Archive for December, 2015

Tamir Rice Family Attorney Speaks on Grand Jury Decision Not to Indict

December 28, 2015

“Today, more than a year after Cleveland police shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a grand jury voted not to indict the shooter. Tamir’s family is saddened and disappointed by this outcome–but not surprised.

It has been clear for months now that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand-jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment. Even though video shows the police shooting Tamir in less than one second, Prosecutor McGinty hired so-called expert witnesses to try to exonerate the officers and tell the grand jury their conduct was reasonable and justified. It is unheard of, and highly improper, for a prosecutor to hire ‘experts’ to try to exonerate the targets of a grand-jury investigation. These are the sort of ‘experts’ we would expect the officer’s criminal-defense attorney to hire—not the prosecutor.

Then, Prosecutor McGinty allowed the police officers to take the oath and read prepared statements to the grand jury without answering any questions on cross-examination. Even though it is black-letter law that taking the stand waives the Fifth Amendment right to be silent, the prosecutor did not seek a court order compelling the officers to answer questions or holding the officers in contempt if they continued to refuse. This special treatment would never be given to non-police suspects.

The way Prosecutor McGinty has mishandled the grand-jury process has compounded the grief of this family.

The Rice family is grateful for all the community support they have received and urges people who want to express their disappointment with how Prosecutor McGinty has handled this process to do so peacefully and democratically. We renew our request that the Department of Justice step in to conduct a real investigation into this tragic shooting of a 12-year-old child.” ~ Tamir Rice family attorney Subodh Chandra


Rattling the Bars: U.S. Prison Nation

December 26, 2015

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EDDIE CONWAY, TRNN: Welcome to Rattling the Bars. I’m Eddie Conway, and today we are discussing a recently-published report from the Prison Policy Initiative titled Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2015. It looks at how many people are locked up in the U.S., where, and why.Joining us today to discuss the report is Bernadette Rabuy. Bernadette is a policy communications associate at the Prison Policy Initiative. Bernadette’s research has focused on the role of technology in prisons, most specifically for profit video visitation in prisons and jails. Also joining us is Mark-Anthony Johnson, director of health and wellness with Dignity and Power Now. Bernadette, after state prisons, what is the next-largest slice of confinement?BERNADETTE RABUY: The next-largest slice are local jails. So while we don’t talk about local jails nearly as much as we do talk about prisons at the national level, there are lots of people in our local jails. It’s just a little bit more difficult because they are run by local sheriffs, so there’s thousands of agencies controlling these local jails.CONWAY: Okay. Well, how does the number of people that cycle through the correctional facilities a year differ from the number of people locked up on a particular day?RABUY: Right. So this is a really important point. There are the numbers of people that are locked up at any given point in time. So our report finds that 2.3 million people are locked up in prisons, jails, and other facilities. But then there are also the people who cycle through facilities in a year. So for jails, that number is extremely high. It’s 11 million people that are cycling through local jails in a year. And for prisons it’s around 600,000.CONWAY: Okay. Okay. Mark-Anthony, can you talk about the on-the-ground activism in Los Angeles to stop prison and jail expansion, and to reduce the prison population?MARK-ANTHONY JOHNSON: Definitely. I mean, shoutout to Prison Policy Initiative for giving us the perspective of the role local jails are playing in mass incarceration. I think Los Angeles is a really interesting locale, because in California the state government is moving the state prison population into the local jail population to alleviate overcrowding. And so local jails are not only a host for, obviously, local incarceration. But they’re now being the places where folks in the prison population are being moved to.So in Los Angeles, we have the largest jail system in the world. It’s about [17,000-18,000] people at this current moment. And what we are trying to do is stop the county from moving forward with a proposed $2 billion jail construction plan. $2 billion to build two facilities, a women’s jail and essentially a mental health jail. Both of those, we think, are oxymorons, if you will. I think the movement towards thinking about mental health treatment as possible within a jail facility is null and void, and when everything that we’ve seen is that folks who have mental health conditions inside the jails tend to get worse, and if you don’t have a mental health condition you tend to get one. And then in terms of the women’s jail, there is a lot of specific types of violence that women are experiencing behind those jail cells.And so locally we are pushing back to stop the construction of a women’s jail, which is the first step towards moving the population around so they can deconstruct men’s central jail and rebuild it as this, quote, mental health facility. And this is something that’s been going on for the last two years. We’ve been waging this fight, and it’s going to continue to go on in the next year.CONWAY: So Mark-Anthony, I heard you say that they are putting state prisoners into the local jails now. Is that the result of the state prison system in California being overcrowded?JOHNSON: Definitely. Definitely. The state prison system has been overcrowded. All jails tend to be overcrowded. The idea is that the state prison is supposed to be operating at 127-130 percent capacity, and it looks like they are approaching that by moving state prisoners back into local counties. And so that’s what we’re seeing here in Los Angeles, as well.CONWAY: Okay. Bernadette, how important is it to ending mass incarceration that we reform the policies that increasingly detain people pre-trial?RABUY: It’s extremely important. It’s a huge opportunity to reform mass incarceration. We found that actually 70 percent of the people in our local jails are unconvicted, meaning they’re legally innocent. And for whatever reason they are sitting in jails, waiting for their trial date. So that could mean, for example, people who are too poor to afford bail. Instead of being able to wait at home, continue their jobs or whatever else, they’re having to wait inside of a jail.CONWAY: Does this cause people–if they’re being just held in jail without bail for lengthy periods of time, does this cause them to plea bargain or to out of desperation agree to guilty charges for–to get released?RABUY: Yeah, absolutely. Basically all the research out there shows that it is bad for people to be detained pre-trial. That it has a lot of negative outcomes. It can lead more easily to people being found guilty, longer sentences, all sorts of negative consequences.CONWAY: Well, how many people nationwide are in prison because their most serious offense was a drug offense?RABUY: Yeah, so this number is about half a million.CONWAY: Well, how does the number of people in correctional facilities compare with the number of people, say, on probation and parole?RABUY: Yeah. So this is really interesting as well. So this pie chart shows people in state prisons, federal prisons, people in local jails, territorial prisons, et cetera. But beyond those 2.3 million there are also people under another form of control. So there is probation, and parole. And actually in the U.S., probation is a leading type of correctional control. So there are about 3 million people who are on probation, as well as a few hundred thousand on parole.CONWAY: Okay. Well, the U.S. prison system is not only restricted to continental North America. Can you talk about the territorial prisons?RABUY: Yeah. So territorial prisons are just those being held for places like Guam or Puerto Rico. So we also included those numbers in our pie chart so that people could really get the whole, big picture of who was confined by the US.CONWAY: Okay. All right. Mark-Anthony, your organization created a video asking residents of Los Angeles what they would want instead of prisons. Let’s cut to that video.

—CONWAY: Could you explain to us in-depth what this video means?JOHNSON: Definitely. I mean, we see a situation in Los Angeles where there is a drive to create more jails at a moment where we’re seeing a multitude of potential forms such as split sentencing, such as pre-trial release. As Bernadette mentioned, about half of the folks currently in LA County jail are pre-trial. And we know that releasing folks on pre-trial does not produce any greater risk to public safety. In fact, it protects a lot of the housing, job, and education infrastructure that people already have in their lives.Prop 47 has reduced local jail populations and will continue to. We have a district attorney who wants to divert at least 1,000 people who have mental health conditions out of the jails. And so at a moment where we’re producing all these reforms, our question is why are we investing in more jail construction, and why are we spending $2 billion to do that, right?And so we went–we took it to the people. And as you saw, you know, people have some great ideas around what they would spend money on. They would spend it on housing and, and homelessness, and mental health structures, job training, and all those things. Things that actually impact our communities and actually prevent us from being incarcerated.And so we’re at a moment where the local movement in Los Angeles is trying to win this debate around what diversion means. Everything from preventing your first contact with a police officer, especially if you have a mental health condition, from resulting in a booking, to making sure that folks who are inside are quickly diverted outward to local community-based mental health facilities, or getting split sentencing reforms that other counties around California are using at a much greater rate than we are in Los Angeles. And the folks who are mostly impacted are black and brown, about 80 percent black and Latino folks in the current jail system. And when you look at mental health, you know, black folks are 9 percent of the county population, but 30 percent of the county jail population. And approximately 43.7 percent of the county jail population has a, quote, serious mental illness.So those intersections are really important, as we’re fighting for these other demands. And we encourage folks to push for those demands locally and around the country.CONWAY: Okay. Bernadette, do you have any final thoughts, or words you want to share with us?RABUY: Yeah. I think I, I just want to reiterate what Mark-Anthony was saying. I hope that this Whole Pie graphic and report allows people to really think about whether it makes sense that we’re locking up 2.3 million people on any given day. And also to think a little bit further beyond all the bills that are in Congress, but also to think about state prison reforms, local jails, juveniles, how we can reduce the number of kids who are locked up for technical or status violations, which for a lot of people we don’t even consider crimes. So things like truancy or curfews. How we can really think about reducing our prison and jail population throughout the different levels of government, whether locally or nationally.CONWAY: Okay. All right, well, thank you both for joining Rattling the Bars.RABUY: Thank you.JOHNSON: Thank you.CONWAY: And thank you for joining the Real News.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Baltimore: A Canary in a Coal Mine

December 26, 2015

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BILL FLETCHER, HOST, THE GLOBAL AFRICAN: Today on The Global African, we’ll talk about the Freddie Gray trial that’s going on here in Baltimore. That’s today on The Global African. I’m your host, Bill Fletcher. Thanks for joining us again. And don’t go anywhere.

