FAMM, Mississippi Dreams Prisoner Family Support Urge Mississippi Legislature to Close Parchman – Mississippi prison system is in dire need of broad reform
Shut it down. In the name of humanity, shut it down!
“Mississippi has the third largest prison population in the nation.” You know why? Because the racists lock up so many black people!
Excerpts from the Article:
FAMM President Kevin Ring and Mississippi Dreams Prisoner Family Support Director Amanda Hamilton released the following statement in response to the ongoing crisis at Mississippi State Prison, also known as “Parchman Farm.”
“Parchman’s horrendous reputation goes back more than a century — it’s a place of hopelessness,” Ring said. “This recent spate of deaths is sadly nothing new in the prison’s legacy of despair. The time has come to end that legacy, and close Parchman forever.”
In addition to closing Parchman, Mississippi must address the growing number of problems in many of the prisons across the state. Mississippi has the third largest prison population in the nation. The prisons are overcrowded and understaffed. State legislators should enact critical sentencing reforms to address the growing prison population, and create an independent oversight body to make sure these issues are addressed.
“Our loved ones deserve to live in a safe, humane environment – not one with walls crumbling down around them,” Hamilton said. “The photos, the violence, and stories that come through the walls of Parchman and other prisons have us worried about our fathers, brothers, sons, cousins and friends.”
For nearly three decades, FAMM has united the voices of affected families, the formerly incarcerated, and a range of stakeholders and advocates to fight for a more fair and effective justice system. FAMM’s focus on ending a one-size-fits-all punishment structure has led to reforms to sentencing and prison policies in 6 states and is paving the way to programs that support rehabilitation for the 94% of all prisoners who will return to our neighborhoods one day.
The Whole Story:
Washington could become the next state to ban private prisons – Last year, California banned private detention centers and was promptly sued. Now, Washington state legislators are considering a similar ban.
ALL states should ban the cruel, greedy, MoFos! They are a disaster in every way, as you know by now if you read my articles. And I predict that the lawsuit filed by GEO Group (America’s second largest private prison company) will fail.
Excerpts from the Article:
On a recent Saturday, immigration advocates packed Washington Hall, shared tamales and discussed the various ways they planned to put an end to immgiration detention in Washington state. They had already managed to stop deportation flights in King County, the activists boasted.
After giving a brief historical overview of the burgeoning private prison industry in the United States (the first private prison opened in the 1980s), and the costs and abuses associated with the facilities, the activists revealed a bill a number of groups have been working on with Washington state legislators. The bill’s intention: Ban all private detention facilities. The Latino Civic Alliance, Washington State Labor Council, American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, La Resistencia, among others, have supported the bill.
Sponsored by state Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, and in the House, Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, the bill aims to prevent private companies that contract with local, state and federal agencies, such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, from operating in Washington state. “There are numerous documented abuses of people held in private detention facilities in Washington state and elsewhere,” the bill reads. “Incarcerating persons in private detention facilities leads to cutting operational costs, which is dangerous and detrimental to Washingtonians.”
Under the bill, Washington state’s one private detention facility, the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma, would continue to detain people only for the duration of its contract, which expires in 2025. The bill could prevent other private facilities — whether criminal or civil — from opening.
Leading presidential candidates, such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have already identified the private prison industry as a primary target, vowing to do away with private jails. Grisel Ruiz, supervising attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, one of the groups behind the push to ban private prisons, said “this really is a national movement.”
“Our North Star is to see some change at the federal level,” Ruiz said. Ortiz-Self said: “We should not be profiting off our most vulnerable communities. Locking people up should not be a moneymaking venture.”
Saldaña pointed out many of those held are not violent individuals, and many end up in worse condition after they come out.
If signed into law, Washington state would join a handful of other states that have already tackled this issue. Last summer, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation that bars private companies from contracting with local communities to detain immigrants. The new law expands on the state’s already existing 1990 private prison ban.
The goal of the Illinois legislation was to prevent the construction of a 1,300-bed facility in Dwight, a small town roughly 80 miles southwest of Chicago. Immigration Centers of America, or ICA, the private prison company that attempted to open the facility, has also been defeated in two other locations: in Michigan, where the governor vetoed its proposal, and in Wisconsin, where the town of New Richmond said the proposal for a 500-bed facility didn’t fit with the city’s long-term plan.
Months later, in October, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation that bans for-profit lockups in that state — both criminal and civil. Specifically, the new law bars the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in the state from entering into or renewing a contract with a private company after Jan. 1. Privately run facilities will be banned altogether by 2028.
GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies, runs dozens of facilities across the country, including the Northwest ICE Processing Center. It has challenged California’s law in court. In December, the Florida-based company sued California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Xavier Becerra in U.S. District Court in San Diego. The lawsuit argues that the new California ban aims to “undermine and eliminate the congressionally funded and approved enforcement of federal criminal and immigration law.”
It is a “transparent attempt by the state to shut down the federal government’s detention efforts within California’s borders” and “a direct assault on the supremacy of federal law,” the lawsuit says. The suit came days after ICE rushed to sign new contracts for four private immigrant detention centers ahead of the ban.
Three other states, Nevada, New York and Iowa, have banned private correctional facilities but not civil detention. When asked whether the California lawsuit made Washington legislators nervous, Ortiz-Self said she was hopeful California would win in the end.
