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CI: Justice As Theft

June 11, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Terrorism, Education, Housing, Immigration, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, Poverty, Voting Rights, Workers' 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.

Justice As Theft: Into the Twilight Zone
by Kay Whitlock

In 2011, Tonya McDowell, a homeless woman from Bridgeport, Connecticut, was charged with first degree (felony) larceny  and conspiracy to commit larceny for enrolling her 6-year-old son in Brookside Elementary School in the community of Norwalk.  Because McDowell and her son did not legally reside in Norwalk, the rationale for the charges was theft of $15,686 in educational costs from the Norwalk public school system. She faced a possible sentence of 20 years in prison. Moreover, McDowell’s babysitter was evicted from public housing because she apparently assisted by providing  false documents necessary for enrolling the young boy.

McDowell and her son are black; the Norwalk public school system is predominantly white – and therefore better funded than the Bridgeport system, in which people of color predominate. Essentially, she was charged with “stealing” a good public education for her son, who is entitled to public education, but not, presumably, a good one.

This prosecution was outrageous, right?  Yes – by any reasonable standard of human decency, anyway. But we live in a societal Twilight Zone in which the often-subterranean currents of the dominant U.S. public imagination respond to virtually all claims to social and economic justice as some form of theft, with all of the dissonance, danger, anxiety, emotional vulnerability, defensiveness, and fury associated with its evocation.

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CI: The Time Has Come

May 21, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Terrorism, Education, Housing, Intersectionality, Poverty, 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.

The Time Has Come
Editor’s Note from nancy a heitzeg

It is a week where there is too much to say, so instead we will say very little. We stand in the shadows of the anniversaries of the never-implemented Brown decision, and the day Philadelphia Police Department said “Let the Fire Burn!”We note the occasion of the birthday’s of Malcolm X, Lorraine Hansbury, and Ho Chi Minh, as we still demand an end to mass youth incarceration, brace ourselves for a “debate” about reparations,  and await word as to whether a Black Woman has any Ground to Stand.

Let us reflect on this recent history, not on what has been won, but what is left to be done. A History, that is neither some disregarded dustbin, nor a mausoleum/museum filled with past relics of partial victories.

History is Alive. And History is A Weapon.

Use it.

Eyes on the Prize: The Time Has Come (1964-66)
After a decade-long cry for justice, a new sound is heard in the civil rights movement: the insistent call for power. Malcolm X takes an eloquent nationalism to urban streets as a younger generation of black leaders listens. In the South, Stokely Carmichael and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) move from “Freedom Now!” to “Black Power!” as the fabric of the traditional movement changes.

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NY Courts Respond to Rising Foreclosures and Conferences

November 12, 2013 By: seeta Category: Civil Rights, Consumer Rights, Housing, Poverty

From NYLJ:

After the number of foreclosure cases filed in state court plummeted during the past two years, the courts are now seeing a “markedly higher” rate of filings and coping with a rise in settlement conferences, according to an Office of Court Administration report.

Despite the sharp jump in filings, the Nov. 1 report also emphasized that an increasing amount of homeowners are getting legal representation during settlement conferences.

As of early October, there were almost 34,000 residential foreclosures filed in the court system this year. By the end of the year, filings could top 44,000 according to the report’s projections.

If the numbers bear out, that would mean more filings this year than the past two years combined, when there were 25,411 foreclosure actions filed in 2012 and 16,655 actions in 2011.

See foreclosure filing trends by county.

The rise in filings suggests lenders’ improved ability to vouch for the accuracy of their court papers in affirmations after two years of difficulties, said the report, drawing on data from October 2012 to October 2013.

The affirmation requirement was imposed by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman in October 2010. Effective Aug. 30 a “certificate of merit” replaced the affirmation requirement for new cases. The new requirement is supposed to move cases more quickly.

“This report marks a period that has seen a tremendous spike in new foreclosure filings. As a result, the number of mandated settlement conferences has soared. …Despite these staggering statistics and challenges, the percentage of represented defendants still increased. Much progress has been made in addressing the burgeoning foreclosure docket that continues to rise,” said the report, noting foreclosures account for about one-third of the court system’s civil caseload.

Government For Good: The Wellstone! Way

October 25, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: 2014 Mid-term Elections, Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Development, Education, Government for Good, Housing, Immigration, Intersectionality, Poverty, What People are Doing to Change the World

wellstone 2

“Politics is not about power. Politics is not about money. Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people’s lives.”

~ Senator Paul Wellstone ((July 21, 1944 – October 25, 2002)

wellstone 2

In era where government is so vilified, we at Critical Mass Progress would like to consider Government for Good. Collective governance – past present and future –  can work to defend/secure rights, distribute social and economic goods, provide legal recognition, jobs, healthcare and more., create opportunities via public schools, public works, and public policy that centers everyday people.

Everyday.

In this recurring feature,, we will highlight the many ways that government has worked for the common good. It is a call too to imagine what more can be done – locally, at the state level, and nationally to reclaim the idea — the reality too – that government can work to “improve people’s lives.”

Perhaps there is no better recent role model here than the late Senator Paul Wellstone, who died along with  his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia and five others, in that fateful plane crash 11 years ago today. His legacy and his words speak for themselves, and remind us, always,  of what  government for good can do. Please check the links below for more.

The Conscience of the Senate .

