The US Injustice System: Who Wants to be a Black Kid in America Today?

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When a jury finds a man not guilty for the wilful shooting of a 17 year old boy armed with some sweets and a can of pop, alarm bells need to start ringing.  This is not the stuff of fairy tales, but the real outcome of the trial of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin.  Rather than a unique example of justice undone, the Zimmerman trial epitomises a justice system which views young black people not as children, but felons waiting to happen. Who wants to be black kid in America today?

The Case of Trayvon Martin

 TV1

Please take a few minutes to watch the video above, which captures the mentality of racial profiling.  This mentality led George Zimmerman, on seeing a young black man walking the streets of his gated community, to call the police immediately, stating he was following a ‘real suspicious looking guy…like he’s on drugs or something…something’s wrong with him…he’s got something in his hands’.  Unfortunately, a young black man these days is inherently worthy of suspicion in the eyes of many.

On the 26th February last year, Zimmerman caught sight of Trayvon Martin )pictured above) walking back from the convenience store.  Martin was headed to the house of his father’s fiancé in a gated community called the Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida.  He had popped out to buy some sweets and a soft drink and was carrying these home.

Zimmerman called the police stating he was following a ‘real suspicious looking guy…like he’s on drugs or something…something’s wrong with him…he’s got something in his hands’. He went on to state “Fucking punks. These assholes, they always get away.”

It is clear from Zimmerman’s 911 call that he believed he was in pursuit of a dangerous felon, likely responsible for burglaries in the area.  Yet, he jumped to this conclusion himself.  He was in fact following a 17 year old boy with some sweets and a can of pop.  Zimmerman was armed with a 9mm Glock pistol.

Soon after the call, Zimmerman pursued Trayvon Martin, contrary to the advice of the police who were on their way, Martin resisted and Zimmerman shot him dead.  As Gary Younge’s stirring Comment Is Free article states:

“Who screamed. Who was stronger. Who called whom what and when and why are all details to warm the heart of a cable news producer with 24 hours to fill. Strip them all away and the truth remains that Martin’s heart would still be beating if Zimmerman had not chased him down and shot him.

There is no doubt about who the aggressor was here. It appears that the only reason the two interacted at all, physically or otherwise, is that Zimmerman believed it was his civic duty to apprehend an innocent teenager who caused suspicion by his existence alone.”

Yet Zimmerman has been acquitted of this crime and was free to leave the courtroom today.  To add insult to injury, under Florida law he will have his murder weapon returned to him…just in case he feels like mowing down any other teenagers that ‘trip him out’.

The fact that Zimmerman was acquitted was less of a shock for those following the case who witnessed how reluctant the authorities were that there would be a case in the first place.  Florida has a ‘stand your ground’ policy which states that a person can use deadly force if s/he ‘reasonably believes’ their life to be in danger.  Yet, as Younge points out, it was Trayvon Martin who was forced to stand his ground, as he was tackled by Zimmerman – a stranger with a gun – while he walked home with his iced tea and skittles.  Despite this, Zimmerman was allowed to walk, pleading self-defence.

It is an outrage.  But while the US Justice System fails to classify men who kill black teens as criminals, the fundamentally racist structure of American society is busy turning black teens into the very criminals Zimmerman and his ilk believe them to be.

The School to Prison Pipeline

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The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world.  This means a higher percentage of US citizens pass through the prison system, than any other country on the planet.  For most countries with comparable demographics to the US, there will be 100 prisoners per every 100,000 population.  In the US, the rate is five times this at 500 per 100,000.  But black men in the US are incarcerated at an eye watering rate of 3,074 per 100,000. This is not because black men are somehow genetically more pre-disposed to crime, but thanks in large part to the school to prison pipeline.  The average state prisoner has a 10th grade education (aged 15), and about 70% have not completed high school. The US Education System delivers disadvantaged children over to prisons for profit.

The American Civil Liberties Union described the School to Prison pipeline of the US Education System thusly:

“A disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished and pushed out. “Zero-tolerance” policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while high-stakes testing programs encourage educators to push out low-performing students to improve their schools’ overall test scores. Students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the discriminatory application of discipline.”

The School to Prison pipeline starts with underfunded public schools.  The schools are generally overcrowded and lack funding for qualified teachers, counsellors, special educational needs resources and even textbooks.  The children are clear from the get-go that their education is not being invested in – and these schools are normally in disadvantaged areas in the first place.  There is no hope, no aspiration, no encouragement, no learning.