Nicole D. Porter, director of advocacy at the Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C., advocacy and research center that focuses on incarceration, said the California lawsuit could settle the question of whether “states have legal authority to prevent federal contracts.”
“I don’t think it’s consistent with what Washington stands for,” she said.
Ex-Sheriff Lee Baca likely headed to prison after Supreme Court declines to review case – GOOD! – kra
ALL abusive officers – cops or prison personnel – must be held accountable! READ How to avoid the deaths of prison guards and inmates … or do you want to join the countless officials who refuse to acknowledge this huge problem called prison abuse?
Excerpts from the Article:
Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is probably headed to prison after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-ditch, longshot request to review his case Monday.
The high court denied Baca’s writ of certiorari, filed July 18, which would have reopened his case for review after a panel of judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that his conviction for helping orchestrate a scheme to interfere with an FBI investigation into abuses at the county’s jails was fair and legally sound. The justices also denied his requests for another hearing or a new hearing in front of the entire 9th Circuit.
Baca, 77, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, was sentenced in 2017 to three years behind bars after a jury found he oversaw the plan to interfere with the jails investigation and later lied to prosecutors about his role in the scheme.
Baca’s attorneys also asked the high court to review the trial court’s use of an anonymous jury, in which the jurors’ identities were unknown even to the defendant and attorneys. The 9th Circuit had ruled that the district court’s decision to impanel an anonymous jury was reasonable because of the highly publicized nature of the case and Baca’s position as a former high-ranking law enforcement officer.
Baca’s attorneys asked the justices to clarify whether the lower court should have considered alternatives, including sequestration or limited disclosure of the jurors’ identities to attorneys. The Supreme Court declined to consider those queries. The justices agree to hear only a fraction of the thousands of cases presented to them each year.
The decision marks the end of the road in terms of securing Baca’s freedom, Hochman confirmed.
Baca has remained free while his appeals were pending. The Supreme Court’s decision clears the way for U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson, who sentenced Baca, to set a date when the former lawman must begin serving his sentence.
Baca was the last in a group of Sheriff’s Department deputies and commanders to be accused of playing a role in the 2011 scandal, which involved hiding an inmate who was an FBI informant and threatening to arrest the agent who was leading the investigation. All 10 of the people who faced charges in the case have either pleaded guilty or were convicted. They included Baca’s second-in-command, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who in 2016 was sentenced to five years in prison after a jury found that he had played a leading role in the scheme.
The obstruction plan played out over six weeks in August and September 2011, after sheriff’s officials discovered FBI agents had used a corrupt deputy to smuggle a cellphone to a jail inmate who was working as an informant.
The audacious move was part of an investigation opened the year before into the Men’s Central Jail, the main facility in the county’s enormous detention system. For years, the Sheriff’s Department had been dogged by reports of a place run amok, in which deputies routinely beat inmates without provocation and covered up the abuse, often with the knowledge of supervisors. Other corruption, including deputies who took bribes to sneak contraband to inmates, was said to be rampant as well.
Prosecutors argued during trial that word of the smuggled phone and the FBI investigation angered Baca and Tanaka, who viewed it as an unwarranted incursion into their territory by an outside agency. With Baca’s knowledge and, at times, his involvement, Tanaka oversaw a group of deputies and mid-level commanders who worked to derail the FBI investigation. They moved the informant under fake names to conceal his whereabouts from his handlers, pressured deputies and the informant not to cooperate with federal authorities and brazenly tried to intimidate the lead FBI agent on the case by threatening her with arrest.
Baca initially tried to plead guilty in a deal with prosecutors, but Anderson rejected it as too lenient and signaled he would impose a stiffer prison sentence than what was in the plea deal. Baca and his attorneys chose instead to withdraw his plea and take his chances at trial. Baca nearly won an acquittal when all but one member of a jury wanted to find him not guilty. With the lone juror unwilling to budge, Anderson declared a mistrial. For the second trial, however, prosecutors revamped their case, and Anderson issued a string of rulings that hamstrung the defense.
The sentence deepened the stain already imprinted on Baca’s legacy and the reputation he enjoyed as one of the nation’s most visible and respected reformers in law enforcement. While quirky to the point of being enigmatic, Baca was seen as a champion of progressive ideas, including the need for police to build strong ties to minority communities. He stepped down in 2014 with the department engulfed in the jail scandal.
These emails should indeed be confidential!
As Jumana Musa, Director of the NACDL’s Fourth Amendment Center, said: “It’s common sense, a bedrock principle of American law: when your attorney communicates with you, that’s supposed to be privileged.”
Excerpts from the Article:
To email someone in a federal prison, you can’t just fire up your inbox, type a message and hit “send” — electronic correspondence is part of a government-run service that makes clear that your messages “are accessible for review and/or download.”
This lack of privacy has long been a sticking point for attorneys representing incarcerated clients, especially since 2011, when federal prosecutors used a former Pennsylvania state senator’s “explosive” prison emails with his lawyers to obtain a lengthier sentence.
Representatives for the U.S. Department of Justice and Bureau of Prisons have repeatedly said they consider all emails to be fair game for review and potential use at trial, and judges have repeatedly agreed, on the basis that users of the government email systems consent to monitoring when they sign up.
But last week, a bipartisan bill in the U.S. House of Representatives proposed to protect attorney-client emails from being monitored at all, let alone used in cases. “Email is the most efficient way for an attorney to communicate with an incarcerated client and should enjoy the same protection as telephone calls and other forms of private communication,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., a congressman who introduced similar legislation in the past, to no avail.
