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Category Archives: Victimless Crimes
Posted: May 2, 2020 at 7:42 pm
The coronavirus infection spreading across the United States prison system is throwing Ross Ulbrichts confinement into sharp relief.
Found guilty of seven charges including money laundering, conspiracy to traffic narcotics and computer hacking, the controversial founder of the Silk Road is currently serving a double life sentence plus 40 years, without the possibility of parole.
As the pandemic worsens conditions for the nations large prison population, Ross spends 22 hours a day behind bars in Tucson, Ariz., where hes currently being held. Outside visits are stopped so Rosss mother, Lyn, and other loved ones, who work tirelessly for his release, are unable to act as Ross lifeline to the outside world. And Ross stands a good chance of being infected, with rates in his part of the system running four times the New York average.
Because of the nature of his crime, Ross is not allowed access to a computer or the internet, not even to check his email. So he spends his time writing, reading and meditating, his mother said, and calling home.
Even though Ross is a grown man, I'm still a mom and can't help reminding him to drink lots of water, wash his hands and take vitamin C when he calls," Lyn Ulbricht said. "He assures me he's doing all that and I don't need to worry, but it's hard under these circumstances. Prisons are probably the most at-risk places for contracting the virus."
The Silk Road holds a storied position in Bitcoins history. Named after the ancient trade routes that connected East to West, the online emporium became the currencys first proven link to the world of internet commerce (it even introduced some well-known crypto folk to bitcoin). Anonymized shoppers could buy anything, as long as it didn't harm a third party, from fake IDs to opioids, or any narcotic, as well as spyware, art and books. For Ulbricht, the innovation wasnt what was sold, but how: voluntary exchange.
What were doing isnt about scoring drugs or sticking it to the man. Its about standing up for our rights as human beings and refusing to submit when weve done no wrong, the Silk Road founder, then operating under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts, said in an interview with Forbes. (It should be said: Lyn and Ross both maintain this quote is not his. Nor has Forbes has not attributed this quote to Ross.)
Despite his alleged crimes, Ulbricht has become a folk hero in libertarian and crypto circles. Ross is an amazing entrepreneur who helped make the world a better place, Roger Ver, founder of Bitcoin.com, said in a direct message. Ver is among thousands of supporters who have fomented a movement seeking to liberate Ulbricht (with the hashtag #freeross).
And the coronavirus crisis could accelerate this process. It certainly doesnt seem like it can hurt his cause, Ver said.
Close, unsanitary quarters are hotbeds for viral infection. Worse, throughout the pandemic prisoners have had limited access to protective or hygienic products and, sometimes, lack basic medical care. These conditions have activists, politicians and even Attorney General William Barr calling for the temporary release of at-risk populations. Others are pushing harder for the amnesty of all non-violent offenders.
The call for criminal justice reform amid a global pandemic echoes the issues the Free Ross campaign has been championing for years.
Begging the system that put him in prison to now take him out seems like an uphill battle
Theres been a lot more attention brought to the subject [of prison reform], said Lyn Ulbricht. There are many people serving horrific sentences in our country now for nonviolent crimes. It shouldn't be like that. We're the biggest incarcerator in the world. That's a national disgrace.
Lyn Ulbricht is the organizing force behind the loosely coordinated campaign seeking her sons release. In 2013, when the 29-year-old Ulbricht was arrested, she created the FreeRoss.org website to raise awareness and funds for his bail, which was ultimately rebuked.
In 2015, ahead of and during the 11-week federal trial held at the Southern District of New York, Lyn spoke frequently at conferences, to media and online arguing Ross case had wide implications for the future of internet commerce, First and Fourth amendment rights and criminal justice.
Then, in 2017, after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld Ross conviction and sentence essentially eliminating any chance of legal recourse she began seeking clemency through political means. This effort has culminated in a petition directed at President Trump, asking him issue Ulbricht a commutation. The most recent petition has received over 280,00 signatures.
Many who agitate on Ross behalf see his case as representative of the totality of crimes committed through mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex.
We should support anyone who is being persecuted for victimless crimes, Roger Ver said. The police, prosecutors and judges are the ones who are the criminal aggressors in this case, and the world should speak out against them just like we now speak out against the runaway slave catchers of the past.
While Ver had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Freedom Fund He made it possible for us to go to trial, Lyn said he remains pessimistic about the political process. Begging the system that put him in prison to now take him out seems like an uphill battle, he said. This is something Lyn Ulbricht reluctantly admits.
Despite her efforts to reach the Trump administration, his family and even Kim Kardashian who successfully lobbied the president to release a 63-year-old woman serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug conviction she has had little success.
Its difficult to coordinate efforts. Ive tried to reach out but its not easy to get to them, she said. While she thinks Trump has shown an inclination to reform the justice system with the First Step Act, its a matter of convincing President Trump this is something that is worthy of his attention and mercy.
That doesnt mean she lacks hope. Trump makes instinctual decisions, she said, adding, Anyone who looks at the sentence can see it's wrong. Ulbricht was a first-time offender, convicted on non-violent charges in a trial that shows some signs of malpractice. The charges listed in Ross original indictment wouldve, at minimum, landed him a 30-year prison sentence.
A more lenient sentence would be in line with what busted merchants on the Silk Road have been handed. Not to mention the former U.S. Secret Service agent who skimmed bitcoin from the site while participating in federal investigation to uncover its founder. Instead, Ulbricht received a punishment Lyn argues is unconstitutional.
The Eighth Amendment says no cruel or unusual punishment and this is very unusual for a first time nonviolent offender, and it's certainly cruel, she said. While the conviction has opened her mind to the possible injustices of the law, its something all her hopes are tied to.
[Trump] can sign a piece of paper and Ross would walk out the door, she said.
Criminal justice reform
Seven years ago, Ulbricht found himself behind bars at New Yorks Metropolitan Detention Center while awaiting trial. Today, this municipal prison system has an infection rate of more than 9 percent, according to the Legal Aid Society. This is compared to the 2 percent infection rate on the citys streets.