~~~FLETCHER: The trial for the officers charged with killing Freddie Gray is underway here in Baltimore, Maryland. On May 21, a grand jury returned indictments against all six police officers charged with Gray’s death.Gray, a native of West Baltimore, was pronounced dead after suffering fatal injuries to his spinal cord on April 19 of this year. These injuries were sustained after Gray was held in police custody.In the aftermath of Gray’s death, the City of Baltimore was ablaze with uprisings and protests, becoming a national symbol of resistance.Today we’re going to talk about the latest in the Freddie Gray case and what it means for the City of Baltimore–indeed, what it means for the United States. Don’t go anywhere.

~~~FLETCHER: We’re joined for this discussion with Mikayla Gilliam-Price and Kwame Rose. Makayla Gilliam-Price is the 2015 recipient of the Princeton Prize in Race Relations Certificate of Accomplishment and the Wired Up Community Hero Award for Outstanding Accomplishment in Youth Leadership. She is senior at Baltimore City College high school in Baltimore, Maryland. Also joining us is Kwame Rose, who’s a native Baltimorean known for his social activism, hip hop career, and online blogging. He served on the executive board for Brothers In Action and is currently developing his own organization. He is with the BE Foundation. Welcome to The Global African. MAKAYLA GILLIAM-PRICE: Thank you.KWAME ROSE: Thank you for having me.FLETCHER: A pleasure. So we’re here to talk about the Freddie Gray case. And the trial has just started. But there’s many of our viewers that probably don’t have a clear sense as to what that case is all about. So if one of you could, just take us through it. What happened? ROSE: So Freddie Gray was a young black man that grew up in the projects of Gilmor Homes and, well, Sandtown, in West Baltimore. One early morning, three bike cops were patrolling the neighborhood and spotted Freddie Gray, and he immediately ran–the normal instinct that young black people have in Baltimore City in particular and across America. After running, he was eventually caught and arrested by Baltimore City cops. And during his transportation to jail, his spine was severed almost 80 percent. He eventually died, a week later, after being in custody in Shock Trauma Hospital. Freddie Gray’s case sparked an outrage not just a nationally, internationally, but here locally on the ground as well, where you literally had thousands of young people pour into the streets in April and demand justice for Freddie Gray. And things went–the young people in Baltimore showed the extreme measures that they will take to get justice and accountability of police killing on our black people in this country. FLETCHER: And, Makayla, how did you get involved in this issue? GILLIAM-PRICE: So I had been involved in activism for quite a long time. My family was directly engaged with the fight to end the death penalty here in Maryland, because my uncle Tyrone Gilliam was executed the same year I was born. So it was almost inevitable that my introduction into this world was one to save black lives and that 17 years later I’d be engaged in the same fight. So City Block, the student organization that I was a cofounder of, was sparked by Mike Brown’s death, and then we then contextualize all of the events that have been happening around the country in the school system. And then that was then furthered and propelled by Freddie Gray’s murder. FLETCHER: As you mentioned, in April, I mean, there was this eruption, there was an uprising. Since then, there seems to have been a decline in the activism. I mean, there are people that seem to be active, but there seems to be a noticeable decline. Is that a wrong interpretation? GILLIAM-PRICE: I think, absolutely. So I think what there has been a decline in is the visible, spectacular activism that mainstream media likes to feed off of and consume. However, just like there was a lot of activism and organizing on the grassroots level going on way before Freddie Gray’s murder, way before Tyrone West’s murder and all the recent exposure to police brutality in America, there has also been a lot of grassroots organizing that’s been sustaining itself throughout even the lowest points, where there aren’t necessarily, like, physical protests happening on the streets. Right? And I think we often have a very, like, problematic narrative, where we’re conflating organizing and activism to simply what we can see. Right? But it’s like Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, the Baltimore Algebra Project, all of these different organizations are doing an amazing job of keeping the grassroots conversation open and alive in communities. Right? And I think that’s a part of activism that’s very necessary and crucial to the protests that we do see. FLETCHER: So, as we sit here, this trial is going on. There’s one officer that’s currently on trial, correct? ROSE: Yes. FLETCHER: What do you anticipate happening? ROSE: Well, if you look at the track record of America, it’s very hard to convict a police officer of law enforcement, right? Here in Maryland, the law officer bill of rights, it’s law. It’s not a contract; it’s the law. So it’s hard to convict them. It’s hard to hold police accountable. So I don’t have faith in the justice system that Officer Porter will be convicted. I hope that the pressure being applied by protesters continuing to take to the streets, by us continuing to voice our opinions, I hope that sends the right message to the state’s attorney to prosecute this case the same way that they’re prosecuting protesters. But at the end of the day, I don’t have faith, because the track record of America is one that has never shown value for black lives. FLETCHER: What about you, Makayla? GILLIAM-PRICE: Yeah, I definitely echo everything that Kwame said. I think that that piece about not having faith in the justice system is echoed in many American families’ households, especially in Baltimore right now. And what I’d like to add to what Kwame said was simply the implications of that for all of the people of Baltimore and the citizens who live here. Right? And I think it’s disturbing and troubling to think that we have six officers who are going to be placed on trial. Right? And so I’m not sure that they’ll be convicted. Right? I’m not sure that they’ll be found guilty. But I know what is really disturbing to me is I’m not sure what the public’s response is going to be. Right? I don’t know if it’s going to be immediate outrage or if it’s going to be this, like, instilling and re-entrenching of complacency in our communities, because people will always be able to lie back on the fact that we have five more officers or then four more officers or three more officers. Right? FLETCHER: How does it–. I’m sorry. Go ahead. ROSE: Well, if I can add, like, even if you look at the way that the charges were brought against the six officers, right, the three officers who racially profiled Freddie Gray, they weren’t charged as [harness (?)] as the black officers who just transported Freddie Gray. Freddie Gray would never have died if the three white officers didn’t racially profile Freddie Gray. FLETCHER: Explain what you mean, then, in terms of the issue of the profiling. ROSE: So what you had was you had these two white cops who operate with hyper masculinity. FLETCHER: What does that mean?ROSE: They–they just–it’s an adrenaline rush for them, this authority, right? They get to be the boss and they get to tell you what to do. And that’s what they operate off of. And so what they did when they were patrolling on bikes in a poverty-stricken neighborhood in the projects, right, something that they have no attachment to, and they saw a black man running from them–and so their first instinct was to just automatically assume he did something wrong. So they jumped on Freddie Gray, and they beat him while he was on the ground and then called backup, and the backup just happened to be two black officers. And one of the most–the highest-ranking official just happened to be a black woman. And so, had it not been for those two white cops seeing a black man running and just automatically assuming guilt, this would have never happened. FLETCHER: And how does it make you feel that there are–well, let me put it in a different way. This trial has, as you just said, white and black officers that were involved, at least allegedly involved in this black man’s death. This doesn’t come down in a strictly racial way. GILLIAM-PRICE: Think I would have to disagree, right? I think it is extremely racially driven, right? But it’s just how that racism manifests itself. Right? The same reason why the black officers were a part of the murder of Freddie Gray is about the internalized racism that they are facing every day. Right? Implicit bias is a tactic used by–that’s frowned upon but is used by police on a daily basis, right, to racially profile individuals of color, right, like Kwame Rose was saying. And it’s like in Baltimore we have very unique dynamic in that a lot of the public officials that we have here, including Marilyn Mosby, including our mayor, our former police commissioner, who was the police commissioner during Freddie Gray’s murder, these were all people of color, right? These were all black people. Yet they’re allowing these things to continue. Right? And I think that speaks to the internalized racism the needs to be confronted on a very serious level. Right? Before we’re able to just handle these surface-deep issues and surface-deep instances of anti-blackness, we need to confront what we as a community are internalizing ourselves and allowing to happen. FLETCHER: Is it internalized racism? Or is it class? ROSE: No, it’s in–so I heard Cornel West say in June to an all-white audience, he said, I see a lot of anti-blackness in myself, so I know y’all got a lot of work to do. Right? White supremacy has instilled this fear of black bodies in everybody throughout society. And so, yes, class plays into effect. But the color of your skin–a poor white person is still treated with higher regard than a black person, right? Henry Louis Gates getting stopped at his house, one of the most esteemed professors throughout this country, wasn’t believed to be a professor off of the simple fact that he was black. You had Chris Rock, who took, like, the selfies every time he was pulled over in a two-month span–pulled over seven times. He’s one of the most well-known comedians throughout the world, and he’s still being targeted off of the simple fact that his skin is his crime. FLETCHER: No, that’s not what I meant, but I agree with your point. What I meant was, Makayla, when you’re talking about these officials, right, the fact that you have black officials, right, I’m asking whether we’re dealing with a class problem, essentially, within black America that you have–you’ve described it as internalized racism. I’m asking whether it’s something else, in terms of the people that are involved in carrying out these various actions. GILLIAM-PRICE: So I definitely think that–I don’t think it would be wise of me to neglect that class plays a large part in it, right? Like, these are interjections of oppression that need to be recognized and handled. And this just comes from my own personal paradigm. I think that all of these -isms and different forms of oppression are derived from a fundamental dehumanizing of people of color. Right? And I think the dehumanization of people of color is at the root of all of these other -isms. Right? Being able to dehumanize and other and make someone else anti to the standard or to the norm is what has been used to justify classism, patriarchy, and racism, right? And so class is definitely a problem. And I think that we need to–the only way to effectively confront all of these