For Abolition: Prisons and Police Are More Than Brutality, They're State Terror | Frank Castro
Analysis | November 4th, 2016
In his speech "Terrorism: Theirs and Ours," now deceased Professor Eqbal Ahmad elucidated five types of terrorism: state, religious, mafia, pathological, and political terror of the private group. Of these types, the focus in mainstream political discourse and media has almost always centered itself on discussion of just one: "political terror of the private group"-organizations like al-Qaida, the Taliban, and ISIS. But as Ahmad (and Ben Norton) pointed out, this is "the least important in terms of cost to human lives and human property." Rarely discussed is state terror, which has the highest cost in terms of human lives and property. According to Norton, Professor Ahmad estimated that the disparity of "people killed by state terror versus those killed by individual acts of terror is, conservatively, 100,000 to one."
Fuelling the Mob: Differences Between the London Riots and Ferguson | Kelly Beestone
Analysis | July 12th, 2016
For many in the United Kingdom, watching the news of the riots unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014, brought to mind images of the aftermath of Mark Duggan's death in London in 2011. In both cases, police officers responsible for the death of an unarmed black man were investigated and found guilty of no wrongdoing. In both cases too, the aftermath entailed widespread destruction of property, violence and a deepened distrust of police. Beneath the surface, however, there are significant differences between the rioting in England and the Ferguson unrest. Most significantly, the English working-class has maintained a greater ability to collectively confront police injustice due, at least in part, to the history of class-based political organization in England. This is in stark contrast to the American context where elites have attempted (with a great deal of success) to divide its working-class through racism.
"Enough Is Enough": Prisoners Across The Country Band Together To End Slavery For Good | Carimah Townes
Commentary | June 22nd, 2016
Siddique Hasan, a self-described revolutionary from Savannah, Georgia, has been waiting for a moment like this one, when prisoners across the country band together and say "enough is enough" when it comes to being treated like a slave. "It's time for a broader struggle," he told ThinkProgress during his daily phone time in Ohio's supermax prison. "People have to lift up their voice with force and determination, and let them know that they're dissatisfied with the way things are actually being run." So far this year, prisoners have been doing just that. In a growing movement largely going unnoticed by the national media, inmates all over the country are starting to stand up against the brutal conditions and abuses they have faced for decades.
Prisons are for Burning: On Abolition and Dystopia | Neal Shirley
Commentary | June 9th, 2016
A century and a half ago, a huge social struggle was waged over the question of slavery on this continent. Slave uprisings and mass escapes were increasingly common, and conflicts internal to the ruling class over what kinds of colonial and industrial expansion should take place added to the tension. The American Civil War was a product of the state intervening in this struggle, and it resulted in new regimes of bondage and control. The loophole in the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted," made this abundantly clear, and the politics of Reconstruction even more so. While occupying the former Confederacy, the Union Army itself enforced labor contracts by which Black people were often made to work for their former masters. Former slaves were evicted from lands they had taken over, industrial projects increased in number and scope, and the wage labor and convict lease systems favored by northern capitalists solved the labor problem created by the absence of slavery. Bondage was not destroyed by slavery's abolition - it was democratized.
"Spider Webs for the Rich and Mighty": A Libertarian-Socialist Critique of Criminal Law | Colin Jenkins
Theory | January 11th, 2016
As human societies have developed over the course of history, so too have corollary systems of order. In the most basic sense, the often informal development of customs, norms and ethics become inevitable in spaces where groups of human beings come together to interact with another. However, as the scales of human interaction have grown - from tribes to communities to nation-states - these informal codes of conduct have become formal systems of rule and order which have taken on physical identities in the form of states and governments.
Why Do American Cops Kill So Many Compared to European Cops? | Paul Hirschfield
Commentary | December 7th, 2015
Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first degree murder November 24 in the death of Laquan McDonald. A video released by police shows Van Dyke shooting the teenager 16 times. Van Dyke is an extreme example of a pattern of unnecessary deadly force used by US police. American police kill a few people each day, making them far more deadly than police in Europe. Historic rates of fatal police shootings in Europe suggest that American police in 2014 were 18 times more lethal than Danish police and 100 times more lethal than Finnish police, plus they killed significantly more frequently than police in France, Sweden and other European countries.
