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Racial Profiling Disorder: the All-Amerikan Pandemic

Racial Profiling Disorder: the All-American Pandemic Racial Profiling Disorder: the All-American Pandemic

Please, please help me. No, I don’t want to put handcuffs on. No! Don’t put handcuffs on! No, I want to stay in school, I just got here. Let go of me. No, please let me go…I don’t wanna go in a police car. No, please give me a second chance!

— Pleas of 6-year-old Kaia Rolle to arresting officer*

I can do anything I want. I’m a police officer.

Deputy Constable Daryl Jones, white police officer

There’s an ugly truth in these numbers. It’s not just that minorities are more likely to be stopped—they’re more likely to be stopped without cause.

–Former New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio in 2013.

A Journal of the Plague Years

・January 21, 2020, Muncie, Indiana: A white university professor calls police after Sultan Benson, a black university student, refuses to change his seat during a class.

・June 30, 2019, Freeport, Illinois: 24-year-old Shaquille Dukes, a black hospital patient suffering from double pneumonia is handcuffed and arrested by police as he walks outside the hospital on doctor’s orders tethered to an IV drip and is charged with attempted theft of hospital equipment.

・March 1, 2019, Boulder, Colorado: A cop pulls a gun on 26-year-old black college student Zayd Atkinson who is picking up trash in front of his dormitory.

・November 12, 2019: Indianapolis, Indiana: Black shoppers Aaron Blackwell and Durrell Cunningham are detained by a police officer in a mall parking lot for “acting suspicious.”

・ September 19, 2019, Orlando, Florida: Kaia Rolle, a 6-year-old black girl, is zip-tied and arrested for battery by police after throwing a tantrum at her elementary school. She is taken to a juvenile processing center where she is fingerprinted and her mug shot taken.

・September 19, 2019, La Paz, Arizona: Philip Colbert, a black 22-year old car salesman, is pulled over by a sheriff’s deputy after being tailed for 20 minutes and questioned because an air-freshener was hanging from his rearview mirror. He is then asked at least ten times whether he is in possession of marijuana, even after telling the officer that he never smoked it and does not have any in his car.

・September 12, 2019, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Jahvon Beener, a black 15-year-old high school student, is detained by police while waiting with his friends at a bus stop.

・August 13, 2019, Royal Oak, Michigan: Police stop 20-year-old Devin Myers, a black man, after receiving a call from a white woman who claims he was staring at her “suspiciously.”

・July 4, 2018, Winston-Salem, North Carolina: a white man calls 911 on Jasmine Abhulimen, a black mother, and her son when she refuses his demand to show him an ID to use the community pool.

・May 7, 2018, New Haven, Connecticut: A white female Yale university student calls police on Lolade Siyonbola, a 34-year-old black female graduate student who was napping in the common room of their dorm.


As the above woefully incomplete list of incidents demonstrates, America has another pandemic, one which has existed long before the current one, but which has proven itself equally insidious and fatal. Although RAPROD-∞ (Racial Profiling Disease) sporadically makes headlines, it has festered in this nation for generations.

COVID-19 does not discriminate; RAPROD-∞ does. Despite repeated outbreaks of the disease, no national emergency has been declared. Business goes on as usual. Stocks have not plunged (In fact, private prison stocks have soared to meet expanding demand). No tests have been devised to detect its carriers.

While hand-washing is an effective method of combatting the spread of COVID-19, washing one’s hands of RAPROD-∞ has only made matters worse. Part of the problem has been the minimization of its impact on black America by those who ignore the devastation inflicted by super spreaders like former New York mayor and failed presidential contender Mike Bloomberg who in 2015 asserted:

95 percent of your murders – murderers and murder victims – fit one MO. You can take the description, Xerox it, pass it out to all the cops. They are male, minorities, 16 to 25. That’s true in New York, that’s true in virtually every city. That’s where the real crime is. You have to get the guns out of the hands of the people that are getting killed. . . .They still have a gun but they leave it at home.

In doing so, “RAPROD Mikey had taken a page from the playbook of former Education Secretary William Bennett, who in 2005 insisted, perhaps in a bid to become the director of the CBC (Center for Black Control), that to reduce crime: “You could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensive thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.” Ten years later, Bloomberg would contribute his own penultimate solution to the crime problem, apparently under the impression that while aborting black babies en masse is reprehensible, indiscriminately stopping, frisking, and arresting blacks is not.