Prisoners across the country report they are unable to practice social distancing or even properly wash their hands. Found wanting before the outbreak, prison medical care is reportedly incapable of managing a prison outbreak. In a memo to the Bureau of Prisons, Attorney General Barr confirmed the virus is materially affecting operations, and called for the release of vulnerable and at-risk inmates to home confinement.
Still, there is no consistent national approach to manage the virus in prisons, nor federal guidelines to determine which inmates may be eligible for temporary release. And that guidance may not come soon, with Trump decrying the proactive release of elderly and infirm prisoners he called very serious criminals during a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing earlier this month.
'Even though Ross is a grown man, I'm still a mom and can't help reminding him to drink lots of water, wash his hands and take vitamin C when he calls.'
Its in this landscape that reformist policies begin to make sense. A 2016 report showed nearly 40 percent of people in state and federal prisons were incarcerated without provably presenting a danger to their communities. That means these sentences are strictly punitive, not correctional, Lyn Ulbricht said.
During Ross bail hearing, prosecutors said he operated the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the internet today. And while the prosecution accused him of hiring hitmen, Ulbricht is, technically, a non-violent offender.A number of eminent scholars, lawyers and celebrities have weighed in, calling the sentence "a shocking miscarriage of justice," to use Noam Chomsky's words.
Still young at 36, healthy and without any underlying conditions, its unlikely Ulbricht will be released to home confinement during the pandemic. Instead, he, like the majority of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in federal, state and local prisons, jails and other correctional facilities across the country, will spend 22 hours a day in his cage with his cellmate as a precautionary measure, Lyn said.
Lyn has moved three times since 2013 to be closer to Ross in Arizona so she can make weekly visits. These visits are also on hold for the foreseeable future, and its unclear when these restrictions will be lifted. The federal Bureau of Prisons has not responded to a request for comment.
He can be under house arrest with an ankle brace on, Lyn said. Hes not a dangerous person.
Update(April 30, 22:50 UTC):This story has been updated to emphasize that Forbes has not identified Ross Ulbricht as the pseudonymous Dread Pirate Roberts interviewed in 2013.
Posted: April 24, 2020 at 3:09 pm
Scotland is about to become the latest country to ban the crime of blasphemy.
The law criminalizing blasphemy has been around in Scotland for centuries. An 1825 act said blasphemy was punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or both, though no ones been prosecuted for it since 1843. Still, it remained on the books.
But as the saying goes, blasphemy is a victimless crime. Criticizing religion or mocking it should always be welcome in a free society. Religious people cannot be considered immune from challenges to their bad ideas, and they certainly shouldnt be able to use the courts to go after their critics, which was at least theoretically still possible. By allowing it to remain part of the law, theocratic countries could always point to Scotland as a place where criticism of religion could be punished. Its the sort of law primarily used against religious and non-religious minorities.
But after a five-year campaign by the Humanist Society Scotland, thats about to change.
A new Hate Crimes Bill, designed to modernize the law, was introduced in the nations Parliament yesterday. It includes a clause that abolishes blasphemy as a crime.
According to Humanists International, that will make Scotland the ninth country to abolish its blasphemy laws since the End Blasphemy Laws Now Campaign was launched in 2015. (Northern Ireland, which still hasnt decriminalized it, remains mired in the past.)
Fraser Sutherland, Chief Executive of Humanist Society Scotland, celebrated the news:
We are delighted that the Scottish Government is taking this important step. It is clear that the Cabinet Secretary has listened to the evidence and pleas from humanist campaigners and many others that blasphemy laws are incompatible with human rights. Even though Scotlands law has not been used for some time the message this repeal sends to other leaders around the world is clear and unambiguous blasphemy laws are wrong and have no place in the twenty-first century. Scotland now joins a growing list of countries who have taken this step to put pressure on other states around the world who continue to prosecute blasphemy charges.
This is a really important and welcome move in the global campaign to rid the world of unfair and unjust blasphemy laws that persecute individuals both religious and non-religious around the world. I want to thank our members and supporters who have been writing to politicians, lodging petitions and generally supporting the work of the society which has seen our campaign result in this success.
Even after this bill passes which it almost certainly will there will still be 68 countries where blasphemy is punishable, including with a prison sentence. But as the dominoes topple, the rationale to keep such laws in place becomes much harder to justify.
(Image via Shutterstock)
Posted: at 3:09 pm
Police have warned of a looming rise in reported domestic abuse cases with some victims currently suffering in silence fearing if their abuser is arrested and becomes unemployed, they and their children will be plunged into poverty.
The Metropolitan police, which covers London, said its officers are arresting an average of 100 people a day for domestic violence offences during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Commander Sue Williams said charges and cautions were up 24% from 9 March, when people with coronavirus symptoms were asked to self-isolate, compared with last year.
She said domestic incidents, which can include family rows not recorded as crimes, were up 3% year on year and 9% between 9 March and 19 April, although offences were up just 2% in the Covid-19 period.
We are seeing a rise, theres no doubt about that, and we welcome that because we will take positive action against any perpetrators, Williams said. We are arresting about 100 people a day for domestic offences, which I think is pretty amazing, even given all the challenges we have in London.
Charities said reports to them are up by around a quarter and Williams said policing around the country expects a rush of reports of domestic violence once lockdown is lifted, which is what happened in other countries when restrictions were eased.
This gap between the large rise reported to charities compared with the small increase reported to police has caused concern that victims are unable or unwilling to come forward.
Williams said charities the Met works with said some victims can fear police arresting the breadwinner in their household will leave them and the children with no money during a lockdown when jobs are disappearing: There may be a reluctance to arrest someone who brings in the money, adding: In this current climate it becomes a hidden crime.
She said that when other countries relaxed lockdown measures, reports to police of domestic violence and abuse increased, and she expected that would happen in the UK. Williams said: I think we are going to see a rise when we come out of lockdown.
