Why Bill Clinton’s Apology and Barack Obama’s Prison Drive-By, Token Clemencies Are Cynical Election Year Posturing

[Beware, the electoral season is upon us and the masters of political deception and fraud are invading every home.  In the US, every four years, presidential elections are theatrically staged, designed to confuse and disrupt popular movements against class exploitation and racial oppression, and other democratic movements. The elections claim to be “the way democracy works”, and people “must vote” for politicians to represent their interests. Whoever wins, the people’s interests are lost in the shuffle, and their independence and political initiative and action has been suffocated or destroyed.  Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have in their Presidencies continued the mass incarceration, predominantly black and brown men and women, at world-record levels, and now they have made a dramatic last minute cosmetic relief to cleanse their legacy, at least rhetorically, so that Hillary Clinton’s campaign may not have to apologize to potential black voters for the Bill and Barack legacies.  They cannot avoid blame for things too many know.  —  Frontlines ed.] 
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon, 07/17/2015

Ten whole years ago, back in July 2005 when the Black Agenda Report crew was still at Black Commentator, I wrote that

With under 5 percent of the world’s people, the US accounts for 25 percent of the planet’s prisoners.  More than half its 2.2 million prisoners come from the one eighth of its population which is black.  Today, an astounding 3 percent of all African Americans languish in prisons and jails, and nearly as many more are on probation, parole, bail, house arrest or court supervision… Right now, the shadow of prison squats at the corners of, and often at the center of nearly every black family’s life in this nation.”

Yesterday President Obama repeated some of these same figures, and they are pretty much the same. Total US prisoners are still 2.2 or 2.3 million, and a slight drop in the black incarceration rate makes us now a little less instead of a little more than half, but the overall picture is unchanged in a decade. The president then announced the release of forty-some nonviolent federal drug offenders out of a total of about 70,000, and stopped in at a federal prison Thursday. The same day, ex-president Bill Clinton offered a half-hearted “apology” for his 1990s crime bills, which he admitted “set the stage” for state and federal governments to nearly double the US prison population.

Why? Why did President Obama wait six and a half years into his presidency to say the basic damning numbers and free a token handful of drug war prisoners? And how come Bill Clinton, fifteen years out of office chose this week to publicly admit that black mass incarceration was maybe not the best public policy?

Continue reading

On the Mass Political Movement Inside US Prisons

Pelican Bay Hunger Strike: Four years and still fighting

July 14, 2015, SF Bayview Newspaper

by Claude Marks and Isaac Ontiveros

Four years ago prisoners in California – led by those in the control units of Pelican Bay – organized a hunger strike to demand an end to the torturous conditions of solitary confinement. Two more strikes would follow, with over 30,000 prisoners taking united action in the summer of 2013 – both in isolation and in general population in nearly every California prison.

“Will You Stand Up and Let Your Voice Be Heard July 8th 2013?” – Art: Michael D. Russell

The strikes reflected significant shifts in political consciousness among prisoners and their loved ones. The violence of imprisonment was further exposed by demands and heightened organization from within the cages. Prisoner-led collective actions as well as growing public support dramatically have changed the political landscape.

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Ferguson is Familiar to Indigenous Australians

Indigenous Australia knows the cynicism exposed by Michael Brown’s killing in Ferguson
Larissa Behrendt, The Guardian , Tuesday 25 November 2014

Watching the events in Ferguson, Indigenous Australians will immediately draw a parallel with Australia’s response to black deaths in custody‘redfern riotWatching the events in Ferguson unfold raises similar questions about Australia’s own legal system.’ Riots in Redfern, 2004. Photograph: AAP

After a Missouri grand jury declined to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch said that the decision was based upon physical and scientific evidence, not “public outcry or political expediency”.

This call for objectivity does little in a situation where autopsies show Wilson had shot Brown at least six times, twice in the head. McCulloch seemed to compromise his own objectivity by blaming social and news media for beating up a story, rather than acknowledging that when a young person is shot by law enforcement, people expect a level of accountability.

 

Watching the events in Ferguson unfold raises similar questions about Australia’s own legal system. The parallel is immediately drawn with the failure to secure a conviction in the case of 36-year-old Cameron Mulrunji Doomadgee, who died in a Palm Island lockup over 10 years ago.