This should not come as a surprise us since one of the symptoms of RAPROD-∞ is a propensity of carriers to ignore empirical evidence that contradicts their biases. Bloomberg insisted that blacks have guns. When they don’t, he posited, it is simply because “they leave [them] at home,” a revealing conclusion given that a 2013 New York City Public Advocate Office study of NYPD statistics had already found that white people are more likely to carry weapons and drugs than blacks and Latinos.

Specifically, the office found that:

・The likelihood a stop of an African American New Yorker yielded a weapon was half that of white New Yorkers stopped. The NYPD uncovered a weapon in one out every 49 stops of white New Yorkers. By contrast, it took the Department 71 stops of Latinos and 93 stops of African Americans to find a weapon.

・The likelihood a stop of an African American New Yorker yielded contraband was one-third less than that of white New Yorkers stopped. The NYPD uncovered contraband in one out every 43 stops of white New Yorkers. By contrast, it took the Department 57 stops of Latinos and 61 stops of African Americans to find contraband.

・Despite the overall reduction in stops, the proportion involving African-American and Latino New Yorkers has remained unchanged. They continue to constitute 84 percent of all stops, despite comprising only 54 percent of the general population.

Nonetheless, RAPROD-∞ carriers are convinced that blacks disproportionately carry guns and other contraband. When they do carry guns, RAPROD-∞ carriers, many of whom are rabid defenders of the Second Amendment, assume those arms have been obtained illegally and believe that their owners should be dealt with proactively. Such attitudes can prove fatal, as in the case of Philando Castile whom police shot to death after he informed them that he was in legal possession of a firearm, insuring that there would be one less black to inevitably contribute to the crime rate. Before he was killed, police had previously stopped Castile for minor traffic violations 52 times, leaving little doubt that like the nation as a whole the Minneapolis police department has succumbed to RAPROD-∞.

Hate in the Time of RAPROD-∞

But police are not the only group afflicted with RAPROD-∞; the civilian population, particularly white women (BBQ BeckyCornerstore CarolineGolfcart GailKeyfob Kelly, and Permit Patty), are also at high risk, though white males (Coupon CarlID AdamJogger JoePool Patrol Paul) have also been identified, the affected communities that have had to deal with them dubbing both with an alphabet soup of satiric sobriquets that poke fun at the malevolent stupidity of their actions and serve as a psychological prophylactic against daily traumas.

The Arizona sheriff’s deputy who stopped Philip Colbert accused him of being “deceptive” because he was shaking and looked “nervous”; the cop who detained Jahvon Beener in his police wagon for being shirtless on an 87-degree day eventually released him after smirkingly demanding he tell the students who had been waiting at the bus stop with him that “you were shaking in the car in the police car.” According to Beener, before he was released, the officer had asked him why he was shaking and shirtless. When Beener told him it was “because it was hot outside” the officer “acted like he didn’t believe me. He let me out and I felt humiliated and hurt.” Beener had good reason to shake: “I was scared for my life,” he told a reporter, a reasonable fear given law enforcement’s habitual lack of regard for black lives.

Similar fears were expressed by Sultan Benson: “I’m from the Southside of Chicago. I wasn’t supposed to make it to college…I made it to college, and I got the police called on me for being in the classroom…You know what’s going to happen in that 20 seconds. If I hadn’t kept my composure, I could have been riddled with bullets, tased, beaten down, handcuffed – there’s no telling.”

Young children are especially vulnerable to psychological ravages of RAPROD–∞. “I felt humiliated,” said 9-year-old Jeremiah Harvey, whom Cornerstore Caroline had wrongly accused of grabbing her butt when his backpack accidently brushed her in a Brooklyn bodega. “It’s still hard because I have this lately on my mind,” he said, “I can’t think of nothing more but this.”

Black Death

Untreated, RAPROD-∞ is often fatal – not to those who have contracted it but to those exposed to them. The disease is rarely lethal to carriers. At worst, they resign their jobs, are fired or suspended, suspend their presidential campaigns, or become the object of fleeting social media notoriety. This is not the case for those who are exposed to the disease by virtue of their blackness and who can never regain their stolen innocence.

