Joseph Rosenbloom

Joseph Rosenbloom is a freelance writer based in Newton, Mass.

Recent Articles

The Shawshank Succession

In the mid-1990s, when then-Gov. Angus King unveiled an ambitious prison-construction plan, the proposal had nothing to do with any "lock-'em-up" agenda. Maine had one of the lowest incarceration rates in the country, a tradition of moderation on law-and-order issues, and no intention of changing either one. The centerpiece of King's plan was a $65 million maximum-security prison, which opened in the town of Warren in February 2002. The new facility was built to replace a 178-year-old, red-brick monolith that, as local lore has it, was a model for the grim prison of Stephen King's Shawshank Redemption . Referring to the old prison, Angus King (who is no relation to the writer) says, "It was almost Dickensian, it was the oldest prison in the country and it was very expensive to run." By building the modern prison, the state expunged a stigma, and Maine officials expected the savings in operating expenses to more than offset the new facility's capital cost. But a funny thing happened on...

Victims in the Heartland

Shelbyville, Tenn., is an archetypal American working-class community of 16,000 people. Located 53 miles south of Nashville, it has one high school, one movie theater, six pawnbrokers and no parking meters. Its greatest claim to fame is the Tennessee Walking Horse, a smooth-gaited breed developed and tirelessly promoted locally. But far more visible are the 18-wheel tractor-trailers -- each loaded with roughly 5,000 chickens in open metal crates -- that rumble through town day and night. They're headed for the cavernous Tyson Foods plant on Shelbyville's west side, next to the Duck River. Tyson Foods Inc., based in Springdale, Ark., is the world's largest processor of chicken, beef and pork, with sales last year of $23.4 billion. With 1,100 employees at its Shelbyville plant, Tyson is also that city's largest employer. In the mid-1990s, two Shelbyville police officers, Bill Logue and Don Barber, were puzzled by a series of curious incidents. An uncanny number of Hispanic motorists...

Power Bar

The plaintiffs in John Doe v. President George W. Bush had their day in court -- actually, 50 minutes -- this past Monday. That's how long oral argument lasted in U.S. District Court in Boston in a case that raised the question of whether Congress must formally declare war before Bush can lawfully attack Iraq. Following oral arguments, Judge Joseph L. Tauro called a recess to decide if he should grant a preliminary injunction to bar Bush from going to war, as the plaintiffs had requested. The judge didn't need much time. An hour later, he returned to his white-walled, 7th floor courtroom and read aloud an abbreviated version of his opinion -- denying the injunction and dismissing the suit. He said that it raised "political questions," which were "beyond the authority of a federal court to resolve." Case closed. Well, not entirely. The plaintiffs have appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday. But it's highly unlikely that...

No Death-Penalty Doubts at Justice

In a time of growing doubt about whether the death penalty is being administered fairly and accurately, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is hewing to a policy of full speed ahead in implementing it. "He's the anti-Ryan," says David Bruck, a federal capital-defense lawyer in Columbia, S.C., contrasting Ashcroft with former Gov. George Ryan (R-Ill.), whose misgivings about the death penalty have struck a national chord. Ashcroft took office in February 2001. Four months later, the attorney general issued what amounted to a clean bill of health for the federal capital-murder system. He declared it free of racial bias, a charge President Clinton had taken so seriously that all federal executions were postponed. Ashcroft allowed federal executions to occur for the first time since 1963. Although his predecessor, Janet Reno, had ordered an independent race-disparity study by death-penalty experts from outside the Department of Justice, Ashcroft has been reluctant to go forward with it...

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