Identity & Justice

The identity and justice desk explores how the makeup of the Pittsburgh community is changing, and digs into issues of diversity and equity.

Trump Opioid Plan Includes Death Penalty For Traffickers

6 hours ago
Evan Vucci / AP

President Donald Trump's plan to combat opioid drug addiction nationwide calls for stiffer penalties for drug traffickers, including the death penalty where appropriate under current law, a top administration official said. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Alex and Jess Welker sat on a plush tan couch in their McCandless home and recounted their first date. The two tell the story together, going back and forth with details of their earliest interaction.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

In a large bright gym at the Mountain Fellowship Center in Markleysburg, Fayette County, Laura Thresher sorts cans of mostly non-perishable items and passes them to volunteers nearby. 

Amy Sisk / WESA

Prosecutors in Pennsylvania have charged dozens of people for human trafficking since a tougher law took effect in 2014.

Matt Rourke / AP

The Philadelphia district attorney's office has released a list of current and former police officers whom prosecutors have tried to keep off the witness stand because of a wide range of wrongdoing, including lying, racial bias and brutality.

The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh

The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh is celebrating its centennial. Founded in 1918, part of its mission has been to enable African Americans to secure economic self-reliance. 

Matt Rourke / AP

Bill Cosby will be back in Montgomery County court Monday for what is expected to be two days of pre-trial hearings. His defense team will argue that the case against the 80-year-old entertainer should be tossed, while the county district attorney will seek to add 19 accusers to the case against the Philadelphia-born comedian.

Here’s what will be same during Cosby’s retrial on sexual assault charges: the judge, the criminal charges, the Norristown location, and the lead prosecutor.

Susan Walsh / AP

The Justice Department will support Pennsylvania officials seeking lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of powerful opioid painkillers, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday.

Sessions said it’s the first action by the newly formed Prescription Interdiction Litigation task force, which he said will be able to pull a medical professional's license if investigators find they are prescribing above legal limits.

Prison Work Boot Sales Halted After Guard Kicked, Killed

Feb 27, 2018
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections via AP

A Pennsylvania prison official said Tuesday the sale of work boots at all prison commissaries is halted because an inmate is accused of killing a guard by knocking him to the floor and kicking him in the head with a boot.

The prison guards' union wants to ban work boots in prisons outright following the Feb. 15 beating of Sgt. Mark Baserman, who died of his injuries Monday.

Prison Guard Dies From Injuries In Alleged Attack By Inmate

Feb 26, 2018
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

A Pennsylvania prison guard who confiscated a towel blocking a view of an inmate's bunk and was attacked died of his injuries Monday, the first state correctional officer to be killed by a prisoner in nearly 40 years, corrections officials said.

Sgt. Mark Baserman, 61, was punched repeatedly and kicked in the head Feb. 15 by inmate Paul Jawon Kendrick, who was serving a life sentence for murder at the state prison in Somerset, the officials said.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Members of Pittsburgh's immigrant community and Mayor Bill Peduto are urging residents to ask their Senators to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. 

Keith Srakocic / AP

A survey of greater Pittsburgh's Jewish population done by Brandeis University shows the community is highly educated and made up of nearly 50,000 people, one quarter of which live in Squirrel Hill.

Researchers said the population has grown since their last study in 2002. They said the recent abundance of young couples and children suggest the community's growth is likely to continue.

Pittsburgh, And Other Cities, Pitching Diversity In Efforts To Lure Businesses

Feb 19, 2018
Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Some cities and regions are highlighting racial diversity along with positive business climates, competitive tax rates and available land in pitches to lure tech companies and high-paying jobs to town.

Places such as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Detroit are touting their populations of people of color to chief executives and other corporate officials as part of being open for business.

7 Guards Charged With Sex Abuse At Pennsylvania Jail

Feb 15, 2018
Marc Levy / AP

Seven prison guards have been charged with sexually abusing inmates in what the Pennsylvania attorney general said Thursday was an effort to stop a "persistent culture of abuse" that has plagued the scandal-ridden lockup for more than a decade.

