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  1. #41
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    We’re in the midst of the biggest prison strike in US history

    Prison officials have made it hard to get this information to the public. But it’s a big deal.

    For the past couple of months, prison inmates across the country have been striking and protesting, in what organizers have called the largest prison strike in US history.

    The little-known protests were organized around September 9 in commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the bloody uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility in New York. But the demonstrations have continued in potentially dozens of states since then, and there’s talk of more concerted protests beginning anew later in October.

    The demonstrations have broadly targeted dismal prison conditions. But they have generally focused on a few specific issues — particularly prison labor practices in both public and private prisons that can force inmates to take jobs for little to no pay, which inmates have characterized as modern slavery.

    “What you see is a lot of people who are being incarcerated sort of recognizing the broader social, political, and historical context in which they are positioned,” said Clint Smith, a doctoral candidate in Harvard focused on incarceration issues. “And [they are] fundamentally rejecting the idea that they are devoid of any agency, that they are not able to push back and protest against the conditions in which they live.”

    He added, “So often in this broader conversation about mass incarceration that’s been happening more so in the last four, five, or six years, you rarely see people who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated at the forefront of that conversation. And many people in prison are recognizing that their voices are being silenced — not only in the general population but also in the conversation around them.”
    The protests, however, have been varied in their approach. So far, they have taken place in as many as 50 prisons in at least 12 states, involving at least 24,000 people in these facilities. As John Washington explained for the Nation, the hard numbers are hard to come by, in large part because prisons are so secretive. But we do have some details of what’s going on.
    Protests have broken out in at least 12 states

    So far, the protests have taken a few forms. There have been work stoppages in which inmates refuse to take part in prison labor. There have also been hunger strikes, which mostly came about among inmates who don’t have jobs in prison. In some cases, there have also been bouts of violence — in which inmates take over parts of the prison and destroy property.

    Here are some of the bigger protests, based on the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee’s tracker, the Nation’s breakdown, and other news reports:

    More @ http://www.vox.com/identities/2016/1...rotests-attica

  2. #42
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    Police Departments Infiltrated By White Supremacist Racist Groups
    FBI Says Racist Groups Have Been Infiltrating Police Departments For Years

    by S. Wooten and M. David - May 24, 2015

    Many have said it for years, but now the Federal Bureau of Investigation is claiming that police departments have been deliberately infiltrated by racist, white supremacist organizations.

    The claim comes after what the FBI says has been nearly a decade of federal law enforcement’s confirmed and documented acts of infiltration by white supremacist groups into American police departments.

    The FBI warning first came back on October 2006, but it fell on largely deaf ears. Now, the report entitled “White supremacist infiltration of law enforcement” is being revisited by many experts in fighting back against organized hate group terrorism.

    In the 2006 report, the FBI found that federal court determined that members of a Los Angeles sheriffs department had organized a Neo Nazi gang. The officers involved did not keep their racist ideas to themselves either, as the FBI found that these same officers “habitually terrorized” the African American community.

    The FBI also found that the Chicago police department fired a detective after it was discovered that he had strong ties to the Ku Klux Klan. That detective, Jon Burge, was found to have tortured over 100 African American suspects.

    The City of Cleveland, in news lately for their shooting of Tamir Rice, and other extreme instances of police gunning down unarmed African Americans, found that police locker rooms had been overrun with “white power” graffiti and vandalism.

    In Texas, a sheriff department found that two of their deputies not only were in the Klan, but were actually prominent recruiters for the hate group.
    Now, the just as the FBI had war


  3. #43
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    Standing Rock Demonstrators File Class-Action Lawsuit Over Police Violence


    Pipeline demonstrators injured by rubber bullets, tear gas canisters, and water cannons during a wintry nighttime standoff with police last week filed a class-action lawsuit Monday against the sheriff of the North Dakota county involved. The suit describes in new detail the evening of November 20, when more than 200 people protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline were injured by “less-than-lethal” weapons.

    The lawsuit alleges that sheriff’s deputies and police officers used excessive force when they deployed impact munitions, like rubber bullets, as well as explosive tear gas grenades and water cannons against protesters. It argues that the tactics were retaliatory, punishing those involved for exercising free speech rights. It also argues that officers were inadequately trained to handle the situation, naming Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, Mandan Police Chief Jason Ziegler, and Stutsman County Sheriff Chad Keiser as defendants.

    Plaintiffs, represented by the National Lawyers Guild’s Water Protectors Legal Collective, requested a restraining order and preliminary injunction that would bar officers from using such weapons against people protesting the Dakota Access pipeline. The suit awaits a decision from a federal judge on whether to approve class-action status.

    The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has been fighting the pipeline in court, arguing that the tribe was not adequately consulted and citing fears that the project will damage sacred sites and contaminate the Missouri river, which provides drinking water to the tribe’s reservation. Thousands of people have flocked to encampments near the project’s river crossing to pray and protest against its completion. Direct actions have been met with increasingly militarized responses from local police and sheriff’s deputies, whose numbers have been padded by National Guard members and officers from departments across the US.

    In declarations to the court, pipeline opponents involved in the November 20 clash described in detail the severe injuries they sustained. Most stated that protesters were nonviolent and that they heard no order to disperse.

    Vanessa Dundon, a 32-year-old member of the Navajo Nation from Arizona, approached the Backwater bridge as the sun was setting, one of the first people to arrive. She watched as pipeline opponents, who identify as water protectors, removed one of two burned-out trucks that had been blocking the highway since a clash with police at the end of October. Officials had since secured the vehicles to the bridge to act as a barrier preventing people from travelling down the road to reach construction sites. The barrier also required a detour for people trying to get from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation to the cities of Bismarck and Mandan. As she watched, tension began to mount between the protectors and police on the other side of a razorwire roadblock.

    “I did not have time to move to avoid being hit by the [tear gas] canister,” she said. “I instinctively closed my eyes and was struck in the right eye by the canister.” As she turned to run away she was shot in the back of her left thigh by what felt like a rubber bullet. She fell to the ground, where two people picked her up and carried her to a minivan. “My eye was bleeding so much that I could not see and I was worried my eyeball was hanging out,” she stated.

    Dundon was eventually sent to a specialist in Plymouth, Minnesota. “Dr. Baggins told me the trauma to my eye will likely affect my vision for the rest of my life and it is unclear at this time if I will be able to see out of my right eye again,” she said.
    Mariah Marie Bruce, a 21-year-old from New Orleans, arrived to the police line at around the same time as Dundon. It wasn’t long before she was doused with water, her jacket and skirt freezing solid. As tear gas burned her eyes and nose, a flash bang grenade exploded against her genitals. Feeling little pain at first, she stayed in place until the tear gas became too much and she moved toward medics to treat her burning eyes. “As my body began to warmup, I started to feel the pain in my vagina and abdomen. The pain suddenly worsened and I began vomiting and the medics became very concerned,” she stated in a declaration to the court. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

    David Demo, a 25-year-old living in nearby Cannon Ball, North Dakota, of Penobscott heritage, arrived at the bridge around 9 pm. He moved toward the police line, holding a GoPro camera on a stick. After 30 seconds or so of being sprayed with water, a projectile, possibly a rubber bullet, shot into Demo’s middle finger, which was holding the camera. “I was there to observe what was going on, and continue the protest against the pipeline. I was not threatening the officers,” he declared. In the morning, at the hospital, he was told his knuckles had broken and he would likely need reconstructive surgery.

    Israel Hoagland-Lynn, a 42-year-old, from California was shot by a rubber bullet in the top of his head. “I dropped to the ground and lost consciousness,” he said. He came to and was carried by ambulance to a hospital, where he received 17 staples to the head.
    Vanessa Bolin Clemens, a paramedic from Virginia and member of the Cherokee Nation, described treating one man for a seizure and administering CPR to another that appeared to be going into cardiac arrest. She described concussions, respiratory injuries, and, in the morning, ringing ears.

    The Morton County sheriff’s department noted that one officer was injured by a projectile that night and has maintained that fears of demonstrators overrunning the barricade justified the use of water cannons. None of the three departments named in the suit responded to The Intercept’s requests for comment.

