crime


Nope, this is not a post about Iraq, or even about King Georgie.  It’s about 8 kids my age who don’t have the sense God gave a turnip!  According to the L.A. Times,

Eight teenagers have been arrested on charges alleging they beat another teen in an “animalistic attack” so they could make a videotape to post on YouTube.

Seven of them remained in juvenile detention today, authorities said. A boy who was charged as an adult had been released on bail.

That’s right.  They weren’t angry at her.  She hadn’t stolen the boy they wanted to date or told a teacher they were cheating.  They just wanted to make a video!  So eight of them beat her up, then kidnapped her, then threatened her with a worse beating if she went to the police.

When my friend Hazel got a camera that shoots video (when we were 13), we made videos of each other singing stupid songs or pretending to kiss a boy we both liked.  We never even put it up on youtube!

The Times also says that

The sheriff’s office said that after the attack, three of the teens forced the victim into a vehicle and drove her to another location, where she was told she would be given a worse beating if she contacted police.

All eight suspects were arrested April 2 and charged with battery and false imprisonment. The three teens who took Lindsay to the second location are also charged with felony kidnapping.

Lindsay was treated for a concussion, damage to her left eye and left ear, and numerous bruises, police said.

Who ARE these people?  What is wrong with them?  Here is the video if you want to watch, but I wouldn’t bother.

Advertisements

I’ve written before about prison camps for teenagers and the abuse that happens there, but this one’s the worst I have seen described INSIDE the U.S. Nothing, NOTHING these girls did could justify this. Never!

AP: 13,000 abuse claims in juvie centers (AP)

ADVANCE FOR MARCH 3; graphic shows state by state statistics on juvenile abuse; two sizes; 1c x 2 1/8 inches; 46.5 mm x 54 mm; 3c x 5 7/8 inches; 146 mm x 149.2 mmAP – The Columbia Training School — pleasant on the outside, austere on the inside — has been home to 37 of the most troubled young women in Mississippi.

If some of those girls and their advocates are to be believed, it is also a cruel and frightening place.

The school has been sued twice in the past four years. One suit brought by the U.S. Justice Department, which the state settled in 2005, claimed detainees were thrown naked in to cells and forced to eat their own vomit. The second one, brought by eight girls last year, said they were subjected to “horrendous physical and sexual abuse.” Several of the detainees said they were shackled for 12 hours a day.

These are harsh and disturbing charges — and, in the end, they were among the reasons why state officials announced in February that they will close Columbia. But they aren’t uncommon.

Across the country, in state after state, child advocates have deplored the conditions under which young offenders are housed — conditions that include sexual and physical abuse and even deaths in restraints. The U.S. Justice Department has filed lawsuits against facilities in 11 states for supervision that is either abusive or harmfully lax and shoddy.

Still, a lack of oversight and nationally accepted standards of tracking abuse make it difficult to know exactly how many youngsters have been assaulted or neglected.

(more…)

I write about prisons and prisoners a lot, so you might never know that it’s a really hard subject for me to write about, but it is. It’s not just numbers and statistics and information; it’s family. My mom is in prison, on drug charges, and would be much better off in a drug treatment program or in a psych hospital. But, like more than 1% of the adult population in the United States, she is in prison.

It’s even worse here in Texas, which leads the nation in inmate population. This is from Channel 10 in Amarillo:

Tougher state and federal sentencing is one of the main reason for the ballooning prison population. Legal experts say new laws will increase that population because punishment ranges are being extended every year. So people will get longer sentences. But some say it’s a problem that is much more deeply rooted in Texas history. For instance 1 in 9 inmates are of black males. With hispanics being a close second.

“Our system in Texas is absolutely broken that’s why all these people are coming out of prison now on DNA results. In 50 years we’ll look back and we’ll see our system incarcerated lots of innocent people. Former Texas Prison Board Chair Selden Hale said. Hale says he believes the numbers are more like 3 in one hundred blacks that are locked up and 4 and 100 hispanic.

I wonder if anyone really does want to change the current system.  Prisons are big business in the U.S. There is a private corrections industry in addition to the large number of federal, state and local jobs that revolve around guarding, feeding and monitoring prisoners. Someone suggested to me that prisons are our society’s way of NOT dealing with the poor and “stupid” among us.

In California,  

As the costs for fixing the state’s troubled corrections system rocket higher, California is headed for a dubious milestone — for the first time the state will spend more on incarcerating inmates than on educating students in its public universities.

Based on current spending trends, California’s prison budget will overtake spending on the state’s universities in five years. No other big state in the country spends close to as much on its prisons compared with universities.

