Prison Industry

Oct
25

Slavery Was Abolished

Tag: Civil Rights, Peace and War, Prison Industry, Race Relations

By David Swanson, World Beyond War

I recently debated a pro-war professor on the topic “Is war ever necessary?” (video). I argued for abolishing war. And because people like to see successes before doing something, no matter how indisputably possible that thing is, I gave examples of other institutions that have been abolished in the past. One might include such practices as human sacrifice, polygamy, cannibalism, trial by ordeal, blood feuds, dueling, or the death penalty in a list of human institutions that have been largely abolished in some parts of the earth or which people have at least come to understand could be abolished.

Of course, an important example is slavery. But when I claimed that slavery had been abolished, my debate opponent quickly announced that there are more slaves in the world today than there were before foolish activists imagined they were abolishing slavery. This stunning factoid was meant as a lesson to me: Do not try to improve the world. It cannot be done. In fact, it may be counter-productive.

But let’s examine this claim for the 2 minutes necessary to reject it. Let’s look at it globally and then with the inevitable U.S. focus.

May
10

Talk Nation Radio: Jean Trounstine and Karter Reed on Murder, Juvenile Injustice, and Redemption

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-jean-trounstine-and-karter-reed-on-murder-juvenile-injustice-and-redemption

Jean Trounstine is the author of Boy With a Knife: A Story of Murder, Remorse, and a Prisoner's Fight for Justice.

Karter Reed is the subject of and the author of the Epilogue to the book. He was convicted of murder as a child in an adult court, and was sent to adult prison.

Trounstine and Reed discuss Reed's story and U.S. policies on juvenile crime.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

May
03

Talk Nation Radio: Peter Enns on How Public Punitiveness Led to Mass Incarceration

Tag: Prison Industry, Talk Nation Radio

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-peter-enns-on-how-public-punitiveness-led-to-mass-incarceration

Peter Enns is Associate Professor in the Department of Government and Executive Director of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell University. He is also team leader of the Institute for Social Science theme project on the Causes, Consequences, and Future of Mass Incarceration in the United States.

His research focuses on public opinion, representation, mass incarceration, and inequality. Peter also teaches courses on quantitative research methods. Peter’s new book, Incarceration Nation, (Cambridge University Press) explains why the public became more punitive in the 1960s, 70s, 80, and 90s, and how this increasing punitiveness led to the rise of mass incarceration in the United States.

Peter received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2007) and his undergraduate degree from Colorado College (1998). Prior to graduate school, he taught high school Spanish for three years in Baltimore, MD, through Teach For America. Additional information on his research and teaching is available on his personal website.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Apr
17

What's the Truth Hidden by the "Super Predators" Lie?

Tag: Civil Rights, Prison Industry, Race Relations

The desire to punish for the joy of punishing, for revenge, or for racist or sadistic domination has always had certain difficulties hiding behind the pretense of punishing for protection from danger. Creating fear of (young, black, male) "super predators" was a propaganda tactic for politicians like Hillary Clinton that bore some similarity to the efforts by politicians like Hillary Clinton to create fear of Iraqi weapons that didn't exist. The latter was meant to hide U.S. aggression toward Iraq. The former was meant to hide mad, raging punitive vindictiveness that sought to put lots of people in cages for lots of time regardless of the damage done.

One of the difficulties that pretending to punish people for public safety has in hiding real motives for mass incarceration is that the people whom the punishers most want to lock up for the longest time (or execute) are generally the least likely people to commit another crime (even if guilty of the first one). A 2009 study cited in the remarkable new book, Boy With a Knife, found that those who had been incarcerated for homicide were the very least likely to commit any kind of crime. In California in 2011 almost 49% of prisoners released later returned to prison for new criminal convictions, but that figure was less than 1% for those released who had been convicted of murder.

Jan
03

You Should Watch Making of a Murderer

Tag: Civil Rights, Prison Industry, Prosecution

There's a 10-hour documentary on Netflix with more to teach us than all the combined episodes of Star Wars. (Yes, it's nice to see a storm trooper refuse to fight, but only until he gleefully joins in the killing for the other side, with all his victims still in masks so that we, the executioner audience, don't have to see faces die.)

