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  • The Photos That Helped End Child Labor in the United States

    In the early 1900s, Lewis Hine left his job as a schoolteacher to work as a photographer for the National Child Labor Committee, investigating and documenting child labor in the United States. As a sociologist, Hine was an early believer in the power of photography to document work conditions and help bring about change. He traveled the country, going to fields, factories, and mines—sometimes working undercover—to take pictures of kids as young as four years old being put to work.

    Partly as a result of Hine's work (as well as that of Mary Harris Jones, who Mother Jones is named after), Congress passed the Keating-Owens Child Labor Act in 1916. It established child labor standards, including a a minimum age (14 years old for factories, and 16 years old for mines) and an eight-hour workday. It also barred kids under the age of 16 from working overnight. However, the Keating-Owens Act was later ruled unconstitutional, and lasting reform to federal child labor laws didn't come until the New Deal.

    In 2004, retired social worker Joe Manning set out to see what had happened to as many of the kids in Hine's photos as he could find. He's documented his findings—showing the lives of hundreds of subjects—on his website,

    Breaker boys who worked in Ewen Breaker of Pennsylvania Coal Company, South Pittston, Pennsylvania
    A group of breaker boys in Pittston, Pennsylvania. The smallest is Sam Belloma.
    A young driver in Brown Mine in Brown, West Virginia. Hine said the boy had been driving one year, working from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.
    A tipple boy working at Turkey Knob Mine in MacDonald, West Virginia.
    A trapper boy working in the Turkey Knob Mine in Macdonald, West Virginia. The boy had to stoop because of the low roof. This photo was taken more than a mile inside the mine.
    Drivers in a coal mine in West Virginia
    Vance, a trapper boy, was 15 years old when this photo was taken. He was paid 75 cents a day for 10 hours of work. His job was to open and shut this door. Because of the intense darkness in the mine, the writing on the door was not visible until plate was developed.
    A view of Pennsylvania Coal Company's Ewen Breaker in South Pittson, Pennsylvania. The dust was so dense at times, it was difficult to see, Hine wrote. A man sometimes stood over the boys, prodding or kicking them, the photographer wrote.
    Noon at Pennsylvania Coal Company's Ewen Breaker in South Pittston
    A young leader and a driver for the Pennsylvania Coal Company worked in Shaft #6 in South Pittson. The workers are Pasquale Salvo and Sandy Castina.
    At the end of the day, workers for the Pennsylvania Coal Company waited for the cage to go up at Shaft #6 in South Pittson, Pennsylvania. The small boy in front is Jo Pume, a nipper.
    A photo of a miner boy named Frank as he was going home. At the time, he was about 14 years old. He had worked in the mine for three years helping his father pick and load. He was in the hospital one year, after his leg was crushed by a coal car, Hine wrote.
    Workers at the end of the day in a Pennsylvania coal mine. The smallest boy, near the far right, is a nipper. On his right is Arthur, a driver. Jo, on Arthur's right, is a nipper. Frank, the boy on the left end of the photo, is a nipper and works a mile underground from the shaft, which is 5,000 feet down.
    James O'Dell helped push these heavily loaded cars. He appears to be about 12 or 13 years old, Hine wrote. James worked at Knoxville Iron Co.'s Cross Mountain Mine, which is in the vicinity of Coal Creek, Tennessee. James had been there four months.
    Shorpy Higginbotham was a greaser at Bessie Mine in Alabama, working for the Sloss-Sheffield Steel and Iron Company. Hine said the boy told him that he was 14 years old, but Hine suspected the boy wasn't telling the truth. At work, Shorpy carried two heavy pails of grease and was often in danger of being run over by the coal cars.
    A greaser at Bessie Mine in Alabama
    Harry and Sallie. Harry was a driver for the Maryland Coal Co. Mine, which was near Grafton, West Virginia. Hine said the boy was afraid of being photographed because he might be forced to go to school. Harry was probably 12 years old, Hine wrote.
    Tom Vitol (also called Dominick Dekatis) was photographed in Hughestown Burough, Pittston, Pennsylvania. He worked in Breaker #9 and was probably younger than 14 years old, Hine wrote.


