Can we end mass incarceration without mentioning race?

By Alan Bean

The criminal justice reform movement has two distinct branches that may have trouble sharing a common message or strategy.

The first branch of reformers is best represented by Michelle Alexander’s “New Jim Crow” thesis.  Alexander sees the war on drugs as primarily an assault on poor people of color.  Reformers, she argues, have either avoided racial arguments altogether, or have focused on Rosa Parks-type defendants who transcend racial stereotypes.  Consider this quote from her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness:

Challenging mass incarceration requires something civil rights advocates have long been reluctant to do: advocacy on behalf of criminals. Even at the height of Jim Crow segregation—when black men were more likely to be lynched than to receive a fair trial in the South—NAACP lawyers were reluctant to advocate on behalf of blacks accused of crimes unless the lawyers were convinced of the men’s innocence . . . outside of the death penalty arena, civil rights advocates have long been reluctant to leap to the defense of accused criminals. Advocates have found they are most successful when they draw attention to certain types of black people (those who are easily understood by mainstream whites as ‘good’ and ‘respectable’) and tell certain types of stories about them. Since the days when abolitionists struggled to eradicate slavery, racial justice advocates have gone to great lengths to identify black people who defy racial stereotypes, and they have exercised considerable message discipline, telling only those stories of racial injustice that will evoke sympathy among whites.

Alexander argues that reform strategies that deflect attention from the real purpose of mass incarceration are futile:

We can continue on the well-worn path. But if we do so, we should labor under no illusions that we will end mass incarceration or shake the foundations of the current racial order . . . We must face the realities of the new caste system and embrace those who are most oppressed by it if we hope to end the new Jim Crow.

Most mainstream reformers, especially those with libertarian leanings, want to move in a quite different direction.  Real political change, they argue, depends on convincing mainstream voters, most of them white, that mass incarceration was an expensive mistake.  Explicit references to race, social class, or social justice should be avoided, moderate reformers insist, because they hook the white resentment that sparked mass incarceration in the first place.

The moderate view is well represented by the Pew Center’s Public Safety Performance Project, an outfit so non-ideological that conservative politicos in Texas have no problem working with them.  According to an informative article in today’s Los Angeles Times:

Reform in Texas has been relatively well received among conservatives, in part because of the results, and in part because of a good sales job. Texas is among a number of states that have received guidance from the Pew Center’s Public Safety Performance Project, which promises that reforms will be data-driven and not affect public safety.

In March, two research companies polled 1,200 U.S. voters and conducted focus groups for Pew, then suggested “effective messages” for lawmakers interested in reform. Among the tips: Focus on the success in Texas, given its “strong law-and-order reputation.” And avoid arguments based on “racial justice concerns.”

Radical reformers are pleased to see decelerating incarceration rates, but doubt that fiscal arguments will have a lasting effect.  Michelle Alexander believes that real reform will require the establishment of a new moral consensus in America that acknowledges the existence of a new Jim Crow and consciously chooses a better path. 

Moderate reformers are far more hopeful about the Right on Crime movement which has been endorsed by conservative heavyweights like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Education Secretary William J. Bennett, and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform.

The Right on Crime movement, as Doug Berman correctly points out, is driven by two concerns not cited in the Los Angeles Times article: “(1) after the 2010 election, Republicans are in firm governing control in many states with the biggest prison budget problems, and thus this movement helps provide political cover for those Republican leaders who (sensibly?) prefer cost-cutting prison reforms to tax increases, and (2) Newt Gingrich has taken up this issue at the same time he seems to be talking serious about making a run for Republican nomination for President in 2012.”

But social and fiscal conservatives have a problem.  Mass incarceration (and lavish military spending) were part of a package of initiatives embraced by movement conservatives in the 1980s because they inevitably directed public finances away from social programs that benefited poor African-Americans into policy priorities designed to damage and humiliate poor people of color.  

Small government conservatives want to scale down the size of government by consciously embracing extravagantly expensive policies like sending military commanders weapons systems they don’t want and locking up over two million people.  The goal was to create deficits at both the state and federal levels so immense that only the virtual elimination of most social programs could stop the bleeding.  As Grover Norquist famously opined: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

Moderate reformers have good reason to be afraid of hooking white racial resentment. 

Many commentators feel it is unfair to apply 21st century sensibilities to police procedures in the 1980s.  Actually, public concern about the civil rights of criminal defendants was much stronger in the 1960s and 1970s than it is today.  It is no coincidence that the most flagrant abuses in Chicago took place in the early years of the Reagan administration when racial resentment was white-hot.

In the course of Jon Burge’s perjury trial, dozens of victims related chilling stories and this testimony was corroborated by medical personnel and other public figures who couldn’t conceivably have participated in a conspiracy to smear law enforcement (as many Chicago police officers have suggested). 

Judge Joan Lefkow used Mr. Burge’s sentencing to chide the defendant for refusing to admit his key role in Chicago’s reign of terror, ending with a passionate defense of the American legal system.  This extended quotation is taken from the transcript of her remarks and provides an effective summary of her remarks:

I have read letters and statements from many individuals who were not called to testify at trial but wanted to be heard. Those statements, and they have all been made available to you, of course, those statements describe brutality at your hands or those under your supervision or command, some even more appalling than the torture the witnesses here have testified about.

One remarkable thing about the statements was how many came from outside the Chicago area. These people say they had to leave Chicago because they were terrified that the police would do this to them again.

One statement from a prisoner, however, will probably haunt me the longest. This man reports that he has been in prison for 30 years. He stated he was 17 when he was arrested while walking down the street and brutally tortured until he confessed to a murder. He said, I had the body of a man but I was a child inside.

He remains in prison for a crime he insists he did not commit, being abandoned by family and friends who trusted that the police would not have charged him had he not done the crime.

The grandmother, who stood by him, died while he was in prison, a graying, middle-aged adult. Imagine the loss.

I also point out the statement Mr. [Anthony] Holms made yesterday as particularly moving. He said, I remember looking around the room at the other officers, and I thought one of them would say, “that’s enough,” but they didn’t.

Now when I hear your attorney implying that if someone did the crime, no harm, no foul, they deserved it, I am frankly shocked. Even if counsel only means to say that none of these people can be believed because they are criminals, the mountain of evidence to the contrary completely belies that position.

So what does all of this have to do with the crimes of conviction, you ask? It demonstrates at the very least a serious lack of respect for the due process of law and your unwillingness to acknowledge the truth in the face of all of this evidence.

The freedom that we treasure most of all in this country is the right to live free of governmental abuse of power. Those who represent the government and hold power over other citizens are the embodiment of the principle that we live by — the rule of law. The rule of law holds us together as we live out our great social experiment known as the United States of America.

But although the vast majority of Burge’s victims were African-American, Judge Lefkow blithely dismissed the suggestion that Burge and his associates were motivated by racial animus. 

As for implications of racism, I hear you, and I know that those hurt you. I do not believe that anyone in this courtroom believes you are the cause of the racial divisions that plague our community — nor should you. I kept evidence of racism out of the trial because I believe everyone must be judged by their conduct, not their feelings or beliefs.

There are those who believe you are deeply racist, and there are those who believe you could not possibly have tortured suspects. I doubt that my opinion or what happens here will change anyone’s views. You are the person you are, neither all good nor all evil, just like the rest of us. (emphasis mine)

First, Judge Lefkow explains that she kept allegations of racism out of the courtroom because conduct, not motivation was legally at issue.  Then, she gives her own theory about officer Burge’s motivation:

I have asked many times what motivated you. My best guess is ambition. Euripides was quoted as saying long ago, ambition drove many men to become false, to have one thought locked in the breast, another ready on the tongue.

Judge Joan Lefkow

Does Judge Lefkow really believe that dozens of police officers operating over a period of almost three decades were all motivated by a desire to get ahead?  The scandal in Chicago has never been about one isolated man.  A long list of officers have made sweeping denials about the existence of torture in the Chicago Police Department, and some of them may too see their day in federal court.  Were all these people merely ambitious?  Why then did they have so many black victims and so few white victims?

Judge Lefkow doesn’t tell us why she dismissed the suggestion that racism contributed to the use of terror in police interrogations, so I will offer my opinion.  The judge knows that the Burge case has divided Chicago along racial lines for decades.  This explains her weird assurance to the defendant that he was not solely responsible for the racial divide in the Windy City.  Lefkow doesn’t like race talk because it makes people mad, and when people are mad they are unreasonable, and when everyone is unreasonable the political machinery gets fouled up.  So, in the interest of racial harmony, she declares from the bench that Jon Burge is NOT a racist and strongly suggests that the Chicago PD isn’t racist either.  In other words, the civil rights community can be discounted.

How are African-American opinion leaders in Chicago supposed to respond to this kind of provocation?

Here is the fatal weakness of the moderate approach to criminal justice reform strategy–it pretends that people of color don’t exist.

You can’t blame policy experts for behaving as if all Americans were white.  For generations, the Democratic Party maintained political power, at the national level and throughout the South, by ignoring people of color.  When the Democrats decided to quit their race-baiting ways, the Republicans picked up the ball and ran with it.  The politics of racial resentment shaped 20th century politics from beginning to end.

This being the case, it is natural that criminal justice reformers would devise strategies that sweep the feelings and concerns of African-Americans and Latinos off the policy table with one cavalier wave of the hand.

But it won’t work.  Mass incarceration was created by the politics of racial resentment and will not end until a new, and better, political consensus comes into being.  Michelle Alexander gets the last word:

Today, no less than fifty years ago, a flawed public consensus lies at the core of the prevailing caste system. When people think about crime, especially drug crime, they do not think about suburban housewives violating laws regulating prescription drugs or white frat boys using ecstasy. Drug crime in this country is understood to be black and brown, and it is because drug crime is racially defined in the public consciousness that the electorate has not cared much what happens to drug criminals—at least not the way they would have cared if the criminals were understood to be white. It is this failure to care, really care across color lines, that lies at the core of this system of control and every racial caste system that has existed in the United States or anywhere else in the world.”

71 thoughts on “Can we end mass incarceration without mentioning race?

  1. I think that studies show a universal tendency to think that people of a different race look more similar than people of the same race.

    I think I could organize a group to write a bill for standards for eyewitness identification and post conviction review of procedures and evidence. We could start write here on this website if you want Alan. This could be a win win for everyone. I actually have already started a draft.

  2. As far as white Americans are concerned, talk about racism is terribly impolite. It is necessary to stop being polite to white people, many of whom are simply fools, some merely bigots but others harbour KKK level racist ideas. I don’t know into which of these categories Judge Lefkow resides but she is an excellent example of the type of white person who needs a bit of robust discourtesy.

