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Criminal InJustice: “Broken Windows”/Broken Lives, One Year Later

July 15, 2015 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, 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.

 

“Broken Windows”/Broken Lives and the Ruse of “Public Order” Policing
by nancy a heitzeg

Authors note: As we approach the one year anniversary of Eric Garner;s death, New York City reached a settlement with his family, agreeing to pay $5.9 million to resolve a wrongful-death claim. The settlement is the latest in a long series of civil pay-outs (over $1 billion) made by the city to victims of NYPD.

But that has largely been the only accounting. While still under investigation, the officers involved  in Garner;s death will likely face no legal consequences. A Grand Jury has already declined to indict them. In fact, those who filmed the police action that killed Garner – Ramsey Orta and Tanisha Allen — have singularly received more police scrutiny than the killers themselves.

The Mayor, elected on a progressive wave, has co-signed continued NYPD repression — budgeting for 1300 new officers and standing in support of both broken windows and the chokehold. This, despite growing protests over police killings in NYC and across the nation. As of this writing, that number approaches 600, a rate of more than 3 dead per day.

The death of Eric Garner, which preceded that of Mike Brown by a month, reinvigorated a national call to end police violence against Black Lives. It continues apace, perhaps has even accelerated.  And so we demand again in the name of Eric Garner and so many more:

“It Stops Today.”

***

The 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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Revelations: #KeepItDown

June 28, 2015 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Intersectionality, Police State, What People are Doing to Change the World

Criminal InJustice: To Break the Chain

June 24, 2015 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Gun Culture, Intersectionality, Media Conglomeration, 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.

 

To Break the Chain
by nancy a heitzeg

Charleston.  The latest USA edition of the “race-tinged death story”.

Although the racial motivations were clear from the outset (survivors told the tale), this did not deter mainstream media and invested policy makers from spinning the familiar script. Liberals pointed towards guns and debate erupted over which language of the carceral state to adopt — was this hate crime or terrorism? The Right feigned confusion or claimed that it was really just Christians who were under attack..

The white shooter, typically,  was both isolated and humanized – arrested without a scratch, fed Burger King, described as a lone wolf who may be mentally ill or exceptionally evil, ultimately unknowable. In the words of South Carolina Governor Nikki Hayley, “We’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.”

Until we did. The discovery of Dylann Roof’s last racist screed laid bare the motives, and set off another round of spin. The fact that Roof named the Council of Conservative Citizens, as both source and inspiration, induced a panic-stricken flow of returned campaign contributions, the fine line between “extremist” hate and the GOP mainstay, erased.

Exposed now, attention then turned quickly to the Confederate Flag and calls for its’ removal as remedy. The flag, which should have never flown, was long embraced by slavers and segregationists, and served as key code in the deployment of the ostensibly color-blind “Southern Strategy”. But perhaps now the costs had finally come to outweigh the benefits. Perhaps too, in keeping with the climate of premature forgiveness and healing, it was time for rapid reversal from those who had ridden the undead Confederacy to power.

As Glen Ford notes in The Perils of the Politics of Symbolism:

The demand that South Carolina remove the “Stars and Bars” from in front of the state capital building is wholly symbolic, directly affecting one pole and one piece of cloth.  The state’s governor and top Republican legislators would never consider letting go of the flag if it had not already become as much a burden as an asset to the Party… “Reconciliation,” therefore, comes cheap – and, in fact, redounds to the benefit of the former offender. Whites in South Carolina will get the chance to feel as good about voting the Confederate-free Republican ticket, as white Democrats in Iowa felt voting for Obama. Power relationships are unaffected…”

So the Flag may come down – forever or just for one day. Or it may not. It may be banned from Wal*Mart and Amazon and eBay for as long as Duck Dynasty was off the air or more. Regardless, the effects of the performance of contrition and distancing will have been achieved for those who rose to power on this very white supremacist imagery and the blood money it raised.  And we will be approaching peak color-blindness, an entire uninterrupted landscape of racism without racists, replete with complete denial-ability but deep structures which remain, untouched.

The juxtaposition of last week’s news-maker, the “trans-racial” Rachel Dolezal, with the trajectory of the unfolding Charleston story is unsettling. The singular message is this: race and racism are individualized performances that allow for both white appropriation of Blackness when convenient and white supremacist denial of structural racism viz a viz its’ projection onto a disposable Symbol. Elusive; ephemeral.

The reality is, flag or no, the structural white supremacy that is the bedrock foundation of this country has never been redressed. The Civil War has never been over. Slavery has been unwilling to die, morphing via the “reform ” offered by the 13th Amendment into the prison industrial complex and the punishing state. And the promises of “due process”, “equal protection” and the franchise, continue to be denied.

