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.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

The Fair Housing Act passed 50 years ago Wednesday as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

Lawmakers enacted the legislation just one week after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as riots flared in Pittsburgh and other cities. It was intended to protect buyers and renters from discrimination based on race, color, disability, religion, sex, familial status or national origin.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

The rate of Pittsburgh renters facing eviction judgments is lower than state and national averages, according to new data analysis by the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. But many displaced tenants never make it to the courtroom.

Court To Decide If Drug Use While Pregnant Is Child Abuse

Apr 9, 2018
Gosia Wozniacka / AP, file

Pennsylvania's highest court will determine whether a woman's use of illegal drugs while pregnant qualifies as child abuse under state law.

The Supreme Court has taken up the case of a woman who tested positive for suboxone and marijuana at the time she gave birth early last year at Williamsport Hospital.

A county judge ruled that didn't qualify as child abuse under the state's Child Protective Services Law, but the intermediate Superior Court said drug use while pregnant can make bodily injury likely for a child after birth.

AP

By the time Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot and killed on a Memphis balcony in April 1968, Pittsburgh's black community had been simmering for years over the once thriving 100-acre section of the Lower Hill District that city leaders had leveled to build the Civic Arena. 

Marc Levy / AP

In Pennsylvania, about 60 percent of parolees are rearrested or reenter the prison system within three years of release. About 20,000 people are released from the prison system each year.

Over two years, a University of Maryland study commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections found inmates willing to relocate cities after release were seven percent less likely to be rearrested or reincarcerated, compared to their peers who went back to their former communities.

Scott Goldsmith

Humans have always migrated, whether by choice or because of involuntary forces such as political or environmental displacement. Photographer Brian Cohen said in the age of travel bans and border walls, exploring the idea is as topical now as ever. 

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

An officer-involved fatal shooting in Homewood in February was justified, according to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala. The timeline outlined on Tuesday was established piecing together security footage, gunshot time-stamps, evidence from the scene and officer testimony, according to Zappala. 

In the early morning hours of Sunday, Feb. 11, two Pittsburgh Police officers began trailing 39-year-old Mark Daniels on foot after he left a convenience store, because they said he appeared agitated and angry.

Pablo Martinez Mansivais / AP

A Marine from Pittsburgh killed during World War II will be buried next week at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA


It’s a fact of life that when you’re born, you don’t get to choose your name. But Claire Bloom, 24, decided about six years ago that she had to change her name.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Thousands of Americans turned out last weekend for the largest youth-led protests since the Vietnam War. What did March for Our Lives accomplish, and what are students and lawmakers taking away from this renewed effort against gun violence? 

The Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence

The Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence is working to get more people to commit to the safety of women and girls. The organization is hosting a community-wide summit Saturday focusing on gender-based violence.

Summit coordinator Lois McClendon said violence against women and girls is often overlooked or minimized, and often disproportionately impacts women of color and transgender women of color. She said “it seems not to get the kind of play in the media or even the concern among the public.”

Marc Levy / AP

A Pennsylvania judge is requiring the prison system to pay $1,500 over its response to a request for information about how a fly ash dump and possible water contamination may be affecting inmate health.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Security video shot in the basement of a Penn State fraternity house the night a pledge was fatally injured during an evening of hazing and drinking shows fraternity members plying pledges with alcohol.

Pennlive.com reported testimony Monday in the preliminary hearing for 11 former members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity focused on deleted video the FBI recovered.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

In an empty classroom after lunch period, student organizers go over final details for an upcoming rally and march, including confirming speakers and collecting cash for T-shirt orders.

Senate OKs Bill To Toughen Gun Laws In Domestic Abuse Cases

Mar 21, 2018
Carolyn Kaster / AP

The Pennsylvania Senate is giving unanimous approval to a bill to force people with a domestic violence ruling against them to more quickly forfeit their firearms.

The Senate's 50-0 vote Wednesday sends the bill to the House. Domestic violence- and gun violence-prevention groups support the bill. It passed after changes negotiated by gun-rights groups.

Addie Lancianese / 90.5 WESA

From elected officials to interns, City of Pittsburgh employees would be required to undergo yearly anti-harassment training under legislation proposed Tuesday by three City Council members. 

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

 

After a career spent helping catch criminals, a retired Pittsburgh police detective is facing charges herself.

Margaret "Peg" Sherwood, 51, allegedly gave false information to prosecutors in two 2014 homicide cases and tried to stop a domestic violence prosecution to protect a jailhouse informant, according to an indictment unsealed in January by the state attorney general's office.

Matt Rourke / AP

A Pennsylvania Senate committee is advancing a bill to force people with a domestic violence ruling against them to more quickly give up their firearms.

The Judiciary Committee passed the bill unanimously Monday.

Under the bill, people convicted of domestic violence would have 48 hours to give up their firearms to a law enforcement agency, a federally licensed firearms dealer or their lawyer. Under current law, people convicted of domestic violence have 60 days and can give their guns to a relative, friend or neighbor.

Trump Opioid Plan Includes Death Penalty For Traffickers

Mar 19, 2018
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.

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