    Some people are incapable of learning that shit stinks unless a nice wet sampleof the substance is smeared in their faces. Perhaps it should be compulsory for all paricipants in the legal system to undergo the antiracism training of the kind pioneered by Jane Elliott of fame for the Documentaries “Blue Eyes” and “A Class Divided”. When I say participants I mean all participants this would include Judges, Prosecutors, Criminal Defense Lawyers, police and potential jurors. No one should be allowed to sit on a jury who has not been sensitized to the power of negative prejudicial treatment to tilt the playing field against those that receive it.

  3. One of the things that people fail to understand about the laws about certain mind altering substances are that association with drugs is used by respectable society as a litmus test for irredemable evil (witchcraft and heresy trials being out of fashion). By definition drug traders and users are extremely evil people. The idea that a user or trader in drugs might be no more criminal in the way of committing real crimes against persons or property than a similar person from the same community who does not use or trade drugs is something that most respectable Americans are conditioned to screen out of their thought processes. Thus drug laws are used to tar all members of poor nonwhite communities, not just those who have been convicted as evil people who have forfeited the entitlement to “human rights” and to any Government services apart from the army of occupation police and the courts to prosecute them.

    I think it might be time to suggest to black drug felons, that rather than leaving prison and turning the other cheek a-la Jesus of Nazareth, they should commit themselves to emerge from prison worse than they went in and commit themselves to getting some payback against the respectable white people from the suburbs when they finally get out. Revenge is the highest of all human values and it is white need for revenge that is driving the drug war war against Niggers and this war will not end as long as the only people getting hurt are bad people. If black people locked up for mandatory minimum crack sentences to protect the children of white soccer mums from buying marijuana started to emerge from prison and then each of them were to whack a few of those white soccer mums or their dear little children with caps from a 9mm then maybe the righteous whiteous would rethink.

    Black people need to realize that the vast majority of white Americans are their enemies and that being polite to them is a fools game. Some white people may be reached by sites such as FOJ or books such as Michelle Alexander’s but a large proportion need stronger attention getting measures. Probably some robust discourtesy to some of these malicious or foolish politicians, judges and prosecutors should be tried before the 9mm bullets method. Sometime uncivil war is the only way.

  4. Alan, just tried to use the [strike] [/strike] tags to do a typically crossing out of one term and replacement with another more appropriate one. Strike is in the list of available html but it did not work. I may have made a mistake in entering the tags but if not you should check whether your version of wordpress supports them or if support is optional and not enabled.

  5. To my mind, the most important idea from Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow is that the obvious idea of using statistics to highlight the racial disparities in the enforcement of the law has been closed off by decisions of the US Supreme Court. Even collecting the raw information from which to compile comparative statistics for the varying treatments of white, black and brown is impossible unless one already has evidence f uneven application of the law to justify getting action to the raw data. The quickness with which thw SCOTUS closed off this potential avenue of fighting discriminatory application of the law cannot be seen as innocent.

  6. I disagree strongly with your sentiments here. Non-violence was a powerful tool for civil rights activists and the movement made significant gains until non-violence was abandoned. On the other hand, non-violence was a tactic ideally suited to overturning Jim Crow injustice which was a different animal than the new Jim Crow.

  7. You don’t have to justify getting to the raw data, you can get a lot of it directly from the petitioners without permission from the courts.

    I think the addresses of all U.S. Supreme Court applications are publicly available. They get about 8 to 9 thousand pro se petitions ever year and also a lot of non pro se petitions that they don’t take. It probably wouldn’t be that hard to go thru the Supreme Court rejects and pick out those related to criminal prosecution due process claims. State Supreme Court petitioners are another database as are criminal defendants who complain about lawyers to attorney regulators. Then you could just design a survey and mail it to the criminal defendant petitioners. Follow up. There is a high likelihood that anyone who was so determined that they filed a petition in the Supreme Court has tons of documentation about their case that they are ready, willing and able to share.

  8. Alan, I also strongly disagree with the comment supporting violent resistance. I disagree with it to the extent that I would support you if you simply delete that comment. Friends of Justice is and should continue to be firmly non-violent.

  9. Proposed eyewitness identification bill

    All line ups to include at least X # people
    All people in line ups should wear identical clothing provided by police.
    All people in the line up should have same color of eyes, hair and skin tone and be within Y years of same age
    Police should provide identical wigs or hats for all people in the line up
    All proceedings must be video taped
    Where these procedures are not followed and convictions were not accompanied by DNA evidence, then there should be a right to a post conviction review and ……

    Obviously looking forward to standardized procedures is easier than reviewing convictions.

    How does this sound for first draft?

  10. It sounds good. You might also mention that the officers conducting the line up should not be familiar with the investigation. This discourages conscious or unconscious prompting of the witness.

  11. Good idea.

    The new House Speaker offers email to everyone not just people from his district. We could add your idea, and other people’s ideas, and just email it to him and it would cost us nothing. There is no advantage in just assuming that they will ignore what we send in.

    Do you know anything about digital line ups? If that would suffice in a court of law, the technology could change the clothing, hats and wigs and it would be easier for a long distance unbiased professional to conduct the procedure.

  12. Kay.

    I have mislaid my copy of “The New Jim Crow”. When I find it I will get back to you on the exact references to the means by which any attempts to use of statistics on racial disparities to act as a corrective have been blocked.

  13. How is that calling a white person as racist is now considered more hurtful than hanging someone by the neck from a tree? White people who complain about the incivility of failing to pretend that racism is in the past are to the say the least hypocrites and more correctly they are racists bearing racist malice of considerable strength.

    Both John Burge and Joan Lefkow are to a very considerable extent racist, yet their racism does not manifest in streams of speech littered with the N-word. Nevertheless their racism is of a kind that is doing considerable damage to black and brown people. Racism is multidimensional, there are different aspects or dimensions. Some racists are quick to use racial epithets but that does not mean that persons who on the surface are scrupulously polite may not be worse than people whose speech is littered with racial epithets. The essence of racism is the presence of beliefs in the mind that inevitably lead to discrimination and the belief that racism is better not talked about is itself one such belief.

    John Buge did not use terror to extract confessions from white people. This may simply mean that he feared that white people asserting use of torture might be believed where blacks would not. However his making of this assessment may or may not be related to personal racism. Theoretically a non-racist John Burge may have assessed that the racism of the majority of white people would protect him from any assertions of his torture of blacks from being believed, however his ability to understand the motives of his fellow whites may be partly down to his sharing the same motives.

    The effects of Joan Lefkow’s exclusion of any discussion of racism from her court has really damaging effects, I cannot see it any other way than as a strategy by a member of the white race to maintain white racial power over blacks. A racist is as as racist does and that whites have adapted new tactics in the race war should not prevent us recognizing those tactics as racist.

  14. Kay.

    Found my copy of “The New Jim Crow”.

    The first mention of the closing off of avenues of resistance based on statistics occurs in the Introduction in that section summarizing the contents of chapter 5. In the hard-back version it is on the bottom of page 17 :-.

    “The federal court system has effectively immunized the current system from challenges on the grounds of racial bias, much as earlier systems of control were protected and endorsed by the US Supreme Court “.

    In chapter 3 on the bottom page 100 and the top of page 101 one finds this passage:-

    “Then the damning step: Close the courthouse doors to all claims by defendants and private litigants that the criminal justice system operates in racially discriminatory fashion. Demand that anyone who wants to challenge racial bias in the system offer, in advance, clear proof that the racial disparities are the product of intentional racial discrimination – i.e., the work of a bigot. This evidence will almost never be available in the era of colorblindness, because everyone knows — but does not say — that the enemy in the War on Drugs can be identified by race.”

    Then on page 106 there is a section entitled “closing the Courthouse Doors — McClesky v Kemp”

    This discusses an appeal against a death sentence by a black man convicted of killing a white victim on the basis of racial bias in sentencing. On the bottom of page 106 there is the following passage:-

    “…… the Supreme Court ruled in McCleskey v Kemp that racial bias in sentencing, even if shown through credible statistical evidence, could not be challenged under the Fourteenth Amendment in the absence of clear evidence of conscious discriminatory intent.”

    Near the bottom of page 107 there is this passage:-

    “Sensitive to the fact that numerous factors besides races can influence the decision making of prosecutors, judges and juries. Baldhus and his colleagues subjected the raw data to highly sophisticated statistical analysis to see if nonracial factors might explain the disparities. Yet after accounting for thirty-five nonracial variables, the researchers found that defendants charged with killing white victims were 4.3 times more likely to receive a death sentence than defendants charged with killing blacks. Black defendants, like McCleskey, who killed white victims had the highest chance of being sentenced to death in Georgia.”

    Further down occurs this passage:-

    The statistical evidence of discrimination that Baldus had developed was the strongest ever presented in court regarding race and criminal sentencing. If McCleskey’s evidence was not enough to prove discrimination in the absence of some kind of racist utterance, what would be?”

    In chapter 5 on page 189 there is a section headed “Closing the Courthouse Doors” in which the following appears:-

    “Currently mcCleskey v Kemp and its progeny serve much the same function as Dred Scott and Plessy. In McCleskey the supreme Court demonstrated that it is once again in protection mode i firmly committed to the prevailing system of control. As chapter 3 demonstrated, the Court has closed the corthouse doors to racial bias at every stage of the criminal justice process, from stops and searches to plea bargaining and sentencing.”

  15. Kay.

    On page 108 of the New Jim Crow occurs this passage:-

    “In erecting this high standard, the Court knew full well that the standard could not be met absent an admission that a prosecutor or judge acted because of racial bias. The majority opinion openly acknowledged that long standing rules generally bar litigants from obtaining discovery from the prosecution regarding charging patterns and motives, and that similar rules forbid introduction of evidence of jury deliberations even when a juror has chosen to make deliberations public.”

    I am still searching for the sections which I remember reading bout blocking the collection of raw data necessary to demonstrate racial bias. I continue to look for it.

  16. I am of the opinion that there is an opportunity in this Congress to pass criminal justice initiatives that will help some people who have been criminally accused. The Republicans want to broaden their base of support and discredit the Democrats who didn’t propose criminal justice initiatives and the Democrats won’t be able to justify voting against something reasonable. Plus, reducing the number of prisoners will save money.

    I would name a witness identification bill after Brandon Moon. He was the only blue eyed white-man in the lineup resulting in his conviction for rape and that was the only evidence linking him to the crime. Maybe someone could suggest other people in similar situations and their names could be in the bill too.

