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CI: The Mugshot and the Money

June 25, 2014 at 6:36 pm by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Consumer Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Terrorism, Intersectionality, Media Conglomeration, 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.

The Mugshot and the Money
by nancy a heitzeg

There it was – the explosion/exposure of the cultural morass of our collective criminalizing presumptions, assumptions, exploitations, objectifications, commodifications – conjured by the gaze of one Jeremy Meeks*. One picture literally unleashing 10 trillion revelatory words.

Meeks is now an international media sensation, because of his face not his case. His model good looks have made him the object of both desire  and derision, the subject now of newscasts “wagging the finger of shame”, sensationalistic headlines and labels such as “hottie thug”,  photo shop memes,  castigation over his prior criminal history and his (maybe past?) gang affiliations, and gave rise to a troubling Twitter hashtag #FelonCrushFriday moved beyond Meeks to include the mugshots of nameless others (mostly women of color), every known misconception about the criminal injustice system/”criminals”/”gang members”, the “white gaze”, colorism, rampant misogyny and homophobia, ridicule, scorn, calls for prison rape and impossibly harsh punishments.

In a word – Dehumanization. As Mariame Kaba notes in No, Mugshots Do Not “Humanize” Anyone…:

The mugshot then is a tool used by the state to flatten individuals and turn them into rationalized, bureaucratized ‘things.’ This process is so successful that many observers never consider the pain and suffering (too often) etched on the faces of those being photographed. These images of the accused (usually never convicted) are made public for all to consume as they like. Indeed in the age of the internet, police departments regularly post mugshots on social media. Look at this ‘thing,’ the gatekeepers of the state tell us. And millions of people oblige.

Because we live in the midst of the profit-driven, privatizing epicenter of the now globalizing prison industrial complex, there is another word too. Capitalize. It is no longer enough to dehumanize – to leave stigmatized, banished, branded, marked in a degraded status as “criminal”.  Dehumanization is the prerequisite of commodification, and yes that abounded too. Immediately internet entrepreneurs were creating T-shirts and phone cases, while high end coat-tail riders like the Warhol Museum and Orange is the New Black (see The Reign of Whitey Is Never Over by Yasmin Nair) were using the hash tag to pimp art exhibits and television shows.

Par for the course. Profit — that is the often under-estimated essence of the prison industrial complex. We are aware of the pic as a source of cheap labor, private/public supply and construction contracts, job creation, continued media profits from exaggerated crime reporting and crime/punishment as entertainment and of the newly emerging “markets” in privatized community corrections. Even this is the tip of the iceberg as we start to include the immense reliance on privatized background check companies and on-line repositories of criminal records. We are still uncovering the manifold ways – both actualized and imagined — in which there is money to be made.

On Mugshots and More.

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Revelations: Das Kapital

June 22, 2014 at 10:00 am by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Eco-Justice, Economic Development, Economic Terrorism, Intersectionality

Ezra Pound’s Proposition

by Robert Hass

from Vol. 36 No. 5

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3gdam“Beauty is sexuality, and sexuality

is the fertility of the earth and the fertility

Of the earth is economics. Though he is no recommendation

For poets on the subject of finance,

I thought of him in the thick heat

Of the Bangkok night. Not more than fourteen, she saunters up to you

Outside the Shangri-la Hotel

And says, in plausible English,

“How about a party, big guy?”

  

Here is more or less how it works:

The World Bank arranges the credit and the dam

Floods three hundred villages, and the villagers find their way

To the city where their daughters melt into the teeming streets,

And the dam’s great turbine, beautifully tooled

In Lund or Dresden or Detriot, financed

by Lazard Freres in Paris or the Morgan Bank in New York,

enabled by judicious gifts from Bechtel of San Fransisco

or Halliburton in Houston to the local political elite,

Spun by the force of rushing water,

Have become hives of shimmering silver

And, down river, they throw that bluish throb of light

Across her cheekbones and her lovely skin.”

 

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CI: Connect The Dots

June 18, 2014 at 5:12 pm by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Eco-Justice, 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.