And that does not take into account how many people are involved in each system. It’s even worse in other states:

Those states are (in order of spending the most proportionally on prisons in 2007): Vermont, Michigan, Oregon, Connecticut and Delaware. The state spending the least on prisons relative to higher education was Minnesota, where for every dollar spent on higher education only 17 cents was spent on corrections. The average for all states was 60 cents, nearly double the 32 cents spent 20 years earlier. Only three states saw gains in spending on higher education, relative to corrections: Alabama, Nevada and Virginia

This link allows you to

Click on a state to see how much its incarceration rate has grown, how its spending on prisons and higher education has changed, what proportion of its prisoners are drug offenders, and the racial disparity between its general and prison populations.

What does all this say about our society?  Nothing good.  Time for us to start thinking about people instead of prisoners, inmates or offenders.  Time to start thinking about helping people with drug problems instead of throwing them in jail for decades.  Time to start treating mental health problems instead of waiting until those problems lead people towards crime.  Time to start acting like a society instead of acting like prison wardens.

When I was 8, 9 and 10 I was a bully. I hit and kicked other kids all the time. I never threatened a teacher though. But I could have.

This little boy threatened his teacher with a plastic knife or fork. And he had to go to jail. Would that happen in other “civilized” countries? Does it happen to white kids from good neighborhoods? It shouldn’t happen to anyone!

New Project Seeks Justice for Vulnerable Children

Darius was only 9 when he was locked up. For two months, he languished in a juvenile facility — alone, frightened. He missed his 10th birthday party. He missed Thanksgiving. He missed his stepfather’s funeral.

His offense: He had threatened a teacher with a plastic utensil.

Unfortunately, Darius’s early introduction to the juvenile justice system is not that uncommon.

Across America, countless school children — particularly impoverished children of color — are being pushed out of schools and into juvenile lock-ups for minor misconduct that in an earlier era would have warranted counseling or a trip to the principal’s office rather than a court appearance.

The problem is particularly acute in the Deep South, where one in four African Americans live in poverty.

The children and teens most at risk of entering this “school-to-prison pipeline” are those who, like Darius, have emotional troubles, educational disabilities or other mental health needs.

But rather than receiving the help they need in school, these vulnerable youths are being swept into a cold, uncaring maze of lawyers, courts, judges and detention facilities, where they are groomed for a brutal life in adult prisons.

“Our juvenile prisons and jails are overflowing with children who simply don’t belong there,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. “These are the children who desperately need a helping hand. Instead, we’re traumatizing and brutalizing them — increasing the risk that they’ll end up in adult prisons. It’s tragic for the children and bad for the rest of us, because it tears apart communities, wastes millions in taxpayer dollars and does nothing to reduce crime.”

To attack this problem, the Southern Poverty Law Center has launched a multi-faceted new initiative, called the School-to-Prison Reform Project. Based in New Orleans, the project is seeking systemic reforms through legal action, community activism and lobbying to ensure these students get the services — both in school and in the juvenile justice system — that can make the difference between incarceration and graduation.

Nationwide, almost 100,000 children and teens are in custody. Black youths are vastly over-represented in this population; they are held in custody at four times the rate of white youths, according to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. Students with disabilities that would qualify them for special education services are also grossly overrepresented. Some studies suggest that as many 70 percent of children in juvenile correctional facilities have significant mental health or learning disabilities.

“These are the children left behind,” said Ron Lospennato, an SPLC lawyer who heads the new project. “They are paying a heavy price because of short-sighted policies based mainly on fear and myths. Someone must be there to catch them before they fall through the cracks.”

The pipeline begins in the classroom, where black students are disproportionately affected. Nationally, black students in public schools are suspended or expelled at nearly three times the rate of white students, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis of U.S. Department of Education data.

The state with the worst disparity is New Jersey, where black students are almost 60 times as likely as white students to be expelled for serious infractions. Many other states also had striking gaps in discipline rates. In Alabama, a state where more than a third of all public school students are African American, black students are expelled five times as often as whites.

Once a black student is pushed into the juvenile justice system, the pipeline takes another tragic turn. The proportion of black youths within the system grows at each stage — from arrest through sentencing — until this group, which represents only 16 percent of the nation’s youth population, accounts for 58 percent of the youths admitted to state adult prisons.

“The vast majority of children caught up in the juvenile justice system have not committed violent crimes and do not deserve to be sent to prison,” Lospennato said. “And what most people don’t know is that thousands of non-violent kids get locked up for months even before their cases are heard.”

Students in special education are especially at risk of being pushed into the pipeline.

