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Just after 10 a.m. EDT on Feb. 1, a group of inmates took four staff hostage as they seized control of Building C at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware, with 120 prisoners inside. By the end of the 18-hour standoff, Sgt. Steven Floyd Sr. was dead. Republican Rep. Steve Smyk, who had planned to support a bill to reinstate capital punishment, says he thinks the uprising has given some state lawmakers who initially opposed the death penalty a new outlook.
I want to address a point overlooked and ignored, that Alabama Constitution Article VIII Section 177 (a) and (b) are contradictory. The former states, “Every citizen of the United States who has attained the age of 18 years … shall have the right to vote.” The latter, however, states, “No person convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude … shall be qualified to vote until restoration of civil and political rights.”
Louisiana, which has the highest incarceration rate in the country, no longer provides public defenders to all its people accused of crimes; within months, over half its public defender offices are expected to become insolvent. “It’s a nightmare,” according to James Dixon, the chief Louisiana Public Defender. “You have people in jail that don’t have lawyers. It’s that basic.” The meltdown of the Louisiana public defender system makes it criminal to call it a justice system.
The love affair between Black folks and the Clintons has been going on for a long time. It began back in 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for president. What have the Clintons done to earn such devotion? Did they take extreme political risks to defend the rights of African Americans? Did they courageously stand up to right-wing demagoguery about Black communities? Did they help usher in a new era of hope and prosperity for neighborhoods devastated by deindustrialization, globalization and the disappearance of work? No. Quite the opposite.
The current campaign to elect a sheriff for the City and County of San Francisco can and must become San Francisco’s “eyes wide open” opportunity to review what this city and county can and ought to do to identify and promulgate a new path for how it will identify and adopt aspects of the national Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. The City and County of San Francisco can initiate and begin the effort to deincarcerate San Francisco’s jails and juvenile justice center.
Every morning, young and old African Americans are paraded through courtrooms in San Francisco, dressed in orange jumpsuits not unlike Guantanamo inmates and often shackled in handcuffs or chains. The vast majority of judges and prosecutors are resigned to that daily reality. The City’s jail in 1994 had 4.4 times the proportion of Black inmates as in San Francisco as a whole. By 2012, the jail population was 9.5 times more Black than The City. It is time to address the apartheid-like conditions in the metropolis and stop giving passes to the “liberal” coastal cities like San Francisco.
Like the country it governs, Washington is a city of extremes. In a car, you can zip in bare moments from northwest District of Columbia, its streets lined with million-dollar homes and palatial embassies, its inhabitants sporting one of the nation’s lowest jobless rates, to Anacostia, a mostly forgotten neighborhood in southeastern D.C. with one of the highest unemployment rates anywhere in America.
Inmate beatings by prison guards occur across Georgia following an eight-day peaceful protest to highlight inhumane conditions in the prisons. These protesting prisoners must be silenced because a whole range of corporate interests has found that they can profit from caging human beings.
Those of us who fought so hard in the 1960s for change, revolutionary change, are watching the clock turn backwards. No other group can claim to have fought longer or harder in the forefront of progressive and revolutionary struggles than Black folks. The most oppressed will lead any revolution since they have the least to lose and the most to gain from a change.