Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Before you can…

Before you can correct an error you must know it’s an error
Before you can beat the system you must know how the system works
Before you can change your future you must know your history

Below is an excerpt from a white paper about Racism in the Criminal Justice System posted, in its in entirety, on the Justice Works website. Justice work is a Seattle Based organization whose mission is “Undoing racism in the criminal justice system as experienced by African Americans.”

I really don’t understand why an organization like this is not national or why our good Reverends are not involved with these kind of efforts, as opposed to fleecing corporate America and get fresh new perms!. If you like what you read click the excerpt and it you can read the whole white paper and then read it to your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, cousins, neighbors and any black person you know, ESPECIALLY any black male under the age of 10. I am convinced the first step in breaking the cycle is exposing the system that keeps us in the cycle. Anyway enjoy this tidbit of the white paper here or all of it on the site. Anyway here is the American history we DON’T talk about:

We in America have become so used to the prison as a major institution of our society, we forget that the prison system is a recent ‘ and very American ‘ innovation. Before the American Revolution, prison was rarely used as a punishment for crime in England and even more rare in the American colonies. Rather than imprisoning criminals, England transported them to the American colonies. These people were used to work the plantations. American resentment about being used as a dumping ground for convicts helped lead to the American Revolution. In England, crimes were punished as various forms of public torture & whipping, branding, mutilation, the stocks, and pillory. The modern American prison system was created by reformers who were appalled by the horrors of public punishment. Thus, our system is one of isolation and secrecy. The walls of prison exclude the public from direct knowledge of what goes on. These reformers believed that criminals could be reformed by incarcerating them, forcing them to work, and preventing them from communicating with others. As industrial capitalism grew, the reformers & principle that prisoners should work to achieve “reformations” turned into a convenient rationale for prisons as a source of extremely cheap labor.

Slavery in the United States did not end after the Civil War; it merely changed forms. The necessary legal transformation was effected in 1865 by the 13th amendment to the Constitution ? that abolished the old form of slavery.Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist in the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

The 13th amendment actual wrote slavery into the Constitution, but only for those people legally defined as criminals. The Black Codes were legislation that virtually defined every former slave as a criminal. These laws specified that many vaguely defined acts “ such as ‘mischief’ and ‘insulting gestures’ “ were crimes, but only if committed by a ‘free Negro’ Intermarriage was a crime punished with life without parole. Mississippi’s Vagrancy Act defines “all free Negroes and mulattos over the age of eighteen” as criminals unless they could furnish written proof of a job at the beginning of each year. In other states, ‘having no visible means of support’ was a crime being committed by almost all the freed slaves. So was ‘loitering’ (staying in the same place) and ‘vagrancy‘ (wandering). ‘Disturbing the peace,’ ‘using profane language,’ ‘drunkenness,’ “all provided highly subjective and convenient definitions of crime.

The criminalization of the former slaves was expedited by the fee system. Many police did not receive a salary. Instead, they received a fee for each person arrested. The judge who tried the accused then drew his pay from the court costs against those he found guilty. Whenever former slave owners, construction companies or other businesses needed a supply of cheap labor, the local police and judges worked together to round up, throw in jail, and convict black men and women as needed. Fines were given which were impossible to pay. Those whose fines were not paid were openly enslaved. Some became leased convicts. The private lessee guarded, disciplined, fed, housed, and worked the convicts as he saw fit. The convict lease system had a big advantage for the enslavers; since they did not own the convicts, they lost nothing by working them to death. For example, the death rate among leased Alabama convicts during the year 1869 was 41 percent.

Convicts were leased to railroad companies, coal mines, canal companies, and others. Florida leased most of its convicts to turpentine factories, others to phosphate mines. Much of the railroad system throughout the South was built by leased convicts, often packed in rolling iron cages moved from job to job, working and living in such hellish conditions that their life expectancy rarely exceeded two years. But their usefulness did not end with death. For example, the bodies of convicts leased to the mines and railroads of Tennessee were sold to the Medical School in Nashville.

Convict leasing was gradually replaced by other forms of prison slavery. Under “state use”, the state uses prison products and services. For example, the infrastructure of many southern states was built and maintained by convicts. Aged African-American women dug the campus of Georgia State College. Prisoners as young as twelve worked in chain gangs to maintain the streets of Atlanta. The state went into business selling products made by convict labor.

After that, the Fourteenth and Fifteen Amendments were ratified to correct these abuses. With these amendments and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the US legal system began to warm to the idea that blacks deserved the legal rights of any US citizen. It actually took nearly another one hundred years before basic legal equality for blacks was attempted. This delay was due to the Jim Crow laws, which the southern states enacted, and the Supreme Court upheld, in the last two decades of the 19th century. These laws circumvented the 14th and 15th amendments. The Jim Crow laws mandated separate facilities for nearly all aspects of life; schools, dining areas, transportation and bathrooms. In 1896, the US Supreme Court upheld the Jim Crow law requiring blacks to sit in seats reserved for them. Legally sanctioned inequality was the order of the day.

Reading this white paper made me almost cry, it is full of all kinds of hard metrics about being black in the criminal system EMPIRICAL DATA, yet America toddles on her merry way being the bastion for liberty. How can someone question how someone may not always be proud of this country? Anyway, America the beautiful! The thing is I appreciate this place probably more than anyone, considering where I came from and what I have been able to accomplish, but even I realize that when stomping roaches some do get free. If you get that, you got it and if you don’t oh well. I told yawl it won’t be televised but it will be streamed LIVE on the internet.

Be EZ,


Keith's Space said...

Right on to that. Our Prison system'or should I say "Correctional" system doesn't correct anybody..It just turns out people who are either bitter and vengeful or totally broken. Neither is good for society. If anything, most prisons seem to be schools for crime,With the individual coming out a little more knowledgable in his chosen "profession. A few people are however "reformed"...usually after they've been locked up three or four times and grow tired of the experience. Most that I've seen become institutionalized..unable to function in society and fatalistically expecting to go back to prison eventually.
It's a shame. I don't know the answer to rehabilitating people,but it's got to be something better than what we do now.

Keith's Space said...

YAYYYYYY!!! I was first!

Sister Girl said...

Right on,Sista !


WNG said...

Thank you for posting this, OG. I printed the white paper. I can't even comment right now - I'm too upset.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

Keith you were first and I was OH so last!


leva said...

Thanks for the link OG. I can read it to the boys, or have their dad do it.