In the three months since the outbreak of COVID-19, there have been daily, detailed data dumps on the number of victims it has claimed, as well as how to cope with the psychological, sociological, and economic toll of the crisis. This has not been the case with RAPROD-∞. There is little mention of the number of blacks and browns who have lost their jobs and their lives because of spurious 911 calls and jittery, trigger-happy cops, and nervous neighbors, storeowners, teachers, and shoppers who feel threatened by anyone of any age with a tincture of melanin.

At least with COVID-19, social distancing has helped alleviate the impact of the pandemic. Not so RAPROD-∞. Carriers of the disease such as Keyfob Kelly and ID Adam have physically blocked blacks from entering their own homes. In fact, Kelly was so “uncomfortable” with one black male resident entering “my building” that not only did she unsuccessfully try to block him from entering, she followed him inside, rode the elevator alone with him to his floor, and followed him down the corridor to the door of his apartment until he entered and self-isolated.

At worst, blacks may suffer the fate of Atatiana Jefferson, who was killed by police in her Fort Worth, Texas home in 2019, or of Botham Jean, another Texas casualty who was murdered in his own apartment by a white female police officer who mistook it for hers. Mentally ill blacks are particularly vulnerable. In New York in 2011, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a 68-year-old former Marine was tased, shot with bean-bags, and ultimately fatally shot by police when they broke into his home after he accidentally triggering his medical alert device.

The Penultimate Solution

Despite these outbreaks of RAPROD-∞, the pandemic has not risen to the level of a national emergency, perhaps because those most affected by it constitute a powerless minority. National statistics are not kept on the number of carriers and their victims, and containment strategies have yet to be seriously discussed. In response to the crisis, cellphone cameras and access to social media have become a mandatory survival tool like condoms during the HIV/AIDs crisis. Black families have developed “the Talk” to prepare their children for how to deal with police in particular and racially paranoid whites in general. But how young should such discussions start? With 6- and 7-year-olds who act out in class? Eight-year-olds who have the police called on them by licensed cannabis entrepreneurs for selling bottled water without a permit? Twelve-year-olds who have police sicced on them for mowing lawns? (In Florida alone, over the past five years, 5% of all juvenile arrests have involved elementary-aged children.)

Or taking a hint from Bennett, should they be prepared in utero for the post-natal, societal abortion that awaits them?


* [In a hostage situation] try to humanize the victims by using their names.

FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin



[Book Excerpt #9\”The Roots of Racism in American Policing”]
The murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark on December 9, 1969, in Chicago, is an example of outright blatant political police murder.
Photo: Facebook

Charismatic Chicago Panther leader Fred Hampton murdered in his sleep by Chicago Police on December 4, 1969.

The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book “The Roots of Racism in American Policing: From Slave Patrols to Stop-and-Frisk.”

Over the last few weeks, the Black Star News has been publishing selected portions from the book. The following excerpt is from Chapter 3.

The rise of Black Power groups, in the Sixties, like the Black Panther Party, and later, groups like the Black Liberation Army, were a direct indicator of this rising resistance to police oppression and political white supremacy. The original name of the Black Panther Party was the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. The emphasis on self-defense must not be forgotten since this is a direct reference to resisting the violence and murder of Black Americans by the hands of police. Founded in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in the incendiary aftermath of the 1965 Watts Rebellion, and the assassination of the militant Muslim minister Malcolm X, the Black Panther Party declared, in point seven of their “Ten-Point Program,” that “We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of Black people.”

This demand made it clear the Panthers would be on a collision course with America’s white-controlled police forces. Because of their stance, the FBI and American police departments in collusive cooperation embarked on a campaign to destroy and “neutralize” the Panthers, a tactic that would also be used against other Black Liberation groups. This led to some of the most obvious instances of outright police murder of Black radicals and activists and some that are not so clear cut. For example, the latter circumstance seems apparent in the February 21, 1965, assassination of Malcolm X where the NYPD and FBI probably colluded to, at least,  create the climate that led to Malcolm’s murder. We now know the NYPD had foreknowledge an attempt on Malcolm’s life would be made that night. Were they also involved? Reportedly, although there wasn’t the usual uniform presence of police at the Audubon Ballroom that day, an undercover police presence was on the scene when the assassination took place. We know that undercover officer Gene Roberts (who had infiltrated Malcolm’s circle gaining access to his security detail)  allegedly tried to revive Malcolm. Was he really trying to revive Malcolm or was he making sure Malcolm died? Moreover, why wasn’t Roberts able to stop the assassins–since he should have known about the plot? Was it because he was one?

