A New York City grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in the case of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old unarmed black man who died July 17 in a police choke-hold.
The grand jury found “no reasonable cause” to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was attempting to arrest Garner for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.
Amid crowds gathering tonight to protest in Manhattan and growing discord on social media about the decision, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department is opening a federal civil rights inquiry.
Holder, while urging calm in the aftermath of yet another controversial grand jury action, promised that the federal inquiry would be “independent, thorough and fair.”
President Obama said the grand jury decision will spark strong reaction from the public, especially in the wake of a similar decision in Missouri last week not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed Michael Brown.
The biggest crime in the U.S. criminal justice system is that it is a race-based institution where African-Americans are directly targeted and punished in a much more aggressive way than white people.
Saying the US criminal system is racist may be politically controversial in some circles. But the facts are overwhelming. No real debate about that. Below I set out numerous examples of these facts.
The question is – are these facts the mistakes of an otherwise good system, or are they evidence that the racist criminal justice system is working exactly as intended? Is the US criminal justice system operated to marginalize and control millions of African Americans?
Information on race is available for each step of the criminal justice system – from the use of drugs, police stops, arrests, getting out on bail, legal representation, jury selection, trial, sentencing, prison, parole and freedom. Look what these facts show.
One. The US has seen a surge in arrests and putting people in jail over the last four decades. Most of the reason is the war on drugs. Yet whites and blacks engage in drug offenses, possession and sales, at roughly comparable rates – according to a report on race and drug enforcement published by Human Rights Watch in May 2008. While African Americans comprise 13% of the US population and 14% of monthly drug users they are 37% of the people arrested for drug offenses – according to 2009 Congressional testimony by Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project.
Two. The police stop blacks and Latinos at rates that are much higher than whites. In New York City, where people of color make up about half of the population, 80% of the NYPD stops were of blacks and Latinos. When whites were stopped, only 8% were frisked. When blacks and Latinos are stopped 85% were frisked according to information provided by the NYPD. The same is true most other places as well. In a California study, the ACLU found blacks are three times more likely to be stopped than whites.
Three. Since 1970, drug arrests have skyrocketed rising from 320,000 to close to 1.6 million according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice.
African Americans are arrested for drug offenses at rates 2 to 11 times higher than the rate for whites – according to a May 2009 report on disparity in drug arrests by Human Rights Watch.
Four. Once arrested, blacks are more likely to remain in prison awaiting trial than whites. For example, the New York state division of criminal justice did a 1995 review of disparities in processing felony arrests and found that in some parts of New York blacks are 33% more likely to be detained awaiting felony trials than whites facing felony trials.
Five. Once arrested, 80% of the people in the criminal justice system get a public defender for their lawyer. Race plays a big role here as well. Stop in any urban courtroom and look a the color of the people who are waiting for public defenders. Despite often heroic efforts by public defenders the system gives them much more work and much less money than the prosecution. The American Bar Association, not a radical bunch, reviewed the US public defender system in 2004 and concluded “All too often, defendants plead guilty, even if they are innocent, without really understanding their legal rights or what is occurring…The fundamental right to a lawyer that America assumes applies to everyone accused of criminal conduct effectively does not exist in practice for countless people across the US.”
Six. African Americans are frequently illegally excluded from criminal jury service according to a June 2010 study released by the Equal Justice Initiative. For example in Houston County, Alabama, 8 out of 10 African Americans qualified for jury service have been struck by prosecutors from serving on death penalty cases.
Seven. Trials are rare. Only 3 to 5 percent of criminal cases go to trial – the rest are plea bargained. Most African Americans defendants never get a trial. Most plea bargains consist of promise of a longer sentence if a person exercises their constitutional right to trial. As a result, people caught up in the system, as the American Bar Association points out, plead guilty even when innocent. Why? As one young man told me recently, “Who wouldn’t rather do three years for a crime they didn’t commit than risk twenty-five years for a crime they didn’t do?”
Eight. The U.S. Sentencing Commission reported in March 2010 that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10% longer than white offenders for the same crimes. Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project reports African Americans are 21% more likely to receive mandatory minimum sentences than white defendants and 20% more like to be sentenced to prison than white drug defendants.
Nine. The longer the sentence, the more likely it is that non-white people will be the ones getting it. A July 2009 report by the Sentencing Project found that two-thirds of the people in the US with life sentences are non-white. In New York, it is 83%.
Ten. As a result, African Americans, who are 13% of the population and 14% of drug users, are not only 37% of the people arrested for drugs but 56% of the people in state prisons for drug offenses. Marc Mauer May 2009 Congressional Testimony for The Sentencing Project.
