In the criminal justice system, sexually-based offenses are considered especially anus


21 Things You Can’t Do While Black?

I just gotta ask: exactly how cowardly ARE all of these racist, armed White men?

Literally, from "dehumanizing stares" from a 14yr old teen 


to loud music, to seeking help after an accident, to walking towards someone or even just walking away from someone…racists and gun creeps™ (particularly in Florida) all seem to be trigger happy & afraid of their own damn shadows

Here is the racial makeup of the jury


I can almost guarantee you that the Black jurors are in a state of disbelief that they are having to fight tooth & nail to explain to the other jurors that, no, there really was no good reason for Michael Dunn’s drive by shooting and, no, loud music actually isn’t a life threatening situation. I really hope that they don’t tire out and give in like B-29 aka “Maddy” did

A hung jury will give the state a second shot at Dunn (although, twice now, in two Stand Your Ground cases, Angela Corey and her prosecution team have flatly refused to openly address what’s at the very heart of this case: abject racism. Dancing around Dunn’s proven hatred of Black people is beyond problematic. It’s infuriatingly frustrating, and it may cause a miscarriage of justice just as it did in the Zimmerman trial…but avoiding attacking Dunn as a racist is actually no different—at all—than how waayyy too many non-Black Americans tend to treat racism IRL: by not talking about it and pretending it isn’t at play. I’m no lawyer, but if Angela Corey and the state of Florida can prosecute & imprison Marissa Alexander for firing a warning shot into a wall without actually injuring anyone, then they also could have charged Michael Dunn with a hate crime)

Existing while Black should not be a legally sanctioned reason to be murdered in cold blood and this needs to stop 

I hope Jordan Davis and his family get the justice they all deserve 

Closing thought: don’t avoid jury duty


Above: American prisons. Below: Swedish prison

While America’s prisons are overcrowded, Sweden is shutting them down

While the land of the free is spending more on criminals and locking more people up than ever, Sweden is eliminating prisons and minimizing its prison population. The Swedes were able to close four prisons when its inmate population dropped 6% between 2011 and 2012.

Here’s how they did it.

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Stanley Wrice, 59, gave a thumbs up as he was released from the Pontiac Correctional Center after Cook County Judge Richard Walsh overturned his conviction this week saying officers lied about how they treated him.

Not alone: Wrice was sentenced to 100 yeas in prison in 1982 after he says two former officers beat him with a flashlight and a 20-inch piece of rubber the same weapons, lawyers say the two implicated cops used on others.

I Got Myself Arrested So I Could Look Inside the Justice System

Ten years ago, when I started my career as an assistant district attorney in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, I viewed the American criminal justice system as a vital institution that protected society from dangerous people. I once prosecuted a man for brutally attacking his wife with a flashlight, and another for sexually assaulting a waitress at a nightclub. I believed in the system for good reason.

But in between the important cases, I found myself spending most of my time prosecuting people of color for things we white kids did with impunity growing up in the suburbs. As our office handed down arrest records and probation terms for riding dirt bikes in the street, cutting through a neighbor’s yard, hosting loud parties, fighting, or smoking weed – shenanigans that had rarely earned my own classmates anything more than raised eyebrows and scoldings – I often wondered if there was a side of the justice system that we never saw in the suburbs. Last year, I got myself arrested in New York City and found out.

Read more. [Image: Bobby Constantino]

'After an analysis of a random sample of hip hop songs released on platinum-selling albums between 2000 and 2010 [it was] concluded that the main law enforcement-related themes in hip-hop are not pleasure and pride in aggressive and criminal acts, but the unfairness of the criminal justice system and the powerlessness felt by those targeted by it. Lyrics about law enforcement...frequently portrayed cops as predators exercising an illegitimate power. Imprisonment, likewise, was blamed for weakening familial and community relationships and described a modern method of oppression.'


Troy Davis Letter
“To All” – A message from Troy Anthony Davis

To All:

I want to thank all of you for your efforts and dedication to Human Rights and Human Kindness, in the past year I have experienced such emotion, joy, sadness and never ending faith. It is because of all of you that I am alive today, as I look at my sister Martina I am marveled by the love she has for me and of course I worry about her and her health, but as she tells me she is the eldest and she will not back down from this fight to save my life and prove to the world that I am innocent of this terrible crime.

As I look at my mail from across the globe, from places I have never ever dreamed I would know about and people speaking languages and expressing cultures and religions I could only hope to one day see first hand. I am humbled by the emotion that fills my heart with overwhelming, overflowing Joy. I can’t even explain the insurgence of emotion I feel when I try to express the strength I draw from you all, it compounds my faith and it shows me yet again that this is not a case about the death penalty, this is not a case about Troy Davis, this is a case about Justice and the Human Spirit to see Justice prevail.

I cannot answer all of your letters but I do read them all, I cannot see you all but I can imagine your faces, I cannot hear you speak but your letters take me to the far reaches of the world, I cannot touch you physically but I feel your warmth everyday I exist.