issues on the most productive level is to recognize those intersections. But I don’t think that it’s–I also don’t think that it’s fair to chalk it up to just a class issue. FLETCHER: Where does the movement go right now? ROSE: Well, we’re only in the first few–we’re only in the beginning stages, right? Civil rights movement wasn’t done overnight. It was done throughout years and lots of work. So the issue right now on the forefront in the movement is police brutality. But also you have to talk about the economic disparities, you have to talk about the lack of education in black communities, and then you have to talk about the lack of employment. So it’s broader. This movement is not an overnight movement, won’t be an overnight success story. It’s about the longevity of the movement and continuing to fight, right? This is 400 years of oppression we’re fighting. So it’ll take a long time for us to truly gain freedom. FLETCHER: And what about here in Baltimore? Where does this particular movement around the Freddie Gray case, where do you think it goes? GILLIAM-PRICE: So for me–and it’s just piggybacking off of what Kwame said earlier–it’s about a sustainable movement. Right? And so, for me, that looks like creating black sustainable institutions, right, taking the fight beyond the street, taking the fight beyond white institutions, right, but creating our own home territory, right, creating our own the sustainable institutions that create a space of refuge, that also create a space for us to control our own narratives, right? I think that’s a very important piece, and I think that’s the only–like, for me, that’s the most productive next step is to start investing in black businesses, black institutions, like Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, like The Bloc, where it’s like we’re seeing sustainable change being made. It’s not just about momentary success or having a demand being met or getting one person fired, right, because I think that’s something that’s also extremely problematic is that we want the movement to be about symbols and martyrs and these instantaneous examples of racism, right? But it’s like we have to realize that every individual and every instance of this racism or classism or homophobia, it’s connected to a larger system, right? And so we need to start fighting it on a very systematic level. And systematic racism and systematic oppression in general manifests itself within the institutions that are created by those rulers. Right? And so I think the only way to productively counter that is to start investing in institutions of color. FLETCHER: Makayla Gilliam-Price and Kwame Rose, thank you very much for joining us on The Global African. GILLIAM-PRICE: Thank you.ROSE: Thank you for having us.FLETCHER: Okay. Take care. GILLIAM-PRICE: Thanks.FLETCHER: Thanks.GILLIAM-PRICE: Mhm.FLETCHER: And thank you for joining us for this segment of The Global African. I’m your host, Bill Fletcher. And we’ll be back in a moment. So don’t go anywhere.

~~~FLETCHER: We’re joined by Dr. Lawrence Brown, who is an assistant professor at the School of Community Health and Policy at Morgan State University here in Baltimore, Maryland. Welcome to The Global African again. DR. LAWRENCE BROWN: Good to be here, as always.FLETCHER: Yeah. I’m curious how you look at this moment. What are your expectations with the trial? BROWN: Well, first, we’re in an incredible moment. We’re just earlier last week passing the one-year anniversary of the killing of Tamir Rice. We’re passing the year anniversary of the non-indictment of Darren Wilson and the non-indictment of Eric Garner. So here in Baltimore, to have the case regarding the killing of Freddie Gray comes at a moment where there’s a cascading effect of Black Lives Matter, the movement for black lives here in the United States. You know, today is even the anniversary, the 46th anniversary of the assassination of Fred Hampton. FLETCHER: That’s right.BROWN: So these issues with police brutality seem to be moving in some sort of seemingly cyclical way, reminding us that it’s not safe to be black in America. And I think that the trial involving the six officers that were involved in the death of Freddie Gray is yet another reminder. It’s in some sense even a traumatic moment. It reopens the wounds that were festering on April 27, when Baltimore experienced both an uprising and rioting, along with looting. And we’re here now trying to hear the testimony about what happened to Freddie Gray. We’re listening to Officer Porter tell the jury that basically it was policy, that the police department didn’t follow its own policy in terms of putting seat belts on suspects and detainees, and this was a systematic problem, and therefore he should not be expected to be held accountable for not playing his part as written in the policy. FLETCHER: What does it mean that this is taking place in a largely black city with a largely black political establishment? BROWN: Well, I think it means that first of all there is a recognition that in spite of Baltimore being largely run by both Democrats and predominantly black public officials, Baltimore is one of the top-eight most hyper-segregated metropolitan areas in the United States, according to sociologists Douglas Massey and Jonathan Tannen. And so we’re talking about the legacy, 105 years, on December 20 of this year, 105 years of racial zoning, racially restrictive covenants, redlining, segregated public housing, this litany of policies and practices that have not been undone even with a black political class in place. And so in many ways what we’re seeing is white supremacy in blackface. We’re seeing black politicians that are beholden to corporate plutocrats and wealthy corporate developers. So they’re not able to really advance an agenda that’s going to help undo the damage that racism has caused in this city. And we can say that there’s a class element to that, certainly when we think about a lot of political officials here certainly are from maybe a middle- or upper-middle-class background. But I also think that it’s because of that background, because of maybe having some advantage due to their class, that it’s combined with internalized racism, it’s a combination where being–having some privilege, although that privilege is mediated in many ways by having access based on white supremacist structure, having access to the capital or campaign financing that allows them to fulfill or serve in these offices, but at the same time not protect and serve the majority population of Baltimore City, which is African-American. FLETCHER: I want to ask you a very speculative question. Do you think we can win on the issue of altering police behavior? I mean, one of the things that I found striking was in some research I was doing years ago. I was looking at the annals of a group called the National Negro Congress, which had been, like, a black united front in the 1930s and early ’40s. And it turned out that one of the issues that they had been fighting, particularly in northern cities, was police brutality. Now, I was reading this when I was a bit younger and had associated the fight around police brutality as a fight from the ’60s and ’70s on, right? But here it is. It was, like, in the 1930s these fights were going on. Do you think we can actually win on this issue? BROWN: I don’t know. I think we can go back further. Policing in America is rooted in slave patrols, where Du Bois, Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois in his book Black Reconstruction talks about really the whole South, the whole white South becomes a policing force to keep down rebellions and runaways and black people seeking freedom from enslavement. And so when you have policing rooted in that sort of mentality, and then you move from 1877 to 1950, there were 3,959 lynchings in 12 Southern states, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, and you have police brutality, as you’re saying, as early as the ’30s, which is still during this time of lynchings taking place, and you have civil rights murders during the civil rights movement, we’re talking about biases, stereotypes, and even masculinity threat when officers feel like their manhood is challenged, how we often as men overcompensate to regain our manhood in some form or fashion. But even that masculinity threat is mediated by racism, because black men in particular and black people or black women, even like Sandra Bland, are viewed as a threat to–more of a threat, compared to other racial and ethnic groups, to an officer’s manhood or masculinity. So I think we would have to really wrestle and grapple with this legacy that’s so deeply ingrained in the American psyche and not just talk about bias, not just talk about diversity, not just talk about this contemporary moment, but really discuss the longstanding roots of this thing if we’re going to have any hope, because I don’t think the technology’s necessarily going to stop it. It will catch it, but it won’t necessarily stop it. FLETCHER: And all of this is going on at a time when large numbers of people in the United States, particularly after news like San Bernardino, are nervous and are looking for security. Does that nervousness, does that response to these mass killings, does that undermine the efforts to alter the behavior of police agencies? BROWN: I think that’s a very powerful and interesting question. I don’t think that necessarily it should be true that as we work to stop mass shootings, that that will somehow prevent or keep us from addressing police brutality that’s targeting African Americans in the United States. I think those are two fights that really can be waged simultaneously. I also think that in many ways, if we’re talking about gun violence as the root cause of perhaps both what’s happening in terms of police brutality and what’s happening in terms of mass shootings, maybe it means we have to rethink the way that we allow arms and guns to be proliferating throughout our society and rethink how we train police to deploy those type of weapons when we think about police departments having not only a militarized approach, but more military-type equipment. And here in Baltimore, the officers, or the force here under Commissioner Kevin Davis, they say that they have a war room. They say–and when they’re going out to do their work on their shift, they call that a tour of duty. So the psychology is such that there is a mindset of war, a mindset of militarism. And I think that in many ways this militarism is reflected both in the policing, it’s reflected both in mass shootings. And the other thing that I think we’re not talking about is also masculinity, as a mentioned earlier, the fact that men are doing most of the police brutality cases, they’re committing most of those acts, and men are most of the mass shooters as well, vast majority in both instances. And so something is wrong with American masculinity, something’s wrong with masculinity in America. And I don’t think that we’re confronting what it means to be a man once we’re disrespected. Does that mean we have to go out and kill 12 people and shoot up 30 people? Does it mean if we’re challenged in the streets as a police officer that we’re going to take somebody’s life? I think we have to begin to examine this sort of mindset of militarization, the mindset of masculinity. And I wouldn’t think or suggest that they’re separate. In some ways they interact with each other and they’re part of the same construct. FLETCHER: Dr. Brown, thank you very much for joining us on The Global African.BROWN: My pleasure. Always. FLETCHER: Thank you so much.And thank you very much for joining us for this episode of The Global African. I’m your host, Bill Fletcher. And we’ll see you next time. Take care.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.



Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Fight Over Prisoner Rights and Healthcare

December 26, 2015

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JARED BALL, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome, everyone, back to the Real News Network. I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore.Longtime political prisoner, journalist, and author Mumia Abu-Jamal testified in a Scranton, Pennsylvania courtroom via webcam last week that hepatitis C medication he needed had been denied him by prison officials because they say he is too healthy to receive treatment. Supporters in his legal team are continuing this week to make the case for Abu-Jamal that he be given drugs he himself testified might save his life. Without them, he said, I will die.To discuss this and more is Dr. Johanna Fernandez, who teaches in the Black and Latino Studies Department at Baruch College, is a veteran political prisoner rights activist and editor of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s latest collection of essays, Writing On The Wall. Welcome back to the Real News, Dr. Fernandez.JOHANNA FERNANDEZ: Thank you very much, Dr. Ball, for having me on your show.BALL: So please, just tell us, what is the latest regarding Mumia’s health, and latest efforts to attain proper medical care for him?FERNANDEZ: Well, Mumia has definitely shown improvement from the crisis into which he fell in March of this year, on March 30, 2015. His skin condition, however, after what his doctor said was all of the medication that can possibly be given a prisoner, after all of that his skin condition is still with him. And he continues to scratch a lot, and that’s important because apparently scratching is, is one of the symptoms of patients with hepatitis C, with active hepatitis C. And that was one of the issues that was thoroughly discussed in the courtroom, both last Friday and yesterday.BALL: So what is being argued this week, still? What are the two sides arguing, and what particularly are prison officials or the state saying is the reason that he is apparently too healthy? I mean, the reports over the last few months of Mumia’s health, as you said, deteriorating were pretty stark. It’s amazing that someone could actually argue he’s too healthy to receive this medication.FERNANDEZ: Right. So I think it’s important to note that the judge who’s hearing this case, Judge Mariani, prefaced the proceedings by saying, after he quoted from the report submitted to the court by Mumia Abu-Jamal himself, that the problem before us is “serious”, quote-unquote. And that really set the tone for the proceedings. Our side is arguing that Mumia has active hepatitis C, and that he should immediately be treated with the medication available on the market, which has a 95 percent cure rate. The opposing side, immediately after the judge presented the case, suggested that the case should not be heard by him, and that it should be immediately thrown out, because according to them Mumia did not exhaust his administrative appeals before he proceeded into the court. That was a position that was struck down after over two hours of argumentation on both sides. The judge presented a formal position that Mumia had done everything he needed to do within the law to proceed to the court.I say this because the opposing side essentially did not want to hear the details of the crisis. They wanted to dismiss the case on a technicality. And that led the judge to ask the opposing attorneys whether in fact they wanted to proceed in the court by making arguments that were attentive to form and not content. Which–in a case involving a prisoner or prisoner like Mumia, and in a case involving the healthcare of prisoners generally, that is, that is really important. The judge has suggested that he is concerned about content and the gravity of the matter.So yesterday, our doctor, Dr. Joe Harris, essentially argued according to his expertise that in Mumia’s case, because he has developed significant fibrosis, which is scarring of the liver, that suggests that he has active hepatitis C that will continue to devour his liver if he is not given the treatment he needs. So that’s what our side argued. And the other side essentially suggested that Mumia is not sick enough to receive these medications.BALL: So let me just ask very quickly, as we will continue to follow this and I know you all will be wrapping this up this week. But there are those who have argued and continue to argue that this is just the state’s end run around Mumia being taken off death row last year, in looking for another way to execute this longtime political prisoner. How do you respond to those who take that perspective of this?FERNANDEZ: Well, I think it’s a little complicated. I think that once again, Mumia is at the cutting edge of an issue that concerns thousands of prisoners in Pennsylvania, and in the nation. In the 1990s, as you know, he became the face of the movement against the death penalty, and we stopped his execution. But now the issue, as he’s aged in prison, is illness. And I think that the reason why the state of Pennsylvania is hesitant to offer Mumia the treatment he needs, and that has been proven he needs, according to expert witness, is that if they make a decision to treat Mumia with hepatitis C medication they’re going to have to treat the 10,000 other prisoners with active hepatitis C in Pennsylvania who have filed a class action suit.So the issue is really not establishing a precedent that then will force them to take ethical medical action in the cases of so many others.BALL: So Dr. Fernandez, you were talking about some of the broader issues involved in this case. Could you also say a little bit more about the implications, more broadly speaking, for the entire prisoner community in this country and healthcare?FERNANDEZ: Yes. I think it’s important, Dr. Ball, to note that the expert doctor that the other side brought in yesterday was Dr. JC Cowan. He’s the president of Correctional Medical Associates. And Correctional Medical Associates is a subsidiary of Corizon, which is a Tennessee company that provides medical services to prisons in many states, including Pennsylvania and New York City.Now, this is important because that entity, Correctional Medical Associates, was just put on trial by New York City’s government. Local government. Because that same outfit was providing prisoners at Rikers medical care. And as a result of shoddy and unethical medical care, dozens of prisoners have died. Not just at Rikers, but around the nation. And as a result of this malpractice, the New York City Council decided that they were going to fire this company. And this was the expert, an expert associated with this company, that the Department of Corrections in Pennsylvania brought to the stand. So what we will be hearing today in court is a cross examination on the part of our attorneys of the ethical character of the doctor who’s being brought in by the other side as an expert.So this, this has implications. What’s going on in the courtroom today has grave implications for Mumia and his health and his life, but also for the health of hundreds of other prisoners, thousands of other prisoners, in Pennsylvania, New York, and around the nation.BALL: Dr. Fernandez, thank you very much for joining us here again at the Real News Network.FERNANDEZ: Thank you.BALL: And thank you all for joining us, as well. For all involved, I’m Jared Ball again here in Baltimore saying, as always, as Fred Hampton used to say, to you we say peace if you’re willing to fight for it. So peace, everybody, and we’ll catch you in the whirlwind.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy

California: White Trump Supporter Arrested for Plotting to Bomb Muslims

December 23, 2015
Check out the Democracy Now! website:
December 22, 2015


In Richmond, California, police have arrested a white man accused of building homemade explosive devices in order to bomb local Muslims. William Celli was arrested Sunday after police said he threatened members of the Islamic Society of West Contra Costa County. Celli is a vocal supporter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has called for banning Muslims from entering the United States. In October, Celli posted on social media that he would “follow [Trump] to the end of the world.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations has released a new report finding a greater frequency of vandalism and other acts targeting mosques this year than in any other year on record. Of 71 incidents reported this year, 29 occurred after the November 13 attacks in Paris.

