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Congress Touts First Step Act as Criminal Justice Victory—But Critics Say Bill Makes False Promises A major criminal justice reform bill is poised to become law after the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in its favor Thursday. The First Step Act, passed in the Senate earlier this week with an 87-12 vote, would roll back sentences for federal prisoners, including mandatory life terms for third-time offenders and mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug users. It has been endorsed by a wide range of supporters across the political spectrum, from the American Civil Liberties Union to the conservative Koch brothers. But the bill explicitly excludes immigrants and has been criticized by groups such as the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 150 black-led organizations, for encouraging profiteering and making “false promises” about bringing black prisoners home.

The Enduring Myth of Black Criminality In his October cover story, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores how mass incarceration has affected African American families. “There’s a long history in this country of dealing with problems in the African American community through the criminal justice system,” he says in this animated interview. “The enduring view of African Americans in this country is as a race of people who are prone to criminality.”

Social Issues in Biology

“Social Issues in Biology” is a small reading and discussion class with a maximum of 20 students.  Using contemporary and historical examples, discussions examine the social, political and cultural factors that influence science and its presentation to the public.  Cases are examined in which biological findings have been misused to influence social policy over such issues as race and gender.  We discuss instances in which scientists have been passive in confronting misuse or misrepresentation of science or, alternatively, have been active in publicly exposing such misuses.  Specific discussion topics are selected from: history, philosophy of science; evolution vs. creationism; genetics, gender and race; genetic testing; science journalism; genetics and criminality; science in wartime; scientists’ social responsibility; activism in science; theater and the public presentation of science. Microbiology 213: Social Issues in Biology.  Jon Beckwith, Roberto Kolter and others Social Issues in Biology