  • Legend of the Falls: Revisiting the Evel Kneivel Story

    Amid the disillusionments of the '70s—the Vietnam War, racial strife, Watergate, lines around the block for gasoline—America needed a hero. And many, especially us kids, found one in the motorcycle daredevil Robert "Evel" Knievel. Boy, did my brother and I get amped for his audacious stunts (and epic wipeouts!), from the record-breaking jump over 19 cars at Ontario Motor Speedway to the ludicrous scheme to leap the Snake River Canyon in a star-spangled rocket cycle. Only later did I learn how deeply flawed our fearless showman was.

    In Being Evel, an engaging documentary, director Daniel Junge supplements a wealth of archival and press footage with recollections from spouses, kin, and business associates—including promoter Sheldon Saltman, whose 1977 memoir of touring with Knievel prompted the incensed stuntman to attack him with a baseball bat. The film gives Knievel his due, but also strips away the layers to reveal a checked-out father, a philandering husband, and a complex American icon whose identity was subsumed by his camera-ready persona.

  • After Yesterday's Shooting, More Americans Are Googling "Gun Control"

    In the wake of mass shootings, many of Americans turn—where else?—to the internet to look for answers. Google data reflects these searches in the wake of major shootings. Using Google Trends data, the Google News Lab put together a series of maps that show whether people in each state were more likely to search for the phrase "gun control" or "gun shop" in the 24 hours following the shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, in June; Moneta, Virginia, in August; and yesterday's shooting in Oregon.

    Over the course of 2015, the majority of searches in most states have been for "gun shop": 

    In the day after the Charleston shooting, the map looked much the same:

    After the Virginia shooting, the map almost completely flipped:

    So far, in the day after the Oregon shooting, the map is almost completely tilted toward searches for "gun control":

    You can see this data another way here:

    See the full interactive map below:

  • John Kasich on How to Reduce Mass Shootings: More Death Penalty

    Ohio Governor John Kasich told reporters in New Hampshire on Friday that he considers the death penalty and long prison sentences a better approach than gun control when it comes to reducing the number of mass shootings.

    Kasich, who voted for a federal assault weapons ban as a Republican congressman two decades ago, demurred when asked what steps Washington should take in the wake of the Thursday massacre at Umpquah Community College in Oregon that left 10 people dead. "I don’t believe that gun control would stop this," he told a scrum of journalists after a town hall in Goffstown, during which the subject did not come up.

    Kasich continued:

    I think they have very tough gun laws in that state. The fact is that more and more people believe that they should be able to defend themselves. And if take guns away from people who are law-abiding the people who are going to cause these horrible things are still gonna have them. I don’t agree with that. That is not—you know I favor, in Ohio, the death penalty. I favor long prison sentences.That’s the way I would go.

    When a reporter asked him what specifically he would do to curb mass shootings as president, Kasich said it wouldn't be his responsibility. "I don’t think any president can stop mass shootings," he said. "And again I think that all of these places that are soft targets need to be hardened. My own state, as I’ve said, it’s frustrating to see some school districts not taking it seriously. These are terrible tragedies and we need to find out more about who this person is. If this person’s had mental illness they should never have had a weapon. That’s the rules."

    In an earlier interview with NBC News, Kasich offered a clearer idea of what he means by hardening "soft targets." He said he wants all schools, including universities, to implement warning systems that would allow them to go into "lockdown" mode if there is a campus threat.

    Kasich's emphasis on the death penalty is curious given that more than half of the perpetrators of mass shootings over the last three decades took their own lives. The number goes up if you count "suicide by cop"—that is, those instances when a shooter was killed by law enforcement.

    Moreover, Ohio's death penalty process is notoriously flawed. Last spring, a federal judge placed a seven-month moratorium on all executions in the state after a lethal injection left a convicted killer writhing on his deathbed for 25 minutes. On Thursday, an Ohio court struck down an inmate's death sentence, citing flaws in the state case.

  • After Shooting, Huckabee Slams Obama for "Liberal, Anti-Gun Agenda"

    In an impassioned speech following Thursday's shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, President Barack Obama predicted, "Somebody somewhere will comment and say, 'Obama politicized this issue.'" It didn't take long for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee to prove him right.

