Tag Archive: racism

Riots work: Wolf Blitzer and the Washington Post completely missed the real lesson from Baltimore

Wolf Blitzer

The police—not to mention capitalism—have done far more to damage Baltimore than any riot could

From Salon/ By

When Oscar Grant was shot by transit cop Johannes Mehserle in Oakland in the early hours of January 1, 2009, a week passed with no institutional response, while videos of Grant’s murder spread on YouTube like a prairie fire. Then people rebelled, rioted, and took over the streets of Oakland twice—on January 7 and January 14—and just like that, and with the threat of another rebellion hanging heavily in the air, the mayor and the governor leaned on the Alameda County district attorney to bring charges.

When Mike Brown was gunned down by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014, the community exploded in massive and sustained resistance on the streets. Aside from galvanizing public opinion and sparking a national movement against white supremacist policing, this street insurgency first forced the replacement of Ferguson PD by the St. Louis County Sheriff, and later bythe  state Highway Patrol, as well as prompting both a federal investigation and a grand jury considering—but ultimately rejecting—Wilson’s indictment for murder.

And when Freddie Gray died on April 19, 2015, after a week in a coma provoked by Baltimore City Police, we all know what happened next: in a wave of resistance rivaling Ferguson in the national attention it garnered, Black youth across Baltimore responded as directly as possible to those terrorizing their communities, in some cases chasing the “forces of order” out with bricks. After nearly a week of resistance—including the occupation of Baltimore by heavily-armed National Guard—Maryland state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby stepped into the fray, announcing charges against six officers and admitting that her hand had been forced by the streets: “To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America: I heard your call for ‘No justice, no peace.’”

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What’s Missing from the Movement to End Mass Incarceration?

prisonsareforburning!From LA Progressive

“If the way we pursue reforms does not contribute to the building of a movement to dismantle the system of mass incarceration, and if our advocacy does not upset the prevailing public consensus that supports the new caste system, none of the reforms, even if won, will successfully disrupt the nation’s racial equilibrium,”

This week California – the state that passed the Three Strikes Law in 1994 – voted 59 to 41 percent in favor of Proposition 47. Proposition 47 will reclassify six non-violent felonies as misdemeanors and redirect the savings in prison spending toward substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling and education.

Is this a movement moment for the long-running campaign to end mass incarceration? There does seem to be a lot of positive activity on the issue. And not just in California.

“Fair Chance Hiring Policies”—also known as “Ban the Box” policies—now cover 70 cities and counties, and 12 states, according to the National Employment Law Project. These policies delay consideration of a person’s conviction history until later in the hiring process, making it easier for those who have felonies on their record to find employment. Big retailers, such as Target, have also banned the box. (more…)

Study: White People Support Harsher Criminal Laws If They Think More Black People Are Arrested

arrest-black-man-From Think Progress

A recent study suggests that, if you are white, and you are presented with evidence that our criminal justice system disproportionately targets black people, then you are more likely to support harsh criminal justice policies than if you were unaware of this evidence. According to a study by Rebecca Hetey, a post-doctoral fellow in Stanford’s Psychology department and Jennifer Eberhardt, her faculty advisor, informing white people that African Americans are significantly over-represented in the prison population “may actually bolster support for the very policies that perpetuate the inequality.”

Forty percent of the nation’s prison population is black, as compared to only 12 percent of the population as a whole.

To reach their conclusions, Hetey and Eberhardt conducted two experiments involving white subjects. In the first, white people were asked to watch one of two videos containing mug shots. In one video, 25 percent of the mug shots were pictures of black men, while in the other video, 45 percent of the mug shots depicted African American males. After watching the video, the subjects were then asked whether they would sign a petition calling for one of California’s strict sentencing laws to be eased.

The result: “Over half of the participants who’d seen the mug shots with fewer black men signed the petition, whereas only 27 percent of people who viewed the mug shots containing a higher percentage of black inmates agreed to sign.” (more…)

Prison Segregation and Racial Disparities

solitary_confinement_cell_auschwitz_1-300x300by Margo Schlanger/ from Solitary Watch

There is remarkably little systematic information available about who is held in segregated confinement in our nation’s prisons and jails.  I recently pulled together what little quantitative data exist.  What I found is preliminary, but it suggests that in many states the harsh conditions of solitary confinement are probably disproportionately affecting prisoners of color.  Full details on sources, methodology, etc. are available in Margo Schlanger, Prison Segregation: Symposium Introduction and Preliminary Data on Racial Disparities, 118 Mich. J. Race & Law 241 (2013).

The best sources of demographic information about prisoners are the various surveys and censuses conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). While no BJS publication directly addresses the issue, and no BJS dataset allows its full analysis, it is possible to glean something from the most recent BJS prison census, the 2005 Census of State and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities. I present in the Table that follows data derived from that census for seven state facilities. I also include, for comprehensiveness, information from a 2012 NYCLU report on New York supermax confinement. (Even so, the table covers only a very small portion of the nation’s tens of thousands of supermax prisoners.) (more…)