mass black incarceration

Black Agenda Radio for Week of September 26, 2016

Prison Strike Against Slave Labor Continues

Despite a near-total lack of corporate media coverage, the national prison strike that began September 9 continues at facilities in 11 states, said Pastor Kenneth Glascow, chief outside spokesperson for the Free Alabama Movement, centered at the state prison in Holman. “Some are on hunger strike, some are doing the work stoppage” to protest involuntary servitude at slave wages, said Glascow. “In the near future, we will start boycotting some of those companies that use prison labor.” U.S. unemployment is “not just about ‘outsourcing’” jobs to foreign countries, he said. “It’s also ‘in-sourcing,’ using prison labor.”

Clinton Election Heightens Danger of World War

If Hillary Clinton wins the White House, she will likely name Samantha Power, the current U.S. ambassador to the UN and an architect of the so-called “humanitarian” military intervention doctrine, as her secretary of state or national security advisor, said Duboisian scholar and veteran social activist Dr. Anthony Monteiro. “It is clear that the Clinton foreign policy would be guided by the Pentagon and her own predisposition to settle accounts in the Middle East and with the Assad government and with Russia, militarily,” said Monteiro. “We on the Left -- and, especially, the Black Left – have to begin to raise the question of war and peace as the central question in this election.”

Uhuru Conference: “Africans Need Our Own Theory”

The International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (INPDUM) held its national conference in Ferguson, Missouri, this month. “We’ve been borrowing theory from everybody else,” said Movement president Kalambayi Andenet. “What is our interest? We need our own theory, and that’s African internationalism.” INPDUM is part of the African People’s Socialist Party, chaired by Omali Yeshitela. “We are a revolutionary organization,” he said. “If anybody is going to govern Black people, it’s got to be Black people, themselves.”

Ethnic Cleansing in Ethiopia

Hundreds of protestors have been killed in recent months in the Amhara and Oromo regions of Ethiopia, victims of the central government’s policy of “ethnic cleansing” of the nation’s two largest population groups, said Tsigereda Mulutega, vice president of the Ethiopian People’s Congress for Struggle (SHENGO). The Ethiopia regime is dominated by people from the Tigrayan ethnic group, which comprises only 6 percent of the population. Ethiopia is the biggest U.S. foreign aid recipient, next to Israel, said Mulutega. Therefore, “it is in the interest of U.S. taxpayers to say ‘no’ to crimes against humanity in Ethiopia.”

 
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Is This the Beginning of the End for the Private Prison Industry?

by James Kilgore

The Obama administration’s announcement that it would phase out private federal prisons is symbolically important, but will affect only a small slice of the nation’s huge incarcerated population. “Bodies will simply be relocated to existing federal prisons.” The biggest impact of private prisons is in state systems, especially immigrant detention centers, which are 62 percent private.

Anatomy of a Neoliberal Racist Killing Machine

by Ramor Ryan

The U.S. exports to the rest of the world an industrial-strength strategy of policing that is rooted “in counterinsurgency campaigns.” The “Broken Windows” philosophy of policing dramatically expands the number of people “churned through the criminal justice system,” more deeply embeds structural racism, and “leads to more violence against marginalized communities.” Communities of color become urban prison spaces.

Black Agenda Report for Week of August 8, 2016

Voters Have Choices Outside the Duopoly

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both “evil” people, but U.S. voters do have choices this election season, said South Carolina activist and author Kevin Alexander Gray. “It’s good that people are running on various third parties, to give Americans a little bit of education,” as opposed to watching them make one or the other bad choice,” said Gray, author of Waiting on Lighting to Strike. “One of the good things about Barack Obama leaving office, particularly for Black people, is that perhaps they’ll pick up their signs, pick up their feet, and follow behind the youth that are out here in the streets challenging the system.”