NYPD elements tipped-off columnist Jimmy Breslin that he should go to the Audubon Ballroom because something significant would occur. This was exposed in the book “The Ganja Godfather: The Untold Story of NYC’s Weed Kingpin,” by Toby Rogers. According to Rogers, after the assassination, Breslin, who worked then for The New York Herald Tribune, wrote a story for the newspaper titled: “Police Rescue Two Suspects.” However, Rogers states that after this initial story ran no further mention was ever made of this other unidentified suspect who is apparently not one of the three people—Talmadge Hayer, Thomas Johnson and Norman Butler—who would eventually be prosecuted for Malcolm’s murder. In 2005, on the 40th anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination Rogers, who was interviewing Breslin, says he decided to question the legendary journalist on these curious circumstances of intrigue that Breslin witnessed. Rogers claims Breslin started by telling him: “Well I was supposed to receive a journalism award in Syracuse that evening, but I got tip [from the NYPD] that I should go up to Harlem to see Malcolm X speak. I sat way in the back smoking a Pall Mall cigarette.” But Rogers says when he tried to raise the subject of the second suspect and the suspicious omission from The New York Herald Tribune’s coverage, in follow-up and secondary stories about Malcolm’s killing, Breslin’s mood quickly changed. “When I asked Jimmy about the reports of a second suspect and his strange disappearance, both in his Tribune story and the Times piece. All of the sudden Breslin got quite cagey,” Rogers said. “He knew exactly what I was referring to and refused to talk any further.” According to Rogers, Breslin’s response just before the interview ended was: “Fuck it, I don’t want to know no more, that’s it! I don’t fucking know what is what. I don’t know if there was two editions or one. I don’t want to remember. I don’t want to read it. Fuck it. Who cares! It’s 2005, I … fucking dead and disinterested.” Breslin died on March 19, 2017, apparently taking the secrets he knew about Malcolm’s assassination to the grave. All of this evidence strongly suggests that the NYPD operatives who were present at the Audubon Ballroom were likely intricately involved in the plot to murder Malcolm X.

However, the murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark on December 4, 1969, in Chicago, is an example of outright blatant political police murder. It was flagrantly done with the blessings of the then Cook County State Attorney’s Office, the Chicago Police Department, and the J. Edgar Hoover FBI. All the relevant facts tell us this.

Hampton, a young charismatic Chicago Panther leader, was executed in a hail of police gunfire—while he slept. Hampton was included on the FBI’s “Agitator Index,” as a “key militant leader.” The essential facts of this case make it clear Hampton’s killing was nothing more than state-sanctioned political murder. The police played their dutiful role by physically silencing this influential Black voice, killing Hampton under the cover of darkness pumping numerous shots into his body as he slept. A Black undercover informer, William O’Neal, was recruited to infiltrate the Chicago Panther chapter, where he became Hampton’s bodyguard. O’Neal drew a layout of the house where Hampton stayed. This act made it easy for the Chicago Police to attack the house and carry out this act of cold-blooded double murder. O’Neal reportedly slipped the drug secobarbital into Hampton’s drink the night before so he would not awaken during the pre-dawn police raid. During this time, and into the Seventies, America’s police departments, across the country, no doubt with the direction of the FBI, carried out numerous assaults—and murdered many Black Panther Party leaders and members.

Today, it would seem obvious to say the current climate between the police and Black America is not quite as volatile. At least, not yet. However, this will probably change if the political powers in Washington continue to turn a blind eye to the brutal institutional racism in police policy that leads to the continued killings and murders of Black people. The Black Lives Matter Movement has made an important contribution towards shining the spotlight on police brutality. For their efforts, they have been vilified and labeled as violent thugs by immoral politicians and police. But while these hypocrites make these sorts of slanderous statements they see it fit to do nothing about the rampant, racist, unchecked, murder that is being perpetrated by police.

