An uprising lying in wait

By Seth Ogilvie

There could be an active insurrection against the new way a group of legislators wants to pay schools.

For the last two years, a legislative interim committee has been meeting and trying to figure out the best way to give Idaho schools the money they need to teach kids. Currently, schools get their money based on average daily attendance or the number of kids in the classrooms, and several other line items, like the career ladder. The committee is looking to fundamentally change the way the state spends its money on education, and stakeholders are nervously awaiting the final proposal.

Already, there are signs of dissent.

A slide presented in the November 12th  Boise Board of Trustees meeting reads “Southern Idaho Conference Superintendents are opposed to a formula which creates winners and losers and promotes divisiveness.”

“It is unfortunate that they essentially want to do away with the career ladder,” Dr. Troy Rohn, a Boise School District Trustee, added in an email.

“The Idaho Association of School Administrators, the Idaho School Boards Association, the Idaho Education Association, and the Southern Idaho Conference Superintendents all support keeping the Career Ladder in place,” Boise Schools superintendent Dr. Don Coberly told Idaho Reports Friday.

A letter signed by Executive Director of the Idaho School Boards Association Karen Echeverria , Executive Director of the Idaho Association of School Administrators Rob Winslow, and President of the Idaho Education Association Kari Overall states “We currently have the ability to determine the gap between what the legislature is funding for salaries and benefits and what school districts and charter schools are actually paying. If these dollars are placed into the new formula, we will never be able to capture that data again.”

Changing the way money is allocated in schools has the potential to create huge political problems, because it will affect every legislative and school district differently.

The big problem is math. “They built this model and it has a lot of levers on it,” Winslow told Idaho Reports. If the same amount of money is in the system and that money is dispersed differently, some will benefit and some will suffer. Without adding more money into the system, there is no way of making sure there are no winners and losers without simply retaining the old system or reverse engineering a new system to hit the same goals.

If, after two years of work, the committee were to simply reverse engineer a system to recreate the old numbers, citizens would also be within their rights to wonder why they spent two years working to get a result we already had.

The new system has many variables, and the committee has been constantly tweaking them. “If you raise the base, it kind of lifts everybody,” and you can change the formula without hurting districts, Winslow said, but that would mean more money.

The Boise School District Board of Trustees recently evaluated a recent incarnation from the committee, another version will be released November 26th. These won’t be the final numbers but they are symbolic of the problem; It’s hard not to create winners and losers.

One of the biggest winners, according to the Board of trustees analysis, is Caldwell School District, which would gain $3.4 million. Two of the biggest losers are Boise, which would lose $5 million the equivalent of 100 teachers and Fremont County who will lose, $1.6 million or 32 teachers.

“What the legislators are trying to do now is make a model that is as acceptable as possible to other legislators,” Winslow said. “They came up with a model that will irritate all these legislators because they’ll go back home and realize ‘Wow, you’re messing up my district,’” Winslow said. “That’s a hard sell.” Winslow added it’s a poor idea to give a bunch of legislators a reason to hate it.

A large portion of the money in the recent model would end up in the Treasure Valley: Vallivue would increase $3.1 million, Nampa by $4.3 million, Kuna by $1.3 million, and Mountain Home and Middleton would see just under a million dollar increase.

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“This will be devastating to some small districts,” Rohn wrote. “Northern Idaho schools will be hit hard along with our district.”

Rohn points to the “wealth factor” as a huge problem that is executed regardless of a districts ability to pass a supplemental levy. “It’s completely unfair and is targeting districts that right now have high property values,” Rohn said.
The formula will affect about half of the state of Idaho’s general fund spending, and stakeholders are understandably anxious. This formula could require more money to keep every district from cuts. Winslow said “If you don’t put enough money in it, it just doesn’t work well.”

But there are competing demands for that money. Idaho voters passed Medicaid expansion this year, and the 2018 legislature passed a large tax cut. The money hasn’t been rolling into Idaho coffers like people expected, Idaho is down $47.3 million from expectations this fiscal year.

This isn’t the type of policy, however, that the Idaho Legislature will easily admit defeat on. Speaker of the House Scott Bedke placed himself on the committee a move that sends a signal he is behind this idea. Students, teachers and all of Idaho will be drastically affected by how the legislature disperses the money, and everyone wants something.
“We were promised something less complicated and transparent based on the committee work that was previously done,” Rohn said. “This version is nothing like that.”

“There shouldn’t be winners and losers,” Winslow said. “You can adjust it and play with it and make yourself a winner and somebody else a loser but that’s not right.”

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Harassment doesn’t end overnight

Wide view of the boise capital building

By Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Reports

The Idaho Legislature will have a new policy on harassment this year. The plan comes in the wake of numerous highly publicized nationwide events and a few lesser-known incidents at the Idaho Statehouse. Senator Cherie Buckner-Webb who co-chaired the Respectful Workplace Task Force Committee said, “There have been stories. There’s folklore about things that have happened in this body.”

Countless legislatures and businesses throughout the country are undertaking the same changes. “This was something that needed to be done for a long time, and there’s been a cry across legislatures and across the United States,” Sen. Buckner-Webb said.

