mass black incarceration

Black Agenda Radio Week of February 13, 2017

Trump Pursues His Vision of a Whiter USA

The ban on Muslims is a step towards regulating the ethnic mix of the population.

Sanctuary Movement to Expand Its Resistance

Rather than go on the defensive, activists seek to broaden resistance to state oppression

A Millions March for Prisoners’ Human Rights

Abolitionists to converge on Washington in August to end mass incarceration.

Black Agenda Radio for Week of February 6, 2017

Protests in Dixie Against Trump’s “White Supremacist Government”

Hundreds gathered in Columbia, South Carolina, to protest President Trump’s ban on refugees and visitors from seven mostly Muslim countries. “We’ve got to put pressure on Republican legislators who support Trump, and the business people that support this rightward movement that’s happening in this country,” said author and activist Kevin Alexander Gray. “The whole idea of having a white supremacist government -- which, in South Carolina, we now a lot about, because this is the ideological home of white supremacy in America.”

One Out of 9 U.S. Inmates Serving Life

Despite “modest” reductions of about 5 percent in the overall U.S. prison population since 2009, the number and proportion of inmates serving life sentences continues to increase. A new study by The Sentencing Project, titled “Delaying a Second Chance: The Declining Prospects for Parole on Life Sentences,” puts much of the blame on politicians and parole boards. “Legislatures have increased minimum sentence requirements that people have to serve before a parole board can even review someone for parole eligibility,” said study author Dr. Nazgol Ghandnoosh. Back in the 1980s, a person sentenced to life for murder could expect to get out in about 11 and a half years, but someone similarly sentenced in the 21st century would be likely to spend more than 23 years -- twice as long -- behind bars. “Parole boards are granting fewer paroles or refusing to increase them, even though they’re seeing people so much later in their sentence,” said Ghandnoosh. Longer actual terms for lifers results in longer sentences for everyone else, she said. More than 160,000 U.S. prison inmates are serving life sentences, 50,000 of them with no possibility of parole.

“Collective Punishment” of Prisoners

Kerry “Shakaboona” Marshall is one of the thousands of lifers sentenced for crimes committed when they were juveniles. Marshall has already spent a quarter century behind bars. He edits a prison magazine and is a correspondent for Prison Radio, but could not reach his editors on the outside because of a lockdown following a fight among a few inmates at Rockview prison, in Pennsylvania. Such “collective punishment,” he told Prison Radio’s Noelle Hanrahan, cuts prisoners off from their support structures. “Without family bonds, it’s hard to return to society, and it’s hard for prisoners to maintain connection with their lawyers to present a proper defense for their legal appeals,” he said.

Mumia Interviews Eddie Africa, of Move

The nation’s best known political prisoner, Mumia Abu Jamal, introduced his worldwide audience to fellow inmate Eddie Africa, sentenced, along with eight other members of the Move organization, to 30 to 100 years in the 1978 death of a Philadelphia police officer. Nearing 70, Eddie Africa urges young fathers in prison to maintain close contact with their children. “Use this time to talk to them, write to them, so they don’t go the path their parents went,” running with gangs.

A Plan for Community Control of NYC Police

The Campaign for Community Control Over the Police, a coalition of 26 anti-police terror organizations, will hold the first of several “Open House Conferences” on February 18, at Manhattan’s All Souls Unitarian Church. The coalition has developed a four-tier proposal to rein in the cops, beginning with mandatory residency in the precinct in which they work. “That way, they have a vested interest in the community, their children go to the same schools, they shop in the same stores, and they will actually care about the community, rather than act as an occupying army,” said Campaign outreach chairperson, Bro. Shep Olugbala, in an interview with Black Agenda Radio producer Kyle Fraser. Precinct commanders would be elected by the neighborhood, just as “you have sheriffs who are elected by the community” in smaller towns. An elected Community Police Control Board would have subpoena powers and the right to hire and fire police, and an elected special prosecutor, “totally independent of the district attorney’s office,” would “investigate and prosecute allegations of serious criminal conduct by police officers,” said Olugbala.

Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network is hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey. A new edition of the program airs every Monday at 11:00am ET on PRN. Length: one hour.
 
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Black Agenda Radio for Week of January 16, 2017

The Democrats: Serving the One Percent, Blaming the Russians

The Democrats are using the Russians as a scapegoat to avoid confronting “the rightwing Wall Street-captive party that they’ve become,” said activist and educator Paul Street, author of several books on President Barack Obama. Essentially, Democrats are saying, “It’s not that we’re a rightwing, corporate, neoliberal party beholden to the nation’s unelected dictatorship of money and empire. It’s not that we abandoned the working class and the causes of social justice and peace decades ago.” Speaking at the Open University of the Left, in Chicago, Street said Donald Trump did not ride to victory on a “big rust belt rebellion of the white working class.” The real story “is that the Democrats lost those voters to non-voting.”