2014 Hartford Police Department List of Officers with Sustained Complaints

December 23, 2015

This column appears in the December 24 – January 7 edition of the Hartford News…

Community Party Media: Information on CP media outlets and my nonfiction book on politics, False Choice: The Bipartisan Attack on the Working Class, the Poor and Communities of Color. Published by Trebol Press.


Correction: This list includes officers with at least one sustained complaint.

Below is a list of 29 Hartford Police officers who have had civilian complaints sustained against them by the Hartford Civilian Police Review Board (HCPRB) in 2014. The Community Party obtained this list through a Freedom of Information Act request. The number of officers on this list increased from 19 in 2013 to 29 in 2014. Big shout out to the cops nationwide who are speaking out against racism, brutality and corruption.

The names of the police officers are followed by the complaints that were sustained by the HCPRB and the date of the ruling. (ACRONYMS: D/A=Discourteous Attitude; C/U=Conduct Unbecoming; C/R=Civil Rights Violation; P/L=Profane Language; E/F= Excessive Force; N/of Duty=Neglect of Duty; Vio. C/C= Violation of Code of Conduct.)

Barega, Kelly: Neglect of Duty, 10/21/2014

Bojka, Luan: Discourteous Attitude, Neglect of Duty, 9/16/2014

Brannick, Maritza: Poor Service, 5/20/2014

Brannick, Maritza: Civil Rights Vio, Illegal Arrest, Neglect of Duty, 9/16/2014

Dacruz, Marc: Illegal Search & Seizure, Illegal Arrest, 11/18/2014

Kessler, Steven: Discourteous Attitude, 9/16/2014

Kessler, Steven: Excessive Force During Arrest, 11/18/2014

Kidik, Jill: Conduct Unbec, D/A, Harass, Vio of C/C, 3/18/2014

Kidik, Jill: Discourteous Attitude, 10/21/2014

Kidik, Jill: D/A, Excessive Force, Profane Language, 11/18/2014

Last, Rocky: Poor Service, 11/18/2014

Last, Rocky: Neglect of Duty, 9/16/2014

Lee, Kent (Retired): C/R Vio, Comm of Crime, C/U, D/A, N/Duty, Vio C/C, 9/16/2014

Morales, Hector: Poor Service, Vio of Code of Conduct, 9/17/2014

Martinez, Juan: Poor Service, Discourteous Attitude, 10/21/2014

Morales, Hector: N/of Duty, 10/21/2014

Nelson, Brian: N/of Duty, P/L, Harassment, 5/20/2014

Nelson, Brian: C/R Vio, Cond Unb, D/A, E/F, P/L, Vio C/C, 6/17/2014

Newell, James: Cond Unb, D/C, E/F, Hararssment, PL, Vio C/C, 11/18/2014

Oshur, Anatoly: D/A, Negl of Duty, Vio of Code of Cond, P/L, 9/16/2014

Montrose, Jay: Excessive Force During Arrest, 11/18/2014

Parker, Scott: Excessive Force, P/L, 3/18/2014

Perez, Gamaliel: Traffic Complaint, 5/20/2014

Romanchuck, Kevin: Civil Rights Vio, D/A, Cond Unb, E/F after arrest, 3/18/2014

Pethigal, Jeffrey: C/U, D/C, E/F, Harassm P/L, Vio of C/C, 11/18/2014

Rivera, Leslie: D/A, Illegal Arrest, 5/20/14

Rodriguez-Perez, Marisol: D/A. P/L, 5/20/14

Santiago, Obdulio: C/R, D/A, C/U, 3/18/14

Sauvron, William: C/U, Harassment, 9/16/14

Sheldon, Michael (retired): C/R, C/U, D/A, N/of Duty, Vio. C/C, 9/16/14

Sherbo, Joseph: C/R, Harassment, D/A, P/L, C/U, Illegal Arrest, 5/20/14

Stachowicz, Kamil: C/U, 1/20/15 (Judement made in 2015 due to the lack of a quorum at the HCPRB’s December, 2014 meeting.)

Stroud, Jessica: D/A, N/of Duty, 9/16/14

Taylor, Michael: C/U, D/A, Vio. C/C, 6/17/14

Watson, Sonia: C/U, N/of Duty, Vio. C/C, P/L, 9/16/14

Yergeau, Edward: P/L, 10/21/14


Sandra Bland Police Reform and Economic Justice Plan:

Trayvon Martin Act:

Meagan Hockaday Act:

Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission:

Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and world news headlines. Check out my Facebook page for daily news commentary. Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives and So-Metro Radio the first and third Tuesday of each month at 9:00 PM for commentary on urban issues Check out our No Sellout blog ( for the complete archive of CP columns and Northend Agent’s archive for selected columns ( Contact us at 860-206-8879 or

David Samuels


Community Party

Sandra Bland Police Reform & Economic Justice Plan

December 20, 2015

Activist Sandra Bland died in the custody of Waller County, Texas police July 13, 2015.


Every 28 hours a Black person is killed by police, security guards or vigilantes. Police in the U.S. kill more citizens each year than all of the other developed countries combined. Police in China, a dictatorship 41/2 times the size of the U.S., killed 12 people in 2014. Police in the U.S. killed 1100 people in 2014 and 476 in the first five months of 2015. The police in this country killed more people in three days in July 2015 than cops killed in Germany, England, Spain, Switzerland and Iceland in 2014 combined. The United Nations Human Rights Council has denounced law enforcement in the U.S. for its failure to follow their recommendations.

Cops nationwide such as former LAPD officer Alex Salazar ( ), Retired LAPD Sgt. Cheryl Dorsey (, former Auburn, Alabama police officer Justin Hanners (, and members of the NYPD ( ) are all speaking out against police brutality, racism and corruption. A group of NYPD officers are suing the department over illegal arrest quotas.

Samuel Walker wrote a report that found Maryland police union contracts and officers’ bill of rights language impede accountability. Add to this biased district attorneys, an opaque grand jury process, and brutal, corrupt police officers are protected by a system that places them above the law. A holistic approach is required to address racial profiling and police violence in the U.S. This includes an urban policy plan which addresses economic issues and police containment of low income communities of color. Poverty and police brutality are both forms of state sponsored violence. Lack of economic opportunity forces urban community residents to engage in the underground economy, which brings them in contact with law enforcement. Addressing racial economic disparities is a key component of ending racial profiling and police violence. The so-called War on Drugs is actually a war on poor Black and Brown people. The disease of addiction is criminalized. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is a national organization of police officers who have declared the drug war a failure. Gloucester Police Department Chief Leonard Campanello has launched a revolutionary program which treats drug addiction as a public health issue.

Police Union Contracts/Bill of Rights

Police union contract language, which includes officers’ bill of rights, impedes accountability. A provision regarding death/use of force investigations provides officers with up to ten days before they can be interviewed by investigators. Officers involved in the death or injury of citizens and any officers who are witnesses should be interviewed immediately and separately at the scene.

“Some police union contracts in the U.S. have provisions barring interviews with officers involved in use of force and other incidents for 48 hours. The Baltimore, Maryland, contract (and the Maryland Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights) provide for a ten-day waiting period. Additionally, there is evidence that some police departments voluntarily delay interviews for 48 hours because of union pressure.

Police unions and their supporters claim there is ‘scientific evidence’ that a stressful incident impairs an officer’s memory and that ‘two sleep cycles’ (i.e., 48 hours) are required for that person’s memory to fully recover.

A report by Sam Walker, University of Nebraska at Omaha has found that there is no such scientific evidence. A systematic review of research by psychologists on the impact of stress on memory found no support for a 48-hour delay. The systematic review of 244 studies over 100 years found it a highly complex issue, with mixed findings.Walker’s report concludes that the police union claims for a 48-hour or longer waiting period are ‘inconsistent, hypocritical and self-serving.’ ” ~ Samuel Walker website

Misconduct Investigations/Disciplinary Process

Union contract/bill of rights language stipulates that a police officer or district attorney must investigate officers accused of misconduct, and that a three person panel including a peer police officer will hear an appeal on a finding of misconduct which could result in suspension or termination before the police chief decides on a course of action. Investigations should be conducted by an entity separate from the police department and the district attorney, who partners with the police on criminal cases. Appeals should take place after a decision on discipline is made. Peer police officers should not be involved in the appeal process, as this is an obvious conflict of interest. Police officers should have rights that are equal to those of community residents.

