It’s Not Enough Just To Deplore Horrific Violence

(If you don’t know who Michelle Alexander is you should do some research on her history. She is a voice of reason among a sea of voices who speak only to hear the sound of their own voice pushing an agenda that benefits only the mighty few. Earlier in my postings are other articles and at least one video by her as well.)

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Michelle Alexander: It’s Not Enough to Just Deplore Horrific Violence

We need a profound shift in our collective consciousness in order to challenge an entrenched system of racial and social control — and build a new America.

By Michelle Alexander / BillMoyers.com July 10, 2016

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photo credit: flickr

I have struggled to find words to express what I thought and felt as I watched the videos of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile being killed by the police. Thursday night, I wanted to say something that hasn’t been said a hundred times before. It finally dawned on me that there is nothing to say that hasn’t been said before. As I was preparing to write about the oldness of all of this, and share some wisdom passed down from struggles of earlier eras, I heard on the news that 11 officers had been shot in Dallas, several killed from sniper fire. My fingers froze on the keys. I could not bring myself to recycle old truths. Something more is required. But what?

I think we all know, deep down, that something more is required of us now. This truth is difficult to face because it’s inconvenient and deeply unsettling. And yet silence isn’t an option. On any given day, there’s always something I’d rather be doing than facing the ugly, racist underbelly of America. I know that I am not alone. But I also know that the families of the slain officers, and the families of all those who have been killed by the police, would rather not be attending funerals. And I’m sure that many who refused to ride segregated buses in Montgomery after Rosa Parks stood her ground wished they could’ve taken the bus, rather than walk miles in protest, day after day, for a whole year. But they knew they had to walk. If change was ever going to come, they were going to have to walk. And so do we.

What it means to walk today will be different for different people and different groups and in different places. I am asking myself what I need to do in the months and years to come to walk my walk with greater courage. It’s a question that requires some time and reflection. I hope it’s a question we are all asking ourselves.

In recent years, I have come to believe that truly transformative change depends more on thoughtful creation of new ways of being than reflexive reactions to the old. What is happening now is very, very old. We have some habits of responding to this familiar pain and trauma that are not serving us well. In many respects it’s amazing that we endure at all. I am inspired again and again by so much of the beautiful, brilliant and daring activism that is unfolding all over the country. Yet I also know that more is required than purely reactive protest and politics. A profound shift in our collective consciousness must occur, a shift that makes possible a new America.

know many people believe that our criminal justice system can be “fixed” by smart people and smart policies. President Obama seems to think this way. He suggested yesterday that police-community relations can be improved meaningfully by a task force he created last year. Yes, a task force. I used to think like that. I don’t anymore. I no longer believe that we can “fix” the police, as though the police are anything other than a mirror reflecting back to us the true nature of our democracy. We cannot “fix” the police without a revolution of values and radical change to the basic structure of our society. Of course important policy changes can and should be made to improve police practices. But if we’re serious about having peace officers — rather than a domestic military at war with its own people — we’re going to have to get honest with ourselves about who our democracy actually serves and protects.

Consider this: Philando Castile had been stopped 31 times and charged with more than 60 minor violations — resulting in thousands of dollars in fines — before his last, fatal encounter with the police.

Alton Sterling was arrested because he was hustling, selling CDs to get by. He was unable to work in the legal economy due to his felony record. His act of survival was treated by the police as a major crime, apparently punishable by death.

How many people on Wall Street have been arrested for their crimes large and small — crimes of greed and fraud that nearly bankrupted the global economy and destroyed the futures of millions of families? How many politicians have been prosecuted for taking millions of dollars from private prisons, prison guard unions, pharmaceutical companies, oil companies, tobacco companies, the NRA and Wall Street banks and doing their bidding for them — killing us softly? Oh, that’s right, taking millions from those folks isn’t even a crime. Democrats and Republicans do it every day. Our entire political system is financed by wealthy private interests buying politicians and making sure the rules are written in their favor. But selling CDs or loose cigarettes? In America, that’s treated as a serious crime, especially if you’re black. For that act of survival, you can be wrestled to the ground and choked to death or shot at point blank range. Our entire system of government is designed to protect and serve the interests of the most powerful, while punishing, controlling and exploiting the least advantaged.

This is not hyperbole. And this is not new. What is new is that we’re now watching all of this on YouTube and Facebook, streaming live, as imagined super-predators are brought to heel. Fifty years ago, our country was forced to look at itself in the mirror when television stations broadcast Bloody Sunday, the day state troopers and a sheriff’s posse brutally attacked civil rights activists marching for voting rights in Selma. Those horrifying images, among others, helped to turn public opinion in support of the Civil Rights Movement. Perhaps the images we’ve seen in recent days will make some difference. It’s worth remembering, though, that none of the horrifying images from the Jim Crow era would’ve changed anything if a highly strategic, courageous movement had not existed that was determined to challenge a deeply entrenched system of racial and social control.

This nation was founded on the idea that some lives don’t matter. Freedom and justice for some, not all. That’s the foundation. Yes, progress has been made in some respects, but it hasn’t come easy. There’s an unfinished revolution waiting to be won.

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Michelle Alexander is a legal scholar, human rights advocate and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

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Torture of U.S. Political Prisoners

I read this article today. It is a prime example of how we torture people in our prisons or give them unjust sentences. Some of these people are guilty and some aren’t, but there is such determination to destroy their lives, not based on whether the sentence is just, but because they weren’tliked. Their ideologies weren’t liked. They were punished with these sentences and kept in solitary confinement when it wasn’t necessary. This is the wrong use of our “injustice” system. It is way beyond what should have been. Their sentence did not fit the crime, if they did indeed commit a crime in the first place.

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The sentences for long term political prisoners are extreme. And cruel, revenge for the prisoner’s challenge to the system rather than appropriate punishment for alleged crimes of self defence or for the unplanned tragedies of political actions. Because many here were provably targeted by law enforcement programs to silence them and are likely to be innocent, the length of prison terms falls into a pattern of racist and political oppression.

The prisoners are consistently from Black or left wing resistance groups after moderate leaders within the system were assassinated. The arrests and sentencing come from a time when police actions against Black Panthers were overtly criminal (Fred Hampton) and covertly part of a military and law enforcement war against the left, anti war resistance, the poor. Allegations against leaders of Black communities couldn’t be relied on as   factual. While “life imprisonment” is better than death who will tell us that it’s bearable? Beyond sentencing, some cases show repetitive patterns of withholding medical care to the point of extrajudicial punishment, particularly where the prisoner was accused of crimes against police (ref. Oct. 13, 2013). The additional extra-judicial punishment of holding a prisoner for years in solitary confinement is finally being recognized as a crime. It’s torture. Political prisoners targeted for their convictions, their organizing, their truths, suffered more than most of us can sustain, and some have survived. Their lives weren’t allowed to be lived. Their suffering was caused and intended to scare everyone else. We remember political prisoners because they keep alive our hope that there will always be people who say no to what is unacceptable.