The Idaho Legislature did not have an articulated procedure before this and complaints did not have a standardized method. “There wasn’t a process whereby someone could report and feel confident that it would be acted upon,” Sen. Buckner-Webb said. There was no way of quantifying what was going on.

The new policy lays out definitions of harassment and puts procedures in place to process complaints. “They did well on how the committee is going to investigate and how they’re going to punish people,” said Monique Lillard, Professor of Law at the University of Idaho and past president of the Employment Discrimination section of the Association of American Law Schools. “I think they covered all of the important components.”

“Our goal is to interrupt any harassment that might be going on, to eliminate harassment and to protect all the folks that work in this building,” Sen. Buckner-Webb said. People should thrive, she added, and not be fearful of harassment when they come to work.

The policy has noble goals, but it may have a few mechanical flaws. The policy states people, “should submit a complaint directly to one of the appropriate contact persons.” That is just one singular person, not the committee. The policy lists nine positions consisting primarily of leadership for the legislature and the staff who people can approach with a complaint.

That one person contacted has ultimate discretion. They can consult with the Office of the Attorney General or any member of the Respectful Workplace Committee, they can bring the complaint to the committee, or they can resolve the charge themselves. “That could allow for massaging things so that they’d go away,” Lillard said. “Sometimes that’s good, but sometimes that’s a cover-up.”

“There is much power in that one individual to say ‘Oh, this isn’t worth passing on,’” Lillard said. “That could be a place that important matters could get quashed, but then that (complainant) could go to somebody else.”

Another possible flaw resides in the record keeping. Every complaint is recorded “under the complainant’s name,” according to the policy. Those records will be “retained for three years following termination of employment or service.”

“It ought to be under the accused’s name,” Lillard said. “Not under the complainant’s name, we can all think of nationally known politicians who might have a long list of accusations.” Under this system, a politician accused of harassment would not have a file, but the person who accused that politician would have a file. If an intern were to accuse a legislator, then three years passed or less than two legislative terms, that complaint could be erased from the record.

Then there is the problem of confidentiality. The records can only become public if a court compels it or if the “person, or persons, against whom the complaint is filed consents in writing to disclosure,” the policy states. The person who made the complaint would seemingly not have access to the complaint or be able to ensure it’s confidentiality if the person they accused wanted it public. “The confidentiality resides in the accused,” Lillard said.

There also may be unintended consequences. “It’s sometimes called the “Mike Pence rule” because he doesn’t go to lunch or dinner alone with women,” Lillard said. Shortly after the workforce training session in the 2018 legislature men in the statehouse began openly contemplating not meeting with women alone. “Some members of the body said, I’m not going to do anything that can put me in the least bit of harm’s way,” Sen. Buckner-Webb said. Some politicians didn’t want to have lunch with a lobbyist or have a woman in their office.

Segregating oneself off from a group of people for fear of what they may accuse you of is a big problem for a woman or any marginalized person because that denies them access, friendship and a seat at the table when deals are made. “There’s a right to talk to your elected representative and to have them say; ‘Well I won’t talk to you unless you bring somebody else with you or unless I bring somebody else in this room,’’Lillard said. “I find that really troubling.”

The Pence rule could also be illegal discrimination based on gender. “Women shouldn’t have to run some gauntlet of leaders and people grabbing at them when men don’t have to run that gauntlet. It keeps women from moving forward in the workplace if they have to endure insults or slurs or come-ons or whatever,” Lillard said, “It’s completely ironic if the anti-harassment law results in flat out, blatant discrimination.”

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have no protections from discrimination, nor would they be protected by this policy, because they are not a protected class in Idaho. “But I would like to think (the policy) is inclusive although that is inferred if it’s not called out, and as you know that community is not included in our Human Rights Act,” Buckner-Webb said, “I’d love to see that changed right away.”

The policy was not a response to the climate within the Idaho Statehouse. This policy was a response to a worldwide reckoning that the halls of power have not been adequately policed and some of the most powerful have been harassing their co-workers. It is a significant change to the Idaho legislature, that had no formal plan in place before. It might not be perfect but “they’re definitely on the right track,” Lillard said.

If you’d like to learn more about the policy Sen. Buckner-Webb is on the November 16th Idaho Reports.

 

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On harassment and racism

By Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Public Television

The race to be Idaho’s next Lieutenant Governor has taken a dark turn, both online and in person, with accusations of racism, sexism, and threats eclipsing discussion of public policy. 

The fight initiated by the Idaho Republican Party over social media posts made headlines today but the story goes back much further.

“Let’s keep white supremacy out of Idaho’s executive branch.” Amanda Bell, the Campaign Events and Media Director for the Kristin Collum, wrote in a fundraising email in August. On Wednesday, Idaho Reports asked Collum if she believed Rep. Janice Mcgeachin was a racist. “The racists in Idaho think she’s a racist,” Collum said. “They identify with her.”

The accusations of racism stem back to a story from earlier this year about racist comments on her social media and McGeachin’s association with Three Percenters and other far-right groups.

