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The Prison Industrial Complex in Mississippi

1930’s pictures of black men on the Chain Gang in the South are a icon of how black people were persecuted and forced to work in virtual slavery under Jim Crow.

While the Chin Gang may (or not) be gone, incarceration as a social tool and meas of oppression is not. Mississippi has third highest incarceration rate in the US, placing it solidly ahead of even repressive regimes around the world and communist countries.

Mississippi Jails Are Losing Inmates, And Local Officials Are ‘Devastated’ By The Loss Of Revenue

“If they do not send us our inmates back, we can’t make it,” said one county supervisor.

County officials across Mississippi are warning of job losses and deep deficits as local jails are being deprived of the state inmates needed to keep them afloat. The culprit, say local officials, is state government and private prisons, which are looking to boost their own revenue as sentencing and drug-policy reforms are sending fewer bodies into the correctional system.

In the late 1990s, as the overcrowded Mississippi prison system buckled under the weight of mass incarceration, the state asked local governments to build local correctional institutions to house state prisoners. It was billed as a win-win: The Mississippi Department of Correction would foot the bill for each prisoner, and the counties would get good jobs guarding them. The state guaranteed that the local jails would never be less than 80 percent occupied, and the locals would get a 3 percent boost in compensation each year.

After a few years, say local officials, the state offered a new deal: Instead of the 3 percent bump, they would give the locals more and more prisoners, thus boosting total revenue. Today, the state pays $29.74 per day per prisoner to the regional facilities, a deal that worked for everybody as long as the buildings were stuffed full with bodies.

Scott Strickland, president of the Stone County Board of Supervisors, said reforms at the state and local levels have shrunk the prison population. “Federal laws took some part in that — allowing prisoners to serve only a certain percentage of their term,” he said. “Also, they’ve reduced prison sentences for certain drug-related offenses.”

As the wave of mass incarceration begins to recede, the Mississippi controversy has local and state officials talking openly about how harmful locking up fewer people up will be for the economy, confirming the suspicions of those who have argued that mass incarceration is not merely a strategy directed at crime prevention. “Under the administrations of Reagan and Clinton, incarceration, a social tool used for punishment, also became a major job creator,” Antonio Moore, a producer of the documentary “Crack in the System,” wrote recently.

“I don’t think it necessarily started out this way, but the inmate population has become the backbone of some of these counties that are involved,” said Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher as the controversy heated up.

The prisoners have value beyond the per diem, county officials add, when they can be put to work. State prisoners do garbage pickup, lawn maintenance and other manual labor that taxpayers would otherwise have to pay for. Convict labor has made it easier for local governments to absorb never-ending cuts in state funding, as tea party legislators and governors slash budgets in the name of conservative government.

The state knows it, and now demands that local jails house state convicts who perform labor for free, George County Supervisor Henry Cochran told The Huffington Post. The counties take the deal. “You’re either gonna go up on everybody’s garbage bill, or you’ve gotta house those inmates,” Cochran said. “You’re using that inmate labor, so [taxpayers are] getting a little good out of that inmate for their tax dollars. You either gotta hire a bunch of employees or keep that inmate. It’s like making a deal with the devil.”

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2016 in The New Jim Crow

 

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Black Man Arrested and Tased by Cops…For Loud Music

Another case of what should have been a simple warning escalating into violence…

While I certainly don’t buy the excuse “my brakes are broken”, I also can’t buy the rapid escalation by the Police for what is a “nuisance” ticket.

‘I ain’t resisting, bro!’: Cops drag black man from his car and shock him with a Taser for playing loud music

The Mississippi County NAACP is asking for an investigation after police officers pulled a black man from his car before Tasering and pepper spraying him for playing music too loud, WREG is reporting.

Patrick Newbern has been charged with a violation of the city noise ordinance, fleeing by vehicle and resisting arrest after police attempted to cite him in a convenience store parking lot on Easter morning.

In video captured by a Blytheville police officer’s body camera, the officer accosts Newbern in the parking lot, then instructs him to stay put while he writes up a citation.

Newbern begins to drive out of the parking lot, but stops at which point an officer can be heard saying, “Get his ass out of the car.”