Eleven. The US Bureau of Justice Statistics concludes that the chance of a black male born in 2001 of going to jail is 32% or 1 in three. Latino males have a 17% chance and white males have a 6% chance. Thus black boys are five times and Latino boys nearly three times as likely as white boys to go to jail.
Twelve. So, while African American juvenile youth is but 16% of the population, they are 28% of juvenile arrests, 37% of the youth in juvenile jails and 58% of the youth sent to adult prisons. 2009 Criminal Justice Primer, The Sentencing Project.
Thirteen. Remember that the US leads the world in putting our own people into jail and prison. The New York Times reported in 2008 that the US has five percent of the world’s population but a quarter of the world’s prisoners, over 2.3 million people behind bars, dwarfing other nations. The US rate of incarceration is five to eight times higher than other highly developed countries and black males are the largest percentage of inmates according to ABC News.
Fourteen. Even when released from prison, race continues to dominate. A study by Professor Devah Pager of the University of Wisconsin found that 17% of white job applicants with criminal records received call backs from employers while only 5% of black job applicants with criminal records received call backs. Race is so prominent in that study that whites with criminal records actually received better treatment than blacks without criminal records!
So, what conclusions do these facts lead to? The criminal justice system, from start to finish, is seriously racist.
Professor Michelle Alexander concludes that it is no coincidence that the criminal justice system ramped up its processing of African Americans just as the Jim Crow laws enforced since the age of slavery ended. Her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness sees these facts as evidence of the new way the US has decided to control African Americans – a racialized system of social control. The stigma of criminality functions in much the same way as Jim Crow – creating legal boundaries between them and us, allowing legal discrimination against them, removing the right to vote from millions, and essentially warehousing a disposable population of unwanted people. She calls it a new caste system.
Poor whites and people of other ethnicity are also subjected to this system of social control. Because if poor whites or others get out of line, they will be given the worst possible treatment, they will be treated just like poor blacks.
Other critics like Professor Dylan Rodriguez see the criminal justice system as a key part of what he calls the domestic war on the marginalized. Because of globalization, he argues in his book Forced Passages, there is an excess of people in the US and elsewhere. “These people”, whether they are in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib or US jails and prisons, are not productive, are not needed, are not wanted and are not really entitled to the same human rights as the productive ones. They must be controlled and dominated for the safety of the productive. They must be intimidated into accepting their inferiority or they must be removed from the society of the productive.
This domestic war relies on the same technology that the US uses internationally. More and more we see the militarization of this country’s police. Likewise, the goals of the US justice system are the same as the US war on terror – domination and control by capture, immobilization, punishment and liquidation.
What to do?
Martin Luther King Jr., said we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.
A radical approach to the US criminal justice system means we must go to the root of the problem. Not reform. Not better beds in better prisons. We are not called to only trim the leaves or prune the branches, but rip up this unjust system by its roots.
We are all entitled to safety. That is a human right everyone has a right to expect. But do we really think that continuing with a deeply racist system leading the world in incarcerating our children is making us safer?
It is time for every person interested in justice and safety to join in and dismantle this racist system. Should the US decriminalize drugs like marijuana? Should prisons be abolished? Should we expand the use of restorative justice? Can we create fair educational, medical and employment systems? All these questions and many more have to be seriously explored. Join a group like INCITE, Critical Resistance, the Center for Community Alternatives, Thousand Kites, or the California Prison Moratorium and work on it. As Professor Alexander says “Nothing short of a major social movement can dismantle this new caste system.”
May and I are really concerned for our family and our community. I know my faith will see us through this American experience and we will have answers from on high on how to empower our grand children and God’s gifts of human beings in our life. We strive to know His will for our life to help others. Pray without ceasing for us and our world.
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BESIDES choosing lawmakers, on November 4th voters in three American states and the District of Columbia considered measures to liberalise the cannabis trade. Alaska and Oregon, where it is legal to provide “medical marijuana” to registered patients, voted to go further and let the drug be sold and taken for recreational purposes, as Colorado and Washington state already allow. In DC, a measure to legalise the possession of small amounts for personal use was passed. A majority of voters in Florida opted to join the lengthening list of places where people can seek a doctor’s note that lets them take the drug. However, the measure fell just short of the 60% needed to change the state constitution. Even so, that such a big state in the conservative South came so close to liberalising shows how America’s attitude to criminalising pot has changed.
The drug war has produced profoundly unequal outcomes across racial groups, manifested through racial discrimination by law enforcement and disproportionate drug war misery suffered by communities of color. Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial lines, people of color are far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for drug law violations than are whites. Higher arrest and incarceration rates for African Americans and Latinos are not reflective of increased prevalence of drug use or sales in these communities, but rather of a law enforcement focus on urban areas, on lower-income communities and on communities of color as well as inequitable treatment by the criminal justice system. We believe that the mass criminalization of people of color, particularly young African American men, is as profound a system of racial control as the Jim Crow laws were in this country until the mid-1960s.