In many of the police killings that we’ve witnessed since the chokehold death of Eric Garner and the shooting death of Michael Brown we see police using the “I feared for my life” defense. Even despicable former South Carolina Officer Michael Slager tried to use this excuse for his cold-blooded murder of Walter Scott, on April 4, 2015, in North Charleston, South Carolina. Unfortunately for him, the actions of brave bystander Feidin Santana, who videotaped Slager shooting Scott in the back multiple times, and planting evidence, destroyed his lie. How many police get away with similar acts because no video is available?

In the so-called “land of the free,” freedom was not meant for those who came here as African slaves. And the Slave Patrol police were the main instruments used to enforce this oppression. The police of today are tasked with a similar role as their militia Slave Patrols predecessors: they are the enforcers of a corrupt system that has exploited Black Africans to make America the rich superpower it is today. And their job, especially as it pertains to policing Black America, is very similar to their role during Slavery.


Police Tactics Put Public Housing Residents Under ‘Siege’: Paper

houding project

Public Housing in Chicago. Photo by Roseann O’Loughlin via Flickr

If you live in public housing, don’t expect to be protected by the Fourth Amendment’s guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures, warns an article in the Case Western Reserve Law Review.

“Cramped” Supreme Court interpretations of the Fourth Amendment that upheld proactive crime-fighting strategies such as “spot policing,” “stop and frisk” and “zero tolerance policing” have taken from public housing tenants a basic constitutional right shared by all Americans, according to Rutgers University assistant law professor Alexis Karteron.

“Fourth Amendment law plays a critical role in fueling such intense police oversight and surveillance of public and patrolled housing that they are sometimes effectively rendered occupied territories,” Karteron wrote.

Judicial rulings that justify aggressive measures against individuals in public spaces who are suspected of criminal behavior allow police to “lay siege” to vast housing tracts without resorting to the warrants they would require to enter private dwellings, she argued.

In her article, entitled “When Stop and Frisk Comes Home: Policing Public and Patrolled Housing,” Karteron proposed “rethinking” the Fourth Amendment in a way that gives the entire area occupied by a housing development the same “sanctity” as private residences.

“Public housing developments and their private counterparts have historical reputations as problem places, and law enforcement has subjected these locations to specialized policing programs for decades,” she wrote.

Under current interpretations of Fourth Amendment law, police are encouraged to act forcefully against residents of public housing and patrolled housing— which refers to multi-unit dwellings subject to regular patrol by police or other law enforcement officers— “in response to even the most minor misbehavior,” she added.

“The excessive regulation of conduct in and around such housing developments—achieved by statutes and ordinances that specifically govern conduct in those locations as well as ‘house rules’ and similar restrictions enforced by police—combined with the freedom accorded police when they operate in these locales, effectively provides police carte blanche to stop, arrest, and search everyone they encounter.”

Karteron said she was not attempting to evaluate or assess the effectiveness of “smart policing” strategies developed over the past decades. But she noted that such strategies can threaten the civil rights of public housing tenants unless authorities take measures to avoid their misuse.

“Long-acknowledged anemic Fourth Amendment protections for the urban poor are especially weak in hot spots,” she wrote. “In the context of public and patrolled housing, that weakness profoundly affects the everyday interactions between residents and the police.

“Actions deemed lawful under the Fourth Amendment can leave public and patrolled housing residents particularly vulnerable to surveillance, police encounters and stops, as well as searches and arrests. “

Karteron cites a case of a public housing development in Oakland, Ca., where “officers routinely conduct warrant and records checks of people they accuse of loitering, and officers often handcuff them as well.”

Similarly, the Black Lives Matter organization filed a complaint with the New York Attorney General, accusing the Buffalo (N.Y.) Police Department of unconstitutional trespass-enforcement policies in housing projects in that city—which included trespass “sweeps” and checkpoints.

So-called problem-oriented policing, defined as efforts to solve factors that contribute to criminal behavior, such as poor street lighting, abandoned homes, broken locks and other security failures, can also lead to aggressive behavior that flouts Fourth Amendment protections, Karterton said.

The 1968 Supreme Court ruling in Terry v Ohio set a standard of “reasonable suspicion” and “articulable facts” related to potential criminal behavior to determine whether they are entitled to stop an individual.

But that has also enabled law enforcement to effectively ignore Fourth Amendment protections in areas that are deemed public, wrote Karterton.

