Tag Archives | Prison-Industrial Complex

When the President Goes to Prison

Jack (CC BY-ND-NC 2.0)

Jack (CC BY-ND-NC 2.0)

Andrew Cohen writes at the Brennan Center for Justice:

When President Barack Obama goes to Oklahoma Thursday and enters the medium-security federal prison FCI-El Reno he will be entering the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Prisons, part of the Justice Department, a bureaucratic fiefdom that is nearly as sprawling as the Department of Defense and in many ways as secret and unaccountable to the public and lawmakers as the CIA or the NSA. This even though 168,139 men and women (not counting 40,000 or so prisoners held in federal custody in private prisons) are incarcerated daily in a system staffed by approximately 40,000 federal employees.

When he walks through the doors of the prison, on his way to his inevitable photo opportunity with corrections officers and nonviolent drug offenders, the President will be entering the domain of officials in Washington who for decades have sanctioned the widespread use of solitary confinement, the systemic abuse and neglect of mentally ill prisoners, and deplorable shortages of properly trained corrections staff and medical professionals, to name just three of the systemic problems identified in recent reviews of the Bureau of Prisons.

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Corporate Capitalism Is the Foundation of Police Brutality and the Prison State

Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Chris Hedges explores corporate capitalism’s role in America’s prison state.

Chris Hedges via Common Dreams:

Our national conversation on race and crime is based on a fiction. It is the fiction that the organs of internal security, especially the judiciary and the police, can be adjusted, modernized or professionalized to make possible a post-racial America. We discuss issues of race while ignoring the economic, bureaucratic and political systems of exploitation—all of it legal and built into the ruling apparatus—that are the true engines of racism and white supremacy. No discussion of race is possible without a discussion of capitalism and class. And until that discussion takes place, despite all the proposed reforms to the criminal justice system, the state will continue to murder and imprison poor people of color with impunity.

More training, body cameras, community policing, the hiring of more minorities as police officers, a better probation service and more equitable fines will not blunt the indiscriminate use of lethal force or reduce the mass incarceration that destroys the lives of the poor.

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Chicago Police Put Antlers on Black Man and Posed for Pictures

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Juan Thompson writes at the Intercept:

The photo shows two white Chicago Police officers posing with an unidentified black man [above]. The officers — Timothy McDermott and Jerome Finnigan — are holding rifles as the black man lies on the floor with a dazed look on his face and with antlers on his head as if he were a prized, big buck finally hunted down.

Finnegan is smiling and grabbing the right antler, while McDermott is holding up the man’s head as if it were his trophy.

The photo was taken in a police station on the West Side of Chicago sometime between 1999 and 2003. The Chicago Police Department successfully kept it hidden from the public until a judge refused to keep it under seal and the Chicago Sun-Times pulled a copy from a court filing. 

Finnigan is a notoriously dirty ex-cop who was a member of the police department’s elite Special Operations Section (SOS) until 2006, when he was charged with leading a gang of fellow officers who robbed suspects, illegally invaded homes and stole thousands of dollars in cash.

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The Last Mile: Inside San Quentin’s Tech Incubator

There’s a tech incubator popping up, but it’s not in Silicon Valley—it’s inside San Quentin State Prison. The Last Mile program teaches inmates entrepreneurship skills with the goal that each participant founds a socially conscious, tech-forward company. Award-winning filmmaker Ondi Timoner goes inside the innovative non-profit and follows inmates as they work to craft a business plan, pitch their ideas in front of venture capitalists, and then, transition back into society.

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For those of you who say there are no voices leading America, you need to watch 20 mins of Cornel West

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 10.05.26 PM

For those of you who say there are no moving or powerful voices left in America, you might want to direct your attention to a 20-minute clip of American philosopher and activist Dr. Cornel West speaking in a Manhattan church on April 6th of this year. In it West delivers a dizzying, fiery, and tear-jerking sermon reminiscent of the greatest moments in the tradition of American political speech.

