"Breathalyzer" by Jaeda Waffer is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via scott.af.mil)

The United States has long struggled with a set of deeply divided attitudes toward alcohol.  To be sure, alcohol can be quite dangerous, so it is certainly reasonable to be cautious and concerned about its use in certain contexts.  On the other hand, one of the clear lessons taught by our experiment with Prohibition is that individuals feel that restrictive alcohol policies constitute unwarranted violations of their autonomy.

"Pills" by David Kessler is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

It is painfully obvious that the United States is in the midst of an epidemic of opioid abuse. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), more people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than any other recorded year, and the majority of those overdose deaths involved opioids. DHHS and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) claim that an increase in the prescription of pain medication is a primary driver of the opioid epidemic. According to the CDC, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the US has nearly quadrupled since 1999. However, Americans do not report higher levels of pain than they did in 1999.

"Solitary Confinement, Old Geelong Gaol 7" by jmiller291 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

Untidiness, tattooing, insolence towards a staff member, “reckless eyeballing,” and possession of an excessive quantity of postage stamps. These are all behaviors that are officially punishable by “restriction to quarters” and “change of housing” in the US Federal Prison System, according to Quartz. Thus, you can be placed in solitary confinement for relatively innocuous infractions, and the clear potential for abuse of this practice is one reason why the use of solitary confinement to punish prisoners has recently come under intense pressure. New York reached a legal settlement in 2015 with the New York Civil Liberties Union regarding the aggressive use of solitary confinement in its prisons, and a multi-year process was begun to lessen the times people spent in solitary confinement and to improve conditions in solitary confinement units.

"Execution chamber, Florida" by Florida Dept. of Corrections/Doug Smith is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

In March and April of this year, the state of Arkansas made national headlines for its plan to execute eight prisoners over the course of 11 days.  The speed involved is striking, especially when compared with national annual execution averages; only 20 people were executed nationwide in 2016.  

The truth is, Arkansas is racing against the clock.  Like most states, the primary method of execution in Arkansas is lethal injection.  Death by lethal injection is typically accomplished using a three-drug cocktail.  In Arkansas, midazolam is used as an anesthetic, ideally ensuring that the prisoner does not experience any pain.  Vecuronium bromide is used to cause paralysis before potassium chloride is used to stop the heart.  The trouble is, the remaining midazolam that Arkansas possesses is about to reach its expiration date, and it looks like they won’t have access to more any time soon.

"Cook County Juvenile Detention Center" by Noah Vaughn is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (via Flickr)

The promise of free and compulsory public education in the United States is the basis for an equal and educated citizenry and the foundation of our democracy. According to most, equal access to education levels the playing field and is the ultimate provider of social mobility and economic opportunity; therefore, we have the duty to inspect what threatens this access.

"Police Officer Making Arrest" by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikipedia)

In the face of President Donald Trump’s threats for an immigration overhaul, as well as increased U.S. immigration enforcement across the country, undocumented individuals will undoubtedly face greater threats of deportation, raids, and discrimination in the coming months. Despite the fact that, yes, the Obama administration set a record high for deportation of immigrants and therefore a precedent for future Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activity, President Trump’s usage of executive orders has particularly targeted legislation designed to protect immigrants.

"The contents of a needle exchange kit" by Todd Huffman is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Under new legislation in Maryland, spaces will be provided for illegal narcotics to be ingested in clean facilities under the supervision of medical professionals. There are nearly 100 such facilities worldwide, largely in Europe, where they have existed since the early 1980s. In the United States, where rates of accidental death from opioid overdose have “quadrupled since the late 1990s,” these facilities are still largely a controversial possibility.

"No Loitering" by nathanmac87 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

Food Not Bombs, a grassroots organization focused on food justice, are facing their second round of legal battles this month after their demonstration in Tampa, Florida, that led to the arrests of seven activists. Other organizations in Tampa have faced similar action or threats by the local authorities over their illegal behavior – feeding homeless people in a public place without a permit.

"The Slants" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

In 2006, Simon Shiao Tam founded the Asian-American band The Slants.  As the group became increasingly successful, Tam opted to pursue federal trademark protection for the band name. Trademark protection is important for both producer and consumer; the producer can feel confident that no one is unfairly capitalizing on the fruits of their labor, and the consumer can be sure that the product that they are purchasing is the one that they intend to purchase; they can be sure that it is not a product produced by an imposter using the same name.  If granted the trademark protection, Shiao’s Asian-American band would own exclusive rights to the name The Slants.  

"SQ Lethal Injection Room" by California Department of Corrections is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

In the early hours of the morning, on November 8th, 1994, Casey Wilson was working his shift at a Circle K in Huntsville, Alabama.  That morning, 23-year-old Ronald Bert Smith Jr. came into the station with the intention to rob it.  He pistol-whipped Wilson and forced him to the convenience store restroom where he shot him.  Wilson died of his wounds.  To avoid detection and identification, Smith removed the store’s surveillance videotape from that night and brought it with him.