There are photos with her and the leaders of the Three Percenters. There are videos on YouTube where she’s at the Redoubters meeting and endorsed by them,” Collum said. “She was flown in a private plane by (north Idaho Republican) Brent Regan, and he wrote a statement saying, ‘Yeah, too bad I couldn’t do strafing rounds on the way there.’”

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That last reference has been circulating on the internet, and it is affecting the McGeachin campaign.

At the Idaho Public Television lieutenant governor debate on Oct. 17, McGeachin arrived with two men who acted as security guards. According to multiple people in the building, one of them had a Three Percenter tattoo.  “They weren’t actually security. They were some friends of hers, they were combat veterans, she was feeling a little edgy,” said Mary Strow of the Idaho Republican Party. According to Strow, McGeachin felt threatened by comments left on Facebook and Twitter. One of the comments referenced a “red hole in the head” according to Strow. McGeachin didn’t want to appear “weak because she’s a woman,” Strow said. “But that’s why she had those guys.”

Idaho Public Television was not notified of any threats against McGeachin or any other candidates.

In a Wednesday interview, Strow accused a person by the name of T. Robert Burnham of making the comments. In a Facebook message to Idaho Reports, Burnham said “I’ve never referred to Ms. McGeachin in such vulgar terms or threatened her – or anyone – in any way. I’ve gone back through every post I’ve made since May of this year and there’s nothing even remotely that nasty about Ms. McGeachin.”

Idaho Reports reached out to McGeachin, who declined to comment on the content of this story. “It’s like a ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’ thing,” said Strow. “I think she just feels like, why should she have to defend herself against such a disgusting attack and engage with these people?”

McGeachin is not the only target of alleged harassment. “I personally know how it feels to have people come onto my campaign page and put horrible horrible things,” Collum said. “It happens almost every day.”

Unlike McGeachin, Collum says she doesn’t fear violence. “While it’s vitriolic and disgusting and unfair, it’s hurtful,” Collum said. “I do not take any of them as being physically threatening.”

Collum will not entertain the idea of bodyguards or extra security. “If you’re not comfortable around your own people, that is saying something,” Collum said.  “I feel comfortable. I feel safe. I feel like Idahoans are good.”

The issue of harassment boiled to the surface this week when the Idaho Republican Party sent out a press release saying “Is Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidate Kristin Collum’s ‘Chief Security Officer’ the same sleazy online troll who’s been harassing Republican Janice McGeachin for months?”

The person accused is a man named Jerry Decime. “I know Jerry and I’ve known him for a while,” said Collum. “The (troll), they are something else.”

“The content is not sanctioned in any way by the Collum campaign,” Decime told Idaho Reports on Thursday, declining to comment further.

The content was characterized by the Republicans as “not about being mean, I mean I’m a bare-knuckle brawler when it comes to politics,” Strow said. “And her dismissing that, you know, especially when she’s going out ‘Oh, I’m pro-woman.’ I mean this is just gross.”

The person with McGeachin in this post is Mcgeachin’s son. “This speaks directly to (Collum’s) judgment,” said Strow, adding it offended her as a mother.

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The Idaho Republican Party thinks these posts are misogynistic and harassing. “He’s calling her a Nazi,” Strow said. “He just put photos of these Nazis with their swastikas above her, next to a flag and a ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ thing.”

Another photo shows McGeachin holding a doll and flipping off the camera.

“The middle finger one with a doll, which I don’t know how he got hold of that, those are their family photos, not doctored,” Strow said.

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These posts can be seen as in bad taste, but they are not legally harassment. Courts have an incredibly high bar for harassment when it comes to public people. They almost always side with people’s First Amendment Rights, unless direct threats of violence are included and the person is capable of carrying them out.kristin_rage7

The Collum campaign has pointed to the Republicans’ social media as an example of harassment and racism. Collum said she doesn’t go a day without hearing “You’re a liberal socialist, go back to California,” or being called names.

The Collum campaign also pointed to multiple posts on the Idaho Republican Party’s Facebook page they said crossed the line.

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The tenor of these post is disheartening, but most likely not illegal and probably just another sign that the types of campaigns we see nationwide are now right here in Idaho.

 

 

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A glimpse inside immigration detention centers

 

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Translate:  If you don’t turn in your daughter, you are going to die.

By Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Reports

A father and a daughter fled their country in fear and ended up in U.S. detention. A group of Idahoans saw what was happening and wanted to help.

“The dehumanizing practices make me ill. It’s absolute chaos,” said Molly Kafka an Idaho lawyer who recently interviewed several asylum seekers in El Paso. “The whole system is in utter chaos.”

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Photo by Max Shue

Kafka saw the chaos first hand. She was one of five Idahoans who traveled to Texas. In Idaho, she heard that children were being separated from their parents and felt compelled to go to the border to bear witness and do what she could to help. The group of Idahoans landed in Texas, traveled across the desert and prepared for a long week in El Paso.

Hundreds of Guatemalan asylum seekers have headed to the same area, walking across a small pedestrian right of way enclosed by bars and chain link fence spanning a canal and a road they enter the United States from Juarez, Mexico. They guide their children to government agents.

