I am trying to type with a cat on my lap. She won't leave me alone, probably because I've been running a mid-grade fever for at least 5 straight days. She either knows I'm sick, or likes that I'm warm. With cats, who can tell?
I'd like to thank TedMart for this correction.
-- In yesterday's news, I incorrectly listed the site address for Occupy Maine's television show. It is www.occupymetv.org. CORRECTION(again) It DOES need the ME in the address. :) You MUST type the www. part for the site to load as well.
On to the rest of the news:
-- Occupy Maine is seeking to drop its lawsuit against the city of Portland. They say that the energy and resources that would be used in pursuing a lawsuit would be much better spent in service to the community. The group has a few rallies planned, and is also setting up an organization to protect Lincoln Park. The park was the occupation's location for 133 days.
-- Occupy URI (Univ. of Rhode Island) is a recent offshoot of OWS, and they're getting bigger. Students and faculty alike have joined the new Occupy group, and are now planning protests. The group is planning on erecting a tent on the campus quad. They've had several organizational meetings so far, and have a teach-in and rally planned for later this month.
I'm going to tell you these next two stories, then I'm going to give you my opinion. Hope that's okay with you. :)
-- Occupiers in NYC met yesterday in Harlem to protest America's racist prison system. They chanted for an encompassing change to the system, dubbing it the "new Jim Crow." They called out racial disparities in almost every branch of law enforcement, from the prisons to immigration to stop-and-frisks. Some demanded complete eradication of the system, while others want a complete reform to move towards rehabilitation.
-- Occupy Oakland also participated in a day of solidarity with prisoners yesterday, protesting outside of the San Quentin prison. They were there in support of prisoners on hunger strikes against solitary confinement and other human rights issues. One Corporate Media outlet claimed that over 700 protesters were in attendance. Police banned parking along the roads leading to the prison, forcing some protesters to walk over a mile to the prison.
And now for my rant.
The prison system in our country is messed up. In Illinois alone, prisons are dangerously over capacity, and yet our governor is interested in closing down some of the state facilities. (We don't know until Wednesday which facilities he wants to close.) In Texas, a man is in prison for LIFE for less than $300 stolen. He had written two bad checks, and neglected to fix an air conditioner that he was paid to repair by his neighbor. Does he deserve to be punished? Of course he does. Does he deserve life imprisonment, as placed on him by the three strike's law? Are you kidding me? No. No no no. That is outrageous. He even took Texas to the Supreme Court for this, decrying it as cruel and unusual punishment (which I believe it most certainly is.) He was told that Texas has the right to implement their Three Strike's Law, which means he will be in prison for the rest of his life. He didn't physically hurt anyone. He wrote a bad check, didn't fix an air conditioner, and wrote another bad check. That's not heinous, that's just stupid. I guess we're giving people life in prison now for stupidity.
I'll give you a few interesting facts.
#1. Racial minorities are disproportionately imprisoned. In 2007, there were 48% Whites, 28% Blacks, and 17% Latinos and Hispanics incarcerated. But Kitty, you say, there are more whites than minorities combined! Yes, there is. But look at these numbers-- 64% White, 13% Black, 15% Latino or Hispanic. Know what that is? Our population. See anything out of place?
#2. Stop and Frisks disproportionately affect minorities. From "Criminal Procedure," a textbook from Joel Samaha: "Black and Latino men living in poor urban neighborhoods, or who happen to be in White neighborhoods, experience stops and frisks far more frequently than Whites. Even poor Whites living in the same poor neighborhoods as Blacks and Latinos experience fewer stops and frisks."
#3. Several prisoners have DIED on hunger strikes protesting the horrible conditions in prison, and the news doesn't talk about it.
#4. Women's prisons are just as bad, if not worse, than men's prisons. There are less women's prisons available, so they are often overcrowded. They are given the same treatment as men, regardless of the different needs women have, and declared "equal." Many times they have less guards available, so they are given less time outside and more time confined to their cells.
#5. An overwhelming number of people incarcerated were convicted of drug crimes, under the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs was actually meant to target drug manufacturers and traffickers. Instead, the vast majority of people arrested in its time have been low-level users.
#6. Poor people are disproportionately a part of the system. As a result of a lack of resources, many cannot afford their own defense counsel or bail. The plea deal system was originally meant to speed things up by allowing guilty parties to bypass the juror system. It was meant to save time and money. Instead, it is often used by poor people, innocent or guilty, who will take whatever punishment is doled out in order to get back to their families as soon as possible. Many of them do not understand how parole and probation work, and end up back in prison because they are unable to pay court costs and fines, or find employment.
#7. Discretionary laws are meant to be a good thing. They are what gets you out of a ticket when an officer writes you a warning instead. However, discretionary laws also offer officers the ability to tell a group of White teens vandalizing a building to go home, then drive across town and arrest a group of Black teens for the same offense. (It happens.)
Does this sound like a good system to you? Because it certainly doesn't to me.
I'm NOT saying that all police officers, judges, attorneys, etc. are bad people, racists, or evil. I don't believe that for a second. What I am saying is that this does happen. It happens often. We don't talk about it. We're too afraid of race. We're too afraid of the system. Many people say "They made their bed, now they need to lie in it." Well, the truth is that lying in that bed does NOT teach you not to do it again! There are many reformative systems that actually work. Punishment systems, and prisons (all of which have some sort of gang hierarchy,) are not good methods of teaching. Let me ask you something.
If you are a poor, uneducated minority, and you are arrested for some crime, you serve your time and get out. When you get out, you are thrown back into the same situation you were previously. You can get some education in prison, but not nearly enough. So you get out of prison, and you are still poor and uneducated. Don't you think that if our system focused on showing someone how to do better, they might actually do better? Our prison systems now basically say "This is what you get for being bad. Now don't be bad, or you'll be back here." I can't even explain this thoroughly because it just drives me crazy. What kind of deterrent is that for someone who has nothing? It's not.
If you want to discuss this further with me, or contact me for any other reason, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.