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CI: Justice As Theft

June 11, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Terrorism, Education, Housing, Immigration, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, Poverty, Voting Rights, Workers' 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.

Justice As Theft: Into the Twilight Zone
by Kay Whitlock

In 2011, Tonya McDowell, a homeless woman from Bridgeport, Connecticut, was charged with first degree (felony) larceny  and conspiracy to commit larceny for enrolling her 6-year-old son in Brookside Elementary School in the community of Norwalk.  Because McDowell and her son did not legally reside in Norwalk, the rationale for the charges was theft of $15,686 in educational costs from the Norwalk public school system. She faced a possible sentence of 20 years in prison. Moreover, McDowell’s babysitter was evicted from public housing because she apparently assisted by providing  false documents necessary for enrolling the young boy.

McDowell and her son are black; the Norwalk public school system is predominantly white – and therefore better funded than the Bridgeport system, in which people of color predominate. Essentially, she was charged with “stealing” a good public education for her son, who is entitled to public education, but not, presumably, a good one.

This prosecution was outrageous, right?  Yes – by any reasonable standard of human decency, anyway. But we live in a societal Twilight Zone in which the often-subterranean currents of the dominant U.S. public imagination respond to virtually all claims to social and economic justice as some form of theft, with all of the dissonance, danger, anxiety, emotional vulnerability, defensiveness, and fury associated with its evocation.

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CI: The Time Has Come

May 21, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Terrorism, Education, 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. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

The Time Has Come
Editor’s Note from nancy a heitzeg

It is a week where there is too much to say, so instead we will say very little. We stand in the shadows of the anniversaries of the never-implemented Brown decision, and the day Philadelphia Police Department said “Let the Fire Burn!”We note the occasion of the birthday’s of Malcolm X, Lorraine Hansbury, and Ho Chi Minh, as we still demand an end to mass youth incarceration, brace ourselves for a “debate” about reparations,  and await word as to whether a Black Woman has any Ground to Stand.

Let us reflect on this recent history, not on what has been won, but what is left to be done. A History, that is neither some disregarded dustbin, nor a mausoleum/museum filled with past relics of partial victories.

History is Alive. And History is A Weapon.

Use it.

Eyes on the Prize: The Time Has Come (1964-66)
After a decade-long cry for justice, a new sound is heard in the civil rights movement: the insistent call for power. Malcolm X takes an eloquent nationalism to urban streets as a younger generation of black leaders listens. In the South, Stokely Carmichael and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) move from “Freedom Now!” to “Black Power!” as the fabric of the traditional movement changes.

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CI: Conservative Criminal Justice Reform, A Look Through the Distorted Fun House Mirror

April 23, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: 2014 Mid-term Elections, 2016 Election, Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Injustice Series, Economic Terrorism, Intersectionality, 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.

Conservative Criminal Justice Reform, A Look Through the Distorted Fun House Mirror
by nancy a heitzeg, occasionally aided and abetted by Kay Whitlock

This week was awash in news of “criminal justice reform”. Some of these news items sparked real hope: efforts on the part of NY Governor Cuomo to budget for college classes for inmates, escalated calls for an end to mandatory minimums and solitary confinement, and news that President Obama is planning  to extend pardons to “hundreds, if not thousands” of non-violent offenders before he leaves office.

Occasionally billed as a “bipartisan” issue, the main thrust of most coverage, however, was on “conservative calls for criminal justice reform”. The Conservative Political Action Conference with Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, Grover Norquist, highlighted the issue, Chris Christie weighs in, and now even the Koch Brothers get in on the action with a panel billed as  “uniting left and right” and the “GOP’s best hope to reach minority voters”.

funhouseWhat has long been an under-current of right-wing policy advocacy is now emerging as a centerpiece of the upcoming 2014 and 2016 election seasons. The immediate image is of a kinder gentler non-obstructionist GOP who will continue to combat big government, reduce mass incarceration, and save taxpayers even $$$. A “reasonable” approach that capitalizes on a public opinion that increasingly rejects the War on Drugs and mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent offenders. An approach that presents Red States as the leaders in a reform movement that is “smart on crime”.

Look again.  It is a view from a distorting Fun House Mirror, another carnival sideshow that masks the reality of the “Right on Crime” agenda, which is most simply, more privatization. Privatization ensures that any possibility for public accountability vanishes. Further privatization of criminal justice serves to pave the way for expanded privatization of other public programs such  as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, education, food and nutrition assistance, and so on. Expect more of this in the upcoming months and years ahead.

Criminal InJustice has been exposing the under-lying agenda of the conservative calls for “reform” for quite some time.  We will continue to do so in more detail. For now, please, if you can, revisit:

We hope you will continue to ask the hard questions with us as calls for conservative criminal justice reform intensify.

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‘Uh-oh, instead of defeating us they made us defiant’

September 25, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Eco-Justice, Intersectionality, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, Voting Rights, What People are Doing to Change the World, Workers' Rights


Local 1199 members came from New York to be arrested, and at least 1,000 teachers mobilized for the final Monday. (Photo by Ajamu Dillahunt.)