Low Wage Workers to Converge on Richmond

The U.S. labor movement made an historic error in the post-World War Two era in failing to commit sufficient resources to organizing in the heavily Black South. But activists in the current movement to unionize low-paid workers and raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour vow not to repeat that mistake. “We will highlight that low wages and racial inequality is not only hurting Black and brown people, it’s hurting the working poor white people, as well,” said Terrance Wise, a leader of Fight for 15, which will hold a national conference of low-wage workers in Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy, August 12 and 13. “Until we can build our movement and bring all workers together to demand economic justice and racial equality, we won’t gain any ground,” said Wise, a Burger King employee from Kansas City.

Russell “Maroon” Shoatz Wins Solitary Confinement Settlement

Pennsylvania prison officials have agreed to pay a monetary settlement to political prisoner Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, and to never again place the former Black Panther in solitary confinement, where he spent 22 of the past 44 years. His daughter, Theresa Shoatz, is “elated because it opens the door to other prisoners who are still in solitary confinement in Pennsylvania.” The legal action was spearheaded by the Pittsburg-based Abolitionist Law Center, with virtually no assistance from Black elected officials. “Our state representatives are useless,” said Ms. Shoatz.

Afro-Colombian Rights Recognized in Peace Talks

FARC guerillas and the government of Colombia have agreed in principle to “make sure the rights and interests of Afro-descended and indigenous peoples will be respected” in the resolution of the South American country’s two generations-long civil war, said Charo Mina-Rojas, of the National Afro-Colombian Peace Council. Representatives of the Colombian government and demobilizing guerillas agreed to include such assurances in the peace document being hammered out at negotiations in Havana, Cuba. However, Mina-Rojas said some elements of FARC have not agreed to lay down their arms and “do not fully recognize” Afro-Colombians’ collective land rights.

 
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Freedom Rider: September 9th Prison Strike

by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

Prison inmates around the country have organized to resist the world’s largest and most profitable system of human bondage. Mass Black incarceration marks the U.S. as a racist police state. “When we stand up to these authorities,” say the prisoners, “they come down on us, and the only protection we have is solidarity from the outside.” All decent men and women must answer the call to action from the belly of the gulag in September.

4 out of 5 Prisoners Would Have to be Released to Reduce U.S. Incarceration to 1972 Levels

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The U.S. prison system is the true measure of how America regards its Blacks citizens. In a country that is till two-thirds white and only one-sixth Black, African Americans make up majorities of the prison population in 12 states. To bring U.S. incarceration rates down to 1972 levels, fully 80 percent of the 2.3 million current prison inmates – a total of 1,850,000 men and women – would have to be let go.

 
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Is There a Cure for Wrongful Convictions?

by Lorenzo Johnson

The author has spent almost 20 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He asks, “Why has our government yet to intervene when there have been record numbers of exonerations for the past two years?” Incarcerating the innocent is a crime. “The main reasons behind wrongful convictions are ineffective assistance of counsel, false testimony, police and prosecutorial misconduct, misidentification, junk science, false confessions, and evidence suppression.”

Crime “Prediction”: The Algorithms of Racist Injustice

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

Mass Black incarceration wound up ensnaring too many white people in the gulags, bringing forth calls from within the establishment for “reform” to spare those undeserving of imprisonment.  Digital science came to the rescue. “The U.S. criminal justice system now deploys algorithm-based technology to predict who will be criminalized in the future, and to systematically push whites out of the path of the New Jim Crow juggernaut.”

Louisiana Number One in Incarceration

by Bill Quigley

With over 38,000 people in prison, Louisiana is first in the planet in per capita incarceration. Plus, “there are an additional 69,000 people in Louisiana on probation and parole.” Race is the primary factor that makes the Bayou State the global champion of imprisonment. “Louisiana has been much more severe in sending black people to prison than whites, at least after black people were no longer slaves.”