As he explains to the officers that his brakes don’t work, they begin pulling him from the car without allowing him to unbuckle his seat belt.

He is immediately thrown to the ground as one officer is seen pressing a Taser into his back. As he screams in agony, another officer pepper sprays him before he is held face down where he can be heard yelling “I can’t see!”

During the struggle, Newbern can also be heard saying, ‘I ain’t resisting, bro!” — a cry repeated by a crowd that soon surrounds the arrest as additional officers hold out pepper spray cans and instruct people to stay back.

According to Newbern, the police never gave him a chance to get out of the car.

“When you ask me to get out the car, you open up the door snatching me out the car without letting me get out my seat belt,” Newbern said. “How can I get out the car in my seat belt?”

He added, “I see another Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin situation if you ask me.”

Police say that Newbern was resisting arrest and reached for the officer’s weapon.

Tony Hollis, president of the Mississippi County Chapter of the NAACP, said he was disgusted by what he saw in the video, stating, “As soon as I saw the video, it made me sick to my stomach.”

Hollis has called for a rally and demanded the officer be disciplined.

A spokesperson for the Blytheville Police Department was expected to make a statement on Monday.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2016 in BlackLivesMatter

 

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Candidates Draw Straws for Seat After Electoral Tie in Mississippi

Turns out that in the event of an electoral tie, where equal votes are cast for both candidates – some state allow a coin toss or drawing a straw to decide the matter. It is a lot less expensive than holding an entire new election. Perhaps an Act of God, or just sheer luck will save the state from going down the rabbit hole like Kansas and Louisiana with failed conservative economic policy. Mississippi is already the poorest state in the Union…At least the Rethugs don’t get to turn it into a 3rd world hell hole….Yet.

Democrat Wins Mississippi House Race After Drawing Straw

Candidates Tullos (l) and Eaton (2nd from l) Drawing Strawa

Sometimes American politics is about ideas, powered by Jeffersons and Adamses and Reagans. Sometimes it is about strategy, with races determined by the chess-match machinations of Axelrods and Roves.

But every once in a while, the fate of governments is determined by a considerably less eminent character, one usually found lurking in back-alley craps games and on the Vegas strip: Lady Luck.

In Mississippi on Friday, luck smiled on a Democratic state representative, Blaine Eaton II, who had been forced, by state law, to draw straws for his seat after his race for re-election ended in a tie. On Friday afternoon, in a short, strange ceremony here presided over by Gov. Phil Bryant and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, Mr. Eaton and his Republican challenger, Mark Tullos, each removed a box from a bag. Mr. Eaton opened his box to reveal a long green straw.

And with that, a mathematically improbable tie for the House District 79 seat — each candidate had received exactly 4,589 votes — had been broken, though not by the voters.

Moments after winning, Mr. Eaton, who raises cattle and grows timber and soybeans, attributed his win to a farmer’s luck. “There’s always happiness in a good crop year,” he said.

An attorney for Mr. Tullos said that a challenge had been filed with the State House of Representatives. Mr. Tullos, a lawyer, declined to comment but had said he planned a challenge if he lost the draw. He had cited concerns about the way a county election board handled nine paper “affidavit ballots” filed by voters who believed their names were erroneously left off the voter rolls.

Resorting to a game of chance to break an electoral tie is common in many states, and coin tosses are often used to settle smaller local races. But in few instances had the pot as rich as this: If Mr. Tullos had won, his fellow Republicans would have gain a three-fifths supermajority in the State House of Representatives, the threshold required to pass revenue-related bills.

At stake, potentially, was hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue. The three-fifths requirement has allowed the Democratic minority to block Republican tax-cut proposals in the past on the grounds that Mississippi needs the revenue to finance schools and other services. Republicans, who also control the State Senate and governor’s mansion, say the cuts, including a proposal to phase out the state’s corporate franchise tax, will jump-start the economy and promote job growth….Read the Rest Here

 

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confederate Bombs Walmart For Not Selling Confederate Flag

“Heritage not Hate”?