Williams pledged an amnesty for domestic violence victims who may have breached lockdown rules saying the Met viewed stopping abuse as the priority: Were interested in them as a victim of crime and holding the perpetrator to account.
Police were finding it easier to catch perpetrators as they were more likely be at home and less likely to be able to move around.
In one case in east London a woman called police but did not want to support a prosecution. Officers used their body-worn video to record a statement and that was enough to gain a victimless prosecution.
Williams said there were two homicides in London linked to domestic violence but it was not yet known if either was linked to the lockdown.
The Met is working with other agencies and charities to find temporary housing for suspects so women and their children dont have to move home during the lockdown.
Williams said: If we can arrest the perpetrator we give the victim some time to think about what they want to do.
She urged neighbours to listen out for heated arguments or screams and said victims could also send text messages to friends or family and they could call police for help.
Williams said: The main thing we are seeing is what we call domestic incidents. It could be the parties themselves in the household, family, friends phoning us and telling us theyre hearing noise, arguments taking place.
Of course, there are violent offences; it has gone up a little bit but not massively. We have had two domestic-related murders in London during this period.
Read the original:
Posted: at 3:09 pm
Big Oil depicted: Walter Simon
By Robert Reich
Both our economy and the environment are in crisis. Wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few while the majority of Americans struggle to get by. The climate crisis is worsening inequality, as those who are most economically vulnerable bear the brunt of flooding, fires, and disruptions of supplies of food, water, and power.
At the same time, environmental degradation and climate change are themselves byproducts of widening inequality. The political power of wealthy fossil fuel corporations has stymied action on climate change for decades. Focused only on maximizing their short-term interests, those corporations are becoming even richer and more powerful while sidelining workers, limiting green innovation, preventing sustainable development, and blocking direct action on our dire climate crisis.
Make no mistake: the simultaneous crisis of inequality and climate is no fluke. Both are the result of decades of deliberate choices made, and policies enacted, by ultra-wealthy and powerful corporations.
We can address both crises by doing four things:
First, create green jobs. Investing in renewable energy could create millions of family sustaining, union jobs and build the infrastructure we need for marginalized communities to access clean water and air. The transition to a renewable energy-powered economy can add 550,000 jobs each year while saving the US economy $78 billion through 2050. In other words, a Green New Deal could turn the climate crisis into an opportunity one that both addresses the climate emergency and creates a fairer and more equitable society.
Second, stop dirty energy. A massive investment in renewable energy jobs isnt enough to combat the climate crisis. If we are going to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must tackle the problem at its source: Stop digging up and burning more oil, gas, and coal.
The potential carbon emissions from these fossil fuels in the worlds currently developed fields and mines would take us well beyond the 1.5C increased warming that Nobel Prize winning global scientists tell us the planet can afford. Given this, its absurd to allow fossil fuel corporations to start new dirty energy projects.
Even as fossil fuel companies claim to be pivoting toward clean energy, they are planning to invest trillions of dollars in new oil and gas projects that are inconsistent with global commitments to limit climate change. And over half of the industrys expansion is projected to happen in the United States. Allowing these projects means locking ourselves into carbon emissions we cant afford now, let alone in the decades to come.
Even if the U.S. were to transition to 100 percent renewable energy today, continuing to dig fossil fuels out of the ground will lead us further into climate crisis. If the U.S. doesnt stop now, whatever we extract will simply be exported and burned overseas. We will all be affected, but the poorest and most vulnerable among us will bear the brunt of the devastating impacts of climate change.
Third, kick fossil fuel companies out of our politics. For decades, companies like Exxon, Chevron, Shell, and BP have been polluting our democracy by pouring billions of dollars into our politics and bankrolling elected officials to enact policies that protect their profits. The oil and gas industry spent over $103 million on the 2016 federal elections alone. And thats just what they were required to report: that number doesnt include the untold amounts of dark money theyve been using to buy-off politicians and corrupt our democracy. The most conservative estimates still put their spending at 10 times that of environmental groups and the renewable energy industry.
As a result, American taxpayers are shelling out $20 billion a year to bankroll oil and gas projects a huge transfer of wealth to the top. And that doesnt even include hundreds of billions of dollars of indirect subsidies that cost every United States citizen roughly $2,000 a year. This has to stop.
And weve got to stop giving away public lands for oil and gas drilling. In 2018, under Trump, the Interior Department made $1.1 billion selling public land leases to oil and gas companies, an all-time record triple the previous 2008 record, totaling more than 1.5 million acres for drilling alone, threatening multiple cultural sites and countless wildlife. As recently as last September, the Trump administration opened 1.56 million acres of Alaskas Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, threatening Indigenous cultural heritage and hundreds of species that call it home.
Thats not all. The ban on exporting crude oil should be reintroduced and extended to other fossil fuels. The ban, in place for 40 years, was lifted in 2015, just days after the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement. After years of campaigning by oil executives, industry heads, and their army of lobbyists, the fossil fuel industry finally got its way.
We cant wait for these changes to be introduced in 5 or 10 years time we need them now.
Fourth, require the fossil fuel companies that have profited from environmental injustice compensate the communities theyve harmed.
As if buying-off our democracy wasnt enough, these corporations have also deliberately misled the public for years on the amount of damage their products have been causing.
For instance, as early as 1977, Exxons own scientists were warning managers that fossil fuel use would warm the planet and cause irreparable damage. In the 1980s, Exxon shut down its internal climate research program and shifted to funding a network of advocacy groups, lobbying arms, and think tanks whose sole purpose was to cloud public discourse and block action on the climate crisis. The five largest oil companies now spend about $197 million a year on ad campaigns claiming they care about the climate all the while massively increasing their spending on oil and gas extraction.
Meanwhile, millions of Americans, especially poor, Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities, already have to fight to drink clean water and breathe clean air as their communities are devastated by climate-fueled hurricanes, floods, and fires. As of 2015, nearly 21 million people relied on community water systems that violated health-based quality standards.
Going by population, thats essentially 200 Flint, Michigans, happening all at once. If we continue on our current path, many more communities run the risk of becoming sacrifice zones, where citizens are left to survive the toxic aftermath of industrial activity with little, if any, help from the entities responsible for creating it.
Climate denial and rampant pollution are not victimless crimes. Fossil fuel corporations must be held accountable, and be forced to pay for the damage theyve wrought.
If these solutions sound drastic to you, its because they are. They have to be if we have any hope of keeping our planet habitable. The climate crisis is not a far-off apocalyptic nightmare it is our present day.
Australias bushfires wiped out a billion animals, Californias fire season wreaks more havoc every year, and record-setting storms are tearing through our communities like never before.
Scientists tell us we have 10 years left to dramatically reduce emissions. We have no room for meek half-measures wrapped up inside giant handouts to the fossil fuel industry.
We deserve a world without fossil fuels. A world in which workers and communities thrive and our shared climate comes before industry profits. Working together, I know we can make it happen. We have no time to waste.
Robert Reich is Chancellors Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Republished here under a Creative Commons License from RobertReich.org.
Posted: April 18, 2020 at 6:47 pm
Across the country support for incarcerated people has become a rallying cry for all progressive people and organizations. Simultaneously, spontaneous prison actions of resistance have become increasingly regular in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility in Kansas City started a tier wide uprising forcing guards to retreat from the section of the prison, cellhouse C, where incarcerated people set fires and stormed offices. A rallying call from the prisoner-made footage was All Gas No Mask! a play on the expression All Gas No Brakes to mean that there is no turning back now because of the lack of life saving personal protective equipment.
Other inmates in the video explained that they were being denied showers, being infected by guards, and even being denied food and dealing with water shutoffs in sinks and toiletsthe impassioned explanation ended with a frustrated We tired of talking! A second prisoner testimonial in the facebook livestream repeated yall dont wanna give us no healthcare?! This what we do, and proceeded to smash prison offices.
The Lansing prison unit has already made the news prior to the riot for having confirmed Covid-19 cases in 16 staff and 12 inmates. Prison officials contained the rebellion after 10 hours, and have only committed so far to reducing movement and intermingling of the incarcerated population to the degree that it is possible. But on Friday, Kansas Corrections Secretary Jeff Zmuda answered questions during Governor Kellys news conference stating that there could be no social distancing because of the structure of the prison and that at best they could only hope to prevent intermingling of cohorts. Prisoners understood this to mean that they had no choice but to rise up.
A second viral video shot on a smuggled cell phone by Aaron DeShawn Campbell, an inmate at FCI Elkton, a federal prison in Ohio where three people have died from COVID-19 over the past week and at least 20 others are currently hospitalized, was a desperate plea for help. Campbell shows his cell mates laying still and explaining his previous cell mates have already been removed from general population because of the virus, They got this motherfucker in my room. How the fuck am I supposed to live? They talk to us about staying six feet away, they give us these little masks, but they literally like leaving us in here to die. Campbell then shows from his window view a tent erected on the rec yard basket ball court where they carrying the bodies too. Campbell explains in the 20 minute facebook live video that medical staff in the low security federal unit said get ready because 80 percent of people in the unit are going to die. Were stuck in here, Campbell concludes.
Prison officials have responded to the viral video by claiming that it is one giant lie, even though former inmates have confirmed that the tent is indeed outside of the medical and special housing (solitary confinement) units.
In Chicago, a second prisoner at the Cook County Jail has died of COVID-19. Nearly 300 prisoners and more than 100 staff at the jail have tested positive. On Thursday, prisoners posted signs in the windows of their cells reading Help, no supply and Were dying. Of course, the inmates are not lying as Chicagos Cook County Jail has become the largest known single source of new Covid-19 infectionsin a macabre race to worst of all worlds with New York Citys notorious Rikers Island Jail.
With multiple deaths already recorded, the Cook County Jail is under fire for allowing one person to die handcuffed to a hospital bed, ankles and wrists, guarded 24 hours by armed correctional officers. As of Thursday, 276 inmates and at least 115 staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus. And yet, as The New York Times notes, the authorities still havent tested all of the jails 4,500 inmates.
A lawsuit has helped move along the process of comprehensive and systematic testing in the jail, but all reports form a constellation of neglect and cruel mismanagement. Incarcerated people in the jail are furious with the glacial pace of relief efforts, and the doubling down of repression. As the situation has grown more dire, incarcerated people have taken bolder action, such as attacking guards in the middle of the night in order to take their keys to let people out. The situation was quickly controlled by authorities, but the action alone signals the level of struggle that incarcerated people are willing to take up in response to the pandemic.
In Oregons Columbia River Correctional Facility, tension erupted into physical conflict with correctional officers, forcing guards to retreat into their offices and hole up. One inmate reported, People are tired of having inadequate cleaning supplies, of not being given masks, of being afraid to report feeling sick [sick people are reportedly being quarantined in solitary confinement cells], of not having enough soap. A second incarcerated person reported, Guards were telling us that we couldnt wear masks, said the inmate, who asked for anonymity out of fear of retaliation. The [two units] stood up and said, No, you dont get to dictate our health. We outnumber you and were not going to take it anymore. Essentially, they forced the guards out of their units for about three hours.
Inmates and criminal justice advocates have called on Gov. Kate Brown to release inmates who are nearing the end of their sentence to reduce the population size of Oregons prisons and prevent further spread of COVID-19. On Monday, seven Oregon prisoners filed a lawsuit against Brown and the Oregon Department of Corrections, accusing state officials of subjecting inmates to cruel and unusual punishment by not adequately protecting prisoners from COVID-19. Brown has since requested information from ODOC related to the possible early release of inmates,
In Seattle, Columbia Legal Services sued the state late last month on behalf of five inmates, asking the state Supreme Court to compel the release of everyone in Department of Corrections custody who is 50 or older; have serious health problems; or are scheduled for release in the next 18 months. Advocates have said few exceptions should be made to such categorical releases.
