I am a true renaissance man and I have experienced so many forms of life and held so many positions or roles that it is difficult to narrow my thinking down to one foundational experience that has shaped and influenced my life. I died in a car accident when I was seven years old and the outcomes of being brought back to life and my faculties resulted in every person who was close to me expressing that I had a great role to fulfill on Earth.
I grew up in rough, alcoholic, and often violent home when I was younger and this heavily shaped my perception of poverty, addiction, relationships and vulnerability. My parents split when my mother had to flee from my father after he threatened to kill all of us before killing himself. That morning was the last time I ever saw my father and that definitely had a major influence on my life. The only place my family could flee to were areas in Oregon where my brother and I were the only black students in the schools. This was at a time that Oregon still had a prohibition in its State Constitution stating that Oregon was to be a white utopia and that black people were not permitted to settle within the limits of the state. Those experiences definitely shaped my perception of the world and my life. When we finally escaped the racist treatment of the people in Oregon, we moved to the Central District in Seattle where my brother and I, being tri-racial and coming directly from an all-white area lacked much of the social capital needed to be accepted by the black community in Seattle and found ourselves ostracized as outsiders. Those experiences also shaped my perception and influenced my life.
Shortly thereafter, I found myself indoctrinated into gang-life, criminal activity, and drugs. As a result of my behaviors, I spent a lot of time incarcerated and even went to juvenile prison for an extended period of time. It was there that I began to write poetry, which later in my life would lead me to being a spoken word and hip hop artist and being named Renaissance the Poet. After I was released from their prison, I was not able to shake the gang or the drugs, but the poetry stuck with me. On my eighteenth birthday I was given a drug called ecstasy, and under its influence was when I had my first experience with god. That experience caused me to leave the gang and the drugs alone and before I knew it, I had walked across the country from Washington to Massachusetts where I joined and became a priest in a cult.
I stayed with them for the better part of a year before I was able to escape from the mental imprisonment and the only method I knew to shut out the demons swirling in my head was to use drugs and alcohol to silence them. However, when I found myself back in Seattle I was ensnared by the chains of addiction once again and when the excitement of my return wore off, all of my family and friend severed their ties with me. I was left homeless, without prospects, and alone. Worst of all, the drugs were no longer working to silence the demons swirling in my head and a deep depression set in. After giving up everything I thought I was supposed to give up for god I felt truly alone because to me at the time that not even god could save me from myself.
Without anything else holding me to the planet or the people on it, I decided to take my own life by jumping off the Aurora Bridge. However, while I was walking to the bridge from Lake City, a lesson I head while I was in prison came back to me. There was an O.G. Vice Lord from Chicago that came to visit us and he told us that strangely, he discovered that he felt more free when locked-up, and more of a prisoner when he was on the streets. At the time I heard him say that, I thought he was out of his mind, but as I became a victim of the streets and was on my way to end my life I finally understood what he meant so many years earlier. Aside from having my liberty taken from me, the single other largest factor to the peace I felt while I was in prison was that I was not using drugs. So, while I was on my way to the bridge I decided to call the emergency services and with the direction they gave me while they treated me overnight in a few short weeks I was able to find my way into a chemical abuse treatment facility, which changed my life forever. I have been sober ever since and I have never felt as hopeless as I did that night I walked to the bridge to end my suffering.
Getting sober did not solve all the problems I had in my life, but it did provide me with the tools to access a level of peace necessary to confront those problems. I had four felonies and several misdemeanors on my criminal record. Furthermore, I had failed high school and at the current standing when I left, I was a 0.0 GPA student. I had no place to call home, no friends, and my family wanted nothing to do with me. I was able to gain access to a half-way house for people in transition from institutions and shortly after I began living there I woke up to the news of 9/11. I did not know it when I moved in, but the house was run by a Mormon church, and while there is nothing wrong with helping the community, I had a hard time coping because of my experience with the cult I was in; there were too many similarities. Then given the factors of my history that were barring me from both employment and education, I decided to go to a Job Corps facility.
If there was any experience in my life that I believe really set the stage for the man I was to become, then it was my experience at Tongue Point Job Corps Center in Astoria Oregon because it was there that I learned that I as an individual could have a positive impact in the lives of the people around me. Job Corps used to provide a bi-weekly allowance for the students that lived on campus, but that stipend was very limited. However, students could get a job to subsidize the funds they were lacking and I was encouraged to become part of the student government. I did and within a few months I had worked my way up the being the student body president of the facility. Aside from providing for the extracurricular activities for my fellow students we also challenged microagressions and negative stereotypes, although, at the time I did not know that is what we were doing. We challenged the center’s policy on sagging pants and how it related to the administration’s and staff’s perceptions of black youth who sagged their pants. I sagged my pants at the time and I was the president. More important, it was the issue that the students wanted me to bring up and fight for them.
While at the job corps facility I earned my G.E.D., my high school diploma, and printing apprentice certificate, and even started college. My goal for attending college was to go into law school, become a lawyer, then enter into politics and eventually become the president. It was a mixture between my experience at Job Corps being the president and a class I had in when Mr. Mollette my high school history teacher that told me that any American citizen could become president, one of the days that I passed through his class. I dropped out of school a few quarters after beginning and returned to Seattle thinking that I would get into college, but that was much easier said than done. My criminal record from when I was a juvenile still haunted me and I was barred from employment in most establishments.
I gave up on the idea of ever being able to afford college and found myself working in a used retail store for about a year when I began my journey into construction work. A man I met started hiring me on weekends to do odds and ends for him and paid me well. Then he brought me on as his first full time employee and decided that I would become his apprentice and eventually buy him out and take over the company. Within a few years I had become a professional heavy equipment operator, pipe-layer, estimator, and project manage and then I became a partner in the developing construction company negotiating contracts with Mid Mountain Contractors, Turner Construction, King County, and the City of Seattle.
During this time with the construction company I also started, hosted and ran the Cornerstone Open Mic & Artist Showcase, a hip hop and spoken word open mic that happen monthly at the Fair Gallery and Café on Capital Hill in Seattle, with my best friend and adopted brother Marcus Hoy. Mark Hoy and Sean Stuart are the people who named me Renaissance the Poet, because of the rollercoaster life I had lived prior to meeting them and the skill I had with poetry. The Cornerstone, as it became known, was a hub for revolutionary minded poets and artists from around the Puget Sound area where we discussed and challenged some of the most disparaging issues confronting our generation, such as, patriarchy, sexism, racism, and state control of citizens. Some of us may have been revolutionaries and activists at the time, but for the most part we were simply artists learning how to exercise our minds and our voices while we were learning how to exist and survive in the world we were all born into. In the more than five years that we hosted the Cornerstone, there was not one fight, and this was nearly unheard of for any hip hop venue anywhere at the time. Many relationships were forged there and the underground cultural element of resistance and justice was kept alive and fostered.
