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Remembering the Dakota 38

December 26, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Imperialism, International Law, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, Prison Industrial Complex, Spirituality

Dakota 38 + 2 Wokiksuye riders to remember Mankato 1862 execution

In the Footsteps of Little Crow: Six Part Series

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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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Fair Sentencing Act Ruled Not Retroactive for Inmates Sentenced under 100 to 1 Ratios

December 03, 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

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Divided Federal Court Rules Crack Cocaine Sentencing Reforms Do Not Apply To Those Already in Prison

Today, a sharply divided Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA), which reduced the unfair, unjustified, and racially discriminatory crack cocaine/powder cocaine sentencing ratio from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1, does not apply to thousands of individuals who are currently incarcerated pursuant to sentences imposed under the discredited 100-to-1 regime.  Seven judges concluded that the FSA should apply to those serving sentences under the 100-to-1 federal sentencing structure, and ten judges declared that it should not.NA-BL741A_CRACK_NS_20110601213903

“We are deeply disappointed in the outcome of this case. Thousands of people, the majority of whom are African-American, are still serving time under an unfair drug sentencing regime that has destroyed individuals, families and communities. Today’s decision demonstrates that those who are working to eliminate the impermissible role of race in criminal prosecutions and sentences still have much more work to do. We will continue to press this issue in the court,” said Sherrilyn A. Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., a leading civil rights law firm and a separate entity from the NAACP…

In 2010, Congress passed the FSA to reduce the irrationality and unfairness occasioned by a federal sentencing structure under which 100 grams of powder cocaine triggered the same sentence as a single gram of crack cocaine. Congress made this change in recognition of the fact that powder cocaine and crack are indistinguishable from one another and the fact that the law was imposed in starkly racially disproportionate ways.  Indeed, Judge Karen Nelson Moore, who joined the majority and concluded that the law does not apply to those who are already serving 100-to-1 prison sentences, acknowledged that the 100-to-1 ratio “led to the mass incarceration of African-American men and has bred distrust of law enforcement in the larger African-American community.” Nationwide, nearly 9,000 individuals—90% of whom are African American–are serving out sentences imposed on them under the 100-to-1 ratio.

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Court Blocks Stop-and-Frisk Changes for New York Police

October 31, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege

From NYT:

A federal appeals court on Thursday halted a sweeping set of changes to the New York Police Department’s policy of stopping and frisking people on the street, and, in strikingly personal terms, criticized the trial judge’s conduct in the litigation and removed her from the case.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, “ran afoul” of the judiciary’s code of conduct by compromising the “appearance of impartiality surrounding this litigation.” The panel criticized how she had steered the lawsuit to her courtroom when it was filed in early 2008.

The ruling effectively puts off a battery of changes that Judge Scheindlin, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, had ordered for the Police Department. It postpones the operations of the monitor who was asked to oversee reforms to the department’s stop-and-frisk practices, which Judge Scheindlin found violated the Fourth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.

In a two-page order, the panel of three judges also criticized Judge Scheindlin for granting media interviews and for making public statements while the case was pending before her.

The use of police stops has been widely cited by the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as a crucial tool in helping drive the number of murders and major crimes in the city to historic lows. The police say the practice has saved the lives of thousands of young black and Hispanic men by removing thousands of guns from the streets.

The lawsuit claimed that blacks and Hispanics were singled out by the police for street stops even when there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

Judge Scheindlin’s decision, issued in August, found that the stop-and-frisk tactics violated the rights of minorities in the city. With that decision, which came at the conclusion of a lengthy trial that began in the spring, she repudiated a major element of the crime-fighting legacy of Mr. Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly.

CI: Two Years On, UK Riots in Context

August 07, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Terrorism, Immigration, 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.

Riot is the voice of the unheard.
~ Maxine Waters
(Los Angeles Times, 4 May 1992)

Editors Note: It has been two years since the police shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham sparked 4 days of rioting in London and elsewhere in England between August 6 and 10. The riots resulted in at least 4 deaths, hundreds of injuries, and millions in property damage.