The latest bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., would require the BOP to “exclude from monitoring” the emails sent between attorneys and clients. Called the Effective Assistance of Counsel in the Digital Era Act, it has support from the American Bar Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and numerous other proponents of justice reform. ABA President Judy Perry Martinez personally applauded the proposal in a letter to Collins and Jeffries.
“While traditional letter mail, unmonitored telephone calls, and in-person meetings between attorneys and their clients incarcerated in Bureau of Prisons facilities are already protected communications, your bill would expand that protection to also cover any electronic communications between them,” she noted.
The DOJ did not respond to requests for comment on the measure, but Jumana Musa, Director of the NACDL’s Fourth Amendment Center, told Law360 it would drastically increase access to counsel for people in prison. Other communication methods, she noted, have major shortcomings. Written mail comes with one- to two-week lag periods, and in-person meetings can be logistically and financially infeasible.
Visiting federal facilities requires attorneys to spend hours traveling and hours more waiting on a client to come down from the cells. All that time is billable to either the defendant or, in cases involving public defenders, American taxpayers.
Lawyers and their incarcerated clients can alternatively set up unmonitored phone calls to discuss privileged information. But Musa said scheduling such calls can be arduous in its own right — inmates must write letters to wardens, wardens must agree, schedules must line up, and in the end, calls are typically capped at 15 minutes.
Noting that, in the 21st century, most attorneys use emails to confer with clients, she said the bill “is really about making justice accessible to people.”
“It’s common sense, a bedrock principle of American law: when your attorney communicates with you, that’s supposed to be privileged,” Musa added.
The U.S. government disagrees: In June 2014, a letter from an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York put the Federal Defenders of New York on notice that “emails between inmates and their attorneys … are not privileged, and thus the office intends to review all emails.” The announcement set off alarm bells in the defenders’ office, where many attorneys had assumed their emails were screened out of government monitoring. Within weeks, an attorney representing a doctor on charges related to Medicare fraud filed a letter of objection with a New York federal judge, but the government countered there was no way around the monitoring.
“Because of the technology that the BOP has and because of the way the emails are provided to the government, the possibility exists…, that the individual prosecutors, as they read through the scroll of emails, may see attorney-client emails,” said F. Turner Buford, the federal prosecutor in the case.
Between June 2014 and October 2017, however, the government’s technological capability apparently changed. In a letter to the Federal Defenders of New York, then-acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde noted “BOP now has the technical capability to filter out of its production of BOP email communications emails to and from a particular email address.”
“The government now agrees to request that the BOP exclude from most productions communications between a defendant and his or her attorneys and other legal assistants and paralegals on their staff,” Rohde wrote.
That letter spurred the NACDL to submit Freedom of Information Act requests, seeking to determine how many other U.S. Attorney Offices were proactively filtering out attorney emails — and how many weren’t. After those requests went unanswered, the organization filed a FOIA lawsuit in October 2018. According to Megan Graham, an attorney representing NACDL, litigation has since led to scores of disclosures, but it’s still hard to tell how often the government is reading through attorney client emails sent on its servers.
Graham, who works as the clinical supervising attorney in the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at University of California Berkeley, School of Law, added that the newly proposed legislation would erase any uncertainty about emailing incarcerated clients.
“It doesn’t just bar the prosecutor from reading those emails,” she said. “It says emails between attorneys and clients are privileged and the government can’t monitor these — both prosecutors and the BOP and any other government entity that might seek the inmates’ emails.”
New Mexico jail bans on-site visits, offers video chats – Another move in the WRONG direction! – kra
You should know 1,2,3,4!
- All studies show that inmates with personal contact with loved ones are far less likely to re-offend.
- This is another financial squeeze on some of America’s poorest: families of inmates.
- This obviously is a load of typical BULLSHIT from prison officials: “It comes down to technology and convenience for family members,” … If that were true, it would be optional, not a requirement!
- Many prisons have ended personal visits, saying it would reduce the contraband being smuggled in. This is one of the biggest lies most often told by D O C officials, as everyone who knows what REALLY goes on knows that the guards bring in most of the drugs and cellphones being snuck in!
Excerpts from the Article:
A northwestern New Mexico jail is no longer allowing family and friends to speak to detainees on site and will now offer only off-site phone or online video chats. The San Juan County Adult Detention Center announced this month all visits must be done over the phone or through the approved online video chat app called Getting Out, the Farmington Daily Times reports.
San Juan County said the change is a positive step that will reduce the travel burden families face while visiting inmates. “It comes down to technology and convenience for family members,” said county spokesman Devin Neeley.Neeley told The Associated Press before visitors were allowed to come to the jail and speak to an inmate through video at the facility. This change allows visitors to speak to inmates through an app without leaving home, Neeley said.
He said the jail hasn’t allowed in-person sites since 2005. The change will also increase security by decreasing the number of people going in and out of the detention center each day, Neeley said. He said that will allow the detention center to reassign officers to other parts of the facility. This will also save taxpayers money, according to Neeley.
But the Massachusetts-based nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative says not allowing in-person visits can have negative impacts on inmates as well as safety at the jails and prisons. “The feeling of being physically close to your loved one can’t be replaced by fancy technology,” said Wanda Bertram, a communications strategist for Prison Policy Initiative, in an email to The Daily Times. “But even if it could, this technology is far from fancy. This isn’t Skype; it’s shoddy technology that is glitchy, grainy, doesn’t allow you to look the other person in the eyes, and can break and go down for weeks.” Bertram said family visits are often the only source of hope for people in jail. “When you take that away, it can seriously hurt people psychologically, and that puts everyone in the jail at risk,” Bertram said
Hundreds of jails and prisons across the United States have moved away from in-person visits in favor of video visitation, the Prison Policy Initiative said.
Prison Policy Initiative teamed up with a group called Face to Face Knox to study the impacts ending in-person visitation had at the Knox County Jail in Knoxville, Tennessee. Knox County ended in-person visitation in 2014. The Face to Face Knox report was released in January 2018. The Face to Face Knox study found that ending in-person visitation did not lead to a substantial drop in the amount of contraband entering the jail, and that ending in-person visits made the jail more dangerous by increasing the number of assaults on other inmates or staff.
According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, people using the video visitation software complained that calls would fail halfway through the visit, and sometimes they couldn’t even get it to connect. Neeley said each detainee at the San Juan County Detention Center will have a free 15-minute video visit each week. Additional visits or time will be charged 25 cents per minute.
Neeley said the county is aware that the phone or online visitation may not work for everyone. He said the court can notify the detention center and, when necessary, it will make allowances for visits.
What a coincidence! Just 2 days ago, before seeing this article, I was discussing this problem with the Mom of an inmate!
Why have I included this article? Because it describes the plight of many, many more than are reported. Our prisons are so abysmal and abominable that I have seen inmates commit suicide … and many more do than ever are reported. As I and others have pointed out, prison officials often lie about “cause of death” … under reporting suicides and homicides … to conceal their wrongdoing.
As we see from this article, reentry help and mental health counseling are so lacking that some prefer to go back to prison, and cannot function in society. Nobody knows the number of “Mark Wilson”s out there, but based on my vast experience, I am sure it is more than 1,000.
Excerpts from the Article:
A man who said he committed a crime so he could return to a Michigan prison apparently killed himself in a 40-foot plunge, officials said. Mark Wilson, 59, died Wednesday at Egeler Reception & Guidance Center, where inmates typically are housed before getting a prison assignment, Corrections Department spokeswoman Holly Kramer said.
In December, Wilson, who last lived in the Kalamazoo area, was sentenced to at least 25 years in prison for armed robbery, a punishment that was enhanced because of past convictions.
Wilson last summer gave a note to a Hardee’s employee in Escanaba, indicating that he was robbing the restaurant. Police said he stayed in the restroom until officers arrived. No one was hurt. “Somewhere along the road, your honor, I just seemed to have lost the ability to function normally with society,” Wilson told a Delta County judge, explaining why he wanted to return to prison.
He was last released from prison in 2012.
Good. This is another wildly dysfunctional part of the system. I know from my many contacts, my readings, and my own experience, that virtually NONE of the prison run programs are effective! The private companies submit a bid of 13 million $$$, or 40 million$$$, … to provide a treatment program. The program looks good on paper, the contractor gets the big bucks, …. and the difference between what is on the proposal and what goes on in the prisons makes the Grand Canyon look like a crack in the sidewalk! The “classes” are just bullshit sessions. They should have some empirical way to know which ones WORK!
Excerpts from the Article:
Lawmakers’ ongoing discussions about sentencing reform have turned a spotlight on substance abuse treatment in Arizona prisons, and the stark lack of options for the more than three quarters of inmates who have addiction issues.
The Arizona Department of Corrections says 78 percent of the inmates in its custody have a history of substance abuse at the time they’re admitted into prison. But less than 4 percent of all inmates who spent time in Arizona prisons in fiscal year 2019 received treatment while behind bars.
At the end of November, 933 inmates were enrolled in substance abuse programming. That accounted for about 2.2 percent of the total inmate population of 42,562. Department spokesman Bill Lamoreaux emphasized that that figure is just a snapshot of enrollment, and doesn’t account for people who have completed treatment but are still incarcerated.
Of the 60,272 inmates who saw the inside of a state correctional facility during the last fiscal year, only 2,299, or about 3.8 percent of the year’s total prison population, graduated from substance abuse programs.
The need for treatment exceeds the availability of programming, Lamoreaux said.
Mireles had already done several stints in prison when she was sentenced to five years for property crimes she committed to feed her heroin addiction in 2013. This time, she was committed to getting sober and kicking her 28-year heroin addiction.“Any crime I’ve ever committed has been in regard to getting my fix,” said Mireles, who has now been sober for nearly seven years.
In her five years in Perryville, Mireles sent five letters to prison officials asking to be enrolled in substance abuse treatment. The first four went ignored, she said. Officials finally responded on the fifth try and said she would be placed on a waiting list for a program. But by then, Mireles had less than a year left on her sentence and therefore was ineligible to participate. Mireles’s predicament isn’t uncommon. The Department of Corrections uses a ranking system based on need, risk to recidivate and time remaining on a prison sentence to determine which inmates get enrolled in programming. Inmates who can qualify for an early release by completing substance abuse counseling go to the front of the line. Treatment ranges from 36 hours for people convicted of drunk driving to 12-month “intensive treatment,” according to Lamoreaux.
In August, Karen Hellman, who runs the Department of Corrections’ division for inmate programs, told a legislative committee studying sentencing reform that 13 of her division’s 26 positions for substance abuse treatment counselors were vacant. Lamoreaux told the Arizona Mirror that a recent salary increase has helped fill six vacant positions.
Under Arizona’s “truth in sentencing” law, inmates must serve at least 85 percent of their sentences, but can earn the option to serve the remaining 15 percent on community supervision. A 2019 law lowered the requirement to 70 percent for people who were only convicted of drug offenses, if they complete addiction counseling or other programming. As of late June, 101 inmates were already eligible for early release and nearly 7,400 others could become eligible in the future.
While inmates who are in line for an early release have an obvious need for priority, that may leave other inmates without access to the treatment they need. Inmates with substance abuse problems and long prison sentences often go many years before receiving treatment. Mireles was granted an early release after serving 85 percent of her sentence in exchange for attending 90 days of substance abuse treatment after her release.
Even when treatment is available, it’s not always of the highest caliber. Rebecca Fealk, program coordinator for the Arizona chapter of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that promotes criminal justice reform, has heard many stories from former inmates about treatment that basically consists of, “do this packet and I’ll watch you in the classroom while you complete this packet, which talks about making the right choices or what kind of coping mechanisms would you have so you don’t do drugs again.”
“That’s not actual treatment and counseling. Those are worksheets,” Fealk said.
Donna Hamm, director of the prison reform organization Middle Ground, said treatment sometimes consists of little more than filling out a workbook, and those in need sometimes don’t even get counselor. When they do, she said, “counselor” is often a misnomer. Joe Watson, a former inmate who now works for the American Friends Service Committee, said treatment is often provided not by counselors but by correctional officers who lack training in treating substance abuse issues.
“Our law enforcement agencies are very good at finding out who does what and arresting them for it. But we keep hearing that they end up arresting the same people over and over again because we’re not doing anything to address the underlying issue,” Roberts said.
Gov. Doug Ducey said the state needs money for substance abuse treatment in its prisons. It’s unclear whether he’ll push for more funding in the fiscal year 2021 budget, but said he plans to focus on reducing recidivism.
“Prison … is not the best place for people with mental health issues, often substance abuse issues. Sometimes people are in prison because they’re feeding that addiction. So we are looking at different alternatives in terms of reforms that we can have so that we can give people a second chance and allow them to make a better choice. And substance abuse programs are part of that,” the governor told reporters in December.
Fealk, on the other hand, doesn’t believe the department needs for funding at all. The Department of Corrections has a budget of about $1.1 billion. Rather than give it more, Fealk said the department needs to change the way it spends its money to prioritize things like treatment.
The Whole Story:
The Injustice of This Moment Is Not an ‘Aberration’ From mass incarceration to mass deportation, our nation remains in deep denial.
From the woman who sparked a fire with the book , “The New Jim Crow”! I have written several articles on the issues she raises, but I did not correlate the mass deportation to mass incarceration, which, as she points out, is no coincidence.
Excerpts from the Article:
Ten years have passed since my book, “The New Jim Crow,” was published. I wrote it to challenge our nation to reckon with the recurring cycles of racial reform, retrenchment and rebirth of caste-like systems that have defined our racial history since slavery. It has been an astonishing decade. Everything and nothing has changed.
When I was researching and writing the book, Barack Obama had not yet been elected president of the United States. I was in disbelief that our country would actually elect a black man to be the leader of the so-called free world. As the election approached, I felt an odd sense of hope and dread. I hoped against all reason that we would actually do it. But I also knew that, if we did, there would be a price to pay.
Everything I knew through experience and study told me that we as a nation did not fully understand the nature of the moment we were in. We had recently birthed another caste system — a system of mass incarceration — that locked millions of poor people and people of color in literal and virtual cages.
Our nation’s prison and jail population had quintupled in 30 years, leaving us with the highest incarceration rate in the world. A third of black men had a felony record — due in large part to a racially biased, brutal drug war — and were relegated to a permanent second-class status. Tens of millions of people in the United States had been stripped of basic civil and human rights, including the right to vote, the right to serve on juries and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment, housing, education and basic public benefits.
Nevertheless, our nation remained in deep denial that a new caste system even existed, and most of us — even those who cared deeply about racial justice — did not seem to understand that powerful racial dynamics and political forces were at play that made much of our racial progress illusory. We had not faced our racial history and could not tell the truth about our racial present, yet growing numbers of Americans wanted to elect a black president and leap into a “colorblind” future.
I was right to worry about the aftermath of Obama’s election. After he was inaugurated, our nation was awash in “post-racialism.” Black History Month events revolved around “how far we’ve come.” Many in the black community and beyond felt that, if Obama could win the presidency, anything was possible. Few people wanted to hear the message I felt desperate to convey: Despite appearances, our nation remains trapped in a cycle of racial reform, backlash and reformation of systems of racial and social control.
Things have changed since then. Donald Trump is president of the United States. For many, this feels like whiplash. After eight years of Barack Obama — a man who embraced the rhetoric (though not the politics) of the civil rights movement — we now have a president who embraces the rhetoric and the politics of white nationalism. This is a president who openly stokes racial animosity and even racial violence, who praises dictators (and likely aspires to be one), who behaves like a petulant toddler on Twitter, and who has a passionate, devoted following of millions of people who proudly say they want to “make America great again” by taking us back to a time that we’ve left behind.
We are now living in an era not of post-racialism but of unabashed racialism, a time when many white Americans feel free to speak openly of their nostalgia for an age when their cultural, political and economic dominance could be taken for granted — no apologies required. Racial bigotry, fearmongering and scapegoating are no longer subterranean in our political discourse; the dog whistles have been replaced by bullhorns. White nationalist movements are operating openly online and in many of our communities; they’re celebrating mass killings and recruiting thousands into their ranks.
White nationalism has been emboldened by our president, who routinely unleashes hostile tirades against black and brown people — calling Mexican migrants criminals, “rapists” and “bad people,” referring to developing African nations as “shithole countries” and smearing a district of the majority-black city of Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” Millions of Americans are cheering, or at least tolerating, these racial hostilities.
Contrary to what many people would have us believe, what our nation is experiencing is not an “aberration.” The politics of “Trumpism” and “fake news” are not new; they are as old as the nation itself. The very same playbook has been used over and over in this country by those who seek to preserve racial hierarchy, or to exploit racial resentments and anxieties for political gain, each time with similar results. Back in the 1980s and ’90s, Democratic and Republican politicians leaned heavily on racial stereotypes of “crack heads,” “crack babies,” “superpredators” and “welfare queens” to mobilize public support for the War on Drugs, a get-tough movement and a prison-building boom — a political strategy that was traceable in large part to the desire to appeal to poor and working-class white voters who had defected from the Democratic Party in the wake of the civil rights movement.
Today, the rhetoric has changed, but the game remains the same. Public enemy No. 1 in the 2016 election was a brown-skinned immigrant, an “illegal,” a “terrorist” or a “caravan” full of people who want to take your job, rape your daughter or commit an act of terrorism. As Trump put it: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems. … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Fortunately, a growing number of scholars and activists have begun to connect the dots between mass incarceration and mass deportation in our nation’s history and current politics. The historian Kelly Lytle Hernández, in her essay “Amnesty or Abolition: Felons, Illegals, and the Case for a New Abolition Movement,” chronicles how these systems have emerged as interlocking forms of social control that relegate “aliens” and “felons” to a racialized caste of outsiders. In recent decades, the system of mass incarceration has stripped away from millions of U.S. citizens basic civil and human rights until their status mirrors (or dips below) that of noncitizen immigrants within the United States. This development has coincided with the criminalization of immigration in the United States, resulting in a new class of “illegal immigrants” and “aliens” who are viewed and treated like “felons” or “criminals.” Immigration violations that were once treated as minor civil infractions are now crimes. And minor legal infractions, ranging from shoplifting to marijuana possession to traffic violations, now routinely prompt one of the nation’s most devastating sanctions — deportation.
The story of how our “nation of immigrants” came to deport and incarcerate so many for so little, Hernández explains, is a story of race and unfreedom reaching back to the era of emancipation. If we fail to understand the historical relationship between these systems, especially the racial politics that enabled them, we will be unable to build a truly united front that will prevent the continual re-formation of systems of racial and social control.
As Khalil Gibran Muhammad points out in “The Condemnation of Blackness,” throughout our nation’s history, when crime and immigration have been perceived as white, our nation’s response has been radically different from when those phenomena have been defined as black or brown. The systems of mass incarceration and mass deportation may seem entirely unrelated at first glance, but they are both deeply rooted in our racial history, and they both have expanded in part because of the enormous profits to be made in controlling, exploiting and eliminating vulnerable human beings.
It is tempting to imagine that electing a Democratic president or more Democratic politicians will surely fix the crises in our justice systems and our democracy. To be clear, removing Trump from office is necessary and urgent; but simply electing more Democrats to office is no guarantee that our nation will break its habit of birthing enormous systems of racial and social control. Indeed, one of the lessons of recent decades is these systems can grow and thrive even when our elected leaders claim to be progressive and espouse the rhetoric of equality, inclusion and civil rights.
President Bill Clinton, who publicly aligned himself with the black community and black leaders, escalated a racially discriminatory drug war in part to avoid being cast by conservatives as “soft on crime.” Similarly, President Obama publicly preached values of inclusion and compassion toward immigrants, yet he escalated the mass detention and deportation of noncitizens. Obama claimed that his administration was focused on deporting: “Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids.” However, reports by The New York Times and the Marshall Project revealed that, despite Obama’s rhetoric, a clear majority of immigrants detained and deported during his administration had no criminal record, except minor infractions, including traffic violations, and posed no threat.
Equally important is the reality that “felons” have families. And “criminals” are often children or teenagers. The notion that, if you’ve ever committed a crime, you’re permanently disposable is the very idea that has rationalized mass incarceration in the United States.
None of this is to minimize the real progress that has occurred on many issues of race and criminal justice during the past decade. Today, there is bipartisan support for some prison downsizing, and hundreds of millions of philanthropic dollars have begun to flow toward criminal justice reform. A vibrant movement led by formerly incarcerated and convicted people is on the rise — a movement that has challenged or repealed disenfranchisement laws in several states, mobilized in support of sentencing reform and successfully organized to “ban the box” on employment applications that discriminate against those with criminal records by asking the dreaded question: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” Activism challenging police violence has swept the nation — inspired by the courageous uprisings in Ferguson, Mo., the viral videos of police killings of unarmed black people, and #BlackLivesMatter. Promising movements for restorative and transformative justice have taken hold in numerous cities. Campaigns against cash bail have gained steam. Marijuana legalization has sped across the nation, with more than 25 states having partly or fully decriminalized cannabis since 2012. And “The New Jim Crow,” which some predicted would never get an audience, wound up spending nearly 250 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and has been used widely by faith groups, activists, educators and people directly effected by mass incarceration inside and outside prisons. Over the past 10 years, I’ve received thousands of letters — and tens of thousands of emails — from people in all walks of life who have written to share how the book changed their lives or how they have used it to support consciousness-raising or activism in countless ways.
Everything has changed. And yet nothing has.
The politics of white supremacy, which defined our original constitution, have continued unabated — repeatedly and predictably engendering new systems of racial and social control. Just a few decades ago, politicians vowed to build more prison walls. Today, they promise border walls.
The political strategy of divide, demonize and conquer has worked for centuries in the United States — since the days of slavery — to keep poor and working people angry at (and fearful of) one another rather than uniting to challenge unjust political and economic systems. At times, the tactics of white supremacy have led to open warfare. Other times, the divisions and conflicts are less visible, lurking beneath the surface. The stakes now are as high as they’ve ever been. Nearly everyone seems aware that our democracy is in crisis, yet few seem prepared to reckon with the reality that removing Trump from office will not rid our nation of the social and political dynamics that made his election possible. No issue has proved more vexing to this nation than the issue of race, and yet no question is more pressing than how to overcome the politics of white supremacy — a form of politics that not only led to an actual civil war but that threatens our ability ever to create a truly fair, just and inclusive democracy.
We find ourselves in this dangerous place not because something radically different has occurred in our nation’s politics, but because so much has remained the same.
The inconvenient truth is that racial progress in this country is always more complex and frequently more illusory than appears at first glance. The past 10 years has been a case in point. Our nation has swung sharply from what Marc Mauer memorably termed “a race to incarcerate” — propelled by bipartisan wars on “drugs” and “crime” — to a bipartisan commitment to criminal justice reform, particularly in the area of drug policy. And yet, it must be acknowledged that much of the progress occurred not because of newfound concern for people of color who have been the primary targets of the drug war, but because drug addiction, due to the opioid crisis, became perceived as a white problem and wealthy white investors became interested in profiting from the emerging legal cannabis industry.
Some of the reversals in political opinion have been quite striking. For example, John Boehner, a former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, stated in 2011 that he was “unalterably opposed to decriminalizing marijuana” but by the spring of 2018 he had joined the board of a cannabis company.
Growing sympathy for illegal drug users among whites and conservatives, and concern regarding the expense of mass imprisonment, helped to make possible a bipartisan consensus in support of the Trump administration’s First Step Act — leading to the early release of more than 3,000 people from federal prisons for drug offenses. This development, which benefits people of color subject to harsh and biased drug sentencing laws, is difficult to characterize as major progress toward ending mass incarceration given that Trump continued to unleash racially hostile tirades against communities of color and his administration vowed to reinstate the federal death penalty. He also rescinded a number of significant reforms adopted by Obama and expanded the use of private prisons.
Most troubling, the modest criminal justice reforms that were achieved during the Obama administration coincided with the expansion of the system of mass deportation. Although the administration agreed to phase out federal contracts for private prisons, it made enormous investments in private detention centers for immigrants, including the granting of a $1 billion contract to Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest prison company, to build a detention facility for women and children asylum seekers from Central America. Immigrant detention centers were exempted from the phaseout plan for private prisons, which meant that only about a quarter of the population held in U.S. private facilities was affected by the plan. The caging of immigrants for profit was allowed to continue without restraint.
Many of us saw these presidents as “good people” with our best interests at heart, doing what they could to navigate a political environment in which only limited justice is possible. All of these factors played a role, but one was key: These systems grew with relatively little political resistance because people of all colors were willing to tolerate the disposal of millions of individuals once they had been labeled criminals in the media and political discourse. This painful reality suggests that ending our nation’s habit of creating enormous systems of racial and social control requires us to expand our sphere of moral concern so widely that none of us, not even those branded criminals, can be viewed or treated as disposable.
If there is any silver lining to be found in the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, it is that millions of people have been inspired to demonstrate solidarity on a large scale across the lines of gender, race, religion and class in defense of those who have been demonized and targeted for elimination. Trump’s blatant racial demagogy has awakened many from their “colorblind” slumber and spurred collective action to oppose the Muslim ban and the border wall, and to create sanctuaries for immigrants in their places of worship and local communities.
Many who are engaged in this work are also deeply involved in, or supportive of, movements to end police violence and mass incarceration. Growing numbers of people are beginning to see how the politics of white supremacy have resurfaced again and again, leading to the creation and maintenance of new systems of racial and social control. A politics of deep solidarity is beginning to emerge — the only form of politics that holds any hope for our collective liberation. The centuries-long struggle to birth a truly inclusive, egalitarian democracy — a nation in which every voice and every life truly matters — did not begin with us and it will not end with us. The struggle is as old as the nation itself and the birth process has been painful, to say the least. My greatest hope and prayer is that we will serve as faithful midwives in our lifetimes and do what we can to make America, finally, what it must become.
The Whole Story
US states move to stop prisons charging inmates for reading and video calls Draft bill aims to curb rise of pay-per-minute ebooks and costly facetime calls in prisons where visits are banned or restricted
Great news, and EVERY state should do this! These measures endanger YOUR safety: all studies show that better educated inmates, and prisoners who stay in touch with loved ones, are far less likely to re-offend!
Advocate for it! Here is how: Practical Tip: How YOU can become an ADVOCATE! Here is how! EASY as 1, 2 ,3 ! DO IT!
Excerpts from the Article:
Lawmakers in three US states are drafting a bill that they hope will end the growing trend of prisons charging inmates high fees for reading ebooks or making video calls to their families, while paying under a dollar an hour for prison labour.
State prisons in nine states have struck deals with private equity telecom companies to introduce pay-per-minute reading and video conferencing services in their facilities.
In December, the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation launched a pay-per-minute ebook policy, which charges inmates five cents (4p) per minute of reading. The fee equates to roughly an hour of prison labour.
In Missouri, where prison visits are increasingly being banned or restricted, inmates are being charged more than one month’s prison wages ($7.50) to make a 30-minute video call.
Congressional representatives David Trone of Maryland, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey and Abigail Spanberger, of Virginia, are looking to create a bipartisan-supported bill to curb the practice.
“It’s clear that the criminal justice system is unjust and disproportionately impacts communities of colour,” said Trone. “Access to books and other educational materials for prisoners just makes sense. Instead of exploiting our prison population, we need to focus on getting them ready for re-entry in the workforce, schools, and our communities.”
Critics say that the charges throw into stark relief the huge gap between prison pay and the rising costs charged for services that were traditionally free and viewed as essential in helping inmates maintain contact with the outside world.
In 2017, research by the Prison Policy Initiative found that the average minimum daily wage paid to incarcerated workers across the country was 86 cents, down from 93 cents in 2001. “You are basically squeezing a profit from the most marginalised and poorest group of people in society,” said David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s national prison project.
“They literally have no financial resources. There is no justification for charging people to read or to talk to their loved ones. The privatisation of incarceration and the profit motive is outrageous. If these policies are not modified I see a legal challenge and fully support legislation against this.”
Prisons have long argued that paper items – such as books and letters – can be used to smuggle in illicit goods. Yet James Tager, of Pen America, a literacy advocacy group, said access to free literature should extend to everyone.
In a recent report, Pen America cited examples of prison authorities curtailing access to books in Pennsylvania, Washington and New York, effectively obliging prisoners to pay for e-readers. “These are forces of civic education and prisons are putting a premium on their access to rehabilitation. We believe books provide self-education, reconnection and diversion,” said Tager.
“We are not against giving incarcerated people different options. We are concerned that e-readers will be increasingly pushed out as the option and will winnow down access to literature.”
In a study conducted at the University of Texas Medical Branch in conjunction with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in 2000, approximately 80% of inmates were reported to be functionally illiterate, with 48% found to be dyslexic. Slower reading speed will mean that inmates could be charged between $12-$18 for a 200-page book.
Mandatory – or forced – prison labour still exists in many correctional facilities across the US in states including Mississippi and Alabama. In other states, such as Texas, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia, prisoners are not paid at all for their labour, although authorities say they are compensated in other ways, such as time off their sentences. Prison labour in the US is explicitly allowed under the 13th amendment of the constitution as punishment for committing a crime. In one case in Alabama, inmates who led a protest movement against forced labour were put in long-term solitary confinement.
Families push for lower prison phone rates, more open visits – READ WHAT YOU CAN DO, AND DO IT! – kra
I organized a move – a prison phone boycott – to lower the rates in Delaware several years ago, and it worked! DO it in your state. You will be reducing crime, as sure as I sit here, for all studies show that those inmates with outside contacts are less likely to return … and the OUTRAGEOUSLY high rates prohibit or limit those contacts.
Here is HOW TO DO IT: Send a postcard to about 20 prisoners (or as many as you can – get other activists involved), in prison facilities statewide. Pick a date a couple of months out so they have plenty of time to spread the word … and tell them to spread the word to BOYCOTT prison phones for the month of xxxx. Make only needed calls, as to lawyers or about their case. Emphasize that THEY can make a difference, and have in other states!
Sample: Mr. xxxxxxxx, This is your chance to DO something which helps all inmates! Spread the word throughout the prison, and to other prisons in xxxx ( your state= … hell, NATIONWIDE!) – put up flyers near the phones! – to BOYCOTT the prison phones for the month of May, 2020. Make only NECESSARY calls ALL MONTH, like about your case or a medical emergency. Sure it will be tough, but DO it! This has worked in other states to reduce the OUTRAGEOUS rates they charge you!
Excerpts from the Article:
Families with loved ones behind bars are planning to gather at the Massachusetts Statehouse to press for lower prison phone rates and less restricted visits. The families are planning to lobby lawmakers Wednesday in support of two bills they say are designed to improve prison and jail visitation policies.
Supporters say their goal is to strengthen parent-child relationships, reduce recidivism, enhance public safety, and build stronger communities.
The bills would make several changes to state law including rolling back limitations on the number of unique individuals allowed to visit a prisoner and ensuring no visitor is turned away on the basis of a dress code violation without consultation with a superintendent or shift commander.
“Children, parents, families, and so many others with incarcerated loved ones are facing an uphill battle to overcome extraordinary odds,” said Democratic state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz. “Incarceration can damage vital family ties and child development, and exacerbates chronic childhood poverty.”
Another backer of the changes — Democratic state Rep. Marjorie Decker — said the legislation would undo harsh changes to inmate visitation policies.
“It is confounding that Massachusetts has taken a step backwards in our inmate visitation policies when we know that the research is clear,” Decker said.