    The most serious injury of the evening was sustained by 21-year-old Sophia Wilansky, whose arm was hit by what her father, Wayne Wilansky, described as a “grenade type device.” He said in a statement, “Sophia’s arm will never work normally again. Indeed, her use of the arm will be minimal. Amputation may be required to give her a more functional capacity.” The Morton County sheriff’s department declared that the injury is inconsistent with department tactics and suggested it was the result of an explosion caused by protesters.

    On Monday, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple ordered an emergency evacuation of pipeline opponents camped on Army Corps land, citing recent snowfall and harsh conditions in the months ahead. He declared that emergency services to the area, which proved essential little more than a week before, would be reduced.

    “I direct state agencies, emergency service officials, and nongovernmental organizations to reduce threats to public safety by not guaranteeing the provision of emergency and other governmental and nongovernmental services in the evacuation area, unless otherwise approved on a case by case basis by the Morton County Sheriff or Superintendent of the Highway Patrol,” he stated. “The general public is hereby notified that emergency services probably will not be available under current winter conditions.”



    There's a video going around on FB of a native american woman at the protest camp stating that there are planes flying over them continuously throughout the night. It's tribal land so it's illegal but they are flying over and spraying something. In the morning they saw the planes as they were leaving, they are crop dusting planes spraying illegal chemicals on the protestors. This is biological/chemical war fare and terrorism US gov't is engaged in on them according to her on the video.

  4. #44
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    How Many Americans Are Unnecessarily Incarcerated?

    Download the Report

    Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. prison population — 576,000 people — are behind bars with no compelling public safety reason, according to a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The first-of-its-kind analysis provides a blueprint for how the country can drastically cut its prison population while still keeping crime rates near historic lows.

    This Report's Purpose

    While mass incarceration has emerged as an urgent national issue to be addressed, the reforms currently offered are dwarfed by the scale of the problem. The country needs bolder solutions.

    How can we significantly cut the prison population while still keeping the country safe? This report puts forth one answer to that question. Our path forward is not offered as the only answer or as an absolute. Rather, it is meant to provide a starting point for a broader discussion about how the country can rethink and revamp the outdated sentencing edifice of the last four decades.

    This report is the product of three years of research conducted by one of the nation’s leading criminologists, experienced criminal justice lawyers, and statistical researchers. First, we conducted an in-depth examination of the federal and state criminal codes, as well as the convictions and sentences of the nationwide prison population (1.46 million prisoners serving time for 370 different crime categories) to estimate how many people are currently incarcerated without a sufficient public safety rationale. We find that alternatives to incarceration are more effective and just penalties for many lower-level crimes. We also find that prison sentences can safely be shortened for a discrete set of more serious crimes.

    Second, based on these findings, we propose a new, alternative framework for sentencing grounded in the science of public safety and rehabilitation.

    Many have argued that regimented sentencing laws should be eliminated and replaced with broad judicial discretion. Others counter that this would reinstate a system wherein judges are free to deliver vastly divergent sentences for the same crime, potentially exacerbating racial disparities and perpetuating the tradition of harsh sentences.

    This report proposes a new solution, building on these past proposals. We advocate that today’s sentencing laws should change to provide default sentences that are proportional to the specific crime committed and in line with social science research, instead of based on conjecture. These defaults should mandate sentences of alternatives to incarceration for lower-level crimes. For some other crimes that warrant incarceration, they should mandate shorter sentences. Judges should have discretion to depart from these defaults in special circumstances, such as a defendant’s criminal history, mental health or addiction issues, or specifics of the crime committed. This approach is grounded in the premise that the first principle of 21st century sentencing should be to protect public safety, and that sentences should levy the most effective, proportional, and cost-efficient sanction to achieve that goal. It aims to create more uniform sentences and reduce disparities, while preserving judicial discretion when needed.

    Our proposed sentencing defaults for each crime weigh four factors:

    • Seriousness: Murder, for instance, should be treated as a far graver crime than writing a bad check.
    • Victim Impact: If a person has been harmed in the commission of a crime, especially physically, weight toward a more serious sentence.
    • Intent: If the actor knowingly and deliberately violated the law, a more severe sanction may be appropriate.
    • Recidivism: Those more likely to reoffend may need more intervention. Our findings and recommendations, determined by applying the four factors above to the prison population, are detailed below. (The rationale for these factors and our full methodology is described in Appendix A.)

    Our Findings

    As depicted in Figure 1, this report finds the following:

    • Of the 1.46 million state and federal prisoners, an estimated 39 percent (approximately 576,000 people) are incarcerated with little public safety rationale. They could be more appropriately sentenced to an alternative to prison or a shorter prison stay, with limited impact on public safety. If these prisoners were released, it would result in cost savings of nearly $20 billion per year, and almost $200 billion over 10 years. This sum is enough to employ 270,000 new police officers, 360,000 probation officers, or 327,000 school teachers. It is greater than the annual budgets of the United States Departments of Commerce and Labor combined.
    • Alternatives to prison are likely more effective sentences for an estimated 364,000 lower-level offenders — about 25 percent of the current prison population. Research shows that prison does little to rehabilitate and can increase recidivism in such cases. Treatment, community service, or probation are more effective. For example, of the nearly 66,000 prisoners whose most severe crime is drug possession, the average sentence is over one year; these offenders would be better sentenced to treatment or other alternatives.
    • An estimated 212,000 prisoners (14 percent of the total population) have already served sufficiently long prison terms and could likely be released within the next year with little risk to public safety. These prisoners are serving time for the more serious crimes that make up 58 percent of today’s prison population — aggravated assault, murder, nonviolent weapons offenses, robbery, serious burglary, and serious drug trafficking.
    • Approximately 79 percent of today’s prisoners suffer from either drug addiction or mental illness, and 40 percent suffer from both.35 Alternative interventions such as treatment could be more effective sanctions for many of these individuals.


    Based on these findings, this report issues the following recommendations to safely reduce the prison population. As shown in Figures 1 and 2, these recommendations will decrease the total prison population but ensure that those who have committed the most serious crimes remain behind bars. The majority of prisoners remaining in the new system would be violent offenders (59 percent), up from less than half in the current system (46 percent).

    • Eliminate Prison for Lower-Level Crimes Barring Exceptional Circumstances: State legislatures and Congress should change sentencing laws to mandate alternatives to prison as the default sentences for certain lower-level crimes. These include drug possession, lesser burglary, minor drug trafficking, minor fraud or forgery, minor theft, and simple assault — offenses that now account for 25 percent of the prison population. Alternative sanctions — such as community service, electronic monitoring, probation, restitution, or treatment — should be the default for such crimes instead. Judges should have flexibility to depart and impose a prison sentence if certain enumerated factors are present — for example, repeat serious offenses or heinous circumstances of the crime.
    • Reduce Sentence Minimums and Maximums by Law: State and federal legislatures should reduce the current minimums and maximums prison stays set by laws, or guidelines. These ranges should be proportional to the crimes committed, with judges retaining discretion to depart when appropriate. We recommend that legislators consider a 25 percent cut as a starting point to determine how to reduce sentences for the six major crimes that make up the bulk of the current prison population: aggravated assault, murder, nonviolent weapons offense, robbery, serious burglary, and serious drug trafficking. Sentences would be shorter, but still substantial. For example, the average inmate convicted of robbery now serves 4.2 years. A 25 percent cut would reduce the prison stay to 3.1 years. A similar analysis can be applied to other crimes for which prison may be warranted to determine whether sentences can be safely shortened.
    • Retroactively Apply Reforms: Current inmates should be permitted to petition judges for retroactive application of the two reforms above, on a case-by-case basis. This would allow for safe release of prisoners whose sentences no longer serve a justifiable public safety purpose.
    • Complementary Recommendations: Prosecutors should use their discretion to seek alternatives to incarceration or shorter prison stays in line with the recommendations of this report. Further, the nearly $200 billion in savings from implementing this report’s recommendations can be reinvested in proven crime prevention tactics and in alternatives to incarceration proven to reduce recidivism.

    While the first steps many states have taken toward prison reform are welcome, they have not gone far enough. It took roughly four decades to build mass incarceration. Yet, at current rates of decline, it will take even longer to undo it.