The Fourth Amendment poses no barrier to these uses of arrest powers in public and patrolled housing because it asks only whether there was probable cause for some offense at the time of arrest, her paper said.

It continued:

As with (police) stops, given the wide range of rules and regulations that govern conduct within and around public and patrolled housing, arrests are very easy to produce. Accordingly, in public and patrolled housing, police utilize arrests in response to the most minor of offenses in the hallways, lobbies, and other common spaces. This practice undermines the sanctity of the home, which is usually protected by the Fourth Amendment.

Karteron cited policing practices in New York City public housing developments as an example of how the combination of limited legal rights for public housing residents, an “order maintenance” approach, and the “special rules that apply in public and patrolled housing, make the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures effectively vanish.”

Approximately 400,000 people live in the city’s public housing projects, and the high police presence in those areas creates the misleading perception that they are hotbeds of criminality and disorder, she said.

Advocates of aggressive law enforcement have argued that greater policing in public housing is part of law enforcement’s public safety mission. The New York Daily News claimed in May that “cops are fighting a skyrocketing increase in murders and shootings in city housing projects.” The newspaper reported year-to-year increases in murders and shootings in NYC public housing developments.

But such statistics give a misleading picture, Karteron and other critics have pointed out.

Often, the high crime rates reflect a greater number of police stops and arrests for even minor crimes such as trespassing, loitering, or marijuana possession, Karterton said.

Moreover, police have significant leeway in conducting stop-and-frisks on residents they spot or bump into in the course of patrols. In Illinois v Wardlow, the Supreme Court upheld the right of law enforcement to question residents if the stop occurred in a high crime area, according to a 2019 study by Ben Grunwald and Jeffrey Fagan in the California Law Review.

But the authors of the study said the definition of a “high crime area” can be questionable.

A neighborhood could find itself defined as a “high crime area” simply because of the high number of complaints or stops, which makes such definitions circular, the California Law Review researchers noted—further aggravated by the potential for policing bias, since many at-risk neighborhoods are populated by persons of color.

“Defining high-crime areas based on arrest data would then make communities of color appear more dangerous than they are, and might also create a kind of high-crime feedback loop,” the researchers cautioned.

(See also: Stop and Fix? How the High Crime Area Defense Has Licensed Bad PolicingThe Crime Report, June 24, 2019)

Karteron cites such a feedback loop as one of the factors underlying police focus on public housing areas, noting that New York State law criminalizes trespassing in public housing developments. After a person refuses a “personally communicated” request to leave from a property supervisor (or someone in charge), he or she has committed a criminal trespass under the law.

Also, law enforcement can be called in when a resident fails to abide by a public housing development’s specific posted rules or guidelines. Residents in development areas deemed off -limits by supervisors can face criminal charges.

Karteron argued that the civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution should not be hostage to aggressive policing in the name of public safety. She proposed “rethinking Fourth Amendment standards so that they reflect the traditional protection for the home.”

That would include adopting state constitutional and legal standards that “reject the cramped interpretations of the Fourth Amendment” and limiting the authority of local and state actors through devising local policies that “reject targeted and hot spots strategies that resemble occupation.”

Courts could sharpen this protection further by clarifying that “Terry stops are not permitted when law enforcement officers suspect only noncriminal infractions,” she wrote.

Police should also stop making arrests for minor infractions, effectively decriminalizing certain types of conduct, like trespassing or loitering.

Another effective measure would involve applying the strategies of community policing to public and patrolled housing, she wrote.

Prof. Karteron’s paper can be downloaded here


The criminal justice system is not broken – it is ruthlessly…

“The Conviction of the Innocent Equallsburg NY 12733-0116
als the Taking of That Life” – Art: Ruben Beltran, 10A3301, Sullivan CF, P.O. Box 16, F

by Lecino Hamilton

As my exoneration and release from this death sentence inches closer to becoming reality, the member of my legal team who’s been with me the longest recently told me in a telephone conversation, “I don’t mind if, when you’re released, you thank other members of the legal team instead of me.” Her suggestion to give all the credit to others did not surprise me.

Fighting for wrongfully convicted people is a cause that Claudia Whitman, director of the National Death Row Assistance Network, has been pursuing her entire career. Whitman is a great investigator with massive experience working to unearth the truth and facts overlooked, buried or hidden in criminal cases.

