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CI: Beyond the Pessimism of Certainty

February 19, 2014 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.

Beyond the Pessimism of Certainty
Editors Note from nancy a heitzeg

There is a pessimism in certainty. We expect the Verdict, knowing  laws and legal systems purported to be “race-neutral” are anything but,  knowing a system rooted in the criminalization of Blackness, cannot make the case for the humanity of its Black victims, knowing that only some are granted ground to stand or selves to defend.

We and others have written — with a grim certainty — the same words time and time again, searching for new ways to express the familar pain, looking for fresh takes on the old system that is, in the end, just simply slavery by another name.

But not Today – there will be only this….

noj nopThe Optimism of Uncertainty
by Howard Zinn

From an excerpt of Paul Rogat Loeb’s book “The Impossible Will Take a Little While“:

“In this awful world where the efforts of caring people often pale in comparison to what is done by those who have power, how do I manage to stay involved and seemingly happy? I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we should not give up the game before all the cards have been played. The metaphor is deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning.

To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world. There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment will continue. We forget how often we have been astonished by the sudden crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people’s thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse of systems of power that seemed invincible. What leaps out from the history of the past hundred years is its utter unpredictability. This confounds us, because we are talking about exactly the period when human beings became so ingenious technologically that they could plan and predict the exact time of someone landing on the moon, or walk down the street talking to someone halfway around the earth.

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Huey P. Newton (2/17/42 – 8/22/89)

February 17, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights, What People are Doing to Change the World

A Huey P. Newton Story

“Originally born in a small town in Louisiana and later moving with his family to Oakland, California as an infant, HueyO P. Newton became the co-founder and leader of the Black Panther Party for over 2 decades.

Director Spike Lee and Roger Guenveur Smith collaborate for the 7th time to bring Newton’s thoughts, philosophies, history and flavour to life in A Huey P. Newton Story.

Produced by Luna Ray Films, A Huey P. Newton Story is the film adaptation of Smith’s Obie Award-winning, off-Broadway solo performance of the same name. It was filmed before a live audience and Spike Lee directs the film with his signature mix of film and archival footage to capture the thoughts of this revolutionary political leader.

This website explores many of the subjects only briefly touched on in the film, bringing them into greater focus and creates opportunities for further investigation into the truth behind the man and the movement he founded.

He was a modern day American revolutionary.”

The Black Panther Party, Ten Point Platform

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Revelations: The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

February 02, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, What People are Doing to Change the World

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

“For three decades, the film canisters sat undisturbed in a cellar beneath the Swedish National Broadcasting Company. Inside was roll after roll of startlingly fresh and candid 16mm footage shot in the 1960s and 1970s in the United States, all of it focused on the anti-war and Black Power movements. When filmmaker Goran Hugo Olsson discovered the footage, he decided he had a responsibility to shepherd this glimpse of history into the world.

With contemporary audio interviews from leading African American artists, activists, musicians and scholars, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 looks at the people, society, culture, and style that fuelled an era of convulsive change. Utilizing an innovative format that riffs on the popular 1970s mixtape format, Mixtape is a cinematic and musical journey into the black communities of America.

At the end of the ’60s and into the early ’70s, Swedish interest in the U.S. civil rights movement and the U.S. anti-war movement peaked. With a combination of commitment and naiveté, Swedish filmmakers traveled across the Atlantic to explore the Black Power movement, which was being alternately ignored or portrayed in the U.S. media as a violent, nascent terrorist movement.

Despite the obstacles they encountered, both from the conservative white American power establishment and from radicalized movement members themselves, the Swedish filmmakers stayed committed to their investigation, and ultimately formed bonds with key figures in the movement.

This newly discovered footage offers a penetrating examination — through the lens of Swedish filmmakers — of the Black Power movement from 1967 to 1975, and its worldwide resonance. The result is like an anthropological treatise on an exotic civilization from the point of view of outsiders who approached their subject with no assumptions or biases.”

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Revelations: Forty Million Dollar Slaves

January 05, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Education

Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete
by William C. Rhoden

Why Doesn’t The NFL Pay Taxes?

The NFL’s Lingering Concussion Problem

black line Capture

 

CI: Imagination, at the Intersections

January 01, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights, 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.

Imagination, at the Intersections
by nancy a heitzeg (h/t Kay Whitlock and Angela Y. Davis)

“This is what we need most in America — truly the entire world — today. Imagination. Religious scholar Walter Brueggemann has called it “Prophetic Imagination.” We need individuals who will not only occupy our streets, but also occupy our future. Brave soldiers of love who are crazy enough to dream of a world with no more war, no more violence, no more oppression based on the way people look, where they are from, or the way they were born.”