Continue reading

Political Prisoners, Mass Incarceration and What’s Possible for Social Movements

Mon, 01/28/2013

What can social justice movements do to resist and, ultimately, topple a state that is built on mass incarceration? The author, a political prisoner, says “at this moment it seems very possible for social movements to succeed in reducing prison populations. But any reductions under the present policy would only postpone the next incarceration binge to some more cost-efficient time.”

by Sundiata Acoli

This article previously appeared on the website dedicated to political prisoner/prisoner of war Sundiata Acoli. It was written to accompany Dan Berger, author, anarchist and college professor on his January, 2013 book tour thru Germany. Dan is author of “Outlaws in America: The Weather Underground Organization” and is the editor of “The Hidden ’70s.”

Every slave confined on a plantation or runaway detained in jail was a POW.”

Sundiata Acoli, Political Prisoner

Sundiata Acoli, Political Prisoner

America has millions of prisoners locked away in its dungeons, many for 20, 30 and 40 years or more – yet astonishingly, it claims there are no Political Prisoners or Political Prisoners of War (PP/POWs) in its prisons – and that it has no PPs.

That makes the u.s. the only country in the world that has MASS INCARCERATION, has more prisoners, period, than any other country – and has prisoners locked in secret CIA prisons around the world, but no PPs.

Since it has no PPs, it obviously has no masses of poor, hungry, homeless or unemployed people, nor does it have hordes of oppressed nationalities and lower classes herded into reservations, barrios, ghettoes, ‘hoods, trailer parks and housing projects who are daily subjected to various forms of discrimination, racial profiling and police brutality, murder and mass imprisonment.

If the u.s. has no PPs, then apparently there’s no MASS INJUSTICE in america because that’s where MASS INCARCERATION and PPs come from. MASS INCARCERATION is the barometer, the main indicator of MASS INJUSTICE in society.

PPs are those in every land and throughout every era, who are imprisoned for fighting INJUSTICE in their societies and the same holds true today for the relationship between MASS INJUSTICE, MASS INCARCERATION and PPs in u.s. society – and who must be freed! Not only PPs – but ALL those imprisoned by unjust policies. Continue reading

The Rhetoric of “Colorblindness” and the Reality of Racial Profiling and Mass Incarceration

WBAI’s Radio Building Bridges: Your Community & Labor Report
Monday, May 28, 7- 9 pm EST, over 99.5 FM
or streaming live at
http://www.wbai.org
Produced & Hosted by Mimi Rosenberg and Ken Nash
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A Two-Hour Special!
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
With Michelle Alexander, human rights activist, litigator, best-selling author and NY activists working to stop Stop & Frisk

Racism is rampant, as evidenced by the more than 685,000 stops and frisks within a 12 month period, of overwhelmingly African-American and Latino residents of this city.  African-Americans and Latinos are subject to profiling, harassment and criminalization by the NYPD’s practices. The Mayor’s and NYPD’s policing policies resulted in the killing of an unarmed Rahmarley Graham, 18 years old in his own home.The Stop and Frisk policies, the concentration on marijuana arrests, oftentimes the result of illegal searches fuel the frightening and unwarranted explosion in incarceration rates that are occurring throughout the country. And, mass incarceration, a major manifestation of institutionalized racism has permanent consequences. For, even after release those who have been behind the walls are stigmatized.  They are subject to exclusion from essential economic, and political opportunity – they become subject to a new “Jim Crow”.

Recently, Michelle Alexander spoke to an overflow, cheering audience at Harlem’s historic Abyssinian Baptist Church to announce the launch of the new paperback edition of “The New Jim Crow” which is now # 6 on the”N.Y. Times Bestseller List”.  She offered a bold and innovative argument that mass incarceration amounts to a devastating system of deliberate,racial control.  In her incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander argues that we have not ended racial caste in America, we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting blackmen and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary mechanism of racial control, even as it proclaims the principle of color blindness.  Just as it took a mass movement to destroy the Jim Crow system, Alexander argues that it will take a new mass movement to destroy the new caste system which she has labeled “The New Jim Crow”.  And this new movement is growing and being nurtured by Michelle Alexander.  And, her analysis of “The New JimCrow” is helping to build this movement.