Until there is that full accounting – in word, deed and reparation – that flag, even figuratively, will continue to fly.

CI: The #Police in Your Heads

June 10, 2015 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, 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.

 
The #Police in Your Heads
by nancy a heitzeg

Last week the Minneapolis City Council voted 12-1 to repeal the rarely used, racially enforced, and  constitutionally questionable ordinances on Lurking and Spitting. The effort was spearheaded by City Council Members Council Members Cam Gordon and Blong Yang and passage was supported by a variety of groups, including the Minnesota ACLU, Coalition for Critical Change, #Blacklivesmatter Mpls, Community Justice Project and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. The Council was persuaded by a series of ALCU Reports that documented the role of these low level offenses in racial profiling and compelling testimony from the community as to the negative impact of “public ordering policing” and racial profiling on their everyday lives.

The victory was not achieved without some attempts at derailing via fear-mongering – mostly from  the sole vote against repeal, Council President Barb Johnson, Downtown Business interests , the police union , and a few random white citizens who fantasize that such ordinances may keep them “safe.” Largely ignoring the extensive data linking these offenses to racial profiling and criminalizing poverty, the red flags of livability, safety, and the slippery slope were waved; “we may find that the ripple effects from such changes simply undermine the security of individuals who live, work and visit here.”

Hardly.

Policing, here as so often, is the first knee-jerk and the last resort to anything and everything that might disrupt “whiteness” and/or property. This is the default for dealing with any sort of “other”; there is no alternative thought, no imagination.

The Police in Their Heads.

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CI: #StudentsNotSuspects #NoSROs #Mpls

May 20, 2015 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Eco-Justice, Education, 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.

 

#StudentsNotSuspects #NoSROs #Mpls
by nancy a heitzeg

Minneapolis is a beautiful Blue City. It ranks near or at the top of a number of livability indices: low unemployment, high income and low poverty rates, affordable housing, literacy and high educational attainment, robust voter turnout and political engagement,  high percentages of colleges, art/theater, bike paths, green space, lakes and coops per capita.

Minneapolis ranks near or at the top too on indicators that reveal the city is less than “livable” if you are Black. The Black unemployment rate is nearly 4 times that of white, making it the highest racial unemployment gap in the nation. Black-white gaps  in the City of Minneapolis on census indicators such as household income, homeownership and educational attainment contribute heavily to Minnesota’s ranking as the worst state for financial inequality. Racial segregation persists by neighborhood and school; about 62 percent of black students attend high-poverty schools, compared with 10 percent of white students. Unsurprisingly, the s0-called “achievement gap” as measured by test scores and graduation rates is also amongst the highest in the nation.

Minneapolis similarly ranks high with regard to racial gulfs in matters of criminal injustice. The racial disparities are staggering, with Blacks and American Indians dramatically over-represented in arrests for the low-level offenses used as pretexts for racial profiling, and  in all aspects of correctional control from probation to prison. This racially biased policing extends to the Minneapolis Public Schools which again runs one the nations  “leading” school to prison pipelines.

Minneapolis School to Prison Pipeline and the Role of SROs

Minneapolis Public Schools have come under Federal scrutiny for the dramatically disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates for students of color. For more than a decade the rate at which Black and American Indian students were suspended/expelled exceeded the national average, achieving at the zenith, a rate of nearly 5 times more than white peers. The most recent data shows that Black students are 4 times more likely to get suspended compared with white students. Special education students and American Indians were the next most likely to get suspended.

In an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, the Minneapolis School District has now enacted a new policy where every non-violent suspension of a Black, Hispanic, or American Indian student will now be reviewed by the Superintendent’s office before they are approved.

National Ranking for School Arrests by Racial Disproportionality

National Ranking for School Arrests by Racial Dis-proportionality

While this begins to address one pillar of the school to prison pipeline, it fails to account for the role of police in the hallways and in-school arrests. Minneapolis Public Schools spends $1 million annually (matched by another $500,000 from the city) to employ 16 Minneapolis Police Department officers as Security Resource Officers (SROs) in the schools. While arrests have slightly declined in recent years,  the racial dis-proportionality reflected in suspensions and expulsions is present here too, leaving us again with amongst the highest rankings for racial gaps in arrests. It is important to note too, that the overwhelming majority of school based arrests are for minor misbehavior. Nearly 90% of these arrests are for misdemeanors or lesser offenses.

In Minneapolis, as elsewhere, a police presence in schools results in the criminalization of minor and typical youthful misbehavior. In addition to the risks posed by zero tolerance policies and suspension/expulsion, police in the schools are a direct conduit into the pipeline.