This lawsuit came as a response to a massive disturbance in the Monroe Correctional Complex after positive cases were reported. Correctional Officers offered Mcdonalds meals to younger inmates to convince them to move to the open air dormitories common to minimum security yards in which inmates are warehoused in 150 man cages with bunk beds so that older inmates could be relocated to the two-man cells. Inmates refused to move citing the lack of comprehensive cleaning in the infected tier citing that they will not allow guards to play god with [their lives]. Inmated rebelled, destroying property and seizing fire extinguishers, threatening to take guards hostage.
Official efforts to decarcerate: too little, too slow
North Dakota and Utah were among a handful of states that moved to identify inmates who might be eligible for release in order to reduce prison populations. Utah began freeing the first of at least 80 inmates this month who both had a place to live that was approved by officials and had already been scheduled for release within the next three months. North Dakota planned to release more than 50 prisoners.
Efforts such as these, could be considered a step in the right direction, but relative to the risk they dont even constitute a half step. 2.3 million incarcerated people are at risk of contracting this virus. So far, efforts to provide masks have been pitiful and stand in stark contrast to policies which dictate that prison labor will be used to make masks for the guards, or dig mass graves for their fellow incarcerated people.
Policies which have put a freeze on family visits have not prevented the spread of the virus almost at all since it is primarily through prison workers that the virus is entering the rotting criminal justice system. The allocation of one bottle of bleach for an entire prison unit, as was the case in an Alabama unit, are similar symptoms of the larger truth that the state is putting millions of people in position to die a premature and painful death.
Even the prison health boards are saying, despite their best efforts, that testing has been woefully insufficient and they cant claim to know the full extent of the spread since limited testing kits have led to only testing those guards and inmates who show serious symptoms.
Federal prisons, state prisons, private prisons, local jails, juvenile facilities, and I.C.E. detentions all need to move much faster and much more boldly towards decarceration on a mass scale. Almost all incarcerated people 50 or over, within the last few years of their outrageously long sentences, those with chronic illnesses, those with property crimes or victimless crimes, and so many more need to be released this very hour. We are at an impasse in which the state is going to decide if hundreds of thousands if not millions deserve a death sentence or not.
The capitalist ruling class has exponentially increased reliance on incarceration to resolve the deepening injustices of capitalism over the years: massive unemployment, de-industrialization, gentrification, homelessness, and debt. It has created a Frankensteins monster criminal justice system, which is getting more and more bold as their ranks swell and the neglect grows more and more nakedly hostile.
The rich and powerful show no inclination in stopping this rhythm. One Philadelphia judge denied every bid for early release, for a total of 380 denials in 2 days.
But that does not mean that authorities are immune from pressure by the people. New Jersey has released up to 20 percent of ICE detainees after imprisoned immigrants began a unit wide hunger strike that was sustained for weeks demanding the administration to act immediately.
The struggle will continue
What lessons can we draw from this moment in prison activism? So far, we are seeing a single pattern everywhere: prison uprisings, protest and lawsuits from supporters on the outside, and some initial victories. The struggle inside the prisons gives concrete movement for activists to latch on to in order to win life-saving reforms. We can reasonably predict that the struggle will not slow down, but rather it will intensify.
The path forward is obviously difficult for those behind bars, but it is righteous. An incarcerated person fled a federal correctional facility in North Carolina only to give a TV interview the next day: I take ownership of having to serve my time, said Richard R. Cephas, 54, who had been at the Federal Correctional Complex serving time on a drug conviction. I signed up for a jail sentence, not a death sentence. This powerful testimonial of Cephas encapsulates perfectly the dichotomy born out here: the prisons must release the people, or the people will find a way to release themselves to escape death.
And it may take more than a few more Atticas to win necessary reforms and massive release of incarcerated people. But ultimately it will take a revolution to win justice for the working class incarcerated or otherwise. The criminal capitalist government, the gangsterism of the courts, and the sadism of every prison warden have shown themselves to be the true monsters.
George Jackson, revolutionary socialist and hero to the prison struggle, often quoted Ho Chi Minh When the Prison gates fly open the real dragon will fly out. We say the sooner the better. Free the people! All gas no mask!
See the rest here:
Posted: at 6:46 pm
A plague is upon us and, like Moses, Americas self-appointed liberators want to use it as an excuse to free captives.
Except todays prisoners are dangerous, violent criminals and their shepherds are progressive abolish prison activists and politicians who view COVID-19 as an opportunity to push their agenda.
Tight quarters and unsanitary conditions on the inside threaten the well-being of Americas worstits criminals. Well, thats their current excuse.
Recently, author and former federal inmate Conrad Black made a similar point on these pages.
Thus, we must release criminals to protect them from coronavirus. But it will not protect us from them, as most released prisoners are not being tested for the virus prior to their release.
Tens of thousands of potentially exposed inmates are now free to spread the disease and mayhem alike. In Florida, we discovered (almost a month after the incident) the first known coronavirus-release fatalityby gunshot, not respiratory failure. Repeat felon and 35-time arrestee Joseph Williams murdered a man just a day after the county sheriff sprung him.
But the pro-criminal lobby is undeterred as the ACLU is suing federal, state, and local agencies to free dangerous convicted criminals and illegal aliens amidst the pandemic. And they are winning their freedom.
They are even running TV ads reminiscent of anti-animal abuse com
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mercials, accompanied by similarly heartrending Sarah McLaughlin-type music.
With most states under stay at home orders and many jurisdictions threatening jail time for violators, it is rich with irony that the Left sees the outbreak as an opportunity for their long-time goal: letting criminals walk free.
In corona-world, honest citizens are confined to their homes, and their movements are limited under the threat of prison. Meanwhile, to prevent the viruss spread inside the Big House, prisoners must be freed.