Challenging the Prisons: An Interview with the Free Alabama Movement | Devon Douglas-Bowers
Interview | December 7th, 2015
Free Alabama Movement is a prisoner's comrade's solidarity organization which advocates the self-addressing of our struggle of human rights dignity and respect while serving a debt to society in Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC). Our motto is to "Educate, to Elevate, to Liberate". We pride ourselves in presenting our activism work in a peaceful & non-violent manner. Our organizing planning tactics and style of implementing strategies for effective protest, work stoppages, and shutdowns have been radical and successful thus far in our work.
'To Protect and Serve Who?': Mumia Abu-Jamal's New Pamphlet on Organizing to Abolish Police Violence | Suzanne Ross
Commentary | November 24th, 2015
Internationally renowned political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal has just published a brilliant 15-page pamphlet about the challenge of the period we're living in in this country: the non-stop police murders of young people of color followed by one acquittal after another of the killer cops. Even when the unarmed young police victims are children, 12 years old in the case of Tamir Rice, the police are let off without even a serious investigation. It's not that this hasn't happened before in U.S. history. It has. But for many reasons there is a heightened consciousness about it today and it is a defining aspect of this decade: the police versus the people, usually people of color, and often children.
Guilty of Being a Black Girl: The Mundane Terror of Police Violence in American Schools | Brittney Cooper
Analysis | October 29th, 2015
On Monday at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina, a school resource officer was called in to remove a Black girl from math class who was apparently, according to differing reports, chewing gum and not participating. Two students in the room shot video of the incident, and in the clearest video footage, the student sits quietly at her desk, and remains unresponsive as the officer Ben Fields asks her to come with him. He takes her silence as refusal, at which point he grabs her by the neck, pulls her backward in the desk, forcibly pulls her out of the desk and then slings her body across the classroom. He then yells at her, as she lies prone on the floor, to put her hands behind her back. Another Black female student, Niya Kenney, who is not seen in the video, protested this brutal and violent treatment of her classmate. She, too, was arrested for the "crime" called "disturbing school" and was later released on $1,000 bond.
Doing Ferguson and Baltimore at the Intersection of Racial Oppression and Hopelessness | Dr. Jason Michael Williams
Commentary | September 4th, 2015
This summer I made several trips to Ferguson and Baltimore, not only as one in great solidarity with protesting efforts but as a researcher, too. My several trips to both locations have impacted me tremendously as a criminologist. Though I have had perfect training in critical theory and, not to mention, my biography, which informs me (as it does anyone else), I have been more enriched by stepping into the intersectional realities of others whom are like myself (in racial heritage, etc.), but who exist in different social categories and spaces. While matriculating through these very racially oppressed and hopeless spaces, I was suddenly awakened to my privilege-to the fact that my academic credentials have allowed me to ascend my previous status, which in many ways was akin to what I am now studying in Ferguson and Baltimore. The combination of my experiences and the life-stories of those whom I interviewed have forced me to drift away into a deeply induced state of introspection. At this moment, I was forced to recognize that I was angrier now than I was before-that me being able to achieve self-determination and actualization was not enough so long as others were still being oppressed and left hopeless.
The Thin Blue Line is a Burning Fuse: Why Every Struggle is Now a Struggle Against the Police | Crimethinc.
Commentary | August 19th, 2015
It should have come as no surprise yesterday when the grand jury in St. Louis refused to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who murdered Michael Brown last August in Ferguson, Missouri. Various politicians and media outlets had labored to prepare the public for this for months in advance. They knew what earnest liberals and community leaders have yet to acknowledge: that it is only possible to preserve the prevailing social order by giving police officers carte blanche to kill black men at will. Otherwise, it would be impossible to maintain the racial and economic inequalities that are fundamental to this society. In defiance of widespread outrage, even at the cost of looting and arson, the legal system will always protect officers from the consequences of their actions-for without them, it could not exist.
