Tag Archives: people of color

Don’t Call the Pigs: An Informal Guide to Alternative Policing Within an Anarchist Justice System

This post was written by  and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Don’t Call the Pigs: An Informal Guide to Creating an Anarchist Justice System.” Posts and other content you think are worth sharing with the CopBlock Network can be sent in to us via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. Some tips to make it more likely that your submission will get posted to the CopBlock Network can be found here.

(Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links may have been added within the text and images have been added. In addition, the conclusions expressed within this initial introductory summary represent my own interpretation of what is being stated within Logan’s own writings.)

In the post below, Logan discusses some alternative options for policing and specifically options which might arise within an Anarchist society. Initially, he also addresses the many issues with the current police, court, and prison systems and ways to counteract or avoid them. One of the most obvious and frequent questions asked of those who advocate replacing the current “justice” systems, is what would replace them and how regular people would defend themselves against criminals.

Don’t Call the Pigs: An Informal Guide to Creating an Anarchist Justice System

Anti-police sentiment is on the rise in America and around the world. In the wake of the death’s of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and countless others (Rest In Power), even the DoJ admits that at least some police departments are highly racist in practice and the Black Lives Matter movement has sprung up in response. Those from all sides of the political aisle have come out against police militarization. Pigs have been routinely denied service at various business establishments across the nation. On the inside, prisoners around the country have been on strike since September 9th, the 45th anniversary of the Attica uprising, with guards having recently gone on a solidarity work strike in support of the prisoners at Holman in Atmore, Alabama. So how do we, as anarchists, help provide tactics in the here and now for dealing with the state’s armed injustice system? But more importantly in the long run, how do we build alternative defense and justice systems?

How to Deal With the Pigs

It’s almost inevitable, especially if you’re working class, queer, a person of color, or an activist, that you will have to interact with the pigs at some point in your lifetime. This is why it’s important to hold community “Know Your Rights” workshops such as those offered by the ACLU or the National Lawyers Guild. Hold these workshops at your local infoshop, library, church, community center, or anywhere else where people, activists and non-activists alike, can learn how to hopefully more safely interact with the police. The ACLU also has an app which allows you to film police interactions and upload them automatically to the ACLU’s database for protection in case you phone is confiscated or broken. Groups like Copwatch and Cop Block also encourage people to film the police and hold them accountable for injustice and police brutality.

Movements like Black Lives Matter are currently fighting to curb police brutality by calling for police demilitarization, body cameras, community review boards, community election of police officers, disarming the police, actual punishment for pigs who break the rules, and the end of policies such as Stop and Frisk and Stand Your Ground. These demands hope to curb the worst violence on the way towards abolition.

Unarresting” people can be very risky, especially when you don’t have much support, but has been used as a tactic to free people who are being kidnapped by the pigs both at protests and elsewhere. If you’re up for the challenge then go for it! We need more people like you.

And don’t believe any of that sovereign citizen crap. Some of it sounds good in theory, but none of it has ever really held up in court.

How to Deal With Statist Courts

If you are arrested and/or have to go to court, finding a lawyer is usually key. Sometimes you can luck out and find a more radical public defender who took the job to truly help poor people but chances are you’re better off crowdfunding or throwing other fundraisers or looking for a lawyer who will work pro bono. Some groups, such as the Industrial Workers of the World’s General Defense Committee, are also set up to help pay for bail and legal fees for activists victimized by the state. If you’re looking for a good radical lawyer, depending on your case you could look towards the National Lawyers Guild, the Institute for Justice, or the American Civil Liberties Union. You could also ask you other radical friends for their local recommendations.

The now defunct nonviolent agorist defense agency Shield Mutual offered anarchists and libertarians protections against the state. Instead of armed protection, they promised services attuned to the needs of the individual. They could help with obtaining lawyers, crowdfunding for legal fees, setting up a public freedom campaign website, public relations, media promotion, and networking. They’ve even paid for a woman’s new plane ticket after she was detained by the TSA and missed her flight. The group operated as a friendly society where members paid monthly or yearly dues which went to the cost of helping its membership. They also had a peer-to-peer mutual aid network where members could request funds from other members for emergencies, business ideas, or other projects. Sadly this group has since disbanded (although their website is still up) but it still serves as a model for other agorist defense services.

