ProPublica

Journalism in the Public Interest

The Farm Is a Deadly Workplace, and More in #MuckReads Weekly

Some of the best #MuckReads we read this week. Want to receive these by email?  Sign up to get this briefing delivered to your inbox every weekend.

The color of debt: How collection suits squeeze black neighborhoods (ProPublica)

"...when ProPublica attempted to measure, for the first time, the prevalence of judgments stemming from these suits, a clear pattern emerged: they were massed in black neighborhoods. The disparity was not merely because black families earn less than white families. Our analysis of five years of court judgments from three metropolitan areas — St. Louis, Chicago and Newark — showed that even accounting for income, the rate of judgments was twice as high in mostly black neighborhoods as it was in mostly white ones."

Interactive: The black neighborhoods where collection suits hit hardest

'Suicide by Cop' (The Guardian)

"Like in half a dozen other cases around the US so far this year identified by a Guardian investigation, authorities declared the case a 'suicide by cop', a contested and loosely defined classification of death that further complicates US law enforcement's already fraught response to killings by police. ... a growing number of state and county authorities are effectively bypassing this process by placing official responsibility for the shootings on the shoulders of the dead, who are judged to have given officers no choice but to kill them."

Deadliest workplace: The farm (StarTribune)

"Unlike at most work sites, state and federal regulators rarely visit farms after a fatality. There is usually no penalty for running a dangerous farm and little financial incentive to improve safety. Steps to address safety problems at the federal level have stalled, most recently in 2014 when Congress forced the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to curtail a campaign to reduce grain bin deaths. Farming remains one of the most dangerous occupations in America, with fatality rates above other high-risk industries such as mining and construction."

Prison kids: A crime against America's children (Fusion)

"'We can really mess a kid up. We can create a problem that did not exist. And then we turn them loose. We in essence created a criminal,' said Glenn Holt, Youth Study Center superintendent. The vast majority of kids in juvenile jail don't commit a violent crime. In fact many are locked up for things that aren't even crimes for adults: skipping school, running away from home, or missing curfew. Even those accused of more serious crimes are still children."

Migration maze: deportees inside Central America's northern triangle (WLRN)

"U.S. border apprehensions are indeed down by a third this year, according to the Homeland Security Department. And joint Central American-U.S. efforts to improve the northern triangle's economic and security situation are starting to bear fruit. But migrants still pour out of Honduras, largely because they continue to face many of the same brutal conditions."

In Texas it's a crime to be poor (BuzzFeed News)

"A BuzzFeed News investigation into Texas judicial practice found that with no public defenders present, traffic court judges routinely flout the law, locking up people for days, weeks, and sometimes even months because they did not pay fines they could not afford. The result is a modern-day version of debtors prison, an institution that was common two centuries ago but has been outlawed since the early '70s."

In the disappearing rainforests of Indonesia, a 9-year-old boy copes with the trauma of eviction (PRI & The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists)

"Revan's story is a worst-case example of the trauma that children can suffer when they live in the path of initiatives backed by money from the World Bank Group. Evictions, loss of family income and other hardships associated with dams, roads and other projects can be especially harmful to young people. Studies show that children whose families have been forced to relocate are at greater risk of disease, hunger and loss of education."

Riot on the plantation: In Liberia, palm oil has set off a dangerous scramble for land (Al Jazeera America)

"...villagers have watched their water sources become polluted from improper land excavation and their farms bulldozed without consent. In villages I visited across the country, the sale of people's land was viewed as a land grab by their government. In many communities, these land conflicts turned hostile. 'In awarding a contract, mistakes were made,' says the vice chair of the Land Commission, a government agency that was created to address the issue of ownership. 'There was no consultation with local people. It was a tacit omission by the government that the customary people own the land.'"

MuckReads local: Colorado yields to marijuana industry pressure on pesticides (The Denver Post)

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates pesticides, offered the state little advice about what to do because marijuana is an illegal crop under federal law. 'We tried to work with the EPA, to figure out what to do, but we got nothing,' the former Colorado agriculture commissioner said. With little federal guidance and no science to know which pesticides might be safe for consumers, the department made pesticide inspections a low priority, records show."
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