    The FBI could develop eyewitness identification technology and offer it to both state law enforcement agencies and people convicted on the basis of eye witness identification. There could actually be funding for scientific studies where people would be asked to identify other people from a line up just to verify that the procedures used are reliable.

    Witness bias is not necessarily based on racism. I noticed when I was in college, in the 70’s, that I was very aware of the appearance and identification of young men with pony tails and facial hair, which I thought was attractive at the time, but that I barely noticed what old men in suits looked like. To me at age 20, all old men in suits looked the same. These days a lot of old men in suits are being accused of crimes and eyewitness identification procedures affect them also.

  17. Thanks for sharing this important material, Carlyle. Stuart Banner’s book on the history of the death penalty covers much the same ground and reaches similar conclusions. The takeaway, for reform advocates, is that the traditional tactic of filing civil rights lawsuits on behalf of carefully selected defendants is of limited utility. When you talk to attorneys about legal remedies, as in Tulia, for instance, the response is usually some variation on “The law in this area is really bad!” That is why Friends of Justice pursues a narrative strategy designed to expose the normal functioning (or dysfunction) of the criminal justice system. It is a non-legal (or extra-judicial) tactic designed to create open debate about the fairness of the current system. But as Michelle Alexander insists, only a new moral consensus will change the system. For a number of years, perhaps a decade, civil rights advocates were able to make great progress with racial claims in the legal system; but those days are gone and only a dramatic shift in consensus will bring them back.

  18. I feel that a big part of the issue is to even get people to care. How many elephant in the room issues already out there are met with indifference and apathy?

  19. In order to get people to care about the criminally accused, I think you need to convince them that they or their loved ones could become unjustly criminally accused. One way to do that is to find people who a.) were unjustly criminally accused and b.) seems like them. Then you aren’t competing with all the worthwhile causes out there, you are appealing to their own self interest.

  20. Kay this comment is right on. I know someone who had a son who was charged as a sex offender for having consensual sex. She was underage and he was barely “over age.” With the expenditure of a lot of lawyer fees by his parents he got off with deferred adjudication and is now a productive citizen. His parents now have a much less “tuff on crime” attitude, even though they are generally very conservative, socially, politically, and theologically.

  21. Kay: I am not opposed to this approach. In fact, I believe, as Charles suggests, that it can be very effective in certain cases. But when black males are going to prison at six times the rate of white males, and when the poor and the uneducated comprise the vast majority of the imprisoned population, it appears that the chances of upper middle class white people running afoul of the criminal justice system are relatively remote. The fact is that people who look like me aren’t particularly vulnerable to the new Jim Crow. That is one reason why the current regime is so effective–it chooses its victims carefully. Sure, we are all at risk; but when racial, class and socio-economic factors are taken into consideration, an upper class white male is about one-twentieth as likely to be wrongfully convicted as a poor, low-status black male. Most criminal justice reform strategies avoid race-specific arguments because white folks don’t respond well to this approach. Unfortunately, we’ve got to reform the system we’ve got. If racial bias is a major issue in the criminal justice system, we can’t improve the situation by ignoring race. That’s my argument.

    Randy’s concern is legitimate. There is little overlap between the folks who vote and the folks impacted by mass incarceration. By and large, voters aren’t impacted by mass incarceration, thus they don’t really give a damn. Narrative is one way to change that.

    Alan Bean

  22. Start with God’s plan (need prophets and prayerful contemplation). Then, with a foundation of intercessory prayer (see anti-apartheid), lead from the community (offenders, families, communities) that is in captivity (Exodus) in partnership the faith community. From the words of the aboriginal activists’ community: “If you have come to help me, go home. If you have come because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let’s work together.” The faith community must lead from within and then outward (to the secular and political community) to change hearts and minds. With God, anything is possible!

  23. As I have previously revealed, I was imprisoned without a criminal charge, and therefore I feel like I can report my observations. I spend 4 months at Clear Creek County Jail in Georgetown Colorado where I was a federal hold but the majority of the prisoners were local holds. I was trying to make the best of the situation by intellectualizing.

    In that context, I met three women doing time for DUI. I liked all of them and all three had the same story. They had been skiing West of Georgetown. After skiing they went to a bar. All three of them were drinking margaritas. They all lived East of Georgetown. When they left the bar to drive home, they were all arrested thru mass DUI screenings. None of them had previously been arrested for DUI.

    My thought as an amateur public policy analyst was that the first point of intervention should have been at the bar. These women went to the bar after skiing to socialize with people and because they were thirsty after a day skiing. It cannot be that hard to go thru the bar scenario and find places to systematically reduce the risk of DUI. For instance 1.) require serving of free water with every other beverage 2.) mandatory alcohol content of mixed drinks 3.) mandatory offering of reduced alcohol mixed drinks i.e. weak margaritas 4.) require free popcorn, bread, pretzels etc on all tables. 5.) limit to two shot equivalents per customer. 6.) blow device free near exit.

  24. @alanbean

    My understanding is that at various times in various cultures older educated people have been targeted for incarceration. My experience of the jail population was totally skewed by my gender. The majority of prisoners I met were caucasian and among the black prisoners I met the only complaint of racial discrimination I can remember was a woman who said she was improperly denied a bar license because she successfully defended a murder charge while she was still in law school. She was imprisoned in my pod because of a charge of possession of an unlicensed gun.

  25. One point re racial bias that could be studied is the type of legal counsel that was used at first points of contact with the criminal justice system.

    It would probably be possible to search criminal records reports and compare outcomes when the parents hired a lawyer when their kids first “got in trouble” and those that didn’t. You could look at crimes common among teens such as. 1.) Driving a neighbor or strangers car without permission 2.) Stealing booze from private residence for the purpose of consumption 3.) Committing statutory rape by having sex with someone 4 – 5 years younger. 4.) Punching or pushing a family member. 5.) Shop lifting 6.) DUI.

    Someone could probably collect and digitize all this information and run a regression analysis and write meaningful reports about the statistical significance and variance of the results. Maybe someone already has.

  26. As a white woman like Judge Lefkow, I’ve seen how people can intellectually hold the belief that human beings should be treated equally despite differences in race or ancestry; but be extremely unwilling to either consider the priviliges our skin colour affords, or accept the idea that we may be behaving in ways that contribute to our racist society. Good, egalitarian, intentions are wonderful, but the road to hell can be paved with them, especially if we attempt to “prove” in a court of law that an intentional racist (which all we educated white people agree is bad) decision of a prosecutor put an accused person in jeopardy of the death penalty, and not institutional racism. So I would agree with the Friends of Justice’s approach to the apartheid in the criminal justice system, rather than civil suits, or conservative or legal “colour blind” politics.

  27. Allen:

    I would like to read more about this heartbreaking story (excerpt from above article). Can you provide cites for reading material? Where is he incarcerated, does anyone visit? etc.

    One statement from a prisoner, however, will probably haunt me the longest. This man reports that he has been in prison for 30 years. He stated he was 17 when he was arrested while walking down the street and brutally tortured until he confessed to a murder. He said, I had the body of a man but I was a child inside.

    He remains in prison for a crime he insists he did not commit, being abandoned by family and friends who trusted that the police would not have charged him had he not done the crime.

    The grandmother, who stood by him, died while he was in prison, a graying, middle-aged adult. Imagine the loss.

  28. Read Mark Kurlansky’s book “Nonviolence” – your suggestion just wouldn’t work. Regardless of its inherent immorality, as a tactic it is simply a really bad idea. If it was tried (and the retaliatory nature of the soccer mom capping response was overt, as it would have to be or the action makes no statement) the violence against Blacks would be very intense and widespread. Black prisoners would simply not be freed and Black suspects would be killed “resisting arrest.” The stereotype of the criminalblackman would be reinforced and used to justify further and ever more violent and unjust repression.

  29. Oops, I neglected to provide a link to a full transcript of Judge Lefkow’s statement (it’s there now). I have no knowledge of the case you mention apart from what the judge said. I believe she is talking about a letter she received from one of the police department’s victims.


  30. Thanks for sharing your comment, Dave. I may be wrong, but I think you were taking a rhetorical question for a policy statement. If so, read the full article (in which the question posed in my title is answered in the negative) and share your response.

  31. Dear Cheryl

    What is his name and where did this happen?

    Are you a lawyer?

    Have you considered filing a professional complaint about the prosecutor and his defense attorney both of whom must have been informed about his allegations?

    Does he have any evidence supporting his claim of torture and extorted confession?

  32. You write: “He stated he was 17 when he was arrested while walking down the street and brutally tortured until he confessed to a murder. ”

    Here is another case in the news lately.

    Bill Heirens, infamous as Chicago’s “Lipstick Killer,” is the longest-serving inmate in the Illinois prison system. He’s been behind bars since the age of 17, when he confessed to three gruesome murders that dominated the news headlines throughout the summer of ’46.

    A deal seemed to be the only way to stay alive. In September 1946, Heirens signed a confession and was led off to prison, where he has remained for the last 63 years. (For a detailed account of the case, and especially the media frenzy, see Robert McClory’s “Kill-Crazed Animal?” which ran in the Reader August 24, 1989.)

    Heirens has been protesting his innocence ever since.

    “Housed at Dixon Correctional Center, the 82-year-old Heirens can’t get out of bed or bathe himself, and his cataract-plagued eyes have left him unable to read. He has severe diabetes and gets shots of insulin twice a day, along with a cocktail of other medications. Nurses constantly change bandages on his legs, where diabetic sores weep fluids. They say he is beginning to show signs of dementia.

    Last year, he collapsed while inching his way down the hall, grasping the handrail, and was sent by ambulance to UIC medical center, where he stayed for four days.”

    Does the fact that the old man is white make it any less tragic?

    So my answer to your article is yes not only can we end mass incarceration without mentioning race but we have to. Focusing on it ferments violence in prison. Below you will read how the present racial tension in prisons was firmly established.

