Jails / Prisons : Think Outside the Bars - Why real justice means fewer prisons

Discussion in 'Law Forum - Prisons - Gun Ownership' started by oldsoul, Sep 8, 2011.

  1. OldSoul

    OldSoul Permanent Black Man PREMIUM MEMBER

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    by Michelle Alexander​

    The U.S. Supreme Court has given the police license to sweep poor communities of color, stopping, interrogating, searching anyone or everyone—without any evidence of criminal activity—so long as they get “consent.” What’s consent? When a police officer, with his hand on his gun, approaches a 16-year-old on the street and bellows, “Son, will you turn around so I can frisk you?” and the kid says, “Yeah,” and complies, that’s consent. Usually the exchanges are less polite.
    And once the police get consent, the Fourth Amendment ban against unreasonable searches and seizures no longer applies. According to the Supreme Court, these “consensual” encounters are of no constitutional significance, even though they may wind up sending a 19-year-old kid to prison for the rest of his life: Life sentences for first-time drug offenses were upheld by the Supreme Court in Harmelin v. Michigan. The race of the defendant in that case was key to the sentence in the first place. It is nearly impossible to imagine a judge sentencing a white college kid to life in prison for getting caught with a bag of weed or cocaine. That’s how this system works: Poor people of color are swept into the criminal justice system by the millions for drug crimes that go largely ignored when committed by middle- or upper-class whites. And release from prison or jail marks just the beginning of punishment, not the end.
    Once branded a criminal, people enter a parallel social universe in which they are stripped of the rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement. The old forms of discrimination—employment and housing discrimination, denial of basic public benefits and the right to vote, and exclusion from jury service—are perfectly legal again. In some major American cities, more than half of working-age African American men are saddled with criminal records and thus subject to legalized discrimination for the rest of their lives. These men are part of a growing undercaste—not class, caste—a group of people, defined largely by race, who are relegated to a permanent, second-class status by law.
    ...
    The War on Drugs

    And so the “War on Drugs” was born. Richard Nixon was the first to use the term, but Ronald Reagan turned the rhetorical war into a literal one. When he declared his drug war in 1982, drug crime was actually on the decline. It was a couple years before—not after—crack ripped through inner-city communities and became a media sensation. From the outset, the drug war had little to do with drug crime and much to do with racial politics. As numerous historians and political scientists have now shown, Reagan declared his drug war in an attempt to make good on campaign promises to “get tough” on a group of people identified not-so-subtly in the media and political discourse as black and brown. Once crack hit the streets, the Reagan administration seized on the development, actually hiring staff whose job it was to publicize inner-city crack babies, crack dealers, and the so-called crack whores. Once the enemy in the war was racially defined, a wave of punitiveness washed over the United States. Democrats began competing with Republicans to prove they could be even tougher on “them.” Some black legislators joined the calls for “get tough” measures, often in desperation, as they sought to deal with rising crime and joblessness in ghetto communities. They found themselves complicit—­wittingly or unwittingly—in the emergence of a new caste system. And many civil rights advocates found themselves exacerbating racial divisions, fighting for affirmative action even as they abandoned the Poor People’s Movement that sought to restructure our nation’s economic and political system for the benefit of people of all colors. They had accepted a racial bribe: the promise of largely superficial changes benefiting a relative few in exchange for abandoning the radical movement born in the 1960s that sought liberty and equality for all of us.
    Poor whites had accepted a similar racial bribe when they embraced Jim Crow laws—laws which were proposed following the Civil War as part of a strategic effort by white elites to destroy the Populist movement, the nation’s first interracial, political coalition for economic and social justice in the South. Time and time again, the divide-and-­conquer strategy has worked to eliminate the possibility that poor people of all colors might see themselves as sharing common interests, having a linked fate.
    The rest: http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/beyond-prisons/think-outside-the-bars
     
  2. jamesfrmphilly

    jamesfrmphilly going above and beyond PREMIUM MEMBER

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    did somebody say real justice? in the US? naw
     
  3. Shikamaru

    Shikamaru Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    So what do we propose to change the system?
     
  4. river

    river Watch Her Flow MEMBER

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    "consensual encounter?" Your choice of words is, well, how shall we say—odd, to say the least:D

    For decades we saw the Supreme Court and the federal government as our protector against state level racism. Now you see things can change, just like that. After all, federal officials come from states. Would you depend on my fist to protect you from my foot?

    BTW, the term justice as applied to what goes down in a courtroom is actually a typo. There should be two words there: just ice Hundreds of years ago smaddy left out the space and the mistake was never corrected.
     
  5. jamesfrmphilly

    jamesfrmphilly going above and beyond PREMIUM MEMBER

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    you mean just us?
     
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