Thomas William Manning of the Ohio Seven: according to Medical Justice of the Jericho Movement Manning remains at FMC Butner where he was transferred in 2010: his knee replacement surgery was performed in 2012 but kept him in a wheelchair since his damaged shoulder didn’t allow him to progress with physiotherapy. Shoulder surgery, for an injury which by my understanding was caused by police (on arrest he was picked up and dropped until something broke), continues to be denied him as ‘not medically necessary.’ Appropriate private medical treatment was effectively denied with his parole, November 2014. He’s expected to be freed August 20, 2020. Tom Manning became an artist in prison and there’s an art book of his paintings out – For Love and Liberty: Artist Tom Manning, Freedom Fighter, Political Prisoner.  [1]

Albert Woodfox, of the Angola 3 was finally released February 19, 2016. The State of Louisiana appealed three former judicial attempts to free him, and kept him in solitary confinement. At the final trial the prisoner pleaded nolo contendere in a plea bargain which gains his freedom without admission of guilt but lets him plead to lesser charges for which he has already served the time. This time he can’t be placed back in a cell. The extreme injustice remains that as an innocent, Albert Woodfox served 43 years in solitary confinement. His lawyer is bringing legal action against the State of Louisiana for its policies of solitary confinement.  [2]

Russell Maroon Shoatz: in 2013 counsel for Russell Maroon Shoatz sued Pennsylvania’s State Corrections Secretary, John Wetzel, and the Greene Correctional Institution Superintendent, Louis Folino, for cruel and unusual punishment without recourse to remedy. This directly attacked the solitary confinement policies of the State’s Department of Corrections. The case protests the cruelty of solitary confinement as applied to Shoatz for over 22 years. It may help other Pennsylvania prisoners. On February 15, 2016 the federal court judge ruled that Shoatz’s case should be decided by a jury trial. At the hearing Shoatz’s lawyer was able to provide a report by Juan Mendez, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Torture who found the conditions of Shoatz’s imprisonment beyond the current norm of civilized nations.  [3]

Mumia Abu Jamal: his case has allowed a challenge to a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections policy on treatment of patients with Hepatits C. There is a known treatment for the disease. It costs about eighty-four thousand dollars in the U.S.. If not treated Hep C may develop into cirrhosis of the liver which is lethal. Even when diagnosed with Hep C U.S. prisoners are not usually treated for the disease because of the expense. Abu-Jamal’s lawyers are challenging the DFOCV policy of triage which waits to give expensive treatment until there is a Hepatitis C caused medical emergency which is possibly fatal. The hope is to gain Abu-Jamal among other prisoners the life-saving treatment. The effects on Abu-Jamal through lack of appropriate medical treatment as revealed through trial testimony, are awful, similar to the effects of torture, and these were unrefuted.  [4]

Leonard Peltier: the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (ILPDC) has confirmed that a preliminary diagnosis of the prisoner’s condition by an MRI shows an abdominal aortic aneurism. Aware of Peltier’s illness before June 2015, initial results were available about January 10th, 2016. Consistently, prison authorities have moved very slowly to address Peltier’s medical difficulties to the point of endangering his life for the forty years of his imprisonment so far. Treatment of a potentially fatal aneurism requires an exception – it was to be operated on before mid-January. Peltier notes in an article of Feb. 23rd that no operation was forthcoming since he’s in a maximum security prison and inmates don’t get treatment until the problem is terminal. There was always serious doubt of the validity of Peltier’s conviction. There is strong doubt he’s being held legally now. He needs and deserves the clemency students across the country will be demanding February 27th.  [5]

Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin: one of the most important alternative voices in America, Al-Amin remains without pardon in prison serving a life sentence. I believe he’s innocent of the charges against him. At Butner Federal Medical Center a bone marrow biopsy on Jan. 23, 2014 revealed the presence of myeloma cells. The condition was to be monitored every several months. Then he was returned to the remote ADX Florence Colorado, an over-controlled maximum security prison for the most dangerous prisoners. It’s considered one of America’s worst. On Sept. 3, 2015 a prisoner was able to contact the Prison Movement with the news that Al-Amin was in a medical emergency. [6]

Robert Seth Hayes: in July 2015, Medical Justicenoted that Seth Hayes was beginning to receive some treatment for his Hepatitis C and diabetes but none for “chronic bleeding and abdominal growths.” Despite previous emergency alerts and notices he continues without adequate health care at Sullivan Correctional Facility in New York. Medical Justice claims his diabetes is not under control and as of November 2015 he was having trouble breathing.Medical Justice has asked he be taken to a pulmonary and heart specialist immediately. Medical treatment so far is inadequate to the point of intentional harm. Hayes is a Vietnam war veteran and Black Panther sentenced back in 1973 to from 25 years to life. It’s 2016 now. He’s denied his freedom and his health.   [7]

Sekou Odinga: imprisoned for his part in the 1979 freeing of Assata Shakur and his part in the Brinks robbery of 1981, with a mandatory release date of 2009, Sekou Abdullah Odinga (Nathaniel Burns) left prison on parole Nov. 25, 2014. He passed about half his 34 years time in solitary confinement. [8]

Dr. Mutulu Shakur: under laws no longer in effect Dr. Shakur won his release date of Feb. 10, 2016, after serving 30 years of a sixty year sentence. On Feb. 4th he received notice of a scheduled parole hearing on April 4th and so remains in Victorville U.S. Penitentiary (California). He is being held illegally. Authorities hold against him the planning of the Brinks robbery of 1981 where two policemen and two guards were killed, and attribute to him the successful escape of Assata Shakur (Joanne D. Chesimard) from a New Jersey prison to Cuba. A doctor, healer and teacher he should be allowed to continue his work of wholeness, caring for people in New York. [9]

Judith Clark has served 35 years of a minimum 75 year sentence; she’ll be eligible for parole at the age of 107. She drove a getaway car for the 1981 Brinks robbery which Dr. Shakur is said to have planned. She was not accused of any violent act and the intolerable length of her sentence reflected the court’s judgement of her political thinking and expression rather than her degree of guilt. She refused a lawyer as did David Gilbert still in prison, and Kuwasi Balagoon who has died in prison. Her statements to the court were honest but radical. Of the same group Kathy Boudin plead guilty which brought her a twenty year sentence and she left prison on parole in 2003. The New York Times reports that former presidents of the New York Bar association have joined in a plea of clemency for Judith Clark. Under current law an appeal to the governor is the only means of finding her a release from prison. The length of the sentence is so clearly unjust it reflects poorly on the sanity of the legal system. [10]

Under the norms of civilization, each of these prisoners would be freed. But each of these cases is abnormal, contravening any international expectation of justice. The length of the sentences is consistently skewed from the norm. The sentences are primitive, scented with revenge and racist hatred. These prisoners among all the public doesn’t know about had their lives taken away because of what they believed and who they cared for. From a time when law enforcement was corrupt, racist, and as programmed to right wing extremism as it is today, the charges against the prisoners do not match up with the prisoners’ histories, writings , concerns, deeds over the years, whom they’ve proved themselves to be. So the allegations are either hard to believe, or within a logic of self defence. The courts’ astounding long sentences were intended to wipe out the left wing. In a United States that promises freedom who would have the outrageous ignorance to deny any of these a pardon.

Gouache drawings by Julie Maas

Notes:

  1. “Tom Manning,” current, Medical Justice; “Tom Manning (prisoner) explained,” current, Explained Today‘ “Tom Manning,” current, Wikipedia.
  2. “Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3 released from prison in Louisiana,” Steve Almasy, Feb. 19, 2016, CNN; “Albert Woodfox released from jail after 43 years in solitary confinement,” Ed Pilkington, Feb. 19, 2016, theguardian.
  3. “22 Years in Solitary May Be Cruel & Unusual, Federal Judge Says,”Rose Bouboushian, Feb. 18, 2016, Courthouse News Service; “How a Former Black Panther Could Change the Rules of Solitary Confinement,” Victoria Law, Feb. 22, 2016, The Nation.
  4. “Mumia Abu-Jamal vs John Kerestes et al,” #15cv967, Dec. 18, 2015, The United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [access:<http://www.prisonradio.org/sites/default/files/letters/pdf/Abu-Jamal%20v%20Kerestes%20PreliminInjunctionTranscript%2012-15%20%281%29.pdf >].
  5. “New Health Emergency for Leonard Peltier,” Jan. 6, 2016, International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee; “Leonard Peltier’s MRI Confirms Abdominal Aortic Aneurism Diagnosis,” Levi Rickert, Jan. 10, 2016, Native News Online.net; “Call for National Student Day of Action: Demand Obama Grant Clemency to Leonard Peltier!” current,peltierstudentnationalaction.wordpress.com; “What Can I Say?” Leonard Peltier, Feb.23, 2016, NetNewsLedger.
  6. “Stop the execution of Imam Jamil, the former H. Rap Brown, by medical neglect in federal prison”, the Imam Jamil Action Network, Sept. 6, 2015,BayView; Biopsy results released for Imam Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown)”, Karima Al-Amin, Aug. 8, 2014, BayView; “Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown),” current, Medical Justice
  7. “July update on Seth Hayes: Call for support,” July 5, 2015, Medical Justice; “Robert Seth Hayes Urgent Medical Update,” Nov. 16, 2015, Medical Justice.
  8. “UC-Irvine welcomes ‘political prisoner’ involved in cop killings,” Dave Huber, Feb. 10, 2016, The College Fix; “Free ‘Em All: 50 Years Later, Black Panthers Are Still Fighting for Freedom,” Asha Bandele, Feb. 18, 2016Huffington PostAlternet.
  9. “Mutulu Shakur,” current, Family & Friends of Dr. Mutulu Shakur; “Mutulu Shakur has not been released from Prison ,” Pologod, Feb. 12, 2016, The source; “Dr. Mutulu Shakur: More than Tupac’s stepfather!” Feb.18, 2016,BayView.
  10. “As Ringleader in ’81 Brink’s Robbery Goes Free, a Plea for Its Getaway Driver,” Jim Dwyer, Feb. 9, 2016, The New York Times; “Judith Clark’s Radical Transformation,” Tom Robbins, Jan. 12, 2012, The New York Times Magazine.

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Youtube – Are We All Sex Offenders?

 

A friend of mine has a son who is in jail waiting trial. He has been waiting for a couple years. They want to give him a ten year sentence because of a touching game he and some teenagers were playing and he touched the breasts of an underage (15) girl. Completely consensual. He was 18. Is this right? Does he deserve to have his life ruined because of this and also have the tag of “sex offender” follow him for the rest of his life, ruining job opportunities and even the ability to rent an apartment? Yes we do have sex offenders who are a danger to people, but there is a large percentage of those people who are not dangerous.  Anytime someone hears the word “sex offender” they immediately jump to the conclusion that person is a rapists or pedophile.  This is another part of our injustice system.  A sex offender can never pay his debt to society.  He is branded for the rest of his life.  He will always have to explain himself to every single person he meets and people will look at him with disgust in their eyes.

I wanted to bring this to light today to see what you think.

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Inside The Forbidden Outside – chapter -The Nightmare

Sometimes I feel like I’m still at the beginning of this nightmare. I lose all track of time and I forget how long I’ve been here. Sometimes I don’t count the days and let them slip by, hoping I’ll wake up and they will all be over. My sentence is 5,875 days, so why count them? I get through one day and then do the next. Every day is pretty much the same. Don’t get me wrong: There have been quite a few changes over time, and it has taught me a lot about myself, but it’s also taught me things I never knew about prison wish I never had to learn. It’s brutal. Prisoners get treated as though it doesn’t matter that they are human. Animals get treated better than we do. The only difference is that it’s illegal to treat animals inhumanely, but it isn’t illegal to treat humans that way. Something I feel like I’ll never get out of here, like that day will never come, but slow and sure, the years are adding up.

It doesn’t matter how good I am or if I cause trouble, because the guards will write up a case on me about anything, whether I did it or not. The prison sees g­­uards as always being right and us convicted felons as always wrong, no matter what, so there is no point in fighting it. Even if guards witness you aren’t guilty, they won’t stand up for you. If they do, they will get in trouble, and they aren’t about to mess up their job and tell the truth; and if I try to stand up for myself, it gives them the right to hurt me by beating on me, spraying cans of pepper spray on me, or anything else they feel like doing. It always gets me in more trouble. It’s hard to let people walk all over you when you know it’s not true. It makes me angry and that gets me in more trouble.

But I’m not going to let them screw with my head. In a twisted way they would like to see that they beat me down. They might be able to get away with beating my body, but I won’t let them break me. I’ve seen how their inhumane treatment affects some of the men. They give in to it and it messes them up. When they get out: If they get out, and need to live on their own, they are too screwed up to make it, and end up back inside again, especially if they don’t have family outside to help them. They can’t handle the pressure of coping, and they certainly can’t work anymore. How do they survive?
Prisons are used as a place to dump crazy people. They need laws to protect them. This whole system is so screwed up. Even inmates that seem okay at first get institutionalized when they are in here too long. Even making the decision to leave the room and go pee without asking permission is impossible. Being in here is like being in a nightmare you can’t wake up from. Sometimes, when I wake up, I’m not always too sure what is real and what isn’t. It is easy to slide into a bad place in your head and it takes hold of you. That’s where going crazy begins.

If this isn’t a nightmare, then I don’t know what is. If I could go back to sleep, maybe when I wake up again, I’ll find it was only a bad dream. Wouldn’t that be great? If I could choose, maybe the dream could belong to someone else. I have wanted so much for this whole thing to be a dream, because if it isn’t, I know for sure, I’m having the worst damn time in my life that I’ve ever had. I want to get off this roller coaster ride. People can’t possibly understand what this is like, and I know the kids out there who are messing up don’t realize what the stakes are. When you’re a kid, either you don’t think bad things will happen to you, or you don’t care what happens.

I know this is not a dream. It’s just a game I play with myself, because for a few minutes I can convince myself that I’ll wake up and walk out of here. I do what I need to do to survive. There are only two people in this cell. Me and myself, and we talk to each other, because there is no one else to talk to. On the outside, no one understands what it is truly like to be locked up alone with yourself 24/7, in a cell with no one to talk to. It will make you crazyy all by itself. But I have mom. She’s the only one I write to about what I’m going through and about what it’s like in here. She writes me back. If I didn’t have anyone, and had no communication with the outside, without a doubt, this really would be hell.

It scares me that I might do something bad and it would make her not want to write to me anymore. I don’t think I would survive this, if I didn’t have her encouragement. She also helps me get the things I need. It wouldn’t hurt me if I lost that, but if I lost her, and I knew I wasn’t going to hear from her again, that would be really hard. She may be almost thirty years older than me, but that doesn’t matter. She is the only one who truly cares about me, and about what happens to me. She see me for who I really am, and doesn’t judge me by what happened to put me here. Whatever it is she sees in me, I’m glad she sees it.

I let my mind wander from one thing to the next, wondering if I’m starting to lose it. I pace back and forth, and back and forth. Maybe this is the way it starts when you start going crazy. It will creep up on me real slow until it has me by the throat. So I have to be careful. I’ve watched men go crazy; It’s not fun. How did it start for them? Did they know they were losing their mind? Could they feel themselves starting to lose it? Did they have these crazy conversations like I do? There are lots of crazy people in here. It had to be caused by the whole experience of being in prison. Not all the crazies were like that before they got here. I suppose they might have had some problems already, but at least they were functioning. Spend enough time alone in a cell and it pushes you over the edge. It’s such a helpless feeling.

Many of the crazy inmates were put here because they are crazy and there is no place else to stick them. Some of the lifers beat up on them, and even gang rape them, so they are put in solitary for their own protection. But locking them up like that certainly doesn’t do them any favors. The real truth is, the prison staff doesn’t want to mess with them. Some of them are a real pain in the ass. When they lock them up they can forget about them. They don’t care if they get crazier. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if there weren’t so damn many of them, but there are. It’s a real problem. But some of them aren’t completely sick in the head when they come here. It is being here, and the way they are treated that finishes them off. Don’t the people who run this place see what is happening? Don’t they care? I guess not. They go home at the end of the day and forget about it.

No one sees the crimes the guards do, or the way they sometimes let inmates die, just for kicks*. Not unless a member of their own family is affected does anyone finally get it and want to help. Better late then never, I suppose. Most people think we have it good in here. But really, I don’t think they want to know the truth. They’d rather stick their head in the sand. They also don’t want to see what some of these guys do to themselves.  Suicides or attempted suicides happen all the time. They would gag if they could smell how bad it is. People don’t want to think about us. They want to pretend it’s not so bad. We get food and medical care and should be happy about that. We got it good. We aren’t anyone’s worry.

Some of these things now are getting out in the news, and people are starting to ask questions and demand change. Over the last few decades the justice system locked up a bunch of people on the ‘war on drugs’ who shouldn’t be locked up, or at least not for the length of time they gave them. Giving someone decades, or life without parole, goes beyond reason, especially if they didn’t hurt or kill anyone. What happens, when they get out, is they don’t know how to live anymore because they are all screwed up. They have been letting out more and more people because they found out they weren’t guilty. It’s great they were let out, but it doesn’t make up for the decades of life they lost. It doesn’t make up for the things they had to live through. How do they make up for that? Is money enough? Not a chance.

Mom tells me what’s in the news and what people say. Here in the US, this country by itself has more people locked up than most all the countries put together. America must have some pretty rotten people living here because so many have to be locked up*. The news tells people that black people have a gene that makes them prone to be criminals. They say we do and sell more drugs, and commit more crimes. The news says that over and over justify why they lock up so many of us. Everyone believes it and it keeps white people afraid of us. The women think we are going to grab their purses and run so they clutch them tightly if we walk by. They made people suspicious of anyone in a hoodie sweatshirt, like just wearing one will make you want to commit a crime. When people read this over and over they believe it. People suspect all blacks, but they don’t do the same thing to whites. Because of the centuries that black people were slaves, white people still think the have special privileges. Even if they don’t think they deserve it, over government, the justice system and police and organizations like treat them as if they do. Cops would never treat white people the way they treat us. Many white people still treat us as though we aren’t as good as them. I think that no matter how many years go by, we  will ever be looked at as equals. Of course, that isn’t everyone. Mom is about as white as they come. She’s always fighting racism.

It is the minorities that get locked up the most. Minorities are mostly poor and can’t pay an attorney. The are low income because society doesn’t give the same privileges that white people get. Everyone knows it is true. That’s what happened to me. I couldn’t defend myself. If I had been white and had an attorney, I probably wouldn’t be in here, and if I was, I wouldn’t be in high security, and I’d be out by now. I don’t have any other offenses as an adult. I had no criminal record. I’m not saying I was innocent. I’m saying punishment is different if you are white. I have a juvy record but that is supposed to be sealed. I wouldn’t have gone to juvy if I had been white. I would have been giving a medal for trying to protect my mama from a bad person. But I’m black, so I’m not allowed to be right. I have to be seen as wrong, especially if a cop says I’m wrong. But it was the cop who did wrong. It didn’t matter. He was a white cop and I was a black teenager. Case closed.

Maybe I’m dead and this is hell. I have to laugh at that. I have to find amusement somehow. Now, If I were dead, and knew this is hell, I could probably deal with it better, because there wouldn’t be anymore questions about me being crazy. I wouldn’t have to think anymore about getting out. I would know that all eternity was going to be like this. It feels like an eternity already. Fire and brimstone, the preacher ranted on Sundays when I was a kid. it scared the daylights out of me. “Repent or you’ll go to hell,” he said, like I’m not in hell already and I haven’t even died yet. I would have a few things to say to that preacher today about the reality of hell. It’s right here and I’m living in it.

Maybe outside prison is the real hell. I have no idea what I’m going to do when I get out of here and that scares me. I have no real experience being an adult. How am I going to take care of myself? I don’t know even the basic things, like filling out a job application, since I don’t have any experience. How do you open a checking account or turn on utilities? I have absolutely nothing to start a life with. I sure as hell, pardon the pun, don’t want to go back to Nacogdoches. There is nothing for me there except trouble. So much has changed since I got here. Not knowing these things is scary and it makes me look like an idiot, and I’m not one. I just don’t know anything about how things are done now. I can’t count on my family. They aren’t here for me now so I know I’ll get no help from them later.

What if I did something without even meaning to and the police picked me up again, not giving me a chance? I know what it is like out there. Cops don’t need a reason to pick up blacks, charge them, and make them guilty of things they didn’t do. If someone really wanted to be a criminal and get away with it, they should become a cop. It’s hard as hell to convict a cop with anything. Murder? Not a problem. Drug dealing? They have the best connections. If you are racist, you’d be in good company, because racism is just fine if you’re a cop, because they can’t prove why you shot some poor black kid in the back. They just have to say they felt threatened. The news finds it’s way inside. I hear guys talk when they come back in again, because they did something that broke their parole. Wanting to stay out of prison is no promise that you will. Coming back into prison through the back door is an easy way to keep the prisons full and it doesn’t cost money to do it.

Yeah, some dudes do get into trouble when they get out. They get back with their friends and get into trouble, so it’s their own fault. They don’t know any other life. They all say they want to get a job, but do some illegal things on the side. They don’t learn. They still think they can beat the system. I think sometimes, where would I be if I didn’t have you to keep setting me straight and keeping me on track. I’d be a mess when I get out and would have no way to make it right. This place wears on you and turns you into the people they say you are. I don’t want to be here. I will do anything it takes to turn my life around. It takes a strong person to change and start over. I don’t want any old friends to come knocking on my door and see that nothing changed in their life. I don’t want to be around people like that. I have to go somewhere where my old life can’t suck me back in again. I have no reason to go be around old friends. My home town is a dead end and I want no part of it. No, I know for sure I am never coming back here. My life will be different. Nothing will bring me back here again.

But sometimes, when they get out, they can’t get a job no matter how hard they try. Society doesn’t want them around. No matter how straight they want to be, they still gotta eat or take care of their family, so they take a chances. Then it’s only a matter of time untill they’re picked up again. But the cops don’t need a reason to pick you up. They do it just to harass you. If they see you and they know you, you’re going to jail: Do not pass go. Just like in here, where the guards are always right, no matter what happens, it’s the same out there. Cops don’t need a reason to cuff you and throw you in jail, and probably beat the crap out of you along the way. I am not going to get picked up and brought back here again – ever. Not on my son’s life will that ever happen. I’m determined. Mom says to make a determination and focus on doing them, and that is one of mine.

Crazy thoughts were always shooting through my brain like this. I have way too much time to think. It’s hard remembering a time when I could laugh and smile. It was a long time ago, like a fading dream that came to the surface but I can’t quite remember the ending.

Sometimes it feels like my life in prison is something that isn’t happening to me, but instead, I walked into a theater into the middle of a movie I never saw the beginning of, and fell asleep before it got to the end. It’s the kind of dream where you feel yourself falling and you know if you hit the ground you’re going to die, and wake up startled and afraid to go back to sleep again. I have this dream over and over, like it is a premonition of some sort. But there is a hazy part I can’t see clearly. I would lie there for hours and think about it, but it is no use. Maybe I’m not supposed to see it. I need to snap out of this.
I lived that movie in my head over and over, never knowing if it was going to have a good ending. I never felt hope, only despair. Every time I go to sleep I’m afraid I’ll see it again and I almost always do. I have no one I can talk to in here and it gets me more depressed every day. It’s hard to shake out of it. Some days I’m better than others, but it always comes back and grabs me.

Once, when I woke up, I was running really fast from my dream. My heart was beating hard because I knew I was in a place that was really bad. It was hell and I couldn’t change it. So many times I woke up crying from my dreams. Crying for the loss. Crying for everything. I felt like the dream was never, ever, going to be over. I was lost forever. It felt like forever. Was I going to make it out of here? I buried my head wept.


This is what drives men mad: Going back and forth between sane and insane. This is what solitary confinement does to the mind; It creates hopelessness. I know there are men who are kept in solitary sometimes for decades. My sentence is only seventeen years, if the word ‘only’ means anything. Seventeen years is still an awfully long time. Babies grow up and graduate highschool in that amount of time and that is where my son will be if I never make parole. It depresses me to think of this lost time. I want so much to be a father to my son.

I remember what it was like in solitary when I was in the juvy system. It was no picnic, and it wasn’t much different. Alone is alone, no matter where you are. It’s insane to put a kid through that. What did they think it was going to accomplish? They ruined a lot of kids locking them up like that. I got so depressed, they put me in a juvenile detention hospital. They let me out after that, but they had no choice because I turned twenty-one. A person can only take so much deprivation, and a kid can’t hardly take any at all. I have already been put through more than a person should have to. I am not a bad person. I was locked up when I was a kid for one reason. The prison corporations make money off blacks and minorities for than any other race. Greed is a nasty thing. What had I ever done as a kid to deserve this? Nothing. This was a cop out to get me, and nobody had the power or money to stop what was happening. I shut down mentally. I was lost. Would any kid be okay after four years of this? I was only sentenced to nine months, but they wouldn’t let me out until they were forced to when I turned twenty-one. When the courts get you, they aren’t going to let you go. There is too much money made from locking people up. My family didn’t support me then, either. I didn’t understand why this was happening to me. I didn’t know kids were being prepped kids for adult prison. My life was expendable. It got named, ‘The School to Prison Pipeline’. Many black kids got funneled through. My number got called.

When mom started writing to me I finally found someone I could count on. She has always been there for me and I wasn’t alone anymore; At least not in my head. She gave me the reason I needed to keep fighting for my life, and it really was a fight. She always tries to help me figure out why it was happening to me. It was hard to open up to her. I wasn’t used to talking about my life. She tells me it is up to me to change my life. No one else can do it. I can’t blame anyone for what has happened to me. How is that possible? I don’t understand it. But she is so confident I will be able to make sense of my life and turn it around, so I can’t give up hope now. She’s counting on me. She tells me there is a purpose to my life; if I want it bad enough. If she believes I can do it, she is seeing something I can’t see yet. I’ll have to trust her.

I have to learn to control my emotions. That is not so easy. People can’t change something about themselves just because they want to. I need to have a calmer way of dealing with these things because I get pissed off so easy. It doesn’t matter if they are right or wrong, they are in charge and I can’t do anything to change it by continuing to get angry. I have tried to show them the truth when guards write up cases on me that aren’t fair or outright lies and it doesn’t matter. The officers are going to believe the guards 100%. Even other guards will back up a guard in the wrong because it is part of their unwritten code. Guards can’t rat out a guard just like an inmate can’t rat out an inmate. If you do, your own kind will get back at you. Mom says, if I’m angry, I’m going to respond with anger. Anger is one of the hardest things for me to stop. I have a hot button and get angry fast. I don’t get angry just to be angry. I get angry when I see people doing the wrong thing and hurt people. I get in the most trouble because I try to help people here in the prison and the prison authorities don’t like that. When I do that I’m the one who ends up getting punished. There has to be a better way of dealing with these issues that don’t involve more punishment for myself.

If I can learn how to be in a better place in my head, I’ll react to things in a better way. That’s the key to this, mom says, and that comes from always being aware of how I’m feeling and the thoughts I’m having. Everyone has their own way of reacting. I know I react the same way all the time, and when I get angry, it’s hard for me to think about reacting a different way. In fact, it’s almost impossible. When I get angry, It pops out before I have time to think about it. Mom said, if it were easy to change, people would be doing it all the time, and they don’t, because they can’t. Its ingrained in them. It’s too easy to just give up. It’s easy to accept that it is the way they are. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not just me; it’s everyone. Mom said she’s been working on herself for a long time. It isn’t easy for her, either. She says we’re helping each other. I’m struggling to understand what she’s saying. I never knew any of these things before. But I keep listening because she says if I don’t change these things about myself, how will I be able to stop the anger when I get mad about something when I get out? She’s right. I haven’t been able to change this on my own so maybe she’s right. A good place to learn about it is where I am right now.

I know I don’t have to let these things be in control of my head anymore. I want to change, I really do. I don’t want to give up. I need a new dream. If I think about it real hard before I goes to sleep, maybe I can make a new dream happen that has a better ending. I think maybe I can do that if I try hard enough. I don’t have to believe my nightmare will come true.

There is nothing written in stone that says life has to go a certain way, so there sure isn’t anything written in stone that a dream has to happen. I don’t have to give in to despair. No one has ever talked to me about things like this, but mom seems so sure of the things she says. Much of it doesn’t make any sense to me and she says that’s okay. It will make sense if I keep trying to understand. That is what I’m going to do.

This is something else she tells me: If I think I can’t do something, then I can be sure I can’t, but if I think I CAN do something, then I will try harder to make it happen instead of giving up. It’s all about the way I think about it. Good thinking makes good things happen, but bad thinking can’t make good things happen. We are the way we think we are.

Cause and effect. Cause and effect. My life is my own doing. I know that already. But why does understanding that change anything? Because if I don’t learn from it, I’ll have to repeat it over and over until I do. I need to pay attention to the lessons my life is trying to show me. Stop making the same mistakes all over again. I’m tired of making the same mistakes. But it’s not easy to stop doing that. I get so mad sometimes. It takes every bit of control I have to not get mad. Sometimes I stays in control. But more often, I get too mad because of stupid things that happen, and that gets me into trouble.

I don’t get angry with the guards when I get into trouble for things I do that are wrong. That is my bad. but I shouldn’t get into trouble for things I don’t do. I think it makes you a man when you can own up to your own mistakes. Things are lopsided in here because the guards never have to own up to the things they do. This is supposed to be the justice system; When does it stop being a justice system when crimes are committed in here and the criminals in guard uniforms don’t have to be accountable. How does that get changed? I can’t change it, but someone needs to, because it isn’t right what is done to us in here. No one sticks up for us. Maybe some do, I don’t see it. I keep seeing them get away with murder, and that’s no pun. People shouldn’t be treated this way.

There is so much I don’t understand. Mom told me there is a reason for everything so I need to trust that. Life is so complicated; Really complicated. Why do I matter so much to her? So many questions. I have not mattered to anyone in a long time? People can say they love you, but most of the time it’s just a bunch of words because it’s never backed up by anything they do. Do they say they love me because they think they should. Are the words supposed to be enough? If they had any idea what it is like to be in here, maybe they would understand. I don’t see where anyone cares enough to find out how I am. Is that love?

I knows my mama loves me, in her own way. She gave birth to me. Is her responsibility over now because I’m grown? Could I treat my son this way? Never. This why Sonni told me to call her mom. She said I needed a mom. But why can I count on her, but I can’ t count on my family? Why is it so hard for my real mama to be there for me? She has no idea how bad it makes me feel. I’m always so happy to see her and I know she is happy to see me, but once she leaves the room on those rare times she comes to see me, it’s like, when she walks out of the room she forgets me. She’s done her duty and it’s time to go do something else. I’m tired of begging people write or to come to see me. I want to matter to my family once in awhile, and I don’t think it’s going to happen. I’m just tired. I’m very, very tired of waiting for them to care. Mom says she understands. Her family never showed her they cared about her, either, when she moved home for a liver transplant. She told me I helped her, too. We help each other. That is what family does, right? If they care. I think we understand each other. We came into each others life for a reason. I can believe that.

All this thinking is starting to make my head hurt, or maybe I’m hungry. I’m always hungry. I think I’ll take a little nap and see if I can figure this out while I’m sleeping. I feel a little better now. I took a letter out of a book I’m reading, I’m using as a bookmark. It’s one of mom’s letters. I usually keep a favorite letter in whatever book I’m reading because I like to read them over and over. When I’m able to make phone calls, it sure will feel good to hear her voice.

Mom wrote some stuff in this letter that looks like gobbledy gook to me. She said it was Japanese. I sure don’t read that language! She wrote these words down: ‘nam myoho renge kyo’. That’s weird. I have no clue how to say it or what it meant. She said it didn’t matter, just try to say it the way it looked. I have no idea what it means but I’ll try it because I told her I would. She’ll tell me more about it later. Maybe she is crazy, too because she wrote, If I said it over and ever, I could be happy. “What do I have to lose?” I laughed to myself. I guess it can’t hurt.” I fell asleep thinking about all of these things in my head. I had a much better dream that night.

Chapter List:
A Message From Someone Who Cares
Everyday Dreams
I Love You Always, Daddy
Jamie’s Story

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I provided testimony to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee-Daniel S. Jason and a 45 year sentence with no parole

…… There is a very high percentage of inmates who are mentally Ill.The story of this man’s sonwho got 45 years with no possibility of parole because he exhibited the signs of his illness -Asperger’s Syndrome – and committed no crime, is beyond acceptable. The judge wouldn’t allow testimony to be given that explained what this illness is. His life now is ruined. This happens so often. Most of the inmates in solitary confinement have a mental illness. There are so many changes needed in our criminal injustice system. Criminalization of mental illness should be a crime itself.

josephmjason

Regarding: I provided testimony to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee-Daniel S. Jason and a 45 year sentence with no parole

Executive Director:Mary Gilberti

CC: Ron Honberg:

Your silence is deafening in the matter of my son.  His case affects every non-violent person who has been Criminalized for Mental Illness and Asperger Syndrome.  I just provided testimony to Washington. See the link below.   You should be providing testimony to Washington regarding my son.  It involves serious constitutional issues.  You should have written an Amici Curiae(friend of the court brief) from NAMI.  In my opinion, the  National NAMI organization has a history of being impotent, gutless and lacks real  leadership.

My non-violent son has been sentenced to 45 years in prison. He has already been in jail and prisons since 2007.   The Judge recommended he be given no parole.  This is for two voice messages and 16 emails in 2012. …

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Solitary confinement in the UK in the words of prisoners and staff

race pop in prison
Populations Percentage in England and Wales

I am reblogging an article I read at Prison Watch UK . Reading this makes me want to cry.  Reading about what happens to people who are locked up in inhumane conditions where they feel the only way out is to commit suicide?  Prisoner mental health issues is at a dangerous level. I know how bad it is Jamie and I know he won’t be released from it – again – for at least a year.  I knew it was bad in the UK, too, but I hadn’t read many articles about it. I completed changed the post I was going to write in order to put this out.  But if there is any doubt whether our justice system is racist, here are the numbers. This is England and Wales crime statistics. This is for the years 2009/10. Yes, it is a few years old, but these numbers and our numbers are evidence of what has happened since the prison industrial complex decided to use the world’s minorities as a means to increase their own greed and it needs to be stopped.

These stats are all for England and Wales.

Crime age 10 and older – white 88.6% black 2.7%

Stops and searches under Police and Criminal Evidence Act –
white 67.2% black 14.6%

Arrests 2009/10 – white 79.6% black. 8%

Prison population ( including foreign nationals) white 72% black 13.7%

race graph in prison

Sadly our prison industrial complex has spread to other countries as we have taught them how they, too, can make a fortune from their prisons. In the last 20 years their prison population has doubled and they have the same problems we have with the cost, elderly inmates and medical care.

The US has 5% of the world’s population, yet 25% of the world’s prisoners with 6x more blacks locked up than whites. As I researched, I’m reading that England is also very racist. Hmmm I wasn’t aware of how bad it is.

Please go to the original article. There is a lot of good information there.  Share this

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Prison Watch UK

Descriptions of the system from the inside 

Credit: Prison Reform Trust Credit: Prison Reform Trust

We did a post a couple of weeks ago about the solitary confinement of prisoners in Britain. We wrote about the damage to both their physical and mental health caused by long periods in segregation units and Close Supervision Centres (CSC).

But now prisoners and staff tell the story in their own words.

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Unanswered Questions of Right and Wrong – What Do You Say?

black prisoners at San Quentin
photo source: http://www.nytimes.com

So many unanswered questions of right and wrong. Ten years ago, before I met Jamie, I was totally clueless about how the prison system worked and how it connects to our past history of slavery.  I didn’t know anyone in prison.  My knowledge came from the same place everyone gets their information – TV and movies – and slanted propaganda the media is paid to report, depending on which political party that particular news organization is affiliated with.

There is a need to justify to American citizens why there has been such an enormous need to lock up a high percentage of our “lesser than us” citizens – more than almost all other countries combined.  This is the mass incarceration of blacks. The people needed to fill the prisons were expendable. They were, and still are, the blacks, and then minorities, and now foreign citizens, AKA illegal aliens. It is so important to keep us afraid of them, even though we created the need to be afraid in the first place. Why?

white power, racism
photo source: wbez.org

Why has it been so important for white people to believe black people have a higher propensity to be criminals than white people?  Has it been our ego? Could we not stand the thought that black people are just as good as we are?  No, we had to keep them down – keep them in their place.  Why do black people have to be so much more afraid of police than white people? We know that is a fact.  All of us know it, yet it continues to happen.  Why do my half-black grandchildren have to be afraid that a cop will shoot them in the back?  Because that is what cops do, and get away with, because black people are so dangerous, so they tell us.

Why do so many white people think they are better than blacks?  Do they think they are good Christians?  They say they are good Christians.  Some racist people will even tell you they aren’t racist because they don’t want other people to know.  I’m not lumping all Christians into that mix, because even black people are Christians, even though they aren’t supposed to be. “Dirty niggers”, we have called them so many times.  It’s hard to even type the letters it is so disgusting.  But not printing them doesn’t make it go away. I could type half the word and put ** in the middle for the missing letters, but that doesn’t change the word, either.  Since the time black people have been slaves, we – the white people couldn’t picture black people being equal to us. The white race did a horrible things to this race of people with beautiful colored skin of many shades.  White people have tried for a hundred years to acquire their beautiful brown tones of skin.  Because of the law of cause and effect or, you reap what you sow, is strict, a price will be paid for what was done.  Even though the current generation of people were not alive while slavery was being enacted there is something drastically wrong because some kids are still being raised with the same hate their parents were probably raised.

Now, with everything going on today in the world with terrorism in the middle east, that we created, children are now being taught to hate Muslims, as if Christianity was such a loving religion. So much blood has been shed in the name of Christianity.  The degree of hate I hear from those who say they are Christians is sickening. Any child now who is racist learned it from the adults in his life – and that is inexcusable.   Again I say, not all Christians fall into this group, but it is enough of them that it stands out.

There is something massively wrong with America, starting with the people who govern it.   What we were never told, as the prisons swelled with people, was the real reason why we had to lock up so many people.  Sure, there was the war of drugs, but that wasn’t the real reason.  That was just the easiest reason for the public to swallow.  Our government knew all along  this was never going to get rid of drugs or crime.  What it did was allow certain corporations to make a heck of a lot of money, and those corporations gave politicians a lot of campaign money.  now they have to support what these corporations want.   The people in power had to prey on the minds of people who were susceptible to believing black people were dangerous.  They needed a reason to destroy black families.  It was the only way to legally continue to enslave them. Take away the fathers, and make sure they were kept poor. Lock up their kids in juvenile detention for poor or nonexistent excuses. Treat black kids differently than white kids.  Make sure they have a hard time getting an education.  Show society that black people are beneath white people.  If you are ignorant and think being white makes you smarter, or you deserve more, then there is no hope for you.  Because, no matter what you believe, it doesn’t make it true.

Cops have killed too many people with the stupid excuse they were afraid for their lives as they shot the person as he was walking away from them.  That excuse won’t work any more.  People are angry.

While locking up so many people, no one put enough thought into how much it was going to cost to keep them locked up. They also didn’t think about how much money it would take to care for them medically.  And what about the elderly? Who pays for them? Everyone – we all pay – it comes out of every taxpayer’s pocket. But who cares?  Not the corporations with the contracts.

cca. prison corporations, prison industrial complex
photo source:
correctionsproject.com

So much money is being made by the prison industrial complex – fine upstanding American corporations who want their products to be made by incarcerated slaves for free or close to it. Do you boycott these companies?  No – you don’t – because you have no idea which companies I’m talking about.  Have you even thought to find out who these corporations are?  No, and they count on that.

You get angry when animals are hurt.  You get angry over the vets who are mistreated.  You get upset about the homeless, but you think the inmates in prison deserve what they get.  In the prisons there are corporations who bid on the commissary products they sell, and corporations who are supposed to supply the food, and corporations who are supposed to take care of medical needs, and corporations who are supposed to supply educational needs.   But they can only make the big bucks by denying these things to the inmates as often as possible. Do you think they are going to give up their profit when they have more money than anyone to fight it?

In prison, Jamie is being denied medications for his heart.  Just this week I have called 4 days in a row trying to reach someone in the medical unit to ask why.  I can never reach the right person, or they are out of the office and they won’t return my calls.  Is there an attorney reading this who can help me?   The prison doesn’t care if they kill him. Would you stand for that if it was YOUR family?  Is anyone angry for the inmates who aren’t receiving care, or do you fall for the propaganda that they deserve it? Do you believe they get three squares a day and free medical?  Are you the kind of person who believes what you read and doesn’t look at the other side of the story?

These things make me angry.  I know there are really bad people in prison, but every single one of them is a human being.  The percentage of the really bad is small compared to the rest of the prison population who got a sentence that did not fit the crime, or is innocent.  Add to that the ones who are mentally ill and have no way to get the help they need.  I’m not trying to say that everyone imprisoned should be let go.  I’m talking about the ones imprisoned who are there to fill a bed so more profit can be made. These are the ones given extraordinarily long sentences that serve no purpose beyond financial gain.  The parole board won’t parole them even though they have numerous letters of recommendation that they be given their life back.  These are the people inside who help fill the percentage dictated in the contracts the corporations have with the prisons.  These contracts say  the prisons have to be kept full or the government has to pay them for empty beds.  Do you know about this? It doesn’t matter that these are real people whose lives have been destroyed to fill a quota.

Our injustice system is sick.  It is the same system that will arrest a young girl for using the camera on her phone to document a cop abusing his role and hurt a student and then arrested the girl who took pictures of the abuse.  We protect the criminals with a badge and instead lock of the citizens who are whistleblowing the cops.  How long can this country function with these corrupt standards?  How many people have to have their lives destroyed for the sake of the profit for someone else?  Why is this allowed? I know there are people and organizations who are trying to stop it. Why isn’t it working?  Who is pulling the strings?  Not one of us is safe.

I have read monstrously stupid comments that people leave on the internet when they have been sucked into the propaganda and lies.  You would think by now they’d be tired of being sheep, led around by their noses. Even so, many of those who do know the truth do nothing.  They read – they sing to the choir – but when it comes right down to helping any of the people who have been destroyed by this system it is too much for them. How can people not want to help?  If each person reached out to even one person, what a difference it would make. So many people are fanatical about saving unborn children but they do NOTHING to help a living human being who needs to know that he matters. No, that is too much to ask.  What has anyone done for one of these babies, born into an abusive home who ends up in a foster home and then over 70% of them end up in prison because of that abuse?  What have you done for these people?  The people who want to control other people’s pregnancies are a bunch of hypocrites.  You climb onto a cause and shoot off your mouth but really have no concern for people. If you did, you’d do something for someone already living.

This election cycle there is a lot of talk for the first time about changing our prison system but there has been no talk about the contracts the prison corporations have.  So, to me, it sounds like a farce.  Tell the people what they want to hear, knowing it will just be another thing that will never happen, just like all the promises were got in the past that never happened.  But people will vote based on the promises that mean nothing. Then, when it is too late to do anything, they will get angry when the promises aren’t fulfilled.  Then they will call their elected leaders names.  Big deal, what will that accomplish? People need to do something now, not when it is too late.

Are you beginning to understand?

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Sonni Quick piano music complete list

Crippling court costs force poverty-stricken people to ‘plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit’

Adult court does not want to take time and money to cases that are being heard by public defenders, who actually work for the DA. They get paid on average, $75 an hour for maybe three hours work to convince you take a plea. They try to stack as many offenses on top whether they are true or not and scare you with unusually long sentences. If you don’t have a paid attorney to defend you, you don’t know what to do. Out of fear you take the plea.

In Jamie’s case he wasn’t innocent. It was his choice to go with his cousin that night. But having no attorney to help him made it worse. He had no priors. But a public defender isn’t interested in doing a good job for you. He’s only interested in being done with you so he can go on to his next “client”. At first Jamie was first told he would get 99 years if he insisted on going to court. The second offer was 45 years. When he continued to refuse they offered him 17 years and told him if he went to court he wouldn’t get that. It would surely be much higher. He was scared. He took the 17 years. He has now almost done 10 of that. They don’t like to parole blacks so he is afraid to get his hopes up. He does have an uncle that works in the parole system in his area so there is hope he can somehow intervene. But since they keep him in ad seg, and can’t show he has improved himself there is still only slim hope. The prison system sets them up to fail.

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

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Dr. Angela Davis – Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex

Angela Davis
(Sonni’s note: I read this article today. Look at the date. It was written seventeen years ago. Do you think there has been any positive change or has the problem has only got worse? There are so many people who don’t pay attention because they don’t think it affects them. But it does. It affects everyone. It affects the job market, it adds to the greedy nature of many of our leaders in government. It affects our communities and the way we think about those people. The media brainwashes people into thinking that somehow black people has less quality than white people and they deserve to be locked up because they are a danger to society. If you, or anyone you know has that attitude, be sure to send this article to them. Post it on your social media pages and reblog it onto your own blogs. If you go to the pages section near the top of this blog tap on the menu button. You will find a YouTube video of a more recent TED talk of Angela Davis.

Read this entire article. It’s worth it. It says everything I’ve been trying to explain over and over.  We need more people who think this change is important to our society and to our country.

 Dr. angela davis

by Angela Davis

Thu, Sep 10, 1998 12:00 PM EDT

What is the Prison Industrial Complex? Why does it matter?  Angela Y. Davis tells us.

Imprisonment has become the response of first resort to far too many of the social problems that burden people who are ensconced in poverty. These problems often are veiled by being conveniently grouped together under the category “crime” and by the automatic attribution of criminal behavior to people of color. Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.

Prisons thus perform a feat of magic. Or rather the people who continually vote in new prison bonds and tacitly assent to a proliferating network of prisons and jails have been tricked into believing in the magic of imprisonment. But prisons do not disappear problems, they disappear human beings. And the practice of disappearing vast numbers of people from poor, immigrant, and racially marginalized communities has literally become big business.

The seeming effortlessness of magic always conceals an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes work. When prisons disappear human beings in order to convey the illusion of solving social problems, penal infrastructures must be created to accommodate a rapidly swelling population of caged people. Goods and services must be provided to keep imprisoned populations alive. Sometimes these populations must be kept busy and at other times — particularly in repressive super-maximum prisons and in INS detention centers — they must be deprived of virtually all meaningful activity. Vast numbers of handcuffed and shackled people are moved across state borders as they are transferred from one state or federal prison to another.

All this work, which used to be the primary province of government, is now also performed by private corporations, whose links to government in the field of what is euphemistically called “corrections” resonate dangerously with the military industrial complex. The dividends that accrue from investment in the punishment industry, like those that accrue from investment in weapons production, only amount to social destruction. Taking into account the structural similarities and profitability of business-government linkages in the realms of military production and public punishment, the expanding penal system can now be characterized as a “prison industrial complex.”

The Color of Imprisonment

Almost two million people are currently locked up in the immense network of U.S. prisons and jails. More than 70 percent of the imprisoned population are people of color. It is rarely acknowledged that the fastest growing group of prisoners are black women and that Native American prisoners are the largest group per capita. Approximately five million people — including those on probation and parole — are directly under the surveillance of the criminal justice system.

Three decades ago, the imprisoned population was approximately one-eighth its current size. While women still constitute a relatively small percentage of people behind bars, today the number of incarcerated women in California alone is almost twice what the nationwide women’s prison population was in 1970. According to Elliott Currie, “[t]he prison has become a looming presence in our society to an extent unparalleled in our history — or that of any other industrial democracy. Short of major wars, mass incarceration has been the most thoroughly implemented government social program of our time.”

