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CI: Metaphysics, Imagination, and Police/Prison “Reform”

August 26, 2015 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Police Brutality, Police State, 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.

 

Metaphysics, Imagination, and Police/Prison “Reform”: A Criminal Injustice Op-Ed
 by Kay Whitlock

That reform trap door can open awfully fast under unsuspecting feet.

Recently it opened up under Black youth leadership in the Windy City when the ACLU of Illinois announced the results of its secret negotiations with the City of Chicago regarding the Chicago Police Department’s “stop and frisk” practices.

In this case, that agreement wasn’t simply a breach of good faith with Black youth who have been organizing with relentless persistence against structural racism and police violence in their many forms. This was an outright betrayal that literally undermined the efforts of We Charge Genocide (WCG) – a grassroots organization comprised of people who are most heavily impacted by that violence – to address “stop and frisk” in some fundamentally different ways.

An open letter from We Charge Genocide details the nature and effects of that betrayal.

The ACLU-negotiated agreement calls for police data to be released confidentially to the ACLU and a designated consultant; the public can only try to gain access through the cumbersome processes of the Freedom of Information Act. There is no certainty it will be provided at all, much less in a timely way or without legal intervention.

By contrast, the We Charge Genocide-initiated Stops, Transparency, Oversight, and Protection (STOP) Act would require data collection for all stops, including demographic information for those stopped, but it goes much further. It also would record the badge numbers of officers involved as well as more detailed information about the stop: location, reason, result. And the law would require that all those stopped be given receipts so that they have demonstrable proof that this interaction occurred.

Knowing the STOP Act was moving forward, ACLU nonetheless went ahead with secret negotiations with city officials; community partners who had long been exposing and organizing against “stop and frisk” and other forms of police violence, abuse, and misconduct were left out in the cold.

With the release of the open letter, the ACLU pronounced itself “confused” by the WCG response and, in effect, attempted to explain how Black youth organizers were wrong in their assessment. ACLU also declared its support for continuing efforts to pass the STOP (Stops, Transparency, Oversight and Protection) Act with its stronger transparency and accountability provisions. But the damage had been done; Mayor Rahm Emmanuel sought a filing delay from City Council members who were sponsors of the STOP ACT.

ACLU provided cover to and brokered a deal with the Mayor who could now sidestep any more dealings with grassroots advocates and activists who created momentum for change in the first place and played an important role in forcing the City’s hand on a landmark reparations package for police torture survivors and their families.

Thankfully, We Charge Genocide and other grassroots Chicago organizations representing the communities bearing the brunt of structural racism in its multiple forms, including police violence, will not be deterred; we applaud and support them.

But this is a cautionary lesson for those on the trembling and rapidly shifting ground of criminal legal system/policing/prison reform.

How do we begin to understand it? Why would the American Civil Liberties Union do such a thing? Yet the question isn’t really just about ACLU. And the answer won’t be found in narrow discussions about issues, policies, and tactics.

This problem is structural and – to use an unusual word in debates about the criminal legal system, its methods, and its reach – metaphysical. If we’re not talking about the vision and principles underlying our proposals, we end up with a reformed version of essentially the same civic catastrophe.

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Revelations: Welcome to #Dismaland

August 23, 2015 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Eco-Justice, Intersectionality, What People are Doing to Change the World

from Dismalnd, Bansky 2015

from Dismalnd, Bansky 2015

Dismaland: Amusements and Anarchism, Banksy 2015

Bansky’s Orca/Anti-SeaWorld Art

SeaWorld sees profits plunge 84% as customers desert controversial park

Blackfish

CI: #MikeBrown and #Ferguson, Special Issue of ProudFlesh

August 19, 2015 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Intersectionality, Police Brutality, Police State, 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.

 

#MikeBrown and #Ferguson, Special Issue of ProudFlesh
from nancy a heitzeg

PF pngProudFlesh: New Afrikan Journal of Culture, Politics, and Consciousness recently published a Special Issue on Mike Brown and Ferguson. Guest Editors for this Special Edition are myself  and Rose M. Brewer, Ph.D. Professor of African American & African Studies, University of Minnesota.Much gratitude to her and the many contributors.

ProudFlesh: New Afrikan Journal of Culture, Politics and Consciousness is a peer-reviewed journal, a terrain for promoting exchange, thinking, for igniting the common impulse to create, to perform, to interrogate in spite of the odds fueled by repression and rootlessness.

This Special On-line Issue is modeled after the Special Issue Dedicated to Trayvon Martin, offers a collection of critical responses to Ferguson in the first six months of the struggle. It begins with the death of Mike Brown and closes with the Department of Justice Report on Ferguson,

Of course this is just the beginning, but one year on, it is important to look back top see what has been won/lost, which directions the movement has taken now, which voices have been lifted and those from whom we need to hear more.

Hope you read it — the issue is available for free and forever. You will jsut be asked to create aan account an dlogin to fully access al articles.

For the Struggle…

 

PF png

Criminal InJustice: #Ferguson/#Everywhere Still

August 12, 2015 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, Police Brutality, Police State, 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.

