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.

Kiichiro Sato / AP

Over the last 50 years, more than 8,000 people have been sentenced to die under the death penalty, and 1,500 of them were ultimately executed. But today, the death penalty has fallen out of favor.

Bystander Rape-Prevention Programs Face Questions

Oct 9, 2017
Keith Srakocic / AP

Training programs around the country are trying to teach bystanders to stop sexual assault, and now is when they have to be especially alert. Campus sexual assault reports are so common at the beginning of the fall semester, college administrators call this time of year the "red zone."

Penn State University sends campus-wide text alerts when someone has been sexually assaulted. During the last academic year, there were 29 campus text alerts about sexual assaults at the university's main campus, and half of them were issued in the first ten weeks of school.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Jurors are continuing deliberations in a civil rights lawsuit filed by a black man paralyzed by a white Pittsburgh police officer during a traffic stop nearly five years ago.

Twenty-four year-old Leon Ford is suing Officers David Derbish and Andrew Miller for the November 2012 traffic stop where Derbish shot Ford five times. Jurors in the federal case started deliberating Tuesday and haven't yet reached a verdict Friday.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Four members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church protested at Carnegie Mellon University Thursday afternoon. They were met by hundreds counter-protesters who tried to drown out the church’s singing with their own chants, bagpipes, noisemakers, and drums.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

It’s a 10-foot tall bronze statue on a four-foot tall granite base, that many Pittsburghers want to see moved.

The statue of Stephen Foster exhibited conspicuously in Oakland's Schenley Park, was first displayed in Highland Park.

Nyttend / Wikimedia Commons

A jury did not reach a verdict in Leon Ford’s federal case against two Pittsburgh police officers Wednesday and will return for more deliberations Thursday.

Ford is suing officers David Derbish and Andrew Miller in federal civil court for a 2012 shooting that left him paralyzed. Derbish faces an allegation of excessive force, and Miller is accused of assault and battery.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Ana Alberto-Ramirez spends most evenings after work with her boyfriend at their home in Bethel Park, hanging out and watching TV.

“And he plays soccer, so I go to his games, and I like taking pictures. Sometimes I’m there just taking pictures,” she said.

The 24 year-old works as a hair stylist on Pittsburgh’s South Side.

“I like to make hours, so I like to stay longer than I have to, especially when it’s busy.”

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Goodwill's Donation Processing Center in Lawrenceville has 29 employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities who do task-oriented work like sorting donated clothing and scanning books.

An-Li Herring

A jury began deliberations in Leon Ford’s federal civil trial against two Pittsburgh police officers following closing arguments Tuesday. The jury could deliver its verdict any day.

Chicago Police Department / AP

Police misconduct can do a lot of damage -- inciting fear or upsetting the public trust that officers need to do their jobs, especially when their actions affect primarily people of color.

Michelle Obama Visits Philly To Kick Off PA Conference For Women

Oct 3, 2017
AP File

Former first lady Michelle Obama will headline the 14th annual Pennsylvania Conference for Women, which kicks off Tuesday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. 

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The Pennsylvania Capitol will be lit in the colors of the Nevada flag as a gesture of solidarity with the people of that state following the mass shooting at a Las Vegas country music concert.

Gov. Tom Wolf's office said the gesture will occur Monday night as a way to honor the shooting's hundreds of victims.

Wolf says he and his wife are praying for the victims, their families and "all those in Nevada who awoke to sadness and fear that few can fathom."

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

*UPDATED: Oct. 2, 2017 at 4:46 p.m.

In the basement of the Mosaic Community Church on the North Side, a small crowd mingles before a joint meeting of the Perry Hilltop and Fineview Citizens councils.

Colleen Long / AP

Police killings of unarmed black men, stop-and-frisk policies and racially disproportionate prison populations have all been called symptoms of a broken criminal justice system.

Rod Waddington / flickr

In the middle of the night, Saybah Harris received a text message.

It was a photo of an ambulance with a simple description: It's Foday.