Since Walmart and other stores have decided against selling confederate flags…This “upstanding citizen” decided to throw a bomb into a WalMart store…

Confederate flag lover throws bomb inside Walmart after online threat: ‘No messing around anymore’

A Mississippi man was arrested on Sunday morning for allegedly throwing a bomb inside a Walmart just days after threatening the retail giant and other businesses for refusing to sell Confederate battle flags.

According to the Tupelo Daily Journal, 61-year-old Marshall W. Leonard will be charged with placing an explosive device after allegedly throwing it inside a local Walmart.

“There was an employee on break, and the suspect told him, ‘You better run,’ Police Chief Bart Aguirre said. “The employee did run and was away from harm when the package went off. It wasn’t a large explosion. It didn’t cause a lot of damage to the store.”

Leonard named Walmart and the Daily Journal as targets in an Oct. 28 post on the newspaper’s Facebook page.

“Journal corporate, you are on final warning,” he wrote Oct. 28. “You are part of the problem. As a result of this, y’all are going down, along with Walmart, WTVA, Reeds department store, and all the rest of the anti-American crooks. I’m not kidding. No messing around anymore!”

Leonard told WAPT-TV last month that the flag, which has been derided as a symbol of slavery and oppression, had nothing to do with race.

“Changing the state flag isn’t going to change nothing,” said Leonard, who opposed a bill that would remove the symbol from the Mississippi state flag. “There’s still always going to be hate. There will still always be racism.”

WTVA-TV reported that Leonard was kicked out of the Confederate flag advocacy group Mississippi On Guard in August after protesting at a Tupelo City Council meeting while being draped in the flag.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2015 in Domestic terrorism

 

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Highway Robbery…And Debtors Prison

One of the problems with the Great White Wing Tax Giveaway is the municipalities are increasingly strapped for cash to pay for basic services. Heaven forbid that the very clowns who voted to cut taxes to the point their jurisdictions are insolvent (Louisiana and Kansas to mention a few states whose Republican Governors and legislatures have led them down that desolate garden path), pay any of the costs.As such, along with other failed draconian measures like requiring that Welfare recipients be Drug Tested (In Tennessee, Out of more than 16,000 applicants from the beginning of July through the end of 2014, just 37 tested positive for illegal drug use, meaning only .2% – which is mirrored by results in other White Right states), the concept supported by the White Wingers has been to shift the tax burden onto the poor through increasingly punitive and regressive measures…

Never mind those poor folks wouldn’t be poor if they could afford to pay the bill in the first place, or that the State has become the singular major hurdle for most of these folks to build any sort of financial nest egg to escape poverty.

In most Reprobate run states, this takes the form of massively escalating fines and penalties for civic and traffic fines. Can’t pay your $100 in Car/property tax on time? Well you now owe $300.

Got a Parking Ticket? They used to be $20…Now they are $100. And in the case of one municipality near where I live, they jacked them to $300, until the local businesses complained about the drop in revenue from shoppers who chose to shop elsewhere rather than risk the Meter Nazis. In any event, that Parking Ticket, now $50 – just doubled or tripled if you can’t pay the fine. As extreme, but not uncommon as the situation in Ferguson, Mo, as described in the Ferguson Commission Report, the poor are the overwhelming victims of these punitive measures. Measure which further erode the public trust.

Biloxi, Mississippi, apparently yearning for the long gone days of real slavery – takes it a step further by jailing debtors.

Meaning they have now just lost their $8.00 an hour jobs, putting them further in the hole.

One of the reasons for the American Revolution was just this kind of shit.

Qumotria Kennedy, 36, stands at the baseball field in downtown Biloxi where she works as a contract maintenance employee, making just $10 an hour one to two days per week.

 

A poor single mother seeks justice against Biloxi after she was imprisoned for not paying $400 in court fees, a practice that systematically criminalizes poverty

Qumotria Kennedy, a 36-year-old single mother with teenage kids from Biloxi,Mississippi, was driving around the city with a friend in July when they were pulled over by police for allegedly running a stop sign. Though Kennedy was the passenger, her name was put through a police database that flashed up a warrant for her arrest on charges that she failed to pay $400 in court fines.