Making of a Murderer is a hugely important film, and it is in fact quite suspenseful. And I am about to SPOIL the plot for you. So please STOP READING until you've watched the film if you want it to include suspense. (To give you time to watch something so lengthy, I'll also spoil the rest of the NCAA basketball season and tournament for you. Virginia wins.)

HAVE YOU STOPPED READING IF YOU DON'T WANT THE PLOT SPOILED?

Good.

I'm going to assume you've seen Making of a Murderer or are not concerned about the element of suspense.

The reason I find a need to write about this is because it exposes a silent epidemic. If child abuse or rape or child labor or some other horror were never talked about, an article or book exposing an unknown epidemic would be quite valuable. And, historically, a video documenting such a thing would be remarkable.

This past year, videos filmed primarily on telephones have exposed the long-pre-existing epidemic of U.S. police murdering unarmed people. We still don't know the full size of that epidemic. It will of course pale beside something like cancer, while dwarfing other horrors about which we are trained to obsess, such as Islamic terrorism.

Making of a Murderer exposes something else that police do. But this is a horror that cannot be documented in a 5-minute video. It takes 10 hours. What police, together with prosecutors do, on a significant scale but a scale we have not yet tried to measure, is this: they frame innocent people and send them to prison.

The psychology involved is tantalizing but a bit of a distraction. When a police officer shoots an unarmed kid, we can ask whether the act grew out of sadism or racism or fear or carelessness. The fact is it grew out of impunity. When police and prosecutors -- and judges and juries -- railroad innocent people to prison, we can ask whether they've acted out of malice, ignorance, fear, or recklessness. The fact is that they've acted out of a sense of untouchable power.

That every level of law enforcement is twisted by racism is well documented in The New Jim Crow, among other places. We know that ugly and ignorant views regularly influence what police and prosecutors do. But Making of a Murderer is a true story of white people framing innocent white people with crimes. The victims of this frame-up are poor, poorly educated, and of markedly low intelligence and social skills. Various prejudices may have been at work. But primarily what's revealed in the documentary is the power of the presumption of guilt that comes with all criminal accusations, combined with the power of the presumption of innocence that in our culture belongs to the police, and only to the police.

During the explosive growth of the U.S. prison system, most people have gone to prison under plea bargains. That many innocent people have falsely pled guilty to plea bargains in order to avoid the risk of a higher penalty has been well documented, although we have no idea of the true scale of this phenomenon. Among those who go to trial in the United States, we know also that a significant number of innocents are found guilty. One reason we know this is that in a tiny fraction of cases there is DNA evidence to be tested that can prove innocence, and -- particularly during the 1980s -- there have been cases in which that evidence was maintained but not tested. Later testing has resulted in numerous exonerations.

Those lucky cases in which DNA evidence was available to free an innocent were not unlike most other cases in the manner in which a false guilty verdict was arrived at. As I've noted before, Brandon Garrett's Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong examines the prosecutions of the first 250 people exonerated by DNA testing. Of the 250, 76% were misidentified by an eyewitness -- most of the witnesses having been led to that act by police and/or prosecutor, some of them badgered and threatened, others merely manipulated. Invalid forensic science expertise contributed to 61% of the convictions, much of it willfully manipulated, some fraction perhaps attributable to well-intentioned but negligent incompetence. Informants, mostly jailhouse informants, and most of them manipulated and bribed by police or prosecutor, helped out in 21% of the trials. In 16% of the cases, the accused supposedly confessed to the crime, but these "confessions" tended to be the result of police intimidation, manipulation, brutality, and simple lying. Garrett fears that similar problems infect the U.S. justice system as a whole. I have no doubt that they do.

In Making of a Murderer we see police produce a false confession, witnesses provide false testimony, the FBI provide false scientific evidence, and -- in a rape case toward the beginning of the story -- an eyewitness led by police into misidentifying a rapist. That earlier crime puts the protagonist in prison for 18 years before a DNA exoneration. Once free, he files a suit for $36 million that threatens to expose numerous crimes by the police who framed him for rape. But at that moment, they frame him for murder.