In 2010, our company won the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business “Minority Business of the Year” award. However, I always felt that I had missed my true calling to fulfill a great role on earth and thought that becoming a lawyer was the method I was supposed to take to achieve that role. In 2008, the economy spun on its head and we went into a dire recession that put a lot of pressure on our company. In 2011, a couple years after I had destroyed my knee mentoring some youth with the organization called TSB, the Service Board, battling to keep our business afloat and continuing to damage my knee, I realized that construction was never a trade I wanted to be in and decided to do whatever it took to go to college. So, I left R.J. Richards CE LLC and enrolled in North Seattle Community College (NSCC).
Somehow and somewhere along the line I had gotten this plan for my life and what I was supposed to do with it embedded into my head. I am going to write a new socioeconomic system for the entire planet that is environmentally sound, socially just, and equitable for all; and I am going to see it implemented before the day I die. I began studying history, philosophy, economics, sociology, psychology, biology and mathematics and my understanding of the world exploded my perceptions of humanity and the insurmountable character of my goal. That is when I became involved with another student government and I was brought in as the Student Fee Board Coordinator, which was the treasurer for the college. To do that job I had to study the Washington State laws associated with public monies and student fees, and to study ethics because I had to select and train a board and we were going to have to make tough ethical decision. Before that I knew being part of the government enabled me to have a lot positive influence in the lives of marginalized people from my experience at Job Corps. However, I never fully grasped how much power the United States Congress has on the lives of every citizen in the United States until I was given a smaller, yet similar role. People can design all the best programs in the world, but if they do not have the funds to get them started and to maintain them, then they may often never be able to achieve the goals of their programs.
At this time OCCUPY was challenging the corporate structure and control of people’s lives worldwide after the economic collapse in 2008. Like Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote about the white clergy who questioned the movement while he was in the Birmingham jail during Project Confrontation, I agreed with their aims, but I disagreed with their methods. I disagreed with the mostly because I did not comprehend how they could be successful. It was a leaderless movement with demands that ran the spectrum. At the time it seemed to me that the movement lacked the necessary cohesion to achieve its aims. It was not that I disagreed with any of the demands. To the contrary, I believed that all of the things people were asking for should be achieved. My issue at the time was that I thought they could achieve more of their demands if they focused on them one or few at a time. I did not get involved with the movement because I did not understand it.
In 2013 I graduated from NSCC and had been accepted to the University of Washington (UW). When I first started at NSCC I thought that I would enter into the Law, Societies, and Justice program at UW, but by the time I entered the university I had settled on double-majoring in history and philosophy. I was still intent on progressing onto law school. I thought getting a good background in reading and research, with training in analysis, which the discipline of history would provide me with would be helpful in this regard. I thought having a strong understanding of morality and ethics, and the philosophical frameworks they are grounded in, plus developing my argumentative skills, which the discipline of philosophy would provide would further prepare me for law school and the work ahead of me. My ethical training began with a look at global justice, which confronted issues such as poverty, hunger, gendered vulnerability, social contracts, state legitimacy, climate change, immigration and feudal privilege, and many forms of oppression. It was these arguments about justice, which is to provide for that which promotes most the flourishing of all human beings, not the interpretation of it as punishment common in the United States that exposed me to the concepts of obligation and responsibility. History provided me with a lens into why these conditions exist and what factors led them to come into being. The courses at UW changed the way I envision my role in the world and I began to feel an immediate responsibility and obligation to use the knowledge and wisdom I had to benefit people.
During the summer of 2013, Sarra Tekola, my partner in life, brought me to my very first protest. We traveled down to the Columbia River on the border of Washington and Oregon States to participate in the Portland Rising Tide opposition to the coal and oil that were being shipped from the west coast to China. At the time, Sarra was an Environmental Science major at UW and part of the Divest University of Washington coalition and she schooled me on how important the issue of climate change was to our survival as a species. She also hipped me to the fact that people of color worldwide are the not only the first impacted by the effects of climate change, but are also the most impacted by it as well. She informed me that the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of the best and brightest scientists on the planet determined that if we as a civilization burn enough carbon to increase the temperature of the planet by two degrees Celsius cumulatively, we will enter into a negative feedback loop of destruction that we will not be able to recover from. Desertification will destroy once plush and arid farm lands, like what had happened to her father’s people in Ethiopia. Melting polar ice caps will submerge places like the Philippines displacing millions, many of whom will die in the process. So, it was important to protest the extraction and transportation of carbon producing materials for everyone on the planet, but especially for people of color because people of color have nest to no power in the decision making circles like the U.S. Congress and the United Nations. It was scary and every moment I thought I was going to be arrested. Canoes spread across the river to block any ships and people spanned the bridge above holding signs, while a group rappelled off the bridge to display a huge banner. We did not stop the extraction or transportation of fossil fuel materials that day, but it felt good making a stand with like-minded people for the sake of justice.
The summer of 2014 I went to Greece with the Jackson School of International Studies (JSIS) of UW to conduct research on immigration. I thought my time in Greece would help me to work on the issues surrounding immigration in the United States. Greece had been suffering from a major recession for several years and was also experiencing a major influx of people from the Middle East and the African continent. Most of the migrants were fleeing from deplorable situations and most did not intend for Greece to be their final destination, many wanted to continue onto other European Union (EU) nations. Greece was the entry point by both water and land into the EU for many migrants. However, the EU had tightened its policy on migrants and because of the Dublin II Regulation, the EU was returning any migrant discovered in any country to the country they entered into the EU at to process their applications of asylum. In addition to the recession, and the lack of financial assistance from the EU for both the residents of the country and the new influx of immigrants, there was also a nationalist and xenophobic organization oppressing the immigrants named Golden Dawn. Golden Dawn was a two-winged organization like the Dixiecrats of the South because they had nineteen percent of the parliamentary seats in Greece, in coordination with an organization like the Ku Klux Klan because they had a grassroots physically repressive regime harming immigrants. Immigration could be studied in any country in the world, but the particular set of conditions in Greece enabled us to observe the systematic denial of almost every singly right it is commonly agreed that people inherently possess simply for the sake of being human.
My second night in Greece at the American College of Greece dorm that UW has a satellite facility, I was taking a smoke break in the smoking section when for officers on two motor cycles turned the corner and immediately jumped off their bikes and pointed assault rifles at me simply because I am a black man. This may seem like a strange assertion until you have been to Athens, Greece and become acquainted with the reality that millions of people smoke and because of the smoldering heat that many people are out on the streets at night. There was nothing about me or what I was doing that was out of place except for the color of my skin. Luckily, I had my passport on me at that particular moment and I was saved from being hauled off into one of their immigration prisons. Their whole attitude toward me shifted as soon as they discovered I was an American, but until that moment I felt as though they regarded me as less than the mud on their boots would have shot me just to get a laugh. It was not until I hung out with an enterprising group of migrants from all over Africa in Monostraki Square—an electric flee market—and spending time with a parliamentary member that I learned Greece was a police state, and that the police had the authority to act independently of the government. I heard stories of how the police would select a street that migrants were known to frequent, then would block the exits, beat all the people of color and then imprison them. I spent most of my time in Greece terrified for my life from both the police and Golden Dawn because I did not have the social networks or rights that I had back in the United States. However, two nights before we left Greece I received word about the execution of Michal Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by officer Daren Wilson and I knew there was no escape from state sanctioned or permitted violence.
The O.G. Vice Lord’s words came back to me and kept playing over and over in my head about how we are prisoners on the streets. Being a black man in America I exist as W.E.B. Du Bois mentions, with a “double-consciousness,” constantly viewing myself from two lenses; I experience myself as a man, and I am also always conscious of my status as a “black” man as viewed by white Americans. People of color in the United States suffer from dire economic sanctions which impose poverty upon us with a capitalistic system and an ideological framework of individualism. The system of oppression is held in place through red lining, the regressive tax system, voter disenfranchisement, poor education, and limited access to capital. Until I began researching the School-to-Prison Pipeline (STPP), I did not understand why many of the people I grew up with ended up in prison or dead, or locked in the revolving trap of poverty. I did not understand or even know about the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) or how it was linked to the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). I had learned, like most people are taught that Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution ended slavery. However, what they do not teach is that slavery was abolished “except” in the case that a person is convicted of a crime. From that debt peonage and convict leasing emerged and over time prison slavery became a huge industry in the United States to the point that now America which has five percent of the world’s population also warehouses twenty-five percent of the world’s prison population. The largest consumer of prison labor in the United States is the U.S. Department of Defense, a.k.a., the MIC. But prisoners also fabricate furniture and produce paint and clothing for many companies. Prison labor subsidizes many industries that otherwise would be too expensive to conduct in the United States, industries that create products other countries would have a comparative advantage producing. Prisons are an oasis for profit that is garnered from the exploitation of millions and that also disproportionately disparages communities of color.
Applying the aforementioned information about the PIC to the statistics about the rates of suspension, expulsion, and incarceration of the youth of color in the U.S. the School-to-Prison Pipeline began to make a lot more sense. Black children and children of people of color are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled from school. From the ninth grade on, one suspension or expulsion makes them fifty percent more likely to be incarcerated. After these children are incarcerated they become seventy-five percent more likely to enter the adult penitentiary system with prison slave labor, and over eighty-five percent likely to remain trapped in recidivism for the rest of their lives, in addition to their being disenfranchised from their first incarceration in accordance with the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of all these factors is a phenomenon known as Institutional Racism/Discrimination that permeates America’s society and institutions. The police and prosecuting attorneys have been granted arbitrary discretionary power and legal protections to act with impunity in its dealing with citizens. So, in toto, the U.S. Department of Justice with all its subsidiary prisons and law enforcement agencies when stripped of its colorful and well-sounding appeals to justice and order dissolves to a system of oppression, suppression, and exploitation. With this understanding of the ‘criminal justice’ system in the United States, the fact that most of the people I grew up with wound up in the negative feedback loop of poverty and exploitation, or how and why Michael Brown’s executioner was able to commit the atrocity with impunity were no longer mysterious to me. We, being people of color, whom at any time can have our very lives stripped from us because the laws of this country deny that we have a right to life, are prisoners on the streets of America.
Therefore, when I returned from Greece and Black Lives Matter, which was started by Alicia Garza after the assassination of Trevon Martin in 2012, decided to organize and protest the abuses of law enforcement and for justice in the Michael Brown execution, given my sense of responsibility and obligation to use the knowledge and wisdom I had to the benefit people of my community, I joined the movement for Black Liberation. My participation in the movement has taken many forms over the last year reaching from protests, to arrests, to testifying at Seattle City Hall and King County Metropolitan Council chambers, to giving a speech to Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee. All the while I was still a student at UW continuing to learn about the system we live in and the factors that helped to created it. My academic pursuits definitely suffered when I became involved in the movement because my time became divided, but that does not mean I have not continued to be successful. I highly doubt that I will be selected as the valedictorian as I was when I graduated from NSCC, but I nonetheless, have managed to maintain a very strong GPA given all of my community activity. However, that has no longer been my primary objective. I have used my education to learn what happened during previous social movements and struggles and I now understand the importance of a leaderless movement and demands that are specific to the regions they are made. I have learned precisely what I did not understand about the OCCUPY movement. There are some similar macro-problems, such as racism and institutional discrimination that people of color suffer everywhere, but those problems are expressed differently in different places. Furthermore, there is a history of the U.S. Department of Justice, through programs like COINTELPRO under the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that systematically destroyed activists and Civil Rights organizations in the 1960s and 70s.
I have lived one incredible, rollercoaster of a life that has made me a jack of all trades, and a true renaissance man. At no time have I ever known where one event would lead me. And looking back it is very difficult to pinpoint any one specific event that shaped me into the man that I am or the man I am becoming. Taken out of context, none of the major shifts or events in my life will tell anyone very much about me, who I am, or why I do the things I do. But the words of the O.G. Vice Lord from Chicago that I met while locked up have been with me since then. There is something very wrong with feeling like and being a prisoner on our own streets. A place where one might think epitomized the essence freedom. That contradiction of beliefs filled my soul with dissonance and it reverberated through all of my life-experiences until it shook loose the warrior in me. Renaissance means to revitalize, or to bring new life. The system we live in has become a runaway train that no one seems to know how to stop or get off of, and what we need is to breathe new life into our civilization. We need a new system of values and an expanded conception of “we” that signifies, represents, and displays through action that we and our planet are all connected and intersecting components of our world organism. Each and every one is vital. No one is expendable. We all have our roles to fulfill on Earth. We are all responsible.
Before beginning I must first acknowledge that we are on stolen Duwamish and Salish land.
Second, I would thank you for making the time to visit us at the University of Washington Governor Inslee. There are myriad pressing issues you could have selected to devote your time to, but you have chosen to invest your time with us and your concern and interest has not gone unnoticed. Thank you.
