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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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CI: The Mugshot and the Money

June 25, 2014 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: “Our Best Weapon is Sunlight…”

June 15, 2014 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 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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