Current and former guards at Lackawanna County Prison in Scranton abused their positions of power to coerce sex from female inmates, Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. The abuse was widely known, he said, broadly hinting at a cover-up.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

On Tuesday, a New York federal judge issued the second ruling to temporarily block the Trump administration from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program on March 5.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

A new after-school program targeting Pittsburgh’s refugee students aims to bridge the gap of English language learning in schools. The pilot program launches in Crafton Heights this week.

Pat Sullivan / AP

Since 2016, roughly 700 backlogged rape kits have been tested in Pennsylvania. But the remaining number hovers around 1,200, with some untested kits dating back to the 1990s.

Laura Benshoff / WHYY

After Sunday’s Super Bowl win, the Philadelphia Eagles have fully assumed the mantle of righteous underdogs.

Can that status resolve a so far intractable political fight over U.S. immigration law?

It’s unlikely, but that has not stopped several Dreamers and the city-based immigration rights group Juntos from asking the Birds to protest a legislative impasse over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by boycotting a customary visit to the White House for Super Bowl winners.

Cosby's Lawyers: We Were Wrong About Hidden-Evidence Claim

Feb 6, 2018
Matt Rourke / AP

Bill Cosby's lawyers admitted Monday that they wrongly accused prosecutors in his criminal sexual-assault case of withholding evidence — an assertion seething prosecutors blasted as "outrageous and reckless."

Members of Cosby's retooled defense team acknowledged in a court filing that they made the bold, headline-grabbing claim last month without realizing prosecutors had already told Cosby's former lawyer about interviewing a woman who cast doubt on his accuser.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

A violent crime committed with a firearm in Pennsylvania holds a mandatory five-year sentence tacked onto any other convictions for the same incident. State Rep. Tony DeLuca (D-Allegheny County) wants to amend this law to make sure those sentences are served one after another.

"What's happening is, the judges are running them concurrently instead of consecutively, and the [additional] five years don't mean anything," DeLuca said.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Some LGBT advocates are discouraging Amazon from building its second headquarters in states that don’t have full discrimination protection laws– including Pennsylvania.

Black Tech Nation

Kelauni Cook wants to address every inch of the pipeline for black technology professionals.

Sex Misconduct Suit Against State Reveal Litany Of Abuse

Feb 2, 2018
Emily Previti / Keystone Crossroads

Sexual misconduct lawsuits filed against Pennsylvania state government over the last decade document a litany of lurid and abusive behavior.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Following legal suits arguing that the Pennsylvania's Congressional district map unfairly serves Republicans, the state Supreme Court has ordered new lines be constructed and submitted by Feb. 15, only three months before the commonwealth's primary elections. The GOP plans to appeal to the U.S.

Marc Levy / AP

Pennsylvania is being sued by five inmates for a blanket policy that keeps all death row prisoners in solitary confinement.

Keith Srakocic / AP

In 2014, Alex Hribal was a sophomore at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville when he attacked 20 students and a security guard. The stabbings critically injured a number of victims, though all of them survived.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

For Udi Hershkovich and many Pittsburgh parents, Jan. 15 posed a problem. Hershkovich and his wife were working on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but his kids, 6-year-old Idan and 3-year-old Maya, had the day off from school.

Marc Levy / AP


UPDATED: 6:08 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018

The number of inmates in Pennsylvania's prison system is continuing to decline, with the population last year falling by about 860 prisoners to fewer than 48,500.

The Wolf administration said Monday the 2017 drop represents the fourth straight year that the total inmate population has gone down. Administration officials call last year's decrease the largest on record.

Pennsylvania ended last year with about 3,300 fewer inmates than five years earlier.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

One year after the inaugural Women’s March on Washington, activists across the country are getting ready to hit the streets again, including some in Pittsburgh. 

Keith Srakocic / AP

 An appeals court has upheld the conviction of a former University of Pittsburgh medical researcher in what prosecutors said was the cyanide poisoning death of his wife in 2013.