~ Charles Howard, Angela Davis: Power to the Imagination

It is 2014. Criminal InJustice is approaching the start of its fourth year of weekly publishing. Much remains unchanged. The US remains the world’s leader in incarceration. Racial disparities in school suspensions/expulsions, stop/frisk, arrest and imprisonment remain. Privatization and profiteering continues apace, with new alliances between old enemies and expansion opportunities in the field of “community corrections” growing. The courts failed us yet again with the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and the acquittal of George Zimmerman, just two examples among many. Perhaps the best overview is just here in the aptly titled 15 Things That We Re-Learned About the Prison Industrial Complex in 2013.

While the past year has brought some slim signs of progress in dismantling the prison industrial complex and its’ feeder – the school to prison pipeline, they are both small and slow. And not enough. Nazgol Ghandnoosh and Marc Mauer, of The Sentencing Project ask this question:

“Can We Wait 88 Years to End Mass Incarceration?”

“We hear less ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric and budget-conscious conservatives are embracing sentencing reforms. The Attorney General has criticized aspects of the criminal justice system and directed federal prosecutors to seek reduced sanctions against lower-level offenders.

In light of this, one would think we should celebrate the new figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) showing a decline in the U.S. prison population for the third consecutive year. This follows rising prisoner counts for every year between 1973 and 2010. BJS reports that 28 states reduced their prison populations in 2012, contributing to a national reduction of 29,000.Beset by budget constraints and a growing concern for effective approaches to public safety, state policymakers have begun downsizing unsustainable institutional populations. The break in the prison population’s unremitting growth offers an overdue reprieve and a cause for hope for sustained reversal of the nearly four-decade growth pattern.

But the population in federal prisons has yet to decline. And even among the states, the trend is not uniformly or unreservedly positive. Most states that trimmed their prison populations in 2012 did so by small amounts — eight registered declines of less than 1 percent. Further, over half of the 2012 prison count reduction comes from the 10 percent decline in California’s prison population, required by a Supreme Court mandate.

Given recent policy changes, why has there been such a small reduction in the number of people held in prisons? First, many sentencing reforms have understandably focused on low-level offenders.But most significantly, policymakers have neglected the bulk of those who are in state prisons: an aging population convicted of violent crimes or repeat offenses.

Certainly the changing climate, new policies, and recent prisoner counts offer reason for encouragement. But unless we want to wait 88 years to achieve a sensible prison population, we need to accelerate the scale of reform.”

We don’t have time to wait. Throughout our existence, we at CI have tried to illuminate the issue with data, statistics, the cold facts, and yes stories too, to  illustrate, increase the awareness needed as a foundation for change. This is no longer enough either. We know what the issues are. As co-editor Kay Whitlock has long argued, what we need to do is to imagine – dream a bolder vision.

And so we will. At the intersections.

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Heat Levels on LSP Angola’s Death Row Ruled Unconstitutional

December 21, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

Judge rules heat levels on Angola death row subject inmates to ‘cruel and unusual punishment’, NOLA.com

LA-State-Death-Row-1

Death row inmates incarcerated in unventilated cells and without access to cool water at Angola prison are being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, a federal judge in Baton Rouge ruled Thursday (Dec. 19).

In a 102-page ruling handed down six months after the suit was filed, Judge Brian A. Jackson said the high heat levels on death row at Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola, violated the 8th Amendment rights of the inmates housed there.

The suit was filed on behalf of three offenders who said the extreme temperatures exposed them to a heightened risk of irreparable harm or death because of specific health issues, like high blood pressure. But Jackson said his ruling would apply to all inmates on Angola’s death row, because prison officials could “move any death row inmate to a different tier and/or cell at any time.”

“Accordingly, the court finds that a remedy aimed at ameliorating the heat conditions throughout the death row facility is necessary to adequately vindicate plaintiffs’ rights,” the ruling read. As of February 2013, there were 82 inmates housed on Angola’s death row tiers.

Louisiana Middle District Court – Angola Heat Case Ruling 12/19/2013

CI: More Than 1000 Words…

December 11, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Defense, 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.

More than 1000 Words…
by nancy a heitzeg

How many tens of trillions of words have been written here and elsewhere about the state of Criminal InJustice? How ever many, it has not been enough. Despite claims of and calls for reform, the USA remains Incarceration Nation, with a brutal system of harsh sentences, extreme conditions, with a racial dynamic that persists, perhaps because it is precisely the point.

The scope and scale are stunning. So tonight, let’s just look. The following graphics are from a new fact sheet from The Sentencing Project: Trends in US Corrections. The numbers and images speak  for themselves.

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Political Prisoner to President: Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013)

December 05, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Criminal Defense, Imperialism, International Law, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights, What People are Doing to Change the World

Lucky Dube ~ House of Exile

Mandela Obituary, The Guardian

Mandela’s Struggle in Posters, New York Times

Official Statement on the Passing of Nelson Mandela From Leonard Peltier

Nobel Symphony excerpt ~ Steve Heitzeg