Today I am going to speak on issues of equity and how they pertain to the qualities and characteristics of the kind of Board of Regents members we desire here at the University of Washington and why. Equity is not blind it is very intentional and it differs drastically from equality. Equality as I have come to understand it is like placing everyone from different socio-economic, racial, gender, and citizenship status backgrounds on the same starting line. On the one hand this would seem just and fair because of the concept of equality, but what it lacks is an understanding of preexisting conditions for some that translate into unfair advantages for others. Many of the non-white students here at UW are also first generation college students, which may mean that our families do not possess as much disposable income to assist us in times of need, or that when it comes to academic concerns or administrative issues they are unable or incapable of helping us. Gender is a fluid and evolving concept of identity, but one thing that is certain is that when a student does not fit into a particular definition of gender they face discrimination and marginalization. And citizenship status can often pose an almost insurmountable barrier to affording tuition or other helpful resources, regardless of the reasons a particular individual’s status is in question. These preexisting conditions and many others can make admittance into and successful completion of university programs difficult, if not, nearly impossible for many. Merely placing everyone on the same starting line is simply not enough. On the other hand, equity seeks not to establish a similar starting point rather it seeks to garner similar outcomes regardless of preexisting conditions.
Last week students from universities across the country staged demonstrations in solidarity with the students of the University of Missouri who were protesting racial injustices and unfair responses from their administration. The demographics of University of Missouri are not unlike University of Washington, which is also a predominantly white institution; black students make up roughly eight percent and three percent of the undergraduate populations respectively. Earlier this year the students of the University of Washington staged what has been reported as the largest demonstration on campus since the 1960s when we declared a State of Emergency because of the racial and class disparities on campus, and walked out on February 25, 2015. During that demonstration we were subjected to racial epithets and as a result of further reprisals intent to silence our people through violence, which went unpunished, we determined it was necessary to challenge the unjust system of impunity with further demonstrations, much the same as the students at the University of Missouri.
These demonstrations are part of a much larger national struggle challenging the racial and class inequities and injustices within institutions such as law enforcement, the prison industrial complex, and education that reemerged onto the agenda of the general public with the Black Lives Matter movement. Police brutality and murder by police officers are major problems because they equate to state sanctioned violence against the people, which is extremely problematic because this violence is perpetuated in the name of and purported to be for the benefit of society. We are members of this society and this treatment is disreputable, and repugnant, humiliating and dehumanizing. Moreover, police brutality, which is nothing new to poor and minority communities is but one of the many factors that constitute the negative preexisting conditions that layer and stack upon each other to consolidate into a system of oppression and inequity.
The School-to-Prison Pipeline is also a major factor contributing to the racial, class, and ethnic disparities that confront many of our communities. People of color and those with mental disabilities are three times more likely to be disciplined while at school. From the ninth grade onward, one suspension or expulsion makes a student over fifty percent more likely to wind up in juvenile detention. Once in juvenile detention they become seventy-five percent more likely to end up in the adult penitentiary system and, once in that system they are more than eighty-five percent likely to return. Many people equate these statistics to inherently ‘bad’ youth, but Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, reveals that there is just as much if not more crime committed by white people. And one of our very own professors at the University of Washington, Katherine Beckett, the author of Making Crime Pay, has shown racial profiling is real and a serious problem even here in Seattle. So, it is not the case that students and people of color are ‘bad,’ but it is the case that we are being punished at disparaging and unfair rates.
The prison industrial complex is an institution grounded and founded upon extracting profit from slave labor. The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which supposedly outlawed slavery made one exception in the case of a person being convicted of committing a “crime.” That short clause provided justification for the creation, expansion, and explosion of the prison labor system. It began with convict leasing to plantations and mines that used to be worked by slaves, and now the prison industrial complex produces products that range from military equipment, to furniture, to home appliances and Correctional Industries’ website looks like any other online shopping website where people can purchase products. More troubling is the relative monopoly that Correctional Industries is granted by Washington State Law. RCW 39.26.251 states that all state agencies which include both universities and colleges must purchase the products made by Class II type prison labor. What this all equates to is an inequitable system of oppression entrenched in our largest and most prestigious institutions, which forms many of the preexisting conditions that stack and layer upon one another to create an inequitable system.
I was the president of my high school and the treasurer of North Seattle College and I used to be a business owner and helped the Department of Planning and Development of the City of Seattle revise it Job Order Contracting, so I am very familiar with bureaucratic governmental organizations. I was also part of the Divest UW coalition who for three years negotiated with and challenged the Board of Regents until we won a divestment from coal fire power earlier this year. I was also part of the team that helped draft and pass the City of Seattle City Council Resolution 31614: “Zero Use of Detention for Youth” in Seattle on September 21, 2015. What has been a consistent pattern is the nearly ubiquitous feeling that we as people are not being heard by the representatives that are supposed to be working on our behalf. Our UW President, Ana Mari Cauce, has done a lot to shift that phenomenon and also to address the racial and equity issues at the university, but we must do more. Although, I do not agree with all of the capitalistic and profit driven motives of the institution, I do understand that the university is operating within a capitalist system. Nonetheless, I and the many people I represent find it deplorable to be dehumanized and objectified, being reduced to dollar signs. When a human being is “thingified,” as Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called it, it dissolves one’s perception of their moral culpability to that individual and that is problematic. We need some Board of Regents members who are not the heads of major corporations, who are leaders in marginalized communities and can represent our concerns. We need Board of Regents members who have a firm understanding of how interlocking and intersecting forms of systemic and structural oppression function to foster inequitable conditions for many people. So that when we bring our grievances we feel heard, are heard, and our concerns are responded to appropriately and in a timely manner. And most importantly, we demand that we are respected as Human Beings.