Disproportionate Minority Contact & Criminological Theory | Miah Register
Theory | June 30th, 2015
It has been recently discovered that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (trans*), queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system (Holsinger & Hodge 2014; Hunt & Moodie-Mills 2012; Craziano & Wagner 2011). Hunt and Moodie-Mills (2014) also report that 60 percent of these youth are Black, Latino/a,. Further, despite the overrepresentation of LGBTQ youth in the juvenile justice system, the legal system's response has been lackluster, at best. In 1988, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) have responded with the Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) mandate, which was an amendment to the 1974 Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act (U.S. Department of Justice OJJDP DMC Factsheet 2012).
On the Unasked Question of Morality in Police Shootings of Black Bodies | Dr. Jason Michael Williams
Commentary | May 28th, 2015
In the past year much has happened regarding police shootings of Black bodies, and the majority of these shootings go unpunished. They go unpunished due to defensive statements such as, "I followed procedure" or "I feared for my life". Nevertheless, these two quintessential defense statements are disproportionately applied to instances where Blacks are killed by police, yet as a society the United States does or says very little to contextualize the impact such defensive statements have on our collective consciousness and morality. However, it should be noted that this silence is deliberate, historical, and quintessentially American. Thus, morality, to many on the margins, is nonexistent at the foundation of the criminal justice system and many of the laws that govern society specifically laws that disproportionately target the poor.
Cash Cops: How Civil Forfeiture Enriches US Law Enforcement | Devon Douglas-Bowers
Analysis | April 2nd, 2015
Originally, in rem jurisdiction was "incorporated into American customs and admiralty laws governing the seizure of ships for crimes of piracy, treason and smuggling in the early days of the Republic, and during the American Civil War." It was later formalized in 1966 "in the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims which apply to our civil forfeiture cases." So the United States has always had some type of civil forfeiture law. The situation changed, however, when President Nixon announced the War on Drugs and began to use civil forfeiture as an instrument of law enforcement. Author Montgomery Sibley notes that, as part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, Congress strengthened civil forfeiture as a means of confiscating illegal substances and the means by which they are manufactured and distributed. In 1978, Congress amended the law to authorize the seizure and forfeiture of the proceeds of illegal drug transactions as well.
Gangs of the State: Police & the Hierarchy of Violence | Frank Castro
Analysis | March 5th, 2015
December 15th, after the killings of Officers Liu and Ramos of the NYPD, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted "When police officers are murdered, it tears at the foundation of our society. This heinous attack was an attack on our entire city." On July 18th, the day after Eric Garner, a longtime New Yorker and father of six, was choked to death by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, the mayor of of the Big Apple had only this to say: "On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Eric Garner."
More Data is needed on Police Body-Cameras | Dr. Michael O. Adams and Dr. Howard Henderson
Commentary | January 15th, 2015
The tragic deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York have sparked a national debate about the relationship of police and average citizens. While many have argued for policy solutions centering on grand jury reform - some have argued that transparency in the form of body cameras may change or alter behavior. While there may be merit to this approach, we would argue that police cameras need much more study before a wide implementation. After reviewing the limited research on the police use of body cameras, it is clear that legitimate concerns about the implementation and method behind its use exists. Given the crisis before us regarding the perceived illegitimacy of police actions in the community, it is important that the knowledge of the systematic response (i.e. body-cameras) be premised on sound and unbiased research. The key question that needs to be answered is whether body cameras will actually work?