She has neither the glamour of a nationally syndicated show nor the accompanying social media buzz to create financial winds at her back. However, she does have an unvarnished sense of duty and an impeccable track record of liberating innocent men and women from bondage.

While it would never cross my mind not to publicly acknowledge how Claudia Whitman has confronted a system heavily weighted against the needs of her clients – most of whom are underprivileged Black men – and how she had specialized in helping us receive a second chance in court, on some level I will take her up on her suggestion. Most of the time when a person is exonerated and released from prison, they pose for a picture or two, thank a few people, then become footnotes in the pantheon of criminal justice horror stories. I’m not going out like that!

There will be many, many “thank yous” in order, but, if given the opportunity to make a public statement, I plan to ask over and over again: “How can we as a society come to terms with the pervasive presence of wrongfully imprisoned men and women?”

According to the National Registry of Exoneration, the phenomenon of wrongfully convicted men and women has reached unprecedented levels and can indeed be prevented. Wrongful incarceration is not an inescapable result of the frailty of our imagination. It is a predictable outcome of a competitive justice system.

Some will undoubtedly ask, “How exactly is preventing wrongful convictions possible, given that anything made by humans is subject to error?” The solutions are by no means easy, but they are not out of the reach of our informed and resolute effort. Wrongful convictions can be prevented, by transitioning from a competitive justice system of winners and losers to a restorative justice system of transformation.

An extensive discussion of the term “competitive” is beyond the scope of this writing; but it is enough to say that it has been deified in American political and popular discourse to advance “the market” as the solution to most problems. In my experience, “the market” – another term for competition – mostly works to benefit people who control the land, systems of production and the formal political and legal structures in which lives are enmeshed.

A competitive justice system devastates the lives of “losers,” as punishment of offenders is an end in itself. On the other hand, restorative justice has emerged as an important ingredient in transformative justice, which effectively seeks to find ways to eliminate “cheating.”

Most of the time when a person is exonerated and released from prison, they pose for a picture or two, thank a few people, then become footnotes in the pantheon of criminal justice horror stories.

Any time and anywhere there is competition, there will be cheating – a historical fact.

For example, the system of money bail is not a mistake. It is a prosecutorial competitive unfair advantage that exponentially increases the likelihood that poor defendants will be unable to marshal an adequate defense or under duress plea out: cheating!

Massively underfunded and understaffed public defender systems are not a legislative oversight, they too are prosecutorial competitive unfair advantages that contribute to inadequate legal representation: cheating!

Stop-and-frisk, dragnet arrest, hiding evidence, fabricating evidence, jailhouse informants, overcharging defendants, mandatory minimum sentencing schemes and so on: all forms of cheating.

Before I became a victim of America’s competitive justice system, I used to refer to it as a “broken system,” because it imprisons more people than any other country.

I have since changed my mind. It is daunting to acknowledge, but this country’s competitive criminal justice system offers sad testimony not to a broken American criminal justice system, but to one that is ruthlessly effective. The criminal justice system, as it stands now, based on winners and losers, is working – wrongful convictions and all.

Unless we agree that the criminal justice system should not be based on winners and losers, wrongful convictions will never end. And, no matter how great an investigator Claudia Whitman is, she and a thousand people of equal greatness will not suffice. This includes the criminal justice context, but also extends to conflicts in families, schools, neighborhoods, workplaces and on a national and international level.

It is my belief that a transformative justice system will enable the wider community to participate in denouncing crime, supporting victims and building true solutions. It will also enable the wider community to take charge of the underlying causes of crime: poverty, abuse, unemployment, discrimination, a gross disproportion of resources and power and other deep social problems so that crime and other injuries are less likely to occur.

This involves acknowledging that cheating is not only a tool of people willing to win at any cost, but is also embedded in the very social structure of society. So the social structures, and not just individuals who work within it, must be changed if society is to change.

This ruthless system is a reality that calls for every member of society not only to recognize and acknowledge the need for change, but to take a position regarding it – the way Claudia Whitman has across her entire career.

Send our brother some love and light: Lecino Hamilton, 2247310, Marquette Branch Prison, 1960 US Hwy 41 South, Marquette, MI 49855.

source:The criminal justice system is not broken – it is ruthlessly…