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CI: Razor Wire, Prison Cells, and Black Panther Robert H. King’s Life of Resistance –An Angola 3 News interview with filmmaker Ron Harpelle

April 09, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, 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.

Razor Wire, Prison Cells, and Black Panther Robert H. King’s Life of Resistance –An interview with filmmaker Ron Harpelle
by Angola 3 News

A new 40-minute documentary film by Canadian History Professor Ron Harpelle, entitled Hard Time, focuses on the life of Robert Hillary King, who spent 29 years in continuous solitary confinement until his conviction was overturned and he was released from Louisiana’s infamous Angola State Prison in 2001.

 Along with Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, Robert King is one of three Black Panther political prisoners known as the Angola 3. Last October, Herman Wallace died from liver cancer just days after being released from prison. Albert Woodfox remains in solitary confinement to do this day, with the upcoming date of April 17, 2014 marking 42 years since he was first placed there.

Robert King and Ron Harpelle w/ Kathleen Cleaver at the Montreal Black Film Festival. View more photos here

Robert King and Ron Harpelle w/ Kathleen Cleaver at the Montreal Black Film Festival. View more photos here

When Albert Woodfox’s conviction was overturned for a third time in February 2013, his release was halted because the Louisiana Attorney General immediately appealed to the US Fifth Circuit Court, despite an Amnesty International campaign calling on the AG to respect US District Court Judge James Brady’s ruling and not appeal. The Amnesty campaign (take action here) is now calling for Woodfox’s immediate release.

 In March, Amnesty released a new interview with Teenie Rogers, the widow of correctional officer Brent Miller, the man who Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace were wrongfully convicted of murdering. “This needs to stop, for me and my family to get closure,” Rogers says. She expresses sadness that she tried but was unable to see Herman before he passed and explains: “I am speaking out now because I don’t want another innocent man to die in prison.”

In an email message sent out by Amnesty, Robert King said: “Teenie believes me. She believes that the Angola 3 had nothing to do with her husband’s murder. She believes that Albert Woodfox, Herman Wallace and I suffered years of cruel solitary confinement as innocent men…The state hasn’t done justice by her, either. She’s angry. We both are. Louisiana authorities are hell bent on blaming the wrong person. Well, I’m hell bent on setting him free.”

 Hard Timewas recently shown in Canada at both the Toronto and Montreal Black Film Festivals, following Robert King’s testimony in Chicago about solitary confinement at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Scienceearlier that month. On April 20, Hard Time will be shown in Paris, with French subtitles, at the Ethnografilm Festival.

 The full, 40-minute version of Hard Time can now be viewed online, along with Ron Harpelle’s previous film, entitled In Security. Our interview with him is featured below.

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CI: The Promise/The Peril of This Moment

March 12, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, 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.

The Promise/The Peril of This Moment
by nancy a heitzeg

” Well, I think we have to act as if there is hope. “ Angela Davis, March 2014

In a recent interview with Democracy Now! , the miracle that is Angela Davis reminds us again that there is power in struggle, there is opportunity in the moment, but warns us too of the potential pitfalls of  “criminal justice reform”.

Well, yes. I think that this is a pivotal moment. There are openings. And I think it’s very important to point out that people have been struggling over these issues for years and for decades. This is also a problematic moment. And those of us who identify as prison abolitionists, as opposed to prison reformers, make the point that oftentimes reforms create situations where mass incarceration becomes even more entrenched; and so, therefore, we have to think about what in the long run will produce decarceration, fewer people behind bars, and hopefully, eventually, in the future, the possibility of imagining a landscape without prisons, where other means are used to address issues of harm, where social problems, such as illiteracy and poverty, do not lead vast numbers of people along a trajectory that leads to prison.

CI has expressed similar concerns here ( See Smoke and Mirrors?, Confidence Men and Prison Reform, Con Artists, Profits, and Community Corrections ) . There are many questions to be asked about the ostensible movement away from mass incarceration   embraced by the right, most notably by Right on Crime. As Kay Whitlock notes, ‘the right reinvented as prison reformers”. If this makes you nervous, it should.  Expanded privatization schemes, profits and deregulation are, per usual, the ultimate end game.

It is easy to be suspicious of the right-wing agendas. But well-meaning Scandinavian model liberals can do their own sort of damage. I was reminded of this again at a  panel hosted by the League of Voters last week, Interrupting the Prison Pipeline: Partnerships, Prevention, Advocacy, Intervention. The panel included a host of well-connected Minneapolis political, non-profit and faith-based “leaders”.  And despite the claims of “interrupting” in the title, the primary focus was in providing services to those already incarcerated or to ex-offenders in the form of increased employment opportunities via Ban the Box legislation, expanded voting rights for probationers, and more Second Chances.