Black Agenda Radio for Week of May 16, 2016

Black Brazil Will Resist “Soft Coup” Against Workers Party

Dilma Rousseff, of the Brazilian Workers Party, was removed from her office as president, last week, and put on trial by the nation’s Senate on charges of manipulating the budget. Dr. Gerald Horne, the prolific author and professor of history and African American Studies at the University of Houston, predicts the Workers Party will mount waves of protests, sit-ins and occupations against what they call a “soft coup” encouraged and abetted by the United States. “I think that during the Olympics, when the global spotlight will be on Brazil, there will be an exhibition by poor, working class folk to express their disapproval of what’s going on in their country,” said Dr. Horne.

Jill Stein: “I’m Not Holding My Breath” Waiting on Bernie

Kshama Sawant, of the Socialist Alternative Party, is circulating a petition asking Bernie Sanders to either run for president on the Green Party ticket, or pave the way for a “new party of the 99%.” The Green Party is already a party of the 99%, and will be on the ballot in most states, said presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein. She said the Greens have been “reaching out to Bernie Sanders since 2011, looking for ways that we might collaborate, and Bernie has always declined our invitation for dialogue by not responding. I’m not holding my breath,” said Stein. “He regards third parties as renegades and threats to political order.”

Alabama Prison Work Stoppages Wind Down

Inmates at prisons across the state of Alabama trickled back to work after officials filled their jobs with people on work-release and starved the protestors of needed calories. “They were getting bird-fed, meaning they were getting real low portions of food because of the peaceful strike,” said Pastor Kenneth Glascow, who negotiated with state officials on behalf of the inmates. Glascow is the half-brother of Rev. Al Sharpton, and a former inmate, himself, who heads the prison reform group TOPS, The Ordinary People Society. Prisoners earn as little as 17 cents an hour at for-profit prison enterprises, and are not paid at all for kitchen and laundry work.

The strike was called by inmates of the Free Alabama Movement. “We already have a Free Mississippi Movement, there’s a Free California Movement, there’s a Free Pennsylvania Movement,” said inmate activist Bennu Hannibal, of the St. Clair prison. Brothers and sisters behind bars have to organize “because the system is organized, and the only way we’re going to have an impact against them is if we organize in a likewise manner.”

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Black Agenda Radio for Week of April 25, 2016

Charter Schools: Bad for Education

“On the whole, charter schools do not perform better than public schools, even though public school are being defunded and demonized all the time,” said Dr. Shawgi Tell, professor of education at Nazareth College, Rochester, New York, and author of Charter School Report Card. Whether test scores improve or not, charter schools are bad schooling policy because “they represent privatization and marketization of education.”

Youth Incarceration Down, But Racial Disparities Increase

In the past decade, overall rates of youth incarceration have been cut in half, but disparity in Black youth incarceration has gone up by 15 percent, according to Josh Rovner, of The Sentencing Project. Rovner is an author of the new report, “Racial Disparities in Youth Arrests and Commitments.” He said young people are committing less crime. “There’s fewer kids being driven into the system in the first place,” said Rovner. However, Black teenagers are still more likely to be detained, prosecuted and committed to juvenile facilities than whites.

Million Student March Against Massive Debt

“Just last year, a million students defaulted on their student loan payments,” said Darletta Scruggs, an activist with the Million Students March and a member of the Socialist Alternative Party. “You can’t file bankruptcy on it, and our government will start garnishing your wages after a certain time. There are people whose Social Security checks are being garnished because of past student debt,” said Scruggs, speaking to host Solomon Comissiong, of Your World Report.

Global Rich Play “Shell Games” with Wealth

The now infamous “Panama Papers” revealed how elites from around the world hide their money in offshore tax havens. Americans were conspicuous by their relative absence because the U.S. provides lots of hiding places for ill-gotten gains. “The United States is a tax haven for global wealth,” said Chuck Collins, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of the article, “Panama Papers Expose the Hidden Wealth of the World’s Super-Rich.” Said Collins: “If you’re a small business in the U.S. and you have to compete against a global company that’s playing these shell games, and you’re paying your fair share of taxes and they’re not, that’s an unlevel playing field.”