    This report provides evidence-based findings and puts forth one approach to rethink sentencing that will reduce the disproportionate impact on communities of color, while maintaining hard-won gains in public safety and saving cash-strapped states significant sums. Our goal is to jump-start a conversation about how the country can implement specific reforms that are audacious enough to truly end mass incarceration.


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    Police Departments Infiltrated By White Supremacist Racist Groups

    FBI Says Racist Groups Have Been Infiltrating Police Departments For Years

    by S. Wooten and M. David - May 24, 2015

    Many have said it for years, but now the Federal Bureau of Investigation is claiming that police departments have been deliberately infiltrated by racist, white supremacist organizations.

    The claim comes after what the FBI says has been nearly a decade of federal law enforcement’s confirmed and documented acts of infiltration by white supremacist groups into American police departments.

    The FBI warning first came back on October 2006, but it fell on largely deaf ears. Now, the report entitled “White supremacist infiltration of law enforcement” is being revisited by many experts in fighting back against organized hate group terrorism.

    In the 2006 report, the FBI found that federal court determined that members of a Los Angeles sheriffs department had organized a Neo Nazi gang. The officers involved did not keep their racist ideas to themselves either, as the FBI found that these same officers “habitually terrorized” the African American community.

    The FBI also found that the Chicago police department fired a detective after it was discovered that he had strong ties to the Ku Klux Klan. That detective, Jon Burge, was found to have tortured over 100 African American suspects.

    The City of Cleveland, in news lately for their shooting of Tamir Rice, and other extreme instances of police gunning down unarmed African Americans, found that police locker rooms had been overrun with “white power” graffiti and vandalism.

    In Texas, a sheriff department found that two of their deputies not only were in the Klan, but were actually prominent recruiters for the hate group.

    Now, the just as the FBI had warned, the number of white supremacist members infiltrating law enforcement has soared.

    Between the years of 2008 to 2014, that number of documented infiltrators rose from just shy of 150, to one thousand. Even worse is the fact that most of them were never fired after their hate group affiliation was discovered.



    FBI warned of white supremacists in law enforcement 10 years ago. Has anything changed?

    In the 2006 bulletin, the FBI detailed the threat of white nationalists and skinheads infiltrating police in order to disrupt investigations against fellow members and recruit other supremacists. The bulletin was released during a period of scandal for many law enforcement agencies throughout the country, including a neo-Nazi gang formed by members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who harassed black and Latino communities. Similar investigations revealed officers and entire agencies with hate group ties in Illinois, Ohio and Texas.

    FBI identified white supremacists in law enforcement as a concern, because of their access to both “restricted areas vulnerable to sabotage” and elected officials or people who could be seen as “potential targets for violence.” The memo also warned of “ghost skins,” hate group members who don’t overtly display their beliefs in order to “blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes.”


  6. #46
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    American Slavery, Reinvented

    The Thirteenth Amendment forbade slavery and involuntary servitude, “except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”


    Crops stretch to the horizon. Black bodies pepper the landscape, hunched over as they work the fields. Officers on horseback, armed, oversee the workers.

    To the untrained eye, the scenes in Angola for Life: Rehabilitation and Reform Inside the Louisiana State Penitentiary, an Atlantic documentary filmed on an old Southern slave-plantation-turned-prison, could have been shot 150 years ago. The imagery haunts, and the stench of slavery and racial oppression lingers through the 13 minutes of footage.

    The film tells two overlapping stories: One is of accomplishment against incredible odds, of a man who stepped into the most violent maximum-security prison in the nation and gave the men there—discarded and damned—what society didn’t: hope, education, and a moral compass. Burl Cain, the warden of Angola Prison, which is in Louisiana, has created a controversial model for rehabilitation. Through work and religion, they learn to help each other, and try to become better fathers to their children on the outside. Perhaps the lucky few even find redemption.

    But there is a second storyline running alongside the first, which raises disquieting questions about how America treats those on the inside as less than fully human. Those troubling opening scenes of the documentary offer visual proof of a truth that America has worked hard to ignore: In a sense, slavery never ended at Angola; it was reinvented.

    * * *

    Some viewers of the video might be surprised to learn that inmates at Angola, once cleared by the prison doctor, can be forced to work under threat of punishment as severe as solitary confinement. Legally, this labor may be totally uncompensated; more typically inmates are paid meagerly—as little as two cents per hour—for their full-time work in the fields, manufacturing warehouses, or kitchens. How is this legal? Didn’t the Thirteenth Amendment abolish all forms of slavery and involuntary servitude in this country?

    Not quite. In the shining promise of freedom that was the Thirteenth Amendment, a sharp exception was carved out. Section 1 of the Amendment provides: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Simply put: Incarcerated persons have no constitutional rights in this arena; they can be forced to work as punishment for their crimes.

    Angola’s farm operations and other similar prison industries have ancestral roots in the black chattel slavery of the South. Specifically, the proliferation of prison labor camps grew during the Reconstruction era following the Civil War, a time when southern states established large prisons throughout the region that they quickly filled, primarily with black men. Many of these prisons had very recently been slave plantations, Angola and Mississippi State Penitentiary (known as Parchman Farm) among them. Other prisons began convict-leasing programs, where, for a leasing fee, the state would lease out the labor of incarcerated workers as hired work crews. Convict leasing was cheaper than slavery, since farm owners and companies did not have to worry at all about the health of their workers.

    In this new era of prison industry, the criminal “justice” system, the state determined the size of the worker pool. Scores of recently freed slaves and their descendants now labored to generate revenue for the state under a Jim Crow regime.

    * * *

    More than a century later, our prison labor system has only grown. We now incarcerate more than 2.2 million people, with the largest prison population in the world, and the second highest incarceration rate per capita. Our prison populations remain racially skewed. With few exceptions, inmates are required to work if cleared by medical professionals at the prison. Punishments for refusing to do so include solitary confinement, loss of earned good time, and revocation of family visitation. For this forced labor, prisoners earn pennies per hour, if anything at all.

    Angola is not the exception; it is the rule.

    Over the decades, prison labor has expanded in scope and reach. Incarcerated workers, laboring within in-house operations or through convict-leasing partnerships with for-profit businesses, have been involved with mining, agriculture, and all manner of manufacturing from making military weapons to sewing garments for Victoria’s Secret. Prison programs extend into the services sector; some incarcerated workers staff call centers.

    Given the scope and scale of prison labor in the modern era, one could reasonably expect some degree of compliance with modern labor standards. However, despite the hard-won protections secured by the labor movement over the past 100 years, incarcerated workers do not enjoy most of these protections.

    Employment law makes the status of the worker as an “employee” a critical distinction. If you are an employee, you get protections; if not, you don’t. Courts look to the character of the relationship between the parties and aim to assess, first, whether the employer has sufficient control over the work conditions and, second, whether the relationship is primarily of an economic character.

    Incarcerated workers are not expressly excluded from the definition of employee in workers’ protection statutes like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or the National Labor Relations Act. However, in the cases where incarcerated workers have sued their prison-employers to enforce minimum wage laws or the FLSA, courts have ruled that the relationship between the penitentiary and the inmate worker is not primarily economic; thus, the worker is not protected under the statutes. By judging the relationship between prisons and incarcerated workers to be of a primarily social or penological nature, the courts have placed wage and working condition protections out of reach for incarcerated workers.

    Incarcerated persons or, more specifically, the “duly convicted,” lack a constitutional right to be free of forced servitude. Further, this forced labor is not checked by many of the protections enjoyed by workers laboring in the exact same jobs on the other side of the 20-foot barbed-wire electric fence.

    * * *

    Angola for Life raises questions about the potential rehabilitative nature of prison labor. Work, warden Cain posits, is an important part of the rehabilitative process. Prison labor provides a way to pay society back for the costs of incarceration, as well as a pathway to correct deviant behavior and possibly find personal redemption.

    Meaningful work helps cultivate self-esteem, self worth, and the sense that one’s existence on this Earth matters. Yet, while some form of work for the incarcerated may be important, the current form is troubling. These workers are vulnerable to the kind of workplace exploitation that America has otherwise deemed inhumane.

    Another justification for compulsory prison labor comes from a fairness concern. Why should prisoners sit with idle hands when the rest of us must work to put a roof over our heads and food in our bellies? Perhaps the low-to-no wages paid to incarcerated workers are a form of pay garnishment, a sort of compensation for the costs of room and board?