If you ever happen to be summoned for jury duty, don’t try and skip out. Instead try and use the practice of jury nullification to keep people from being thrown in the state’s cages. The Fully Informed Jury Association has plenty of materials to read and learn from and regularly canvases outside courthouses where they’re active. Join or form a chapter, spread the knowledge. We can decide their laws are not worth enforcing.

How to Deal With the State’s Prisons

If you get locked up, it can seem like the end of the battle but that is far from true. Groups like Books for Prisoners supply reading materials, both radical and non-radical alike, to inmates for entertainment and education. Black and Pink and other letter writing groups provide companionship through becoming pen pals with those held hostage by the state.

In order to help change prison conditions and aid their eventual abolition, groups like Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Free Alabama Movement, the Free Virginia Movement, the Prison Ecology Project, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty are essential. While some of these groups are inherently reformist, groups like FAMM and NCADP help fight against specific issues which will roll back the power of the state. Groups like the Prison Ecology Project focus on the high environmental costs of prisons. While on the inside, groups like the Black Guerrilla Family, IWOC, and other prison gangs, organizations, and unions offer a way for inmates to collectively organize against the pigs holding them hostage. IWOC, as a project of the Industrial Workers of the World, helps prisoners set up IWW branches inside prisons to organize against prison slavery and unfair living conditions.

The Anarchist Black Cross is dedicated to fighting for political prisoners and prisoners of war within the radical movement. They collect dues from its membership which are used to help prisoners with little to no resources obtain them, usually in the form of a monthly donation to an inmate’s commissary fund. They also help fundraise and advocate for POWs as well as doing letter writing and in person visitation. The Black Cross is organized by both allies and inmates who control the organization through directly democratic means.

For those trying to obtain freedom, having an outside network fighting for your freedom with online promotion, political pressure, phone blasts, demonstrations, etc. is a huge help. Nobody is going to pay attention to your case unless there’s enough pressure, such pressure works better in numbers, and such support comes through public awareness and media campaigns.

Failing that, there’s always escape.

Don’t Call the Pigs

One of the biggest things we can do in the here and now is stop relying on the police for protection. Don’t call them, don’t report crimes, don’t allow them in your businesses, don’t snitch. There are better ways of dealing with crime then turning to state violence.

Instead of calling the police, set up your own emergency networks. Have a network of friends, family, or neighbors who are willing and able to respond to emergencies and call them instead. Apps such as Peacekeeper and Cell411 make this process simpler allowing multiple people to be contacted at once with GPS directions and everything. Choosing the right network could lead to a faster response time and more adaptive tactics ranging from arbitration and conflict resolution to armed defense.

Essential to living in a society without pigs is learning self-defense. Martial arts, kickboxing, women’s self-defense courses, and firearms training allow individuals to help protect themselves and others from violence. Groups like the Sylvia Rivera Gun Club for Self Defense, Pink Pistols, and the Huey P. Newton Gun Club offer community firearms training to those in their community. The Huey P. Newton Gun Club actually promotes the idea of arming every black and brown citizen that can legally be armed in order to effectively protect themselves from police and white supremacist violence.

The Huey P. Newton Gun Club also advocates Black Panther style community patrols where they both protect the community from internal crime and violence in their communities and track police activity, filming them and yelling legal advice to those being harassed by the pigs while making it known that they are fully armed just in case the pig has any violent inclinations. Other anti-statist directly democratic community watch groups have also sprung up throughout history to protect communities without the need for the pigs.

In some places, especially in those where war or violence is more prevalent such as Rojava, these community watch groups take the form of voluntary militias. From the Zapatista Army to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, community regulated militias have proven an effective response to statist military and police forces. Currently the militia movement in america is of a decidedly more right-wing viewpoint, with groups like the 3%ers, and tend to carry with them underlying statist messages of patriotism and nationalism, but one can hope that a leftist militia movement will grow into a reality.

