Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

27
Apr
16

vacation

Because of the dearth of recent original posts by me, it may appear to you as if I have already been on vacation since Alex and Lone Heron arrived. But there has been a lot going on in the background, and that activity is now requiring my undivided attention in the near future.

I cannot abide the strain of maintaining a rosy picture to the world, while the reality is anything-but. Alex has already posted to his Facebook friends that he is moving on. Last weekend his mask came off, and he revealed his true purpose for being here at Estrella Vista.

I think we will leave it at that for now, maybe forever. That is up to him. We have all heard the expression “biting the hand that feeds you,” but I wonder how many of us have actually experienced it?

Until later.

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26
Apr
16

doormat

DoormatHero.

My friend Paul Gingerich has called me a “doormat” as far as some of our kids are concerned. He’s said that some of our kids have taken advantage of my generosity. Well, yeah. One of our kids once wrote something to Lone Heron which she found sexually offensive and she has never forgotten it. Another of our kids has repeatedly published posts on Facebook that could hurt his cause if his posts ever came under scrutiny. For the “average” parricide, the road to Redemption involves trial-and-error, many false starts, and a process that is anything but simple and direct. Sometimes it is even hurtful. Redemption is a messy process.

If Paul Gingerich were a jerk (which he is not), if his son were not a good kid but a troubled soul (which he is not), I think Paul would eventually appreciate that the doormat was willing to become muddy—shitty even—in the cause of wresting a productive life for his boy.

I am not proud. I have nothing to prove by adopting an inflexible stance. If someone needs a dozen “second chances,” I am willing to embrace their imperfection. It seems to me that this is the real test of love.

Now I am not willing to adopt this flexibility for everyone. If I encounter a non-parricide adult who lies or steals, I’ll cut them off immediately. No second chances. They’ve had their opportunity to demonstrate and shape their character and blew it. “Mitigating circumstances”? Ha! Their history doesn’t matter to me. Even if this seems unfair, I am unwilling to tolerate someone who is set on hurting me or others.

But a kid who is raised in an abusive home; who is saddled with negligent, selfish, hurtful parents; who has never learned anything but feral survival—I will never give up.

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25
Apr
16

Jordan brown retrial

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Superior Court to hear arguments for Jordan Brown May 17

By Nancy Lowry, New Castle News

April 23, 2016

Arguments for a new trial for Jordan Brown have been scheduled for May 17 in Pittsburgh before the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

Defense attorneys Dennis Elisco of New Castle, Stephen Colafella of Beaver County and Katherine Burdick of the Juvenile Law Center of Philadelphia, are appealing a 2015 decision by Lawrence County Common Pleas Court Judge John W. Hodge which rejected appeals for a new trial for the teenage defendant. The defense team will be opposed by representatives of the state attorney general’s office who prosecuted the case. Expected to hear the case are Superior Court judges Judith Ference Olson, Victor Stabile and Senior Judge John Musmanno.

Jordan, 18, was 11 years old when his father’s pregnant fiancee, Kenzie Marie Houk, 26, was shot on February 20, 2009, as she slept in the New Beaver Borough farmhouse where she and her daughters, then 7 and 4, lived with Jordan and his father, Christopher Brown.

Jordan was initially charged as an adult with two counts of homicide. The case was transferred to juvenile court in August 2011.

At a juvenile court hearing on April 13, 2012, Hodge found Jordan responsible for the deaths of Houk and her unborn child. His ruling followed three days of testimony.

Jordan, who has been in custody since February 21, 2009, was assigned to a juvenile treatment facility where he could remain until his 21st birthday.

The ruling was appealed by Jordan’s defense team and in December 2014, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered the case back to Lawrence County where Jordan’s attorneys argued that charges be dismissed, or for a new trial.

In May 2015, however, Hodge denied the requests.

Jordan’s attorneys returned to the state Superior Court seeking to overturn the local ruling.

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Nancy Lowry is a writer for the New Castle News.

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24
Apr
16

prisons for kids

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The Battle Against Prisons for Kids
We’re feeding children into a system that breaks them.

by Natasha Lennard, The Nation

April 11, 2016

For as long as youth prisons have existed in the United States, so too has the pretense that there are no youth prisons. Early 19th-century reformers who sought to remove children from the harsh adult penal system established new institutions specifically for the detention of youths. They didn’t call them prisons, but Houses of Refuge, dedicated to the discipline and reform of newly coined group, “juvenile delinquents.” Founded with ostensibly laudable intent, the institutions were overcrowded fortresses, riddled with abuse, serving to institutionalize strict social control over poor and immigrant communities. That is, they were prisons.