“They walk up to officers and say I do not have authorization,” said Kafka. “I’m not allowed in this country. I do not have a visa or a passport to get in, but I’m afraid to return home.”  

Kafka, along with her four other colleagues, interviewed mothers and fathers separated from their children while in U.S. custody the same week Trump signed an executive order to reunite families. The asylum seekers would “be taken into different rooms, and that would be the end of it. They would be told, well, we can’t keep the two of you together. Your kid is underage, and you’re an adult. We can’t have you in the same facilities.” Kafka said.

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Photo by Max Shue

Maria Andrade, a prominent Idaho immigration attorney, was the principal organizer of the group. With her help, the team set up base at Annunciation House. They worked in a recently painted room with bare walls, folding tables, and limited chairs. On one of the walls, they hung a sheet of paper with a happy face on it. The poster was titled “Reunited Families” and had space for names. The poster had no names and remained bare and empty. “It was blank, and at some point during the week, I was like we got to get rid of this paper,” Andrade said.IMG-20180803-WA0003

Henrry Ramirez Bayes, an asylum seeker from Guatemala, had already made the roughly 2,000 mile trip from Guatemala to a detention center in Texas. He fled his home with his daughter, leaving his other family members behind.IMG-20180702-WA0014

Gangs in his home country threatened, assaulted and stabbed Bayes trying to extract his daughter from Bayes’ family.  The U.S. government had separated the two of them. “We were in an office. They took our fingerprints. I was with my child, then they took us in a room that was super cold, and I was there with my daughter,” said Bayes. “They told me don’t worry, you will be separated only for five days. I had handcuffs on, so I couldn’t even give my daughter a hug. My daughter is still traumatized.”

Separated from his daughter, Bayes found himself in what is commonly called the “icebox,” both because of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the temperature, for twenty days. “I have nowhere to sleep. I was sleeping on the floor, I had those blankets, the silver ones. It was super cold,” said Bayes. “They don’t let you sleep, they count you every two hours, they open the doors and then slam them, everybody’s talking so there’s basically no sleep. It’s just torture, like not wanting to go on anymore.”

Bayes moved to the detention center in Otero, New Mexico, about 30 minutes from El Paso before the Idahoans arrived. “I thought it was gonna be a detention center, but it was a real jail. They had people that have committed crimes that had killed other people, so it was kind of frightening and then I realized one month had gone by,” said Bayes. “The second month we had a TV, so I knew what’s going on in the news so that’s when I realized that we were not going to be together for a while and I didn’t think we would be reunited.”

“They’re in state-issued jumpsuits, they have to line up and stand like they’re in prison. It reminded me of visiting clients in jails,” said Kafka.

Bayes had not broken any laws on his journey.

To apply for asylum, you must be physically present in the U.S. You have to walk across the bridge from Juárez, or a border crossing like it, and find a border patrol officer to start the process. Bayes wanted to protect his daughter and he put his faith in the U.S.government so she would be safe.

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Photo by Max Shue

On July 22nd Bayes was eating in the dining area. “There were other detainees there also. During the meal, an officer announced that they were going to reunify us with our children in El Paso. I was very excited and happy. It was clear to me from their faces and statements that the other men were happy too. Some of them did not even finish eating,” said Bayes.

Bayes was excited to reunite with his daughter “I took off my uniform and changed into my own clothes,” Bayes said. “I saw that about eight of the detainees who were mostly indigenous Guatemalans were given some papers that others were not. I believe many of them cannot read or write and do not speak Spanish based on my interactions with them. The group got off the bus before the rest of us.”

Kafka and Andrade traveled to detention centers daily. “They all look like warehouses where semis would pull up and load up their beer trucks or their boxes of goods,” said Kafka. “But they’re surrounded by barbed wire fences, and the gates are locked.”

Upon entry they traveled “through a metal detector” Andrade said. She would walk down a hall to see detainees. On the wall, a giant screen with bright colors allowed people to deposit money into detainee accounts. The detainees would use that money to make phone calls, contact family members, and seek outside help on their cases. “It was so gross,” said Andrade. “It had these peppy colors and fonts.” The program was called “Getting Out.” Family and friends of detainees in the facility would walk by it as they went to the visitation room. The logo looked like the Bank of America, and it served as a stark reminder to many visitors that the likelihood any of these people would be “getting out” was slim. Andrade remembered, “I wanted to throw a rock at that.”

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Photo by Max Shue

Bayes made the trip to El Paso. “There were 37 people on the bus. We entered a parking lot with buildings, including a detention center”, Bayes said. “We were surprised that our kids were not waiting for us. I thought that after changing into our own clothes, that we were going to be released from custody. Instead, we were put into the icebox.”

Bayes had been in the icebox before, shortly after being separated from his daughter weeks before. He started the journey to U.S. asylum because Guatemalan gangs wanted his daughter. “He came because people are trying to buy his daughter. They got death threats because people wanted his daughter,” Andrade explained. “Graffiti on a wall next to his family home said ‘give us your daughter or you will die.’”

“I came to this country asking for asylum because my daughter was in danger,” said Bayes. “I left my other son, and I just brought my daughter that was in danger. [It’s] because of my daughter I’m here.”

