‘Oakland Lockdown’

by Rekia Mohammed-Jibrin

"If a child is affected by trauma and the child is never treated, it's going to hugely impact the child's ability to function in the world, and it's going to hugely impact their ability to be successful, to be a healthy, happy human being," says a father whose son was terrorized by police pointing guns at him during a senseless traffic stop. - Frame from 'Oakland Lockdown'“Oakland Lockdown” raises public and policy awareness about the destructive and discriminatory practices of policing, parolee surveillance, and the social stigmatization of incarcerated and marginalized, low-income residents of Oakland. Using footage from local policing activity in Oakland, intimate interviews with marginalized residents who have been imprisoned or impacted by the imprisonment of close family members, this documentary brings to light the trauma, destruction and frustration experienced by those who remain repetitively wreaked by the economic, psychological, social and moral stigmatization of criminalization.

With one in 31 people in the United States under correctional supervision — whether in prison or jail or on parole or probation — and millions with a felony record that will never be erased, many struggle to regain their lives and be productive members of their community. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2002, 83 percent of people in jail reported income of less than $2,000 in the month prior to arrest, one-third lower than the average monthly wage of the general public.

Consequently, people who have been incarcerated face obstacles when attempting to find a job and housing and are vulnerable to homelessness and being banned from federal housing, while simultaneously facing severe ruptures with their families. “Oakland Lockdown”’s narrative responds to the recent call for a national conversation on American values in cities like Oakland where violence, racism and incarceration destroy and fragment poor communities of color.

This project cannot occur at a more timely political and economic moment, with legal mandates ordering Gov. Schwarzenegger to reduce and alleviate prison overcrowding. While the governor still appeals the terms of these mandates, his proposals continue to include the construction of more prisons and the transferal of prison populations out of the state of California, further away from their families.

Amidst this prison crisis climate is the spectre of the $19.7 million COPS grant awarded to the city of Oakland that was a part of the $787 billion economic stimulus bill President Barack Obama signed into law this year. The $19.7 million was more money than any other U.S. city received from the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants. How such federal and local police funding intersects with policing practices affecting vulnerable populations on probation, parole and, in particular, how the COPS grant may require the Oakland Police Department to participate in enforcement under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act which can require local police agencies to assist the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) in their invasive and discriminatory activities within Oakland is to be addressed in this project.

The impact of the criminal justice system on low-income communities cannot be ignored. Generations of poor people of color disproportionately face race-based policing, controversial parole practices and incarceration; this documentary demonstrates just that. It argues for a larger discussion between community members, lawyers, funders, educators and police officers about the epidemic of violence that Attorney General Eric Holder describes as robbing “our youth of their childhood” and perpetuating “a cycle in which today’s victims become tomorrow’s criminals.”

This doc aims to generate public discussion around the following issues: 1) the criminalization of marginalized populations who experience the mental trauma of violence and lock up, 2) attention towards street policing and parole practices, 3) unreasonable barriers to the reintegration of people returning from prison who are stigmatized with criminal records and 4) how documented and undocumented immigrants are also subjected to controversial policing practices, even though Oakland remains a sanctuary city.

Filmmaker Rekia Mohammed-Jebrin can be reached at jinajibrin@gmail.com.