The fines were for other traffic violations dating back to 2013. At that time, Kennedy says she told her probation officers – a private company called Judicial Corrections Services Inc (JCS) – that she was so poor there was no way she could find the money.

She worked as a cleaner at the baseball field in downtown Biloxi, earning less than $9,000 a year – well below the federal poverty level for a single person, let alone a mother of two dependent children. Her plea fell on deaf ears: a JCS official told her that unless she paid her fines in full, as well as a $40 monthly fee to JCS for the privilege of having them as her probation officers, she would go to jail – an arrest warrant was duly secured to that effect through the Biloxi municipal court.

Nor was Kennedy’s inability to pay her fines as a result of poverty taken into account by the police officer when he stopped her in July, she said. Discovering the arrest warrant, he promptly put her in handcuffs and took her to a Gulfport jail.

There she was told that unless she came up with all the money – by now the figure had bloated as a result of JCS’s monthly fees to $1,000 – she would stay in jail. And so she did. Kennedy spent the next five days and nights in a holding cell.

“It was filthy,” she told the Guardian. “The toilet wasn’t working, there was no hot water and I was put in the cell with a woman who had stabbed her husband, so I was scared the entire time. For the first three days, they wouldn’t even let me tell my kids where I was.”

Kennedy is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit lodged on Wednesday with a federal district court in Gulfport against the city of Biloxi, its police department, the municipal court system and the private probation company JCS. The filing, drawn up by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), claims that the agencies collectively conspired to create a modern form of debtors’ prison as a ruse to extract cash from those least able to afford it – the city’s poor.

In a statement, the city of Biloxi said it had not yet seen the lawsuit but insisted that it treated all defendants fairly. “We believe the ACLU is mistaken about the process in Biloxi,” the city said. “The court has used community service in cases where defendants are unable to pay their fines.”

A request for comment from the Guardian to JCS was not immediately answered.

Kennedy v City of Biloxi discloses that between September 2014 and March this year, at least 415 people were put in jail under warrants charging them with failure to pay fines owed to the city. According to court records, none of these 415 people had the money available when they were locked up.

Nusrat Choudhury, an ACLU attorney involved in the lawsuit, called the Biloxi system “a debtors’ prison from the dark ages”. She said that people were being “arrested at traffic stops and in their homes, taken to jail and subjected to a jailhouse shakedown. They are told that unless they pay the full amount they will stay inside for days”.

That’s not just an idle threat. One of the plaintiffs in Kennedy v City of Biloxi, a 51-year-old homeless man named Richard Tillery, spent 30 days in jail for failure to pay fines for misdemeanors that mainly related to his homelessness and poverty. Another of the plaintiffs, Joseph Anderson, 52, who was physically disabled having had four heart attacks, was handcuffed in front of his girlfriend and her son and put in jail for seven nights for failure to pay a $170 police ticket for speeding.

Debtors’ prisons were abolished in the United States almost two centuries ago. The informal practice of incarcerating people who cannot pay fines or fees was also explicitly outlawed by the US supreme court in 1983 in a ruling that stated that to punish an individual for their poverty was a violation of the 14th amendment of the US constitution that ensures equal protection under the law.

In that judgment, the nation’s highest court ordered all authorities across the country to consider an individual’s ability to pay before jailing them or sentencing them to terms of imprisonment. Yet the plaintiffs in the Biloxi lawsuit all found themselves carted straight to jail without any prior legal hearing and with no representation by a lawyer – a fast-tracking to detention that the complaint argues is a flagrant abuse of the supreme court’s ruling, now more than 30 years old.

The pattern of judicial behavior outlined in Kennedy v City of Biloxi is replicated throughout the US as local authorities seeking new revenue sources jail their poor citizens, allegedly as a way of intimidating them to hand over money they do not have. In 2010, the ACLU exposed similar practices they say are akin to modern-day debtors’ prisons in Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio and Washington. Lawsuits have followed, with Georgia and Washington both being sued this year.

At its most extreme, the incarceration of poor debtors can cost them their lives. Last month David Stojcevski, 32, died in a Detroit jail 16 days into a 30-day sentence for failing to pay a $772 fine for careless driving – a sum which he could not afford, his family said. Ray Staten died in 2011 in the same Gulfport jail in which Qumotria Kennedy was held five days after he was locked up for failure to pay a $409 court fine.