    Harper’s Magazine Feb. 1972

    “War Behind Walls”

    Page 4, a religious doctrine of hate:

    …what increases racial polarization in prison beyond conciliation is the mutative leap in black militant rhetoric. This rhetoric is heard within prison walls by unsophisticated minds and gives those blacks that already hate whites a rational for murder. …

    Everyone understands that blacks have been brutalized by generations of institutional racism, and recently by inertia and indifference. What the sympathetic fail to grasp is that sometimes the psychological truncation is so great that it cannot be repaired. Nothing is left but hate. They have no desire—no motivation—for anything but revenge and a license for what they desire. Additionally they have decided that they are political prisoners. The black realizes that he has committed a crime, or has acted against the statures. However, the claim of “political prisoner” comes from the argument that he was formed by a corrupt system, that his acts are a result thereof, and therefore he cannot be held responsible. Secondarily, he feels he has never been a part of this system, but is still in slavery, and consequently the white laws do not apply to him. Such personalities are often found in prison, where the flower of black racism is blossoming, virulent and paranoid. Many white convicts are equally dangerous and intractable, but they at least intellectually accept their acts are wrong. And even white racist recognize their attitudes are no longer approved, to be shouted, whereas blacks are open in their racism. The catechism of Elijah Muhammad‘s Black Muslims that all whites are “beasts” that Moses raised on their hind legs and led from the caves has wide following in prison. Such doctrines seem absurd, but blacks with third grade educations and Baptist parents who inculcated them with an inability to function without some religion believe this doctrine as zealously as devout Catholics believe in the Immaculate Conception. Elijah allows them to have god and hate Whitey too….guards often seize writings proclaiming white genocide and the joys of bayoneting a pregnant white woman, see all blacks as animals, a direct threat…

    From Edward Bunker’s memoir “Education of A Felon”:

    Scene outside San Quentin’s mess hall in the Mid 1950’s:

    Page 132: Although each race tended to congregate with their own, there was little overt racial tension or hostility. That would change in the decade ahead.

    Page 134: Whites were still about 70 percent of the prison population. There was little racial tension.

    Page 136: He was really my friend, (I must insert parenthetically, especially to convicts who read this, that such a friendship would never had started in San Quentin after the early part of the 1960’s, when the race wars began.)

    Page 145: “What I did for a black friend in the mid-fifties is something I would never have even considered a decade later….By the time Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated, racial estrangement was absolute in San Quentin. And it remains almost the same three decades later. ”

    Now it has been four plus decades!

    Beginning on page 272 of Education of a Felon by Eddie Bunker;

    “I think George Jackson was introduced to Marxist rhetoric when he was discovered by white Bay Area Marxists, with Fay Stender being the first and foremost. Until then he had simply hated whites. I was already a veteran when he first came to prison, and was in a nearby cell. I heard him say that he didn’t want equality; he wanted vengeance on the European race….

    Page 276: The Vietnam War rocked America’s college campuses. Bombs exploded; white radicals became revolutionaries and robbed banks. Meanwhile the black ghettos in one American city after another burned in “long, hot summers” to the chant “burn, baby, burn.” In Mississippi the Klan murdered civil rights workers. In San Francisco a group of blacks prowled the night and killed whites they caught alone. These were called the Zebra Killings, and I thought it likely that black ex-convicts were involved (I was right), for only in California’s prisons had I seen similar killings. Both sides did it, but George Jackson was the first. As with everyone, he did no evil in his own mind. All that matters is for the individual to justify himself in the mirror, and George did so with four hundred years of slavery and then Jim Crow….

    The guards hated him and the “commie pinko *******s who took a hate-filled killer and made him a revolutionary.” They didn’t appreciate being called pigs and fascists, which they none saw when they looked in the mirrors, although a few would wink when queried about racism, especially when they started being killed.

    White convicts also resented being referred to as neo-Nazis and white supremacists, villains of the plot, as it were.”

    During the late 1960’s George Jackson’s rhetoric resulted in the death of at least a half dozen guards and many more white inmates. Jackson’s words and actions changed forever the racial climate in prison as guards previously even handed reacted to this very real threat. (This is a first hand observation that Bunker made in his memoir.)

    Alexander’s book will continue to fuel this cycle of violence. The men reading this in prison are not non-violent intellectuals. Many are cold blooded murderers and rapists. And they will do continue to act as they have done on the outside.

    Human Rights Watch published a report about this: “No Escape: Male Rape in US Prisons”

    “Inter-racial sexual abuse is common only to the extent that it involves white non-Hispanic prisoners being abused by African Americans or Hispanics. In contrast, African American and Hispanic inmates are much less frequently abused by members of other racial or ethnic groups; instead, sexual abuse tends to occur only within these groups.

    Past studies have documented the prevalence of black on white sexual aggression in prison. These findings are further confirmed by Human Rights Watch’s own research. Overall, our correspondence and interviews with white, black, and Hispanic inmates convince us that white inmates are disproportionately targeted for abuse.”

    In Texas prisons, violence and racism reign
    by Jorge Antonio Renaud
    Published: Nov. 22

    Jorge Antonio Renaud, a graduate student in the School of Social Work, spent 27 years in Texas prisons. This post is part of a Know series on the Texas prison system.

    “Relieved of the certainty that random violence might result in deadly retaliation, incoming gang bangers — overwhelmingly black and Hispanic — brought their street codes into prison: the drive-by mentality took hold, and it was visited against Anglos. These cons didn’t limit their violence to enemies — they adopted the attitude that any “white boy” was fair game, and that he could and should be broken by continual, unexpected gang beatings administered regardless of whether he fought back, or whether he showed “heart.” The unwilling joined white supremacy gangs for protection, while those men weary of constant beatings became sex slaves and cash cows.

    This aspect of Texas prisons results in thousands of men leaving the system with a predator mentality or a raging racism buried so deep it might never be eradicated. Reducing barriers to reentry is one thing — understanding and relieving the trauma this unceasing violence leaves on the thousands of Texans returning to our streets is another.”

    Justice Justice of Texas wrote in 1999:

    “Texas prison inmates continue to live in fear – a fear that is incomprehensible to most of the state’s free world citizens. More vulnerable inmates are raped, beaten, owned, and sold by more powerful ones. Despite their pleas to prison officials, they are often refused protection. Instead, they pay for protection, in money, services, or sex. Correctional officers continue to rely on the physical control of excessive force to enforce order. Those inmates locked away in administrative segregation, especially those with mental illnesses, are subjected to extreme deprivations and daily psychological harm. Such practices and conditions cannot stand in our society, under our Constitution.”

    Here is a quote from the Supreme Court?

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, Farmer v. Brennan:

    “The horrors experienced by many young inmates, particularly those who are convicted of nonviolent offenses, border on the unimaginable. Prison rape not only threatens the lives of those who fall prey to their aggressors, but it is potentially devastating to the human spirit. Shame, depression, and a shattering loss of self-esteem accompany the perpetual terror the victim thereafter must endure.”

    This sexual violence, which is primarily focused on white inmates, is the result of an oversimplified view in the press that inmates of color are merely victims of white society.

    Of course inmates of color then strike back at those who are least able to defend themselves.

    In my opinion prison is a cruel gauntlet with rouge guards on on one side and predatory inmates on the other. Consciously or unconsciously these two adversarial groups collude together in ways that perpetrates the violence. Non-violent inmates that just wish to serve out their sentence are held in the confined space in the middle like sacrificial lambs in a slaughter house.

    Comments such as those made by Carlyle Moulton on January 31, 2011 at 10:03 am above are exactly the type that Bunker and I refer to.

  33. Why we never read much different.

    Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility — and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals.

    After the 1960’s “The fight for civil rights and against racism became the sacred cause unifying the left throughout American society, and within the academy,” he said, arguing that this shared morality both “binds and blinds.”

    “If a group circles around sacred values, they will evolve into a tribal-moral community,” he said. “They’ll embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they’ll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value.”

    Academics can be selective, too, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan found in 1965 when he warned about the rise of unmarried parenthood and welfare dependency among blacks — violating the taboo against criticizing victims of racism.

    “Moynihan was shunned by many of his colleagues at Harvard as racist,” Dr. Haidt said. “Open-minded inquiry into the problems of the black family was shut down for decades, precisely the decades in which it was most urgently needed. Only in the last few years have liberal sociologists begun to acknowledge that Moynihan was right all along.”

  34. Who are those “liberal sociologist” who allegedly now agree that “the black family is a tangle of pathology”? I bet they don’t exist. Haidt’s whole argument is bullshit based on his own shaky and tendentious model of community typologies. Moynihan’s racist frame of reference was used to further demonize African-American people and communities by providing a veneer that endorsed racial stereotypes. Any sociologist worth his salt won’t agree he was right all along, and any that do should have their sociology badges removed.

  35. Dave I think your reply is exactly the type of reaction that Haidt is describing in his article. Who would want to be berated like that in front of their peers? If merely suggesting that we take a second look at Moynihan’s study draws such a terse reaction how can there be any dialog?

    Here is an article on this subject.

    Head Line reads:

    “Rejecting the Moynihan report caused untold, needless misery.”

    Closing reads:

    “If change really is in the air, it’s taken 40 years to get here—40 years of inner-city misery for the country to reach a point at which it fully signed on to the lesson of Moynihan’s report. Yes, better late than never; but you could forgive lost generations of ghetto men, women, and children if they found it cold comfort.”

    There are many others out there. Just google “tangle of pathology.”

    I resided in the an all black housing project in Hunters Point, San Francisco in 1956 (except for our family) and I found the black family structure was in tact back then. What has happened since? Surely you realize that poverty and racism were problems back then. Remember Rosa Parks and Emmitt Till? They were front page news at the time. I lived near the Watts riots in 1965 and in various racially mixed ghettos throughout my youth. I may not be a sociologist but I have very real life experience to draw on. Including spending time in the juvenile justice system during the period of time known as the California Race Wars. I know black rage all too well. I rose above it all served my country in the military and federal government. Finished college and raised four children whom I put through college. I own my own business and believe me it has not been easy. I understand the difficulties of a broken home and have felt the hunger pains of poverty. Of course you’ll say it proves race bias but then I have been turned away for many a job because of quotas or bias. Jobs like washing cars on a parking lot. Too white you won’t last. I tried standing with the immigrants to be picked up for work. We have all seen these men before. I was always picked last. I got a job carrying water to apartments where you had to climb the staircase lugging 50lbs of water in humid heat. When the customers saw that I was white they called the boss and I was let go. The customers were worried I wouldn’t last. I applied to be a bell man carrying baggage in various hotels. Same story. Flower vendor on the street corner. Same story. As a parolee I was not bondable so I couldn’t work with money and was fired when my background check turned up that I had a record. (A side note 17 years later I received a top secret clearance while working for the department of defense.) In the end I had to sell my blood to eat. All this to stay free. So I know first hand things you may not have experienced.

    Read this 1972 Harper’s Magazine article titled

    War Behind Walls by Eddie Bunker to read about the race wars:

  36. Carlyle, I’ve been thinking about the beginning of your comment, and it’s not literally true, but it’s amazing that calling a white person a racist, even saying their ideas or their Tea Party is racist, is considered far worse than hanging nooses on trees or flying confederate flags, or who knows what!