Two years later, a final police report on Duggan’s killing has not yet been released, as officers are refusing to cooperate. There are community complaints that the government has largely ignored recommendations from The Riots, Communities and Victims Panel. The conditions that laid the foundations for the riots remain — poverty and a youth unemployment rates of more than 20%, and an aggressive police presence in communities of color.

CI is pleased to republish this excellent piece from Susan Pashkoff*, originally written in the immediate aftermath of the riots. It is as relevant today as it was at the time of publication, and sadly, echoes USA issues of police violence and racism in the criminal injustice system that are covered here each week..

UK Riots in Context: Police Brutality and Institutional Racism in the UK
by Susan Pashkoff*

The name, Mark Duggan, has been absent from the discussion of the riots that have wracked first London and which have spread to the rest of the United Kingdom. But the name Mark Duggan is a name that must not be lost; mark duggan as the man, Mark Duggan, and the shooting of this young black man by police in Tottenham is the spark that led to the fires in Tottenham . His shooting by police raised clear distress and concern to family, loved ones and members of the community and the absence of an explanation by the police lead to a peaceful vigil being undertaken to request answers from the police. Consensual and Community policing is dependent upon community relations and support and this has been compromised due to a history of institutional racism, deaths in police custody and the clear racist component both in practice and in theory to Stop-and-search procedures historically in the UK. In fact, it was a stop-and-search procedure which yielded no weapons which led to the riot in Hackney that followed the next day.

These incidents cannot be understood as isolated events. Police brutality against working class people, but especially people of colour, and institutional racism in policing (both in theory and in practice) and in the judicial system has a long history in the UK. The death of Mark Duggan is the latest in a history of problems of race and class that has plagued the UK since black immigration began in the post-war period.

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CI: After Trayvon Martin, Revisited

July 03, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Defense, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, 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.

After Trayvon Martin, Revisited
by Kay Whitlock with Nancy A. Heitzeg

Editors Note: This piece was originally published more than a year ago, not long after George Zimmerman’s long overdue arrest. At the time, the location of this case within the historical context of lynching was already clear.

Today, even more so.

Yes, there have been many many Trayvon Martins in the days since his death.

A recent report issued by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Operation Ghetto Storm: 2012 Annual Report on the extrajudicial killing of 313 Black people by police, security guards and vigilantes , notes this:

Every 28 hours in 2012 someone employed or protected by the US government killed a Black man, woman, or child.

But it is not just the tolerated death toll that evokes the imagery of lynching. Not just the blatant extra-legal executions for the crime of being Black/Brown that shapes the connections between Then and Now.

It is Trial as Spectacle.

The Spectacle — the stunningly large crowds, the publicity, the physical “mementos” the postcards – is often over-looked in our sanitized re-telling of lynching. (Too long and bloody a history to recount here — see Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940 By Amy Louise Wood.)

As the Addendum to this piece notes, it has always been clear that the Defense strategy would be to put Trayvon Martin and the Criminal-Black-Man Archetype on trial.

But The Spectacle demands even more. It is now Collective Blackness on Trial.

One need look no further than the savaging of Rachel Jeantel – the last person to Witness Trayvon Alive. (See also Rachel Jeantel: Through A Glass Darkly.. and Public reaction to Rachel Jeantel: Evidence that race still matters). Deemed by many – including Defense Attorney Don West and his entitled daughters –too, too.. well, Black to be a “credible” witness.

Save the technological advances evidenced by television and Twitter and the 24-7 sensationalist news cycle – how far have we really come from these headlines that announce the impending death of one Claude Neal, brutalized, Greenwood, Florida, 1934 ?

Mob Holds Negro; Invitations Issued For Lynch Party

‘All White Folks’ Invited To Party

Thousands In Throng To See Florida Mob Murder Negro”

Again.

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SCOTUS Upholds Warrantless DNA Collection at Arrest

June 03, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Criminal Defense, Criminal Injustice Series, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

dnaSupreme Court upholds DNA swabbing of people under arrest, NBC News:

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the police practice of taking DNA samples from people who have been arrested but not convicted of a crime, ruling that it amounts to the 21st century version of fingerprinting.