    Yet those costs are not fairly calculated. The American criminal-justice system is rife with fees that shift the financial burden of incarceration to the charged and convicted and their families. Like the “company store” in isolated mining towns which overcharged workers of old, prisoners are left open to similar forms of exploitation.

    Finally, some would argue that regardless of its harsh nature, prison labor is simply a matter of just deserts. Don’t workers behind bars deserve less than equal treatment? After all, they are murderers, criminals, all manner of sinners and deviants. The appeal of this argument lies in its simplicity: People who do not behave like decent human beings do not merit being treated like decent human beings.

    There is much to say of the inadequacy of this sort of eye-for-an-eye philosophy and the importance of resisting such a reflex in the realm of state action and public policy. As Ta-Nehisi Coates described in his Atlantic cover story, a series of risk factors—including mental illness, illiteracy, poverty, and drug addiction—drastically increase the chance that one will end up among the incarcerated. By one report’s measure, more than half of the inmates in jails and prisons in the United States are suffering from mental illness of some kind. These risk factors are social-welfare and public-health issues. America makes the choice to respond to these outcomes with the penal system, but there are other ways.

    There is one further reason to be concerned about the system of prison labor. A brief moment of dialogue in the first few minutes of the video between the inmate driving a buggy and the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg hints at this:

    Elderly Inmate: I got locked up July 25, 1981.
    Reporter: What was the charge?
    Elderly Inmate: Second-degree murder.
    Reporter: Did you do it?
    Elderly Inmate: Nah.
    Reporter: But you’re here.
    Elderly Inmate: I’m here.

    Maybe we believe him. Likely we don’t. Whether we believe this particular inmate or not, ample experience and research point us to an uncomfortable reality: There are innocent men at Angola. We don’t know which they are, but we do know they are there, and they are disproportionately likely to be black. In American criminal justice, “duly convicted” doesn’t always mean what we wish it to.

    * * *

    Individual stories are compelling. For the slave toiling in the antebellum south, a kindly master was a godsend. Burl Cain may be the very best that the inmates of Angola prison could hope for, a rare thoughtful, kindly, creative sort of warden. He is almost certainly a man trying to do the best he can for a population damned and forgotten by society with the resources he has available.

    But individual narratives are not enough. When we focus on the individual, it’s easy to miss the context. The context here is undeniable, and it is made clear by the very first frames of Angola for Life.

    As the camera zooms out and pans over fields of black bodies bent in work and surveyed by a guard, the picture that emerges is one of slavery. It is one of a “justice” system riddled with racial oppression. It is one of private business taking advantage of these disenfranchised, vulnerable workers. It is one of an entire caste of men relegated, as they have long been relegated, to labor for free, condemned to sow in perpetuity so that others might reap.


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    L.A. needs to borrow millions to cover legal payouts, city report says

    The Los Angeles City Council in recent years has repeatedly settled costly, high-profile lawsuits, agreeing to spend millions of dollars to end litigation brought by grieving families, disability-rights groups and people wrongfully convicted of crimes.

    But a surge in legal settlements, along with court judgments against the city, is outpacing the city’s ability to keep up.

    With payouts projected to total at least $135 million this fiscal year, budget officials said Monday that the city needs to immediately borrow up to $70 million to avoid dipping into its emergency reserve fund.

    “We’re going to be in the same boat next fiscal year...it’s every year,” Englander said.

    The city typically budgets $60 million a year for its legal liability fund, but has seen a significant number of settlements since the fiscal year began on July 1.

    In August, the City Council agreed to a roughly $200-million settlement over a housing-related lawsuit brought by disability-rights groups, with the city expected to pay about $20 million a year.

    Last month, the council agreed to an $8-million settlement to end lawsuits related to the fatal Los Angeles Police Department shootings of three unarmed men in separate incidents. The payouts are among the highest by the city for deadly police shootings in the last decade.

    Two years ago, officials agreed to spend $1.2 billion over the next three decades as part of a legal settlement to fix the city’s massive backlog of broken sidewalks.

    The city paid out $110 million in legal cases last fiscal year, according to budget staff. In January 2016, the city agreed to pay out $24 million to settle lawsuits from two men who alleged that dishonest LAPD detectives led their wrongful murder convictions and caused them to spend decades behind bars.

    City lawyers concerned about the police misconduct allegations recommended the settlements, saying in confidential memos to the City Council that taking the cases to trial could be even costlier.


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    Sonia Sotomayor just told us all the truth about illegal traffic stops

    In a searing dissent, the supreme court justice set out how targeting people of color corrodes all our civil liberties


    My father was an amateur gardener. Nothing special – basic landscaping at our home on the lawn his mother never had when he was growing up on Chicago’s south side.

    Whenever I’d help him, he always gave me the simplest task: pulling up the weeds. He explained to me that weeds, if left to fester, will choke everything around them. And he taught me what every gardener, amateur or professional landscape artists knows: if you’re going to get rid of the weed for good, you have to get to the root. That lesson has lasted far beyond his time on Earth and our our days on the lawn.

    In its Utah v Strieff ruling Monday, the US supreme court failed to follow my father’s most basic principle of getting to the root. By validating police seizures obtained after illegal stops in the case of outstanding traffic warrants, the court ignores that this is not about the discovery of a traffic warrant, which came second, but about the illegal stop that came first.

    And even deeper: this decision will do nothing to eradicate the violence that black and brown communities like mine have suffered for centuries. The roots of police violence lie in the dirt of systemic racism and oppression.

    Justice Sonia Sotomayor reiterated this in a brilliantly stinging dissent on the majority decision using piercing language that conferred dignity upon those of us who can be choked by the root at any time by virtue of the color of our skin:

    For generations, black and brown parents have given their children “the talk”— instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger — all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them … They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere.
    In that moment, in soaring rhetoric and bold statement, Justice Sotomayor spoke for all of us. She sees us. She knows us by name – her reality as a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx is not that much different from ours. Her presence and her platform prove that not only is the inclusion of diverse voices critical, but the amplification of marginalized truths is the responsibility of those with a seat at tables of power.

    She did this – she got to the root, saying plainly, “I see you.” In this dissent, our scholarship matters. Our pain is valid. Our lives have value.
    And our value must be reflected in our public servants. They must not pervert their power and use it against the people they serve. And yet, it is exactly this kind of perversion that the court codified today, and that Sotomayor identifies without equivocation.

    “The countless people who are routinely targeted by police … are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives,” she writes.

    Like the many powerful women of color before and behind her, she carries the burden not just for our kind, but for everyone who desires freedom as our mantle. Because when women of color lead, everyone benefits. Because when our high courts and highest offices truly reflect our communities, we are seen and spoken for. Because when bravery shows up across generations, we are wise to listen.

    Like Dr King before her, I hope Justice Sotomayor’s words will ring out louder than the injustice that inspired them. King said that “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. In her dissent, Sotomayor says, “until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but.”

    Justice must be at the root. And indeed, none of us are free until we all are.


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    Anti-Trump protesters charged with ‘felony rioting’ face 10-year jail sentences

    Police used tear gas, stun grenades, water cannon and pepper spray to subdue demonstrators

    Most of the 230 protesters arrested during Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday will face charges of felony rioting, a crime which carries a maximum sentence of a decade in prison in Washington DC.

    The 217 alleged rioters – who could also be hit with $250,000 (£200,000) fines – appeared before Washington’s Superior Court throughout Sunday.
    The arrests were made around the time Donald Trump was being sworn in as president, as police used tear gas, stun grenades, water cannon and pepper spray on demonstrators.

    The 217 alleged rioters – who could also be hit with $250,000 (£200,000) fines – appeared before Washington’s Superior Court throughout Sunday.
    The arrests were made around the time Donald Trump was being sworn in as president, as police used tear gas, stun grenades, water cannon and pepper spray on demonstrators.

    At least one defendant told the judge they were a journalist for the online news site Vocativ.com, and should not have been arrested, according to a Buzzfeed report from the courtroom.

    Some lawyers argued the Department of Justice, which President Trump has ultimate command over, should not be suing people who participated in anti-Trump protests, while others noted the prosecutors had not demonstrated their clients’ personal involvement in the alleged riot.