The implementation of ‘zero tolerance’ policies in schools have turned minor infractions into criminal offences.  This saw suspensions treble between 1974 and 2001 – rising from 1.7m to 3.1m, and disproportionately impacting children of colour.

A combination of major under resourcing and fear of school based shootings has seen an influx of police in schools.  Instead of teachers, many US schools now have ‘School Resource Officers’ patrolling the hallways, criminalising standard misbehaviour. Again, children of colour were disproportionately represented in the statistics – making up 70% of school arrests made.  So, what were these children arrested for?

In Fairfax County, six year old Salecia Johnson was handcuffed, charged with beating and placed in a holding cell for throwing a tantrum.

In Texas, twelve year old Sarah Bustamantes was arrested for spraying herself with perfume in a bid to stop bullies picking on her and saying she was smelly.

In Albuquerque, a 13 year old boy was handcuffed and hauled off to juvenile detention for burping in class.

A high school student had her arm broken by a school security guard after she left crumbs on the floor after dropping some birthday cake in the cafeteria.  She was then arrested for littering.

A seven year old student with special educational needs was pepper sprayed in the face by a police officer in school, for climbing onto a bookshelf.

In 2011, the NYPD (New York Police Department) arrested more than one student a day in the public school system, and 90% of those were black.

In 2010, the state of Texas alone issued 300,000 ‘Class C Misdemeanour’ tickets to US school children as young as six – resulting in fines, community service and even prison time.

Where children should be being educated about positive and negative behaviours, they are being criminalised as young as six years old.  Their educations are being suspended or ended due to these punishments and they are gifted to the prison system.

The truth is, disadvantaged children in the US have become a source of profit for the private prison industry.  Over the past four decades that private prisons were rolled out across the US, there has been a simultaneous explosion in crime.  Did US citizens suddenly become more criminal? No. Poverty was criminalised, and it made its way all the way into the school system.

The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is the largest private prison provider in the country. A recent report by Grassroots Leadership, a US justice organisation found the following:

“CCA has made profits from, and at times contributed to, the expansion of tough-on-crime and anti-immigrant policies that have driven prison expansion. Now a multi-billion dollar corporation, CCA manages more than 65 correctional and detention facilities with a capacity of more than 90,000 beds in 19 states and the District of Columbia. The company’s revenue in 2012 exceeded more than $1.7 billion.

While the company has become a multi-billion dollar corporation, it has also become exceedingly controversial, with a record of prisoner abuse, poor pay and benefits to employees, scandals, escapes, riots, and lawsuits marking its history. Faith denominations, civil rights groups, criminal justice reform organizations, and immigrant rights advocates have repeatedly argued that adding the profit motive to the prison and immigrant detention systems provides perverse incentives to keep incarceration rates high.

To mark the company’s milestone anniversary, Grassroots Leadership and the Public Safety and Justice Campaign have sought to highlight why there is nothing to celebrate about 30 years of for-profit incarceration. This report highlights just some of the shameful incidents that litter CCA’s history.

As well as unearthing notable scandals and violations that have taken place over the company’s last three decades, this report charts several other key areas in which CCA has left a dubious legacy. From controversial economic and political ties to operational cost-cutting and depressing labor practices, CCA’s drastic efforts to maximize profits only serve to demonstrate the fundamental reasons why the for-profit prison industry is at odds with the goals of reducing incarceration rates and raising correctional standards.

This report highlights only 30 incidents in the company’s history, but could have been much more expansive. We hope it lends a critical eye to the role of for-profit prison firms in criminal justice and immigration policies, and serves as a starting point for community members and organizations seeking to learn about the for-profit private prison industry.”

A Hopeless Situation?

 TV3

So, what hope for young black America?  Their school system is built to transfer them into a private sector prison profit at the earliest opportunity.  Their justice system allows people who shoot and kill their peers to walk free.  Who would want to be a poor black kid in the US today?

Well, some people are doing something about it.  The American Civil Liberties Union are working to break the school to prison pipeline – but others are getting involved too.  Former Federal and State prison inmates have come together in Fayetteville, North Carolina to host a summer camp called ‘Torchlight’ to keep young people engaged with their own educations, even if the state is working against them. Schools Boards in Colorado, Philadelphia and Chicago have seen great results from stepping back from ‘zero tolerance’ policies and implementing common sense discipline policies.  Maryland went even further and banned zero tolerance in the state altogether, and set itself s target of 69% fewer suspensions a year which it promptly met.