  37. It doesn’t matter how Moynihan’s quick poll of the lecture hall’s sociologists turned out. Researcher’s political point of view in the broad sense are always part of the research–the “objective scientist” is an outmoded concept in sociology to particle physics–although perhaps the sociologists working for NATO in Afghanistan to study Afghan tribes are unbiased. How many identified as “radical” “democratic socialist” or other varieties of political philosophy that are not banned in the US, only held to be insane. These points of view might offer a different look at poor families in the US from the 70’s through the 21st century. The “big lie” about people who have been harmed by government, made dependent on welfare, and had their morals damaged in every way, was the “Welfare Queen” who had children for the welfare check, one of Reagan’s best stories, and he didn’t even have to say welfare dependence=minority laziness because that’s the picture voters conjured up.
    Moynihan’s story is news because poor people are becoming more common, and racism is the Tea Party’s bread and butter. Making racism only about one political agenda, not a statistical, scientific, measurable fact makes it easier to overlook. Make sure poor white people hate poor black people hate poor people of other ancestries, and they won’t join together to fight poverty.

  38. @Sandra I agree with your last line completely. Howard Zinn’s People’s History of America gives graphic examples of this. Especially the Chapter dealing with the Guards of the system late in the book. But as the income inequality widens the numbers of disaffected are growing also. Egypt and Tunisia are examples of what happens when too many of the youthful population do not have hope. Lets hope we can avoid all that drama.

    And for the record I at least do not hate anyone. Least of all poor people no matter their color.

  39. Oh and with 5 boys my mother was a welfare queen under Reagan so I will not defend his policies.

  40. @Nil_Darps: I don’t have an open mind for nonsense and tendentious argumentation unsupported by actual scientifically valid research. The Hymnowitz article you linked to was a fine example of the latter: a highly charged argument unsubstantiated by any scientific research. It’s not worth going into every instance of this in the article, but here’s an example: “The literature of this period was so evasive, so implausible, so far removed from what was really unfolding in the ghetto, that if you didn’t know better, you might conclude that people actually wanted to keep the black family separate and unequal. ” What literature? Are we talking about opinion literature or social science? What research is there that scientifically documents “what was really unfolding in the ghetto”? There are lots of anecdotes about ghetto life and getting out of it, like yours, but an insufficiency of facts, and those tend to founder on questions of cause and effect – do single parent moms cause poverty (what Hymnowitz seems to believe) or does poverty cause single parent moms?
    Alexander makes the point that mass incarceration generated by de facto racist police and prosecutorial practices contributes substantially to single parent black families by removing a high percentage of eligible males from the community and thereafter permanently disenfranchising them in ways that undermine both their attractiveness as mates (e.g. marrying a felon prevents you and the kids from having public housing) and the employability they need to be providers. Nowhere in Hymowitz’ article is there any acknowledgement of this. The words drug, arrest and prison don’t even appear in it. That a widespread social acceptance of single parent motherhood would emerge in these conditions seems reasonable, not surprising to me.

  41. Dave at least in my families case it was as simple as getting a divorce that thrust us into poverty. Not the arrest of our father. Neither drug use by our parents. However I do realize that such things are major factors in poverty. Which by the way is also a rural problem. In fact it is in my opinion that is a deeper poverty. Poverty in the inner city with public libraries, rapid transit and the general hospitals was in many ways not as bad as the poverty of the small towns that I also lived in over the years. This is especially true of those that are ill. Luckily we were healthy. But neighbors found getting to a market, school, library, or the doctor was a major problem. Poverty in the suburbs was socially difficult. In both the city and the country there was less stigma since everyone else was poor. So in a way poverty in the suburbs had the most negative affect on me.

    Martin Luther King knew this and shifted his focus to the war against poverty near his death and he cited that poverty was not a black thing.

    Today there is only a few percentage points difference between the reported poverty level and the races overall population when the father is in the home. Single parent households being the most determinate factor of poverty overall. You point out valid causes for this absence which I agree with. But statistics can be used cleverly to prove ones point and refute views one dislikes?

    I don’t think soccer mom’s are plotting against people of color. Nor for that matter anybody that I have ever encountered. Look higher up the food chain for the conspirators and you will find all colors once that they have theirs they are all equally guilty of enacting these policies that you believe are focused against people of color. But I contend they are against the poor in general and are designed to generate profits for a select few. I certainly never benefited by them.

    I have felt the sting of the penal system and all that Alexander writes about and in addition to that I have had felt the misplaced rage of my peers because of it. I call that double jeopardy! What do you call it?

  42. A. Extensive Racial and Ethnic Disparity Exists in the Criminal Judicial System For more than two decades, the proportion of racial and ethnic minorities entangled within the criminal justice system has grown considerably.19 Members of minority populations now comprise more than two-thirds of persons convicted of offenses in federal courts,20 and nearly three-quarters of federal prisoners are either black or Hispanic.21 At the state level, similar disparities exist.22 These extreme racial disparities result from a complex set of factors, including the influence of bias and disparate treatment, prosecutorial decision-making, and sentencing and drug policies. The consequences of these disparities have had a detrimental impact on communities of color and contribute to distrust of the justice system within those impacted communities and beyond. p. 307
    © 2011 The Constitution Project

  43. “The poor and the vicious classes have been and will always be the most productive breeding ground of evildoers of all sorts; it is they whom we shall designate as the dangerous classes. For even when vice is not accompanied by perversity, by the very fact that it allies itself with poverty in the same person, he is an object of fear to society, he is dangerous.”
    –Honore-Antoine Fregier (Paris, 1840)

    This type of fear has always driven governments to target the poor even within homogeneous populations such as France during this era.

    Who are the poor? In the book titled “Ain’t No Makin’ It” MacLeod writes under the subtitle of “Poverty: A Class Issue“

    “This book shows clearly that poverty is not a black issue. In absolute terms, most poor people are white…Many of the black poor live in ghettos: urban neighborhoods that are racially segregated, economically devastated, socially stigmatized, and politically abandoned… As a result these enclaves of concentrated and pernicious poverty have become virtual war zones where terror, despair, and death are commonplace….

    By bringing the white poor into view, our story dissolves the mistaken connection between African Americans and behavior associated with poverty—crime, family disruption, substance abuse, and so on. The script penned by journalists, academics, politicians, and policy analysts… Far from being a distinctive breed apart, the urban poor are ordinary human beings struggling to cope as best they can under oppressive circumstances. Poverty is not a moral problem, much less a black moral or cultural problem. “

    Building a rap sheet is a cleaver long term strategic tool used by law enforcement to rid society of these dangerous classes. Get them in the system then count three strikes and their out for good! Like the gambling house the system may lose a hand here and there but over time they always win.

    And these people are conveniently concentrated in ghettos where the game is easily played.

    This study helps explain the trend of “Disproportionate Minority Contact” (DMC) in the nation’s criminal justice system. The following statistics and research are taken from this article.

    Click to access CreatedEqualReport2009.pdf

    “Youth Arrests

    Overall African American youth were arrested at 2.1 times the rate of White youth and 3.5 times the rate for violent crimes. African American youth were arrested for murder or nonnegligent manslaughter at 7 times and for robbery 10 times the rate for White youth. (Table 14)


    Overall African Americans arrest rates were 2.5 times that of whites;
    3.5 times for violent and drug offenses;
    6 times for murder, robbery, and gambling.


    African Americans were generally more likely to recidivate than whites.

    Possible Causes and Existing Research:

    Can include the nature and location of crimes, reaction of the victim and crime reporting, offender characteristics, law enforcement and court polices and practices, sentencing laws, community and societal factors, and socioeconomic and racial bias.

    Steffensmeier and Demuth (2000) found that, along with severity of offense and prior record, age and education level influence incarceration and sentence length outcomes. They found these factors impact sentencing decisions about equally for Whites, African Americans and Hispanics, but that race/ethnicity disparities persist, with Hispanics receiving harsher sentences than African Americans, and African Americans receiving harsher sentences than Whites. While further analysis showed at least some of the disparity was due to judicial discretion in sentence reductions, the authors caution that available data were insufficient to assess if these decisions were warranted or discriminatory.”

    It only makes sense that when African Americans enter the justice system earlier and in greater numbers for more egregious crimes than Whites that the cumulative effect of these acts will carry forward as they reach adulthood. The root causes of these acts are many, and are not exclusive to African Americans.

    1) Access to victims; there are just many more potential targets (victims) in and around a crowded inner city where you find higher concentrations of impoverished minorities.

    2) Accumulative effect; the enduring effects of slavery, racism and poverty have meant that many of the black poor are resigned to their social position. Without the sense that they have a place at the table they turn against the system’s “structural favoritism” of whites in large numbers believing it is primarily responsible for their condition.

    3) Aggressive posture; to survive in the rough inner city neighborhoods or prison for that matter, an intimidating presence is helpful to ward off attacks. This same “don’t mess with me” image is not very useful however when standing before a judge or a potential employer. Therefore a judge may indeed deem that an individual with these particular traits is a menace that needs to be taken off the street for the protection of the community. This can be interpreted as racism thou often as has been shown above the judge himself is a minority.

    (See “Characteristics of Judges and Sentencing” below.)

    4) Anonymity; it is easier to go unrecognized in an urban setting than in a small town where everyone knows everyone else. Of course it is also easier to objectify and victimize people that we don’t know then those that we know or like. In a small town the later is more likely to be the case. Also in a small town an officer or judge might be reluctant to seek maximum punishment on charges against a member of a family that he is personally familiar with.

    5) Allotment of resources; Politicians use the media’s interest in inner city crime to build their image as being tough on crime. The result is greater resources targeting inner city crime in the form of policemen, squad cars, communication equipment, and crime labs. These resources result is a greater number of arrests and convictions.

    6) Association; Many criminals associate their victims with their oppression. This can happen when whites venture into these neighborhoods either mistakenly or in search of drugs or prostitution services. While purchasing such services they expose themselves as easy targets for criminals and are a source of resentment for others who live there.

    (See Characteristics of Victims of Hate Crimes below.)

    7) Awareness; The awareness by the court that white inmates make up the overwhelming majority of victims of sexual exploitation in prison may deter some judges from sentencing a non-violent white criminal to prison.

    Characteristics of Victims of Hate Crimes

    The following is taken off the US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics web site

    Page 8 of Hate crimes

    When hate victims reported that the persons committing the crime were black, 9 in 10 victims said they thought the offender’s motive for the crime was their race.