    These are questions that will be settled at trials throughout spring. The protesters have nearly all been released without bail, the US Attorney’s Office announced, but must not get arrested again in the District before trials in February and March.

    As the defendants left the police station, they were greeted by a smaller crowd of supporters chanting “anti-capitalista”.


    Class-action suit filed over police response to inaugural protests

    A federal-class action lawsuit filed Friday accuses police of using unconstitutional tactics against demonstrators who descended on downtown Washington to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

    The suit, filed on behalf of Colorado defense attorney Benjamin Carraway, claims that officers of the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Park Police confined peaceful protesters and sprayed them with chemicals.

    "Around the time of Trump’s swearing in, John Doe MPD Officers and John Doe Park Police officers surrounded individuals who were at or near 12th & L St., NW ... Without warning and without any dispersal order, the police officers kettled all of the plaintiffs," the complaint says. "Defendants included in the kettle not only protesters who had engaged in no criminal conduct, but also members of the media, attorneys, legal observers, and medics ... Defendants proceeded to indiscriminately and repeatedly deploy chemical irritants, attack the individuals with batons, and throw flash-bang grenades at the kettled individuals."

    "The use of chemical irritants against Plaintiffs, the use of the batons against Plaintiffs, and the deployment of flash-bang grenades under the circumstances constituted unreasonable and excessive force," Washington attorney Jeffrey Light argued in the complaint.

    Representatives of the D.C. police and the Park Police did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    D.C. police officials’ handling of a 2002 protest against an International Monetary Fund meeting led to at least three lawsuits that cost the city more than $12 million to settle. The allegations were similar: that protesters were confined unnecessarily or arrested without cause.



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    Police, Militarization, and Islamophobia: 4 Things to Remember


    On October 9th, I was arrested along with 14 others. We chained ourselves to each other to block a major intersection in downtown Chicago on the first day of the Illinois Tactical Officers Association (ITOA) 2016 Tactical Training Conference and Weapons Expo. All of us were arrested, charged with misdemeanors, and since released. The act of civil disobedience was part of the #StopITOA campaign–a campaign centered on ending the ITOA conference and the ever-increasing militarization of American policing domestically and abroad.

    The ITOA conference, which took place from October 9-13 at the Stonegate Conference and Banquet Centre in Hoffman Estates, is a five-day SWAT tactical training and weapons expo aimed at training local police and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) “like tactical squads in the military”, and increasing the flow of weapons and militarized technology into greater Chicagoland and throughout nation.

    ITOA is a small, non-governmental organization that works with Cook County Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (DHSEM) and other government agencies to train local and federal law enforcement agents. US Marshals, military personnel, DHS agents, and other government personnel from across the nation frequently attend ITOA’s conferences and weapons expos.

    The ITOA conference acts as just one small part of a massive culture of hyper-militarization fueled by Islamophobia and funded through the collaboration of various government agencies such as DHS, the Pentagon, local law enforcement, and institutions of higher education. Here are 4 reasons why this is important.

    1. Hyper-militarization is the present and future of police and law enforcement in America

    The militarization of police and policing within the United States has been steadily increasing since the beginning of the “War on Drugs” and has only since accelerated with the “War on Terror.” Violent military equipment previously used by the American military, foreign dictatorships, and apartheid regimes in war, occupation, and genocide are now “coming home” and being placed in the hands of America’s police and law enforcement to use against those within its own borders.

    The “1033” program which is passed by the Department of Defense every year–and signed by Obama–gives the Pentagon a budget to give “surplus military equipment” that is “left over from U.S. military campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere” to local law enforcement agencies to use at their will–and at incredibly little cost, if any.

    What does this mean for us? Among countless other things, it means an influx of military-grade weaponry into our communities. It means increased police shootings of Black people and Indigenous people. It means amplified baseless surveillance of Muslim communities. It means increased harassment and repression of activists working to challenge state oppression. It means less funding for education and mental health services. And it means more government collaboration with weapons and arms manufacturers who profit from occupation, imperialism, surveillance, and increased state control and repression.

    The corporate sponsor for this year’s ITOA conference was Safariland, a massive weapons manufacturer whose teargas and weapons have been used from Israeli apartheid and military dictatorships to Ferguson, Missouri. While teargas now seems like a normalized part of “crowd control” tactics against peaceful protesters in the USA, it has been classified as a chemical weapon by the United Nations and banned in international conflict at the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993. What America’s military is “not allowed” to used abroad, local police use–while massive weapons manufacturers such as Safariland continue to profit from the resulting violence.

    But an accelerated trend of hyper-militarization does not stop at law enforcement: tactical, militarized trainings at the ITOA conference were also held for emergency medical technicians (EMTs)–i.e. our health care providers and clinicians. The movement to militarize means government funding itself focuses on violence than meeting community needs. While tactical trainings are required for Chicago Police Department, mental health training is optional–despite the fact that countless police shootings in the USA are in response to mental health crises.

    Right now, law enforcement agencies across the country are receiving hyper-militarized, anti-Muslim tactical training not only by ITOA and similar associations and organizations across the country, but also by apartheid military regimes. The lines between local law enforcement and the military are ever-more blurring and merging.

    2. Funding for militarization is taking away resources from our communities.

    An increase of police and law enforcement into the community means more funding for militarization and less funding for community needs.

    The long-withstanding and intimate relationship ITOA has with our tax-paid government agencies is emblematic of where priorities are in respect to funding. While this year’s ITOA conference was not directly funded by DHSEM, the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) has sponsored countless tactical trainings with ITOA for local and regional SWAT and law enforcement. Moreover, the current Executive Director of Cook County DHSEM is Ernest Brown who, along with being accused of sexual assault, is also himself a member of ITOA.

    Therefore, funding for hyper-militarized police trainings are largely tax-paid, becoming a massive slap in the face for Muslim communities, Black communities, and communities of color in particular, as they are paying for the baseless surveillence, senseless shootings, and endless violence by the state against their own selves and communities.

    And it gets worse. These militarized trainings are taking place in exactly some of the same community locations that are being closed due to “budget deficits”–closed schools, primarily on the Southside (where there exists already a lack of government funding for education, among other needs)–are being used as training grounds for police and SWAT.

    Currently, the Chicago Police Department already consumes 40% of the city budget–and it is only predicted to increase. Just last month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he plans on hiring 1,000 new law enforcement personnel over the next two years, although he remains “unclear” on where the funding for their extra $135 million annual costs will come from. Although we can take a guess.

    While the argument in favor of increased funding for police equates doing so with increased levels of safety, it is important to ask–increased safety for whom? With police shootings of Black people and Indigenous people only increasing, anti-Muslim fear-mongering fueling local militarization and surveillance, over 100 SWAT raids happening daily, and war-like equipment being used against impoverished communities and communities of color, who is befitting from hyper-militarization of police? And how much funding is being burned with it?

    If the solution is to lower crime, why not increase funding instead for education, libraries, and community resources that lend themselves to the growth and success of a community? When almost half of all of those killed by police have some sort of disability, why is funding going to increase a police force that clearly doesn’t know how to deal with mental health rather than increasing funding for mental health facilities? Why wait for a social issue to arise and deal with it violently rather than work to address the root cause?

    If how to end violence is the question, the answer is definitely not cutting funding for education and mental health services and instead funding militarized law enforcement and bringing an influx of internationally-banned weaponry into our communities.

    3. Islamophobia is fueling police militarization

    Along with physical and direct funding from tax-paid government agencies, what else is fueling this hyper-militarization of law enforcement?

    The choice for this year’s ITOA conference keynote speaker is a clear example of the ideological funding of militarization: Sebastian Gorka is a far-right extremist, Trump adviser, and so-called “national security expert.” His career has been largely built from creating and spreading anti-Muslim propaganda in hyper-militarized local, federal, and international institutions and settings–all while using Islamophobia as an excuse to continue to build up and fund militarization both domestically and abroad.