Her only son.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Eighteen new U.S. citizens were sworn in Friday afternoon as part of Constitution Week, surrounded by family and friends in the City County Chambers downtown.

They immigrated from Australia, Bhutan, India, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Latvia, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Syria and the United Kingdom.

Manoj Kumar Verma, a newly naturalized citizen from India, gave a speech during the ceremony.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Transgender people face many challenges, from housing discrimination to fatal violence. 

Courtesy of Phillip Atiba Goff

Fear, fatigue, mood and experience all affect how people interact with others. That's especially true when those actions have life or death consequences.

Screengrab from video posted by Joce Smith via Facebook

*UPDATED: Sept. 21, 2017 at 7:54 a.m.

Pittsburgh officials are reviewing the violent arrest of a man by five city officers, an encounter recorded by a bystander and posted to Facebook.

The 52-second video shows one officer, in particular, punching the man on the ground while saying, "Stop resisting" Tuesday night near PPG Paints Arena. Officers can be heard cursing, and one calls for a Taser.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

In light of President Donald Trump’s announcement to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or DACA, Latino advocates in Pittsburgh are beginning a monthly series of community meetings to set priorities and help cultivate leadership.

Emma Lee / WHYY

This story is part of a WHYY series examining how the United States, four decades later, is still processing the Vietnam War.

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It was Bonnie Raines' job to case the joint.

Her target: the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania. If all went according to plan, Raines and fellow anti-war activists would pull off a burglary that would go down in history as exposing J. Edgar Hoover's secret surveillance of groups demonstrating the war in Vietnam.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pennsylvania Corrections Secretary John Wetzel began his criminal justice career in 1989, just as the commonwealth's prison population began to balloon.

It was the beginning of America's mass incarceration era -- one that Wetzel said his office is only now beginning to reverse.

Lawsuit Alleges Sex Scandal In Pennsylvania Coroner's Office

Sep 18, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP, file

Workers at a coroner's office in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains respond when someone dies under unusual circumstances, but lately they've also had to respond to lurid allegations in a sex scandal that's generated two lawsuits and a police investigation.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

There are 5.5 million veteran caretakers in the United States, including spouses, parents, family members and friends who find themselves as the primary care provider for a loved one after a military injury.

Report: Pennsylvania Child Abuse Workers Swamped, Underpaid

Sep 15, 2017
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The county caseworkers who investigate child abuse in Pennsylvania are underpaid, inadequately trained, plagued by high turnover and face dangerous conditions, according to a report released Thursday that recommended changes to the system.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Thirteen new surveillance cameras are now up and running through Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood.

Miki Yoshihito / Flickr

Advocates for stronger gun laws and domestic violence prevention are pushing for the passage of a bill that would restrict access to firearms for people convicted of domestic abuse. They say the current law has big loopholes.

In any domestic violence case involving a gun in Pennsylvania, law enforcement can demand the abuser turn the firearm over to police or a third party within 60 days. That third party can range from a licensed gun dealer to a friend or family member to safeguard the firearm.

How Plants Were Used To Gain Freedom On The Underground Railroad

Sep 14, 2017
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

An overlooked part of the Underground Railroad’s history is being brought back to life in Pittsburgh’s Frick Park. The From Slavery to Freedom Garden is a collaboration between the Frick Environmental Center and the Senator John Heinz History Center. 

Emma Lee / WHYY

Last year, some schools in the Philadelphia area became "sanctuary campuses," promising to protect undocumented students and those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The Trump administration's announcement last week that it will end DACA, a program shielding some  young people from deportation, could test that resolve if it, in fact, sunsets as promised in March.

Leaders of some "sanctuary campuses," such as the University of Pennsylvania — President Donald Trump's alma mater, immediately condemned the government's reversal.

Matt York / AP

Politicians and organizations in Philadelphia are raising money to help pay for applications to a soon-to be-ended program that allows young immigrants without legal status to remain in the country.

Officials on Monday announced the launch of The Dreamers Initiative , a fundraising effort to cover the $495 fee needed to renew an application to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program.

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