Subscribe

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.

(more…)

CI: Poverty as a Prison

January 08, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Development, Economic Terrorism, 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.

Poverty as a Prison
by nancy a heitzeg

“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”
                                                                            ~Anatole France, The Red Lily, 1894

Before the War on Drugs became our national fixation, there was a short-lived, halfheartedly implemented War on Poverty. Would that the same amount of resources and political will been expended here. But hyper-individualism, rampant capitalism, and a political discourse that persistently racializes poverty and stigmatizes governmental assistance continue to stand in the way.

We are left instead with the War on the Poor.

The gaps between rich and poor grow, while Congress slashes $ 1 billion from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), refuses to extend meager Unemployment Insurance (UI) to millions out of work, and an increase in the minimum wage ( which would still fall far short of Living Wage) remains contentious.

Our national failure to provide any meaningful economic opportunities for tens of millions of Americans is doubly bitter when poverty and homelessness — a realm of little to no choice – is then reframed as exactly choice, the result of some failure of “personal responsibility”.

The reality of course is that over-whelming majority of the 47 million officially poor are there because of structure and policy — low wages, lack of affordable housing, a shrinking social safety net, a decimated public education system, a host of conservative and neo-liberal “reforms – not because of flawed personal choices.

The reality is that poverty per se is a sort of prison, where choice is heavily constrained, surveillance is endless, “social services” are characterized by red-tape, condescension and increased overlap with the criminal justice system, where survival shapes daily life, and Right Now is the key consideration.

If this were not challenge enough, poverty itself is additionally criminalized via a host of federal, state and local laws, Not that this is new – but the cumulative effect of these laws in the context of the prison industrial complex, a collapsed job market, and a government bent on “privatization” is a particularly toxic mix at this moment.

(more…)

CI: Unpacking “Chiraq” – Repression, RICO, and War on Terror Tactics

June 19, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Military Industrial Complex, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege

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.

Unpacking “Chiraq”: Repression, RICO, and War on Terror Tactics
by nancy a heitzeg

Editors Note: Wrote this one for my people at Prison Culture and Project NIA. Located in Chicago, a city increasingly labeled –  by both friend and foe – as “Chiraq”. This piece is a follow-up to Unpacking ‘Chiraq’ #1: Chief Keef, Badges of Honor, and Capitalism – please read it. It is brilliant analysis of how “Chiraq” is claimed in “elegies of survival” by those who live through it everyday. “Chiraq” is normalizing while pathologizing, glorifying while vilifying, the total link between domestic/foreign “enemies”.  Today we explore the latter…

What does it mean to call a city a War Zone? To write entire Black and Brown neighborhoods – and all their inhabitants – out of the United States of America and into a script that so effectively “others” them that they are now a foreign enemy state? What does it mean for public perception? What does it mean for police state response?

While the term “Chiraq” may have one set of meanings for those who survive Chicago’s high gun violence rate (see Unpacking ‘Chiraq’ #1: Chief Keef, Badges of Honor, and Capitalism), it serves to legitimate, without question, already solidified stereotypes of youth of color. “Chiraq” also links, per usual this violence to gangs. “Chiraq” implies that the already draconian domestic police approach to gangs is insufficient, and that a military response is now needed.

What other message could one take from the recent edition of HBO’s Vice Episode #9 Chiraq ? Where segments of a major US city are described like this — “The South Side of Chicago is basically a failed state within the borders of the U.S.”? Where viewers are blithely taken from Chicago’s Southside to then “hunting oil pirates in Nigeria”?

The lethal combination of gangs and guns has turned Chicago into a war zone. To see why the Windy City, now dubbed “Chiraq,” had the country’s highest homicide rate in 2012, VICE visits Chicago’s most dangerous areas, where handguns are plentiful and the police and community leaders are fighting a losing battle against gang violence. In the neighborhood of Englewood, we patrol with police, visit with religious leaders, and hang out with members of gangs – soldiers in a turf war that has spread into new communities as projects are destroyed and residents are forced to move elsewhere.

“Chiraq” means War. Literally.

(more…)

Extended Unemployment Benefits Didn’t Keep Unemployed From Taking Jobs

May 08, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Development, Intersectionality, Poverty, Workers' Rights

From HuffPo:

Extended unemployment benefits Congress put in place at the outset of the Great Recession didn’t discourage people from taking jobs, according to new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

Princeton University economics professor Henry Farber and San Francisco Fed economist Rob Valletta found that extended benefits might have encouraged people to continue to look for work longer so that they could remain eligible for benefits. While the longer searches for jobs could have boosted the unemployment rate by four-tenths of a percentage point, the compensation didn’t make the long-term jobless unwilling to work.

“It did not reduce the job finding rate,” Farber told HuffPost. He added the benefits probably helped the economy, however, not to mention the individual people who otherwise might have had no income. “These are people who spend the money you give them.”

The findings are similar to 2011 research by Jesse Rothstein of the University of California, Berkeley.

Ghetto is Public Policy

May 06, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Terrorism, Intersectionality, Poverty, Workers' Rights

From The Atlantic:

Above is a picture I took of a chart showing how the scheme could work. The chart was produced by activist lawyers in the late 60s trying to demonstrate the effects of contract buying. There are four columns “Documented Price Paid By Speculator,” “Documented Price Change To Negro Buyer,” “Markup,” “Approximate Additional Interest,” and “Total Additional Charges.” In that chart you can literally see black wealth leaving one neighborhood and migrating to another. It was not just legal. It was the whole point.