Grassroots rape crisis centers offer support geared towards the needs of the survivor and most will not go to the pigs unless asked. Some already offer restorative and transformative programs to help deal with the perpetrator as well while others should be so encouraged by their communities. And as communities look towards other institutional alternatives, the creation of private detective, forensics, and arbitration services can offer attempts at filling those needs.

Dispute resolution organizations (DROs) have been proposed as an alternative to police, insurance, and alternative dispute services. According to wikipedia, “The firms would be voluntarily contracted to provide, or coordinate with other firms to provide, services such as mediation, reimbursement for damages, personal protection, and credit reporting.”

Don’t Use Their Courts

Instead of relying on the state’s court system to solve disputes, turning to arbitration services, trained mediators, direct negotiation between either the two parties, or non-statist alternative dispute resolution between the parties’ lawyers or DRO(s) can offer solutions that are more adapted to the specific needs of the victims and the perpetrators. Community tribunals or courts could also be established in smaller communities to deal with situations directly as a community. Retribution for damaged property can be negotiated in such ways as could the establishment of a restorative and/or transformative justice process which normally takes the form of an accountability process negotiated by the victim and voluntarily fulfilled by the perpetrator. Indemnity services can also help pay for property damages in certain situations especially if no victim is caught.

Don’t Fill Their Cages

Establishing accountability processes for perpetrators of violent crimes helps address the needs of both the victim and perpetrator, helps to repair the damages made, and transform the perpetrator’s behavior in hopes that they do not continue to harm others. Un-cooperative perps are subject to social ostracization and denial of community services or support until they are cooperative. Repeatedly violent criminals are likely to eventually see the wrong end of a barrel of a gun in an armed anarchist community as self-defense is encouraged but in the here and now it’s best to familiarize yourself and your community with the local gun laws so as to know your rights when being attacked. Hold workshops to spread the knowledge you discover in your research or find a radical lawyer who will help you put together a workshop. Sometimes there are laws that make shooting to kill is legal while warning shots are illegal and that is just one example of such strange and backwards laws. Very rarely is shooting someone worth going to prison yourself so know the laws and weigh the options.

Freely available mental health resources such as medication and counseling or even support groups such as the Icarus Project would help alleviate the crime rate as those who suffer from mental health issues won’t be left untreated. This will not only allow for a way to deal with criminals who are mentally unstable in becoming stable but will help prevent crimes before they happen. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other addiction and rehabilitation programs offer a way to deal with drug and alcohol addiction without turning to punishment as the answer.

Creating a Less Violent Society

Moving forward we must continue the fight to demilitarize and disarm the police, to train in self-defense, and to set up our alternative justice systems but we must also get at the root of most crime in this country. Excessive laws and regulation, racism, sexism (including heterosexism and cissexism), and poverty are at the heart of most crime in this country. Repealing prohibitions on guns, drugs, prostitution, squatting, conducting business without a license, and the myriad of other prohibitions the state enacts will empty their prisons of a majority inmates who are locked up for victimless crimes. Taking care of their economic needs by making sure folks have food, shelter, medical care, and their other needs met either through better job opportunities in a freed market (or the agora as it stands today) or through mutual aid such as through groups like Food Not Bombs, free clinics, community lending programs, and grassroots labor unions will help combat economic crimes. As it stands most of those caught for theft, embezzlement, identity theft, robbery, and other economic crimes more often than not did so out of desperation to escape poverty. Taking care of the basic needs of your local community helps relieve such desperation and offers them the resources of survival so that they do not have to steal to obtain resources.

Nonviolent parenting, education, nonviolent communication techniques, and conflict resolution training can help to lead us to a better future where we can solve our own problems instead of relying on the state’s goons to kidnap and throw our enemies – and friends – in cages. The Audre Lorde Project’s Safe OUTside the System campaign teaches people how to set up safe spaces where police are not needed or welcomed. All of these ideas and more are things we could establish and do in the here and now to create our own justice systems in the traditions of agorism, dual power, and “building a new world in the shell of the old.” And with people begging for solutions with both the current ongoing national prison strikes and the movements for black lives and against police militarization, now is as good a time as ever to begin building and put these ideas into practice.

Spread the Word, Break the Chains!