People are fighting for the futures of these children, but corporate America is using its power, money and influence to snuff their futures out for the sake of a profit. Who will win? Well, that’s up to all of us.

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14 thoughts on “The US Injustice System: Who Wants to be a Black Kid in America Today?

  1. I pray that you can provide some assistance, and/or you would be kind enough to point me in the right direction. There was truly a travesty of justice against my husband Franklyn McCurrie. My husband is a former deputy sheriff with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office here in the state of Florida. Let me give you some background on this current situation. Franklyn McCurrie is an African-American male, hired by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office February 09, 2009 at the age of 20. Franklyn successfully completed the police academy and passed the Florida Police Officer Examination in June/July of 2009. He was assigned to the Oakland Park District office within the Sheriff’s Office; he successfully completed 3 months of field training with a senior deputy and was approved to ride solo as a deputy sheriff.
    On January 23, 2010 Franklyn McCurrie was in route to backup another deputy on a traffic stop at 9:45pm. In route to the deputy on the traffic stop, Franklyn traveled southbound on Dixie Highway, his speed was approximately between 50-60mph, in a 40mph zone. The traffic light was a solid green for north and south traffic. As Franklyn approached the intersection of NE 56TH Street, 3-5 yards from clearing the intersection, a vehicle traveling northbound pulled out suddenly into the path of his patrol vehicle, with an attempt to go west on NE 56th street. The two vehicles collided and the accident occurred. The vehicle that pulled into Franklyn’s vehicle path was driven by a 21 year old white female, who also had two passengers in her vehicle. Unfortunately, the back passenger of the 2 door 1996 Honda Civic was a 14 year old white female. She was ejected from the vehicle, hit her head, and later died at the hospital due to blunt force trauma; none of the occupants from the Honda civic was wearing their seat belts.
    The initial investigation report by the Broward Sheriff’s Office blamed the driver of the Honda Civic for the cause of the accident, who failed to yield right away to oncoming traffic. North and south bound traffic had a solid green light; however, the Honda was turning westbound, she did not have a direct green left arrow, therefore she had to wait for oncoming traffic to clear. Furthermore, witnesses stated that the Honda accelerated as she approached the intersection, attempting to turn left and beat the oncoming vehicle. The news media got involved and all of a sudden the traffic investigator changed his mind, and blamed Franklyn for the traffic accident; advising that his speed was the cause of the accident. They calculated that Franklyn was driving 81-89mph down Dixie Highway prior to the crash without lights and sirens, with an impact speed of 81mph. The posted speed limit is 40mph; so 41-50 mph over the limit. My husband gave a sworn statement to the investigator that he was driving 50-60mph as he was in route to backup the deputy. He testified that he was not required to turn on his emergency lights via Sheriff’s office protocol. To this day neither the driver nor the passenger of the Honda civic ever provided a statement to police, they refused. However the sheriff’s office was quick to payout the family before the investigation was completed. On 04/12/2010 Franklyn was fired from Sheriff’s Office for, “Failure to meet probationary standards”; he was four months away from clearing his probationary period with the sheriff’s office. The state Attorney submitted the case to a grand jury in 2011; they returned a true bill of indictment on 5 charges: Vehicle Homicide, 2 counts of reckless driving with Bodily damage, and 2 counts of reckless driving with property damage.
    The first judge that was assigned to this case entered a not guilty plea and then stepped down from the case. The 2nd judge allowed the state to present information illegally obtained from the patrol cars black-box. The search warrant only authorized the BSO investigator to pull the CRM from the patrol car, not the PCM. In light of that illegal removal of the PCM, the judge still allowed the state to bring in the black-box data. *TO ALSO NOTE, JUDGE#2, WAS THE ONE WHO POINTED OUT TO THE DEFENSE THAT THE SEARCH WARRANT ONLY AUTHORIZED THE REMOVAL OF THE CRM, AND NOT THE PCM; HOWEVER, HE STILL DENIED OUR MOTION TO SUPPRESS THIS INFORMATION, AND HE ALLOWED THE STATE TO BRING IT IN AS EVIDENCE. The second judge held the case for 5 years, declined every motion from the defense, and then stepped down from the case prior to the trial start date. A key fact that he declined us from entering, was the the autopsy report of the deceased female victim, who had a 0.04% alcohol level. The 3rd judge assigned to the case had one week to get refreshed with a 5 year case, loaded with detailed information. The 3rd judge wanted this case done in one week, therefore he rushed the case. To add more insult to injury, this new judge never handled a criminal case before, because he was transferred from the civil department of the court system. He came in with his preconceived ideas of guilt towards my husband, and showed signs of emotion towards the state’s instead a maintaining a neutral position.

