elected official) commenting that his experience with receipt of federal stimulus money has been negative. In particular, he notes the costs involved "just in daily reporting of expenditures."

Currently, with the $100,000 USDA Rural Development grant and another $70,000 grant from an unnamed source, $1.67 million of the $2 million price tag is available. As a consequence of the short fall, the project is being scaled back to include only 6,296 square feet, including an outdoor exercise yard. It will have six cells with double bunks, and it will have separate spaces for male and female prisoners. The facility will also have the capacity to separate felony and misdemeanor prisoners. While laundry and food service facilities will be on site, the sheriff will not have administrative officers there.

Since the jail closed in the summer of 2009, the county has paid neighboring counties about $30/day per prisoner to house Newton County's prisoners in their jails.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Murders of eight women unsolved in small Lousiana town

A report in today's New York Times, dateline Jennings, Louisiana, population 10,986, depicts the town as a mini Cuidad Juarez. Juarez is the notorious Mexican city over the border from El Paso where hundreds of women have been murdered in the past decade or so--and where few of those murders have been solved. In Jennings, the bodies of eight young women have been found in the past four years or so--some so badly decomposed that it is not certain they were murdered. Nevertheless, all women had something in common: they had all run afoul of the law at some point, typically in relation to prostitution or drugs.

Jennings is in Jefferson Davis Parish, population 31,201, a place journalist Campbell Brown describes as "quiet countryside of rice and crawfish farms." But Brown also describes a contrasting aspect of Jennings, characterizing it as "[l]ong a stopping-off point for drug traffickers along Interstate 10," with a thriving crack trade.

Brown's report touches on various themes, e.g., lack of anonymity, that I have explored as relevant to how law--especially criminal law--may operate differently in rural places. Here are some excerpts:
Most [of the victims] knew one another or were even related, members of a small circle in a small town.

* * *

There has also been anger at what many local residents view as missteps by sheriff’s investigators, like lost or missing evidence, and fury at the possibility that a serial killer might be loose.

* * *

Over time, dissatisfaction has turned to outright suspicion that the local police are involved in or are covering up the deaths. In a small town like Jennings, where law enforcement officers, victims and criminals are often related by blood and friendship, the police’s failings inevitably take on an ominous cast.

Federal authorities are working with local officials to solve the crimes.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Nostalgia for roadside citrus stands, and the rural livelihoods they represented

That is a theme of Damien Cave's story in today's New York Times, dateline Fort Pierce, Florida, population 38,748. He writes of the Indian River area of Atlantic central coast Florida, where citrus and NASA rule. Here's an excerpt:
Hundreds if not thousands of family citrus farms and their roadside stands have disappeared since the 1960s — victims of freezes and disease, highways that diverted customers, corporate consolidation, and the relentless pressure on growers to sell their land to developers. Since 1996, Florida has lost more than 200,000 acres of citrus land, according to state figures, mainly to homes that no longer sell like the oranges they replaced.

Only here, in the 90-mile bluff along the Indian River from Cocoa to Fort Pierce, can one find the last handful of citrus stores that offer the stickiness and tart scent that once defined the state.