Uncompensated Forced Labor Within Prisons Leads to a Modern Day Slave Uprising in Texas

This post was written by  and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Modern Slave Uprisings.” Posts and other content you think are worth sharing with the CopBlock Network can be sent in to us via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

(Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links may have been added within the text and images have been added. In addition, the conclusions expressed within this initial introductory summary represent my own interpretation of what is being stated within Logan’s own writings.)

In the post below, Logan discusses a series of strikes among inmates within Texas prisons. He also discusses the reasons behind those strikes and the nature of prison labor that is being imposed upon those inmates. Essentially, that forced work and the lack of compensation for that work amounts to a modern day version of slavery.

Modern Slave Uprisings

Incarcerated Prisoners“Texas’s prisoners are the slaves of today, and that slavery affects our society economically, morally and politically,” stated the five-page letter put out by the Industrial Workers of the World’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) announcing the prison strike. “Beginning on April 4, 2016, all inmates around Texas will stop all labor in order to get the attention from politicians and Texas’s community alike.” And despite advanced notice given to the prisons and many threats of violence and retaliation aimed at potential strikers, at least seven prisons went on strike, with prisoners refusing to leave their cells and work, to demand an end to modern day slavery. In effort to quash the strikes, several prisons went into complete lockdown, forcing prisoners to stay in their cells with no lights, visitors, phone calls or access to educational or recreational resources, and little more than the occasional sandwich to ward off hunger, while denying the existence of such strikes to the outside world. They’re instead claiming that the prison-wide lockdowns are only one of two regularly scheduled prison lockdowns and searches conducted a year and have nothing to do with “alleged” strikes, thus forcing this story into a media blackout.

According to Texas law, inmate workers are not required compensation for their labor. The fact that work for able-bodied inmates is required under threat of punishment reveals itself as modern day slavery. Add to this the all too real images of armed guards, some on horseback, and incarcerated workers, disproportionately people of color, in the Texas heat on prison farms picking everything from vegetables to, in a throwback to the olden days of classic American slavery, cotton. And prisoners aren’t just saying that these conditions resemble slavery or are a resurrection of such practices but are in fact a direct continuation of pre-Civil War slavery. Even the 13th amendment said to abolish slavery specifically states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States,” thus insuring that prison slavery stayed completely legal.

Prisons SlaveryPrisoners are put to work doing laundry or janitorial work, making clothes, mattresses, shoes, garments, brooms, license plates, printed materials, janitorial supplies, soaps, detergents, furniture, textile, and steel products. Texas prisoners grow at least 24 different crops and care for 10,000-head herd of cattle. They also run pork and beef slaughterhouses and a vegetable cannery. Texas Correctional Industries forces inmates to make a variety of products which are sold to public schools, hospitals, and government agencies including police departments, “from hand soap to bed sheets, from raising livestock to making iron toilets and portable buildings.” Not only does the company not pay workers, little if any of the money made by these slave labor using corporations goes back towards the operating costs of the prison which essentially means it doesn’t even lower the taxes currently forcibly taken from taxpayers who are carrying the burden of paying for the daily expenses of this corporate slavery scheme. And with overpriced phone calls and a statewide inmate copay of $100 for any medical services, inmates are having to rely on outside help or go without. Even in prisons that do pay workers a few cents an hour, prisoners have to save up for months, even years, to cover basic expenses.

The striking prisoners have issued five demands: 1) compensation for their labor in the form of payment and accrued Good/Work Time, applied retroactively, as well as usage of a “presumptive parole system” which requires inmates to be released at their earliest possible release date, 2) the repeal of the $100 medical copay, 3) the right to be appointed an attorney on habeas corpus cases, 4) the establishment of an independent TOCJ Oversight Committee to review grievances, and 5) humane living conditions and treatment including access to quality food and water, installation of air conditioning, repairs to cracks and leaks in roofs, extermination of roaches and other pest infestations, access to adequate medical care, better access to vocational and educational resources, alleviation of overcrowding, an end to prisoner verbal, physical, and sexual harassment, and the reduction in the use of solitary confinement. Currently, approximately 7000 prisoners are subjected to solitary confinement at any given moment in Texas with some staying in solitary for upwards of 20 years.