Connect the Dots ~ The Pentagon, Paramilitary Policing,  Protest and You
Editor’s Note by nancy a heitzeg

CI has written extensively about the growing connections between the military industrial complex and the prison industrial complex, replete wit the escalating rhetoric, weaponry and tactics of war. While this connection is long-standing, the post 9/11 War on Terror has increased the collusion, expanded the scope of  policing efforts  beyond “crime” and towards domestic protest, and criminalized/militarized non-violent activism as “terrorism”. This phenomenon is not exclusive to the United States, as noted in a recent report, “Take Back The Streets: Repression and Criminalization of Protest Around the World.” The report reveals a solidification of paramilitary tactics characterized by:

  • “pre-emptive suppression of protesters,
  • increasingly arbitrary use of advanced surveillance technologies, informants, and agent provocateurs, .
  • limited concern with the First Amendment rights of protesters and police obligation to respect and protect those rights,
  • limited tolerance for community disruption, limited communication between police and demonstrators, and
  • extensive use of arrests and force as a method of managing demonstrators. “

None of this is new or particularly surprising, but in light of recent news of Department of Defense preparations for controlling domestic unrest and the unabated flow of war machines to local police departments, it is perhaps worth considering the scale, scope and endgame implications.

We will leave it to you to connect the dots…..

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Revelations: “Our Best Weapon is Sunlight…”

June 15, 2014 at 8:55 am by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Consumer Rights, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Injustice Series, Eco-Justice, Economic Terrorism, Education, Intersectionality, What People are Doing to Change the World

CI: Justice As Theft

June 11, 2014 at 6:15 pm 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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Revelations: The Pale Blue Dot

June 09, 2014 at 12:22 am by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Eco-Justice, Education, Spirituality, What People are Doing to Change the World

Audiobook, Carl Sagan, h/t @eleaticstranger

CI: Essential Data/Graphics from Prison Policy Initiative

June 04, 2014 at 5:34 pm by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, 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.

Essential Data/Graphics from Prison Policy Initiative 
Editor’s note by nancy a heitzeg

We are CI are indebted for the work of Prison Policy Initiative. In addition to their campaigns  against prison gerrymandering, the suppression of inmate rights to communication, and sentencing enhancement zones, they have recently provided a series of data sets/related graphs that offer clarity into the nature and scope of mass incarceration, both nationally  and at the state level.

pp1PNGIn the midst of claims that incarceration rates are falling and that the “tough on crime” era is over, the PPI data reveals the reality of a nation that still incarcerates at stunning rates, and with extreme racial dis proportionality. The majority of prisoners are located at the state level, and slight dips in national incarceration rate are driven almost exclusively by drops in New York and California, whose decline is both court-ordered and questionable. Other states continue to imprison at staggering levels with slight declines or steady rates despite clamors of “reform”.

The comprehensive portrait of our prison nation offered by PPI comes at time when clarity is most needed, and provides those committed to decarceration with the necessary tools to cut through the fog. With permission and  much gratitude,  CI is please to reprint excerpts from the following Prison Policy Initiative Briefings:

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Revelations: The Mayor of Castro Street

June 01, 2014 at 9:52 am by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, What People are Doing to Change the World

harveymilk

Harvey Milk Stamps ~ Forever 49 cents

n 1977, Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, making him one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States. His career was tragically cut short nearly a year after he took office, when he and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were assassinated.

The stamp art centers on a photo of Milk taken in front of his camera store in San Francisco. The colors of the gay pride flag appear in a vertical strip in the top left corner.

A commitment to serving a broad constituency, not just gay people, helped make Milk an effective and popular leader. He was an eloquent speaker with a winning sense of humor and was able to build coalitions between diverse groups. His achievements gave hope and confidence to gay people at a time when the community was encountering widespread hostility.

Milk believed that government should represent all citizens, insuring equality and providing needed services. In the years since his death, there have been hundreds of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender public officials in America. In 2009, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Milk the Medal of Freedom.

Photographer Daniel Nicoletta took the photograph used in the stamp art, which was designed by art director Antonio Alcalá.

The Harvey Milk stamp is being issued as a Forever® stamp. This Forever stamp will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce rate.

Made in the USA.

Issue Date: May 22, 2014

The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts