A serious human rights crisis has been ongoing in our nation for some time, with a clear starting point in 1994, and Bill Clinton’s 1994 Violent Crime Control Act. With the Bush administrations and the aftermath of 9/11, there was a clear shift in the way policing and mass-incarceration were to be carried out. Another shift came about in the aftermath of the Great Recession, with no let up in budgetary demands by the prison-industrial complex, and a steep decline in funding to maintain it. In parallel to that, additional powers were added with the establishment and growth of the national security complex, and a not insignificant amount of those powers were conferred onto police jurisdictions, adding an additional layer to what already existed.
These trends have been happening alongside a return of Jim Crow, and at a time of deep economic decline and high national anxiety. The killing of Trayvon Martin marked a watershed moment in race relations in America, and life hasn’t been the same since.
One cannot deny that the number of deaths at the hands of the authorities has risen exponentially from previous decades, even with a lack of accounting from any government agency. The most conservative estimates place the number of police deaths in the last decade at near ten thousand, with an expected 1200 police killings to take place in 2015, at current trends.
Below, are several curated articles that illustrate the depth and severity of a nationwide problem:
Chicago police detained thousands of black Americans at interrogation facility | US news | The Guardian
At least 3,500 Americans have been detained inside a Chicago police warehouse described by some of its arrestees as a secretive interrogation facility, newly uncovered records reveal.
Of the thousands held in the facility known as Homan Square over a decade, 82% were black. Only three received documented visits from an attorney, according to a cache of documents obtained when the Guardian sued the police.
Despite repeated denials from the Chicago police department that the warehouse is a secretive, off-the-books anomaly, the Homan Square files begin to show how the city’s most vulnerable people get lost in its criminal justice system.
People held at Homan Square have been subsequently charged with everything from “drinking alcohol on the public way” to murder. But the scale of the detentions – and the racial disparity therein – raises the prospect of major civil-rights violations.
Documents indicate the detainees are a group of disproportionately minority citizens, many accused of low-level drug crimes, faced with incriminating themselves before their arrests appeared in a booking system by which their families and attorneys might find them. […]
But an independent Guardian analysis of arrestees’ records, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, shows that Homan Square is far from normal:
- Between September 2004 and June 2015, around 3,540 people were eventually charged, mostly with forms of drug possession – primarily heroin, as well as marijuana and cocaine – but also for minor infractions such as traffic violations, public urination and driving without a seatbelt.
- More than 82% of the Homan Square arrests thus far disclosed – or 2,974 arrests – are of black people, while 8.5% are of white people. Chicago, according to the 2010 US census, is 33% black and 32% white.
- Over two-thirds of the arrests at Homan Square thus far revealed – at least 2,522 – occurred under the tenure of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the former top aide to Barack Obama who has said of Homan Square that the police working under him “follow all the rules”. […]
How mass incarceration creates ‘million dollar blocks’ in poor neighborhoods
By Emily Badger
July 30, 2015
There are neighborhoods on the West Side of Chicago where nearly every block has been painted red — a sign, on the above map, that someone there was sentenced to time in an Illinois state prison between 2005 and 2009 for a nonviolent drug offense.
On several dark-red blocks, the missing residents are so many — or their sentences so long — that taxpayers have effectively committed more than a million dollars to incarcerate people who once lived there.
This is the perverse form that public investment takes in many poor, minority neighborhoods: “million dollar blocks,” to use a bleak term first coined in New York by Laura Kurgan at Columbia University and Eric Cadora of the Justice Mapping Center. Our penchant for incarcerating people has grown so strong that, in many cities, taxpayers frequently spend more than a million dollars locking away residents of a single city block.
In Chicago, Daniel Cooper, Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, Matt Barrington and the civic technology company DataMade have reprised the concept for one of the most divided cities in America. By their count, there are 851 blocks in Chicago where the public has committed more than a million dollars to sentencing residents to state prison for all kinds of crime. The total tops a million dollars for nonviolent drug offenses alone in 121 of those blocks.
Those places, tracing the city’s segregated history, are clustered in neighborhoods on the South and West Sides. These patterns, the project points out, mean that most of Chicago’s incarcerated residents come from and return to a small number of places. And in those places, the consequences of incarceration on everyone else — children who are missing their parents, households that are missing their breadwinners, families who must support returning offenders who are now much harder to employ — are concentrated, too. This map shows where those communities are clustered on the West Side, relative to the North Side of Chicago:
The Guardian has built the most comprehensive database of US police killing ever published. Compare our findings to those from the UK, Australia, Iceland and beyond
It’s rather difficult to compare data from different time periods, according to different methodologies, across different parts of the world, and still come to definitive conclusions.
But now that we have built The Counted, a definitive record of people killed by police in the US this year, at least there is some accountability in America – even if data from the rest of the world is still catching up.