The group from Idaho would meet parents separated from their children in small rooms separated by plexiglass. The rooms were white with accents of gray. They had fluorescent lights that created a constant hum. Volunteers would get headaches from the hum. The rooms were filled with flat, stagnant air that smelled like sweat, “death threats and anxiety,” Andrade said. Developing a rapport in the small rooms was difficult. “We were asking people to trust us after our government has so violently torn them apart from their children and placed them here,” said Kafka. The interpreter Max Shue would “have his ear up to the speaker and the other person had to be at the speaker as well,” Kafka added.  “It was a really difficult place to communicate.”

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Photo by Max Shue

Bayes spent the next day in the detention center. Eventually, officers started to remove detainees one by one. The group thought the moment had finally come. They would finally see their children. “Everyone was so happy, and there was loud clapping in celebration when the first person was called,” Bayes said. After several people had been called out of the room by officers, a group of detainees peered out the window to the yard outside the building. The busses were parked outside. The asylum seekers they thought had just been reunited with their children were standing outside. “I saw him outside of the building, walking to the bus in handcuffs,” Bayes said. “He was not with his child. He had a chain around his waist, and his wrists were cuffed together.”

Many of the men broke. The shock of being moments away from their child only to be led back to detention again was too much. “People got depressed. Others started crying. Some had a meltdown and they had to go to a doctor, so it is really bad,” said Bayes. “People were crying. It was horrific.” Andrade said men recounting the event were “trying to be strong, on the brink of tears or they would just break down crying. One man, I thought he was mentally decomposing.”

Another man told Andrade “I don’t want him (his child) to think I left him. I didn’t want this. I loved him. I’m ready to go, but I can’t leave without talking to him. I’m not going to leave him.”

The asylum seekers miss their children. They thought they were bringing them to a better place, but now they feel duped. “They have this incredible sense of guilt,” Andrade added. “They feel like they were responsible for this.”

Kafka said gangs had recruited many of the people she interviewed. If families rejected the groups, those families were at risk. Some would report the gangs to the police, but “because the police are working for the gangs, people would end up being shot,” Kafka said. “It is consistent harassment and terrorizing tradition of not wanting to participate in criminal activity and then having to flee because the government is not protecting you. Police aren’t protecting you. You don’t say no to the cartels without deadly consequences.”

Bayes was sent back to Otero the next day. “On the return bus, some people asked the bus driver why we were being sent back without our kids, but they told us that they did not know,” said Bayes. “No ICE officer or other immigration official told us why we were being returned.”

Some parents and kids reunited. Adults and children went into a large room outside the detention center.  “It was completely disorganized. It was so clear that they had no idea what they were doing,” Andrade heard from parents in the room. “Kids crying, looking for their parents. [Some] can’t find their parents, walking through this path of adults. Parents looking for their kids thinking they’re seeing their kids. It’s so clear they couldn’t care [less] about the trauma.”

The parents that found their children boarded a different bus. The bus left the center with parents finally talking to their children after long separations. Shortly after leaving the facility, the bus stopped. Government officials boarded the bus with documents in hand. The parents were asked to sign the papers, according to multiple accounts and an ACLU lawsuit. On the form, “I’m going to be deported with my child was pre-checked,” according to Andrade.

Many of the parents and children on the bus didn’t want to sign, but they didn’t want to leave their kids. Parents cried not wanting to lose their sons and daughters again. “They’re being told you have to sign here,” Andrade said. “One witness tells us about a parent and a son fighting because the son says ‘I think I have a claim. Someone told me I had a good case.’ The fathers like ‘no, you have to come with me.’”

The older kids were able to explain their position to their parents. They had a good chance at being granted asylum. They didn’t want to self-deport, but they also didn’t want to leave their mom or dad again.  Only eight people didn’t sign the self-deportation order.

An ACLU lawsuit about the incident describes “coercive and misleading” actions by the U.S. government.

“They were presented with three different forms, and they were asked to sign them,” Kafka said. “The ICE officer picked up the stack of papers and picked up the right corner and said ‘sign here, sign here,’ without showing them.” The forms were all in English and no translation was offered. If asylum seekers refused to sign, they would be “yelled at and ridiculed and mistreated,” Kafka said.

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Photo by Max Shue

Bayes returned to the detention center without his daughter. “This experience was very traumatic for me. I was so excited to see my daughter and be with her again after not seeing her for almost two months now,” said Bayes. “My daughter is 15 years old. She turned 15 just before we arrived.”

Another member of the Idaho team was Naomi Johnson. “My purpose in going, as a clinical social worker, was to assist in instances of vicarious trauma,” said Johnson. “I ended up spending most of my time attempting to locate children after they had been removed from their parent(s).”

Johnson tried to find Bayes’ daughter. She was able to make contact with the person responsible for the daughter. The representative told Johnson that the daughter was released. “A child was supposed to be tracked by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, we started seeing that the legal representative had signed a release of the child [and] had put the child on a bus and didn’t know where the child was,” said Kafka.

“When I talked to them they said to their knowledge the child had been reunited eight days prior to our conversation,” Johnson said. “I explained that they were not reunited [and] that the father had no idea where his child was.”