This has to stop. In Minneapolis, the Coalition for Critical Change and the Social Justice Education Movement are calling for an end to SROs in the schools. Please join us  – wherever you are – in imagining how to better spend $1.5 million in our schools.

And yours.

CI: On Violence

April 29, 2015 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Imperialism, 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.

 

 On Violence

“Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in power’s disappearance. “

~ Hannah Arendt (1906–1975),  “On Violence,” (1972).

CI: The Universal Pains of Prison

April 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.

 

The Universal Pains of Prison
Editors note by nancy a heitzeg

The following is an excerpt of an Honors Project, completed by a graduating Senior at St. Catherine University. It has been my privilege to serve as adviser to this project, which offers a comparative look at two dramatically different prison systems and philosophies, that of Denmark and the U. S.

Despite the stark contrasts documented throughout the project, this excerpt notes the common barriers faced in in re-integration, even when one has been incarcerated in a rehabilitative system. Yes, conditions are better, imprisonment more rare, but the stigma consistent, and the social barriers universal.

There are better models that we can look to for “reform”, but, in the end, we are always called – in every possible way – towards Abolition.

 

Difference in Prison Philosophies: The Danish Prison System vs. the U.S. Prison System

by Bridget Ferrell

“To present my honors project, I created a 30 minute podcast. This podcast is a recording  of the interviews I conducted in Denmark and the US for my honors project. The goals for my  podcast were to:

  • First, allow the voices of my interviews be heard by the community.
  • Second, to  understand the prison experience and how that influences inmates experience back into society.
  • Third, to propose recommendations for how the system can better help law-breaking citizens become law-abiding citizens.

In my podcast I present my findings. I found that although Danish inmates have the same rights as everyone else in the Danish society, the formal and informal punishments were similar to the US. There was social stigmatization that caused an incredible issue for inmates reintegrating back into society. My podcast also presents my interviewers recommendations. The Sister who volunteers at the Waseca Federal Prison recommended shorter prison sentences. The Danish prison guard recommended more effort between the government and society to socialize inmates. The Danish ex-inmate proposed more education, more teachers in the prison and for offenders to meet their victims.”

CI: Low-level Offenses and Racial Profiling, Minneapolis Edition

March 18, 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.

Low-level Offenses and Racial Profiling, Minneapolis Edition
by nancy a heitzeg

The historical connection between low-level offenses ( e.g. lurking, loitering, vagrancy) and racialized policing is well-established. These laws emerge as Slave Codes become Black Codes; from the very outset they were “intended to circumscribe the lives of African Americans.” Low-level and “liveability” crimes were a central features of the Old Jim Crow, and remain so today, in the New Jim Crow era as pretextual police tools in racial profiling

Recent reports from the Minnesota ACLU released on October 28 verified yet again, using the Minneapolis Police Department’s own data, that Blacks are targeted for low-level arrests. (The results were replicated by a new report from the Minneapolis Police Department, which further revealed that when victims/witnesses are involved in reporting, they are overwhelmingly white). These practices persist in lieu of an official name such as ‘stop and frisk’ or or ‘broken windows” yet the net effect is the same. The data revealed “that between 2004 and 2012, an African American individual was, on average::

  • 11.5 times more likely to be arrested than a white individual for marijuana possession;
  • 8.86 times more likely to be arrested than a white individual for disorderly conduct;
  • 7.54 times more likely to be arrested than a white individual for vagrancy; and
  • 16.39 times more likely to be arrested than a white juvenile for curfew/loitering”

In light of these persistent racial gaps, City Council Members Council Members Cam Gordon and Blong Yang have announced their intent to introduce the repeal of the city ordinances on lurking and spitting. They noted that lurking

profiling“..is one of several low-level offenses police use to target specific neighborhoods and racial groups. Over that six-year period, 59 percent of the people arrested for lurking were black, while 24 percent were white. Meanwhile, 69 percent of the people who called in to report lurking offenses, listed on reports as either victims or witnesses, were white. Just 12 percent were black.”

This repeal is supported by Coalition for Critical Change, #Blacklivesmatter Mpls, & Community Justice Project, who recently launched a petition as well calling for the repeal of all low-level ordinances in the city. These include;

  • Loitering
  • Lurking
  • Spitting, depositing tobacco
  • Congregating on the Street or Sidewalk
  • Juvenile Curfew

Please join us in combating racial profiling. Click and sign below.

Petitioning Minneapolis City Council and Mayor Betsy Hodges

Repeal Low-Level Ordinances in Minneapolis