Jim Crow — Northern or Southern — is usually rendered to us as an archaic system in which people irrationally decide to separate from each other just based on skin color. There’s a reason that so many of us remember Martin Luther King’s line about little white boys and little black boys holding hands. It’s comforting to us. Less comforting is that fact that Jim Crow amounted to the legal pilfering of resources from the black communities to advantage white people across generations. In Mississippi, it meant the right to reduce someone to sharecropping, or to benefit politically from their census numbers while not giving them any representation, or to tax them for services they did not enjoy equal access to. In Chicago, it meant the legalized theft of black wealth by white agents.

It is very hard to accept this — the wealth gap is not a mistake. It is the logical outcome of policy and democratic will. From the streets of Cicero on up, the point was to imprison black people in the black belt and then exploit them. The goal was pursued through public policy, private action, and open terrorism. The goal was accomplished.

Tennessee Advances Legislation That Would Tie Welfare To Children’s Grades

April 02, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Legislature, Intersectionality, Poverty

From Think Progress:

Two Tennessee lawmakers introduced legislation that would tie welfare assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to the educational performance of students who benefit from it, and the legislation was approved by committees in both the state House and Senate last week.
Under the legislation brought by two Republicans, a student who doesn’t not make “satisfactory progress” in school would cost his or her family up to 30 percent of its welfare assistance, the Knoxville News and Sentinel reported:

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah. It calls for a 30 percent reduction in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits to parents whose children are not making satisfactory progress in school.

As amended, it would not apply when a child has a handicap or learning disability or when the parent takes steps to try improving the youngster’s school performance — such as signing up for a “parenting class,” arranging a tutoring program or attending a parent-teacher conference.

When Campfield introduced the legislation in January, he said parents have “gotten away with doing absolutely nothing to help their children” in school. “That’s child abuse to me,” he added. Tennessee already ties welfare to education by mandating a 20 percent cut in benefits if students do not meet attendance standards, but this change would place the burden of maintaining benefits squarely on children, who would face costing their family much-needed assistance if they don’t keep up in school.

Eleventh Circuit Affirms Preliminary Injunction Against Florida’s Mandatory Drug Testing of Welfare Recipients

February 26, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Terrorism, Intersectionality, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex

From Prof. Robson of Constitutional Law Prof Blog:

In its unanimous panel opinion today in Lebron v. Sec’t Florida Dep’t of Children & Families, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a district judge’s grant of a preliminary injunction against Florida Statute §414.0652 requiring drug testing of all persons who receive public benefits.

Recall that 16 months ago, Federal District Judge Mary Scriven issued a preliminary injunction against the controversial law championed by equally controversial governor Rick Scott requiring drug testing for each individual who applies for benefits under the federally funded TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program to take a drug test, which must occur at an “approved laboratory” and be paid for by the applicant. As the Eleventh Circuit panel made clear, it was not resolving “the merits of the constitutional claim” but only addressing “whether the district court abused its discretion in concluding that Lebron is substantially likely to succeed in establishing that Florida’s drug testing regime for TANF applicants violates his Fourth Amendment rights.”

Nevertheless, the Eleventh Circuit’s opinion, authored by Judge Rosemary Barkett, left little room to argue that the statute could survive a constitutional challenge. Barkett observed that in the “specific context of government-mandated drug testing programs, the Supreme Court has exempted such programs from the Fourth Amendment’s warrant and probable cause requirement only where such testing ‘fit[s] within the closely guarded category of constitutionally permissible suspicionless searches,'” requiring that the “proffered special need for drug testing must be substantial,” citing Chandler v. Miller, 520 U.S. 305 (1997). These special needs include “the specific risk to public safety by employees engaged in inherently dangerous jobs and the protection of children entrusted to the public school system’s care and tutelag.” The Eleventh Circuit easily found that welfare recipients did not fall into a special needs category.

Full post here.

CI: Criminalizing Poverty

October 10, 2012 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Development, Economic Terrorism, 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. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Criminalizing Poverty

Editors Note: In the midst of a heated campaign season – one fraught with economic debates aplenty — there is one term we will probably not hear in any debate.

Poverty
.

And yes one constituency left unmentioned.

The Poor.

The persistence of widespread poverty — some 40 million officially – in the so-called richest nation on earth is often a source of personal discomfort and political peril. And so, the poor, despite their mighty numbers, are often rendered invisible.

Often all too literally. A recent report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty that examined 188 cities, there was a 7 percent increase in prohibitions on begging or panhandling between 2009 and 2011. Criminalizing homelessness in myriad ways was a central theme of the report:

City ordinance are frequently tools for criminalizing homelessness. Of the 234 cities surveyed for our Prohibited Conduct Chart (in the Advocacy Manual Appendix):
• 40 percent prohibit “camping” in particular public places, while 16 percent prohibit “camping” citywide;
• 33 percent prohibit sitting/lying in particular public places;
• 56 percent prohibit loitering in particular public places, while 22 percent prohibit loitering citywide; and
• 53 percent prohibit begging in particular public places, while 53 percent prohibit “aggressive” panhandling and 24 percent prohibit begging citywide.

The trend of criminalizing homelessness continues to grow. Among the 188 cities reviewed for the prohibited conduct chart in both the 2009 report and this report, we identified the following increases in criminalization measures:
• 7 percent increase in prohibitions on begging or panhandling;
• 7 percent increase in prohibitions on camping in particular public places; and
• 10 percent increase in prohibitions on loitering in particular public places.

The absence of meaningful public discourse on this disturbing trend prompts CI to republish an earlier piece, Media Justice and the Crime of Poverty –An interview with Tiny from POOR Magazine By Angola 3 News.. Wit gratitude as always.

It remains timely and provocative and reminds us that economic solutions must address the poor.

First not Last.

(more…)