So Thank you and remember I am in a place where execution can only destroy your physical form but because of my faith in God, my family and all of you I have been spiritually free for some time and no matter what happens in the days, weeks to come, this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated. There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this Unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.

I can’t wait to Stand with you, no matter if that is in physical or spiritual form, I will one day be announcing,


Never Stop Fighting for Justice and We will Win!

Here’s another one you need to be reminded of after this.

Compared to a white person who kills another white person, a white person who kills a Black person is 3.54 times more likely to have that murder justified. If a Black person kills a white person, they are much less likely to be justified by our courts. If a Black person kills a Black person, again that likelihood as compared to whites killing whites is much less. You will see that it’s broken down by SYG vs Not…and there’s no HUGE difference for Black on white… And still 250% for white on Black in non Stand Your Ground cases.

This references PBS’ Is There Racial Bias In SYG Laws

Women who kill in self-defense while their husbands are violently attacking them are increasingly able to avoid jail time. The problem, however, is that women are typically weaker and smaller than their [male] mates, and have difficulty defending themselves in the midst of a violent attack. As a consequence, many abused and battered women choose a time to kill when their partner is more vulnerable, such as when he is drunk or asleep. Because the laws typically state that a person’s life has to be in imminent danger to invoke self-defense, defense lawyers often have a difficult time convincing juries that a battered woman who waited until her husband fell asleep was actually acting in self-defense. The majority of such women end up being convicted, typically receiving sentences that range from four to twenty-five years.

Buss, David. "The Murderer Next Door: Why The Mind Is Designed To Kill." Penguin Press; New York, 2005. (p. 109 - 110)

As many as 90% of women in prison for killing a man were battered by those men, and whereas men are sentenced 2-6 years on average for killing their intimate partners, women are sentenced on average 15 years for killing their partners.
Many cisgender people still see misgendering as an offence to one’s feelings and nothing more, and this conceit makes it easier to believe that gendering someone appropriately is a reward cookie that can be taken away at will—doled out when you approve of a trans person’s behaviour, taken away when you think they have been naughty (as one might think of, say, a trans woman in immigration detention).

But this is about considerably more than hurt feelings, and it always has been. Misgendering is, empirically, the spearpoint of material harm, as Edison’s case clearly demonstrates: because her gender was up for debate, she was sent to a men’s prison where she was at great risk of suffering terrible violence, a fact acknowledged by the prison officials themselves

Theater of Justice: Courtrooms Are Violent Stages Where ‘Justice’ Is Rarely Found

Last week, I sketched an evidentiary hearing for a woman named Cecily McMillan.

Two years ago, I’d seen Cecily convulse in handcuffs as the police shut down an Occupy Wall Street protest. Cecily was an organizer. A plain-clothes cop had grabbed her breast from behind, hard enough to leave a bruise shaped like his handprint. Instinctively, she elbowed him. Most women would do the same if a man grabbed them from behind.

The cops beat Cecily till they broke her ribs. As she had a seizure on the pavement, the crowd screamed for the police to call 911. The police just watched.

Two years later, Cecily is charged with assaulting an officer. She faces seven years in prison.

In that fake-wood courtroom in lower Manhattan, the judge told Cecily’s lawyer the fact that her arresting officer had beaten up other people was not relevant to her case. His records would be sealed. Afterward, addressing her supporters, Cecily tried to hide the tremor in her voice.

Courtrooms are a violent theater. The violence happens off-scene: in Rikers Island where a homeless man recently baked to death; in the shackles and beatings and the years far from everything you love. But the courtroom itself is the performative space, the stage where the best story triumphs, and where all parties, except (usually) the defendant, are just playing parts.


How Nonviolent People Are Sentenced to Die in Prison Because of the War on Drugs

In the United States, one can be sentenced to life in prison for the following crimes:

  • Possessing a crack pipe
  • Possessing a bottle cap containing a trace amount of heroin (too minute to be weighed)
  • Having traces of cocaine in clothes pockets that were invisible to the naked eye but detected in lab tests
  • Having a single crack rock at home
  • Possessing 32 grams of marijuana (worth about $380 in California) with intent to distribute
  • Passing out several grams of LSD at a Grateful Dead show
  • Acting as a go-between in the sale of $10 worth of marijuana to an undercover cop
  • Selling a single crack rock
  • Having a stash of over-the-counter decongestant pills

These are not hypothetical. Every single one of these petty, nonviolent drug crimes have landed Americans in prison for life without parole.

Life in prison without a chance of parole is, short of execution, the harshest imaginable punishment. Life without parole (LWOP) is permanent removal from society with no chance of reentry, no hope of freedom. One would expect the American criminal justice system to condemn someone to die in prison only for the most serious offenses.

Yet across the country, thousands of people are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for nonviolent crimes such as those listed above. 

As of last year, 3,278 people were serving life in prison without parole for nonviolent crimes, according to a report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last week.