    On Thursday afternoon, Huckabee took to Twitter to express his condolences to the families of the victims. Unlike most of his fellow presidential hopefuls, Huckabee did not stop there. On Friday morning, he proceeded to criticize Obama for what Huckabee characterized as his "liberal, anti-gun agenda."

    Chicago, Obama's hometown, has become a buzzword, often sloppily used, to indicate "black on black crime." For Huckabee, the former governor of a state whose capital has the highest murder rate of any city with fewer than 200,000 residents (and a higher rate than Chicago's), to invoke Chicago after a tragedy is as much of a politicization as anything. (Never mind that UCC wasn't a gun-free zone, because it is impossible for public colleges in Oregon to ban guns.)

    "This is something we should politicize," Obama said on Thursday. "It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic." He just might not have chosen to politicize it the way Huckabee did.

    Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the town where the shooting occurred and the time of day when Huckabee posted his first tweet.

  • The New Bipartisan Criminal-Justice Reform Bill Doesn't Live Up to Its Own Hype

    Today, nine Senate Republicans and Democrats proposed a bill that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) hailed as "the biggest criminal justice reform in our generation." This is undoubtedly true, at least at the federal level. The proposal, which was more than three years in the making and touches on everything from drug sentencing to solitary confinement for kids, is the most concrete step yet to confront what politicians on both sides of the aisle are now calling our "mass incarceration" problem.

    In a press conference to announce the bill, Sen. Dick Durban (D-Ill.) pointed out that the "United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country on earth." Yet the 141-page Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act is remarkably unambitious in addressing that particular problem.

    To begin with, the bill only affects the federal justice system. For truly national criminal-justice or prison reform, each state would have to pass its own bill. Federal inmates represent just 13 percent of our national prison population. (If you count jail populations, federal prisoners are just 9 percent of all Americans behind bars.) Even if we let all inmates out of federal lockups tomorrow, we would still have more people behind bars than any other country in the world.

    But the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act does tweak several policies that advocates and activists have long sought to change. Many had hoped the bill would eliminate some mandatory minimum sentence laws. (In 2010, 40 percent of federal inmates were subject to a mandatory minimum penalty at sentencing.) The act wouldn't do that; instead, it would reduce 10-year mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses to 5-year minimums for people with no prior convictions for serious felonies. The reduction would not apply to major drug dealers or anyone who sold drugs to a minor. Significantly, anyone who refused to give up information about the drug activities of others would still be subject to the 10-year minimum.

    These sentencing reductions come with a trade-off. The bill would create new mandatory minimums for some crimes. Some interstate domestic violence charges would result in 10-year minimum sentences. Additionally, the bill imposes a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for anyone convicted of providing "controlled goods or services" to terrorists or state sponsors of terrorism such as Syria or Iran. (The list of such items includes not just military equipment, but vehicle parts like tires.)

    The bill would also make some changes to the Clinton-era three strikes rule. Currently, people convicted of a third federal drug felony are automatically sentenced to life in prison. Under this bill, the first two strikes would have to be serious drug crimes or violent felonies, and the third strike would bring 25 years, not life. This would apply to people currently in prison for their third strike.

    Other parts of the bill would be retroactive as well. In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the sentencing disparity that had treated the possession of a gram of crack cocaine the same as the possession of as 100 grams of powder cocaine. This disparity was widely seen as racist: a third of crack users were black, yet 88 percent of federal crack offenders are black. Under the new bill, the Fair Sentencing Act would become retroactive, causing thousands to be released from prison.

    A significant portion of the new bill is aimed at the federal juvenile justice system. (Again, it wouldn't change any state-level policies.) It would ban solitary confinement for juveniles held in federal facilities unless it was used as an immediate response to stop them from hurting someone else, and even then it couldn't last longer than three hours. The bill also proposes that minors who were convicted as adults and have served at least 20 years can apply for reductions in their sentences. The bill would also make it possible for certain people convicted of nonviolent offenses as kids to seal their files after being released. And all nonviolent offenses committed by kids under the age of 15 would automatically be expunged from their records when they turn 18.