 

#Ferguson/#Everywhere Still
by nancy a heitzeg

Editors Note: It has been one year since the murder of Mike Brown and the ignition of the Ferguson Uprising. This piece was published then and reprinted today — so little has changed that it perhaps even more relevant now.

Yes there is greater public awareness of and more political conversation about police violence. Yes there have been unabated protests and the widespread declaration that #BlackLivesMatter. There are organized efforts such as The Counted to document  – in the spirit of #Every28Hours – what officials cannot and will not.

But Ferguson is still under siege, a police state for profit. So is Everywhere. There have been calls for “reform” that primarily involve body camera, a proposition insured only to further the enrichment of Taser International and increase our own surveillance. And the body count and corresponding hashtag frenzy continues to mount. Police have killed at least 1,083 Americans in the year since Mike Brown, and are on track in 2015 to kill more than 1.100. As has been the case forever, the targets are disproportionately Black – killed at a rate of more than 3 times all other racial groups combined.

It is difficult to tell if these numbers are actually rising or just seem to be due to increased accounting. At a moment when questions on tactics and strategy are deemed impolitic/verboten, it is fair to ask – is it possible that rising deaths and jailhouse lynchings are police retaliation? Is it possible that protest is broken – that police are prepared not only to absorb street demonstration, but to escalate the punishing?  

What creative challenges to the system can be mounted — the entire system – not just the police as avant-garde – but the prison industrial complex as the centerpiece of raced classed gendered control? Can we stop looking for “justice” from the very same killing machine?

How can we effect deep change so that next year at this time we will not still be lamenting more of the same –

In #Ferguson/At #Everywhere……..

 

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Revelations: #MikeBrown

August 09, 2015 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Police Brutality, Police State, Prison Industrial Complex

Ferguson Tankas, Francisco Alarcón – Author and Educator, Davis, CA

Ferguson Tankas, Francisco Alarcón – Author and Educator, Davis, CA

CI: #BlackAugust

August 05, 2015 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Imperialism, Intersectionality, Police State, 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 CST

 

#BlackAugust
Editors note by nancy a heitzeg

For Mike Brown, for Ferguson – In Struggle and Love…

As we approach the one year anniversary of Mike Brown’s murder and the Ferguson uprising, let us locate that in the long history of Black August, in the long history that marks that month as a site of repression and radical resistance.

It is too a time – in the words of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement –  to “STUDY AND PRACTICE EDUCATION AND OUTREACH ABOUT OUR HISTORY AND THE CURRENT CONDITIONS OF OUR PEOPLE.”

Whoever you are: Read, Reflect and Resist.

 

 

2010 feature length documentary directed by dream hampton for the NY chapter of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement

Revelations: Mean Streets

July 26, 2015 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Eco-Justice, Intersectionality

alligator

Stray alligator found wandering the streets of New York City has died

“…people are enchanted by tiny alligators only to lose interest as they grow.

“There is this misconception that zoos will take them,” he said. “They can’t be released. They can’t be let go. It’s really sad.’ ‘

***

Criminal InJustice: Eastern State Penitentiary, Cautionary Tales

July 22, 2015 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: 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 CST

 

Eastern State Penitentiary, Cautionary Tales
by nancy a heitzeg

The ethics of prison tours is a subject broached here before — whether it be tours of prisons currently in operation such as LSP Angola or Central California Facility for Women, (where prisoners are encountered and sometimes displayed) or the prison as museums/tourist attractions as Alcatraz is. And so too Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP), the first true prison in the U.S. and the architectural model for many institutions around the world.

The questions that always arise are these: What are we expected to learn here? Are there social justice lessons that can outweigh the costs of participation?

Eastern State Penitentiary is a story of the pitfalls of reform gone awry. Founded in an era where institutions were believed to be a panacea for social ills, ESP was meant to rehabilitate through solitary reflect and penance. It was meant to be better than the Bedlam that was once the Walnut Street Jail, but in the end, it was not. Buried alive in catacomb like cells, the endless solitary confinement produced its’ own sort of madness. Charles Dickens visited the prison in 1842, and wrote:
esp jpg

“I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment, prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers; and in guessing at it myself, and in reasoning from what I have seen written upon their faces, and what to my certain knowledge they feel within, I am only the more convinced that there is a depth of terrible endurance in which none but the sufferers themselves can fathom, and which no man has a right to inflict upon his fellow creature. I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body; and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye and sense of touch as scars upon the flesh; because its wounds are not upon the surface, and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear; therefore the more I denounce it, as a secret punishment which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay.”

Eastern State Penitentiary is also a story of repetitious history. The solitary design of ESP exactly foreshadows  — in stone rather than steel – the design and horrors of Pelican Bay, of Florence ADX, of any Super Max. Nearly 200 years ago it was known that 23 hour a day lock down and extreme social isolation would drive prisoners mad — and yet the practice persists, by default or design.

In the end, perhaps what we learn on all prison tours is this: No good can ever come of it.

As the President visits prison too,  as campaign talk of “reform” swirls, Remember.

And Resist.

12 Monkeys, filmed at Eastern State Penitentiary, 1995