Saturday, November 20, 2010

I've seen The Blindside about five times now. I must say I very much like it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Three cheers for my cousin, Betty Deramus, whose latest book, Freedom By Any Means, was tagged as a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Free the Scott Sisters

The tragic case of the Scott sisters
By Monica Moorehead
Published Apr 29, 2010 8:21 PM

Anyone who still believes that the U.S. is the most democratic and just country in the world has only to examine the shocking case of the Scott sisters to be disabused of that erroneous notion. While this case is becoming more and more well-known by word of mouth, mainly on the Internet, the 16-year-old case has never received the national and international media attention that it so richly deserves. The facts of the case will explain the reason why.
Gladys Scott

Gladys Scott

Who are the Scott sisters?

Jamie and Gladys Scott are African-American sisters who lived in the small town of Forest, Miss., when they were arrested on Dec. 24, 1993, on a charge of armed robbery of two Black men. The amount involved in the robbery was $11 and nobody was injured. In October 1994, both sisters were found guilty and received double-life sentences. They are not eligible for parole until they spend at least 20 years in prison.

Their sentence is very reminiscent of the life sentence, without the possibility of parole, given to the martyred Black Panther and Soledad Brothers prisoner, George Jackson, in the early 1960s. Jackson was convicted of stealing $70.
Jamie Scott

Jamie Scott

Three teenagers, who eventually admitted that they had committed the robbery, recanted the false testimony they gave during the Scott sisters’ trial. These teenagers stated before the judge and jury that they were forced by local authorities to implicate the sisters, with the promise of a lenient sentence. Even the robbery victims said that the sisters had nothing to do with the robbery. Neither Jamie nor Gladys had a prior record before this outrageous conviction and life sentence.

At the time of their arrest, conviction and sentencing, Gladys was 19 years old and pregnant with her second child; Jamie was a 22-year-old with three young children. Their children are being raised by Jamie and Gladys’ mother, Elaine Rasco. Despite having to move to Florida due to years of emotional stress, Ms. Rasco remains active in fighting for her daughters’ freedom.

The state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have refused to hear the Scotts’ appeals. Since being in prison, Jamie has developed almost complete kidney failure due to poor diet and inhumane prison medical care. She is receiving irregular dialysis treatments and has gone into shock numerous times. If it were not for the pressure and local attention that community, legal and political activists have put on the prison authorities, Jamie Scott could have easily died.

How to get involved

There is a growing grassroots movement to broaden awareness around the Scott sisters’ case, including a letter-writing campaign demanding that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder release them. The campaign also includes getting petitions signed and getting press releases sent to local, state and national press on the case.

The Scott sisters’ case has put another human face on the constant racist repression that is woven within the very fabric of U.S. capitalist society. In an Aug. 19 article, Jamie Scott wrote: “The injustices that have occurred are patterns within this county and their police departments. This type of injustice and exploitation has been done to many African Americans who have lived in this county for many years. They have been very successful in destroying many lives.”

Jamie continued: “This is a time we show Americans what really occurs in most small towns in the state of Mississippi. We are convinced that once this chain of events is exposed and unraveled, the events that occurred, the lives that have been destroyed, the pain and suffering the citizens of Scott County have endured; everyone will be utterly amazed, astonished and compelled to assist us in our plight for freedom.”

Go to to read Jamie’s entire article, find out more information about the case and get involved.
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This is Important Information From the Southern Center for Human Rights

Debtors' Prisons

Contrary to what many people may believe, there are debtors' prisons throughout the United States where people are imprisoned because they are too poor to pay fines and fees.

The United States Supreme Court in Bearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660 (1983), held that courts cannot imprison a person for failure to pay a criminal fine unless the failure to pay was “willful.” However, this constitutional commandment is often ignored.

Courts impose substantial fines as punishment for petty crimes as well as more serious ones. Besides the fines, the courts are assessing more and more fees to help meet the costs of the ever-increasing size of the criminal justice system: fees for ankle braclets for monitoring; fees for anger management classes; for drug tests, for crime victims’ funds, for crime laboratories, for court clerks, for legal representation, for various retirement funds, and for private probation companies that do nothing more than collect a check once a month.

People who cannot afford the total amount assessed may be allowed to pay in monthly installments, but in many jurisdictions those payments must be accompanied by fees to a private probation company that collects them. A typical fee is $40 per month. People who lose their jobs or encounter unexpeced family hardships and are unable to maintain payments may be jailed without any inquiry into their ability to pay or the willfulness of their failure to pay.

There are more fees for those in jails or prisons. There are high costs for telephone calls. Fees are charged fees for medical services. A new trend is “room and board” fees in prisons and jails. Ora Lee Hurley spent nearly a year at the Georgia Department of Corrections, Atlanta Diversion Center due to her inability to pay a $705 fine from a 15-year-old drug conviction because she was charged for staying there. A court had ordered Ms. Hurley imprisoned until her fine was paid. While held at the Diversion Center, Ms. Hurley was employed full-time at a restaurant which sent her paycheck directly to the Department of Corrections. Although Ms. Hurley never missed a day of work and earned over $7,000, the Department took nearly every penny of her earnings. Left with only $23 per month to buy food, toiletries, and pay her fine, Ms. Hurley was being confined in perpetuity. She was released only after the Center filed a habeas petition on her behalf. For a copy of the habeas petition, click here. To view the Atlanta Journal Constitution article click here.