    Post-9/11 fear-mongering of an “ever-looming threat of radical Islam” is the new norm of America’s political, media, and policing culture. Creating a false threat of “radical Islam” always around the corner establishes a culture of fear that is then used to leverage government agencies to increase spending on military-style weapons (the same equipment used to kill Muslims “over there”) to “protect” the United States domestically. Of course, these weapons are then of course used disproportionately against Black communities, Muslim communities, and impoverished communities of color, despite the fact that white, right-wing extremists “are a bigger threat to American than ISIS.”

    Law enforcement’s Islamophobic-infused tactical training is already evident not only in the countless cases of police violence against Muslims, but was also clearly on display at the #StopITOA blockade on Sunday when the Chicago Police Department, Fire Department, and SWAT responded to the 15 #StopITOA protesters–two of which were either Muslim or Arab and were subject to various form of additional racial profiling.

    And as mentioned in no. 1 on this list, the ITOA conference, and countless others like it, give militarized training by anti-Muslim speakers not only just to law enforcement (which is already bad enough), but also medical professionals and government personnel who frequently are invited to attend and engage with the conference. The whole process is a vicious cycle which poses a direct and tangible threat to Muslim communities, Black communities, and communities of color.

    4. Intersectional solidarity is vital for challenging hyper-militarization

    Because the ITOA conference and the greater culture of racism and anti-Muslim militarization it helps to fuel and propel deeply affects so many different communities, the movement to challenge and call for an end to such cycles and systems must also be rooted in intersectional solidarity work. The #StopITOA campaign successfully brought together young activists who are Muslim, Black, immigrant, indigenous, migrant, working-class, undocumented, white, Asians, queer and trans, and of communities of color. The campaign’s statement of opposition was endorsed by over 20 different organizations, including Assata’s Daughters, For the People Artists Collective, American Friends Service Committee-Chicago, the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Chicago, Black Lives Matter-Chicago, Organized Communities Against Deportations, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, and the Arab American Action Network, among others.

    Along with organizing and executing the act of civil disobedience on October 9th, the #StopITOA campaign also collected over 3,000 signatures on a petition calling on Stonegate to drop the ITOA conference, organized a teach-in to promote community education and discussion, held a press conference, and created a website with information and resources for anyone interested in learning more or getting involved.

    ITOA and its 29th annual conference is just one small example where hyper-militarization fueled by Islamophobia and supported by tax-paid agencies is able to flourish. Countless tactical training conferences like these take place across the country, and similar efforts like the #StopITOA continue to work to challenge the toxic and harmful culture they perpetuate.

    Anti-Muslim-fueled hyper-militarization continues to blend the lines between local policing and the military, and doing so requires more and more funding taken from community resources and given to companies and corporations that profit from violence–locally and abroad.

    And it gets worse. Here are 11 more Shocking Facts About America’s Militarized Police Force.


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    Muslim Inmates Told to Go Vegetarian

    Controversial for-profit prison accommodates religious dietary requirements of other faiths, but not Islam

    DALLAS – Feb 22, 2017 – Two inmates of Reeves County Detention Center in Pecos, Texas, are suing the federal prison for violating the inmates' constitutional right to eat according to their sincerely held religious beliefs.

    In the lawsuit, plaintiffs Olusegun Martins and Sabah Al-Washah claim they requested "halal" meals in accordance with their religious beliefs, but prison officials refused their requests. When the plaintiffs argued that meals for other faith groups are provided, such as kosher meals, prison administrators suggested a vegetarian diet and claimed the prison was not required to accommodate all religious requirements in the same manner.

    The prison is managed by The Geo Group, which is a private for-profit prison management corporation that has been featured in critical segments by Stephen Colbert and John Oliver. In their segments, the commentators cited reports of cruelty to children, sexual misconduct, mistreatment of inmates and a "cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts." Reeves County Detention Center was also listed as one of "America's 10 Worst Prisons" by Mother Jones.

    The complaint, which was filed by attorneys at Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America, claims that prison officials violated the inmates' rights when they attempted to impose the prison's definition of "halal" on the inmates. Attorneys cite violations under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

    Khalil Meek, executive director of Muslim Legal Fund of America, a nonprofit charity that funds Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America, said that government agencies should not dictate religious beliefs on anyone.
    "No government agency has the right to tell people, not even prisoners, what to believe or how to observe their faith," said Meek. "We are hopeful that this lawsuit makes it clear that prisons, even privately run for-profit prisons, need to respect the separation of church and state that is the foundation of our religious freedom in America."

    Meek went further to thank the inmates for contacting CLCMA and said that Muslims who feel their religious rights are being violated should promptly contact an attorney or constitutional rights organization, like MLFA or CLCMA.

    Muslim Legal Fund of America is a national nonprofit charity that funds projects to protect and defend constitutional rights in America. Established in 2001, MLFA has defended freedom of speech, freedom of religion, right to a fair trial, due process of law and many other civil liberties.

    This and other cases impacting constitutional rights
    are made possible through the generous funding
    of Muslim Legal Fund of America.



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    Department of Homeland Security officially spreading lies about immigrant crime

    No, undocumented immigrants don’t “routinely victimize Americans.”

    A Department of Homeland Security memo authored by Secretary John Kelly asserts that “criminal aliens routinely victimize Americans and other legal residents.”

    The memo, entitled “Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest,” creates a new federal office meant to work with those victims.

    “Accordingly, I am establishing the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office within the Office of the Director of ICE, which will create a programmatic liaison between ICE and the known victims of crimes committed by removable aliens,” Kelly writes. “To that end, I direct the Director of ICE to immediately reallocate any and all resources that are currently used to advocate on behalf of illegal aliens to the new VOICE Office, and to immediately terminate the provision of such outreach or advocacy services to illegal aliens.”

    But Homeland Security’s new VOICE office is based on a false premise. Data indicates undocumented immigrants are no more likely to commit crimes than American citizens, and are actually less likely to be criminals in some cases.

    The literature is summarized in a 2015 Cato Institute report entitled, “Immigration and Crime — What the Research Says.” Here are some key findings from studies cited in the report.

    — One study found that “roughly 1.6 percent of immigrant males 18–39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born.” The study found the disparity in census data spanning three decades — from 1980 to 2010.
    — Another found that the phased rollout of the Secure Communities (S-COMM) immigration enforcement program didn’t reduce crime in affected communities. S-COMM “led to no meaningful reduction in the FBI index crime rate,” researchers found. If undocumented immigrants were more likely to commit criminal acts, you’d expect to see crime rates decrease as undocumented immigrants were removed from communities. That wasn’t the case.
    — Another study “looked at 159 cities at three dates between 1980 and 2000 and found that crime rates and levels of immigration are not correlated,” the CATO report says, summarizing the findings.
    — Another “looked at a sample of 150 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and found that levels of recent immigration had a statistically significant negative effect on homicide rates but no effect on property crime rates.” Yet another study found that an influx of immigrants is actually correlated with decreases in homicide and robbery rates.
    — A study that looked looked at 103 different MSAs from 1994–2004 found that “the weight of the evidence suggests that immigration is not associated with increased levels of crime. To the extent that a relationship does exist, research often finds a negative effect of immigration on levels of crime, in general, and on homicide in particular.”

    Last month, Richard Pérez-Peña of the New York Times alluded to some of the aforementioned research, writing, “several studies, over many years, have concluded that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. And experts say the available evidence does not support the idea that undocumented immigrants commit a disproportionate share of crime.” Pérez-Peña’s report is entitled, “Contrary to Trump’s Claims, Immigrants Are Less Likely to Commit Crimes.”

    While citizens don’t have reason to fear undocumented immigrants more than they would any other person, the two memos distributed by Homeland Security on Tuesday makes gives undocumented immigrants good reason to by fearful of anyone with a badge.

    As ThinkProgress covered in another post, Kelly’s memos detail “an implementation plan to hire thousands more immigration officials, make more criminal offenses punishable by deportation, allow local law enforcement officials to carry out federal immigration duties, and make it easier to prevent entry to asylum-seeking children who show up at the southern U.S. border.”

    During a rally on Saturday, President Trump, who frequently showcased family members of victims of crimes perpetrated by undocumented immigrants during his campaign, resorted to making up an incident in Sweden in order to fear-monger about immigrants.