    The small number of black hate crime victims precludes analysis of the race of persons who victimized them.

    *Estimate is based on 10 or fewer
    sample cases.

    Table 13 Characteristics of Victims of Hate Crimes

    White 85%
    Black 9.2%
    Other 5.8%


    Male 55.4%
    Female 44.6

    Does this behavior carry over into the prison system? You be the judge here are scientific studies on prison rape.

    Click to access 241.full.pdf

    One theme that emerges clearly from the US literature is the racially biased nature of sexual victimization. The aggressors in Lockwood’s sample were 80 per cent black, 14 per cent Hispanic and 6 per cent white; while the victims were 16 per cent black, 2 per cent Hispanic and 83 per cent white (1980: 28-9). This led him to observe that, ‘In prison, most aggressors are black; most targets are white. Prison sexual aggression, thus, is a case study of interracial crime’ (ibid.: 2).

    Davis (1977) found that in none of the 129 cases he examined was there a white aggressor and black victim. However these roles were reversed in 56 per cent of cases. White aggressors and white victims accounted for another 15 per cent and black aggressors and black victims for the remaining 29 per cent. Interestingly, the proportion of aggressors roughly corresponded to the racial breakdown of the population studied, 80 per cent of whom were black. The striking difference was in the victim group, where whites were greatly over-represented. More than 30 years after Davis completed his study, Human Rights Watch (2001) indicated that little had changed and that victims remained predominantly white.

    In Struckman-Johnson and Struckman-Johnson’s (2000) study, the highest rate– 11 per cent reporting having been raped at some stage during their time at that institution–was found in a place where inmates were housed in barracks and there was racial conflict. Their data showed that 60 per cent of targets were white, while 74 per cent of perpetrators were black. Institutions where the problem was less intense tended to be more racially homogeneous. Reflecting more generally on this imbalance, Knowles (1999: 268) remarked that: ‘This racial inequality may be the largest in any violent crime committed in the United States.’ As he saw it the question to be answered was: ‘What are the social forces that drive blacks to repeatedly and exclusively rape whites?’ (ibid.)

    “Characteristics of Judges and Sentencing”

    “At a time when black justices were almost nonexistent, researchers had assumed that disparities in sentences resulted from racism by white judges against black defendants.”

    (Meyer and Jesilow, “Doing Justice” in the People’s Court p. 42.)

    The studies that have examined the effect of the characteristics of judges have generally found little differences in judicial decisions between black and white judges.

    (Frazier and Bock, “Effects of Court Officials on Sentence Severity”; Gruhl et al., “Women as Policy)

    The method used in this paper controls for differences in judges’ race, ethnicity, gender, and time served on the bench.”


    While disparities in sentencing of black offenders sentenced by white judges were not found, the sentences of black offenders by black judges were longer than the sentences of white offenders by white judges.

    The harsher sentencing by black judges may be a consequence of the higher victimization rates in the black community. Black judges may simply be more sensitive to the plight of the victims.”

    So it would seem that although a more diverse court lends credibility diversity alone does not lead to a more racially balanced prison population. This same case can be made for the law enforcement officers as well.

  44. Nil_Darps. The materials you have quoted reflect the “racial realism” position which comes much closer to genuine “tangle of pathology” racism than Daniel Patrick Moynihan ever did. Racial realists are generally well-funded but they hold a minority position among social scientists even though they certainly reflect the current political and judicial consensus. A collaborative work called “Whitewashing Race” provides a devastating critique of the racial realist position and I encourage you to order a used copy (as I did) from Amazon or some other internet source. That said, not everything these folks say is wrong, it is simply skewed toward a predetermined agenda, to wit, mass incarceration is the only solution to the predatory Negro. If you had some traumatic experiences in prison I can understand why you are bitter. But remember this: 80% of the folks who have been exonerated by DNA evidence are African American. This suggests that one factor driving the statistics you quote is prosecutorial and judicial bias. There can be no doubt that the murder rate among African Americans is much higher than for other races. Randolph Roth’s argument that murder is highly correlated with social alienation provides part of the explanation. The obvious correlation between poverty and violent crime provides another piece of the puzzle. The turf dynamics of the street-level drug trade is also part of equation.

    in today’s New York times is a demonstration of “racial realism” being spouted by the representative of the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. It’s disturbing to me that this orientation is gaining traction in public discussions of poverty and crime: it thinly disguises a position that fundamentally ghetto blacks are poor and criminal because they are stupid and uncivilized. (Not too dissimilar from Moynihan’s position, btw, except he frames it as mental illness-induced social deviance, i.e. they’re sick and uncivilized. ) Michelle Alexander makes a brief case that Black middle class upward success in the post-civil rights affirmative action 1970’s and 80’s led to their moving out of the ghetto, leaving only the least competent, most needy people behind, but that’s about as far as I think one can reasonably take this line of argument.
    One statistic the Manhattan Institute person relies on references the Kansas City schools that have way higher per-pupil expenditures than typical rural and suburban schools, yet they still have big problems. Ergo, obviously, it’s not money, it’s shiftless black men who won’t “step up to the plate” (cf. Obama, Bill Cosby, etc) who cause poverty, because only intact nuclear two-parent families can produce properly civilized offspring who will manifest the bourgeois values (she actually says this!) of deferred gratification and respect for property. Well, complaining that people are claiming you’re blaming the victim isn’t warranted when you really are blaming the victim. Let’s make employment that pays a living wage and is appropriate to one’s skills a human right, to be provided by the government (paid for by taxes on the rich and their global corporations) if and whenever the private sector starts sucking its invisible hand’s thumb like now. When young Black men and women and formerly incarcerated felons can be assured of gainful employment upon request then we can revisit the shiftless Black man thesis.

  46. Thank Mr. Bean for the terminology and the reading suggestion.

    I’m not in the field but I find it interesting.

    And I am sorry if I sound bitter because I’m “not”. Nor am I funded at all but I assume you mean the authors of the material that I quoted.

    By the way I was never raped if that is what you mean by a bad experience. But I did find being blamed for the condition of blacks while in the CYA was uncomfortable to say the least. How as a impoverished teenager incarcerated along side these angry youths could I take the blame for that scheme? I rejected it just as forcefully then as I do now. But could I reason with the multitudes of angry, illiterate youths surrounding me? Take a guess.

    However I was on one side of a metal wall which our bunks were welded so I felt the thrusts of rapist as he repeatedly raped a young teenager my age of months. It was disturbing to say the least.

    To be fair that was in a Baton Rouge Parrish Jail an adult facility and it was still racially segregated at the time. Thus it was a white on white crime.

    I saw the affects on other victims over time and I already posted the reactions of a wide variety of commentators above that reviewed such cases. There is no defense for these acts. No matter the color of the rapist or his victim.

    I notice when there are no statistics Dave brushed it off and when I post a wide variety of info from various sources it too is brushed aside.

    I hope you never have to learn the hard facts as your head is pushed down in a pillow in a jail cell. (The system can reach out and touch the most liberal and open minded of us. Read about the man who started Stop Prison Rape. His name slips me now but he later died of AIDS because of the night he spent in a D.C. jail protesting Nuclear weapons.) has the story and the latest figures.

    I ask why was it that in the mid-fifties Bunker wrote that San Quentin was 70% white with little racial tension and a decade later he wrote about the CA Race Wars?

    One of the first things a criminal has to do to be rehabilitated is to realize that he has wrong.

    But George Jackson a prison icon wrote in “Blood In MY Eye”
    on page 42:

    “Economic crime and even crimes of passion against the oppressors must be understood as rebellion.”

    Page 99 “All black people, wherever they are, whatever their crimes, even crimes against other Blacks, are political prisoners because the system has dealt with them differently than with whites.”

    So coming from that angle it won’t happen. The BOP’s banded the book and I am sure Alexander’s will also be banded.

    Because as Bunker wrote in “War Behind Walls”

    …what increases racial polarization in prison beyond conciliation is the mutative leap in black militant rhetoric. This rhetoric is heard within prison walls by unsophisticated minds and gives those blacks that already hate whites a rational for murder. …Everyone understands that blacks have been brutalized by generations of institutional racism, and recently by inertia and indifference. What the sympathetic fail to grasp is that sometimes the psychological truncation is so great that it cannot be repaired. Nothing is left but hate. They have no desire—no motivation—for anything but revenge…

    I’ll research “Whitewashing Race” because I have an open mind but I think you are ignoring cold hard “facts” here in order to support a point of view that your heavily invested in. What would a sociologist call that?

  47. Whatever problems poor people have (and they’ve got plenty, Lord knows) the answer lies in access to real work that pays enough to support a family (or at least contribute to that end). That means ending the war on drugs, it means getting rid of laws that make life virtually impossible for ex-offenders, it means job creation programs at the state and national level. Presently, there is no poltical consensus behind any of these steps, so the goal must be to build consensus across racial and ideological lines. Demonizing poor people (black or white) solves nothing. People who grow up in poverty, surrounded by urban (or rural) decay and social dysfunction frequently do bad things. So do rich people in the suburbs, of course, but the affluent can make a lot more mistakes without courting disaster. When you’re poor, you can’t afford even one wrong move because a single slip can set off a downward spiral into the pit. America could have closed the white-black economic gap by now if we had made a serious attempt. Instead, we adopted policies designed to make the lives of poor people a living hell. We may not have realized (or cared) what we were doing, but the writing has been on the wall for three decades now.

  48. Alan I would also like to see more unity between the poor, not less, but as Malcolm X said “You’re not to be so blind with racism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it. “( Ok ok he said patriotism not racism but he was right.) LOL

    What got me to post on here were comments like this excerpt from Carlyle Moulton on January 31, 2011 at 10:03 am “…whack a few of those white soccer mums or their dear little children with caps from a 9mm then maybe the righteous whiteous would rethink.”

    Really is this the answer? To your credit you disagreed. As a parent of four children I needed to sit my kids down when they were wrong and convince them of that fact. Making excuses for them only reinforced their negative behavior.

    To Carlyle:

    I received this book for my birthday and I think this quote sums the book up. The author notes that every generation goes through these stages where our deepest tendencies for group think, violence, and bigotry are brought to the surface. She believes we need to study this phenomena so as to avoid its negative affects. Oh and she also won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Here is the quote.

    ‘Remembering our time of total commitment to a set of dogmas that we now find pathetic, we tend to wear wry smiles. Perhaps it is not too much to say that in these violent times the kindest, wisest wish we have for the young must be: “We hope that your period of immersion in group lunacy, group self-righteousness, will not coincide with some period of your country’s history when you can put your murderous and stupid ides into practice. “If you are lucky, you will emerge much enlarged by your experience of what you are capable of in the way of bigotry and intolerance. You will understand absolutely how sane people, in periods of public insanity, can murder, destroy, lie, swear black is white.”’
    “Prisons We Choose to Live Inside” by Doris Lessing.