“First, it is unreasonable that such a hearing occur before the police chief has imposed discipline in the case. (The right to an appeal of discipline after it has been imposed is an established matter of due process.) In practice, the Hearing Board provides an additional step in the disciplinary process that is an opportunity for mitigating the seriousness of the alleged misconduct. A proper disciplinary process involves the internal affairs (IA) or professional standards bureau (PSB) investigating allegations of misconduct, including citizen complaints, determining whether misconduct occurred, and forwarding that finding to the chief for disciplinary action. Second, including a peer officer as a member of the Hearing Board serves to protect misconduct. This is a particularly serious matter in departments that have troubled histories of a pattern of misconduct. By giving the rank and file a direct voice in disciplinary investigations, the police union contract and Maryland law necessarily lowers the standards for police conduct. The peer officer member of a Hearing Board has a vested interest in shielding all officers from meaningful investigations and discipline. In passing, it should be noted that the Maryland statute does not specify whether decisions of a Hearing Board require a unanimous vote or may be approved by a 2-1 vote. This is an ambiguity that creates uncertainty, possible disagreements, and possible appeals.” ~ Samuel Walker website

The disciplinary process should remain transparent. Police departments should not be allowed to expunge the records of police officers who are accused of misconduct.

The police controlling dashboard and body camera videos of use of force incidents resulting in injury or death is a conflict of interest. A special prosecutor should have custody of the video. Officers involved in these incidents should not be allowed to view the video prior to giving a statement to investigators. A special prosecutor and the victim and/or victim’s family/loved ones are the parties who should view the video. The victim’s family/loved ones should have veto power on any decisions regarding release of the video to the public. Body camera videos should be live streamed.
50% of police killings involve people with mental illness. Officers who use excessive force against mentally ill people or individuals in crisis, especially when children are present, should face criminal sanctions. De-escalation should be the focus in these situations.
Treating Drug Addiction as a Public Health Issue

The Gloucester Police Department drug program model has taken a revolutionary approach to addressing drug addiction. Individuals who bring their drugs and paraphernalia to the Gloucester police station will not face criminal charges; they will instead be immediately entered into treatment. Heroin overdoses have decreased since the Gloucester program was launched. Police departments should adopt the Gloucester model.

New Deal 2.0

U.S. Census data shows that child poverty, the poverty rate among families, the amount of people whose income is below the federal poverty level and the number of residents without health insurance in Connecticut have all increased since 2003. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) perpetuates the cycle of poverty, emphasizing low wage, dead end jobs over education and job skills training that will make clients more marketable, and increase their chances of obtaining gainful employment that will lead to financial independence. Black and Latino unemployment rates are at Depression era levels. The jobless rate among Black males age 18-25 is as high as 50%. Poverty and lack of economic opportunity fuel gun violence in urban neighborhoods. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program employed over 8 million people at its peak, pulling the U.S. out of the Great Depression. A New Deal type of program could deliver the same results in low income communities of color and poor rural areas.

Rocky Anderson, the Justice Party’s 2012 candidate for president, included in his platform a job creation initiative modeled after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Work Progress Administration program. Anderson described his plan during the Democracy Now! Expanding the Debate special, which aired in conjunction with the October 3, 2012 presidential debate between President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney.

“During the last 43 months we have had more than 8% unemployment. It is the only time in this nation’s history that we have had a president that has presided even over three years of over 8% unemployment. There are things that have been proven in our history to work. We could have put in place, and it needs to be put in immediately, a WPA Works Progress Administration kind of program where we are investing in the future by building up our nation’s rapidly deteriorating infrastructure, putting people to work. In the WPA project they put 8.5 million people to work. We could be putting 20 million to 25 million people to work and making that kind of investment in our nation’s future.”

The UFE State of the Dream report found that funding from Obama’s 2009 job stimulus initiative did not reach urban areas and focused on industries that mostly employs white people.

“Most of the job-creation projects in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and other federal initiatives are investments in infrastructure and transportation, ‘green’ building retrofits, and pass-through funds that help states maintain schools and other important programs. All are worthy, but there is no evidence that the jobs these initiatives create are going to the communities most in need. In some cases, the opposite is true.
• The Associated Press found that, across the U.S., stimulus money for transportation was directed away from where the economic conditions are most dire. More money went to areas with higher rates of employment.
• The New York University report Race, Gender and The Recession reported that federal recovery money is creating more jobs in construction and retail than any other industries. These are industries that traditionally have not been major job sources for African American communities.
If the rain falls on relatively well-watered areas of economic opportunity, it does little to revive the driest economic landscapes in our country. Targeted approaches are much more likely to be effective. Prioritizing our nation’s highest-unemployment communities is precisely the way to end the downward economic spiral in those places and start a real, broad-based recovery for the entire nation.
Congress must identify communities with the highest unemployment rates and target job-creation initiatives toward those communities, whether by census tract, zip code, or other method. This policy direction will lift up working-class white communities while narrowing the racial income gap. Congress should also ensure that as many of those jobs as possible pay a living wage. This report shows that broad-spectrum, universal solutions to the economic crisis will neither solve the pervasive racial wealth divide nor end gaping racial differences in income. We need job-creation and foreclosure-prevention programs that are targeted to communities most in need, including those with the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates. Such focused strategies will not only help close the racial wealth divide, but will lift up working-class families of all races.”

A federally funded, state WPA kind of program monitored through equity assessments would ensure that program dollars would reach low income communities of color in Connecticut. UFE explains how equity assessments would function.

“To ensure that stimulus funds reach working class and disenfranchised communities, equity assessments should be required for all federal spending. A proper equity assessment will track where funds go, what jobs are created and in what communities. Demographic data on race, ethnicity, gender, class, and geography will be required for an equity assessment. This information will help future government programs reach the disenfranchised and the working class, the communities who must be at the center of an economic recovery.”

Racial Economic Disparity

Blacks/Latinos currently earn about 60 cents for every dollar whites make, and possess about 10 cents of net wealth for every dollar whites have. Houses are the primary wealth asset for Blacks/Latinos. The toxic mortgage scam that contributed to the 2008 economic collapse disproportionately targeted people of color, who subsequently have lost their homes at a higher rate than whites. UFE recommends a plan to build wealth in low income communities of color.

Foreclosures – Draining the Wealth Reservoir:

Foreclosures continue to rise alarmingly. There were an estimated 3.4 million foreclosures in 2009 “Due to the rise in homeowner walk-a-ways, lack of forced bank modifications, growing unemployment figures… Housing Predictor forecasts foreclosures will now top 17 million homes through 2014.”

In addition to rampant unemployment, communities of color experience higher foreclosure rates due to racially targeted predatory lending, in which virtually every sector of the mortgage industry participated. A 2006 study that controlled for income and credit worthiness found that non-whites were significantly more likely than whites to receive high cost loans.

Revisiting the State of the Dream 2008: Foreclosed

The wealth-stripping effects of the recession and foreclosure crisis were documented in UFE’s 2008 State of the Dream: Foreclosed, which showed that predatory lending practices were stripping wealth from communities of color. People of color were more than three times more likely to have subprime loans than whites. Commonly, lenders gave people of color loans with less advantageous payment rates, even when they qualified for better ones. Lenders failed to provide those applying for a home loan with information on the strenuous repayment schedule. Lenders inserted stiff fines for people to pay to get out of a subprime loan if they discovered it was too expensive. Since homes are the main form of wealth for working-class families and especially for communities of color, these practices drained their wealth reservoirs to dangerously low levels.

Source: RealtyTrac reports, with NCRC projecting foreclosures for December 2009 (see Endnotes in report for full citation).
2007 2008 2009
In three years, there have been more than 7.1 million foreclosures in the U.S.

3,400,000 (estimate)

Over half of the mortgages to African Americans in recent years were high-cost subprime loans. This predatory lending formed the epicenter of the first stage of the foreclosure crisis. Significantly, more than 60 percent of those subprime loans went to borrowers whose credit ratings qualified them for lower-cost prime loans, according to a 2008 Wall Street Journal study.
The disproportionate damage from foreclosures compounds the economic challenges that communities of color face and makes their economic recovery more difficult. A recent study shows that workers laid off in an economic downturn can take up to 20 years to replace their lost earnings. Replacing the wealth stripped from communities by predatory lending and foreclosure could take even longer. And while some economic indicators are improving, unemployment and the foreclosure crisis continue to do long-lasting damage to the nation’s economy.
Are we narrowing or widening the racial wealth divide? Arresting the foreclosure crisis is a critical first step toward restoring health to the national economy. The housing industry employs millions of workers and provides the property tax base of cities across the country. Housing is also a main pillar of the nation’s credit markets; while that pillar remains shaky, credit cannot fully recover.
