Eric Holder's Ploy to Divert Attention from Obama's Expanded Prisons Budget

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Attorney General Eric Holder claims to have just discovered racial disparities in prosecution and sentencing in the United States. That’s like Robert E. Lee claiming to be surprised at the existence of slavery. Holder is making noises like a prison reformer to divert attention from the fact that Obama’s budget calls for increased funding for prisons, in the midst of austerity. It’s a con game.

 

Eric Holder's Ploy to Divert Attention from Obama's Expanded Prisons Budget

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Holder claims to have experienced a revelation about the impact of race on crime and punishment in this country.”

Eric Holder Holder has been the top law enforcement officer of the United States for more than four years, overseeing a federal prison system of almost 220,000 inmates and with responsibility to protect the rights of two million more prisoners under state and local jurisdiction. All of these populations are disproportionately Black – and have been so for longer than Eric Holder has been alive. Yet, the attorney general pretends to have only just discovered that prosecutors are tougher on Black defendants, and that judges give Blacks longer sentences than whites for the same crimes. Is it really even remotely plausible, that racial disparities in prosecution and sentencing are news to our attorney general? Or did Holder think that the mostly Black audience at Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, where he made the remarks, was full of idiots?

(Well, then again, they do follow Al Sharpton, and might believe anything.)

Still, Eric Holder has some nerve, acting as if he’s a newcomer to the criminal justice system when, in fact, the buck stops with him and President Obama when it comes to law and order in the United States. Now in his and Obama’s second term, Holder claims to have experienced a revelation about the impact of race on crime and punishment in this country. With a straight face, he declared: “It is time to ask ourselves some fundamental questions about our criminal justice system.”

He is requesting more money for the federal prison system.”

Actually, Holder is a couple of centuries late in asking those questions, which have been answered over and over again in studies and reports too numerous to mention, virtually all of which have concluded that Blacks are surveilled and stopped more than whites, charged with harsher offenses than whites for the same behavior, prosecuted more vigorously, sentenced to more time for the same crimes, and forced to serve their sentences in worse conditions. These are facts that have been established through generations of research. Holder’s pretense of ignorance is beyond contempt. The next thing you know, Obama’s Secretary of Labor will claim to have just discovered that Black unemployment has been roughly twice that of whites for most of the last half century.

Holder is simply following his boss’s lead. The Obama style is to make little noises or gestures that appear vaguely liberal – like acknowledging the existence of unfairness – and then turn around and do something that makes the situation worse. For instance, Obama gave lots of eloquent speeches on the vital role that Social Security and other entitlements play in society –and then wound up trying to gut these same programs. Even as Obama cuts deep into the bone and marrow of vital government services, he is requesting more money for the federal prison system, including funding for a brand new state-of-the-art supermax prison in illinois that will house 400 inmates in solitary confinement – that is, in a perpetual state of torture. The Bureau of Prisons, which Eric Holder oversees, would get a 4 percent increase in funding. Holder is pretending to be some kind of babe in the woods, or even a closet prison reformer, to divert attention from the fact that this is a pro-prison administration.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].

 
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