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Welcome to the Criminal Injustice Series


Criminal Injustice is a weekly series devoted to exploring the myths of "crime", "criminals", and criminal justice at the intersections of race/ethnicity/class/gender/sexuality/age/disability in policing and punishment. Criminal Injustice is committed to furthering action towards reducing inequities in the US criminal justice system.

Criminal Injustice seeks to be a space where we can come together to collectively learn about, analyze, and talk about strategic responses to the structural racism and other forms of violence -- misogyny, heterosexism, ableism, class violence -- that are foundational to the criminal legal system in the United States and people caught up in it who have multiple and sometimes differing experiences of that violence.

We wholeheartedly embrace Critical Mass Progress' values and principles as the foundation for those discussions.

Our focus here is on progressive movement building, and that's hard work, because it brings us together across various group and political histories, experiences, and views.

From time to time, real tensions and conflicts arise at various blogs. We seek to keep CI a place where we focus on the subject matter of the posts and not bring those conflicts in. People must feel they are welcome here, regardless of blog affiliation and participation. We want to ensure that, as in the past, CI remains a welcoming place for all those who seek to discuss CI issues in good faith.

Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm CST.

© Copyright 2010-2013, Nancy A. Heitzeg, Kay Whitlock, and Seeta Persaud of CMP. All rights reserved. All articles and posts published by Criminal Injustice may not be distributed, re-published or cross-posted in any format, including print or electronic format, without express and explicit written permission from the copyright holders, including CI editors (Nancy Heitzeg and Kay Whitlock) and criticalmassprogress.com.

CI: Dispersing the White Fog Enveloping Ferguson

August 20, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

 

Dispersing the White Fog Enveloping Ferguson

by Kay Whitlock

Starting with the extrajudicial execution of Michael Brown by local police on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, a predictable white fog has settled in. It is a miasma, historically resonant, comprised of structural racism and denial of it, policing practices that are race-based and authoritarian, and political/cultural narratives that obfuscate rather than illuminate.

The properties of the miasma are brutally magical: they produce a triumphant white supremacist sleight of hand in which racist reality is refashioned to frame “civil order” and “law enforcement” as the perpetual victims of purportedly “out-of-control, criminal,” and pathologically violent black people – particularly young black people.

A still image taken from raw http://www.thewrap.com/police-tear-gas-not-fired-at-al-jazeera-news-crew-intentionally-video/ shows an Al-Jazeera new team covering protests being tear-gassed by Ferguson police.  When the team members fled, a SWAT team dismantled the equipment setup.

A still image taken from raw
shows an Al-Jazeera new team covering protests being tear-gassed by Ferguson
police. When the team members fled, a SWAT team dismantled the equipment setup.

Law enforcement riots and the repressive deployment of armed force against black people are not the causes of “civil disorder;” rather the cause is located in those who have been denied social and economic justice throughout U.S. history, who are now framed as creators of violence and terror.  Violent policing has vanished as the instigating factor.  No one seems to be considering the idea that those who are not violent, but who defy the curfew, are registering a principled and courageous protest against repressive state power.  Instead, the deployment of ever-greater force, including Missouri’s National Guard, initially sent to protect not the community, but the police command center, becomes its own surreal justification.

It has not yet been two weeks since Brown’s streetside execution, but the white fog just gets thicker, nastier, more toxic.

To help cut through the fog, CI urges you to read these pieces:

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CI: No Justice, Still, for Us

August 13, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, Prison Industrial Complex

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Peace, Finally, for Rodney King/No Justice, Still, for Us
by nancy a heitzeg

For Mike Brown, For Ferguson. For the Unnamed.

Editors Note: In light of the extra-legal police execution of Mike Brown and the ensuing events in Ferguson, Missouri, CI is republishing this piece written two years ago on the occasion of the death of Rodney King.

It is with unsurprised sorrow that we note how little has changed, save for the addition of many names: Jordan Davis, Kimani Gray, Cary Ball, Jr., Jonathan Ferrell, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford. More.

How many times must families grieve, communities explode? How many times must journalists re-write the same tired pieces, must we pretend that there is something called “justice” to be had for the Dead?