The Stop Mass Incarceration Network organized the event, A Call to Act, and it’s no surprise that the Stop Mass Incarceration Network exists or that Dr. West participated. The US now has more prisoners and prisons than any other country on the planet, a fact West is well aware of as he regularly speaks out over the New Jim Crow and to inmates serving time. In fact, the land of the free is now home to more prisons than colleges.… Read the rest

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Astounded by the Lack of Compassion for Men in Prison: Inside the Conversation at The Good Men Project

jmiller291 (CC BY 2.0)

jmiller291 (CC BY 2.0)

Via the Good Men Project:

Lisa Hickey: I’ve been thinking a lot about prison lately. It’s not something that, as a women, I am used to thinking about a lot, and the number of conversations I’ve had about the topic in my lifetime are far and few between. Perhaps men don’t think or talk about it much either, but we’ve been discussing it a lot on the The Good Men Project lately and I’d like to share with you the complexity of the issues and the insights I’ve seen unfolding.

One thing we’ve discussed recently in an article is the difference in sentencing between men and women for similar crimes. I think the sentencing disparity is part of a cultural narrative that goes like this: Men are assumed to be guilty more often, and they are also assumed to cause more harm when they do commit crimes.

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From Our Prison to Your Dinner Table

Via Graeme Wood at Pacific Standard:

One of my daughter’s favorite stuffed animals is a chocolate-colored, beady-eyed buffalo that was stitched—lovingly, I like to think—by the hands of a convicted felon. The buffalo was born in Cañon City, Colorado, on the grounds of a large rural complex of six state prisons with a total of 4,000 inmates. Some of those inmates manufacture cute toys. Others tend real buffalo on feedlots and dairies outside in the mountain air. The goal, said Steve Smith, the prison-labor program’s mustachioed director until his retirement in December, is to convert the prisoners through labor into productive citizens. “This is a therapeutic community,” he said. “We’re trying to make them into taxpayers instead of tax burdens.” He channeled the Book of Isaiah, or possibly Ozzy Osbourne: “No rest for the wicked.”

The most familiar prison work programs involve stamping license plates or breaking rocks as part of a chain gang.

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Life in Prison for Selling $20 of Weed

Torben Hansen (CC BY 2.0)

Torben Hansen (CC BY 2.0)

This is awful.

Abby Haglage via The Daily Beast:

PART I

On September 5, 2008, Fate Vincent Winslow watched a plainclothes stranger approach him. Homeless and hungry, on a dark street rife with crime, the 41-year-old African American was anxious to make contact, motivated by one singular need: food.

Another man, this one white, stood next to Winslow. He is referred to in court documents exclusively as “Perdue.”

It was nearly 9:20 p.m., hours after the sun had dipped below the abandoned buildings surrounding them. The lights of downtown Shreveport, Louisiana, flickered in the distance as the plain-clothes man—unbeknownst to them, an undercover cop—arrived.

“What do you need?” Winslow asked. “A girl and some weed,” Officer Jerry Alkire replied.

Perdue remained silent as Winslow and Alkire negotiated the costs. Winslow wanted a $5 delivery fee for the $20 (two dime bags) of pot. Fine. Money settled, he grabbed Perdue’s bike and took off.

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The Prison State of America

miss_millions (CC BY 2.0)

miss_millions (CC BY 2.0)

Via Truthdig:

Prisons employ and exploit the ideal worker. Prisoners do not receive benefits or pensions. They are not paid overtime. They are forbidden to organize and strike. They must show up on time. They are not paid for sick days or granted vacations. They cannot formally complain about working conditions or safety hazards. If they are disobedient, or attempt to protest their pitiful wages, they lose their jobs and can be sent to isolation cells. The roughly 1 million prisoners who work for corporations and government industries in the American prison system are models for what the corporate state expects us all to become. And corporations have no intention of permitting prison reforms that would reduce the size of their bonded workforce. In fact, they are seeking to replicate these conditions throughout the society.

States, in the name of austerity, have stopped providing prisoners with essential items including shoes, extra blankets and even toilet paper, while starting to charge them for electricity and room and board.

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