One mother of an inmate whose son’s prison is on lockdown showed her support saying, “My son and others are literally sitting down to say, ‘Stop killing us. Stop enslaving us. We are human. This has got to stop, I think the strike should spread. I believe prisoners and families together have the power to collapse this system.”

And that spread is happening with Alabama inmates going strike this past May Day. Ohio, Virginia, Mississippi, and Florida have also joined the effort and many prisoners across the US are now calling for a series of coordinated strikes to take place on September 9th, the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison riot. For information on how to help please contact IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee at [email protected] or 816-866-3808.

“Justice” For The Wealthy, Law Enforcement For The Poor

This post was written by  and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “America’s Divided Justice System.” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links were added within the text.)

The post consists of a book review of “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gapby Matt Taibbi. That book relates to what is effectively two different “justice” systems faced by the wealthy and the poor, minorities, and immigrants. The latter group is the target of enforcement policies such as “broken windows” and “zero tolerance” that emphasize cracking down on even the most minor of crimes, often times consisting of victimless crimes. In contrast, the former group benefits from policies that have come to be referred to as “too be to fail” or “too big to jail” that effectively allow fraud and other financial crimes when committed by wealthy people.

Obviously, the disparity between the ability of wealthy people and poor people to hire lawyers, expend time, and utilize personal connections within that system in order to fight any charges they may face exacerbate those differing experiences with the judicial system even further.

America’s Divided Justice System

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi (2014).

One does not often find it a pleasant surprise to receive unpleasant information, but this is a reaction many readers will get from Matt Taibbi’s 2014 book The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. While the book has largely been billed as a piece on the evils of growing economic inequality in the US, a more accurate description would be that it documents the discrepancy in how the American legal system treats wealthy offenders as opposed to poor ones. Taibbi’s thesis is that America’s legal system lets the wealthy get away with massive injustices, while the poor, racial minorities and immigrants are faced with draconian punishments (not to mention nightmarish bureaucracy) for minor violations and even unsubstantiated allegations. The picture he paints is not a pleasant one, but the author’s storytelling ability and grasp of the subject matter make for a surprisingly enjoyable read.

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap

Matt Taibbi is best known as a generally left-of-center columnist for Rolling Stone, for which he is arguably the star political writer. He has also written for The Nation, Playboy and New York Press as well as several books of his own. While Taibbi is clearly in the liberal or social democratic camp, The Divide offers much that is of interest to libertarians, especially where it criticizes the excesses of bureaucracy and the prosecution of victim-less crimes. Left libertarians especially will appreciate that the book strongly echoes their concerns that the state actively takes actions that make the poor even worse off. While Taibbi uses statistics to make his case, the real driving force of the book is his depictions of specific examples of injustices. In these anecdotes the human consequences of plutocracy are vividly illustrated.

Taibbi alternates between stories of white collar criminal activity going unpunished and mean-spirited state aggression leveled at poor people. This does well to illustrate Taibbi’s point that the rich and poor in America live in two different worlds when it comes to treatment by law enforcement. However it may be the book’s biggest weakness for some readers who will find the back and fourth changes in setting distracting. To his credit, Taibbi ultimately ties his narratives together, asserting that lax treatment for the rich and overly harsh punishment of the poor combine to form a dystopian reality.

Taibbi begins with Eric Holder, the Clinton administration official who would become Attorney General under Barack Obama. In the late nineties Holder authored a memo which made explicit the concept of “Collateral Consequences.” Holder argued that courts could consider the indirect negative economic consequences of subjecting large companies to legal penalties if a court ruled against them. This idea would later become known as “too big to fail” and by extension “too big to jail.”  Between his time with the Clinton and Obama administrations, Holder worked with Covington and Burling, a law firm that pioneered the use of “Collateral Consequences” to keep major companies from facing legal penalties. Taibbi largely credits the Clinton administration for passing laws which  exacerbated the disparity in legal punishment between the rich and the poor. Specifically he notes that Clinton’s presidency marked a time of agreement between democrats and republicans on “getting tough on crime,” specifically crime committed by poor people. leading to the escalated war on drugs and increased prison population (specifically the black prison population) during Clinton’s presidency. This was coupled with an increased leniency towards crimes committed in the financial sector. Taibbi claims it is no coincidence that Goldman Sachs was among the biggest contributors to both Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns (not to mention Hillary Clinton’s current campaign).