And so began the unending march of euphemisms, in which children’s prisons have been known by any other name—residential treatment facilities, youth camps, youth-development centers, to name a few—exposing juveniles to many the same cruelties and racial discriminations of the adult prison system. In the two centuries since its formal birth, the juvenile-justice system has changed radically, while youth prisons have hardly changed at all. It’s as if the clock on reform stopped in the turn-of-the-century Progressive Era and has only recently started shakily ticking again.

Last year, before the election spectacle swallowed the news cycle whole, juvenile-justice reform made headlines as a keystone in President Obama’s legacy-construction efforts. Overdue political action from state houses has gained serious ground in removing youths from adult prisons. On any given day, 10,000 juveniles are housed in adult facilities, where they are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted than in juvenile institutions (a monstrous statistic, especially considering the prevalence of sexual abuse in youth facilities). The necessity of getting kids out of our shameful adult system cannot be overstated. It’s a limited achievement, though. And even as more and more youth prisons close, we must be vigilant against “alternatives” that press the same oppressive, discriminatory stigmas of criminality and delinquency onto kids outside prison walls.

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In March, juvenile-justice-reform organization Youth First published an interactive map and study of US youth prisons, which it counted facilities that are either 100 years old or house over 100 children. Aside from their deceptive, un-prison like names, these primarily state-run institutions reliably bear the marks of adult prisons: razor wire, geographic isolation, the use of solitary confinement and physical restraints. The list includes 80 prisons across 39 states. “The approach these facilities take, that of reform schools, was developed before the invention of the telephone, before the civil war,” Youth First president, Liz Ryan, told The Nation. “Whether the actual facility is newer or not, the approach is the same: throw a large group of children together in a punitive way and expect a positive result.”

The value of the mapping project is partly semantic—a refusal to allow deceptively named “camps” and “schools” to pass as anything less than prisons and thus targets for closure. As Ryan told The Nation, there is currently no government “master list” of youth detention centers, and the Youth First’s map leaves out smaller facilities and prisons designed for children whose cases were adjudicated in the adult criminal-justice system. Nonetheless, the organization’s data is the first of its kind to collate both information about the size, capacity, whereabouts and age of these prisons and, importantly, the demographic makeup of their prisoners. The lack of existing centralized data partly owes to the increased anonymity and privacy accorded juvenile cases. But privacy for juvenile cases should not bleed into opacity for the institutions in which children are confined.

In mapping out a vast “incarceration complex,” the Youth First project puts a number of recent reform victories in context. To some fanfare, President Obama took executive action in January to ban the use of solitary confinement for kids under 18 held in the federal system. It was a welcome order, but less publicized was the fact that it affected all of 26 people nationwide. This is the sum total of teens held in the federal system. The president has no authority over the treatment of some 54,000 children incarcerated in state and county facilities, where solitary confinement is not banned.

Reform groups like Youth First have a clear agenda: closing large, archaic youth prisons and advocating for community-based models and non-residential alternatives like probation and counseling (while ensuring that funds saved from youth prisons closure are not disappeared into state coffers). There has been undeniable progress. California, Texas, and Missouri, as well as New York City have moved away from the large facilities model in favor of local, smaller facilities and non-residential options. At least four other states Virginia, Illinois, Connecticut, and Wisconsin have plans to shutter their own largest facilities.

The placement of children into harsh prison conditions, detached from family and community, has carved a well-trodden path to trauma, recidivism, and entry into the criminal-justice system. But Youth First’s Ryan was being generous at best when she suggested a “positive result” has been the expectation with this model. At least we might question for whom, and towards what ends, this approach has been positive. Certainly not for the children. Ten percent of kids held in juvenile facilities report sexual assault, while 50 percent say they fear physical attack, according to Youth First’s findings.

Da’Quon Beaver, 22, is a community organizer with RISE for Youth, an organization in Virginia advocating for alternatives to youth incarceration. He spent seven years in jail after he was convicted, at age 14, for stealing $50 with six peers. He was held in two of the 80 prisons on Youth First’s list—both barbed wire–surrounded with a 300-bed capacity. After one Christmas at Virginia’s Bon Air Correctional Facility, a riot led to a prison shutdown and a foreclosure of all visitation, and Beaver recalls weeping in his bed “like a baby.” On the first visitation after that lockdown, Beaver told The Nation, only five children out of around 300 received visitors. “It was sort of an epiphany to me,” he said over the phone from Virginia, “I started to look around at the treatment. Staff didn’t care and looked at kids like criminals. Kids were restrained. People with disabilities were put in isolation. These things shouldn’t even happen to adults.” Beaver stressed the necessity of building “new customs” to hear and assist juveniles in the community. “It’s can’t just be about building new facilities; the prison continuum needs breaking,” he said.