The irresponsible and predatory lending practices of our nation’s financial institutions directly led to the current foreclosure crisis that is stripping wealth from communities of color at alarming rates. The Obama Administration and Congress missed opportunities in 2009 to stop foreclosures, stabilize the economy, and start rebuilding wealth in the communities that the predatory mortgage industry targeted. Our government has an important role in protecting communities from the destructive actions of any party, be it the breaking and entering of a common burglar or the deceptive actions of the
mortgage industry. On this front, the government has failed.
While the Administration and Congress set up several programs to stem the tide of foreclosures, these efforts have been largely ineffective in getting the mortgage industry to renegotiate most mortgages.
Actions that could have been taken include:
• Declare an immediate moratorium on foreclosures. This would have stabilized housing markets, stopped the vicious spiral of wealth stripping in communities of color, and given the financial industry an incentive to renegotiate predatory loans.
• Give bankruptcy judges the power to lower mortgages for insolvent homeowners. This would have kept millions of families in their homes.
• Make mortgages more affordable by requiring cooperation from financial institutions with the affordability programs, including loan modifications, set up by the Administration.
• Strongly regulate financial markets and protect consumers. This would prevent future financial market failures that strip wealth and jobs from all communities and take down the nation’s economy.

Poverty and the Need for TANF Reform in Connecticut

by Mary Sanders

The candidates running for office this year are all avoiding the “P” word! Poverty is a hot potato that causes candidates to cringe when questioned about their agenda to improve the lives of those most in need. For many single parents who are unemployed or underemployed, public assistance, also known as ‘welfare’, makes the difference in meeting their basic survival needs. It used to be that people could get help as long as they needed it, there were also programs available to prepare people to become self- sufficient. What we have now does not meet the needs of families and individuals living in poverty. The candidates for public office, all the way up to the governor’s seat, do not seem to understand or care enough to change things.

When President Bill Clinton’s administration announced the overhaul of the welfare system, what resulted was a federal maximum of 5 years of assistance throughout a person’s life. The message was, grab any job and don’t use up all your time in case you need it down the road! Even in those states with the maximum of 5 years, this is problematic. Imagine CT where you are only allowed 21 months and if you qualify a couple six-month extensions. The goal is to get as many people off assistance as possible during the year and look good to the feds. I know that someone analyzing the data may say, “CT has lowered the number of AFDC cases – Aid to Families with Dependent Children (now TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) households by 10%.” But because important information is not attached to those closed cases, they neglect to say – or may not even know – that 3% of the clients are gainfully employed and 7% got kicked off the program for a variety of reasons. After years of President Reagan’s demonization of “welfare queens”, CT’s welfare reform created an illogical timeline of activity that Department of Social Services caseworkers and the subcontractors are expected to enforce. The program used to be Job Connection and is now Jobs First. In the old program, recipients were assessed for potential return to school and/or vocational training. They were asked what they were good at and what career they would like to pursue and, if reasonable, their DSS social worker, the employment counselor and the school would work as a team to make sure nothing interfered with their training and job placement. This was changed to recipients spending a year looking for work before education or training is considered. It used to be that individuals needed a high school diploma to get a decent job; now that is not enough.

The last 2 decades have seen the largest growth of income for the elite few and the worst decline and climbing poverty rates for too many. And it’s not just that there are more poor people, it’s that more people are experiencing a deeper kind of poverty. As “cash assistance” has ended for many, and people only have their food stamps, studies have shown that families exchange food benefits to buy their kids’ shoes and other household necessities. Unscrupulous storeowners are complicit in this deprivation of food for the kids. They pay pennies on the dollar for whatever is left on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) card. Parents do whatever they need to do when cash benefits end. This system is cruel and punitive; there is no way to get out of the vicious cycle of poverty. For adults with no dependent children it’s even worse, as city welfare departments were all closed in favor of the new State Administered General Assistance program. SAGA is a misnomer as little assistance is actually given. Recipients used to receive about $300 cash monthly in addition to their food stamps & Medicaid. At least recipients could rent a room from someone. Now there is no cash assistance, resulting in extremely harsh circumstances for anyone who loses their job who has no unemployment benefits coming in. Lack of housing assistance is a huge problem and many new homeless are seeking some type of relief. The new 211 shelter line has at least 3 or 4 weeks of wait time for even an assessment and possible placement in shelters. This is not a good system for those seeking employment & stability. This is especially true for the able-bodied but long-term unemployed. That’s another story for another day but housing vouchers are what’s needed, so people can pay a portion of their income and have the stability they need to work towards self-sufficiency.

In spite of all the spending that goes to meet the DSS goals, pending cases sit on piled- high desks waiting for review, clients have no way to pay rent, buy food, get medical care, get childcare assistance, etc. Applications are frequently lost, and it’s almost impossible to reach workers by phone. Caseworkers are overloaded and cannot provide the services they would like to for their clients. Restrictions on what type of supports, training opportunities, and other services can be provided tie the hands of workers. On top of all the restrictions and the time limits, due to former Gov. Rowland’s privatization of the Jobs First program, state workers are no longer doing the case management they used to. Now it’s up to private nonprofits, who are charged with getting X number of participants off the rolls each year. Get out there and prove you went to see 25 potential employers, filled out applications and got the names of the people you saw. Recipients must attend the workshops on how to fill out applications, how to interview, how to dress, etc., whether you’ve never worked or have an extensive work history and just need a decent job.

The benefit of 1 or 2 years of schooling would raise recipients’ potential earnings. If people could get the proper supports and enter training paid by the Department of Labor or DSS, they might have a decent chance to become self-sufficient but those opportunities are few and far between. It’s no wonder so many low-income people are lured into student debt trying to attend ‘private educational institutions’ that offer high cost trainings to anyone that will sign the loan notes. Unfortunately, many people are falsely led to believe their training will be subsidized then all of a sudden they are signing off on loan applications. Many of them are unprepared and not able to complete successfully; they still owe thousands of dollars. Someone needs to do something about these for-profit schools and those that have changed their status to non-profit are no better. Lives are ruined and children are even more deprived when these predators take advantage of low-income folks seeking training opportunities that they’ll be repaying for the next decade or so.

For those TANF clients who have found employment; how about not terminating people’s benefits as soon as they become employed and letting them put a little something away for a rainy day? Clients are afraid to accept any job that will cause them to lose their benefits because these days jobs are temporary, do not provide benefits, and most do not pay livable wages. Don’t say, “Well they can get back on assistance if they need to”. It’s not that easy! If an individuals send their application in by mail, it’s frequently misplaced and needs to be done again. Forget about getting through to DSS workers by phone; clients can be on hold 30 minutes to 2 hours and may get to speak to the right person. Most low-income people have free government phones with very limited monthly minutes. Those could be used up in a couple calls to DSS. I know the department is overwhelmed by all the new cases being opened, but there has to be a way to process people’s redetermination forms so that they do not constantly have their benefits cut off. Many of them end up at our food pantry asking for groceries and the toilet paper we purchase for distribution. It’s a damn shame that in our wealthy state, we cannot properly administer mandated entitlement programs that provide for the basic needs of our residents. Apparently, the computer system in place is programmed to automatically terminate people’s benefits on certain dates, if a worker does not physically enter data to stop that from happening. That means that if the worker is behind, and has 100 redetermination forms piled up on a desk, whose due dates have past, all those cases will automatically be closed. People who were expecting to receive their cash or food benefits are then in a crisis situation, and when told they did not send in their redetermination forms, will just send them over again, creating an even bigger pile. More people comply than do not; therefore, it would make sense to de-program that automatic cutoff feature and have workers physically enter data to close any cases that warrant termination, either for noncompliance or eligibility reasons.

CT was already cited by the feds for their inability to get SNAP applications processed quickly enough and for disqualifying too many who actually qualified. People should not be going hungry, especially the kids. Their parents should have decent employment but if they do need assistance, their food stamps also shouldn’t run out mid-month. In another case, the young mother with a 4-year-old shouldn’t have been cut off of her cash benefits after 21 months when she hadn’t finished preparing for her HS exam. Now she sleeps on the couch at her mom’s house with her son on a cot near her. Someone should give her a housing voucher, daycare, a good educational/vocational program and help her, not punish her for missing an appointment and denying her extension. I opted our agency out of participating in the Jobs First model; I didn’t want to be part of that because I knew that most people needed more time. We run a food pantry and have a social worker but we also have English and GED classes and help people go to college. I don’t want to send people out to look for work if they have education and training needs. Some of the regulations have eased up a little, allowing people minimal training & education opportunities, but the majority of recipients of public assistance are still denied real vocational training or college, which would truly help towards self-sufficiency.