Wherever you are, please join us tomorrow in a National Moment of Silence #NMOS14. Please join us every day in saying this “ends today” ,  in saying the systemic siege of community by police state tactics is over. And we must find another way.

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CI: There Are No Children Here

August 06, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

 

There Are No Children Here
by nancy a heitzeg

“Racially differential treatment of children is an important yet under-explored arena within social psychology. The present findings suggest how urgently field and laboratory work are needed to fill in this research gap. In addition, they suggest that if, as Alice Walker says, “The most important question in the world is, “Why is the child crying’?” then, for Black children, the most important answer may be that they cry because they are not allowed to be children at all.

~ Goff, P. A., Jackson, M. C., Di Leone, B. A. L., Culotta, C. M., & DiTomasso, N. A. (2014, February 24). The Essence of Innocence: Consequences of Dehumanizing Black Children. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The title of this piece is of course stolen from Alex Kotolowitz whose 1987 book (and then Oprah TV movie) chronicled the lives of two boys growing up in the Henry Horner Homes.  The title is meant to convey how concentrated poverty and its’ attendant social ills deprive children of the joy of innocence and the opportunity to be carefree. But as the introductory quote from this recent study reveals, there is another meaning too. Racism, particularly anti-Blackness, and deeply held implicit biases also disfigure “innocence”, denying Black children both humanity and childhood, defining them as miniature “adults” to be feared and then controlled.

This has profound implications for everyday interaction with adult caretakers, teachers, and police. Those who are expected to protect childhood innocence are now inclined to deny it, and these singular reactions by adults in charge serve to replicate and reinforce institutional racism. This denial of innocence shapes the racial contours of the school to prison pipeline , and , as we have seen again this week, underlies decisions to charge and incarcerate juveniles as adults, and then brutalize them once they are in custody.

Because There Are No Children Here.

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CI: Defiant Displays of White, Patriarchal Power

July 30, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

 

Defiant Displays of White, Patriarchal Power
by Kay Whitlock

It’s showtime, and, though they claim otherwise, recent performances by a number of midway carnies, confidence men, and quick change artists have nothing to do with justice.

They have everything to do with the countless ways in which the exercise of white, patriarchal political, social, and economic power in the United States masquerades as “justice.” Sometimes the displays of that power are particularly defiant: actions taken and decisions made and implemented to remind us that no matter what reforms are enacteded, white, patriarchal power remains intact.  It is often deadly, and without serious consequence: it is meant to warn, intimidate, intensify punishment, and silence: If you’re not careful – or lucky – this could happen to you.

carnivale-wallpapers-2Those who exercise or authorize this force are seldom held accountable for the harm they inflict on so many in any meaningful way. We need not rely on conspiracy theories to take note of these things; they are, in this so-called “colorblind” society, conscious as well as (sometimes unconscious) reflexive manifestations of supremacist ideology that have informed U.S. history since the days of colonial contact and the structural violence of chattel slavery.  The messages: your lives don’t matter. We can do anything to you that we want to. Your lives continue or end at our discretion. 

Those at greatest risk are people who are incarcerated and presumptively criminalized peoples: people of color, especially black people, and poor people.

White men  (no surprise here!) inflict much of this harm. But white women and men and women of color may also internalize or otherwise accept the supremacist norms and aura of untrammeled authority that have always permeated policing, the criminal legal system, and the pursuit of safety and security.

And when this power is fundamentally questioned, challenged, or resisted, it ups the ante in violent ways – all under the rubric of safety and security.

For example: Marissa Alexander, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner and “Botched” Executions.

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CI: “Broken Windows”/Broken Lives

July 23, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, Prison Industrial Complex

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

 

“Broken Windows”/Broken Lives and the Ruse of “Public Order” Policing
by nancy a heitzeg

The recent murder of Eric Garner at the hands of NYPD brings to light again the never-ending unanswered questions. Unchecked police killings of mostly Black Men – one every 28 hours. Rampant racial profiling, most recently high-lighted in Floyd v City of New York. Excessive use of force, even in the handling of non-violent crime. Deadly restraint tactics, such as the choke-hold  that killed Michael Stewart, killed Anthony Baez, and was supposedly banned in NYC despite being the on-going subject of more than 1000 civilian complaints.