    Once it became clear that the “Swedish incident” was based on Trump’s misinterpretation of a Fox News segment, the president claimed he was actually referring to how immigrants are disproportionately responsible for crime in Sweden in general. In fact, crime rates in Sweden have remained flat from 2005 to 2014 — a period of time during which the country opened its doors to immigrants refugees.


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    NYPD sergeant who raped 13-year-old girl gets just three years in prison

    AN NYPD sergeant who raped and sexually abused a 13-year-old girl scored a soft sentence Monday of only three years in prison — just a year for each attack.

    Vladimir Krull, a 12-year veteran of the department assigned to the Midtown North Precinct, had also served as a Marine in Iraq.

    The three ghastly attacks on the teen took place in 2013 and 2014.

    The victim was the daughter of Krull’s then-girlfriend.

    Bronx prosecutors said he first kissed her on the mouth in September 2013 — then proceeded to abuse her further.

    The abuse escalated — and he raped the victim in her home and in his car during two separate incidents, jurors found.

    Krull, 39, was also convicted of making the victim perform a sex act on him in his car in June 2014 after a father-daughter breakfast for her eighth-grade class.

    A spokeswoman for Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark confirmed that Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler had sentenced Krull to just three years for each incident of abuse, which will run concurrently.

    After he was convicted this past Jan. 30, Clark said: “The defendant horrifically abused the trust of this family and engaged in sexual acts with a child.

    “He now faces prison time for his depravity, and I hope his conviction reinforces the message that we do not stop until we get justice for the most vulnerable of victims.”

    After Krull’s arrest, then-Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called it an “unfortunate circumstance” and said that the NYPD would “be working very closely with the district attorney’s office.”

    Krull was also sentenced to five years of postrelease supervision and must register as a sex offender, prosecutors said Monday.
    Krull has been terminated from the Police Department, according to the NYPD.

    Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Krull to 15 years in prison — or five years for each incident — to be served consecutively.
    But Krull’s attorney Roger Blank said his client maintains his innocence. Blank said he plans to appeal.

    Krull had originally been charged with two counts of rape, two counts of criminal sex act, two counts of sexual misconduct, forcible touching, endangering the welfare of a child and sex abuse.

    But Blank noted that the jury had acquitted Blank of six charges — including other allegations of rape — after the lawyer pointed to weaknesses in the case.

    He said no physical evidence, DNA or text messages tied Krull to the crimes.

    Nonetheless, it took the jury just five days to reach a decision on the other counts.

    “The evidence was thin at best,” Blank said.

    He emphasized that during victim impact statements at sentencing, the teen and her mother had said the abuse had adversely affected her grades.

    But during testimony, the victim said she remained a straight-A student throughout the ordeal, Blank said.

    The girl also testified, incorrectly, Blank said, that Krull had an apple-sized heart tattoo with a ribbon around it, when he had no such tattoo.

    “I think the sentence reflected both the evidence that was put forth and also my client’s (police and military) history,” Blank said. “He spent his life in public service.”


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    With Nighttime Raids, Police Wage War on Black and Brown Families in New York

    Friday, March 31, 2017

    This story is the fourth in a new Truthout series, Severed Ties: The Human Toll of Prisons. This series will dive deeply into the impact of incarceration on families, loved ones and communities, demonstrating how the United States' incarceration of more than 2 million people also harms many millions more -- including 2.7 million children.

    Paula Clarke and her family found themselves crawling half-naked on the floor of her Bronx home at 4:51 am on April 27, 2016, after multiple heavily armed men broke through her front door and demanded that she tell them where her son was.

    Helicopters could be heard hovering right about her home. The loud flashbang grenades that initially woke Clarke up even left marks on the back of the house.

    "I thought we were at war or something," she told Truthout. "Just being woken suddenly from your bed to all of this. It was like we were in a war zone."
    As her home was being violently invaded, Clarke, who is visually impaired, tried to figure out who these armed intruders were.

    "You could hear them breaking through the front door. And the house was like shaking, literally shaking," she recounted. "I didn't even know that we were being attacked by our own government. I thought it was like maybe ISIS. Trust me, my mind was going crazy. I was terrified 'cause all of that [was] going on at the same time."

    Her daughter Brie, a nursing student who was scheduled to take a final exam that morning, was also abruptly awakened by the war zone right outside her room.

    "My sister and I were sleeping in the bedroom, and we just heard bombs go off and we saw flashes of light happening outside our window," Brie said.
    After almost instinctively rolling off her bed onto the floor, she was also confused about what was happening.

    "When you're sleeping, you don't really have that much clothes on, so I went over and shouted from the bedroom door. I didn't even see who it was or who was out there," Brie told Truthout. "They just said, 'Come out! Come out!' and I told them, 'I have no clothes on' and asked if I could put some clothes on before I came out there. They said, 'No, just come out on your hands and knees.' So I just got on my knees and did what they asked me to do. They didn't say who they were, what they were there for. They just told me to get on my knees and move toward them."

    After Clarke and her daughters were forced to crawl their way toward their living room, they finally saw who'd been shouting at them: a group of police officers with helmets who were pointing guns in their direction. The family was then detained on their own couch as cops searched the entire house, breaking down the basement door in the process.

    The police initially asked for somebody named "Michael," but the family didn't know who they were talking about. Clarke's son is named "Mark." After asking for a "Michael" didn't work, the police began asking Clarke what her son's name is and where he could be found.

    Clarke's daughters told the police that Mark was at his father's house, located about 10 minutes away by car. As most of the police then left and made their way to that house, a few officers remained to continue detaining Clarke and her daughters until Mark was arrested. The cops repeated everything they had just done at Mark's father's house and caught Mark.

    After about an hour of being detained in their own home, Clarke and her family were finally let go and allowed to go back to bed after the officers guarding them received word that Mark had been captured. As the police left, Clarke still had no idea why the police were after her son.

    The family later found out that Mark was only one of 78 people who were arrested that morning in the Bronx, and one of 120 people (now known as the Bronx 120) indicted on charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a law originally used to crack down on the Mafia. Many of those arrested were young men who came from the New York City Housing Authority's (NYCHA) Eastchester Gardens projects, located only a few blocks away from Clarke's home. The projects were raided that morning by hundreds of officers from various local and federal law enforcement agencies. The raid was, according to a Department of Justice press release, "believed to be the largest gang takedown in New York City history."

    After the entire ordeal, Brie still managed to take her final exam that morning and passed it. But family life for the Clarkes, as well as other families affected by the raids, would never be the same again.

    Mark, described by his family as a playful and loving young man who would visit his mother and sisters on a daily basis, has been locked up since the raid, and has been in solitary confinement since September. His family hasn't been able to see him since he was put in solitary. When he and other members of the Bronx 120 went to their first court date on October 19, 2016, family members, including Mark's mother, were not allowed into the courtroom. They were instead put into an "overflow" room, where they watched the proceeding on static-filled monitors with no sound. When family members demanded to be allowed into the courtroom, court officers threatened to arrest them.

    A Pattern of Life-Shattering Raids on Public Housing Residents

    Even though it's been deemed the largest raid in New York City history, the Eastchester Garden raid was certainly not the only raid on residents of the city's public housing projects in the last few years. From the Bronx to Harlem to Brooklyn, hundreds of people -- mostly young, poor men of color -- have been rounded up by heavily armed cops and thrown into jails and prisons, leaving their families and communities damaged, divided and even more impoverished.

    "The research suggests that these raids are very disruptive," Alex Vitale, an associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College, told Truthout. "They can lead to family members being evicted or, in order to avoid eviction, family members having to agree to the permanent banishment of their children from their homes as a condition for remaining there."

    In addition to splitting up individual families, raids often also fracture communities.

    "You have situations in these large cases where the district attorneys are pressuring people to testify against each other, which can create real animosity, resentment, fear and paranoia as everyone is concerned about who's saying what," Vitale said. "So it's very detrimental to any kind of community solidarity or sense of security."

    The justifications for such state terror are often composed of the typical, racist drug war rhetoric used to facilitate mass incarceration for decades. Just as the "super predator" myth was used to justify the arrest and incarceration of large numbers of young Black men in the 1990s, the specter of "gang membership" is now used to excuse massive state violence. When it comes to raids, law enforcement, often with the help of mainstream media, usually label the young people they're targeting "gang members," accuse them of dealing drugs and bring up tragic deaths in the area in order to justify collective punishment through mass arrests.