Hillary’s Conspiracies Against Democracy in the Americas

Back in 2009, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “pretended it wasn’t a coup” when the Honduran military overthrew the country’s elected president, said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Clinton’s charade “helped the coup government dictatorship consolidate itself.” The U.S. has encouraged the “silent coup” in Brazil, where corporatist lawmakers are trying to impeach the left-wing  president. “We know that the United States has always wanted to get rid of the left governments” in the region, said Weisbrot.

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No Lawyers? No Jail. Judge Demands Constitution Be Respected in Louisiana Public Defender Catastrophe

by Bill Quigley 

The state that incarcerates more people per capita than any other is in blatant violation of the Constitution for failing to provide defendants with an adequate – or any – legal defense. So says a (Black) New Orleans judge, who has ordered the release of defendants that have been denied their right to a lawyer. However, Louisiana seems unrepentant. The state Public Defender’s office is targeted for an additional 66 percent funding cut in a few months.

Public Defender Meltdown in Louisiana

by Bill Quigley 

Equal justice under the law is a mere abstraction, or a cruel joke, if you’re a captive of the State and don’t have a lawyer. Louisiana’s public defender offices are broke, unable to provide the most elementary protections of defendants’ rights. “The constitutional guarantee of speedy trial is gone and death penalty cases are grinding to a halt.”

Black Agenda Radio for Week of February 29, 2016

Sanders, Trump Campaigns May Crash Both Parties

“The Bernie Sanders movement might break out into a major conflict at the convention in Philadelphia if the Sanders people feel that they’re being cheated, being swindled out of votes,” said Dr. Anthony Monteiro, the Dubois scholar and veteran activist who helped pull together a national conference on the Black Radical Tradition, in January. “The Republican Party might also collapse under the pressure of the ‘angry’ white men and women” supporting Donald Trump, said Dr. Monteiro. “The situation is so dynamic and unlike anything that we have experienced since the Civil War and Reconstruction.”

Detroit Teachers Move Towards City-Wide Strike

Steven Conn, the elected leader of the Detroit teachers union who was deposed by the union’s national leadership, said a city-wide strike is the only way to save the public schools from the machinations of Gov. Rick Snyder and his appointed emergency managers. Snyder wants to divide the Detroit’s public schools into two districts: one heavily indebted, the other debt-free. Conn said that’s a scheme “to allow the charter school operators to take over the schools without having to make any payback to the school district of the huge amount of debt that the State of Michigan has run up since its control of the district for the last 16 years.”

Teach For America’s Job Protection Racket

A new study of Teach for America contracts showed TFA collects hefty “finders’ fees” to place its neophyte teachers in classrooms in Atlanta, Chicago, New Orleans and New York. Jameson Brewer, who led the study, said TFA contracts provide broad protection for its members’ jobs, while veteran traditional teachers are laid off. “Parents don’t know that their children are being taught by novice educators who’ve had two and a half days of training,” said Brewer.

Few Jobs After Jail

A n Alliance for a Just Society study documents more than 6,000 prohibitions on employment of convicted felons in states across the nation. “A lot of people know that it’s difficult for someone who comes out of jail to find a job,” said Allyson Fredericksen, an author of the report, “Jobs After Jail.” But most people don’t know that “there are laws on the books in every state in the country that ban people with felony records from specific types of employment.” Louisiana tops the list, with restrictions on 389 separate types of jobs.

Seize the Time, for Peace

Most of the people described in media as foreign policy experts “are not looking for peace; they’re looking for gain, monetary gains on some investments or something they can bank on. This is a Wall Street motive,” said lifelong activist, journalist and educator Dr. Charles Simmons, speaking at a meeting on Black Men in Unions at the Institute for Labor and Community Studies, in Detroit. “It’s going to take the little people, trade union folks, the rank and file, to come together and think about what needs to be done for peace,” said Simmons.