By every metric of child welfare, community cohesion, and even cost tax payers (over $5 billion is spent per year incarcerating juveniles), the youth-prison system isn’t working. Over two-thirds of incarcerated youth are held for minor offenses (public order, drugs, property, etc.) and even status offenses like truancy—hardly a threat, should they be released. Meanwhile, a strong body of evidence shows that smaller facilities and non-residential programs lead to less recidivism and vastly improved future educational and employment prospects for kids. This all presumes, however, that the function of youth prisons has actually been to serve the well-being of these children and the communities from which they come. Decades of juvenile justice history tell a different story.

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A 2001 Frontline investigation noted how efforts to close youth prisons were building steam in the early 1970s. The conditions and policies of juvenile-detention centers came under fire, then as now, and “social critics advocated deinstitutionalization and argued for more preventative and community-based programs to assail the roots of juvenile delinquency, particularly in urban areas.” However, a countervailing political force pushed punitive and segregationist measures to the fore. “Tough on crime” policy and its concomitant racism became the order of the day from the 1970s onwards. Poor, black youth, particularly boys, were no longer viewed as children but, as Hillary Clinton put it 20 years ago, “superpredators.” The then–first lady, echoing racist junk criminology and paranoiac media scares, said, “They are not just gangs of kids anymore.… [They have] No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.” Clinton has recently apologized for the remarks, as they’ve marginally haunted her election efforts. Meanwhile, Bill Clinton responded defensively this week to activists who invoked his wife’s use of “superpredator.” On Thursday in Philadelphia, the former president pointed to protesters holding signs with the slogan, “Black youth are not superpredators.” He said, “See these signs, this is what’s the matter,” and went on to defend his 1996 crime bill, which, while purportedly designed to curb street crime, buoyed racist mass incarceration.

The (Bill) Clinton-era policies that Hillary’s 1996 statement reflected helped build a Frankenstein’s monster juvenile-criminal-justice system, which no election-cycle apology can dismantle. The 1990s saw the passing of laws in every state that made it easier to try juveniles in adult court, and aims of reforming youth prisons were stymied. The worst aspects of the reform-school model, holding “delinquent” children together en masse with harsh disciplinary practices, were combined with a penological attitude that saw these children as inherently dangerous and essentially criminal. The juvenile justice system’s ostensible role as parens patriae (parent of the nation)—legal protector of those citizens unable to care for themselves—was applied to deny freedoms to children deemed “dangerous” elements—while the harsher penalties of the adult system were now meted out to children, too.

The end of the 20th century thus transformed the juvenile delinquent into a uniquely unfortunate legal object, punished like an adult, controlled like a child and locked away in the same old prison-like structures. Beaver knows what he’s talking about when he says that “it’s going to take a culture shift” to see the changes we need—both the decarceration of youth and an end to the suspicion attached to black youth, regardless of conduct. Much of today’s criminal-justice reform efforts are merely the undoing of damage wrought by the tough-on-crime decades.

Youth-incarceration figures have nearly halved in the past 15 years, according to the Marshall Project, who reported last month that “youths who were once sent away to reformatories, training schools, and other large, prison-like facilities are increasingly being offered alternatives closer to home, such as electronic monitoring, probation and counseling.” Youth First’s findings, however, highlight that, while incarceration rates have dropped, racial disparities are fierce and increasing—another echo of adult criminal justice. African-American teens are five times more likely to be incarcerated than their white peers, the organization notes. Make no mistake, racial disparity in juvenile (and criminal) justice will not disappear with the closure of large prisons. These facilities may have been the central island of a juvenile carceral archipelago for two centuries, but they’re hardly the only problematic territory.

The work of activists, advocates and incarcerated youth themselves has done an immense amount to shift political will towards necessary reform. But the conditions under which this decarceration shift has been made possible have little to do with justice. Mass surveillance, tagging, and automated probation check-ins have done much to assure even conservative politicians that young people they would see locked away will remain under unrelenting state control. Forty-three percent of all US public schools had law-enforcement officers—cops euphemized as “school resource officers”—on their grounds during the 2013–14 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Michel Foucault can once again take the unfortunate prize for smuggest dead philosopher: He foresaw the sort of reform that would see prisons shrink, and that the problematic power structures they represent would find forms without walls through a nexus of control technologies.