    During the Eastchester Garden raids, the NYPD; US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) all conspired to violently invade people's homes and make mass arrests at gunpoint -- ironically justifying these invasions with claims that the young men living there were part of violent gangs and conspiracies.

    The authorities claimed in a press release that the 120 people arrested in the raids were "members and associates of two rival street gangs operating in the Bronx: the 2Fly YGz ("2Fly") and the Big Money Bosses ("BMB")." Authorities charged all 120 people with drug, gun and conspiracy charges. In addition, the authorities claimed that the two gangs were involved in the deaths of eight people since 2007.

    Raid in Harlem Was "Senseless Violence," Father Says

    The same blueprint was used two years earlier in Harlem for a multipronged raid on the Manhattanville and Grant Houses, which is now considered the second-largest raid in New York City's history. The murder of Tayshana "Chicken" Murphy in the Grant Houses in 2011 -- a result of a rivalry between the two projects -- led to raids ending in the arrest of more than 100 people, including Tayshana Murphy's brother, Taylonn Murphy Jr.

    Their father, Taylonn Murphy Sr., who now does antiviolence activism and is also working with families affected by other raids, was appalled at how the authorities used his 18-year-old daughter's death to arrest so many young people and destroy so many families.

    "From that day, her physical demise just activated my rebirth, and I became an activist against senseless violence in the community," Murphy told Truthout. "To me, it's very personal because my daughter was used as the pretext for these raids, and the two young individuals who killed my daughter weren't even named in the conspiracy. So it just looked odd -- the way that these pieces were put together to give some validity to kidnapping young people out of their communities and giving them a massive amount of [prison] time."

    Cops Cite Marijuana Use as One of the Justifications for Brooklyn Raid

    The same justifications were made by authorities after a February raid in Brooklyn's Kingsborough houses. In an NYPD public meeting on the raid held in Brooklyn on February 24, 2017, police went so far as to mention the fact that they received many calls and complaints about young people smoking weed in the hallways. With all of these raids, tragic local deaths and drug war propaganda were used as an excuse for police to go in and start rounding up people -- in many cases, based on flimsy evidence of alleged gang ties.

    "For the vast majority of young people charged in these cases, there's no evidence of their actual involvement in violent activity," Vitale told Truthout. "These conspiracy cases only require that there be a showing that these kids are connected, or that they've engaged in other kinds of low-level criminal activity together. Like maybe they got busted selling pot in the park together five years ago, and then one of them goes off and shoots someone. And now [the police are] saying 'Well, both of them are guilty of conspiracy to commit murder because they're part of a criminal enterprise.' It's disturbing how loosely they're constructing these conspiracy cases."

    Heartbreak and Fears of Eviction Following Raids

    In addition to the pain of having a relative taken away and having to deal with the legal system, many of the families in public housing also face eviction after having relatives arrested in these raids.

    Eve's family is one such case. But of course, "Eve" is not her real name. In order to avoid any more hardship for her or her currently incarcerated son, she requested that neither of them be referred to by their real names in this piece. When Eve's home in the Eastchester Gardens projects was raided, the cops broke down the front door and pointed rifles at Eve and her children. "Bitch! Get up against the wall," the cops screamed, before detaining her and the kids, asking where her son was, and searching the entire apartment. The cops soon found and arrested her son Seth in front of the building. The next day, Eve found out about all the other arrests on the news while viewing painful footage of her son shackled from head to toe.

    "When it first happened, I couldn't really sleep. I couldn't focus. I'm like ****, I'm laying in my bed and somebody just came into my house and basically ripped my son out of my arms," Eve told Truthout. "Every time I see his clothes, I'm crying. Every time I pass his closet, I would just break down. When I go to see him [in jail] and I leave, [I cry] just seeing him in that place. And he has a little girl now, two months old."

    Along with her son being locked up and the emotional scars that go with a relative's incarceration, Eve and her family are now facing eviction from their home. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) had put Eve on housing probation a few years ago after two of her sons were arrested for gun possession. The two young men served their time and got out, but NYCHA made Eve sign an agreement to keep her two sons out of her home in a notoriously family-destroying process known as "permanent exclusion."

    "Permanent exclusion is routinely imposed against individuals for minor offenses and even when criminal charges have been dropped," Lucy Newman, staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society, wrote in an email to City Limits. "Its impact can be devastating: breaking up families, forcing young men of color into homelessness and subjecting those who remain in the apartment to years of intrusive, humiliating, unannounced inspections. Every resident has a right to feel safe in his/her home, but there is no evidence to support NYCHA's position that exclusion needs to be permanent or that, in most instances, permanent exclusion is making anyone safer."

    Eve was often subjected to NYCHA inspections of her home, as the agency attempted to force her to keep her own sons out. She says that she expects to be evicted soon; the raid has "just put the dirt over the coffin."

    "Basically, that was it," she said. "I might've got a chance before, but the raid just made it worse."

    Eve's lawyer told her that she has a few months until she has to leave. As a result, Eve is currently looking for a new place, but she is worried and uncertain about what the future holds.

    "I feel like I'm sitting on death row waiting for my execution," she told Truthout. "I'm just waiting for the papers in the mailbox."'

    Evictions are not simple after-effects of raids; some advocates suspect they may sometimes be a motivation for them. According to a report released by the Regional Plan Association in March 2017, 71 percent of households in the Bronx are at risk of being displaced, more than any other borough. The area in Eastchester where the raids happened is one of the areas of the Bronx most at risk. Whether it's getting people evicted directly by arresting them or causing them to flee their homes for fear of being next, raids have proven effective at quickly displacing poor communities of color.
    However, as the raids continue, they will be faced with a mounting resistance.

    Organizing to Stop the Raids

    Eve, Clarke and other family members affected by raids on public housing projects in New York are taking their pain and putting it into action. They, along with a coalition of various activist groups and academics, have decided to organize in order to fight current criminal charges, to prevent at-risk communities from falling victim to future raids and to end raids in general.

    "Whatever problem these communities have, we need to figure out ways of managing those problems that don't rely primarily on coercive, punitive methods," Vitale said. "We need to find ways of really empowering and strengthening those communities, rather than tearing them apart and putting whole generations of young people in prison or under some other form of criminal justice supervision."

    Grassroots abolitionist groups like Why Accountability, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) and the Coalition to End Broken Windows have connected with family members like Murphy, Clarke and Eve to put together panels, marches, rallies, noise demos, fundraisers to pay legal fees and to stop Eve's eviction, and workshops to support people affected by the raids.

    "NYCHA residents need to rise up ... and critically understand how city, state and federal authorities are colluding to extricate us," Shannon Jones, an activist with Why Accountability and a NYCHA resident herself, said. "I say we're at war and that's a solution: accepting the fact that we are at war and to mobilize."

    A panel set up by the activist coalition on March 17 at John Jay College of Criminal Justice featured Ms. Smith, one of the mothers of the Bronx 120 (who asked to be identified by a pseudonym to avoid her son being punished for her speaking out), and Murphy. They spoke about the harmful effects of the raids and how to stop them.

    Meanwhile, other activists are playing a supporting role, bolstering the mothers' efforts.

    "We've been reaching out, pooling our resources, trying to combat all the raids and upcoming raids," Joel S. of IWOC, who asked that his full name not be used, told Truthout. "Some of the good stuff that the mothers are doing is that they're bringing awareness to the raids that already happened to try to prevent other ones from happening and to try to build support networks with people affected by ones that happened."

    The activists are also holding workshops in communities that are at risk of being raided and teaching young people how to avoid incriminating themselves on social media and how to fight back against police surveillance. The workshops also teach participants how to organize Copwatch groups in their neighborhoods, which monitor and document police activity in an effort to prevent police brutality.

    One such workshop, moderated by Josmar Trujillo of the Coalition to End Broken Windows, was recently held in Brooklyn and featured talks by Murphy and Clarke on their experiences.

    "What these moms are doing [are] some of the most inspiring things I've ever seen," Trujillo told Truthout. "For all parents, when your child is involved, you fight to the very end, 'cause you brought them into world and want to keep them safe. And when society is throwing the worst that it has at your child, there's nothing to do but to fight."



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