There is no nationwide database of the syndrome of pay-or-stay incarceration, but Choudhury said that anecdotal evidence pointed to a growth in the practice in recent years. “We see cities relying increasingly on court fines and fees as a way of generating revenue.”

In Biloxi, a town of 44,000, the amount of money raised is disclosed in the budget of the city’s municipal court general fund. In the 2014-15 budget it was $1.27m; in the 2015-2016 budget it had risen to $1.45m.

Yet census data from the American Community Survey shows that the percentage of the city’s population that lives below the federal poverty level doubled between 2009 and 2013, from 13% to 28%.

That makes people like Qumotria Kennedy increasingly vulnerable to the trap set for them – pay up or go to jail. As a result of her jail time in July, she lost her job at the MGM Park baseball fields having failed to turn up for work and currently she only gets one or two days cleaning a week.

A judge at the municipal court placed her on 12 months’ probation under a new private company – JCS having ceased to operate in Mississippi – and she is still clocking up an additional $40 a month in fees owing to them. Her current burden to the city, rising with every month that passes, stands at $1,251; unless she can find a new, well-paying job and begin to pay off the fines soon, she faces a return to the holding cell.

“The probation person told me if I don’t pay it, I will be arrested again sooner or later,” Kennedy said. “I don’t believe this is right. I just hope other people in the world don’t get treated like I have.”

 

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Republican in Mississippi Lets Racist Cat Out of the Bag

Yep…Dem ebil black folks is going to steal you hard workin’ white folks money…

Busted: Watch Mississippi lawmaker openly race-baiting at GOP rally to oppose black school funding

Video shot by a local radio broadcaster caught Republican Mississippi state Rep. Bubba Carpenter using racial language to suggest to fellow Republicans that a ballot initiative to improve education was actually a plot to fund black schools at a cost to white schools.

The Clarion-Ledger reported that Carpenter was filmed by WMRG while speaking to the Tishomingo County Midway Republican Rally about the danger of Initiative 42, which would give a Hinds County judge control of school funding if the Mississippi legislature failed to lift the state from its last place national ranking on education.

According to the Clarion-Ledger, Republicans in the state had been using the phrase “Hinds County judge” as a racial dog whistle because the county is predominately black and has two female black judges.

But Carpenter dropped the coded language in a plea to defeat the initiative.

“If 42 passes in its form, a judge in Hinds County, Mississippi, predominantly black — it’s going to be a black judge — they’re going to tell us where the state education money goes,” the lawmaker warned. “So what’s he going to do? ‘[Predominately white] Tishomingo County, you’ve got a little bit of extra money, we’re going to take a little bit of that — I can see the happening, it may not, but I can see it — we’re going to help [schools in predominately black] Rolling Fork because they don’t have as good a tax base as you guys do, so we’re going take a little bit of that money and we’re going to to transition it to Rolling Fork.’”

Carpenter promised the crowd that Gov. Phil Bryant and other top Republicans would “tell you the same thing.”

“There it is, folks,” the Clarion-Ledger‘s Sam Hall wrote. “Let’s all thank Bubba Carpenter for saying what he means and illustrating to the world the filthy rhetoric that still passes for political discourse by some here.”

 

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Freedom Summer

For folks too young to be fully aware of what happened in the Civil Rights Movement, and grew up after the violent pernicious legalized Jim Crow racism of the 50’s and 60’s – this documentary chronicles Mississippi in 1964, through a period called Freedom Summer. One of the interesting aspects some young folks are unaware of, of this is what the segregationists did to their neighborhood white folks who in any way showed support for any of the Civil Rights groups, or even aiding people caught in the crossfire at the 1 hour mark.

The modern Republican Party in the South are the descendants of these very segregationist whites who bombed home, churches – beat and murdered Civil Rights proponents both black and white. And while their public vitriol is hidden now – they really have not changed. These are the folks who have assumed control of a large segment of the Party, and are the reason for the racial dog-whistle politics.

 

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