From Southern Studies:

Since April North Carolina has made national and international news with a remarkable social movement that has gathered thousands to protest, with nearly 1,000 arrests for civil disobedience.

The Forward Together Movement, led by the North Carolina NAACP, showed up at the General Assembly in Raleigh for 13 consecutive Mondays while the Republican/Tea Party-controlled legislature was in session.

Although 17 clergy members made up the first wave of arrestees, the activists who formed the backbone of the actions were part of the six-year-old, NAACP-led HKonJ Coalition (Historic Thousands on Jones St. — site of the legislature), which had mobilized thousands to the Capitol every February for a 14-point progressive agenda.

It includes civil rights, labor, environmental, and other social and economic justice groups. With each Moral Monday, more groups and thousands of individuals joined the ranks.

Each week displayed a different theme. After a rally, those who intended to risk arrest and their supporters entered the legislative building and stood outside the Senate chambers singing, chanting, and praying. When they refused to disperse, they were arrested.

The NAACP leads the Forward Together Movement, but has mobilized thousands of white middle-class residents in addition to its historic Black constituency. Those who filled the grounds outside the General Assembly and those who entered the building to be arrested were majority white, as is the state as a whole.

Half A Century Later: March on Washington

August 24, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Development, Education, Intersectionality, Voting Rights, Workers' Rights

U.S. sues Texas over voter ID

August 22, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Voting Rights, White Privilege

From Scotus Blog:

FURTHER UPDATE 4:35 p.m. The text of the motion to intervene in the San Antonio redistricting case is here. The legal complaint of the U.S. as intervenor is here. The text of the new lawsuit against the Texas voter ID law is here.

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The Justice Department went to court again on Thursday to challenge the legality of Texas’s voter ID law — a law that Texas says it has put back into effect since the Supreme Court freed the state from federal court supervision. In that new lawsuit and in a new maneuver in a pending case over new election districting maps for Texas, the Department will be asking that the state be returned to court oversight of all of its election laws, for at least a decade. Both new moves were announced in a press release. The legal filings are not yet available.

“We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. “The Department will take action against jurisdictions that attempt to hinder access to the ballot box, no matter where it occurs.”

Holder said the Texas filings were “the latest action to protect voting rights, but will not be the last.” That statement may have been a signal that the Obama administration will also mount a legal challenge to the sweeping new North Carolina law limiting voting rights in that state.

In the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 25 in an Alabama case, Shelby County v. Holder, Texas and other state and local governments that had been required to get legal clearance in Washington for any changes in their election laws were spared from that duty, at least for the time being. The Court made the 1965 Voting Rights Act’s Section 5, the preclearance provision, unenforceable by striking down the coverage formula for that section.

The Justice Department had previously signaled that it would make energetic efforts in the courts to get Texas put back under Section 5, by applying an additional, seldom-used part of the 1965 law – Section 3, the so-called “bail in” option.

DOJ to Mess with Texas and More

July 27, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Intersectionality, Voting Rights

Source: Washington Post

Source: Washington Post

U.S. Asks Court to Limit Texas on Ballot Rules

The Obama administration on Thursday moved to protect minority voters after last month’s Supreme Court ruling striking down a central part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, with the Justice Department asking a court to require Texas to get permission from the federal government before making changes…

Last month’s ruling, Shelby County v. Holder, did away with a requirement that Texas and eight other states, mostly in the South, get permission from the Justice Department or a federal court before changing election procedures. On Thursday, the administration asked a federal court in Texas to restore that “preclearance” requirement there, citing the state’s recent history and  relying on a different part of the voting rights law.

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Virginia unveils plan for restoring voting rights to former felons

July 21, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Prison Industrial Complex, Voting Rights

From Southern Studies:

n May, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced a historic win for voting rights: the automatic restoration of those rights for former nonviolent felony offenders on an individualized basis. It was a few steps short of what voting rights advocates have been calling for, which is full automatic rights restoration for all former felons, but they acknowledged it was a big step forward.

All McDonnell, a Republican, left out of his May announcement was how exactly he was going to do it. After consulting with a number of stakeholder organizations invested in helping the formerly incarcerated, McDonnell this week unveiled the how.

The biggest problem with restoring rights on a person-by-person basis is finding all of the Virginians with nonviolent felonies to inform them of their new voter status.

“We could easily find the felons who were currently in the system or who had previously expressed an interest in getting their rights back,” said Virginia Commonwealth Secretary Janet Kelly in a statement. “However, there is no accurate comprehensive database of felons who are not currently in the legal or corrections system and have been released from probation, and the stakeholder group helped us to find creative solutions to meet that challenge.”

Failing to locate and inform people about their new voter eligibility could lead to continued disenfranchisement — eligible voters failing to register because they think they are ineligible. It could also result in inaccurate claims of voter fraud, as I found in Florida last year.

In addition, the state reclassified certain crimes labeled as “violent” felonies — like statutory burglary and breaking and entering — as nonviolent so that more can take advantage of the restoration. Information about the rest of the voting rights restoration process can be found here: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/News/viewRelease.cfm?id=1895