And to no one’s surprise, about 79 percent of the 3,278 prisoners serving LWOP were sentenced to die in prison for nonviolent drug crimes in the federal system.

How is this possible?

Mandatory sentencing laws that stem from America’s fervent, decades-long crusade against drugs.

The vast majority (83 percent) of life sentences examined by the ACLU were mandatory, meaning that the presiding judge had no choice but to sentence the defendant to a life behind bars. Mandatory sentences often result from repeat offender laws and draconian sentencing rules. Such federal standards for drug convictions are what land nonviolent criminals in prison for LWOP.

The prevalence of LWOP sentences for nonviolent offenses is a symptom of the relentless onslaught of more than four decades of the War on Drugs and “tough-on crime” policies, which drove the passage of unnecessarily harsh sentencing laws, including three-strikes provisions (which mandate certain sentences for a third felony conviction) and mandatory minimum sentences (which require judges to punish people convicted of certain crimes by at least a mandatory minimum number of years in prison). 

These inflexible, often extremely lengthy, “one-size-fits-all” sentencing laws prevent judges from tailoring punishment to the individual and the seriousness of the offense, barring them from considering factors such as the individual’s role in the offense or the likelihood that he or she will commit a subsequent crime.

Federal judges have long been outspoken in their opposition to mandatory sentencing laws. Judge Andre M. Davis of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote: "I say with certainty that mandatory minimums are unfair and unjust. These laws, created by an overzealous Congress decades ago … hinder judges from handing out fair and individualized sentences, while prosecutors are given unwarranted power to dictate sentences through charging decisions."

How do petty drug crimes add up to life without parole?

Three federal drug offenses can result in LWOP, even if the offenses are relatively minor. For example, a federal conviction for possessing 50 grams of methamphetamine carries a mandatory life-without-parole sentence if the defendant has previously been convicted of two other felony drug offenses, which can be as minor as selling personal amounts of marijuana.

A handful of states have instituted mandatory LWOP sentences for certain drug offenses. In Alabama, a conviction for selling more than 56 grams of heroin results in a mandatory LWOP sentence. Similarly, a person convicted of selling two ounces of cocaine in Mississippi must receive LWOP. To put these sentences in perspective, the average time served for murder in the U.S. is 14 years.

While laws such as these were enacted in part out of concern about drug abuse and drug-related crime, the penalties they prescribe have not succeeded in curbing drug use or addiction rates, which have essentially remained flat for 40 years. Instead, the laws have contributed to mass incarceration in the U.S. 

The ACLU report contains the in-depth stories of 110 individual prisoners waiting to die behind bars for nonviolent offenses, along with more detailed information about mandatory sentencing.

Thanks to Mother Jones and the ACLU

Today I found out that the USC Halloween shooter was given 40 years to life for his crime. My first reaction was, “omg, that’s a long time. his life is over.” The emotion I felt was distant and dulled because I was already mentally filing it away as another sad story of a young black male throwing his life away over gang related mess. Then, I saw the picture. Then, I watched the video.

What I saw was a young man see his life flash in front of his eyes. I saw a young man see the world come crashing down around him. It was a death sentence. A fatal decision 2 Halloweens ago would now be the reason that he may never see freedom again. 

It was too much for me to take. 40 years to life, for someone who had no criminal record, and didn’t kill anyone is outrageous. It is unfair, draconian, unnecessary, and just plain wrong. 

The same system that let Zimmerman walk free and told a young white boy that he can’t go to prison because he’s too rich and spoiled, just struck again. The same system that told a man that raped his 3-year-old daughter that he didn’t deserve prison, struck again. 

What pains me the most is the amount of people who have this “lock em’ up and throw the key mentality.” Who honestly believe that it is better to harp on this young man for the terrible thing he did and leave the criminal justice system uncriticized. Not me.

This is not about whether we should prosecute him for what he did. Of course we should. This is about why we are prosecuting him in this way as if this prison sentence does anything to solve our problems in the long run. 40 years to life doesn’t question the validity of harsh gang enhancements. The same gang enhancements that can add up to 10 years on a sentence (violent or non-violent). 40 years to life doesn’t question our overcrowded, cruel and unusual prisons. 40 years to life DEFINITELY doesn’t question the racial disparity in sentencing. 

My goal is to bring nuance to our discussion of crime, gang violence, and who we deem worthy of our concern. Not every black person railroaded by the criminal justice system is going to be innocent, but that doesn’t mean we dull our sense of empathy. 

Accepting his sentence as just gives a concept of retribution to the victims, but it doesn’t help us as a society. It doesn’t.

I choose leniency. I choose looking at this from all sides. I choose rehabilitation. I choose compassion and mercy. I choose fairness and true justice.

This was NOT justice. Justice doesn’t exist in a system that gives black and Latino defendants harsher sentences than white defendants who have the same or similar crimes. 

What this young man did was wrong and there are consequences, but the moment we shut off all sense of compassion and empathy in favor of tough prison sentences, we lose a little piece of our humanity. Deep down, we must know this isn’t fair.