It was in the model of a 19th-century progressive reform school—the Mettray penal colony in France—that Foucault pinpointed the birth of a new penal system. Mettray was a so-called rehabilitation facility for boys aged six to 21, who would have typically been held in adult prisons. Mettray was school, church, workhouse, and penitentiary in one. Mettray didn’t interest Foucault because it echoed the cruel vicissitudes of adult prison; quite the opposite. In Mettray he saw the birth of a penal system as a continuum of disciplinary practices through which behaviors were normalized, laws internalized, and bodies controlled. The large-reform-school model proliferated, of course, as in the British borstal system, US Houses of Refuge, and up to today’s detention “schools” and camps.” The modern disciplinary system, though, is not moored to these institutional relics. The presence of “resource officers” alone attests to that.

“What we don’t want to have happen is closing youth prisons and replacing them with smaller youth prisons,” Youth First’s Ryan told The Nation. “We don’t want do all this work just to see the old model replaced with smaller versions.” And, to be sure, juvenile-justice advocates are pushing state houses to ensure that any new secure youth facilities—if they are deemed necessary at all—are not simply smaller scale ersatz prisons. Efforts to ensure that youth facilities do not echo and bleed with adult prisons are crucial. The larger project is to ensure that children’s lives—at school, at home, on the street—are not ended before they can begin by criminalizing them into oblivion.

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Natasha Lennard is a British-born, Brooklyn-based writer of news and political analysis, focusing on how power functions and how it is challenged. She writes regularly for The Intercept, Al Jazeera America, and Fusion.

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23
Apr
16

a shot

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Paul Henry Gingerich: A shot at freedom for former 12-year-old killer

by Kristine Guerra, Indianapolis Star

April 22, 2016

Paul Henry Gingerich was 12 when he killed a man.

On Friday—just past six years later—Gingerich was back in court in Kosciusko County, where he had been convicted and sentenced for the slaying of a friend’s stepfather. Gingerich has been at Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison for juveniles, since he was sentenced in January 2011.

But now that Gingerich has turned 18, he has a shot at early freedom.

Gingerich was one of the youngest people, if not the youngest, in Indiana to be sentenced to prison in an adult court. His sentence sparked an outcry among child advocates and juvenile justice groups. It also spurred legislation in 2013 that significantly changed Indiana’s juvenile system.

Under “Paul’s Law,” juveniles who commit serious crimes are placed in the juvenile system until they turn 18, at which time a judge determines whether to send them to an adult prison for the remainder of their sentence; place them under alternative programs such as probation, home detention or work release; or release them completely.

That hinges largely on their progress under the juvenile system’s rehabilitative and educational programs, and on their likelihood of committing another violent crime.

Gingerich, who turned 18 in February, appeared at his Friday court hearing in a dark green polo, khaki pants and white sneakers. He is no longer the short, small-framed boy with a Justin Bieber-like haircut. At 5 feet 10 inches, Gingerich towers above his attorney, Monica Foster.

Foster is asking the judge to either release the teenager to probation for what is left of his sentence, or place him under home detention to more gradually allow him to re-enter society.

“There is simply no legitimate penological purpose to be served by committing Paul Gingerich to further incarceration,” Foster wrote in court records. “Indeed, to commit Paul Gingerich to an adult prison would run a very real risk of destroying the progress that has undeniably been made by this young man.”

A memorandum that Foster filed in court, as well as testimony from Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility Superintendent Alison Yancey, outlined such progress.

Gingerich began as a sixth-grader with inconsistent grades and several disciplinary write-ups, but he became an honors student who graduated from high school with a 3.8 GPA.

He participated in group assignments, community and religious services, and several programs at Pendleton. He went through individual and group therapy, family counseling, mental-health programming and substance-abuse treatment. He mentored others and worked in Pendleton’s dining room.

He has received six write-ups for violating Pendleton rules, but most of them involved giving pastries to other kids. None involved violence, said Yancey, who described the teen’s behavior as “near perfect.”

“He hasn’t really been a problem child at all,” Yancey said. “He came in well behaved, and he’s still well behaved.”

He would benefit from going to a college campus, Yancey said.