To deliver up bodies destined for profitable punishment, the political economy of prisons relies on racialized assumptions of criminality — such as images of black welfare mothers reproducing criminal children — and on racist practices in arrest, conviction, and sentencing patterns. Colored bodies constitute the main human raw material in this vast experiment to disappear the major social problems of our time. Once the aura of magic is stripped away from the imprisonment solution, what is revealed is racism, class bias, and the parasitic seduction of capitalist profit. The prison industrial system materially and morally impoverishes its inhabitants and devours the social wealth needed to address the very problems that have led to spiraling numbers of prisoners.

As prisons take up more and more space on the social landscape, other government programs that have previously sought to respond to social needs — such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families — are being squeezed out of existence. The deterioration of public education, including prioritizing discipline and security over learning in public schools located in poor communities, is directly related to the prison “solution.”

Profiting from Prisoners

As prisons proliferate in U.S. society, private capital has become enmeshed in the punishment industry. And precisely because of their profit potential, prisons are becoming increasingly important to the U.S. economy. If the notion of punishment as a source of potentially stupendous profits is disturbing by itself, then the strategic dependence on racist structures and ideologies to render mass punishment palatable and profitable is even more troubling.

Prison privatization is the most obvious instance of capital’s current movement toward the prison industry. While government-run prisons are often in gross violation of international human rights standards, private prisons are even less accountable. In March of this year, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest U.S. private prison company, claimed 54,944 beds in 68 facilities under contract or development in the U.S., Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Following the global trend of subjecting more women to public punishment, CCA recently opened a women’s prison outside Melbourne. The company recently identified California as its “new frontier.”

Wackenhut Corrections Corporation (WCC), the second largest U.S. prison company, claimed contracts and awards to manage 46 facilities in North America, U.K., and Australia. It boasts a total of 30,424 beds as well as contracts for prisoner health care services, transportation, and security.

Currently, the stocks of both CCA and WCC are doing extremely well. Between 1996 and 1997, CCA’s revenues increased by 58 percent, from $293 million to $462 million. Its net profit grew from $30.9 million to $53.9 million. WCC raised its revenues from $138 million in 1996 to $210 million in 1997. Unlike public correctional facilities, the vast profits of these private facilities rely on the employment of non-union labor.

The Prison Industrial Complex

But private prison companies are only the most visible component of the increasing corporatization of punishment. Government contracts to build prisons have bolstered the construction industry. The architectural community has identified prison design as a major new niche. Technology developed for the military by companies like Westinghouse is being marketed for use in law enforcement and punishment.

Moreover, corporations that appear to be far removed from the business of punishment are intimately involved in the expansion of the prison industrial complex. Prison construction bonds are one of the many sources of profitable investment for leading financiers such as Merrill Lynch. MCI charges prisoners and their families outrageous prices for the precious telephone calls which are often the only contact prisoners have with the free world.

Many corporations whose products we consume on a daily basis have learned that prison labor power can be as profitable as third world labor power exploited by U.S.-based global corporations. Both relegate formerly unionized workers to joblessness and many even wind up in prison. Some of the companies that use prison labor are IBM, Motorola, Compaq, Texas Instruments, Honeywell, Microsoft, and Boeing. But it is not only the hi-tech industries that reap the profits of prison labor. Nordstrom department stores sell jeans that are marketed as “Prison Blues,” as well as t-shirts and jackets made in Oregon prisons. The advertising slogan for these clothes is “made on the inside to be worn on the outside.” Maryland prisoners inspect glass bottles and jars used by Revlon and Pierre Cardin, and schools throughout the world buy graduation caps and gowns made by South Carolina prisoners.

“For private business,” write Eve Goldberg and Linda Evans (a political prisoner inside the Federal Correctional Institution at Dublin, California) “prison labor is like a pot of gold. No strikes. No union organizing. No health benefits, unemployment insurance, or workers’ compensation to pay. No language barriers, as in foreign countries. New leviathan prisons are being built on thousands of eerie acres of factories inside the walls. Prisoners do data entry for Chevron, make telephone reservations for TWA, raise hogs, shovel manure, make circuit boards, limousines, waterbeds, and lingerie for Victoria’s Secret — all at a fraction of the cost of ‘free labor.’”

Devouring the Social Wealth

Although prison labor — which ultimately is compensated at a rate far below the minimum wage — is hugely profitable for the private companies that use it, the penal system as a whole does not produce wealth. It devours the social wealth that could be used to subsidize housing for the homeless, to ameliorate public education for poor and racially marginalized communities, to open free drug rehabilitation programs for people who wish to kick their habits, to create a national health care system, to expand programs to combat HIV, to eradicate domestic abuse — and, in the process, to create well-paying jobs for the unemployed.

Since 1984 more than twenty new prisons have opened in California, while only one new campus was added to the California State University system and none to the University of California system. In 1996-97, higher education received only 8.7 percent of the State’s General Fund while corrections received 9.6 percent. Now that affirmative action has been declared illegal in California, it is obvious that education is increasingly reserved for certain people, while prisons are reserved for others. Five times as many black men are presently in prison as in four-year colleges and universities. This new segregation has dangerous implications for the entire country.By segregating people labeled as criminals, prison simultaneously fortifies and conceals the structural racism of the U.S. economy. Claims of low unemployment rates — even in black communities — make sense only if one assumes that the vast numbers of people in prison have really disappeared and thus have no legitimate claims to jobs. The numbers of black and Latino men currently incarcerated amount to two percent of the male labor force. According to criminologist David Downes, “[t]reating incarceration as a type of hidden unemployment may raise the jobless rate for men by about one-third, to 8 percent. The effect on the black labor force is greater still, raising the [black] male unemployment rate from 11 percent to 19 percent.”

Hidden Agenda

Mass incarceration is not a solution to unemployment, nor is it a solution to the vast array of social problems that are hidden away in a rapidly growing network of prisons and jails. However, the great majority of people have been tricked into believing in the efficacy of imprisonment, even though the historical record clearly demonstrates that prisons do not work. Racism has undermined our ability to create a popular critical discourse to contest the ideological trickery that posits imprisonment as key to public safety. The focus of state policy is rapidly shifting from social welfare to social control.

Black, Latino, Native American, and many Asian youth are portrayed as the purveyors of violence, traffickers of drugs, and as envious of commodities that they have no right to possess. Young black and Latina women are represented as sexually promiscuous and as indiscriminately propagating babies and poverty. Criminality and deviance are racialized. Surveillance is thus focused on communities of color, immigrants, the unemployed, the undereducated, the homeless, and in general on those who have a diminishing claim to social resources. Their claim to social resources continues to diminish in large part because law enforcement and penal measures increasingly devour these resources. The prison industrial complex has thus created a vicious cycle of punishment which only further impoverishes those whose impoverishment is supposedly “solved” by imprisonment.

Therefore, as the emphasis of government policy shifts from social welfare to crime control, racism sinks more deeply into the economic and ideological structures of U.S. society. Meanwhile, conservative crusaders against affirmative action and bilingual education proclaim the end of racism, while their opponents suggest that racism’s remnants can be dispelled through dialogue and conversation. But conversations about “race relations” will hardly dismantle a prison industrial complex that thrives on and nourishes the racism hidden within the deep structures of our society.

The emergence of a U.S. prison industrial complex within a context of cascading conservatism marks a new historical moment, whose dangers are unprecedented. But so are its opportunities. Considering the impressive number of grassroots projects that continue to resist the expansion of the punishment industry, it ought to be possible to bring these efforts together to create radical and nationally visible movements that can legitimize anti-capitalist critiques of the prison industrial complex. It ought to be possible to build movements in defense of prisoners’ human rights and movements that persuasively argue that what we need is not new prisons, but new health care, housing, education, drug programs, jobs, and education. To safeguard a democratic future, it is possible and necessary to weave together the many and increasing strands of resistance to the prison industrial complex into a powerful movement for social transformation.

Angela Davis is a former political prisoner, long-time activist, educator, and author who has devoted her life to struggles for social justice.

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Earlier written post: Upfront and Personal About the the Prison Industrial Complex