If the abolish prisons contingent has its way, the law-abiding must live in cages as lawbreakers leave theirs. They want the world turned upside down.
But that would be unwise, unhealthy, and unsafe.
The first faulty assumption behind the release push is that released criminals will comply with quarantine rules.
Put yourself in the shoes of a man who has spent half his life in a cage, only to be released to sit in another cage after many months, if not years. Would you spend your newfound freedom on the couch watching The Ellen Show?
Moreover, these individuals are detained for breaking the law, so the presumption that they will abide civil orders to socially isolate is laughable.
Public health is further endangered by the very nature of pandemic-era crime. Violent acts almost always involve physical contact and force, that often includes the transmission of bodily fluids. If you punch someone in the nose, they begin to bleed, your fist gets cut and now theres yet another direct contact point for spreading coronavirus.
Similarly, drug dealingthe underlying crime of many of the nonviolent offenders that the progressives want outis unsanitary, to say the least. From their production and wholesale acquisition and transportation to street-level distribution and consumption, illegal narcotics are a dirty business with hundredsif not thousandsof unwashed hands touching and manipulating the substances. Add to that the unknown chemicals and diluting agents used in making them or the filthy and diseased implements (needles) used to consume them. Youd be better off dining on bat soup.
Humanitarian releases are no solution; instead, they are a human travesty. The social service agencies that these ex-prisoners need including Medicaid providers, substance abuse clinics, and government assistance offices are all but closed.
If properly equipped and regimented, prisons and jails can provide sanitation, medical care, and monitoring services more effectively than they could be acquired outside the walls. They often already implement proceduresrotating meal times, cell lockdowns, and protective equipment and sanitationon an as-needed basis for security and health reasons.
Furthermore, the morbidity-enhancing health factorssmoking history, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity etc.arent debilitating until you develop coronavirus symptoms. These prisoners arent invalids but they are ticking time bombs.
Yet they are being set free to explode amongst us. A few weeks ago, California Governor Gavin Newsom commuted the sentences of 21 killers and released them on compassionate grounds. New York has released child sex offenders. Dozens of other states and localities have similar mass releases underway including New Jersey and Pennsylvania which are planning to release thousands more temporarily.
That temporary part makes this whole effort seem like the theatre of the absurd. The reason is simplethe monitoring agencies (parole and probation offices) have largely shut down across the country to fight the virus spread. The 3500 now-former inmates California released last week have limited to no oversight and, since the non-profits and state agencies that aid releasees are shuttered, they also have no support.
But that is exactly what the ACLU wants: [parole and probation agents] should cease in-person check-ins to accommodate the need for social distancing, and should allow check-ins to occur by voice or video call. Where those technologies are not accessible to a person under supervision, minimize or temporarily suspenheck-in requirements.
Data clearly shows that former prisoners without monitoring or help are almost certain to re-offendreturning to the life of crime they know. And some are busy proving it.
New York repeat offender Daniel Vargas was arrested before the pandemic for violating his parole. Governor Cuomo ordered Vargas and 1,100 other violators freed at the end of March. Then Vargas brutally mugged an elderly man in the Bronx for $80.
In Utah, a nonviolent drug offender, Joshua Haskell, was first released from state prison and then cut loose from a halfway house. Haskell tied up a woman, held her at knifepoint, and threatened her life.
In Chicago, the prisons and jails are hiding the names of releaseeseven from the police. The Windy City has seen gun violence and murder continue apace despite a supposed pandemic crime dip. Similarly, major city shooters arent abiding the lockdownsBaltimore and Washington, D.C. have seen shootings and murders increase since the pandemic started.
Even the oft-spouted claims that overall crime is plummeting as criminals stay at home are terribly misleading. In addition to there being fewer victims of opportunity, police are hamstrung by enforcing social distancing or being quarantined themselves. They are rightly worried about the dangers of COVID to themselves and are reluctant to police proactively. Some agencies have even stopped taking reports for or investigating victimless crimes like burglary. Crime is not necessarily down, it is just hidden from all but the criminals and their victims.
In our fight against COVID-19, freeing prisoners could well make us all sicker, and certainly not safer.
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Posted: at 6:46 pm
COVID-19 has claimed its share of victims, and it will surely claim a good number more. Few, though, will notice the death of the highest-profile victim of this virus: the American spirit.
The death of the American spirit will go unnoticed because most of us are so petrified that we dare not look up from the holes were hiding in. The death of the American spirit will go unnoticed because the virus didnt deal a mighty blow; it simply dropped the last of a centurys worth of straws on to a once-strong camels back.
We have fallen far since 1862 when Abraham Lincoln, in the midst of the Civil War, called the United States the last best hope of earth. That war claimed 750,000 American lives, or 2.5 percent of the population. If 2.5 percent of our population died today, 8 million souls would be lost a number equivalent to the entire population of New York City.
Our past is replete with heroes who gave their lives to keep the flame of liberty alive. From the Founders who risked their lives, fortunes and sacred honor, to the generation that settled the problem of American slavery, to the Lost and the Greatest Generations who beat back fascism in the world wars, to the millions who took their places silently in the Cold War, America has been a beacon of liberty to the rest of the world.
But no more. In the face of COVID-19, we have become a nation of cowards and snitches.
It begins in the cesspools of social media, where the mealy-mouthed are emboldened to the point that they refer to citizens who question the need to be completely locked down as murderers. From there, its a short walk to reporting their neighbors to the authorities for every shelter-in-place violation, be it real or perceived.
It would be charitable to refer to ourselves now as a nation of Gladys Kravitzes, but we have clearly crossed the line from annoying busybodies to authoritarian wannabes.
Reports of snitching are coming in from across the country. Americans, it seems, cant wait to use the force of government against those with whom they disagree. And politicians of both parties, ever hungry for more power, are happy to oblige.
Yet, this is not new.