“Often these students are simply acting out of frustration because they can’t keep up with the others, and they’re not getting the help they need in class,” said Jim Comstock-Galagan, founder and executive director of the Southern Disability Law Center, which has partnered with the SPLC on the School-to-Prison Reform Project.

Poverty makes the situation worse, because a family may not have the resources needed to successfully demand the special school services that can prevent an outburst of misbehavior. It also means a detained child might find her fate in the hands of an overworked and underpaid public defender who has little or no training in the field of juvenile law.

Cohen noted the importance of basing the project in New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina exposed the country’s racial and economic disparities.

“In opening the New Orleans office, we are sending a message, loud and clear, that the key to addressing these inequities is ensuring all children receive the education they deserve and are guaranteed under federal law,” Cohen said.

The project grew out of the SPLC’s legal work representing children with disabilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

SPLC won key victories
The project has already won key victories for many school children in Mississippi and Louisiana. Settlements reached with school systems in Louisiana’s Jefferson, East Baton Rouge and Calcasieu parishes, for example, will ensure that quality special education services are provided to thousands of students. The settlements also have provisions that will enhance school experiences for all children, not just those with emotional or learning disabilities.As for Darius, the SPLC won his release from juvenile detention and helped him receive mental health treatment near his home and special education services at school. A program to help strengthen family relationships was part of the treatment.

“There are thousands of children like Darius whose lives can be saved if we reform this broken system,” Cohen said. “That’s what this project is all about.”

Editor’s note: Darius’ name has been changed to protect his identity.

I am a statistic:

Two-point-four million American children have a mother or father in jail or prision right now.

….

The children of prisioners suffer from anxiety and attention disorders, or from post-traumatic stress. They are likely to bounce from one care-giver to another;  

Fortunately, I don’t fit the statistics in other ways:

..to have and to cause trouble in school. Often poor to begin with, they get poorer once a parent is arrested.

These children are far from blind to their parents’ failings-they live with them every day , and they have more at stake than anyone in seeing their mothers and fathers rehabilitated, and living within the law. But in one way or another, most say the same thing: things were hard. Mom got arrested. Things got worse.

In my case, things got a lot better, but mostly because of things that had nothing to do with the crimes my mom went to jail for.   The reality is that my mom’s life would be much better if she were getting psych and drug abuse treatment rather than being in prison, and we would probably worry about her a lot less.

Politically, this is the part of that article that jumped out at me, but I don’t know enough about the issue know what the solution is:

“A successful corrections system doesn’t grow”, criminologist Stephen Richards has observed. “If they were correcting anybody, they’d shrink”. As our failing prison system continues to expand its reach, more and more of our children fall under its shadow, denied the light of parental attention they need in order to grow.

I may be a statistic, but none of these statistics means that I have to turn out a certain way.  There are a lot of my mom’s footsteps I don’t plan to follow.

TV clipartThink Progress has a post up called

If It’s Sunday, It’s Karl Rove

and in it they have a list of questions that they want the talk show hosts to ask Rove. Here’s the list:

In addition to those, I think they should also ask him about these things:

  • Who Jeff Gannon was spending nights with in the White House?
  • Is George Bush drinking or doing drugs?
  • Who is the real president, Bush or Cheney?
  • Why did you decide to leave now?
  • What gave you the idea that there are no rules for you and your friends?
  • Why did you decide Congress doesn’t matter anymore?
  • Did you rig the voting machines?
  • Don’t you feel guilty destroying the country like this?

What else would you ask him?

impeachThis is from Democrats.com:

Ten Reasons to Impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney

I ask Congress to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney for the following reasons: 1. Violating the United Nations Charter by launching an illegal “War of Aggression” against Iraq without cause, using fraud to sell the war to Congress and the public, misusing government funds to begin bombing without Congressional authorization, and subjecting our military personnel to unnecessary harm, debilitating injuries, and deaths.

2. Violating U.S. and international law by authorizing the torture of thousands of captives, resulting in dozens of deaths, and keeping prisoners hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

3. Violating the Constitution by arbitrarily detaining Americans, legal residents, and non-Americans, without due process, without charge, and without access to counsel.

4. Violating the Geneva Conventions by targeting civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances, and using illegal weapons, including white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new type of napalm.

5. Violating U.S. law and the Constitution through widespread wiretapping of the phone calls and emails of Americans without a warrant.

6. Violating the Constitution by using “signing statements” to defy hundreds of laws passed by Congress.

7. Violating U.S. and state law by obstructing honest elections in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006.