What we do, we do together
If one person wins a battle, then they win it, but only for themselves
But if a person claims that they have won a battle by themselves, then they are mistaken
Because they have forgotten all that have gone before them
And all who have stood beside them
And all those who will come after
We are not after another individualistic ideology
The likes of which has turned us against our own families
Put us into competition with our Friends
Set us at odds with our neighbors
Severed the ties we have to our heritage
Destroyed our relationship with the earth
and indoctrinates us to seek only the betterment of ourselves
The harms that we have risen up against
Reach deep into the fibers of our beings
Is woven through the very fabric of our society
Through Police Brutality, and Mass Incarceration
Red Lining and Bank Foreclosures
Economic Sanctions, Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws
Zero Tolerance in Schools, dilapidated buildings
The Denial of Financial Aid, Public Food Assistance, Medical and Mental Health Services
The School to Prison Pipeline
Outsourcing, GMO non-labeling, CEO Corporate Spending and Bailouts
That reward White Collar Crime and permit shots fired into the backs
of young blacks who are suspected of stealing a couple bottles of beer in the capital of WA State
It’s a sick state of affairs when property has more value than a person’s life
When society teaches us that we live in a vacuum
that by our bootstraps are the only we can pull ourselves out of this pit of bitter morass
We have somehow worked ourselves into
Like we chose the neighborhoods to which we were born into
We are taught that it is only by our own doing, that no one will help, that we do not deserve any one’s help and that if we can’t it is because we are lazy, dumb, genetically inferior to
and Essentially that we are all alone
When in reality, we can do nothing alone
We would not even be able to utter the word alone had someone not taught it to us
We would not know the first thing about commerce or morality if someone had not taught it to us
There would be no society, social advocacy, civilization or cities if we did things alone
We are neither impacted alone, nor will we win alone
Groups are marginalized because of their affiliation with that group
Stop & Frisk targeted people of color disproportionately
not because of their individual identities but rather because of the color of their skin
People only throw out the claim of individuality when it suits their purposes to do so
That is genocidal in nature and by its very definition
America has just been afraid to acknowledge that fact since William James Patterson wrote We Charge Genocide with the help of the Congress of Racial Equality and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1951
Read that document and you will swear to god that you were reading a news article from last weekend
Emmitt Till all over again, Sandra Bland Rekia Boyd, Tamir Rice, Trevon Martin vigilante violence and the Charleston 9, burning churches, the KKK is making a re-emergence
all to target you and us, the we because they do not see us as individuals
And anytime we run out to challenge the system of racism and white supremacy alone
they kill the one, Malcom X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi
But every time we have stood together, and not allowed their terrorism to deter us,
Not allow their prison time, or their economic sanctions, or their political threats
of stripping people off their food assistance like the politician in Baltimore when they rose up in unison against the horrific murder of Freddy Gray
our people have achieved our victories in the struggle for justice
and it is upon their shoulders that we stand today
it is because of their efforts, their sacrifices, and investments into their futures, our presents
that we can stand here today, congregated for the cause of justice and peace
Not that negative peace, wherein we continue to permit injustices and violence
But within the positive peace of tension challenging the system on all fronts together
At times this will put demands on our time, and upon our patients
At others it will only require that we do not turn a blind eye to injustice
That we speak out, or stand on the street with our cameras out to make sure that the police are doing their damned jobs right
Sometimes it means that we will need to invest in the people and the organizations out here doing the work
But no matter what, we do this together, we do this for our people, we do this for the cause of justice
for the love of peace, for an end to war, and hatred and the violence against our people
And the world we seek to create, is not one of individuality, but rather one of community
which respects the beauty of the individuality of each and every single one of us
Treasures each in our own rights
But part of something much greater in the cycle of life
Because none of came into this world alone and of our own volition
We owe it to the rest of us to maintain our community, and to fight for what is right
!!!Black Lives Matter!!!
We will make this call reverberate throughout every institution and gathering place in America until there is no option but for it to become a reality
The intention of Resolution 31614 is to help foster a healthier community and a component of this is to address the disparaging incarceration rates of people of color, in particular, African American youth. However, a change in the policy of how the City of Seattle manages abhorrent behavior will serve to be beneficial to youth of all ethnicities and backgrounds. So, before I present information that represents the evidence of Restorative Justice (RJ) as a reaction to ‘criminal’ behavior, I want to highlight the very real need for a multiplicity of efforts that I believe should function in conjunction with RJ to achieve the objectives of this resolution.
The best research that I have been through over the past four years reveals that socio-economic conditions and, access to and assistance with education directly impact the social outcomes of individuals in society. Essentially, when people are suffering from dire socio-economic conditions and/or suffer from a deficient education are huge factors, if not partial causes, that incarceration is a response to. This is why I sought to highlight programs like The Service Board (TSB), Arts Corps, The Youth Orion Center, and New Horizons Youth Ministries among others when I provided testimony at the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Committee” meeting September 16, because they have the potential to intercede in the lives of inner-city youth prior to their becoming involved with the criminal justice system. It is my opinion that a proactive approach is much preferable to a reactive approach and this will require a continuing effort to support organizations, which do such and to implement strategies and programs to address the other factors that lead to abhorrent behavior.
Working on issues like affordable housing, employment and job training, and education in conjunction with employing Restorative Justice programs and practices are what will be necessary to address the concerns the Seattle City Council is confronting with Resolution 31614. This analysis is shared by William Julius Wilson, the author of “When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor” (1996), wherein Wilson identifies social and economic conditions as harm causing factors that shape cultural responses to environmental constraints. These constraints affect all ethnicities, but because of the demographics of urban areas it is also the case that people of color are disproportionately affected. Nonetheless, the net result will improve conditions for all the citizens whom are marginalized within an urban area, not just people of color, but especially them. Restorative Justice by itself does not have the capacity or the aim of addressing all the factors entailed in social and economic conditions that lead to behavior labeled as ‘criminal’. However, coupling other initiatives with RJ will be proactive and seek to heal our community.
Restorative Justice has been shown to reduce the likelihood of re-offence and to decrease recidivism, as well as, improve victim satisfaction with the justice system. A report produced by the Ministry of Justice titled, “Restorative Justice in New Zealand: December 2010,” wherein the structure of the program is identified and provides a summary of objective results of the implementation of RJ in their country. In particular, the report notes that “Reconvictions reduced by 27% in 2 years following restorative justice process,” which is a vast decrease. The New Zealand Ministry of Justice released another report June 2011 titled “Reoffending Analysis for Restorative Justice Cases: 2008 and 2009,” which details further findings. The 2011 report states, “The principal finding of this report is that those who had been through a restorative justice conference had a 20 percent lower reoffending rate than comparable offenders who did not receive a restorative justice conference (33.2% and 41.3% respectively).” The 2010 report from the New Zealand Ministry of Justice did report that youth have a higher expected rate of offense, and that this group did show a consistent rate of re-offense. It also reported that “Offenders aged 20 – 25 years showed a large apparent drop” in the rate of re-offense. So, although not all reports are favorable for RJ practices and programs, by and large it seems to be effective. These reports show dramatic and positive impacts on the criminal justice system as measured by recidivism and re-offense, which reveals that there are promising potentials for its application in the City of Seattle.
The program in New Zealand holds the victim as the primary focus in the Restorative Justice process, and the Restorative Justice: Victim, Offender, Community states, “If the victim’s needs are addressed, the process will serve the offender and the community well” Earlier I alluded to victim satisfaction with the justice system the Smith Institute has conducted an in-depth analysis the effectiveness of RJ in reducing the harms to victims. The Smith Institute acknowledges that those victims of crime who elect not to engage with the people who caused them harm or the victims of unsolved offense will not receive the same benefits of RJ as those who participate in the process. This is also in line with voluntary characteristic of RJ that New Zealand identifies in its Best Practice Principles; “Restorative justice processes are underpinned by voluntariness for both the victim and the offender.”