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Dispatch From Detention: A Rare Look Inside Our ‘Humane’ Immigration Jails

[Photo: Paul J. Richards/Getty Images]

by Seth Freed Wessler, Color Lines

Wednesday, January 4 2012

Sam Kitching, a soft-spoken, round old man dressed in civilian clothes who works for the Sheriff’s department at the Baker County Jail put his hand on my shoulder and, addressing me as “young man,” said, “It’s very important that you be careful in there. They might have AIDS and might try to grab your hand and push something into it.”

“AIDS?” I ask.

“They could,” he said. “These men can be dangerous.”

A younger man dressed in a tight, dark green Sheriff’s uniform unlatched the door into one of the pods that holds several dozen federal immigration detainees.

Mostly Latino and black and all dressed in orange jump suits, unzipped with the arms tied around waists, the men stood or sat at metal tables in groups of four or five in the three-sided concrete room.

“Zip up,” the guard yelled as the door opened.

The detainees pulled the jumpers up over their shoulders and I followed the guard, Kitching and a young Legal Aid attorney named Karen Winston into the pod. A man stood on a grated walkway in front of one of the two-bed jail cells where the detainees eat, sleep, bathe and go to the bathroom. The rest of the men were below in the concrete room where they pass all their time—there’s only one hour of recreation time in an enclosed gravel yard.

“Hey, Honduras, get down here,” Kitching yelled to the man on the platform, who walked down the grated metal stairs and joined three other Latino men talking in a corner.

“That’s what I do sometimes,” Kitching explained to me. “I call them by their country. For some reason if they’ve been here a while, I can remember their country.”

Winston, a recent law school graduate, works long days in the south Florida jail defending some of the close to 250 immigration detainees held there. On this Friday morning, she’d driven from Jacksonville, the closest city, to conduct a “know your rights” training for as many of the detainees as possible. She noted the training name is misleading, since detainees don’t have many rights to know of. Continue reading

US: Mass Black Incarceration Ending? Don’t Hold Your Breath

[The historic and ongoing national oppression of Black people in the US, maintained with a thousand economic, social, cultural, and political chains, and enforced through mass incarceration and “judicial” subjugation of millions, is not discussed in the “democratic” halls of Congress nor on the pages or screens of mass media deception.  There, the product is fear to fuel more oppression–NOT knowledge for the struggle against it.  But the people have voices, like the Black Agenda Report, which bring another angle on reality. — Frontlines ed.]
  ——————————————–
December 27, 2011 — Glen Ford

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

It’s been two generations since the beginning of modern mass Black incarceration. Prison populations, which only doubled from 1925 to 1972, increased more than seven-fold over the next 38 years, with Blacks accounting for ever higher proportions of inmates. The latest statistics do not indicate that white people “have reconsidered – or even acknowledged – their extraordinarily broad support for placing more Black people in captivity over the past 40 years than at any time since slavery.”

Mass Black Incarceration Ending? Don’t Hold Your Breath

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Half of the states reported decreases in their prison populations.”

For the first time since 1972, the total number of people held in U.S. prisons has gone down. And, for the second year in a row, the number of persons under supervision – such as parole – by state departments of correction, decreased.

Does this mean the beginning of the end of mass Black incarceration in the United States? Not hardly. That would require an historic reversal of a nationwide policy to find new places to put Black people who refused to stay “in their place,” in the wake of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. There is little in the current American political conversation that indicates white people have reconsidered – or even acknowledged – their extraordinarily broad support for placing more Black people in captivity over the past 40 years than at any time since slavery.

It takes the government almost a year to tabulate the past year’s prison statistics, so the latest numbers are from 2010. They show about 7.1 million people under some kind of correctional supervision – one out of every 33. That’s down 1.3 percent from 2009, the year that saw the first decrease in supervision in two generations. The total population in state and federal prisons – not counting local jails – stood at 1.6 million inmates, down six-tenths of one percent. State prison populations decreased by almost 11,000, and local jails by almost 19,000, but federal prison populations grow by eight/tenths of one percent, to almost 210,000 inmates. That was, however, the smallest percentage increase in a generation – since 1980.

Half of the states reported decreases in their prison populations, with California and Georgia shrinking the most.

Twenty-four states and the federal prison system increased their inmate populations.”