All of this occurred during a sharp decrease in overall crime, which continued through the 2000’s. Taibbi notes that as crime decreased police officers whose performance and promotion potential was evaluated on numbers of arrests were forced to chase increasingly pettier offenses. Police adopted a wide net strategy, comparable to fishing with dynamite, in which large numbers of ostensibly “suspicious” poor or working class people would be searched, arrested, ticketed, or issued summons for minor violations which they may or may not have committed. These offenders almost certainly did not have the time or money to fight the allegations in court. Arrests for marijuana and violations like “blocking pedestrian traffic” sky-rocketed. Taibbi discusses one instance where the accused chose to fight this particular allegation due to the fact that the supposed offense took place on a morning when there was no pedestrian traffic. His own defender and the judge had little knowledge of how to handle this as the entire system is set up to encourage guilty pleas for such offenses. In another instance cops accuse a young man of drawing graffiti in black ink with a pink highlighter. Unsurprisingly police cruelty, dishonesty and downright stupidity are often on full display in this book.

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Taibbi gives a great deal of attention to Howard Safir, the Giuliani-appointed New York Police Commissioner, who expanded the “Broken Windows” and “Zero Tolerance” policies of his more well known predecessor Bill Bratton, with an even greater focus on arresting and fining people for petty offenses. Under Safir, arrests for marijuana sky rocketed. Taibbi notes that the accused faced hours on end at court hearings, in which large numbers of cases are reviewed by judges who themselves would rather be anywhere else. The court appearances and other bureaucratic red tape often forced the accused to take time off from work or seek child care that they otherwise would not have to. Taibbi discusses many of the violations reviewed as “administrative crimes” which while technically illegal do not cause demonstrable harm to anyone. While crime with actual victims had gone down, police focused on violations of arbitrary statutes. Illegal immigration is one example. Taibbi relates this to occurrences of police setting up “drunk driving” checkpoints at the roads going in and out of immigrant neighborhoods during times when people would come and go to work. He notes that the increased deportations that occurred under the Obama administration enabled a massive kidnapping industry in Latin America, in which kidnappers would locate deportees while seeking ransoms from their remaining relatives in the US.

Elsewhere Taibbi discusses the collapse of Lehman Brothers and its secret backroom deal with the English firm Barclays that ripped off millions from smaller creditors around the world. This section is an excellent primer on the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis. As is the chapter on JPMorgan Chase, which committed massive fraud involving fake credit card judgement. He notes that the business of collecting delinquent credit card debt itself relies on fraud, as it would be uneconomical for collection agencies to review the actual records of the alleged debtors. Often they instead employ “robo-signing” (the practice of having entry level staffers sign as many documents as possible, without actually reading them) and “gutter service” where a server may or may not deliver a summons to an accused who may or may not show up to contest the allegation. In all cases discussed, real people are genuinely harmed and the perpetrators are never given more than negligible fines. He also contrasts the treatment of crimes committed by HSBC (a firm that has worked with murderous drug cartels and Islamist terrorists) to the disproportionately worse treatment of small time drug users.

In one of the more interesting stories of the book, a gang of well-funded hedge fund managers attempt to bully the owner of a smaller insurance firm, Fairfax Financial Holdings, into going out of business through an elaborate campaign of harassment, threats, late-night phone calls, and phony accusations of a criminal activity. This may be of interest to libertarians looking for a starting point to a discussion of what forms of malicious activity do and do not violate the non-aggression principle. Similarly, Taibbi’s discussion of welfare recipients who largely forgo their right to freedom from government search and seizure without probable cause is a potential starting point for conversation. Such people are often subject to inspectors rooting through their underwear drawers and bathrooms looking for evidence of unreported income. While Taibbi’s sympathy for people on welfare may rub some mainstream libertarians the wrong way, he argues that regardless whether one opposes the welfare state or not, one should find this excessive, especially when such zeal for fraud prevention is not matched when it comes to white-collar criminals committing the same crimes on a larger scale.