The Center Ends Jail Fees for Pre-Trial Detainees

In some cases, jails have even charged people room and board fees for people detained on charges but not convicted of any crime. For seventeen years, the Clinch County Jail in Homerville charged those in its custody a daily room and board fee. Even though Georgia law did not authorize – and in fact prohibited – such charges, the Clinch County Sheriff charged inmates $18 per day. Many people were too poor to pay the fees upon their release. The Sheriff and his deputies required them to sign notes promising to pay the fees in installments, or return to jail. On several occasions, the Sheriff charged people thousands of dollars, failing to return the money even when criminal charges were dismissed. A lawsuit filed by the Center, ultimately settled, required the Sheriff to return the illegal fees. For a copy of the Complaint, click here. For a copy of the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment, click here. For a copy of newspaper articles related to the case, click here. To hear a report by National Public Radio on Clinch County Jails, click here.

The Center ends Debtors' Prison in Gulfport, Mississippi

The Municipal Court in Gulfport, Mississippi was one such court. In an effort to crack down on people who owed misdemeanor fines, the City of Gulfport employed a fine collection task force. The task force trolled through predominately African-American neighborhoods, rounding up
people who had outstanding court fines. After arresting and jailing them, the City of Gulfport processed these people through a court proceeding at which no defense attorney was present or even offered. Many people were jailed for months after hearings lasting just seconds. While the City collected money, it also packed the jail with hundreds of people who couldn’t pay, including people who were sick, physically disabled, and/or limited by mental disabilities. SCHR filed suit to stop these illegal practices. For a copy of the Complaint, Tclick here. For related news coverage, click here.

Other financial distortions

Debtors prisons are but one example of financial incentives that have a distorting effect on the criminal justice system. Criminal justice policies - how many prison beds to build, whether to arrest someone or cite them, what sentences to impose - should be primarily concerned with making us more safe. But the profit motive is increasingly distorting the system.

Many counties throughout the South, for example, are committing scarce dollars to building larger jails in anticipation of securing a lucrative contract with the federal government to house detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the United States Marshals Service or even prisoners from other counties or other states. As another example, the design of work release programs - something that should be focused on developing skills and reducing recidivism - is often driven primarily by an interest in collecting as much moneyas possible from the prison er-workers. The privatization of probation, imprisonment, and other parts of the criminal justice system create incentives for expanding the criminalization of poor people.

Financial distrortions in the criminal justice system include the practice of funding government slush funds by adding to someone's sentence. By making it more difficult for people to take care of their basic needs, these additional financial obligations compromise rather than improve public safety.

Southern Center for Human Rights | 83 Poplar St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30303 | p.404.688.1202 | f.404.688.9440

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An Essay I am Working On

The old sage beggar addressed it when he called out to the gawking public, “what are you looking at?! Act you ain’t never seen this before!” As Nina and Bulworth appear as a couple in the film Bulworth. J.A. Rogers addressed it in his Sex and Race series, making particular commentary on the compulsion of German women to lose their panties whenever Africans came into town with the P.T. Barnum Circus. Interracial mixing is a wild and radical growth that is native to American soil whose roots run very deep into the American fabric. Its very existence challenges the stalwart conservatism that runs rampant in America today. This vegetation stands testament to the integrity of the American fabric; it shadders the myth of white supremacy and exposes to all the connections that the handlers of America have failed to draw time and time again as a means of maintaining their dominance in a social order beneficial to them. These connections are seen when America lifts the folds of her skirts. Ann Soetoero was not the first white woman to introduce children into the America with footholds inside disparate cultures. Ann Soeteoro, the mother of Barack Obama, fits inside a huge legacy, the trajectory of which continues into the present day as new multiracial alliances are formed, legitimately and illegitimately, and as new casts are molded from the melting pot and served into the American populace. Most folks are aware that the people known today as Afro-Americans have ties to the white male American establishment that run as deep as blood and legacy. The point that must be underscored however, that which must be pointed out, is that the legacy of the illegitimate slave begotten by the master is not the only narrative woven into America’s racial past. There is a legacy of white women having children for men of color, such as my great-great-great grandmother, Caroline Roper. The daughter of a white Methodist minister, she bore seven children for a mulatto slave and bore two more completely white in the decade before the Civil War. During Reconstruction there was a resurgence of white female cohabitation with Black men, particularly in the south where the landscape was devastated, Black men possessed a new found power, and white women were left with few economic resources as their husbands, fathers, and brothers either were killed or mutilated in the Civil War. In the colonial era, racial mixing was such a common practice that laws were passed against it with severe penalties for both the white women who bore biracial children and for the children themselves. Usually, the women were forced into indentured servitude, given a certain number of years to work off their debt and the child was sold completely into bondage. Such cases were found well up until the resolution of the Civil War. These children, and the families created and disavowed within the American social fabric, planted radical and potent seeds within the United States, particularly as such racial mixing included revolts and rebellions and other contestations of white supremacy. The very existence of this biracial population shredded the legitimacy of whiteness and was a threat to the white male power structure. The element of this biracial phenomenon that was grounded in the poor, working class, and enslaved populations of this country made this even more of a threat. This called for even stricter policing of racial boundaries, drawing of racial lines, and stronger penalties for racial mixing. When you add in such information as Noel Ignatiev’s conclusion that the majority of white people who exist as such in the United States today are racially mixed and don’t fit neatly inside the defined lines of white supremacy, the entire foundation for America’s hidden racial habit is nullified, with severe implications for American imperialism, American exceptionalism, and much of the American way of life as defined by this nations fathers over the past two hundred and fifty years. Today, we are compelled to carry out this revolution in the way we think and exist in this country that was begun by our forefathers who clung together across boundaries of race, class, and sex to see a new harmony filled with equality and dignity for all overtake the world.