When Capitalism Gets Sick, the Democrats Get Mean

The Democratic Party’s sharp turn to the right is its response to the “existential crisis at the core of capitalism,” a global phenomenon that has left the ruling class and its servants with “hardly any space to reform the system,” said Dr. Anthony Monteiro, the Philadelphia-based Duboisian scholar and activist. With “no room to maneuver,” the capitalists resort increasingly to war and repression. “Monopoly capitalism must be undone, the banks broken up, and a large part of them nationalized,” said Monteiro. “In other words,” there must be “a profound and fundamental end to the neoliberal order, globally; a retreat from empire and war; and a seizing of the military budget and turning it towards economic development, jobs and a green economy.”

Political Prisoners Under Pressure in Indiana

Khalfani Malik Khaldun, serving time at Wabash Valley prison, in Indiana, said officials have carried out “a series of raids on targeted political prisoners,” including himself. Khaldun was told by “top brass” that they consider him to be the facility’s “most influential” inmate and are pressuring him to use that influence to “stop the proliferation of meth, a synthetic drug spreading throughout the prison.” Otherwise, “they had orders to put me and ten of my comrades in solitary confinement,” where he is now housed. Khaldun said prison officials “are making me out to be running some form of drug ring, in an attempt to destroy my political credibility as an activist on the inside.”

Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network is hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey. A new edition of the program airs every Monday at 11:00am ET on PRN. Length: one hour.
 
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Obama’s Pardons Distract from the Horror of Mass Black Incarceration

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Americans imprison big, but they pardon very small. President Obama set a record by giving clemency to 1/2000th of the 2.3million U.S. prison inmates. The Brennan Center recommends release of 40 percent of inmates. But the Black Is Back Coalition calculates that even release of twice that many – 80 percent – would still maintain mass incarceration at 1973 levels. The whole damn system has to go, for Black folks to even get close to justice.

 
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This Cruel New Policy Makes It Near Impossible for Kids to See Their Incarcerated Parents

by Dana Bazelon

Adding yet another cruelty to the world’s most monstrous system of mass incarceration, federal prison officials restrict visitation to immediate family members. Yet, relatively few prisoners are legally married. “The practical impact of the policy for most of my clients,” says the author, a lawyer, “is that they cannot see their romantic partners and their children.” Federal jailers are trying to enforce “Leave it to Beaver” rules in the Gulag.

An All-American Slaughter: The Youthful Carnage of America’s Gun Culture

by Gary Younge

“America rationalizes its status as both the most unequal and the most violent industrialized society in the world by dismissing the victims of “gang-related” violence as undeserving of life. “If a shooting was gang related then it’s assumed that the kid had it coming.” But guns make massive death possible. “It seems that the principal reason why gang activity has become so much more deadly is the increasingly easy availability of guns.”

Black Agenda Report for Week of Oct 17, 2016

If Trump is a Fascist, What is Clinton?

Speaking to a gathering of the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition, in Atlanta, Black Agenda Report executive editor Glen Ford challenged those who maintain that progressives are obligated to support Hillary Clinton for president to counter a “fascist” threat from Donald Trump. “I’d like to know how Donald Trump is supposed to build fascism when the ruling class is mostly with the Democrats this election season,” said Ford. “If you are worried about 21st century fascism, you need to check out the tent where the ruling class congregates -- and that’s Hillary’s tent. Most of all, if you’re looking for fascists, go to the sound of the war drums” -- which are also pounding in Hillary’s tent. For voters that are looking for a real anti-fascist and pro-peace presidential ticket, the only choice on the ballot in most states is Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka of the Green Party, said Ford.

In Some States, 20 to 25 Percent of Blacks Disenfranchised by Felonies

A new report by The Sentencing Project shows that six million Americans have been disenfranchised because of felony convictions, with huge consequences for Black America. In four states -- Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia -- one out of every four or five African Americans has lost the right to vote. “These are states with high rates of incarceration and, as is true in every state, the rate of incarceration of African Americans dwarfs that of whites, usually by about a five to one ratio,” said Project executive director Marc Mauer. “The combined effect of high rates of incarceration and the fact that many, if not most, of the people who have completed their sentences are still disenfranchised means that it is a lifetime ban.” Mauer said the U.S. stands alone among industrialized countries in its zeal to disenfranchise ex-felons. “Nothing we know of comes close to this.”

Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network is hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey. A new edition of the program airs every Monday at 11:00am ET on PRN. Length: one hour.
 
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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.”

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