    The bill proposes reforms to the federal prison system, such as recidivism reduction programs, in which some prisoners convicted of nonviolent crimes can get out early if they go to a reentry center or enter home confinement "subject to 24-hour electronic monitoring." Interestingly, a section calling for more recidivism reduction calls for "a survey to identify products…that are currently manufactured overseas and could be manufactured by prisoners."

    Overall, the bill focuses on politically safe issues—long sentences for nonviolent drug offenses are now widely unpopular. But it doesn't address the main driver of mass incarceration: sentencing for violent crimes. It's a common myth that the war on drugs drove the fivefold increase in America’s total prison population since 1980. Nonviolent drug offenses do account for a full half of federal inmates, but in state prisons the story is much different. There, drug offenders account for just 16 percent of the prison population.

    Ultimately, the only way to bring our prison population anywhere near pre-Reagan-era levels—when we had about 300,000 people behind bars—would be to make major changes in sentencing for more serious crimes. Nationally, 47 percent of prisoners are incarcerated for violent crimes and 18 percent for property offenses. If we let out everyone incarcerated for a drug offense, our total prison population would drop from 1.6 million to 1.2 million. The statistic that Durbin cited about the United States locking up more people than any other country would still be true.

  • Ben Carson and the Satanic Sabbath Persecution Conspiracy

    Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who's in the top tier of the GOP's 2016 contenders, holds some unusual beliefs. In defending creationism, he has said Satan is behind the Big Bang theory and the promotion of evolution, and he has embraced and endorsed a paranoid McCarthyesque conspiracy theory that claims nefarious Marxists for decades have infiltrated every echelon of American society—including PTAs—in order to destroy the United States. But, it seems, Carson's conspiratorial worldview goes beyond all this. In a talk he gave a year ago, Carson, who is a Seventh-day Adventist, indicated that he accepts a dark prophecy rendered a century and a half ago by a founder of his church. She claimed that as part of the End Times (the apocalyptic period when Jesus Christ supposedly will return and battle with the devil), a time will come when Seventh-day Adventists will be imprisoned by the government and even put to death merely for observing the Sabbath on Saturday, not Sunday.

    Some background: The Seventh-day Adventist Church traces back to the 1820s, when William Miller, a veteran of the War of 1812, told people that Jesus Christ was heading back to Earth in 1843 or 1844. After "the Advent" didn't occur, Miller's followers didn't give up. They concluded that he had gotten the date wrong, and the church continued. A crucial part of its theology was that the Sabbath starts on Friday night and concludes on Saturday at sundown.

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  • How Global Warming Makes Overcrowded Prisons Even More Dangerous

    This story was originally published by CityLab and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

    There is no population more captive to the effects of global warming than the incarcerated. And given the huge concentration of black and Latino prisoners in America, this is a classic case of environmental injustice, as these consequences fall widely on prisoners of color. A new study from Daniel W. E. Holt of the Columbia Law School's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law explains over 144 pages what the climate-change toll truly is on the two-million-plus bodies caged in our prison system.

    The report focuses on the extreme heat effects from a destabilized climate—effects that are already turning some prisons into microwaves where prisoners bake between metal walls and bars with little air conditioning relief. Some courts have already ruled that extreme heat conditions in prisons qualify as cruel and unusual punishment, which is unconstitutional. And others have argued in court that, for prisoners with heat-exacerbated illnesses, it's also a violation of the Americans with Disability Act.

    "The correctional sector may be alone in facing the prospect of viable constitutional litigation if it does not effectively adapt to the changing climate," reads the report.

    These conditions are made worse by the unresolved problem of overcrowding in jails in prisons. Attica state prison inmates in New York revolted in 1971 in large part over abuse and overcrowding. (Attica is still rife with abuse and overcrowding.) The report cautions that surface temperature and human temperament will rise alike as climate change worsens. Citing a report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science on how climate influences human conflict, the report says:

    Another common consequence of heat in prisons has implications for both health and security, of inmates and correctional officers alike: the potential for increased violence. Fighting among inmates and assault incidents may increase when high temperatures cut tempers short.