 
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Black Agenda Radio for Week of February 22, 2016

When Paul Robeson Denounced a President to His Face

Dr. Gerald Horne, the prolific professor of history and African American Studies at the University of Houston, has turned out another book. Paul Robeson: The Artist as Revolutionary, explores the career and politics of the actor, singer, athlete, linguist, author, public intellectual and human rights activist who was, at one time, probably the most famous American in the world, yet died in state-enforced obscurity in Philadelphia. Dr Horne recounts how, at the White House, Robeson 'got in Harry Truman's face and wagged his finger and castigated and denounced the U.S. president for his lethargy in prosecuting lynchers' of Black soldiers 'at the same time that the Truman administration was vigorously prosecuting Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg.'

White and Black Joblessness: Two Separate Worlds

The lowest Black state unemployment rate (Virginia) is equal to the highest white state unemployment rate (West Virginia), at 6.7 percent, according to an analysis of employment statistics by Dr. Valerie Wilson, of the Economic Policy Institute. "When you put that in the broadest context, that 6.7 percent is the worst that whites are doing in the country, you more fully understand just how unacceptable rates of Black unemployment are," said Dr. Wilson.

Turkey Tries to Wag U.S. Dog Into Wider War

Turkish President Recep Erdogan is threatening to invade Syria, in league with Saudi Arabian military forces. "Erdogan is trying to use a tail-wagging-the-dog situation where he can force the United States and NATO into a confrontation" with Russia, said political analyst Eric Draitser, speaking on Russia Today’s "Cross Talk" program. Erdogan wants to 'double-down' in order to save his failed Syria regime change strategy, said Draitser, publisher of StopImperialism.org.

Definition of Disaster: Hillary Clinton, Commander-in-Chief

A Hillary Clinton presidency 'would be a real disaster,' said Dr. Stephen Zunes, professor of International Studies at San Francisco University. "In many ways, her thinking parallels the neoconservatives," he said. President Obama "is going to come off as downright enlightened and moderate compared to what we're going to see under a Clinton administration."

Beyoncé Video is Capitalist-Minded

In her "Formation" video, Beyoncé "talks about being a 'Black Bill Gates in the making,' clearly a reference to the hegemony and importance of a capitalist value framework," said Ajamu Baraka, BAR editor and co-founder of the U.S. Human Rights Network. She tells oppressed people to "seek revenge through accumulating 'paper,' meaning money. These messages are quite conservative, quite accommodationist," said Baraka, speaking on Jared Ball's "I Mix What I Like" program on The Real News Network.

Kathleen Cleaver: Origins of a Panther

Former Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver, honored at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, in Detroit, recounted how she was drawn to the Black movement in 1963 when, as a high school student, she saw a photo of three Black girls in the back of a paddy wagon, singing on their way to jail for protesting racial injustice in Georgia. "I wanted to be like them, I wanted to be in that organization," she said. Three years later, Cleaver joined the Black Power-era SNCC, and met her future husband, Eldridge Cleaver, a top leader in the Black Panther Party.

Mumia Plugs Angela Davis Book

The nation’s best known political prisoner, Mumia Abu Jamal, gave a boost to former political prisoner Angela Davis’ new book, Freedom is a Constant Struggle. “At times history lesson, political education, world studies and gender theories, Angela Y. Davis gives us all a lot to ponder,” said Abu Jamal, in a Prison Radio commentary.

The Movement Needs Dragons

Khalil Bennet, one of several thousand prison inmates sentenced to life for offenses committed when they were juveniles, said many of his comrades “have been detained since the late 1970s, “raised and trained by the best revolutionaries in the worst conditions that America produced.” Many are now eligible for release in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that such sentences are cruel and unusual punishment. The former “juvenile lifers” could become the cadre for an emerging movement. “When the prison gates open,” said Bennet, “the real dragons fly out.”