    Maybe some of you can remember her as a communist revolutionary. If not look her up. She became disillusioned with the party later in life.

    Increasingly the people that set public policy are people of color so the old rhetoric of the 1960’s, my era, needs to be but to rest.

    The rest of us just have to deal with what this “small” circle of PP makers decide.

    You young people (I assume your younger than I am.) need to look into such policy issues and correct them. Take inspiration from the current events in Egypt and Tunisia where non-violent means are pressing for change and addressing the concerns of the poor and underemployed. Leave the race baiting, which only serves the current policy makers aims at dividing the poor, and focus on the improving the lives of all the poor regardless of color. Research MLK’s late comments on the poor. He saw it as a class rather than race issue.

  49. Thanks for these comments. Friends of Justice is committed to the principle of non-violence. Some of the folks who comment, it seems, are not.

  50. Nil, when you referenced (Frazier and Bock, “Effects of Court Officials on Sentence Severity”; Gruhl et al., “Women as Policy), you mentioned that no differences in sentencing were found between black and white judges. Again I must point out that no individual maliciously racist judge or judges is needed in a system which is racist. Like Bill Cosby or President Obama, a successful lawyer who is elected in a political process to become a judge is an integral part of an holistic system or worldview that creates the American justice system.
    As a feminist since 1972, some the things I’ve learned about sexual assault working with women may be relevant here. American prisons and juvenile detention centres are unique among developed nations in the amount of sexual, and other, violence that goes on inside them; and yet this is expected, and considered either as inevitable, or desirable as a deterrent to crime. In Canada, the Government is responsible for prisoners’ safety inside (at least, they are expected to be). There is no need to have constantly violent, dangerous prisons . Sexual assault as a means of control and a weapon of terror is being used right now in the Congo on women–it’s used by most prisons in the US for the same reason, to disrupt and cause uncertainty and maintain a culture of violence. Few sexual assaults are reported in civil society, especially when men are assaulted, and this is bound to be more so in prison, where “ratting” on anyone is what terror is designed to prevent. Assaults by prison officers are particularly unlikely to be reported, as would assaults by cellmates, or those you hang with everyday, so I’m not sure how those statistics were collected, if they are from reports to prison staff, I would have little faith in their total numbers, or distribution. What do some other people who’ve spent more time than 12-step meetings inside think?

  51. Her is are examples of unity I found.

    “Five prisoners were sentenced to death for their involvement in the 1993 prison uprising in Lucasville, Ohio, in which a guard and several inmates were killed. They have now been in 23-hour-a-day solitary for more than 17 years. Based on the nature of their crime, they are being denied the privileges given others on Death Row in Ohio, and condemned to permanent isolation.

    Their story was written down by historian, lawyer, and activist, Staughton Lynd in 2004 in a book titled Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising. ”

    In the book Lynd describes the uprising from the inside how the prisoners worked together, black and white, even Muslims and members of the Aryan Brotherhood, for the improvement of conditions.

    The activist publication Angola 3 states “…they reached beyond their prison ‘tribes’ to reach commonality.

    The importance of the story is that the five men sentenced to death are three blacks and two whites. Two of the three blacks are Muslims. At the time of the rebellion the two whites were members of the Aryan Brotherhood…

    These five men have acted in solidarity during their almost eighteen years of solitary confinement. They have refused to ‘snitch’ on each other…
    …the State made it clear early on that they wanted to put the alleged leaders of the disturbance to death…”

    In reading this story and the one about the recent Georgia Prison work stoppage I recalled Howard Zinn’s words in “The Peoples History of the United States.”

    We should all heed the lessons of our shared history that he presents.

    Page 37: “Only one fear was greater than the fear of black rebellion in the new American colonies. That was the fear that discontented whites would join black slaves to overthrow the existing order. In the early years of slavery…while white indentured servants were often treated as badly as black slaves, there was a possibility of cooperation.”

    Then there was Bacon’s Rebellion, an uprising in 1776 in the Virginia Colony in North America, led by 29-year-old planter Nathaniel Bacon.
    Page 55: “What made Bacon’s Rebellion especially fearsome for the rulers of Virginia was that black slaves and white servants joined forces.”

    Page 176: “The instances where poor whites helped slaves were not frequent, but sufficient to show the need for setting one group against the other. This helps explain the stern police measures against whites who fraternized with blacks.”

    In the last months of his life Malcolm X began to reconsider his support of Black Nationalism after meeting northern African revolutionaries who, to all appearances, were white.

    After his Hajj, Malcolm X articulated a view of white people and racism that represented a deep change from the philosophy he had supported as a minister of the Nation of Islam.

    In a famous letter from Mecca, he wrote that his experiences with white people during his pilgrimage convinced him to “rearrange” his thinking about race and “toss aside some of his previous conclusions”.
    In a 1965 conversation with Gordon Parks, two days before his assassination, Malcolm said:

    “Brother, remember the time that white college girl came into the restaurant—the one who wanted to help the Black Muslims and the whites get together—and I told her there wasn’t a ghost of a chance and she went away crying?

    Well, I’ve lived to regret that incident. In many parts of the African continent I saw white students helping black people. Something like this kills a lot of argument.”

    Back to Howard Zinn’s words:

    Page 461-462: “Martin Luther King himself became more and more concerned about problems untouched by civil rights laws—problems coming out of poverty….He connected war and poverty: …. King now became a chief target of the FBI… As a Senate report on the FBI said in 1976, the FBI tried “to destroy Dr. Martin Luther King.”
    King was turning his attention to troublesome questions…He planned a “Poor People’s Encampment” in Washington…went to Memphis, Tennessee, to support a strike of garbage workers in that city. There, standing on a balcony outside his hotel room, he was shot to death by an unseen marksman.

    Page 463-464: “Between 1956 and 1971 the FBI concluded a massive Counterintelligence Program (known as COINTELPRO) that took 295 actions against black groups….

    Was there fear that blacks would turn their attention from the controllable field of voting to the more dangerous area of wealth and poverty—of class conflict?

    The new emphasis was more dangerous than civil rights, because it created the possibility of blacks and whites uniting on the issue of class exploitation.”

    It is also noteworthy that Malcolm X had spoken at the Socialist Workers Party’s public forum and interviewed by the Young Socialist magazine not long before his own assassination.

    George L. Jackson the founder of the Prison Movement in the 1960’s was also a self proclaimed black communist revolutionary and member of the Black Panther Party. In his book titled “Blood in My Eye” which was completed barely a week before he was shot dead in San Quentin Prison by guards in a reported escape attempt on August 21, 1971.

    Here is a quote from the preface of Blood in My Eye xii written by Gregory Armstrong on October 15, 1971.

    “What made him (Jackson) particularly dangerous to the prison authorities was his enormous talent as an organizer.”

    Later in the preface Jackson is credited as saying “We have got to be together. We have got to be in a position to tell the pig that if he doesn’t serve the food when it’s warm and pass out the scouring powder on time, everybody on the tier is going to throw something at him, then things will change and life will be easier. You don’t get that kind of unity when you’re fighting with each other. I’m always telling the brothers that some of those whites are willing to work with us against the pigs. All they got to do is stop talking honky. When the races start fighting, all you have is one maniac group against another. That is what the pigs want.”

    Now we have this latest letter from an inmate currently on San Quentin’s death row:

    In Solidarity
    By Kevin Cooper

    “On Thursday, December 9, 2010, the inmates in the state of Georgia sat down in unity and peace in order to stand up for their human rights.
    African American, White, and Latino inmates put aside their differences, if they had any, and came together as a ‘People’ fighting for their humanity in a system that dehumanizes all of them.

    For this they have my utmost respect and appreciation and support. I am in true solidarity with them all!”

    Using MLK’s method of non-violent protest inmates in Georgia had held a work stoppage. Their peaceful methods did not give the prison authorities the excuse to use deadly force against them like they had used against Jackson.

    But I fear isolation is in the future of those who had lead this strike.
    Inmates sometimes say that there are only three ways out of a supermax prison: “parole, snitch, or die.” You can read about the author of a research paper with this same title here:

    here are some excerpts from this interview with the author Reiter:

    “We think of supermax as taking the worst of the worst,” says Reiter — noting that California inmates are sent to the SHU if they’re determined to be a gang leader or if they commit a serious infraction of prison rules, such as attacking a guard, while inside. “Yet most supermax prisoners get out eventually.”

    California releases 50 to 100 prisoners a month to parole from supermax — often without any transitional programming inside to re-acclimate them to human interaction, or prepare them to make a living on the outside.
    You don’t have to have a law degree or a human-rights orientation, as Reiter does, to wonder whether such a system is the best way to protect the public, especially given longstanding concerns about the psychological effects of solitary confinement.

    ….what surprised Reiter most, she says, “is how powerful and powerfully sad these former prisoners’ stories were.” Each “had different, but poignant, anecdotes about the way they experienced the deprivation conditions,” she recalls. People spoke of having no clocks, daylight, or seasons to mark the passage of time; growing pale from lack of sunlight; and being amazed at the sight of a single bird, insect, or even the moon, after months or years of virtually no exposure to the natural world.
    …lack of contact with other human beings is its own psychological endurance test. A man who spent 10 years in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay told Reiter about what happened once when his cell and his neighbor’s opened just slightly at the same time: a prisoner from a rival gang reached through and the two tough guys held hands. In the moment, being enemies “didn’t really matter,” she says. “They were just happy for the human touch.”

    I am not a socialist or revolutionary but I do have compassion for the poor and a growing disdain for the tactics that have historically divided us.

    I believe as MLK, Malcolm X, and George L. Jackson also all came to believe that to win better conditions for all our citizens in the future we need to begin with “Solidarity”.

    We could begin by promoting SOLIDARITY AGAINST SOLITARY!

  52. Non-violent protest is the only way we can work together to address the racism and other forms of hate that divide us from each other and work together to improve life for ourselves and create a just society for ourselves and others. (add pretty flower garlands and butterflies around the edge of the paper copy)

  53. Sandra Here are the links to the prison rape studies.

    Click to access 241.full.pdf

    Human Rights Watch’s Methodology section

    Here are the words of the prisoners from Human Rights Watch.

    Section on Race:

    That aside the things I posted are from government, inmates, and people that took the time to study these issues.