Thank you Paul, this one’s for you.

Wellstone’s Revenge: How Minnesota Democrats Took Their State Back

MPR, Memorials Keep Paul Wellstone’s Memory Alive

Al Franken, Paul Wellstone’s Legacy, 10 Years Later

Wellstone Action

Wellstone!

Steve Heitzeg has put together a bench memorial to Paul Wellstone. On the bench is a photograph of a smiling Wellstone, along with a Wellstone quote about social justice. (MPR Photo/ Mark Zdechlik)

Steve Heitzeg has put together a bench memorial to Paul Wellstone. On the bench is a photograph of a smiling Wellstone, along with a Wellstone quote about social justice. (MPR Photo/ Mark Zdechlik)

 

North Carolina’s Moral Mondays

July 23, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Legislature, Education, Housing, Immigration, Imperialism, Intersectionality, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, Voting Rights, White Privilege


Moral Mondays protest in North Carolina. Photographer: Eric Etheridge.

From The Nation:

North Carolina was long regarded as one of the most progressive Southern states—an island of moderation amid a sea of conservatism. But since Republicans took over the state legislature in 2010 and the governorship in 2012—putting the GOP in control for the first time since 1896—the state has personified the hard-right shift in state capitols across the country after the 2010 elections, moving abruptly from purple to deep red. So far this year, legislation passed or pending by Republicans would eliminate the earned-income tax credit for 900,000; decline Medicaid coverage for 500,000; end federal unemployment benefits for 170,000 in a state with the country’s fifth-highest jobless rate; cut pre-K for 30,000 kids while shifting $90 million from public education to voucher schools; slash taxes for the top 5 percent while raising taxes on the bottom 95 percent; allow for guns to be purchased without a background check and carried in parks, playgrounds, restaurants and bars; ax public financing of judicial races; and prohibit death row inmates from challenging racially discriminatory verdicts. “They’ve drank all the Tea Party they could drink and sniffed all the Koch they could sniff,” Barber says.

The Moral Monday protests began in April, after the legislature introduced voting restrictions that would require a state-issued photo ID (which 318,000 registered voters don’t have) to cast a ballot, drastically cut early voting, eliminate same-day registration during the early voting period, end the $2,000–$2,500 child dependency tax deduction for parents whose college students vote where they attend school, and rescind the automatic restoration of voting rights for ex-felons. Pro-democracy groups dubbed the legislation the Screw the Voter Act of 2013 and the Longer Lines to Vote Bill. The clear aim was to dampen turnout of the young and minority voters who propelled Obama to a surprise victory in North Carolina in 2008 and a near repeat in 2012.

On April 29, Barber and sixteen others, mostly ministers, were arrested inside the North Carolina legislature for trespassing and failure to disperse. He called it a peaceful “pray-in.” The next week, thirty more people were arrested, including the former dean of arts and sciences at Duke University. The numbers grew quickly. By July 15, 838 people had been arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience.

“It really caught on like in the old days,” says Bob Zellner, a former field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who lives in the city of Wilson. “We’ve been waiting for a renewal of the civil rights movement, and this is it.” The protests are building something unique in North Carolina—a multiracial, multi-issue movement centered around social justice. It’s the kind of thing the South hasn’t seen much of since the 1960s, when students at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro jump-started the modern civil rights movement by refusing to leave the lunch counter at Woolworth’s.

Barber is the MLK of the Moral Monday movement, a charismatic preacher and savvy political organizer. “What do we do when they try to take away our rights?” he asks at the church. “We fight! We fight! We fight!” the crowd shouts, standing and pumping their fists. “Forward together,” Barber says, invoking the slogan of the protesters. “Not one step back,” the congregation responds. Simple placards are passed around: Protect Every American’s Right to Vote; Stop Attacks on the Poor and Working Poor; Why Deny Unemployment Benefits?

The Feds Are Suing A Euless Apartment Complex for Refusing To House ‘Curry People’

April 22, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Housing, Immigration, Intersectionality, White Privilege

From The Dallas Observer:

To spot the difference, you’ll have to go to building 18, where all but one unit is leased to renters of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent. Most of the other buildings have none.

The federal government thinks this is by design. According to a lawsuit filed by the feds on Thursday and first reported by the Morning News, complex manager Nancy Quandt systemically denied housing to “curry people,” as she called them.

Quandt, according to the lawsuit, instructed her leasing agents that they should funnel any person who had an Indian-sounding surname or accent or, basically, was brown and looked as if they might enjoy curry, into buildings 16 and 18. If those were full, they were to claim the entire complex was occupied, despite the fact that, throughout 2009 at least, there were no fewer than 20 units available.

It’s not just that Quandt didn’t want such people living in her complex. She didn’t want them living at all. She was once overheard musing to a tenant about how she hated Middle Easterners and wished she could put them on an airplane or island and “blow them up.”

Fair Housing Lawsuit against Stone Bridge apartments

Sequester Starvation: Women and Children First

March 22, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Corrupt Legislature, Economic Terrorism, Education, Housing, Intersectionality, Poverty

“It’s Simple Mathematics”

February 16, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: 2012 Election, Anti-Racism, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Terrorism, Education, Housing, Intersectionality, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege

 

Real Solutions Don’t Demand Marriage, Just lots of Math..

See also Prison Culture, The Atlantic and The Washington Post

black line Capture