 The Smith Institute notes that of those who elect to participate in the RJ process “almost always indicate a high level of satisfaction with the process” The Smith Institute further acknowledges that the RJ process may not be appropriate for all situations and in a small proportion of those analyzed, their condition worsened as a result of engaging with the offenders. The Smith Institute concludes that “Nonetheless, across all these studies including many kinds of offence type the conclusions are clear: when victims consent to meet their offender in an RJ conference they are usually satisfied with their experience provided that 1) the RJ meeting happens as promised and 2) the offender complies with the undertakings they made during the conference.”
The Smith Institute report reveals that Restorative Justice may be more effective at decreasing the recidivism of violent crime than non-violent crime. A randomized experiment the report notes is the Canberra RISE project, which observed: “In a two-year-before, two-year-after comparison, the frequency of arrest among white people under 30 years of age who were assigned to RJ dropped by 84 per 100 offenders more than in the control group” The other studies also showed decreases in recidivism, although, not as pronounced. However, in regard to property crime, the Smith Institute observed two studies that revealed increased recidivism, and five studies that revealed decreased recidivism. It was the report’s conclusion that there is simply not enough evidence compiled thus far to make a determination either way as to the effectiveness on non-violent crime.
Returning to a point I made earlier about proactive measures that intercede in people’s lives prior to their entering into the criminal justice system, the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) has been employing Restorative Justice practices since 2005, with promising results. As a justification for the implementation of RJ programs and practices, the OUSD states, “Compelling evidence suggests that zero tolerance disciplinary policies and teacher/principal practices used for decades do not work to improve student behavior, school safety or academic achievement. In fact, they limit meaningful opportunity for students to learn and engage, instead increasing unstructured out-of-school time and likelihood of isolation, dropping out and being arrested.” This is an analysis that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has concurred in the article “Where Zero Tolerance Makes Zero Sense.” The OUSD had at the time of the report 24 schools including elementary, middle, and high school levels. The schools reported growth and development of community that was translated into conflict resolution, intrapersonal and interpersonal skill development, emotional intelligence development, growth in empathy and understanding, and improvement in relationships with both teachers and other students. In addition to that, suspensions and expulsions have decreased, reading levels have improved, attendance has improved, and graduation rates have significantly increased in comparison to schools that have not implemented RJ practices. By employing RJ in the school system many of the factors that are implicated in criminal and abhorrent behavior are being addressed and they are witnessing very promising results.
Restorative Justice, as effective as it seems is also not the only program that has been used to intercede the detention of youth. For example, the 180 Program was launched in 2012 in King County, which permits first and second time offenders to opt into workshops with ex-offenders who had turned their lives around. There is also the Creative Justice program which fosters art based alternatives to youth incarceration in King County has just launched in 2015. Alternative programs to incarceration have real potential to shape the lives of our youth and one inspiring story comes from a former prosecuting attorney and superior court judge named, John Phillips. In the article, “I was tired of throwing kids in prison. So I built a place to help keep them out of it,” Phillips speaks to the problems of mandatory minimum sentencing and how a lack of flexibility in sentencing was harmful and exacerbated the problem facing marginalized communities. He writes about the lack of services that were available for marginalized youth saying; “Very few services were provided for young people involved in criminal activity before they got in trouble. But once the trigger was pulled, all sorts of resources were directed to them — police, prosecutors, a defense attorney, the judge, the judicial system, probation officers, and of course, prison incarceration.” Phillips, with his community transformed an abandoned hospital into a school/community center for at risk and marginalized youth to help them learn vocational, educational, and life skills with a focus on community and, also provided transitional living spaces for homeless youth. “We’ve reduced recidivism 80 percent among students in the program, and the rate of our students staying out of trouble is twice that of young people exiting incarceration without the benefit of our program” Phillips reports. Even more encouraging than the statistics Phillips reports, is the observation he has of his students spirits; “When you provide young people with an encouraging environment and the opportunity to rediscover themselves, they begin to hold their heads up high and start thinking, often for the first time, about their future.”
The goal of Resolution 31614 is not only the Zero Use of Detention for Juveniles, but the creation of a more healthy community. That is what is implied by the intention of forming partnerships and making investments into community led solutions and organizations and, that is the express intent of incarceration and the now present need to transition from utilizing incarceration. The problem is unfortunately not one dimensional, but rather, a multi-factored, multi-layered set of circumstances and constraints. It will require ingenuity and creativity and a willingness to experiment with promising alternatives. A multiplicity of tactics and strategies that address the socio-economic conditions and constraints, which lead to criminal and abhorrent behaviors of individuals and groups is necessary. The programs and organizations that I have listed above are some, although, not all of the programs locally or abroad that reveal promising outcomes and as such, are viable alternatives to the incarceration of our youth. Above all, I believe it is better to be proactive than reactive, which means interceding prior to our youth encountering the criminal justice system, programs like the 180 Program, Creative Justice, and Restorative Justice being led by our community members and organizations, is a great way to begin healing our community.
 file:///C:/Users/Michael%20Moynihan/Desktop/Community%20Based%20Alternatives%20to%20Imprisonment/Reoffending%20Analysis%20for%20RJ%20Cases%202008%20and%202009.pdf (p. 7)
The “ghetto” is a social construct of social engineering that was designed to corral particular groups of people into cordoned zones to protect the integrity of the elite class, and in this country the white social and political position.
Ghettos were formed to maintain and sustain an economic and political advantage over people of color, and in particular, black people during the apartheid era of Jim Crow segregation. The Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North that began in the 1920s in response to the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) violence and economic opportunity that lasted through the 1970s was responded to with a policy known as Red Lining. Red Lining was the sectioning off of particular neighborhoods for occupation of African Americans, wherein the banks in collusion with state and city officials denied home and business loans to people of color seeking to acquire property outside of these zones. Outside of these Red Lined zones, white communities developed race restrictive covenants that were written into the property deeds to bar ownership of these properties from black people. These conditions resulted in overpopulated and crowded living spaces that drove up the costs of living because in accordance with the Law of Supply and Demand; which stipulates that all things being equal, when demand for a product increases, but the supply remains consistent, then the price must increase.
