Report Finds That Class is a Better Predictor of Incarceration Than Race

In America, there are two systems of justice under the law: one for the rich and politically powerful, and then one for everyone else. Under this corrupt, two-tiered system of justice, few U.S. bankers (and none of the most high-ranking ones) were sent to prison in the aftermath of the 2008 crash, despite how big U.S. banks largely caused the global crisis that happened around ’08. This is noted as millions of Americans have been arrested (and some imprisoned) for relatively innocent activities such as the nonviolent possession of marijuana.

IT’S A FACT that African-Americans are disproportionately represented in America’s prisons. In state prisons, where the majority of prisoners are held, African-Americans are incarcerated at 5.1 times the rate of white Americans.

But what remains an open question is what explains this racial incarceration gap; what needs to change to eliminate that gap? Is it a racist economic system that produces a disproportionate population of impoverished African-Americans who then are ground up by a criminal justice system that targets the poor? Or is it better explained by racial bias in policing and sentencing?

A new report from the People’s Policy Project argues that while both exist, it’s economic oppression that matters most — or, at least, matters first.

Researcher Nathaniel Lewis sought to examine the role of both race and class in male incarceration as they impact four different outcomes:

  1. Whether or not men aged 24-32 years have ever been to jail or prison
  2. Whether or not men are jailed after being arrested
  3. Whether or not men have spent more than a month in jail or prison
  4. Whether or not men have spent more than a year in jail or prison

[…]

Ultimately, Lewis concluded that his data showed that the primary reason we see overrepresentation of African-Americans in the criminal justice system are factors related to poverty.

“I think that people are used to hearing the statistics about glaring racial disparities in the justice system, and police brutalization and the police murder of black individuals, plus the long history of stark racism in America, and they add this all up and, quite reasonably, the New Jim Crow framework of explaining mass incarceration as a racist system designed to oppress black people seems inarguably correct,” he told us. “But most of these studies and statistics don’t control for socioeconomic status, and the ones that do, I would say, do so inadequately. It could be that mass incarceration is primarily a system of managing poor people, rather than black people, and the racial disparities show up mostly because black people are disproportionately represented in the lower classes. This is what my study finds.”

Lewis concluded that his research suggests that one of the best ways to reduce the total prison population would be to embrace social democratic policy that would address poverty, the education gap, and other class divides.

“One implication, at least to me, is that policies aimed at alleviating class disparities may be the most effective way of helping black people, and all people, subject to being ground up by the criminal justice system,” he said.

Private Prisons Cruelly Sending ICE Detainees to Solitary Confinement

Private prisons – involved in the incarceration of human beings for profits – shouldn’t exist, which is notably shown by this expose that I often recommend when discussing this issue. Solitary confinement is torture and probably shouldn’t be allowed to be used in prisons either, but it could at least be much more limited than it is now.

In recent years, current and former ICE detainees have filed class-action lawsuits alleging forced labor against private prison contractors in Washington state, California, and Colorado. Across the country, detainees and advocates have said that the ICE contractors used solitary confinement as a cudgel to force work, and allege that the for-profit facility operators are profiting off the bonded labor.

“These big corporations are circumventing the traditional labor market,” said Lydia Wright, an attorney at the Burns Charest law firm who represents current and former ICE detainees suing CoreCivic in California. “If they weren’t requiring detainees to work for $1 per day, they would have to hire cooks and janitors at minimum wage.”

[…]

One obstacle such suits against ICE’s private contractors may face: Many of the immigrant plaintiffs are only fleetingly in the country before often being deported, making it potentially difficult, for instance, to find former detainees who may be entitled to back wages.

This news comes as ICE conducted raids on nearly 100 7-Elevens recently. The inhumanity of the deportation forces should be a bigger story than it currently is.

Republican Tax Scam Aiding Investors in the Private Prison Industry

Private for-profit prisons shouldn’t exist. The idea of introducing the profit motive into the incarceration of human beings is absolutely sickening, and that reality is detailed in this expose here.

Investors in the private prison industry in the U.S. will see major tax cuts under the new Republican tax law, making the unpopular law beneficial for those who count on the country’s mass incarceration crisis for financial gain.

Investments in for-profit prisons will go from 39.6 to 29.6 percent, thanks to the industry’s classification within the tax code.

In a move critics including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have called “unjust” and “unfair,” private prison corporations including CoreCivic (formerly the Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA) and the Geo Group have been structured as “real estate investment trusts” since 2013. The companies have argued that by housing inmates for the government, they operate in the same way as any company that charges a tenant rent. The restructuring has allowed the companies to pay far less than the corporate tax rate they paid prior to 2013, and now those who own private prison shares will benefit as well.

“It’s going to be great for the investors, banks and hedge funds that…are dependent on increased incarceration and criminalization,” Jamie Trinkle of the racial and economic justice coalition Enlace, told the Guardian.

Investors in the $4 billion industry can expect to see an additional $50 million in earnings from dividends in 2018, according to the Guardian.

Private prisons have found an ally in President Donald Trump and his administration, following efforts by President Barack Obama to phase out the use of for-profit detention facilities. The Geo Group hosted its annual leadership conference at one of the president’s golf clubs shortly before being awarded a government contract to run an immigration detention center.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions also quickly reversed Obama’s directive to move away from the use of for-profit prisons, arguing that doing so would impair the government’s “ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.” Critics have pointed to reports like one released in 2016 by the Justice Department’s own Office of the Inspector General, which found that private prisons are far less safe than those run by the government.

They’ve also urged companies to divest from the for-profit incarceration industry as a way of limiting private prisons’ power. Enlace has targeted investors in CoreCivic and Geo Group, successfully pressuring cities, universities, and financial institutions to end their investment in the businesses and their major lenders.

Attorney General Rescinds Guidance Meant on Abolishing Debtors Prisons

Debtors prisons are horrific and should be abolished entirely. That an aspect of the Trump regime is supporting them is a sign of how regressive the current federal government is, and it’s also an unpleasant reminder of how the Justice Department reinstated corrupt police civil asset forfeiture earlier this year.

During the holiday season, many of us think about what we can do to help people struggling with poverty. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on the other hand, decided just before Christmas to rescind a guidance meant to protect low-income Americans.

The 2016 guidance, issued by former President Obama’s Justice Department, urged state and local courts nationwide to abide by constitutional principles prohibiting the jailing of poor people who cannot afford to pay court fines and fees. Jeff Sessions’ action makes clear that he and his Justice Department are unconcerned by courts trampling on the rights of poor people.

The Obama Justice Department issued the 2016 letter after reports and lawsuits by the ACLU and other groups revealed how modern-day debtors’ prisons function in more than a dozen states, despite the fact that the U.S. two centuries ago formally outlawed jailing people simply because they have unpaid debts.

These efforts revealed that poor people were being locked up in GeorgiaWashingtonMississippi, and elsewhere without court hearings or legal representation when they could not pay fines and fees for traffic tickets or other civil infractions or criminal offenses. These efforts also show that modern-day debtors’ prisons result from state laws allowing or requiring the suspension of driver’s licenses for unpaid court fines or fees without first requiring confirmation that the person could actually pay.

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There is no place in this country for a justice system that lets rich people buy their freedom while poor people are locked up or lose their driver’s licenses because they can’t afford to pay money to courts. The momentum for change will continue even as the current Justice Department declines to lead by encouraging fairness and equal treatment of rich and poor.