[Pnews] Prisoners, mass incarceration and freedom

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jun 7 10:14:01 EDT 2019


https://sfbayview.com/2019/06/prisoners-mass-incarceration-and-freedom/


  Prisoners, mass incarceration and freedom

June 6, 2019
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*/by Valerie Haynes/*


      *Who are prisoners?*

A prisoner can be someone’s father, grandfather, mother, brother, sister 
or child. It could be you – though you’re more likely to be a prisoner 
if you’re Black, another person of color, or poor. Under the 13th 
Amendment, if you’re a prisoner in the U.S., you’re a slave – which is 
against international law because slavery has long been outlawed worldwide.


        *Why are so many Blacks and others of color in U.S. prisons?*

There were very few Blacks in prison when we were slaves. That’s because 
the majority of Black men, women and children were already imprisoned on 
plantations at the time as slaves for life.

Now that we’re supposedly free, Blacks have become the majority of the 
U.S. prison population. And that is because the free labor of Black 
slaves built this country into a profitable, prosperous enterprise for 
whites who are trying to keep it that way.

The Civil War ended slavery and replaced it with segregation, but 
slavery’s racist, imperialist core still drives U.S. ambitions today. 
Thus, at slavery’s end we see white slave patrols morph into a white 
police force, and segregation’s laws, Black Codes, white judges, juries 
and police force morph into a rudimentary criminal in-justice system.

Blacks began to be arrested for everything, from refusing to sign 
slave-like work contracts to looking the wrong way at some white man. 
Black prison rates shot up from 0 to 33 percent. Most arrests were due 
to sundry attempts to force Blacks to work for free (slavery) or for 
nearly free (servitude) and always at cheaper wages than whites, who 
were the main beneficiaries of cheaper Black labor.

This meant higher white profits. So, the reason so many Blacks are in 
prison is ultimately due to their resistance, in one way or another, to 
being re-enslaved – at which point the real criminal is brought into the 
dispute and the innocent Black is shipped off to prison.


        *Segregation and civil rights *

The Civil Rights Movement (CRM), along with the NAACP and Thurgood 
Marshall, defeated legal (de jure) segregation when the 1954 Supreme 
Court outlawed school segregation. Though the actual practice of (de 
facto) segregation continued, the ruling did open the door to attacks on 
segregation in general.

Enter Rosa Parks, MLK Jr., SCLC and the Montgomery Bus Boycott into the 
CRM, which ran strong, broke much ground, won many victories, suffered 
its share of setbacks and was eventually eclipsed by the Black 
Liberation Movement (BLM) in the latter half of the 1960s.

*Now that we’re supposedly free, Blacks have become the majority of the 
U.S. prison population. And that is because the free labor of Black 
slaves built this country into a profitable, prosperous enterprise for 
whites who are trying to keep it that way.*


        *The BLM and ‘serving the people’*

The Black Liberation Movement: Black Panthers Huey P. Newton, Bobby 
Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Lumumba Shakur, Sekou Odinga; Assata, Afeni, 
Mutulu (RNA) and Zayd Shakur; Sundiata Acoli. Plus the various 
contributing movements: Puerto Rican (FLN), American Indian Movement 
(AIM), Weather Underground Organization (WUO, a white anti-imperialist 
group), Chicano Liberation Front, and I WOR KUEN, an Asian group.

The Panthers were about “Serving the People: Free Breakfast for School 
Children,” helping people solve their day to day problems and fighting 
for control of the institutions in their communities, like schools, 
hospitals and medical clinics. The Panthers had very good community 
support, particularly among the youth, other people of color, other 
liberation movements, progressives, the poor and other oppressed who 
wanted liberation.


        *COINTELPRO defeats the BLM*

In response to the BLM’s growing support in the community and solidarity 
with other liberation movements, the U.S. government launched a Counter 
Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) against the Panthers and defeated 
them. The Nation of Islam was attacked by COINTELPRO and survived. Other 
domestic liberation groups were attacked; some survived, some didn’t. 
Others just melted away. Some of today’s aged prisoners are among those 
who fell during COINTELPRO’s attack on the BLM in the 1960s and ‘70s.


        *Crack and the mass prison-building spree *

The defeat of the BLM was followed immediately by the flooding of 
communities of color with more drugs: heroin, cocaine and the new drug 
of the Reagan era – crack. While inundating urban Black and Brown 
centers with crack, the government was quietly conducting mass 
prison-building sprees in white rural mountainous and other remote areas 
to provide jobs for local citizens and cells for the coming prisoners of 
the “crack scourge.”


        *War on Blacks and mass incarceration*

Then came the “War on Blacks,” others of color and the poor disguised as 
the “War on Drugs,” or “War on Crime.” Strategies included the 100-to-1 
“crack” cocaine (associated mostly with Blacks) vs. “powder” cocaine 
(associated mostly with whites) sentencing disparity; no more parole 
(one had to complete 85 percent of a sentence); Bill Clinton’s 50 new 
“Tough on Crime” death penalty offenses; “three strikes” life sentence 
for stealing a candy bar; life without parole (LWOP) sentence for 
“acquitted conduct,” where the jury acquits the defendant but the judge 
overrules and sentences “acquitted” defendant to LWOP anyway.