After World War II (1941-1945) and the emergence of suburbs in the 1950s, White Flight, was the next response to the Great Migration, when major cities like Detroit, Michigan experienced the exodus of white citizens and white owned businesses. This had two major effects, many jobs left the cities in which African Americans had moved to and dramatically decreased the taxes collected in these areas. Since schools are funded by the system of taxation, the education in these areas suffered from a lack of funding. Without an efficient and successful education system structural unemployment, that is, the natural fluctuation of people from job to job, and the people who lose their positions due to them becoming obsolete began to widen. In the 1980s globalization led to many of the manufacturing industries that sustained these red-lined communities being outsourced to other countries leaving these communities destitute. Also during the 1980s, the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.), under the Reagan administration were engaged in the Iran-Nicaragua Contra, which resulted in the collusion with drug cartels in Central America that led to the trafficking of millions of dollars of Crack Cocaine, via Rick “Freeway” Ross into the inner-cities of the U.S. at precisely the same time that jobs were being depleted in these red-lined neighborhoods, and President Ronald Reagan was writing into law the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which instituted the 100-1 rule. The rule made possession or distribution of one gram of Crack Cocaine as punishable as 100 grams of Powder Cocaine and the only discernible difference was who used crack—Black People—and where it was available for purchase—in Black neighborhoods.
The rise of the militarized police and the expansion of the Prison Industrial Complex soon followed. Since the federal government could not intervene in state legal practices by arresting people and ‘fighting crime’ they incentivised local police institutions to do the job for them. The way they achieved this was to provide financial incentives for city police to arrest and convict non-violent drug ‘offenders’ and this with the property confiscation laws provided the motivation for a particular type of discriminatory and targeted policing that focused on minorities, people of color, and impoverished peoples particularly in inner-city neighborhoods: ghettos. Also during the 1980s and 1990s, private corporations Began taking over the public prison system and like any corporation they had a profit motive, which means that the inmates were the ‘product’ they intended to profit from. These corporation have spent millions, if not billions of dollars to lobby legislatures to increase the list of carceral offenses, and to lengthen the punishment for ‘crimes’ already punishable with incarceration. In the 1990s President Bill Clinton signed into law the “3 Strikes and You’re Out” legislation and reformed the Welfare System so that those convicted of a drug offense could not access public financial assistance; food assistance, housing assistance, and financial aid for schooling. The public education system has contributed to the explosion of the prison system as well with the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Black students are 3.5 times more likely to be suspended or expelled from school and once that occurs they are 50% more likely to end up in juvenile, and thus, 75% more likely to end up in the adult penitentiary system. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that the data reveals that Black and Latino students are 2 times as likely not to graduate from high school. And all of this is perfectly legal (the law and justice are not the same thing) because the people who have not been disenfranchised have voted on these laws and systems of oppression in the United States. Furthermore, in 1865, the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This amendment technically determined prison as the new slavery and all that was required for it to work was to use the shroud of a ‘just and impartial court system’ to justify the slavery—a system proven to be devastating to Black and impoverished people nationwide. Pulling all of this together, slavery still remains legal in the United States, the new slave owners are prison corporations, the new slave catchers are the police, the school system is active in indoctrinating and preparing people of color for slavery, and this is all targeted on impoverished people to earn profit from the labor of the poor.
This is how the modern day ghettos in the United States were created, and why they have been sustained; ghettos are a slave growing factory system.
I know there has been a lot of talk about what happened at the Metropolitan King County Council meeting when they voted unanimously for the new Children and Family ‘Justice’ Center; the Jail, Prison, School-to-Prison Pipeline, factory, warehouse for our children. This is what really went down.
Although, they voted unanimously for the new supposed CFJC It is not built yet, and even if they waste the money to build it, we can still work to ensure that it is not used and that alternatives are employed to help our children, who are victims of the system, not criminals.
Regan Dunn, Dave Upthegrove, Rod Demowski, Kathy Lambert, Larry Phillips, Petr von Reichbauer, Larry Gossett, Jane Hague, and Joe McDermott
These are the names of the people currently on the Metropolitan King County Council. Voting is right around the corner and we both want and need people in office who are going to be sensitive and responsive to our needs and concerns.
The Criminal Justice System is no longer,
if it ever has been in American,
about punishment and rehabilitation.
The philosophy grounding the criminal justice system suggests that society has a right to punish those who violate the laws. How the laws are devised is questionable at best, but the premise is that laws are rules that are less stringent than the actual moral code of a particular group of people, yet sufficient to ensure the stability and order of the society. In this regard, John Stuart Mill in the paper On Liberty (1859) phrased the justification as such: “the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” This is what is called the Harm Principle and is the primary principle by which of criminal justice system is justified. However, and in stark contrast to what the principle suggests and what the actual practices of the Department of Justice, with it many subsidiary police departments and courts, reveals is that it diverges dangerously far away from the grounding principle.
First, I do not think that we will find much argument, unless the person be a sociopath, that causing undue and unjust harm to another human being is wrong. People are naturally inclined to form or have desires; to form plans for their lives and to share special bonds or connections with those whom they care about. Furthermore, most people believe that insofar as those plans do not impede and infringe upon the plans of others, or horrendously violate some moral code, that all people should be permitted to express and exercise their desires, plans, and special connections. If this is disagreed with and the person be not a sociopath, then I do not think they have fully considered the implications of their argument because if it were the case that people did not have the liberty to do this, then the dissenter could not rightly voice their opinion in contention. For example, if this individual did not think that another should play baseball, let’s say, because the sport in their opinion is a useless endeavor,and this ruling was to hold even though no harm was done to anyone by the playing of the sport, then a new principle would be employed wherein no one is protected. Nothing would protect that individual’s expression from interference by others, and the result would be a system of arbitrary infringements based on whims. In other words, a devolving into lawless tyranny, (this is not to be confused with anarchy), wherein whoever could gain power would rightfully exercise that power over others at their choosing. This should make it clear that a principle needs to be in place, which permits the exercise and expression of one’s desires, given that they do not cause harm to others.
Second, the criminal justice system, as became clear with such recent events as the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Oscar Parez, John T. Williams and so forth, is causing undue and unjust harm to people. These cases by themselves should be enough to cast more than doubt on the Department of Justice, but actually usher in a reconstruction of the entire system. These are just the cases that have made national and international news, but are representative of a much more grave problem that exists within the United States concerning police brutality. The police have a dangerous task, there is no argument about that. If the Harm Principle is accepted, and the society chooses to attempt to limit or punish any harms that may occur to its citizens, then something like a police institution as an option becomes viable. For the sake of argument, assume that there are no socio-economic discriminatory conditions creating vital motivations to violate the laws in order to survive. In a society of millions it would be nearly impossible to ensure that undue and unjust harm was either not done, or that those who caused it were punished. This means that there would be a potential to escape punishment, and people tend not to enjoy punishment, so they do what they can to avoid it.This can create a dangerous situation for a police officer to walk into, given that their only intent is to prevent harm, or to assist in the punishing of those actually guilty of causing harm. Their own person is at risk of being harmed by performing this function that society deems as something necessary, and society does not think it’s guardians should be sacrificed or harmed, so it grants that these guardians can protect themselves against harm. This is all in accordance with the Harm Principle as stated earlier, “self-protection.” This line of reasoning also assumes that the guardians do not harbor biases against particular groups of individuals and act in an impartial manner with all people. This of course is an ideal world and is horrendously far from reality. As soon as we remove the things that we have assumed for the sake of argument, we will see that much that is considered crime is a response to socially imposed harms and that these groups suffering the socially imposed harms are also targeted by the supposed guardians of our society. Furthermore, because these guardians are granted the liberty to exert force to protect themselves and to execute their social function, they can justify unjust and undue harms as necessary to complete and fulfill the expectations of their roles. The result is the problem of police brutality and murder that we are now witnessing plague our country.
