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Posts from the ‘Incarceration’ Category

Philadelphia is Closing 23 Schools While Building A $400 Million Prison

The Philadelphia School District’s (PSD) state-run School Reform Commission voted in March to close 23 public schools, nearly 10 percent of the city’s total, in a move they say is necessary to plug a $304 million budget deficit. Read more

Will hysteria over Sandy Hook exacerbate the school to prison pipeline?

Illustration by Seth Tobocman

Illustration by Seth Tobocman

Sandy Hook has understandably horrified the country and put school’s everywhere on edge. But taking it out on a little kids isn’t going to make schools safer.

Read more

Occupy Joins the Fight Against Private Prisons

My latest article from truthout:

On Wednesday, January 24, the Occupy movement joined theNational Prison Divestment Campaign in 13 cities across the country for a nationwide day of action that gave a voice to an invisible segment of the 99 percent exploited by the private prison industry.

The National Prison Divestment Campaign was organized less than a year ago by Enlace, a coalition of US and Mexican low-wage worker centers and unions, to pressure corporations to divest from private prisons, whose chief investors include some of country’s largest financial institutions such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America, both of which have provoked the ire of the Occupy movement for their role in tanking the economy, among other things.

In Washington, DC, occupiers and prison reform advocates converged on Tivoli Square across the street from the Columbia Heights Wells Fargo.

Tivoli Square is a commercial complex surrounded by big box stores and chain restaurants that popped up over the last decade along 14th Street between Park Road and Harvard Street. It was constructed as part of the city’s attempt to revitalize the neighborhood, which was destroyed in the 1968 riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Despite the gentrification that has predictably followed, Columbia Heights still maintains a strong African-American and Latino presence and is somewhat of a hipster haven, which is apparent almost immediately upon exiting the Columbia Heights Metro Station on 14th Street and Irving.

The evening was filled with chants demanding an end to Wells Fargo’s investment in the private prison industry. Over the loud speaker, lead organizers led dozens of protesters in chants that captured nods of approval from the swarms of pedestrians passing by. “Wells Fargo just face it, your investments are racist,” shouted the crowd. According to SEC filings, the bank owns 3.5 million shares in GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest private prison operator. Read more

Why Are American Citizens Getting Locked Up and Even Deported By Immigration Authorities?

Crossposted from AlterNet:

On November 5, 40-year-oldAntonio Montejanowas holiday shopping with his four children at a Los Angeles mall and unintentionally dropped a $10 bottle of cologne that his young daughter begged him to buy into a bag of items he had already purchased. Upon leaving the store, Montejano was stopped by security guards and arrestedfor shoplifting. He assumed the ordeal would end quickly since he had no prior criminal record. Instead he spent two nights in a Santa Monica, CA police station followed by another two nights in a Los Angeles county jail on suspicion of being an undocumented immigrant.

Montejano pleaded with officers about his citizenship, presenting them with his driver’s license and other legal identification, but they wouldn’t budge.“I told every officer I was in front of that I’m an American citizen, and they didn’t believe me,”Montejano told theNew York Times. He believes his detention was a direct result of his ethnicity. “I look Mexican 100 percent,” he says.

Because of an “immigration detainer,” Montejano was denied bail and held even after a criminal court judge canceled his fine and ordered his release. He was finally freed on November 9, following intervention from the American Civil Liberties Union, which sent a copy of his passport and birth certificate to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

This is the second time Montejano, who was born in Los Angeles, has been mistakenly targeted by immigration authorities. They failed to recognize his citizenship in 1996 as well, prompting his wrongful deportation to Mexico. The ACLU discovered that his records were never corrected, which explains why his arrest led to a positive match in the DHS database.

Montejano’s mistaken imprisonment comes on top of an explosion in immigration detentions and deportations in recent years, as well as federal immigration programs that rely on participation with local law enforcement. He is just oneof the hundreds of thousands of people, mostly undocumentedimmigrants, whose lives and families are torn apart each year by our dysfunctionalimmigration system. Read more

The Shocking Ways the Corporate Prison Industry Games the System

Crossposted from AlterNet:

The United States, with just 5 percent of the world’s population, currently holds 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, and for the last 30 years America’s business entrepreneurs have found a lucrative way to cash in on the incarceration surplus: private for-profit prisons.

While the implications of an industry that locks human beings in cages for profit is an old story, there is an important part of the history of private prisons that often goes untold.

Just a decade ago, private prisons were a dying industry awash in corruption and mired in lawsuits, particularly Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest private prison operator.  Today, these companies are booming once again, yet the lawsuits and scandals continue to pile up.  Meanwhile, more and more evidence shows that compared to publicly run prisons, private jails are filthier, more violent, less accountable, and contrary to what privatization advocates peddle as truth, do not save money.  In fact, more recent findings suggest that private prisons could be more costly.

So why are they still in business?

In a recently published report, “Banking on Bondage: Mass Incarceration and Private Prisons,” the American Civil Liberties Union examines the history of prison privatization and finds that private prison companies owe their continued and prosperous existence to skyrocketing immigration detention post September 11 as well as the firm hold they have gained over elected and appointed officials. Read more

20 Years in Prison for Sending Your Kids to the Wrong School? Inequality in School Systems Leads Parents to Big Risks

Crossposted from AlterNet:

Kindergartener A.J. Paches was kicked out of Brookside Elementary School earlier this year because his homeless mother used a friend’s address to register him in the wealthy district of Norwalk, Connecticut. After expelling A.J., Norwalk authorities charged his mother with first-degree larceny for enrolling her son under a false address, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Sadly, A.J.’s story is not unique. He is one of several low-income students whose parents use the residence of a relative or friend to provide their children with educational opportunities that are severely lacking in poor districts. In the recession era of budget deficits and cuts to public education, wealthy school districts are cracking down hard on these families, going to extreme lengths to identify the kids and prosecute the parents.

Bounties, Private Investigators, Tipsters, and Stakeouts

One popular method is to offer bounties to tipsters who report students who turn out to be illegally enrolled. As of 2008, the Bayonne Board of Education in New Jersey offers a $100 bounty for tips about students suspected of lying about their residency. In the middle-class suburban enclave of Clifton, New Jersey, the bounty is set at $300 for informants who correctly report a boundary hopper. According to the New York Times, the district immediately follows up with a visit by an “attendance officer” to the suspected students home.

In anticipation of the growing demand for residence verification, private companies like and LiarCatchers.comare offering their investigative services aimed directly at public school districts. According to its Web site, not only offers residence audits, but also surveillance stakeouts by investigators using “the latest in covert video technology and digital photographic equipment to photograph, videotape, and document subject activity when logistically possible.” Read more

21st-Century Slaves: How Corporations Exploit Prison Labor

My latest article at AlterNet:

There is one group of American workers so disenfranchised that corporations are able to get away with paying them wages that rival those of third-world sweatshops. These laborers have been legally stripped of their political, economic and social rights and ultimately relegated to second-class citizens. They are banned from unionizing, violently silenced from speaking out and forced to work for little to no wages. This marginalization renders them practically invisible, as they are kept hidden from society with no available recourse to improve their circumstances or change their plight.

They are the 2.3 million American prisoners locked behind bars where we cannot see or hear them. And they are modern-day slaves of the 21st century.  Read more

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