The Drug Policy Alliance is committed to exposing disproportionate arrest rates and the systems that perpetuate them. We work to eliminate policies that result in disproportionate incarceration rates by rolling back harsh mandatory minimum sentences that unfairly affect urban populations and by repealing sentencing disparities. Crack cocaine sentencing presents a particularly egregious case. Since the 1980s, federal penalties for crack were 100 times harsher than those for powder cocaine, with African Americans disproportionately sentenced to much lengthier terms. But, in 2010, DPA played a key role in reducing the crack/powder sentencing disparity from 100:1 to 18:1, and we are committed to passing legislation that would eliminate the disparity entirely.
The life-long penalties and exclusions that follow a drug conviction have created a permanent second-class status for millions of Americans, who may be prohibited from voting, being licensed, accessing public assistance and any number of other activities and opportunities. The drug war’s racist enforcement means that all of these exclusions fall more heavily on people and communities of color. DPA is committed to ending these highly discriminatory policies and to combating the stigma attached to drug use and drug convictions.
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We want nothing to do with fame or fortune, we just want to help our-self while helping others. This video is how linking together to make your difference make a difference. Animals are just as important as human beings.
We are pleased to share with you this monograph, aimed to stimulate interest, ignite conversation and spur momentum for a national initiative promoting entrepreneurship as a reentry strategy. The rising number of individuals returning to our communities from prison and jail represents one of the deﬁning issues of our time.
Individuals reentering society face myriad challenges, not the least of which is securing viable employment; in addition, each individual has a unique set of experiences, needs and resources. This project stems from the understanding that to effectively address the unique characteristics of and challenges facing people reentering society, the best and brightest minds from a diverse array of ﬁelds must collaborate to develop a spectrum of approaches and solutions.
To this end, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation granted support to the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice to convene a series of Conversations between experts in the ﬁelds of entrepreneurship, criminal justice and workforce development, including academics, practitioners, funders, policymakers and formerly incarcerated entrepreneurs. During these Conversations – held in New York, NY and San Diego, CA in Fall 2006 – participants identiﬁed challenges and opportunities, grappled with complex questions regarding program design and sustainability and produced innovative ideas for a national initiative promoting self-employment among formerly incarcerated individuals. The discussions were rich and productive, and the ideas they generated serve as the conceptual framework for this monograph.
The monograph is designed to develop a vocabulary with which criminal justice and micro enterprise representatives can effectively communicate, to address skepticism about the viability of entrepreneurship for this population and to equip both ﬁelds with the knowledge and tools to develop and sustain projects without reinventing the wheel. It begins with a background containing key information, terminology and statistics on the criminal justice system, entrepreneurship and micro enterprise development. It then introduces ﬁve opportunities for facilitating successful reentry with entrepreneurship. These opportunities are infused with relevant research, case studies and examples, as well as proﬁles of thriving businesses founded by formerly incarcerated entrepreneurs. Finally, it provides a set of practical tools for the development of pilot projects and initiatives:
resources for leveraging funding streams; contact points for state and local agencies that must be at the table to launch and sustain an effective project; and ideas for innovative program design provided through proﬁles of programs currently customizing business development services for people with criminal records.
Promoting self-employment among people coming home from prison will be challenging; it will require creativity, perseverance and the ability of professionals across ﬁelds to break down cultural barriers to build productive relationships. However, the inspiring stories and examples shared in this monograph demonstrate the potential that an initiative represents for individuals returning home from prison, their families and our communities. We hope the information, strategies and tools contained within will serve as a catalyst for the conversations that must occur to truly take advantage of this potential.
The phrase “mass incarceration” is now widely used to describe the current state of criminal justice in the United States. Over the past generation, this country’s rate of incarceration has more than quadrupled, rising every year since 1972, now exceeding 735 per 100,000 people (Harrison and Beck 2006). This growth has earned the U.S. the dubious distinction of incarcerating more people per capita than any other country in the world (Walmsley 2005).
Not surprisingly, the number of people reentering the community from prison has soared. Nearly everyone who goes to prison or jail eventually comes home. A high concentration of formerly incarcerated persons (FIPs) return to impoverished communities ill-equipped to provide the resources and services they and their families may need to smoothly transition into society. Among FIPs’ most important short- and long-term needs is securing a job. But legal and practical barriers often prevent FIPs from accessing employment to earn a living wage and move out of or avoid poverty.