    Jury selection was another strike against my husband. The original jurors were 3 blacks and 3 whites. The first day of trial, we lost one of our black juror; he advised that he was sick and unable make the trial; he was excused. The next day, we lost another one of our black juror; her mother was just diagnosed with cancer and admitted to the hospital. Two blacks were excused and two whites filled their spot. Now the 6 panel jury was composed of 4 white females, 1 black female, and 1 white male. What was interesting with these jurors is that the state allowed juror #3, a white female, who advised that she was abused by the police and arrested several times, to remain on the jury. Throughout the entire trial juror#3, held her head down, did not take notes, and appeared to be under the influence of some form of narcotics. The jury was tainted. The judge also favored the states jury instruction and verdict form, over the defense; another strike against my husband. Twice my husband lawyer asked for a motion of dismissal and was declined.

    The judge appeared to have had a pre-written acquittal denial as he read from his notebook. Once the jurors took the case, within one hour the jurors had two questions. “How fast over the speed limit must a person drive to be considered reckless?” 2. “How fast must a person drive to be issued a ticket for reckless driving by a police officer?”
    *Clear evidence of doubt in the case. This should have yielded a not guilty verdict.

    The judge response was “Everything you need is in the case law, please refer to it”. The jurors never came back until they had a verdict 5 hours later.

    April 17, 2015 as the jurors came out deliberation room, I observed 3 female jurors crying, as the court clerk read the verdict, they sobbed with intense regret. Guilty of vehicular homicide, guilty of 2 counts of reckless driving with bodily injury, not guilty of 2 counts of reckless driving with property damage. The verdict did not reflect the juror’s emotions correctly. If he was guilty of homicide, then why cry about it! If he is not guilty of property damage, how can he be guilty of bodily damage? There was so much doubt in this case, that it baffles me. My husband was not given a fair trial; there were too may wild variables in this case.

    The travesty of justice with this case is that an African American male will be the first police officer in the state of Florida to be convicted and sentenced on a vehicular homicide charge. A 2012 Sun-sentinel investigation found officers exceeding the speed limit, which involved 320 crashes and 19 deaths in a seven year period. Only one officer went to jail- for 60 days; a white Fort Lauderdale police officer off duty, who struck and killed a black female, is crossing the street at 5:20am in the morning. He was driving at 92mph! He was acquitted of vehicular homicide. There are several cases that I will attach, that show’s that white officers were either not charged or acquitted of vehicular homicide where speed was the only factor; contrary to Franklyn McCurrie, a black police officer.

    In 2013 a Broward deputy was traveling down Dixie highway in the late night, not responding to a call, but patrolling; he struck and killed a pedestrian crossing the street after she was released from the hospital. He was never charged with vehicular homicide, though a witness stated that he was speeding down Dixie highway. What is the difference between all the previous cases of police accidents involving a death? All were speeding far above my husband’s speed that day. However, the scale of justice changed, when a young black deputy, on duty, in route to backup a fellow deputy is involved in a tragic accident. A vehicle pulls into his path suddenly and a tragic accident occurred; a young white female died (may her soul rest in peace); therefore, it is no longer a tragic accident, but a homicide. Therefore crucify the black guy! There is no justice for my husband, and half of the facts pertaining to this accident were never heard.

    His attorney has filed an appeal. I am in desperate destitution and need help to provide adequate legal representation, so that my husband will get the same or better opportunity as previous deputies and/or police officers. Our local assembly has created a website titled “Justice for Franklyn” project freedom. http://www.kbiam.org/justice

