Monday, June 17, 2013

Armed Department of Education Agents Raid CA Home for Student Loan Fraud

The following is a video posted to YouTube that shows news coverage of federal agents invading a man's home because of his wife's student loan debt. Video posted by user XRepublicTV.

The Department of Education has been given police power of search and seizure under the Homeland Security Act in 2002. The American Bar Association (ABA) reported, "The Education Department purchased 27 Remington 12-gauge shotguns last year, saying they were needed to police waste, fraud and abuse involving federal education funds..." 

The Department of Education stated this raid was carried out to investigate a case of student loan fraud, not defaulted student loans. (See Huffington Post Education News Article - 6/18/2013)  It is unclear if fraud is defined as simply signing an agreement to repay and failing to do so, or if this is a case of false information being given.  The Department of Eduction declines to comment further given this is an ongoing investigation.

According to the Household Debt and Credit: Student Debt presented on Feb. 28, 2013 by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the total amount of student loan debt owed in the U.S., as of the end of 2012, is $966 billion.  If this is the trend of collection methods for the federal Department of Education, holder of Direct Loans and other federal loans, how many people could be next for the same treatment?

Questions relevant to sociological thought:
*given that we do not know what actions constitute fraud for the Dept. of Ed. in this case, these questions should be taken as points for conversation, not to conclude factual information.  

- What are the implications for this level of criminalization for people who owe student loans?
- What inequalities may exist in the process of who is chosen for this type of collection/investigation?
- Can we see instances where people who have been convicted federally of corporate fraud have been subjected to this type of treatment?  If not, why wouldn't they be subjected to this type of treatment?
- By these actions of our federal government, how is deviance being defined?
- Who is more likely to be overwhelmingly treated to these types of collection/investigation methods and why?
- Since these action are legal under the Homeland Security Act, what do you think is the recourse for recuperating damages caused by agents? 

*Please post your answer to the following question in the comments section below.
- Overall, what is your opinion of this particular use of force by the federal government to collect student loan debts/investigate student loan fraud?

Gary woman sentenced to die at 16 to be released from prison ~ NWI Times News Story

Story from 

 Paula Cooper was 16 years old when she was sentenced to death for the brutal stabbing murder of an elderly Bible school teacher. The Indiana Supreme Court commuted her sentence to 60 years, and she is scheduled to be released Monday.  

INDIANAPOLIS | A Gary woman put on death row at age 16 for killing an elderly Bible school teacher is scheduled to be released Monday after serving a prison term that was shortened after the state Supreme Court intervened.

Paula Cooper's death sentence at such a young age sparked international protests and a plea for clemency from Pope John Paul II. Now 43 years old, Cooper is being given a second chance at her life.

Cooper was 15 when she and three other teenage girls showed up at Ruth Pelke's house May 14, 1985, with plans of robbing the 78-year-old Bible school teacher. Pelke let Cooper and two of the teen's companions into her home in Gary's Glen Park neighborhood after they told her they were interested in Bible lessons.
As the fourth teen waited outside as a lookout, Cooper stabbed Pelke 33 times with a butcher knife. Then she and the other girls ransacked the house. The four girls fled with Pelke's car and $10.
The murder involving the four teenagers from Gary's Lew Wallace High School left the region shaken.

Cooper's three accomplices were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 25 to 60 years. But Cooper, who confessed to Pelke's slaying, was convicted of murder and sentenced to die in the electric chair. At the time — in 1986 — she was the youngest death row inmate in the U.S.
Some people believed Cooper deserved to die, but the punishment enraged human rights activists and death penalty opponents around the world, including those who viewed the teen as a victim of a racist criminal justice system.

Pope John Paul II urged that Cooper be granted clemency in 1987, and in 1988 a priest brought a petition to Indianapolis with more than 2 million signatures protesting Cooper's sentence.
The Indiana Supreme Court set Cooper's death sentence aside in 1988 and ordered her to serve 60 years in prison after state legislators passed a law raising Indiana's minimum age limit for execution from 10 to 16. The state's high court also cited a 1988 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court barring the execution of juveniles younger than 16 at the time of the crime.

Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court has found it unconstitutional to execute anyone younger than 18.
"People still know about this case," Indianapolis attorney Jack Crawford, who was the Lake County prosecutor during Cooper's murder trial, told The Indianapolis Star. "The name Paula Cooper still resonates, and she's going to attract some attention when she is released."
But, he said, Cooper has done her time and may yet contribute to society. Crawford said he has come to oppose the death penalty since Cooper's conviction.

Cooper's sister, Rhonda Labroi, said she hopes people will see Paula as more than a killer. After getting in trouble 23 times during her time in prison, Paula Cooper turned to education. She earned a bachelor's degree in 2001.

"She was just a child at the time that happened, and now she is an adult and people should wait and see and give her a chance," Labroi said. "Give her an opportunity. Maybe she'll do some wonderful things for children who are growing up and aren't so fortunate, like she was.
"There are second chances," she said. "It seems like God has given her another chance. I think if people give her a second chance, she'll do fine."

See this link for a video about the story and Cooper's plans for life after prison.