 
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Incarcerated Lives Matter

by Lacino Hamilton

The struggle against mass incarceration has gained broad support in recent years. However, “as long as reducing the incarceration rate is confined to fiscal pressures, little attention, if any at all, will be paid to the root cause of mass incarceration (racism), or how caging people for part or all of their lives has removed from the community and the family the abilities to sustain themselves free of state and corporate domination.”

A Minimal Demand: Roll Back Incarceration to 1970 Levels

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

Prison populations have increased more than seven-fold since 1970, when the mass Black incarceration regime was set in motion. If incarceration was rolled back to 1970 levels, 86 percent of current prisoners would be released. Let’s demand it be done – NOW! “Demands are not formulated to woo or seduce Power, or to convince the authorities of the reasonableness of your cause, but to prevent those in power from successfully changing the subject.”

Black Agenda Radio for Week of December 21, 2015

Michigan Water Crisis Rooted in Crisis of Democracy

In majority Black Flint, Michigan, the mayor has declared a state of emergency due to unsafe water, while in mostly Black Detroit tens of thousands of poor people have been shut out of the water system. Both jurisdictions were plunged into crisis under the dictatorial powers of state-appointed emergency financial managers. Thomas Stephens, a people’s lawyer and activist, blames corporate governance. “The problems with water affordability and access in Detroit, leading to a public health crisis, and the problems with lead and other contaminants in Flint actually have the same root cause: treating water, a necessity of life in our communities, as if it were a widget, something to be dealt with pursuant to the corporate bottom line.”

Exploring the Black Radical Tradition

Activists and intellectuals will converge on Temple University, in Philadelphia, for a conference on “The Black Radical Tradition In Our Time,” January 8 through 10. Keynote speakers include Angela Davis, Cornel West, Anthony Monteiro and Charlene Carruthers, of Chicago’s Black Youth Project 100. Larry Hamm, chairman of Newark, New Jersey’s People’s Organization for Progress, will speak at one of the conference panels. “The conference is needed,” he said, “because we do need a theoretical understanding of what is happening, and at the same time, those who are involved in theoretical work need to hear from people who are involved in the actual organizing on the ground, so that we can have a synthesis of the two.”

Prison as an Incubator for Hepatitis C

About 100 supporters of Mumia Abu Jamal gathered at a Scranton, Pennsylvania, courthouse where a federal judge heard arguments to compel the state prison system to treat the nation’s best known political prisoner for Hepatitis C, which caused complications that almost killed him earlier this year. Joe Piette, of Family and Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal, said 8,000 Pennsylvania inmates carry the infection. “People are tested routinely for HIV, but they’re not tested for Hep C,” said Piette. “So they go back to the community when they get out of prison and it just spreads throughout the community.”

Venezuelan Revolution Down, But Not Out

The Socialist Party founded by the late Hugo Chavez was soundly defeated in legislative elections, earlier this month. The voting took place amid raging inflation and deep shortages of consumer goods. “The reality is that this was a deliberately constructed scarcity for the purpose of psychological warfare against the people of Venezuela,” said Eric Draitser, a New York-based political analyst who recently returned from a fact-finding trip to Venezuela. After the victory of the U.S.-backed parties, said Draitser, “all of a sudden, those items began magically returning to store shelves.” Draitser’s most recent article on Venezuela is titled “The Revolution That Will Not Die.”

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Confederate Flag Wavers Arrested Under Law Designed to Imprison Blacks

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

A Georgia prosecutor turned the state’s gang law on a group of Confederate flag-waving white supremacists – the first such use of the statute. But that’s no cause for jubilation. “Its one-time use against racist whites does not change the nature of the law as an instrument of mass Black incarceration.” Rather, it makes the gang statue even more dangerous to Black people.

 
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Black Families Crushed By Prison and Death

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Every socio-economic fact conspires against successful Black family life, beginning with the dwindling pool of available husbands and partners. Mass incarceration and inner city violence have circumscribed Black women’s mating prospects. “Among black male high school dropouts, 60 percent will be dead or incarcerated before the age of 35.”

 
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