Tell our public officials that money needs to be allocated for the hiring of additional caseworkers to handle the backlog; we need timely processing of applications for assistance. We also need to be able to speak with caseworkers directly and not be relegated to a phone system that routes calls to full voice mailboxes. Tell them that more time needs to be allowed on public assistance while folks are going through adult education and vocational training or higher education so they can reach self- sufficiency (New York City recently implemented reforms, see our Resources section below). SNAP benefits also need to be increased, as food prices continue to climb and more housing vouchers need to be issued for all municipalities, not just urban areas. Those becoming homeless or jobless are flocking to the cities in search of services that are already stretched thin. Additionally, a committee of diverse stakeholders should meet regularly to assess the progress the department is making towards the goal of true client self-sufficiency. The department should not take credit for reducing welfare rolls when half of those exited simply were deemed non-compliant and were therefore removed. There are hungry children out there whom the department has forgotten about.

At the federal level, we already know that poor people are not a priority, and military and corrections systems are more fully funded than education, health and social services. Government officials believe it is more important to avoid taxing the rich and corporations, than to make sure kids have their needs met. It is time we rethink our priorities and come up with ways to protect our most vulnerable. There have been a few active grassroots community groups and non-profits trying to improve the lives of families living in poverty, a couple of them in Hartford have been around for years, organizing and meeting with legislators. The Community Party is also part of the discussion and we have some ideas on how to come up with the money needed. Plans to address hunger, affordable housing, healthcare, and education for low-income CT residents are the topics I want to see on the candidates’ platforms. Why aren’t they discussing these critical issues? Why are they afraid of the “P” word?

We will continue to enhance this plan in the coming months. Follow the Community Party on Twitter for updates. We will present this policy paper to legislators.

David Samuels

Contributors: Laurie Valdez, Janet Frazao-Conaci, Arshad Saalik, Wendy Bueno

Congress Cuts Taxes for the Rich While Majority of Americans Want Them to Pay More

December 20, 2015

Check out The Real News Network website:

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

Christmas came early for Wall Street and corporations on Friday. Both houses of Congress passed the $1.1 trillion spending bill, which includes a $650 billion tax cut. This cut would add up to more than half a trillion dollars to the deficit over the next ten years. Now corporations and banks will be allowed to permanently conduct operations in foreign countries without paying current U.S. taxes, known as active financing. The mostly Republican-supported bill also includes some tax breaks for everyday people, like making permanent the Child Tax Credit, which provides a credit of up to $1,000 per child under the age of 17 for low-income families. President Obama said that he will sign the bill into law before the end of the year.

But when you do the math, what do all of these tax breaks add up to for everyday people? And with less money funding the government, how will this affect social programs supporting everyday people? Now joining us to help answer these questions is our guest, James Henry. James is a leading economist, attorney, and investigative journalist who has written extensively about global issues. Thanks for joining us, James.

JAMES HENRY: You’re very welcome.

DESVARIEUX: So James, there’s so much in this bill, first of all. But let’s look specifically at the active financing provision. Why is that particularly problematic if you’re looking for corporations and banks to pay their fair share in taxes?

HENRY: Well, there’s about $650 billion of tax cuts and the active finance and the so-called CFC provisions, these are technical terms for provisions that basically allow great big multinational companies to park profits offshore tax-free until they bring them back to the United States. It accounts for the fact that companies like General Electric have averaged a 1.8 percent effective U.S. corporate tax rate over the last decade, and the fact that U.S. companies as a whole have had a declining share of the U.S. tax base.

So this is basically just continuing the Christmas stocking stuffing tradition that we’ve seen year-in, year-out, where 70-75 percent of the benefits of this tax bill will go to multinational companies and to wealthy elites. There were basically four provisions in this bill that account for about 75 percent of the tax benefits, and they’re all a benefit only to the wealthiest people, the largest companies in this economy.

DESVARIEUX: But James, Republicans like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, they would argue that despite the tax break increasing the deficit, despite it going to mostly the wealthy, it will pay for itself at the end because it’s going to grow the economy, and create jobs, sort of this trickle-down economics theory. Do we have empirical evidence that supports or disproves this fervent belief especially held by conservatives?

HENRY: No, that’s voodoo economics. We’ve known for decades, we’ve tired experiment after experiment since the 1970s and ’80s with tax cuts. They do not pay for themselves, and these tax cuts are no exception. In fact, these are among the worst kind of tax cuts. They’re much less efficient than many others. The research grant here is going to be of little interest to companies in terms of stimulating real research. The accelerated appreciation. There’s no evidence that it pays for itself. And certainly these offshore tax cuts, if anything, generate businesses offshore outside of the U.S. economy. Not ones that generate jobs here.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. So it’s safe to say, like you said, it’s voodoo economics. But let’s get into how this is going to affect the wealth gap in this country. We have about 20 of the wealthiest people own more wealth than the bottom half of the American population combined. That’s pretty scary. That’s according to a recent IPS report that came out. So James, how is this tax cut going to affect the wealth gap?

HENRY: This is going to make it worse. I mean, Obama today in his press conference just glossed over all of the distributional impacts of his bill. And then he’s on his way to Hawaii for a couple weeks of vacation. You know, the people who voted for this bill are not living in the same world that most ordinary Americans are living in, where inequality is rising, poverty is at all-time records, and the economy has been growing at a modest 2 percent. The unemployment numbers have been coming down, but those are official unemployment. There’s a lot of slack in this economy, still.

And I think to this, this bill, doesn’t address any of that. It just flies in the face of all the concerns that ordinary Americans have for, you know, their incomes and their children’s incomes, and the future of inequality. I mean, this is a devastating bill from the standpoint of addressing inequality and economic justice.

DESVARIEUX: And ordinary Americans certainly wouldn’t be cutting taxes for the wealthy. Actually, the opposite. According to a Gallup poll taken this year, 52 percent of Americans want the government to redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich. So James, it seems like Congress is doing the exact opposite with these tax cuts, not listening to the majority of Americans. Why are their voices being ignored, and what special interests were behind this bill?

HENRY: Well you know, there’s more than 1800 tax lobbyists in Washington, DC. They don’t work for you and me. This, this bill was written, 2,200 pages of it, was written by tax lobbyists and the big contributors to both parties. And you can see provision after provision was really fine-tuned for special interests, if you go through the bill carefully.

So you know, there’s no question that money talks in this situation, and we have campaign finance laws that are fundamentally broken. They don’t address the issues. And it’s no, no surprise, really, that Congress is basically beholden to the people that are paying for their campaigns and for lobbying efforts that they’re influenced by. So you know, until we address that fundamental reality of the U.S. political system, where money talks and the rest of us are left out of the scene, you know, I don’t expect this situation to change. I think we’re back here next year talking about another tax-extender bill with the same dimensions.

DESVARIEUX: All right. James Henry, thank you so much for joining us.

HENRY: You’re very welcome.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

Meagan Hockaday Act

December 20, 2015

Meagan Hockaday was murdered by Oxnard, California police officer Roger Garcia in front of her children on March 28, 2015. Garcia has not been charged. Coming in 2016: The Community Party’s Meagan Hockaday Act will include enhanced criminal penalties for excessive use of force by the police against mentally ill people and individuals in crisis, in addition to whenever children are present. Our legislation would implement a new international approach to policing, based on a successful model in the United Kingdom and Canada that emphasizes de-escalation and treatment. Stay tuned for updates. Meagan Matters!


Police in U.S. kill more people than all other developed nations COMBINED:

Hamilton, Ontario Police COAST Program:

UK Police use police back up, de-escalation, and public order shields to subdue a mentally ill man wielding a machete.

Investigative report on the police murder of Caroline Small, an unarmed woman who was experiencing a mental health crisis:

Mentally Ill and Murdered by Police:

New Mexico Police Shoot at Minivan Full of Kids:

False Choice: The Bipartisan Attack on the Working Class, the Poor and Communities of Color

December 20, 2015

Trebol Press has published Community Party founder David Samuels’ first nonfiction book on politics. The Democrats and Republicans spar publicly, but the reality is that these two parties have more in common than they have differences. This duopoly is run on corporatist economic policies that benefit the ruling class, at the expense of the workers and the poor. Global hegemony is at the core of the foreign policies of the Dems and the GOP. False Choice is a diary of national and global issues, set against the backdrop of the Connecticut gubernatorial election between incumbent Gov. Dannel Malloy and Republican challenger Tom Foley that was rated as the most negative in the country in 2014. The book also features commentary on politics at Hartford City Hall, including analysis of the highly controversial baseball stadium deal orchestrated by Mayor Pedro Segarra and City Council President Shawn Wooden. Visit the Trebol Press website for ordering info. Visit the False Choice Author Page on Facebook for news, commentary, and coverage of third party politics.