Weve been heading in this direction for a very long time. For evidence, see the hundreds of thousands of pages of federal regulations, the millions of Americans incarcerated for victimless crimes, the tens of millions of jobs that require government permission to perform, and the unsustainable financial obligations our government places on future generations.
The U.S. Constitution defines a government of limited and enumerated powers. It is a list of a few specific things the people agreed that the federal government could do.
To drive the point home, the Bill of Rights lists things the government may never do. Americans have been ignoring both lists for the better part of a century now. Where the Founders intended the states as a counterweight to federal overreach, we now have a contest among governors to see which can clamp down hardest on social and economic life.
The sad truth is that too many Americans find freedom so uncomfortable and frightening that they welcome authoritarianism. Our argument is over which kind. Do we want the leftist variant, which culminates in a Stasi-style snitch-state, or the strongman version, in which every decision is made from on high?
We should remember the overwhelming cost that past generations paid in blood to give us, their posterity, the gift of liberty.
Lincolns last best hope on earth, bent after a century of infringements on our liberty, has buckled under the last straw of a virus.
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Posted: at 6:46 pm
By Nick Givas | Fox News
As of Thursday, April 16, there have been more than 16,000 inmates released from prisons all over the United States due to the novel coronavirus.A total of approximately 16,622 inmates have been released or are scheduled to be released shortly due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The majority were being held on non-violent charges or were deemed to pose no immediate threat to society if released.With very few exceptions, jail inmates have yet to be convicted. They are usually awaiting trial. Prison inmates, on the other hand, have already been convicted and sentenced.Here is a state-by-state breakdown of how many prisoners were let out, and what criteria were followed for granting their release:
ALABAMA: As of Friday, 480 inmates were released from the Mobile Metro Jail who had committed non-violent crimes, were sickly, were 55 years or older or had low bonds, according to Al.com
ARIZONA:As of March 20, Coconino County has released around 50 jail inmates who were being held on non-violent charges, The Arizona Daily Sun reported.
CALIFORNIA: On March 23, Los Angeles County released about 1,700 jail inmates with under 30 days left on their sentences for non-violent crimes.The Modest Bee reported that on April 12, between 150 to 300 jail inmates in Stanislaus County were released due to a temporary statewide emergency bail schedule that reduced bail for certain offenses to $0. It applies to accused inmates whose cases have not been adjudicated.As of April 13, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) expedited the release of approximately 3,500 eligible state prisoners who were set to be released within 60 days or less and were not currently serving time for a violent crime or domestic violence, or a person required to register under Penal Code 290.As of April 13, the Superior Court of Alameda County ordered the release of 334 relatively low-level inmates from the Santa Rita Jail. They had 90 days or fewer left to serve on their felony sentences or were found to have good cause to be released.All of these prisoners were released because their bail was reduced to $0 after an emergency ruling by the Judicial Council of California on April 6.
COLORADO:Fifty-two prisoners were granted early release as of April 13, according to the Denver Post.
FLORIDA:In Hillsborough County, 164 jail inmates who were accused of low-level, non-violent crimes and awaiting the resolution of their cases were released as of March 19, The Tampa Times reported.
GEORGIA:On March 31, the Georgia Department of Corrections announced it will consider clemency release for individuals currently serving for a non-violent offense who are within 180 days of completing their prison term. The majority of these individuals will be released to community supervision. To date, no releases have been reported.
ILLINOIS:As of March 30, Cook County Jail released about 400 prisoners after a local court ordered case-by-case bond reassessments of those charged with mostly non-violent crimes, The Chicago Tribune reported.
IOWA:On or about March 20, the Iowa Department of Corrections announced plans to fast-track the release of about 700 inmates who were already determined eligible for release by the state Board of Parole, according to The Times-Republican.
KENTUCKY:The Associated Press reported that on April 2, Gov. Andy Beshears administration announced it would shorten the sentences of 186 inmates via executive order who had been convicted of non-violent offenses and who were determined to be more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.
MASSACHUSETTS:Since April 13, 367 inmates have been released from state and county correctional facilities. A State Supreme Judicial Court ruled that only pre-trial detainees not charged with certain violent offenses and those held on technical probation and parole violations were eligible for release.
NEW JERSEY:On April 10, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order allowing certain low-risk individuals whose age or health status puts them at particular risk for contracting the virus, who had been perhaps denied parole within the last year, or whose sentences are to expire within the next three months to be placed on temporary home confinement or granted parole outright To date, no releases have been reported.
NEW MEXICO:As of April 7, up to between 10 and 12 inmates were scheduled to be released pursuant to an executive order issued by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, directing the state Corrections Department to compile a list of prisoners who are eligible for early release. Those persons had to have a release date no more than 30 days away, could not be a sex offender, not convicted of DWI, and not serving time for domestic abuse or assault, The Albuquerque Journal reported.
NEW YORK:On March 27, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the release of as many as 1,100 low-level parole violators from local jails, the New York Post reported.As of March 31, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said 900 inmates were released from city jails, The Hill reported. He previously said that the city would release hundreds of non-violent offenders, while those accused of offenses such as domestic abuse were not made eligible for release.The Westchester County District Attorneys office announced that 65 inmates were released from the county jail as of April 10. All of those released had release dates on or before June 26 and were serving sentences of one year or less.On April 13, a Bronx judge approved the release of 51 inmates jailed in New York City on alleged parole violations, according to The New York Law Journal
NORTH DAKOTA:As of March 21, the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ordered the release of 56 prisoners as part of a population mitigation plan, The Dickinson Press reported.
OHIO:On April 15, Gov. Mike DeWine announced he has approved the release of 105 prison inmates who had previously been set for release over the course of the next 90 days.
PENNSYLVANIA:On April 15, Gov. Tom Wolf issued an order to release eight Department of Corrections inmates who met criteria for the Temporary Program to Reprieve Sentences of Incarceration Program. This only applies to state prison inmates who have been identified as being non-violent and who otherwise would be eligible for release within the next 9 months.