    Here is a frightening letter from Jorge Renaud obviously an ex-con of color.

    That reference on the judges was actually inadvertently omitted. But it stated that female judges were actually stiffer.

    Do you know why I researched this stuff? I am not a lawyer, or intellectual but I have a daughter that is both a Public Policy expert and a lawyer. Do you know how difficult it is to argue with such a high power intellect when I just have life experience to draw upon? I admire her liberal education her life experience is a world apart from mine. But I have been locked up with these people white, black and brown. I lived with the threats and the violence and if experience is the best teacher than I have a PHD. Keep an open mind read the stories and you’ll have to agree it is sick. Wrong is wrong no matter who says or does it!
    No one disputes that racism exists only that it is not exclusive to whites. If you can read the stories and say oh well they deserved being raped then change your profession. Rape in prison does not end with one event it is like the movie Ground Hog Day.

  54. Maybe you can understand my concern since like Bunker I am old enough to remember the Zebra murders. Bunker wrote:

    “In San Francisco a group of blacks prowled the night and killed whites they caught alone. These were called the Zebra Killings, and I thought it likely that black ex-convicts were involved (I was right), for only in California’s prisons had I seen similar killings.”

    It doesn’t sound so unbelievable when you read like this excerpt from Carlyle Moulton on January 31, 2011 at 10:03 am “…whack a few of those white soccer mums or their dear little children with caps from a 9mm then maybe the righteous whiteous would rethink.”

    Or when you have incidents like those in Tucson, AZ recently?

  55. Nil, I’m not saying White prisoners don’t get raped by Black prisoners, Black guards, White prisoners, White guards, Latino prisoners, White guards, whatever ethnic group lives around the prison guards. Rape is as much a part of American prisons as solitary confinement. Some people you’ll always have to put in solitary, I know, temporarily, or permanently, and there will always be sexual assault and other violence in prison because there are violent people there, including the guards, depending on how dangerous the work is.
    Every American knows that those people who go to prison are NOT LIKE US, and when you go to prison, maybe even jail, you will be raped. Those criminals don’t deserve to be safe, they are the scum of the earth. In other countries, the responsibility for the convicts’ lives are, at least in theory, the government’s. The prison industry wants violent, dangerous, terrorist prisons, like the Congo (or White South Africa, or Colombia) because war is good for business. Whichever race does the violence does not matter, as long as the profit is there.
    Solidarity against solitary!

  56. Sandra of course they are like us or at least me. If you didn’t read further up I spent time in the California Youth Authority. And no you will not necessarily be raped I was not. You have three choices Fornicate, Fight, or hit the Fence. I fought and as young as 9 years old when I first went in. Didn’t understand anything about sex not alone homosexual sex. It seemed gross to me.

    The issue of solitary is to involved to go over here. Go to and read the reports and articles they have a sources link.

    Let me know what you think.


  57. Nil, I was talking about the view most voters have of “those people” the criminals who are sent to prison, what happens in prison, and what prisoners deserve.
    I think we have more in common than it would seem. I did know that prisons in America were extremely racially segregated places. Your research does show white men are frequently raped by black men, otherwise rape occurs mostly within racial groups, or conflict ensues. Perhaps you can understand, though not approve of, the motivation for revenge on the part of the black men who commit rape (not every black prisoner) and the thoughts Carlyle Moulton has of sending a message to soccer moms when you consider the pattern of incarceration of African-American men and women for mainly drug crimes and probation violations. is a story I was looking at today, but this revenge is counter-productive, just as Alan replys to Carlyle above. It leads to a more violent prison, which can be controlled only with more expensive technology from the helpful vendors of new, improved restraints, pepper spray, tasers, etc.
    Working together, in non-violent protest, is working in Egypt right now. “Whitewashing” the question of systems and procedures that are racist, and not addressing that, though poor people, not rich, go to prison, prison populations are disproportionately full of persons of colour, will not address the hyper-incarceration crisis. There are many reasons the prison population is huge, but mentioning racism has to be a part of the discussion.

  58. Sandra racism needs to be in the discussion not the entire conversation. Also people have little idea how these “discussions” are used against white inmates who themselves are almost always poor and undereducated. In one of the latest articles on here I commented using some statistics on poverty.
    Look I went down south in 1969 in time to see the source of the anger so I understand it but all that happens when people seek revenge is that they create more racists just as Jorge said at the end of his piece above.

    I’m posting the following excerpt to illustrate this point not because I agree with the sites focus. (I even forget how I came across it.) this excerpt from a questionable site.

    “John King became famous for dragging a black man to death in Jasper, Texas, in 1998. He became a byword for white “racism,” but with some luck and savvy he could have turned the tables and made the case one of black brutality. Before he killed James Byrd, he had just spent 21 months for burglary in one of Texas’ toughest prisons, the Beto Unit. He was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed only 140 pounds when he was sentenced, and reportedly had no pronounced racial views. He emerged covered with white-power tattoos. His lawyer said rape by blacks had deeply affected Mr. King, but that he rarely talked about it. ”

    I also do not approve of their actions although they felt they had their reasons.

    Like Malcolm X said wrong is wrong no matter who does it.

    There is no excuse for rape in prison or dragging an innocent person down the road behind a truck.

    Both give me the creeps.

  59. Nil, I am not going to say that rape or any other violent crime, whatever factors in society affect it, are anything else other than wrong. In some crimes like prison rape, mass incarceration leads to prisons that skimp on protection of prisoners’ safety in favour of overcrowding, understaffing, and poor prisoner classification.
    There are many factors other than racism which contribute to the mass incarceration mess. The failed strategy of a war on drugs: the “justice” system where rich people get lawyers, the middle class get lawyers and bankruptcy, and the poor get a plea bargain; the new asylums inside prisons where poor people with mental illness are bounced from cell to SHU; and the “tough on crime” sentencing that puts so many more non-violent offenders into prison for long terms. But if we skip over the disproportionate number of black and latino/a men and women in prison compared to their share in the population, we aren’t addressing the whole nature of the mass incarceration boom. Statistics show racism, though it does not show conscious, malicious racism, is involved.
    We can acknowledge that policies (like mass incarceration) that attack the poor, like a budget which continues tax cuts for the rich, but cuts many programs like school lunches for the poor, and job creation programs including the inner city, can be both racist, and stop the poor from raising successful children, and moving up the socio-economic ladder themselves.
    If we don’t acknowledge the motives politicians have in separating “welfare queens” and crack ho’s in the inner city from the working poor and unemployed of other races and poor white people whose friends looking for work using oxy’s on the weekend live down the road from those lazy mexicans who would rather collect welfare than work and are probably illegal. Racism is useful, and talking about it is not for making white people feel guilty–that doesn’t do any good. Racism keeps people apart who have the same interests in common–one of them is poverty in a rich nation, and one is prisons full of petty drug offenders and drug addicts who can’t get treatment. And one of them is the racism in the justice system. It’s not just to ignore it.

  60. I mentioned I wrote a comment on the poor.

    Here it is:

    I also wrote one under the Ayn Rand piece. So I understand who the poor are. Above this I try to give other reasons that there is disproportional contact in our legal system. I used only words beginning with A because I believe there are many more reasons to be found.

    The myth that if whites were less racist and more generous that this would go away is just not true. I think such talk only fuels the anger and this anger is what drove the policies that created the imbalance. This imbalance has then become the source of more rage and it just keeps growing in a viscous circle.

    I saw it from the beginning in California where most of the present gangs were born in the 60’s. These gangs drive the violence in prison and since most are released they return to the street more violent.

    Stop placing the blame, reduce the hate, and focus on poverty. Most of the poor are white. The difference between the groups is primarily their location. Read my thoughts on that above.

    The rest I agree with. Poverty is a problem that needs to be solved across the board.

  61. What do you think this means:
    42 U.S.C. § 1985 grants a civil cause of action for damages caused by various types of conspiracies aimed at injuring a person in his/her person or property, or denying him/her a Federal right or privilege. § 1985 mainly deals with three instances of conspiracy: those aimed at preventing an officer from performing his/her duties; those aimed at obstructing justice by intimidating a party, witness, or juror; and those aimed at depriving a person’s rights or privileges.

    By virtue of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(1) two or more persons are said to have conspired to prevent an officer from performing his/her duties when such persons conspire to:

    force, intimidate, or threaten the officer from accepting or holding any office, trust, or place of confidence under the United States;
    force, intimidate, or threaten the officer from discharging any duties connected with the office, trust, or place of confidence under the United States; induce the officer to leave any state, district or place, where his/her duties as an officer are required to be performed;
    injure the officer in his/her person or property on account of his/her lawful discharge of the duties of his/her office; and
    molest, interrupt, hinder, or impede the officer in the discharge of his/her official duties. According to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(2) two or more persons are said to have conspired to obstruct justice by intimidating a party, witness, or juror if such persons conspire:

    to deter, by force, intimidation, or threat, any party or witness in any court proceedings from attending court;
    to deter, by force, intimidation, or threat, any party or witness in any court proceedings from testifying to any matter freely, fully, and truthfully;
    to injure any party or witness in his/her person or property for having attended or testified in a court proceeding;
    to influence the verdict, presentment, or indictment of any juror in any court;
    to injure any juror in his/her person or property on account of any verdict, presentment, or indictment lawfully agreed by him/her as a juror;
    42 U.S.C. § 1985(2) also state that two or more persons will be considered to have conspired to impede, hinder, obstruct, or defeat, the due course of justice if such persons conspire to:

    deny to any citizen the equal protection of the laws; or
    injure him/her or his/her property for lawfully enforcing the right of any person, or class of persons, to the equal protection of the laws.
    Finally, by virtue of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) two or more persons are said to have conspired to deprive a third person’s rights or privileges if such persons conspire to:

    go in disguise on the highway or on the premises of another, for the purpose of depriving, any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws, or the equal privileges and immunities provided under the laws;
    prevent by force, intimidation, or threat, any citizen who is lawfully entitled to vote as an elector in the election of President or Vice-President, or members of Congress;
    injure any citizen in person or property on account of support or advocacy rendered to voters in the election of President or Vice-President, or members of Congress.
    If as a result of the conspiracy, one or more persons are injured in person or property, or is deprived of any of their rights or privileges, the party so injured or deprived may have an action for the recovery of damages, against the conspirators. However, it is necessary that a plaintiff suing under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 should show the existence of a conspiracy. The existence of a conspiracy may also be inferred from the surrounding circumstances.

    State limitation periods apply to actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985. The plaintiff must plead facts with specificity and particularity. Nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages are available to successful § 1985 plaintiffs.

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