“Brother Eric Garner No Longer Breathes Courtesy Of Banned NYPD Chokehold. Rest In Power.” Spike Lee

Lurking behind all these atrocities is the flawed theory and fatal practice that makes it all possible: “Broken Windows” and public order policing. Widely promoted but rarely publicly critiqued, in light of Eric Garner, let’s take a closer look.

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CI: Total Oppression/Total Liberation

July 16, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Eco-Justice, Education, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, What People are Doing to Change the World

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Total Oppression/Total Liberation
by nancy a heitzeg

“Throughout the history of our ascent to dominance as the master species, our victimization of animals has served as the model and foundation for our victimization of each other..”  ~Charles Patterson, Eternal Treblinka, 2002

Last week: The anniversary of the 300,000 strong California Prisoner Hunger Strike in protest against the excessive use of solitary confinement . The release of Raju the weeping elephant after enduring 50 years years in chains. The anniversary of the not guilty verdict in George Zimmerman’s trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin.  Federal terrorism charges for two animal rights activists who allegedly freed 2,000 mink and foxes from fur farms. The release of Occupy activist Cecily McMillian from Rikers Island, after serving time for felony second-degree assault for elbowing a police officer who groped her during an arrest. Seaworld, desperate. Children, warehoused at borders, bombed and beyond.

Are some of these situations more urgent, more news-worthy, more deserving of our actions than others? That is for each to ask and answer.

But never forget: All oppressions are connected. Human/non-human animals – objectified, bought/sold, slaughtered.

The caging,  the cruelty,  the exploitation,  the torture,  the violence began, and must end. Together.

total lib

Total Liberation Radio Episode 5

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CI: Follow the Money

July 09, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Terrorism, Intersectionality, Media Conglomeration, Military Industrial Complex, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Follow the Money: Private Prison Industry Funds Skewed Research
by nancy a heitzeg

This is an on-going story that isn’t new, probably isn’t unique, but which certainly serves as a case study in collusion. It offers a road map for what surely lies ahead. In April of 2013, Temple University Economics Professors Simon Hakim and Erwin Blackstone released  “a working study” (please note, this study has yet to be peer-reviewed or published) touting cost savings of “12- 58%” when states use private prisons. The study was widely touted as “independent research” by Correctional Corporations of America (CCA) and further published on the GEO Group website, which ties the study to The Independent Institute, a free market/free for all “think” tank. GEO also links to glowing op-eds published across the nation:

Buried in the fine print ( sometimes omitted altogether) was this:

The study received funding by members of the private corrections industry.

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CI: Some Thoughts on Language and “Industrial Complexes”

July 02, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Terrorism, Education, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, Prison Industrial Complex

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Some Thoughts on Language and “Industrial Complexes”*
by nancy a heitzeg

I write a lot about the prison industrial complex. And I think a lot too about the power of language, of naming and claiming and all that entails. Recent conversations and observations have led to questions about the proliferation of “industrial complex” as attached to nearly everything. Savior (mostly White) Industrial Complex. Ally Industrial Complex. Academic Industrial Complex. And yesterday, i saw this: Anti-Aging Industrial Complex. In some ways, this usage makes perfect sense. These  “complexes” do exist.  There is a Non-Profit Industrial Complex, an Athletic Industrial Complex, and a Medical Industrial Complex too — a term I have often used myself.

Since we live in a society thoroughly dominated by the multi-national capitalist corporation ( the Supreme Court of the United States will not let you forget!), I suppose at some point it might be fair to make the claim that the entire damn deal is an “industrial complex” of some sort or another. An interdependent, interlocking mess of political and economic interests. Self-reinforcing. Self-perpetuating. Forever and Ever. Amen.

But if  we call everything  “an industrial complex”, then what does that mean for those devoted to the critique and abolition of the prison industrial complex and its’ counter-part the military industrial complex? Does overuse trivialize the deadly meaning? Obscure the scope of this peculiar power over life? And death?

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