The Indiana Department of Correction also determined that Gingerich has a low risk of re-offending. Court records further say that Gingerich has shown remorse and admitted having “thoughts, flashbacks and nightmares” about his crime.

On April 20, 2010, Gingerich and then-15-year-old Colt Lundy shot and killed Phil Danner, Lundy’s stepfather. Each fired twice, hitting the 49-year-old Cromwell man four times. The two, along with another 12-year-old, had planned to run away to California or Arizona.

Gingerich and Lundy were charged with murder as adults. Both pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of conspiracy to commit murder. Both were sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed Gingerich’s conviction, saying the Kosciusko County court should have given Gingerich’s defense attorney enough time to make the case that Gingerich should have been charged as a juvenile.

Gingerich pleaded guilty again after the case was returned to the trial court. By that time, “Paul’s Law” had taken effect, and the plea agreement called for a review hearing on the case once Gingerich turned 18.

During the hourlong hearing Friday, Kosciusko County Prosecutor Dan Hampton called the lead investigator on the case, John Tyler of the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department, to the stand. Tyler recalled details of the crime, as well as what happened before and after Danner was killed.

Foster objected to Tyler testifying, saying the hearing was not about the crime but about Gingerich’s progress in the juvenile system. Hampton argued that the court must know the “type of behavior that the juvenile facility has to address.” The judge, James Heuer from neighboring Whitley County, allowed Tyler to testify.

After hearing testimony, Heuer must now decide where Gingerich will spend the next several years of his life. Gingerich could walk out a free man, but he also could be sent to adult prison for the remainder of his 25-year sentence, cut in half by credit for good behavior.

Because Gingerich wants to live with his mother in Fort Wayne if he is released, Heuer asked the defense attorney for information about programs in Allen County that Gingerich would be eligible for. He also asked the prosecution to determine Gingerich’s eligibility for correction department programs.

Heuer said Gingerich’s progress was “impressive.” But he also said he cannot turn his back on the victim’s family, some of whom attended the hearing.

“I do want to know what’s out there in terms of alternatives,” Heuer said.

Heuer’s decision likely will come this summer.

Danner’s family didn’t make a statement in court and left immediately after the hearing. Hampton didn’t return a call from IndyStar. Gingerich’s parents also declined to comment.

“I’ve always been optimistic about this case because I trust this kid,” Foster said after the hearing.

Before Heuer makes his decision, Gingerich must undergo major surgeries. He has been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an incurable illness that causes inflammation in the lining of the digestive tract. A large part of his colon has been removed, and he now wears a colostomy bag.

He intended to begin online college courses in January, but those were postponed because of his illness.

Lundy is at the Correctional Industrial Facility in Pendleton, records show. He is scheduled to be released in 2022.

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Kristine Guerra is the primary courts reporter for the Indianapolis Star. She covers major criminal and civil cases in lower trial courts, the Court of Appeals of Indiana, the Indiana Supreme Court and federal district court. She started as an intern at major daily newspapers in Orange County CA, Portland OR, and Indianapolis. The Star later hired her as a breaking news reporter, a position she held for about 2½ years.

Indianapolis Star reporter Robert King contributed to this story.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to M83 performing “Wait”

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22
Apr
16

dead

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How a 26-year-old white woman died a horrible death in an American jail

by Ryan Cooper, The Week

April 19, 2016

American jails are a hellscape of abuse, medical neglect, and preventable suicide. And because they house those who have been arrested but not convicted or sentenced, very often it’s the legally innocent who suffer. Mass incarceration is slowly fading—but without serious jail reform, abuses will continue to pile up even as fewer people are going through the jail system.

Consider the case of Madaline Pitkin, whose grim, days-long slide into death was recently featured in The Oregonian. She was a 26-year-old heroin addict, pulled over for a routine traffic stop in 2014, and then arrested for an outstanding warrant. She quickly became ill, and despite repeatedly begging for medical attention in writing, eventually died from untreated complications of heroin withdrawal. She was never convicted of a crime.

For the past couple years, Black Lives Matter activists have been arguing that African-Americans are disproportionately abused by the criminal justice system. They are completely correct about this. The statistics are undeniable. Yet Pitkin’s fate provides another window into the system—through the other end of the telescope, as it were.