  2. Pingback: The Ferguson Protesters Have It Right, It’s Time To Riot | Scriptonite Daily

  3. As an American, and a Black American Male, I am told by the talking heads, the politicians, and the preachers, that I should respect this verdict, of a “Fair Trial”. Yes as fair a trial, as in the Jim Crow South, of the 1940’s, and 1950’s, justice has been done, get over it. But let us examined the verdict, and what it says. Which is, that you may stalk a black male, engage in a fight, which you started by your actions, and if it goes badly for you, pull your pistol, and shoot him dead. Then clam in Court that you had fear of your life, and the Court must acquit. So essentially, it’s open season on Black Males. But there is a solution to this problem, and it ain’t singing,” We Shall Over Come”, it is in embracing the Courts Ruling, rather then rejecting it. There is under this perverse system, an equal protection, to Shoot, but it requires both parties to be Armed. Blacks up until this point in time thought we were living in a civilized society, with a rule of law, not the greatest law, but law none the less, that clearly is not the case, at least for us. we must there fore address this imbalance with the tools at hand, The Right Too Arms, which the law gives all freemen. Black Males should fundamentally change our position, on Arms and understand, that we have entered a period where the carrying and using of Arms on us, can only be met in the same manor. I call it humbly, The Equal Opportunity to Kill Declaration, only when Black Males embrace this, and the rest of the Florida law, will change back to sanity take place, I can not claim that this change will take place with no loss of life, or shedding of blood, but considering the present state of things, an equaling of the killing ground will do wonders, to bring about clarity of thought. The new watch word for Black Males should be, Always Armed, and When in Doubt Shoot First, a claim of fear for life is already on the table.

    Bought to you by,” The Society of Vigilance and Reprisal”

  4. Reblogged this on Desisister Jen and commented:
    The acquittal of George Zimmerman shows us what a travesty the US Justice system really is…. as the mother of a young black man, it makes my blood run cold… fantastic article here about the trial and about attitudes and assumptions about Race.. from those who should know a lot better

  5. Pingback: The US Injustice System: Who Wants to be a Black Kid in America Today? | musings from outside the asylum

  6. Just a glimpse of whats in store for Britain under the Tories, I suspect. As with any Public institution that is run by private concerns and funded with the Public Purse, the opportunities for corruption are vast. Lets face it they’ve already destroyed what was once a perfectly good education system. I was taught the same way my father, grandfather probably all of my ancestors were taught, I was taught to do mental mathematics,I suppose it helped wire my brain to the way I think. You only have to look at all the kids these days hanging around on street corners with seemingly nothing to do. Most of them don’t know what respect is, burglars, murderers, even rapists are viewed as some kind of hero. Every-time I think of the education system in this country, I remember an interview on Radio 4, they had the minister for education on and the interviewer asked him, 4 or 5 times what half of a quarter was, he evaded the question every time, he didn’t know the answer. I can’t remember who were involved now, it was quite a while ago. We now have in this country, bad education,unless you can pay of course, closed courts, a corrupt justice system, and privately run prisons. I’m no Einstein, I left school in 1971 at the age of 15, with no qualifications, but there were more jobs in manufacturing, engineering, building, joinery, just about every trade you can think of. You left school and got an apprenticeship, nearly everyone did this, till Thatcher got the idea for slave labour and did away with apprentices, YTS or YOP became the thing. Welcome to the start of the decline of Britain. This megalomaniac destroyed our industries, stopped investment, took away our employment, then blamed us for being unemployed, it’s been going down hill ever since. If you live in a town with almost 12.000 unemployed and only around 300 very low paid jobs on the market, I suspect the crime rate will increase vastly. There aren’t that many shelf stacking jobs available in the many superstores our town now has. .

    • Excellent comment. I read John Campbell’s Thatcher biography and, to the discerning eye, many of her key traits as a person can be labelled sociopathic. She was this country’s nemesis – people voted her in so Britons are to blame, at least partially – and is directly responsible for the economic dissolution of this country, not least in deregulating the financial markets and placing the lives of millions in the hands of no doubt other sociopathic types. England, like America, is rapidly becoming third-world in terms of people’s economic prospects and where respect for the other is now unfashionable and “weak” and the rulers of this country are fascists in all but name, as indeed much of popular television and culture. Mainstream politics, economics and media display unnerving signs of typical psychopathy and this is filtering down into the minds of the population at large, especially the weak minded and the young. Hopefully, in this moral and economic crisis, awareness will increase among the alert minded and correctives to mainstream evils will hopefully continue to be possible, since many people have not yet become secondary psychopaths, i.e. psychopaths from group and cultural influences rather than from genetics.

    • Love your comment. She was in it for the power, not the good of the British people and according to one biographer and the Queen herself lacked empathy. Perhaps she was a psychopath, that breed of human that always seems to end up in power? Any thinking person knows she has caused a lot of harm… We are still finding out how much in 2013 along with her successors’ policies that consolidated her legacy. For me it comes down to local action and personal responsibility in one’s buying choices, one’s internet activity and one’s contribution to others…

  7. More proof, if any was needed, that official America is sociopathic and evil.

    (As an aside, I’ve noticed that the videos you posted aren’t displaying in my browser and my comments are struggling to get through.)

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