8. Violating U.S. law by using paid propaganda and disinformation, selectively and misleadingly leaking classified information, and exposing the identity of a covert CIA operative working on sensitive WMD proliferation for political retribution.

9. Subverting the Constitution and abusing Presidential power by asserting a “Unitary Executive Theory” giving unlimited powers to the President, by obstructing efforts by Congress and the Courts to review and restrict Presidential actions, and by promoting and signing legislation negating the Bill of Rights and the Writ of Habeas Corpus.

10. Gross negligence in failing to assist New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina, in ignoring urgent warnings of an Al Qaeda attack prior to Sept. 11, 2001, and in increasing air pollution causing global warming.

Buzzflash is having a contest (with cash prizes!) to list the
“Top 10 Reasons to Impeach Bush and Cheney”.

And here is one from AfterDowningStreet:

 

Accountability Demands Impeachment
Marcel J. Harmon, Ph.D.

I’m outraged – again.

I recently finished reading Seymour Hersh’s piece in the June 25th New Yorker on Army General Antonio Taguba’s investigation and resulting report regarding the Abu Ghraib scandal. In the third to last paragraph, Hersh quotes Taguba as follows: “’There was no doubt in my mind that this stuff’ – the explicit images – ‘was gravitating upward. It was standard operating procedure to assume that this had to go higher. The President had to be aware of this.’ He [Taguba] said that Rumsfeld, his senior aides, and the high-ranking generals and admirals who stood with him as he misrepresented what he knew about Abu Ghraib had failed the nation.”

As I’ve done so many times before, I wondered again how this administration has managed to leave its six-year wake of political, social, economic, and environmental damage, in such an arrogant and incompetent manner, without more of a demand for accountability. I turned to my wife and again asked how we could begin impeachment proceedings against a president who lied about having sex, yet let the George W. administration skate.

But my wife simply replied, “I’m not going to waste my energy and time on this when nothing will get done – I’m just not going to get outraged.”

How many times have I heard others express the same sentiment? How many times have I let my own outrage fizzle as the day-to-day issues of life take over? The all-encompassing daily grind, our culture of consumption, and mind-numbing 24/7 mass media – all act as a distraction to the benefit of those in power. And the growing divide between the have and have-nots only magnifies our day-to-day struggle, further distracting us from the bigger picture. The corporate sector implicitly and explicitly promotes this for it’s own benefit, via corporate lobbying and huge political donations to both Democratic and Republican candidates.

But if any administration has deserved to be held accountable, it is this one.

The Bush administration started a war of choice in Iraq due to dubious intelligence and poor reasoning at best, and at worst by outright lying to the American public and bullying its critics. Our resulting role as the aggressor and extreme mismanagement of the war has taken the lives of US and coalition soldiers, private contractors, and countless Iraqi civilians. It has cost us over $500 billion, greatly reduced out standing in the world, functioned as a prime recruiting device for terrorists across the globe, and arguably made the world a less safe place to be.

Where is your outrage?

And what about Osama Bin Laden? Why has this administration failed to bring the architect of 9/11 to justice? The fiasco in Iraq has distracted us from bringing in the man who brought down the twin towers.

Where is your outrage?

This administration, through its placement of woefully unqualified individuals in charge of FEMA, it’s failure to grasp prior warnings, and lack of a quick initial reaction, greatly bungled the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf region.

Where is your outrage?

This administration’s misrepresentation of scientific data for its own agenda – its utter disregard for science – has delayed a proper US response to global warming. It has stymied stem-cell research, marginalized the position of Surgeon General, and may severely impact the recruitment of young people into the sciences for years to come.

Where is your outrage?

The administration was, at the very least, indirectly involved in the outing of a CIA agent, an act that when done knowingly is a criminal violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. The one bit of accountability that emerged from this scandal – the conviction and sentencing of Scooter Libby for lying to prosecutors – was muted after the president commuted his sentence.

And the list goes on. Yet Speaker Pelosi and other prominent democrats have said that impeachment is “off the table.” Why? Because it’s a “waste of time?” Or does it have more to do with political inconvenience?

Holding those in power accountable for their actions is critical for maintaining a functioning democracy. It can be messy. It can be painful. But it must be done – to remind our elected officials that they ultimately answer to the American public, and not to powerful corporate interests, not to the demands of their own egos, and certainly not to a personal ideology based on a narrow perception of God.

The outrage is growing. A July 6th pole by the American Research Group indicates that 45 percent of Americans favor initiating impeachment proceedings against the president, and 54 percent favor impeaching the vice president. Congress could very well act on this, but it’s unlikely unless we demand this of our elected officials.

Where is your outrage?

Next Page »