As the nation struggles to address the social and economic consequences of mass incarceration, entrepreneurship has emerged as a viable alternative to traditional employment opportunities for disadvantaged and marginalized individuals all over the world. The micro enterprise development ﬁeld, in particular, has demonstrated success assisting the hard-to-employ (e.g. welfare recipients, people with disabilities, immigrants and refugees) transcend poverty through business start-up and development. As more and more people return from prison, many lacking educational and vocational skills necessary to compete in today’s labor market, entrepreneurship may represent a means of capitalizing on an underutilized pool of human resources.
While self-employment may not be a viable option for many individuals leaving prison, exposure to entrepreneurship training can play an important role in fostering successful reentry. A small percentage may have the resources and mindset to use entrepreneurship as the key to their successful reintegration, either as their sole form of employment, or in addition to a traditional job. Others will open a business once they have achieved reentry stability through other forms of employment. For many, because entrepreneurial thinking is infused with the philosophy of empowerment, exposure to entrepreneurial training will reshape their perspective on their role in society. These individuals may never become entrepreneurs themselves, but will use their entrepreneurship training to improve their performance as employees and to proactively engage with their families and communities.
Consequently, even if only a tiny fraction of the vast number of people returning home from prison pursued self employment,
it could make a significant impact. If between one and seven percent of people leaving state or federal prison next year started their own businesses (i.e., the percentage of welfare-to-work participants who start businesses in addition to or instead of securing traditional employment), 6,500 to 45,000 new businesses would be created in the United States.
Nationwide, many FIPs currently operate thriving businesses, and many micro enterprise professionals work with currently and formerly incarcerated individuals to develop and grow their businesses. At the same time,representatives from the field of criminal justice are hungry for fresh approaches to prisoner reentry, and the nation’s attention is focused on questioning the last several decades of mass incarceration and effectively addressing the challenges posed by prisoners returning home. Now is an opportune moment to take advantage of several opportunities that might emerge from collaboration between the fields of entrepreneurship and reentry:
• Cultivate: Foster individual and community empowerment through self-employment.
• Collaborate: Build relationships among and leverage the expertise, resources and structure of
micro enterprise programs, reentry programs, correctional agencies and other partners.
• Educate: Create synergy between the micro enterprise and criminal justice fields by debunking myths and
developing a common vocabulary.
• Innovate: Think creatively about modifying existing services and structures to address reentry challenges
and support a spectrum of successful outcomes.
• Initiate, Evaluate, Disseminate and Advocate: Institutionalize an infrastructure to support and sustain a
national initiative on entrepreneurship and reentry over an extended period of time.
The information, case studies and stories contained in this monograph aim to inspire professionals across entrepreneurship, workforce development and criminal justice fields to recognize and embrace entrepreneurship and self-employment as appropriate and valuable tools for reintegration. Given the size of the population returning home from prison and jail, we cannot afford to ignore their potential as resources for community and economic development; nor can we overlook the opportunity that entrepreneurship represents as a path to financial stability and engaged citizenship.
Entrepreneurship is broadly applied to describe a variety of undertakings,ranging from innovative, high-growth ventures to much simpler forms of self-employment. Some definitions place strong emphasis on innovation,others on wealth creation. However, the term is also used to simply describe a method of generating income in lieu of or in addition to traditional employment.
Research shows that adversity plays a major role in spurring enterprise building. Thus, the poor, the under-educated, minorities and immigrants are often at the forefront of entrepreneurial activity around the world. Studies of the informal (i.e., licit but unregulated) economy found that small enterprises have a “strong and natural presence,” pointing to higher entrepreneurial
tendencies among those facing barriers to the traditional labor market (Thetford and Edgcomb 2004).
Individual motivations for pursuing entrepreneurial ventures are as varied as the life circumstances of those who choose this career path. The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) states that at the initial stage, self-employment can provide additional income to supplement a low paying job. For those who lack the educational or language skills required for a professional position, starting a business is preferable to minimum wage employment. Self-employment further offers the opportunity to use
talents and find fulfillment in ways rarely possible in traditional employment.
Meanwhile, many women choose self-employment for the flexibility they need to balance family and work responsibilities. People with disabilities are attracted by the opportunity to work from home. For most individuals,the prospect of being their own manager is the most appealing aspect of entrepreneurship.
There appears to be some consensus that successful entrepreneurs share certain personality traits, including readiness to take risks, non-conformity, need for autonomy and creativity. The barriers most frequently cited to successful entrepreneurship include lack of assets and capital, social networks, business skills and prior self-employment experience (AEO 2005).
This is the reason we want to open Second Chance Alliance, Please support or sponsor our vision. Click the insignia GofundMe to view.
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