    Because human beings are sources of heat and humidity, the number of people in a given enclosed space has a direct impact on the thermal conditions in that space. Therefore, overcrowding of correctional facilities is an impediment to maintaining a tolerable interior environment. As external temperatures rise, overcrowding will become a bigger problem.

    These are truths that are readily being accepted by the U.S. Justice Department and also by people who staff prisons, given that many of them are subjected to the rising heat, as well. And while federal penitentiaries are required by executive order to have climate-change adaptation plans, there is nothing comparable for state prisons and local jails, the report explains.

    As my colleague Tanvi Misra reported last year, excessive heat has led to increased illness and death in Texas prisons, which has landed the state's corrections system in court. Same goes for Louisiana, where the New Orleans-based legal nonprofit Promise of Justice Initiative filed a federal complaint over heat problems in 2013 on behalf of sickly death row inmates held at Angola state prison. Angola inmates' opportunities for relief are limited given the prison's poor medical resources, over which Promise of Justice is also suing the prison. A federal judge has agreed that the triple-digit temperature settings at Angola are indeed cruel and unusual.

    The legal and fatal consequences of failing to adapt to climate change and overheating prisons are yet more rationale for reducing the incarcerated population, reads the report. The report also recommends that correctional facilities:

    • Reduce inmates' and correctional officers' susceptibility to heat stress, and to at least move inmates with heat-related illnesses and of old age to buildings where temperatures can be better managed;
    • Phase out buildings that are most vulnerable to oppressive heat;
    • Retrofit buildings with "passive-cooling solutions," such as green roofs and advanced thermal windows, as opposed to installing costly and energy-intense air conditioning systems;  
    • If new facilities must be built, ensure they are designed sustainably and resilient to climate change impacts. Environmental impact analyses for new construction should incorporate current and future climate conditions;
    • Require cooling systems in place for private prisons;
    • Communicate across the broad network of prison and jail systems about best practices for keeping buildings cool (because apparently this is not already happening).

    "I hope that local, state, and federal officials can use this as a jumping off point to work proactively to fix this obvious violation of the eighth amendment," says Mercedes Montagnes, Promise of Justice's director, about the study. "Excessive heat is not a part of a constitutional sentence."

  • As Governor, Jeb Bush Embraced His Inner ?Veto Corleone?

    As he campaigns for president, Jeb Bush has eagerly reminded audiences of the Godfather-inspired nickname he earned as Florida’s governor: "They call me Veto Corleone because I vetoed 2,500 separate line items in the budget," he proudly declared during the first Republican presidential debate in August.

    To Bush and his supporters, the thousands of projects he ruthlessly slashed from the budget during his eight years as governor ushered in an era of fiscal restraint and transparency in Tallahassee. But critics say he whacked programs that would have helped the state's neediest residents and used his power to bring the legislature to heel, in some cases wielding his veto pen to punish lawmakers who crossed him.  

    "He relished that he could arbitrarily veto anything," says Johnnie Byrd, a Republican who was speaker of the state House of Representatives when Bush was governor. "He just kind of lorded over things and, you know, just arbitrarily cut various things that the legislature thought were worthwhile for the citizens of Florida."

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  • Rand Paul's Campaign Is Experiencing a Money Bomb. The Bad Kind.

    In 2008 and 2012, Ron Paul became famous for his "money bombs"—internet-fueled fundraising frenzies during which his rabid followers poured millions of dollars into his campaign coffers. But his son's presidential campaign may be best remembered for a money bomb of another sort. Rand Paul's campaign confirmed on Thursday that it had raised just $2.5 million over the past three months. To put that in perspective, his dad's campaign once raised $6 million in one day.

    The news comes at a particularly awkward moment for Paul. Earlier this week, Donald Trump taunted the Kentucky senator online, predicting on Twitter that he would be the next GOP hopeful to drop out of the race. Paul laughed off the taunt, calling Trump a clown, but his campaign's lackluster fundraising is difficult to spin.

    Sergio Gor, Paul's spokesman, said the fundraising situation had actually improved since the most recent GOP debate on September 16. "A key takeaway is that we raised $750,000 in just the last two weeks," Gor said. "With $2 million cash on hand, our campaign is in for the long haul."

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