“We’d be like the (expletive) they have,” said Kafka. “They’re in the detention facility! Where’s the child? What’s going on? Can you imagine being in this country, being in a foreign country, and losing your child? Intentionally, absolutely intentionally, they have a database.”

The U.S. government lost Bayes’ daughter.

“I had to tell him that according to the government, his daughter and he had been released. I mean to see his face. He knows what could happen. They don’t (expletive) know where she is. Where’s his daughter? He came because people are trying to buy his daughter,” Andrade said. “They got death threats because people wanted his daughter.”

Andrade and Kafka eventually had to return to Idaho. They turned over Bayes’ case to other lawyers and Johnson turned the search for his daughter over to other caseworkers.

Back at the detention center, Bayes started to receive this new assistance. Then one morning, he got a phone call. His lawyer said you’re going to be released, but Bayes didn’t believe it “because of the things that have been happening.”

The volunteers didn’t stop trying to track down his daughter and get Bayes out of detention.

Eventually an immigration officer told Bayes he was going to be released, but first, he had to sign some documents. Bayes said “I was doubting if I should sign, but I just wanted to leave that place, so I signed. I don’t know if that’s going to help me in my case or hurt me, but I just wanted to be released, so finally I saw my daughter after three months, and that was the best thing that happened to me.”

Bayes and his daughter are now in the United States, outside the walls of a detention facility. They are currently waiting for their asylum hearing. Their long journey away from violence is temporarily over, but the trauma they experienced still lingers.

His daughter was not the same. The experience had affected her mentally and physically. “She doesn’t trust me anymore, she thinks I’m going to leave her again,” said Bayes.  “When I go out to the store, I tell her I’ll be back, and she looks at me like ‘I don’t trust you, you’re going to leave me again.’ It breaks me because of what she went through, so after I have money I’m going to send her to a psychiatrist because she’s not right.”

The experience has had a physical toll on Bayes’ daughter. He remembers her having her period before they left for the United States but “after we got out of the detention she hasn’t had her period for two months,” said Bayes “I’m very afraid that they touched her or raped her.”

Stress can cause irregular or missed periods. The condition is called secondary amenorrhea.

Now that they are back together, Bayes says his only priority is his daughter. He is going to do whatever it takes to give her a better life because “my life doesn’t matter, it’s her life,” said Bayes.

In 2017, then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly proposed separating children from their parents to deter people from traveling to the border. Had Bayes known what was in store for him, the deterrence may have worked. “I would not do it again if I knew how difficult it was going to be, being separated from my daughter. I would not have done it,” said Bayes. “I would have gone to another country and asked for asylum in another country because it was really harsh.”

 

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In Idaho, education not yet the key to wage equality

By Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Reports

Women in Idaho make significantly less than men, and education level may even exacerbate the inequity.

The Idaho earnings gap in 2017 averaged out to be $12,619, with women earning 60 percent of what men earned according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The gap closed a bit when we tabulated only men and women who worked full-time and year-round employment, but those women still made about 74 percent of their male counterparts.

“There are multiple sources of gender pay gaps, making it challenging to isolate one cause,” said Dr. Jaclyn J. Kettler, an associate professor of political science at Boise State University,

To cut down on some of these possible sources for the pay gap, Idaho Reports created its own data set. We compared census data for men and woman who had bachelors degrees. When we compared only college-educated men and women, the wage gap increased. In 2016, women with a bachelor degree in Idaho earn about 62 percent of their male counterparts statewide.

One explanation for the wage disparity: “More women graduate with degrees in education and work in public education, which pays less than careers in engineering,” Kettler said. “In general, women tend to be concentrated among lower-paying careers.”

The silver bullet solution often given by policymakers has been education, but despite women in Idaho embracing higher education in numbers higher than male counterparts, they do not see the promised returns. A 2018 report by the University of Georgetown notes, “As women outperform men in college, some of the patriarchy of the job market is being wiped away. But the gender wage disparity is still far from being resolved. In the workplace, women are forced to play by a different set of rules than men.”

The different set of rules according to the Georgetown study are reinforced by gender stereotypes. “More limited advancement, time spent on work, unconscious or conscious stereotypes/discrimination, inflexible workplace structures, and higher attrition rates,” all factor into the inequity according to Dr. Kettler. “Wages also tend to decline once more women enter a field, and wages rise when men enter fields more dominated previously by women.”

The wage discrepancies also vary significantly across Idaho. In Boise County, women with a bachelor’s degree make almost $54,000 less than the men in the county. That’s consistent with the rest of the nation, where rural counties have higher wage gaps. Kettler and the Georgetown study have speculated that lack of household and neighborhood responsibilities for men make it easier for them to commute to higher paying jobs outside of their communities. Women don’t have the geographical freedom, “since women still tend to spend more time on caregiving,” said Kettler. Women’s responsibilities often confine them to employment options within their direct community.

Only one county in Idaho has a wage gap that favors women. In Gooding County, women make $42,083, compared to $41,519 for men. Gooding County was the only place in Idaho with census data showing women earning as much or more than men. Boundary County the was the next closest, with women making $785 on average less than men.