Third, punishment for acts considered to be crime in the United States tends to take the form penitentiary confinement. Aside from death, this is considered to be the ultimate restriction of liberty that an individual can experience and thus the harshest punishment. Again, in order to justify this system, it has to be assumed that that the guardians do not harbor biases against particular groups of individuals and act in an impartial manner with all people. However, the data shows that this is not the case. There is a disproportionate and disparaging representation of minorities and people of color in the penal system of the United States. Making matters worse, the US has 5% of the world’s population, but boasts 25% of the world’s prison population. In addition, the number of prisons are ballooning and so is the prison population, which reveals that the penitentiary system is not solving the problem. At best, it is like attempting to place a bandaid on a gushing wound. A more precise definition is that it is a treatment that is not suited to the cause because the cause of the problem is being ignored. This leaves us with one of two options; either the United States does not know or want to know what the real problem is, or the penitentiaries are not about punishment and rehabilitation. If it is the former option, which I do not think is even possible given the mountainous research that has been conducted over the last few decades, then we need officials who are intelligent enough to perceive and understand that the problem is not that people are choosing to commit ‘crime,’ but the reason they do so. If it is the latter option, which I am more inclined to agree with, then we have to expose what the true reason for the prison system is to understand why it is failing at its purported reason for existing.
The Prison System relegates humans to slaves. Much of the argument that we hear from the public is couched in a colorblind language and an individualistic ideology that is characteristic of the United States, “they committed the crime, they deserve the time, and all that happens to them while they are serving that time.” The arguments further express that since these individuals are incarcerated and they are consuming state resources that they should work for their keep and pay their own way. Again, in principle this all makes sense, but for it to truly be justified the system must be fair and impartial both before prison and after the person is in the penal system. However, that is also not the case. I have already argued that the manner in which particular groups are targeted for prison is unjust and undue, and now I am fleshing out the reason why they are targeted for prison and exposing the unfair and undue treatment they receive while in the system.
The State of Washington has written into law that all municipal buildings must be furnished with products produced by prison labor. The corporation responsible for the fourth largest prison factory system in the United States, which is located here in Washington is Correction Industries Inc. This law guarantees C.I. a virtual monopoly on particular state purchases and guarantees a revenue stream. Most private prison companies, like Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group sign contracts with the states in which they operate guaranteeing a specific amount of inmates that is to increase over time so that they can continue to increase their profits from prison labor. Corporations are bound by law to increase their bottom lines to provide their stock holders with increased returns on their investments. Pulling all of this together in a rather blunt manner, as if it was not already apparent without my stating it explicitly, the motivation for the penal system, given all this, is not punishment and rehabilitation, but rather, profit.
Fourth, the School-to-Prison Pipeline is a serious concern because the data reveals that minorities, people of color, and those with mental disabilities are over 50% more likely to end up as a slave in the Penal System. Students from these groups are about 75% more likely to be punished (suspended or expelled) while in school. Of those who are punished they are 75% more likely to enter the Juvenile Detention System. And of those who enter the juvenile system, they are 80-95% more likely to enter the adult penitentiary system. These are very disparaging and upsetting statistics when just taken alone, but when included with the entire system of harm wrought against particular populations, what is revealed is a system constructed to to populate our prison system with slaves that is targeting our children.
The Criminal Justice System is not failing, it is functioning in precisely the manner that it was designed to function. The problem is that we are allowing it to continue to function in this manner. The problem is that we continue to permit this colorblind language and to accept the false justifications for this system that is failing us as a people. We are being lied to. We are being harmed. And we should not stand for this any more.
That is why the people, who after not being heard in the Metropolitan King County Council went off and occupied the court room. That is why we all testified against the creation of the supposed ‘Justice’ that they are proposing to build. Justice does not mean punishment for crime. What justice means is to provide for the flourishing of the human population. What the state is doing right now is not justice.
I am sure that you have been watching the news and the posts and you may have even seen me on television or some news report somewhere, somewhen. I have been protesting to end police brutality. I have not been violating any laws, just marching and chanting with our people in an effort to help the laws to change and to help the system to become more just. So, I have been more than just a little busy this month since the Grand Jury decisions of Michael Brown and Eric Garner were made.
I pulled through the quarter okay. I know that I told you that I thought I was going to fail this quarter and that I was struggling at UW, but I did fair. Not as good as I would have liked, but much better than what I expected and I am still alive and in school. I studied Ancient Greece, Ancient Persian Empires, and Ancient Greek Philosophy and I will tell you right now, those people back then were crazy, I mean off the hook crazy. There was not a year that I studied that some war was not going on and that someone was not killing someone else for some religious or political ideology. I do not think that I can say that we have progressed much in this day and age, we are just in the ivory tower here in America.
I have also been making some serious ground for my UW research project about the School-to-Prison Pipeline and Mass-Incarceration. I have been identifying how the laws were written since the 19th Century and how the political debates formed and influenced the public to accept the claims that politicians made to justify the formation of the system. Unfortunately, I will not be done with my research in time to help you out while you are in there, but hopefully, my research will be able to help you regain your Civil Rights once you are returned to your family.
It is crazy to think that the current Penal Industrial Complex that the United States now operates and sustains has its roots in the Reformation Era (1865-1877), the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the US Constitution that abolished slavery and sought to establish rights for Black people, and the Civil Rights Era (1950-1975). You may be reading this thinking, yeah, I could have told you that the system is rooted in slavery, but I am finding the proof of how the system formed and the ideological justifications for the system.
With the movements for civil rights going on right now and the negotiations with all of the many governmental branches and the several states and their legislatures, it is very likely that we are to see some reforms occurring within the next few years. These are very exciting times and they are also very scary times because as people have exposed the tension that laid just beneath the surface of this colorblind society it has been revealed that racism is alive and flourishing. However, what this is allowing the people to do, is address the implicit biases that people harbor and hopefully we can amend some of these biases and form a new conception of Black people in America.
Needless to say, as stark as the times are ahead of us, I have a lot of hope that we can pull through this and pave the way to a brighter future for the next generations that follow us.