One of the police and prosecutors' main tools is the media. They produce a false confession by their victim's 16-year-old nephew that proves too ludicrous to be used in court. They never call him as a witness against his uncle. But the jury pool has already been overwhelmingly contaminated by the dramatic tale fed to the media. Many years ago, I reported on the production by the Culpeper, Virginia, police of a false confession by a low-IQ man named Earl Washington. The transcript of the confession was absurd. When asked a straight-forward question, Washington would guess, and always guess wrong. He didn't know any of the facts of the case. But the questioner would then feed him the facts and ask "Isn't that right?" and Washington, aiming to please, would agree. Some states have since required the videotaping of interrogations and confessions.

In the case of Making of a Murderer there is enough videotape of the questioning of the 16-year-old to make crystal-clear what happened. And yet it didn't do a damn bit of good. The kid had no money and therefore no expert defense. His lawyers and his jury blew it. But his uncle had two huge advantages. First he had been exonerated for an earlier crime. The fact that the police were out to get him was widely recognized. The local police department was forbidden to take part in the investigation of the new crime, and took part anyway, and happened to find key evidence. Second, Steve Avery -- that's the name of this innocent man -- settled his $36 million suit for $400,000 and used that money to hire excellent attorneys.

Now, having excellent attorneys is very rare but far from unheard of. Wealthy people have them all the time. But having attorneys who actually believe you're innocent is virtually unheard of. And having attorneys willing to argue that the police framed you is the most extreme rarity. Avery had all of these things, and it still was not enough.

What can we do? Sign this petition to free Steve Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey.

What can we do about the thousands who could not afford to go to trial, could not afford a good lawyer, could not devise any means to persuade their good lawyer to believe them, and/or could not convince their good layer who believed them to risk his or her career by taking on the police department?

I think we have to work to encourage the production of films that will make the phenomenon of frame-ups as well known as the phenomenon of police murder. It's either that or get people to start reading.

Sep
15

Talk Nation Radio: James Kilgore on Understanding Mass Incarceration

Tag: Prison Industry, Race Relations, Talk Nation Radio

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-james-kilgore-on-understanding-mass-incarceration 

James Kilgore discusses his new book, Understanding Mass Incarceration: An Introduction to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time. 

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

May
09

The Prison Gates Swing Open for Peace Activists

Tag: Prison Industry

Kathy Kelly is just out of prison, where she'd been sent for nonviolently opposing drone murders.

An appeals court has just overturned convictions for Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Gregory Boertje-Obed, imprisoned for entering and protesting a nuclear weapons site at Oak Ridge, Tenn., three years ago. Resentencing on lesser charges, and quite possibly immediate release, is expected.

Amazingly, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the government failed to prove that the activists intended to "injure the national defense." (Maybe Venezuela, accused by President Obama of being a threat to the same, should appeal to the Sixth Circuit!)

The U.S. government has just dropped charges against eight members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance who nonviolently protested the U.S. military's environmental destruction with a march from the EPA to the Pentagon this past Earth Day.

"It can only be speculated why the charges were dismissed," said NCNR. "The eight activists were charged with 'Failure to Comply With a Lawful Order' and were scheduled to appear for trial on June 4 at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, VA. The group was well prepared to challenge the charge and to speak some truth to power in the courtroom. Perhaps the U.S. attorney recognized that the defendants at the Pentagon were simply exercising their constitutionally-protected right to speak out against our government's wrong-headed policies. Or possibly he agreed with the defendants' messages."

In recent months there have been absurd indictments and sentences. But there have also been surprising acquittals and the dismissal of charges.

Freedom isn't free, it's won by continued protests of wars.

Now to free all the other prisoners!

John Kiriakou, just out of prison, writes about his experience here.

Apr
20

Talk Nation Radio: Karen Dolan on the Criminalization of Poverty

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-karen-dolan-on-the-criminalization-of-poverty

Karen Dolan is a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and directs the Criminalization of Poverty project there. She also is a member of the team at the Economic Hardship Reporting project. Her public scholarship and activism is focused on domestic poverty and local democracy/empowerment. Karen's latest publication is The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty: PDF.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or  LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Nov
18

Talk Nation Radio: Maya Schenwar on Why Prison Doesn't Work

Tag: Prison Industry, Talk Nation Radio

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-maya-schenwar-on-why-prison-doesnt-work

Maya Schenwar is the author of Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better. She discusses the book, what to do about prison, and her own family's experience. She is also the editor-in-chief of Truthout. She mentions this article during the show: http://davidswanson.org/node/4583

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

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