The Black community was targeted for constant patrols, higher arrest 
quotas, zero-tolerance crime enforcement, disproportionate stop and 
frisk and shoot and kill, harsher charges filed, higher bonds set, 
longer sentences given out, more paroles denied or revoked – more prison 
for Blacks than whites.


        *Equalizing crack and powder cocaine sentences*

Colleagues of Congressional Black Congresswoman (CBC) Maxine Waters 
admitted to her that the current drug laws were often excessively unfair 
when applied to Blacks, others of color, poor and oppressed. Other CBC 
colleagues pled with the organization to bear with them until they could 
pass adequate sentence reduction laws. Congress passed laws that reduced 
sentences and freed large-scale marijuana growers and methamphetamine 
manufacturers (crimes usually associated with whites) as people of color 
patiently waited year after year for the 100-to-1 crack and powder 
cocaine sentencing disparity to be equalized.

Finally came the day! C-Span televised the congressional debate for 
equalizing crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentences. It never 
happened! Crack was only reduced to an 18-to-1 ratio to powder, though 
cocaine is the only active drug in either crack or powder cocaine. Even 
the 18-to-1 sentencing disparity was not made retroactive to those with 
prior convictions.

People of color felt betrayed by Congress. Prisons erupted in riots. The 
Bureau of Prisons (BOP) instantly shut down C-Span and locked down the 
prisons that flared up. Today the 18-to-1 disparity remains, as does the 
racist overkill tactics of the Criminal Injustice System against Black 
and Brown communities in particular and the poor in general.


      *Where do we go from here?*

Our Black families, communities of color and poor people have been torn 
asunder by one racist scheme after another to keep Blacks and other 
oppressed in subservient roles for the benefit of an imperialistic white 
supremacist system.


        *Sundiata Acoli*

Quite simply: We want our imprisoned parents, grandparents, teachers, 
leaders, brothers, sisters, political prisoners, exiles, students and 
children freed and exonerated to help rebuild our families, communities, 
lives and Black Nation /now,/ not at some vague future date that will 
allow most of our loved ones to slowly die off in prison – as is the 
case with 82-year-old Black Panther political prisoner Sundiata Acoli, 
held at FCI Cumberland, Maryland. (His full address is Sundiata Acoli 
(Squire), 39794-066, FCI Cumberland, P.O. Box 1000, Cumberland MD 20501; 
please write. – ed.)


        *Kevin Jones-Bey*

Or: the case of Kevin Jones-Bey, who’s doing LWOP for an “acquitted 
conduct” sentence. Along with Sundiata Acoli, Kevin Jones-Bey is a 
brilliant co-teacher of the Critical Thinking course that is tasked, 
inter alia, with teaching younger prisoners to control their emotions in 
critical situations so that they think and act rationally to avoid the 
revolving door recidivism (like parole violations) that return so many 
young parolees to prison. (Kevin’s address is the same as Sundiata’s, 
except his number is 32567-037.)


        *Tony Lewis Sr.*

Or: the case of Tony Lewis Sr., former kingpin, doing LWOP, who 
deliberately steered his son, Tony Lewis Jr., nicknamed “Slugg,” away 
from drugs and crime and toward the best schools and love of self, 
family, community and people – but taught him /never/ to forget where he 
came from. Tony Lewis Jr. did not disappoint, going on to write an 
inspiring double biography of father and son, “Slugg: A Boy’s Life in 
the Age of Mass Incarceration.”

He heeded his father’s caution not to glamorize drugs or street life but 
to save Black lives and inspire Black men to be better than they are – 
and he did indeed! Tony Lewis Jr. is now a member of the Washington, 
D.C., City Council, serving and representing his people well and moving 
on up the ladder.


      *We want freedom*

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must 
love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our 
chains.” – Assata Shakur

/Valerie Haynes, who can be reached at //Valerie_Haynes at Hotmail.com/ 
<mailto:Valerie_Haynes at Hotmail.com>/, describes herself as a “Black 
woman, mother, community organizer, activist from Brooklyn, New York. 
I’ve been organizing with and advocating for u.s. held Political 
Prisoners and Prisoners of War since 2010. /

/“I joined the Sekou Odinga Defense Committee (SODC) in 2013 and when 
Sekou came home, he co-founded, with other former PPs/POWs, activists, 
organizations, the North East Political Prisoner Coalition (NEPPC). I’ve 
been with NEPPC since 2015. We educate the masses on the existence of 
u.s. held PPs and POWs, particularly focusing on the forgotten ones from 
the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army movement of the 1960s. 
We share their stories so we can change and correct the narrative on our 
history of Black Resistance while the powers that be continue to 
criminalize Black Resistance. FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS! FREE ’EM ALL!/

/Our 11 Black Panther or BLA PPs/POWs are:/

  * /Sundiata Acoli, 82 /
  * /Russell Maroon Shoatz, 75 /
  * /Imam Jamil Al Amin, 75 /
  * /Ed Poindexter, 74 /
  * /Veronza Bowers, 73 /
  * /Ruchell Magee, 72 /
  * /Romaine Chip Fitzgerald, 70 /
  * /Dr. Mutulu Shakur, 68 /
  * /Jalil Muntaqim, 67 /
  * /Kamau Sadiki, 67 /
  * /Mumia Abu-Jamal, 65 /

/Learn more at www.northeastpoliticalprisonercoalition.wordpress.com./”

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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