 

It should also be noted that minority women tend to have an even larger pay gap than their white counterparts. Idaho Reports plans to explore more of these wage inequities in the future.

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Death & Secrecy

 

Chamber Looking South

Courtesy Idaho Department of Correction

By Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Reports

Seven years ago, the state of Idaho killed two men in a six month period.

Only a few people at the Idaho Department of Correction know exactly how these men died.

In 2017, University of Idaho professor Aliza Cover submitted a public records request to find out what happened in the “green room,” the small cream colored execution chamber at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution.

The public doesn’t really have enough information to make an informed decision about at least the methods by which we’re putting people to death,” Cover told Idaho Reports.

But the Department of Correction has refused to comply with an April 5th order from District Judge Lynn Norton to hand over documents related to the executions, and Cover’s lawyers passed up an opportunity to challenge that refusal.

In the most recent hearing, Norton asked Cover’s attornies why they had not asked the state to be held in contempt.

 

On September 17th, Norton ordered a trial. In court, Norton mused it was the only procedural remedy if contempt hearings were not initiated.

The question in the upcoming trial: Should Idahoans know how people are executed with their taxpayer dollars?

“These are obvious matters of extreme societal significance, perhaps the apex of societal significance,” Ritchie Eppink, Legal Director for the Idaho ACLU told Idaho Reports.

IDOC offers a little transparency. Three reporters witnessed the executions. They saw pentobarbital injected into the two men, but they did not see how the drugs were procured and stored, or how the fatal cocktail was prepared. “Idaho officials are trying to keep this information from the public.” Cover said.

The Department of Correction claims the secrecy is about the safety and privacy of the people involved in the execution, from the doctors who administer the drugs to the companies that manufacture them. “The idea that we as a people would collectively kill someone,” Eppink said, “Those issues of privacy just simply do not arise here.”

There was a national crisis in 2010 to 2011 when drugs used in executions became scarce, Cover said. “It created a pattern of states turning to secrecy where there hadn’t been a strong emphasis on secrecy before, because they didn’t have legitimate sources for the drugs or they were experimenting with new protocols that were not thought out and well established in terms of safety.”

The Rhoades and Leavitt executions in 2011 and 2012 were right in that wake that national crisis.

“We know that states are hiding things that are scandalous and are criminal,” Eppink Said. “These are the kinds of things that make ordinary people drop their jaws.” Eppink is referencing experimental execution drugs and procedures in states like Tennessee, Nevada, and Oklahoma.

Revealing the manufacturer of the drugs could put people at risk, argues the state. “The source has significant concerns that the source would be subjected to harassment and harm to the source’s business,” Jeff Zmuda, deputy director of the Idaho Department of Correction, said in a sworn deposition.

This conflict creates a catch 22 for Idaho. “Disclosing the identity of the source of a lethal injection,” said Deputy Attorney General Jessica Kuehn, “would jeopardize the department’s ability to carry out an execution,”

According to Eppink, this creates a system where there is “no judicial oversight effectively, no legislative oversight, no public oversight of where our lethal injection drugs are coming from, whether they are safe, whether they are even appropriate for lethal injection in the first place. There is no way for the public to verify whether these drugs are even made by licensed suppliers. There is no way for the public to verify whether or not there are political or financial ties between the Department of Correction officials that are purchasing these drugs and the people that are supplying these drugs.”

Idaho Code gives the Department of Correction the ability to withhold documents when confidentiality, public safety, and security clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure. The department of correction believes “disclosing such information would subject such chemical sources to harassment and pressure,” Kuehn said.

Idaho’s public records law states a public agency shall not prevent the examination or copying of a public record by contracting with a non-governmental body to perform any of its duties or functions. “It is exactly what is happening here,” Eppink said.

“The number of documents that actually discuss the drugs at all are very very small,” Kuehn said.  Only three pages that are known of that actually discussed the source at all and who the source is.”

The almost year-long records request, however, has created an interesting document trail. First, the Department of Corrections provided five documents in a web link after the September 24, 2017, request.  

After Cover petitioned the court, the Department of Corrections found hundreds of more pages of responsive documents.

Here are links to the bulk of the documents disclosed:

Disk 1

Disk 2

In the most recent court hearing, frustrations about the Department of Corrections disclosure were openly expressed by the judge.

“I have to tell you now I have some concerns,” Norton told the court. “Now you’re telling me 900 pages later that there were at least 900 pages of things that the state had not produced at that point. So it does give me pause as to whether the evidence at the hearing was actually accurate, quite frankly.”

Norton ordered disclosure of unredacted documents, including the source of the lethal injection drugs.

Despite the order, the Department of Correction did not disclose the source of the drugs, but continued to find documents. “They failed to do a diligent search,” Norton said in the most recent court appearance. “After the court’s order then (they) did a diligent search.”

The Department of Correction claimed that many of the newly found documents were not purposely withheld, but were missing in odd places. “A box containing execution-related documents was found in the office of an employee who has since promoted and no longer works at Central Office,” Zmuda said.

“It’s very clear that that’s not a well-thought-out file plan,” Norton told the court.