Speculation on why prison populations have, at least temporarily, peaked, centers on the financial crisis. It is true that states are experiencing unprecedented difficulties paying their bills. Some states have clearly responded to their fiscal crises by finding ways to incarcerate fewer people. Michigan reduced its prison population by 6,000 inmates in three years, mainly by decreasing the number of inmates who wind up serving more time in jail than they were originally sentenced to. California is under court order to cut its prison population by 30 percent, or 40,000 inmates. But the court order came too late to have a significant effect on 2010 prison numbers.

Only half the country has seen any decrease, at all. Twenty-four states and the federal prison system increased their inmate populations, with Illinois, Texas and Arkansas leading the pack. And states have found other ways to cut down on inmate costs without putting fewer people in prison, through wholesale privatization of prisons, and imposition of draconian fees on prisoners, probationers and parolees.

The Pew Research Center on the States cites programs that divert some offenders to probation, and accelerated release of low-risk inmates. However, studies have shown that such diversion programs tend to serve disproportionately white offenders. Therefore, it is highly premature for anyone to speculate that the era of mass Black incarceration may be ending. For the foreseeable future, one out of eight of the world’s prison inmates will continue to be African American.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Attica’s 40th Anniversary: Still on the Wrong Road

[An important survey and review of the US’ mass incarceration program from the time of the Attica Rebellion, 40 years ago, to the present. — Frontlines ed.]
Saturday 24 September 2011
by: Michael E. Deutsch, Truthout

September 9 marks 40 years since the uprising at Attica State Prison, in upstate New York, and the deadly and sadistic retaking of the prison – and mass torture of hundreds of prisoners all the rest of the day and night and beyond – by state police and prison guards on the morning of September 13. When the shooting stopped and the gas lifted, 29 unarmed prisoners and ten hostages were dead, slaughtered by the assault force.

Over a hundred more prisoners were shot, some maimed for life and many others seriously injured. In addition, almost the entire 1,200-plus prisoners who occupied D yard and had hoped that their demands for humane treatment would be addressed by the authorities, were systematically stripped and beaten, made to run gauntlets of club swinging police as they were herded back into cells, while dozens of supposed leaders and other special targets were taken aside for more personal vengeance. The United States Court of Appeals, hardly a pro-prisoner or even liberal institution, called the rehousing of the prisoners, “an orgy of brutality.”

Attica and its aftermath exposed the powder kegs ready to explode inside the US prisons and the urgent need to change the reigning penology and administrative practices throughout the federal, state and local prison systems. Attica uncovered the hidden reality that the prisons and jails were increasingly the socioeconomic destination for the poor and wildly disproportionate numbers of black people, as well as political militants. The Attica prisoners’ demand for human rights also revealed that both men and women were treated like modern-day slaves in prison, denied minimal humane treatment, decent medical care and fundamental constitutional rights.

It is true there was much liberal sentiment expressed for prisoners in the wake of the rebellion and massacre and a small flurry of activity in support of prison reform, involving recognition that prisoners had some rights, and the need for rehabilitation programs to prepare them for release. There was even some concern raised about the racist underpinnings of law enforcement and the entire criminal justice system. These efforts at reform, however, in comparison to policies already in motion to make the prisons chiefly into warehouses for the unemployed and internment camps for militants, were minimal and soon largely abandoned. Continue reading

On Bradley Manning, Solitary Confinement, and Selective Outrage

January 2, 2011
by Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

For the past few weeks, progressive online media sources have been burning with outrage over the conditions in which accused Wikileaker Bradley Manning is being held. Manning (as we first noted on Solitary Watch back in July) is in 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement at a Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia, denied sunlight, exercise, possessions, and all but the most limited contact with family and friends. He has now been in isolation for more than seven months. The cruel and inhuman conditions of his detention, first widely publicized by Glenn Greenwald on Salon and expanded upon by others, are now being discussed, lamented, and protested throughout the progressive blogosphere ( ourselves included). Few of those taking part in the conversation hesitate to describe Manning’s situation as torture.

Meanwhile, here at Solitary Watch, we’ve been receiving calls and emails from our modest band of readers, all of them saying more or less the same thing: We’re glad Bradley Manning’s treatment is getting some attention, but what about the tens of thousands of others who are languishing in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails? According to available data, there are some 25,000 inmates in long-term isolation in the nation’s supermax prisons, and as many as 80,000 more in solitary in other facilities. Where is the outrage–even among progressives–for these forgotten souls? Where, for that matter, is some acknowledgment of their existence? Continue reading