The (Enabled) Fugitive: Breaking Down the Darren Wilson Grand Jury and the Future of Extrajudicial Killings | Chris Stevenson
Commentary | January 7th, 2015
It's easy for Darren Wilson to be calm and serene now. He's got all his shit. He just got married, he is in the middle of making a deal to retire (no doubt with all the benefits of the almighty 20-and-out pension), he just got away with murder, he already has money donated to his "defense fund," and he doesn't have to pay any of it to a private trial attorney - when you're one of a wave of cops around the nation who just killed a black man and the same guy whose job it is to prosecute you literally takes it upon himself to defend you. In a case where a police officer refused to protect and serve, we have a prosecutor who refuses to prosecute. In some ways, Wilson is a microcosm of post-colonial/post-slavery North America. He's killed who he's had to kill; and he's got all the stuff there was to take from others. He's calm now, even friendly.
The Hunger Gamerization of American Police and the Community | Dr. Jason Michael Williams
Commentary | December 31st, 2014
On December 20th, 2014 in the late afternoon social media and television news stations were flooded with reports regarding the execution of two NYPD officers. Later into the day, Mayor de Blasio held a press conference where NYPD officers protested his presence by turning their backs to him. One lesson that stems from this atrocity is that all lives should matter, including both officers and innocent civilians. As a result of conflict, both sides (police and community) have had to taste the unnecessary flavor of premature death, and for what?
The Brutes in Blue: From Ferguson to Freedom | Andrew Gavin Marshall
Analysis | December 31st, 2014
Many social divisions erupt when it comes to discussing the issues of police and policing. Many accept the police and state-propagated view of police as being there 'to serve and protect', and that the 'dangerous' jobs of ensuring 'peace' and 'safety' are deserving of respect and admiration. Others view police as oppressors and thugs, violent and abusive, the enforcers of injustice. Here, as with the issue of racism itself, we come to the dichotomy of individual and institutional actions and functions. As individuals, there are many police who may act admirably, who may 'serve and protect', who serve a social function which is beneficial to the community in which they operate. But, as with the issue of racism, individual acts do not erase institutional functions.
How to Address Police Violence: A Seven-Point Proposal | Michael O. Adams, Carroll G. Robinson, and Howard Henderson
Commentary | December 5th, 2014
In the aftermath of the death of Michael Brown, body cameras for police officers have become the preferred policy solution. Most recently, President Obama requested funding from Congress for the purchase of body cameras and additional training. Communities are looking for a response from elected officials and police departments nationally and locally on what changes can be made to improve how the criminal justice system functions. Here, we offer several policy ideas for consideration on how a thoughtful discussion can take place.
Consumed in Flames: A Genealogy of African-American Avengers | Darryl Barthe
History | December 5th, 2014
A 2013 report published by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement called "Every 28 Hours" details 313 individual instances of black men and women killed in 2012 by police, private security guards or lone vigilantes, who typically avoid state sanction for such violence. Such a culture of violence has a long, storied tradition in the United States, particularly with regards to the history of metropolitan police forces. It is my aim to briefly examine three separate incidents, two in New Orleans and one in Los Angeles, separated by a period of more than 100 years, to identify common elements of this narrative of state-sanctioned violence against black people and also common elements of radical black resistance to the same. While much of the contemporary narrative of police violence against communities of color is couched in terms of an emerging, militarized, police state, historian Howard Rabinowitz observed that after the Civil War, and Emancipation, many cities fortified their municipal police departments with the explicit purpose of serving "as the first line of defense against the blacks." Rabinowitz offers New Orleans' Metropolitan Police Force as evidence.
Policing the Blacks: Ferguson and Past Histories | Dr. Jason Michael Williams
Commentary | October 24th, 2014
The continuing protesting efforts in Ferguson are a constant reminder that democracy left unchecked is totalitarianism disguised as freedom and inclusivity. The protestors in Ferguson, who represent all walks of life, are protesting in defense of a mentality and ideal that is unable to conceive inequality and mistreatment as a normative function within American democracy. They understand that no American citizen should have to face differential treatment within a society that allegedly claims to be among the leaders of the world and yet is not whole. How could it be 2014 and yet, still, as a society, brutalization against Black bodies is tolerated and, in many cases, quickly justified by those who have yet to accept Blackness as their equal within the human family, let alone within American democracy. Yes, the problem is largely race-based, and America should accept this truth however hard it might be to fathom.