Banner - Tunnel1Overall Taibbi finds that the poor are subject to bureaucracy while the rich are able to become bureaucracies in and of themselves by hiring lawyers capable of generating decades of red tape for anyone who makes any accusation against them. He feels that America has such love for and fear of people with power and money and disdain for those who lack it, that its people allow two divergent class-based legal systems to govern. The book is an engaging and often entertaining read that will likely find a sympathetic ear from anyone who values justice.

Jails and the “Justice” System Punish the Poor For Being Poor

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Prisons Don’t Bail Out the Poor.” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links were added within the text.)

This post relates to the exploitation of the poor and vulnerable members of society by law enforcement and the court system. Oftentimes, people of lower economic classes and especially minorities within that demographic end up in jail and/or prison simply because they don’t have the means to defend themselves from allegations made against them. This also makes it that much more likely innocent people will accept plea deals just to avoid serving more jail time while awaiting trial and/or to avoid the risk of more severe punishment should they lose.

A significant percentage of those “crimes” they are prosecuted for are victimless crimes in the first place and many are actually predicated on conditions created by poverty. In addition, minor crimes of that nature often lead to more harsh punishments for future transgressions by creating a long criminal record that is used to justify tougher sentences, even though that record consists of things more affluent people would never be arrested or prosecuted for. In many cases, building a criminal record based on such minor offenses is an intentional strategy used by law enforcement against the poor for that very reason.

Previous posts by Nick Ford that have been shared on CopBlock.org can be found here, here, here, and here. If you appreciate the things Nick has written, you can support him directly here.

Prisons Don’t Bail Out the Poor

The New York Times recently reported that on March 13th, Jeffery Pendleton was found dead in his jail cell. Pendleton was a homeless man who lived in New Hampshire and had been arrested on March 8th for outstanding fines and possession of small amounts of marijuana. His set bail of $100 was prohibitively costly for him and he was left to languish in his cell until trial, over a month later.

According to New Hampshire’s state experts, there were no sign of foul play.

Pendleton’s family disagrees, saying on a GoFundMe campaign that aims to bring Pendleton’s body home: “His body has been viewed by a second source and we have found that we were lied to by the medical examiner in New Hampshire as well as the jail. … The second report completed in Arkansas states there are clear indications that Jeffery was harmed prior to his death and likely that harmed caused his death.”

Pendleton’s death, whether a freak accident or something more, reflects a disturbing trend of individuals, particularly lower-income and people of color, dying in jail cells. Another high-profile victim, a black woman named Sandra Bland, died after only three days in jail in 2013. Her death was ruled a suicide but her family, like Pendleton’s, disagreed.

Prison Profits Poor PeopleIn practice, jails tend to work as places where lower-income people must be processed and held until they can be processed again. As Gilles Bissonnette, a director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire said of Pendleton’s case, “at that point, he would have effectively served his sentence before he ever had an opportunity to contest the charge — an outcome that only a poor person would be confronted with.”

The issue of prohibitively high bail is serious enough that the Department of Justice (DoJ) released an official statement around the time of Pendleton’s death. Such statements don’t have the force of law, but they can influence shifts in policy by making the federal government’s position clear on a given issue.

At one point the statement says “[b]ail that is set without regard to defendants’ financial capacity can result in the incarceration of individuals not because they pose a threat to public safety or a flight risk, but rather because they cannot afford the assigned bail amount.”

As such, jails are often used as pre-detention centers that skirt around Constitutional requirements of “fair and equal treatment” under the law. If poor people are regularly locked up and have bail set without regard to their ability to pay then equality under the law seems like an unlikely outcome.

But even if we tried to make bail set partly on the basis of financial stability and well-being, this would not be enough. Whether it comes to police and civil forfeiture, the criminal justice system and plea deals, or the prison industrial complex, the state’s profit motive leads them to seek monopoly profits to the disadvantage of the accused and convicted.

As the New York Times notes, this report by the DoJ, “…echoes the conclusions of the Justice Department’s investigation of the Police Department and court in Ferguson, Mo. Investigators there concluded that the court was a moneymaking venture, not an independent branch of government.”