If we imagine someone least likely to be abused by the cops and courts, Pitkin had all the right identity markers. She was young, white, and pretty. She lived in the supposed left-wing utopia of Portland, Oregon. She was from a middle-class family that loved her and tried to help her after she was jailed. She got busted for a crime—drug possession—that is in the process of becoming de-stigmatized as a medical problem rather than a criminal one. She even tried to get help the “right” middle-class way, submitting her requests with the correct paperwork. Though very rich white-collar criminals get better treatment, she’s still about as sympathetic as inmates come.

What’s more, heroin withdrawal is an extremely simple problem to treat. If the notorious private contractor doing medical services for the Washington County Jail at the time had simply injected Pitkin with a couple bucks’ worth of buprenorphine when her symptoms didn’t quickly clear up, it’s a virtual certainty she’d be alive today. (Though The Oregonian does not specify why she wasn’t bailed out, the fact that her bail was set at a deranged $44,444 may have something to do with it.)

But they didn’t, and so Madaline Pitkin is dead. As I learned with Sierra Zurn, it turns out that underfunded, poorly managed county jails can sometimes be just as brutally merciless to white people as they are to blacks—and it’s very likely the Washington County Jail is one of the better ones.

Of course, the lesson to draw from those anecdotes is not some “All Lives Matter” nonsense. Instead, one should think that if a middle-class white person can get it that bad, imagine how much worse it must be for black high school dropouts, who are incarcerated something like 100 times more frequently.

That brings me to Mississippi, where a great many of those poor black people live. There, the slow decline of mass incarceration has turned into a fiscal crisis for many rural counties, as Ryan Grim reports. It turns out many of those counties have grown to depend on warehousing thousands of state prisoners, for which they are paid a daily fee. With the slow decline of mass incarceration, local officials are loudly talking up the economic benefits of having tons of people in cages, most of them black—where, in a grim echo of history, they can be forced to work for little or nothing.

Respecting the constitutional rights of prisoners is important, and doubly so for jail inmates, the large majority of whom have not been convicted of a crime. But it’s also expensive. Threadbare counties in the Deep South looking to boost their incarcerated populations solely to make some cash is just about guaranteed to lead to even more abuse and death. That’s the attitude that puts the suicide rate in jails at 46 per 100,000, as of the most recent statistics. That’s over three times that of state prisoners and 3.5 times that of the general population. Of the 967 people who died in jail in 2013, 738 had not been convicted of a crime.

And lo and behold, Mississippi’s jails are also brimming over with nightmarish stories. The ACLU recently settled a lawsuit against a local town for running an illegal debtor’s prison. Here’s a guy who died after being arrested for stealing a lawnmower. Here’s a guy who died serving a sentence for marijuana possession. Here’s a woman who died from heroin withdrawal. Here’s a diabetic who died from lack of insulin. And on, and on, and on.

The criminal justice system is the bedrock of American government. But without a genuine respect for due process, and proper funding thereof, it can become a brutal micro-tyranny.

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Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at TheWeek.com. His work has appeared in the Washington Monthly, The New Republic, and the Washington Post.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to My Chemical Romance performing “Dead”

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21
Apr
16

heart of a mystic

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by Alex King

I discovered in my younger days that the only constant in the universe is its mutability. I’ve held to this adage ever since. We see results and forget that there was a process by which this information was obtained. An Ethics class once taught me that to use such absolutism as “right” and “wrong” or “good” and “evil” is to commit moral folly. We don’t live in a black-and-white world. The requisite balance for sustainability yields only grey.

Once, I wrote about anger. I challenged my audience to consider the moral conclusion on anger. Christian lore tells us to be wary of the spirit of wrath. These things we’ve been taught are evil… I ask, are they really? If a crucifix is used as a murder weapon, does that make the symbol of the cross an omen of ill portent? The logic works in the reverse as well. Yet, society is ready and willing to label those convicted of crimes as evil.

Absolutes are born of a narrow mind and a fearful heart. It takes courage to face the fact that possibility is the answer to wisdom. Absolute knowledge is impossible, though absolute Truth exists; the difference is as separates deduction and induction. Herein lies the Truth of the second chance concept. We do not give opportunity for reform as licentiousness, but rather as a show of hope and courage, two aspects of love. What hell we would devise if fear were our only adherence.

Spiritual hospitality is the cornerstone of redemption. Society primarily focuses on constraining outcome; all things in moderation. If the outcome is undesirable, scientific reasoning calls for a query into the initial premise. If we have strayed so far from logic as to place no merit on this methodology, then we now live in an insane asylum in the guise of a free world. If pain generates anger, cruelty demands calm while compassion expresses concern. See past what you believe your reflection to be and gaze into your soul.

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