On the cover of TIME Magazine’s special February edition is a faceless white man behind bars. At first glance, I assumed this was an issue about millionaires and billionaires who deserve jail time for getting over on society, but after a double take I saw that it is actually about wrongful convictions, celebrating 25 years of the Innocence Project.
Unfortunately, we should now accept that Donald Trump will be President of the United States come January 20, 2017 (over a month later I’m still experiencing some disbelief in this truth). But what I won’t accept are his disingenuous attempts to be inclusive and to work for Black people.
“Why do we accept forms of security that are rooted in violence?” – Angela Davis, Lecture at University of Chicago November 2016
When I first learned of prison abolition it was from Angela Davis during a lecture she gave at my college campus in 2009. The concept of prison abolition seemed so large and out of reach and it wasn’t something I put much thought into until this year, but a defeatist attitude isn’t what abolished slavery – so who am I to doubt the possibilities of abolition?
It is true that the Movement for Black Lives is leaderless; it is also true that Deray McKesson has been dubbed the face of this same movement, and within his time as “The Face,” many people – including Black people – have come to critique his decisions. With his name most recently in the news for his endorsement of Hillary Clinton, we are given the gentle reminder that our community is not unified in its current demands and we cannot get caught up in the headlines that so often overshadow the work.
Regardless of where you are in your political education, Ava DuVernay’s documentary The 13th was pretty well done.
Weaving the staggering numbers of rising incarceration rates with the insights of prominent activists, journalists, and academics coupled with a soundtrack that highlights the connectedness of mass incarceration to Black realities, it is a signature piece of art imitating life. The 13th brought many conversations around systematic racism that usually happen in select circles to a potentially larger audience, but I’m not sure if anyone besides the usual “woke” circle sat in on this one, and if they did – what now?
Earlier this year BYP100 released the Agenda to Build Black Futures, followed by A Vision For Black Lives policy platform that they signed on to this summer, both of which spread wide in the digital space. Last week BYP100 and the National Black Justice Coalition joined each other in Washington, D.C. to take both platforms from the digital space to the congressional space for the first Build Black Futures Advocacy Day. This was a huge step in the Movement, as members of congress on both sides of the aisle have struggled to understand the Movement and it’s asks of our government.
Since 2004, Chicago has spent $642 million on police-related legal claims. Between 2012 and 2015, the City paid out a total of $210 million to settle police misconduct lawsuits, many on the receiving end of the settlements were Black and Brown folks. This is now the same city that will be hiring more police officers, putting more Black and Brown Chicagoans at risk. There is no nice way to say this, but Chicago is wasting its time – and money – hiring more police officers.
Brock Turner, the Stanford swimmer who was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, will be let off early after serving only half of his six month sentence. This case highlights the incredibly problematic way the criminal justice system deals with those who commit and are convicted of sexual assault. Only focusing on retribution (defined as “length of time in prison”) will prove ultimately dissatisfying for all affected by these crimes. Instead, the courts should prioritize achieving justice for sexual assault victims, in addition to thorough rehabilitation the perpetrator.
Florida State Attorney Angela Corey has lost her reelection bid, making her the first incumbent state attorney in modern history to lose a contested election, according to The Florida Times Union. Corey was the attorney who failed to convict George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin. Corey also brought aggravated assault charges against Marissa Alexander for the victimless crime of firing a warning shot into the air to ward off her abusive husband.
On Thursday, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced in a memo that, over time, the DOJ will end its contracts with private prison companies that operate 13 facilities within the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). While this is a significant move given the times we live in, these contracts, with Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group Inc., only account for 7% of the industry’s revenue.