The ruling was 5-4. Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative, joined three of the court’s more liberal members — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — in dissenting…

The five justices in the majority ruled that DNA sampling, after an arrest “for a serious offense” and when officers “bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody,” does not violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches…

Under those specifications, the court said, “taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

While a cheek swab does constitute a search under the law, the court noted that it requires “but a light touch” and no surgical intrusion — a critical point, the court said, in determining whether it was reasonable.

See also DNA “Evidence”, Privacy, and Racialized Dragnets for more background.

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CI: An interview with author and former prisoner Shawn Griffith ~ Angola 3 News

May 29, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, 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.

Abusing Prisoners Decreases Public Safety – An interview with author and former prisoner Shawn Griffith

 By Angola 3 News

 If given the attention it deserves, an important new book is certain to make significant contributions to the public discussions of US prison policy. The author, Shawn Griffith, was released last year from Florida’s prison system at the age of 41, after spending most of his life, almost 24 years, behind bars, including seven in solitary confinement. Facing the US PrisonProblem 2.3 Million Strong: An Ex-Con’s View of the Mistakes and the Solution was self-published just months after Griffith was released from what is the third largest state prison system in the US, after California and Texas.

This new book’s thoughtful analysis and chilling reflections on what author Shawn Griffith experienced while incarcerated is a remarkable illustration of why the US public must listen to the voices of current and former prisoners who have stories that only they can tell. Griffith writes that “by integrating my own personal experiences with statistics and examples from different corrections systems around the nation, I am attempting to discredit the general perception that the system is designed to enforce and protect justice for everyone. The U.S. criminal justice system is an economically and politically profitable enterprise for special interest groups in this country. The general taxpayer needs to understand how the abusive policies fostered by these groups worsen the U.S. prison problem and the debt crisis through wasted corrections expenditures.”

Florida’s state prisons are the book’s main focus because “the majority of prisoners are incarcerated in state institutions. As of 2010, the US incarcerated 1,404,053 prisoners in state correctional institutions. For that reason, and based on my own twenty years of experience… Florida serves as an especially relevant test case for the changes needed in the US correctional system for two reasons. First is the size of Florida’s prison population and some of the political causes of its growth… Second, Florida has enacted some of the toughest sentencing laws of any state, causing correctional budgets to soar while educational budgets have been cut repeatedly,” writes Griffith.

griffith-bookAfter reading about the many different ways prisoners are abused, the very notion that US prisons are designed to rehabilitate or improve public safety, can only be viewed as a sick joke. Griffith writes that:

“hidden behind the walls, huge numbers of human beings have their spirits broken daily. Secretly, many suffer false disciplinary reports, illegitimate confiscation or destruction of personal property, physical beatings, rape, and sometimes fraudulent criminal penalties. Substandard nutrition, indifference to serious medical needs, and policies that encourage laziness have also become common. These practices help to sustain rates of recidivism, which is defined as a return to prison within three years of release.”

“Indeed, the strongest factor in reducing the rate of criminal recidivism is education, especially higher education, the one correctional expenditure that federal and state politicians have slashed.”

This course must be reversed,’ writes Griffith, himself an example of the healing power of educational programs for prisoners. While incarcerated he began his long journey to full rehabilitation, gaining his GED and then taking over 40 accredited college correspondence courses with an emphasis on criminal justice, psychology, and marketing. He has a 3.5 GPA from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. As a teacher in prison, he helped hundreds of inmates gain their GEDs.

Since his release in 2012, Griffith has lived in Sarasota, Florida where he founded Speak Out Publishing to publish other works of non-fiction that focus on tackling some of societies’ most pressing issues. Copies of Facing the US Prison Problem 2.3 Million Strong can be purchased directly from Griffith, through his website: www.speakoutpublishing.com, by mail: Speak Out Publishing, LLC at P.O. Box 50484 Sarasota, Florida 34232, or by phone: 941-330-5979.

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