And of course we are for that. But where was discussion about prevention, alternatives to criminal justice, dismantling the school to prison pipeline, the impetus for the first chances?

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Angela Davis on Prison Abolition, the War on Drugs and Why Social Movements Shouldn’t Wait on Obama (Full Transcript)

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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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Jordan Davis: What We’ve Come to Expect

February 18, 2014 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege

From Colorlines:

Still, Michael Dunn’s murder case seemed cut and dry. A white man emptied his semi-automatic into a car full of black teens, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis—then fled the scene and didn’t turn himself in until the following morning. There are, of course, other details, but what happened following Dunn’s arrest speaks volumes to the profound racial preoccupations that the killer holds.

In his letters from jail, Dunn became obsessed with the idea that he was somehow the victim of a system that routinely discriminates against white men. He explained how he was becoming more prejudiced against black people in jail, and proposed killing black people as habit so that “they may take the hint and change their behavior.” Dunn’s letters illustrate that the idea that white men can and should be harsh disciplinarians—and that black people can and should surrender to that power. If black people object, they should be killed as examples, so that others will learn.

On the witness stand, Dunn took what many thought was the unusual position of lacking remorse for killing an unarmed child. He cried, instead, when he talked about his dog. But perhaps more telling are Dunn’s last words to Jordan Davis. He testified that he shouted, “You’re not going to kill me, you son of a bitch.” If Davis is the “son of a bitch,” then we are to understand that Davis mother, Lucia Kay McBath—who was in the courtroom, just a few feet away from her son’s killer—McBath is the “bitch” that Dunn is referring to. She is not a mother who lost the son she gave birth to. She is not a human being who deserves more respect than to be called a dog. She is simply an object of Dunn’s dehumanizing attack.

In the end, Dunn was found guilty not of murdering Jordan Davis, but of the attempted murders of Tevin Thompson, Leland Brunson and Tommie Stornes, who were in the SUV along with Davis the evening that Dunn killed him. We can speculate, then, that if all four youth had been killed, then Dunn may have walked a free man. His only mistake, perhaps, was that he didn’t kill enough black teens to get away with it. Dunn held that he was terrified because he had seen Davis holding a weapon—but that weapon never existed. By not finding Dunn guilty of murder, the jury could not unanimously conclude that one white man’s imagination was worth more than one black teen’s life.

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

huey_p_newton_revolutionary

 

CI: Decriminalizing School Discipline

February 12, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, 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.

Decriminalizing School Discipline: How to Stop the School to Prison Pipeline at The Source
by nancy a heitzeg

Last week, I had the privilege of participating on this panel at the American Bar Association Midyear Meeting: “The School-to-Prison Pipeline: What are the Problems? What are the Solutions?” The event was jointly sponsored by the ABA’s Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice, the Criminal Justice Section and the Counsel for Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline. Panelists included the Reverend Janette C. Wilson of RainbowPUSH; Dr. Artika Tyner, a clinical law professor and diversity director at the University of St. Thomas School of Law; Mariame Kaba of Project NIA and Prison Culture; Robert Saunooke, chair of the ABA’s Tribal Courts Council, and Julie Biehl, Director of Children and Family Justice Center, Northwestern University Law School.

The panel was a call for lawyers, educators, everyone to take whatever actions they could to interrupt the school to prison pipeline. In particular, emphasis was placed on the role of the new Federal Guidelines on School Climate and Discipline and the opportunity offered now to move away from decades of zero tolerance. The piece below, written for Praeger/ABC-CLIO Publishing’s on-line series Enduring Questions, highlights the role of zero tolerance policies and police in the schools, both key policy cornerstones in the school to prison pipeline.

Over the years, Criminal InJustice has written much on this topic, in part, with the  hope that this may be the a pathway into a larger social critique of the prison industrial complex which impels it. It has been my experience that however deep the commitment some have to “law and order”, to the harsh policing and punishment of adults, the school to prison pipeline gives many pause. There is something so shocking, so fundamentally unfair about the notion of children, increasingly young,  being policed in the pursuit of an education, being criminalized for mere childish misbehavior. It is so unfair it can sometimes shine a light back on the entire system that it is designed to feed.

So let it now.

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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

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