But “independence” is a meaningless term when the government has created and reinforced perverse incentives that treat individuals as a stream of revenue. Fixing that isn’t going to be accomplished by sending letters to courts and politely asking them to change. In fact, the way to affect change isn’t to ask nicely for the government to play by its own rules. We’ve been doing that for too long to no avail.

It’s time we made up our own rules and played by them ourselves in peaceful and creative ways. This means building alternative forms of dealing with crime that don’t rely on punishment being the focus of rehabilitation. It also means not treating money as the sole way that people can help atone for their offenses.

But of course, Pendleton didn’t do anything wrong.

Well, besides being poor.

If You Want True Reform, Abolish The Police!

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Ferguson, Accept No Substitutes: Abolish the Police!” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: some links have been inserted, although no edits to the original text were made.)

Back in August 2014 a man named Michael Brown was shot by a police officer, Darren Wilson. Brown was unarmed and found himself in the hostile climate that exists between people of color and the police. His resulting death was the spark that lit the fire. Protests for #BlackLivesMatter began in earnest, people rallied for justice for Brown (Wilson was eventually acquitted of any wrong-doing) and in general, folks were deeply upset with the city of Ferguson.

Whether Brown’s actions warranted the almost 10 shots he received by officer Wilson, the background context of the event couldn’t be denied. Even the Department of Justice (DoJ) noted, to quote CBS, “a portrait of poor community-police relations, ineffective communication among the more than 50 law enforcement agencies that responded, police orders that infringed on First Amendment rights, and military-style tactics that antagonized demonstrators.”

The DoJ also remarked on a broad pattern of discrimination by the Ferguson police, particularly towards people of color.

What has changed in over a year and a half?

In September, CBS reported that, “Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon recommended the consolidation of police departments and municipal courts in the St. Louis area, and decreasing the use of police force.”

But more recently and perhaps more promisingly to some, there has been a proposed agreement between the DoJ and the City of Ferguson. If approved, this agreement would postpone any sort of federal lawsuit and make changes to local policies concerning the police. CBS reported that the proposal was even brought before the public for “feedback” before its approval.

Policy changes could include mandatory body cameras and microphones for police and their cruisers. In addition, there could be more thorough training of police and possible revisions of municipal codes that allow the City of Ferguson to jail people who can’t afford fines.

All of these things, if actually implemented, might sound like decent reforms.

But as fellow C4SS writer Thomas L. Knapp wrote back in December of 2014, when it comes to body cameras and the like, “Video technology is certainly part of the solution to police violence, but that solution should remain in the hands of regular people, not the state. … Cops need to be on cameras they don’t control.”

Why would we want the police to regulate themselves on how well they’re doing? A recent example of Chicago police officers tampering with their dash cams is just the tip of the iceberg. Somehow police often “mysteriously” can’t find evidence against themselves. It seems unlikely that it’d be any different in Ferguson.

Likewise, though there’d be more thorough training of the police, who would it be by? Other police? That’s likely the end result of this supposed “thorough” training that may teach “tolerance” for the disabled and marginalized. But acceptance is a lot more meaningful than tolerance, and how can we expect either to be taught to the police in any case?

They operate in an institution founded on “I was just taking orders” as a legitimate defense to wrong-doing. They operate in an institution that, if it really only had “a few bad apples”, would’ve done something more drastic than putting murdering cops on paid vacations. They operate in an institution that lacks any sort of communal competition in many areas, giving them de facto monopoly provision of defense. This monopoly leads not only to a lack of accountability but also violence on the part of the police.

Lastly, it seems unlikely that the city would, for some reason, stop imprisoning less fortunate citizens. If they’re able to make money off of these prisoners, why would they stop it? It seems akin to asking cops to stop profiting from traffic stops.

It’s a nice gesture to let the public “look” at the document before it’s actually passed.

But that’s all it is, a gesture.

Real change won’t come from the fox guarding the hen house. Real change will come from communities coming together and modeling their efforts less on busy-body neighborhood watches and more like the Black Panthers.

Further, community involvement shouldn’t aid prisons and punishment but rather should entice restitution and resolve.

To do that, my advice is simple: Abolish the police!