It is undeniable that police in the US often contend with much more violent situations and more heavily armed individuals than police in other developed democratic societies. Still, looking at our data for the US against admittedly less reliable information on police killings elsewhere paints a dramatic portrait, and one that resonates with protests that have gone global since a killing last year in Ferguson, Missouri: the US is not just some outlier in terms of police violence when compared with countries of similar economic and political standing.
America is the outlier – and this is what a crisis looks like.
Fact: In the first 24 days of 2015, police in the US fatally shot more people than police did in England and Wales, combined, over the past 24 years.
Behind the numbers: According to The Counted, the Guardian’s special project to track every police killing this year, there were 59 fatal police shootings in the US for the days between 1 January and 24 January.
According to data collected by the UK advocacy group Inquest, there have been 55 fatal police shootings – total – in England and Wales from 1990 to 2014.
The US population is roughly six times that of England and Wales. According to the World Bank, the US has a per capita intentional homicide rate five times that of the UK.
Read the rest of By the numbers: US police kill more in days than other countries do in years at The Guardian.
What’s in a Prison Meal?
THE ONGOING FIGHT FOR MORE, AND BETTER, PRISON FOOD.
Soon enough, Howard, a tall African-American man with a deep voice and hazel eyes, began booking modeling and acting gigs, working as a waiter at Le Pain Quotidian to keep a steady income coming in. He quickly moved up the ranks, and now, at 30, owns his own production company, lives alone in a two-bedroom apartment, and has an eleven-month old daughter, Lian, whom he dotes upon. From his perspective, he’d beaten the odds. He’d left Florida and built the life he wanted.
But one afternoon this May, Howard found himself sitting behind bars at the NYPD’s 5th precinct in Chinatown.
“I was terrified,” he said, sipping a Blue Moon at Borough, a restaurant a few blocks from his apartment in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill. “I just have never wanted to be in that position at all in my life.”
Howard had been on a production job, driving a van to cross the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn, when he was pulled over for running a stop sign. The sign was obscured by a double-parked car and he hadn’t seen it, as he explained to the officer who stopped him. The cop was sympathetic and told him he just needed to run his license before he could let him go. Moments later he returned and told Howard he had an open arrest warrant for an unpaid traffic ticket and would need to be taken to jail. Despite protesting that he had paid all outstanding tickets when he’d reinstated his license in Florida several years before, Howard was handcuffed next to the van, on a busy stretch of Canal street, and taken away in a squad car.
Howard’s story is surprisingly common. Currently, 1.2 million New Yorkers—nearly one in seven residents—have open arrest warrants. Many of them have no idea that these warrants exist, and many of the warrants themselves date back years, even decades. […]
Read the rest of “How 1.2 Million New Yorkers Ended Up With Arrest Warrants” at Talking Points Memo
Our police-industrial system is an industry onto its own and is branching out into the export business:
Police Brutality In Brazil Is Out Of Control
In the U.S., a series of deaths has forced the nation’s public conscience to cope with the long-standing issue of police violence. But it is in the Americas’ second largest economy where a policy of “shoot first, ask questions later” has seen an epidemic of murder-by-police develop.
Brazil’s population is 50 percent smaller than that of the U.S. but their police forces have killed the same number of people in the last five years as American police have in the last 30 years. From 2008 to 2013, Brazilian police killed around 11,000 civilians or six people every day.
“Our police kill by the hundreds,” Ignacio Cano, a sociologist who specializes in the study of crime and police violence, told Bloomberg last year. “We have a Ferguson every day.”
Brazilian police operate under a “shoot first, ask questions later” policy that has contributed to a “soaring homicide rate,” according to a report released by Amnesty International on Monday. Nonetheless, there are many cases where the police act above the law they’re tasked to uphold as they are rarely investigated or brought to justice.
“Faced with high levels of violent crime, some Brazilian police units engage in abusive practices with impunity,” according to a Human Rights Watch report called World Report 2014: Brazil. “In recent years, the São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro state governments have implemented measures aimed at improving police performance and curbing abuses, yet police misreporting and other forms of cover-up persist.”
In Rio de Janeiro, 16 percent of the total homicides in the last five years were committed by on-duty police officers. That’s 1,519 homicides since 2010. It also doesn’t include executions performed by off-duty police. In Acari, a favela north of Rio, 9 out of 10 killings that took place in 2014 by military police were extrajudicial.
It might not be shocking to know that among the foreign forces that have trained Brazil’s military police are two of the U.S.’ most scandal-ridden police forces: the Los Angeles and Chicago Police Departments. The LAPD came under fire late last year for gender, ethnicity, and rank bias while Chicago’s PD was vilified earlier this year after the Guardian uncovered an “off-the-books interrogation compound” that lawyers compared to “a CIA black site.” […]