Idaho’s public records law has a time frame. The disclosure of records is supposed to be timely within three working days or for more time-intensive searches “no later than ten working days following the person’s request. Not making a prompt search “would allow a public agency, through a motion to reconsider, allow them to wait until after contested proceedings, after a final writ of mandate before diligently searching,” Eppink said.

“For an ordinary person trying to get access to the same information,” Cover said, “it would be really difficult to be able to sustain this kind of litigation.”

Norton modified the disclosure writ on Monday, allowing IDOC “to redact portions of record(s) that would identify the source of execution drugs for the Rhoades and Leavitt executions since this issue is reserved for a trial on the merits.”

The trial will get at the heart of the disagreement: Do Idaho citizens have a right to know how they are putting people to death, or, as the Department of Correction says, is the secrecy needed for capital punishment to exist?

“Even if the death penalty is constitutional, there may be an unconstitutional method for putting them to death,” said Cover. “If there is an unreasonable risk of pain and suffering to a human who’s being put to death then we have a constitutional problem. The death penalty is not the same thing as torture.”

The department and the state, however, are steadfast moving forward and “will not disclose, under any circumstance, the identity of certain individuals involved in executions, as well as any other information wherein the disclosure of that information could jeopardize the department’s ability to carry out an execution,” Kuehn said.

Well, obviously, records that show that the department has been killing people illegally or is planning to kill people illegally, or there are reasons to expect that an execution has been or will be botched,” Eppink said. “That is going to jeopardize an execution.”

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Come for the sentence, stay for the prices

By Seth Ogilvie

This summer, Idaho inmates picked up their prison-issued tablets and, as if they were sitting on a couch in their living room surfing Amazon, placed items in their shopping carts. Shopping on tablets is something non-incarcerated people regularly do. The similarity in the shopping in prison and outside, however, is also a reminder that beneath the surface of those tablets, the process is vastly different.

Idaho prisoners are allowed to purchase JP5 tablets from the JPAY company. They look like iPads, and they can be used to send email, download songs, games and — as the JPAY company likes to highlight in their state contracts — they can be used for education.

JPAY tablet
That’s about where the similarities end. These aren’t iPads, and the JPAY commissary isn’t the Amazon emporium. Prisoners can’t get on iTunes or watch videos on Youtube. Sending an email costs 47 cents, and music costs as much as $3.50 in virtual money. These are services people outside prison cells take for granted.

These prices also have to be put into perspective. Prisoners in Idaho’s correctional institutions receive virtual money that “runs from 10 cents an hour for low-skill jobs to 30 cents an hour for high-skill jobs,” according to the Idaho Department of Corrections website. That could mean after a 40 hour work week, a low skilled prison worker could send nine emails or download one song.

Friends and family are also allowed to fill JPAY accounts with virtual money, but they get no deal on the services. That means they, too, are stuck paying the high price tag.

In Idaho prisons, there is no competition for prices. JPAY has the monopoly, and they want to keep it that way. Documents obtained by the Prison Policy Initiative show a business strategy focused on cutting down competition and controlling prices.

In 2015, Securus, a prison-focused technology company, acquired JPAY. The merger allowed them to provide almost all technology needs for an individual prison or state, and since they are the sole provider of services, they can set the price at virtually any level as long as the corrections department they are contracting with will allow it.

The only people likely to complain about the high prices would be the prisoners and their families, groups that seldom get much sympathy from legislators and the public. The high rates can also be perceived as a punitive measure by citizens outside of prison — “You did the crime, now time to pay the price.”

This summer, prisoners at Idaho correctional facilities found a workaround. Some people called it a hack, some called it a glitch, but to 363 Idaho inmates, it was a heck of a deal.

Inmates discovered that if items were added to their shopping carts either through tablets or kiosks, then those items were deleted, their accounts were credited with the cost.

“JPAY was not hacked. Kiosks were not breached. Tablets were not breached.” Julie McKay told the Idaho Board of Corrections in early August.

Inmates, according to the DOC, credited their accounts with $224,772 in virtual money, with about 50 people exceeding $1,000 and one person getting close $10,000.

“On the 23rd of July, the system was patched,” McKay told the DOC board earlier this month.

The response from social media highlighted several aspects of the system. The glitch brought frustrations about high prices, corporate oversight and prison labor to twitter.

JPAY_tweets3

Tweets supporting the prisoners came rolling in. The narrative on social media took on a Robin Hood-type quality. JPAY has contracts with 20 states. They are the exclusive provider and set the prices in many places outside of Idaho.

JPAY mapFor many on Twitter, the prisoners were finally getting one over on a company that has got one over on the prisoners for years.

IDOC and JPAY saw it differently. They saw the actions as theft, even if the theft was virtual and those who participated received disciplinary reports and were charged by JPAY for items purchased.

Those that were rooting for the prisoners, however, can take a little solace in the fact that they were able to keep the content they purchased, according to Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray.

Let’s hope at least one inmate downloaded Merle Haggard’s “I Made the Prison Band” it would serve as a reminder that there are other ways to hear music in prison. The digitally remastered song cost less than half the JPAY rate at $1.29 on Amazon.

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