SOUTH CAROLINA:As of March 20, approximately 85 jail inmates charged with non-violent offenses and magistrate level charges were released from Greenville County Detention Center, according to Greenville News.Forty-two jail inmates who faced charges for non-violent or victimless crimes and do not pose a threat to the public were released from the Anderson County Detention Center on March 21, The Journal Online reported.
UTAH:As of April 2, the Utah Department of Corrections referred 80 incarcerated people to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole for release, all of whom were already within 90 days of their scheduled release date and have an approved address.
WASHINGTON:On April 13, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that up to 950 incarcerated individuals would be released, focusing on the early release of certain vulnerable populations, including non-violent offenders who are due to be released within the coming weeks and months.
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Posted: at 6:46 pm
by Ian | Apr 18, 2020 | Civil Disobedience, Concord, Cool, Corruption, Economic Freedom, Issues, National, New Hampshire, News, Personal Freedom, Photos, Police, Social, Update, Victimless Crimes |
Amazing Turnout at Assembly Event in Concord Despite Bad Weather
The last several weeks have been hard to handle as a freedom lover. Seeing Americans obediently do whatever the government goons tell them isnt really a surprise, but still sad and depressing to witness. Though I am an optimist, even Ive been pretty disillusioned as a result of the widespread obedience that is leading to massive economic and personal destruction as businesses close and jobs are lost.
A couple of weeks ago, NH gubernatorial candidate Nobody announced an event at the state house that attracted over a dozen attendees to violate the New Hampshire governors order not to gather in groups of ten or more. Today, in an event created by Health Freedom NH a much larger group of approximately 400 freedom-loving people descended on the state house in cold, rainy weather to protest the ongoing tyranny here in the supposedly Live Free or Die state. Police didnt even bother to drive by.
Hundreds were together on the pavement by Main St, ignoring the anti-human social distancing orders as dozens of cars were circling the nearby roads honking in support, many adorned with signs and flags. It was refreshing to see so many people acting free and ignoring the orders of HIS EXCELLENCY which is actually how the orders refer to Chris Sununu, the republican governor of New Hampshire.
Many creative signs were present, though the Trump supporters seem confused. Do they think Trump somehow supports freedom? While some of his words initially on Twitter regarding Coronavirus were critical, he quickly fell in line and has been promoting the rise of the medical authoritarian state. At least they arent happy with Sununu.
My favorite sign was the guy in a V-mask whose sign read THE REAL VIRUS IS FEAR. I also liked ALL BUSINESSES ARE ESSENTIAL.
The support for freedom was refreshing. Im glad to be here in New Hampshire where people still care about freedom. Maybe there is hope after all.
Missed todays event? Theres another protest event slated for the State House in Concord on Monday, April 20th at 4:20pm, which will also feature open cannabis use as the annual 420 rally has for over a decade. Maybe the one after that should happen out front of Sununus house
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Just one in 500 frauds are being prosecuted by police despite a 20 per cent rise in the crime, new figures show – Telegraph.co.uk
Posted: March 24, 2020 at 5:47 am
Just one in 500 frauds committed on people in England and Wales are being prosecuted by police despite a 20 per cent rise in the crime, new figures show.
Only 7,725 fraud offences resulted in a prosecution in the year to March 2019, down by 18 per cent from the 9,434 taken to court in the previous year, according to police figures.
This is dwarfed by the 3.8 million cases of fraud in the same year, a rise of a fifth on 2018, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) crime survey, which is regarded as the most accurate assessment of peoples actual experience of crime.
However, the ONS says fewer than a sixth of these frauds are reported to police, largely because people are either ashamed at being conned or believe it is such a low priority crime for forces that it is unlikely to be investigated.
Of the 337,928 frauds reported to the national police unit Action Fraud in the year to March 2019, just 43,717 were referred to police forces for investigation because the remainder were judged to be unlikely to secure a conviction.
This initial sift is completed by a computer system known as the National Fraud Intelligence Bureaus NFIB brain, which rates a crime on its chances of being solved and its potential threat and harm to individuals, businesses or the economy as a whole, according to Action Fraud.
Of the 52,371 frauds investigated by the 43 police forces in England and Wales last year - including some hanging over from previous years, 7,725 resulted in a charge or summons, a total of 14.8 per cent, the lowest rate since records began in 2016/17 when it was 21.9 per cent.
Commissioner Ian Dyson, of City of London Police and the National Police Chiefs Councils lead for economic crime, said chief constables faced difficult choices on how much resource to devote to fraud when it was competing with human trafficking, child sexual exploitation and violent crime.
However, he warned: It is increasingly clear that much of fraud is being perpetrated by serious and organised crime gangs.
He said City of London Police, the lead force for fraud, was reviewing the way forces investigated crime from the initial report to prosecution. Only then will we see clearly the police response to crime and be able to improve it, on behalf of victims, he said.
Far from being a victimless crime, fraud can undermine self-confidence and trust. And youre far more likely to be a victim of fraud than any other crime type. Thats why tackling fraud is so important.
David McKelvey, a former detective chief inspector with the Metropolitan Police whose private investigations firm prosecutes counterfeiters, said the Government should outsource fraud investigations to private companies.
There is no reason you could not outsource it to investigation companies who could put together prosecutions. It could be self-funding because there are assets that you can go after, he said.
Fraud has never been a priority. Forces are allowed to create their own policies that mean you would not investigate any fraud under 1 million.
Any good villain knows that if you commit frauds then there is hardly any chance of getting caught. Even if you get caught, the chance of getting convicted are even less. And even if convicted you are not going to get a very substantial prison sentence.
National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales John Apter said: Police officers are doing the very best they can against a backdrop of cuts which have, in some places, crippled policing. It must also be pointed out that roughly 80% of police officers time is spent dealing with non-crime related incidents.
Charging decisions for the majority of crimes are generally made by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), not the police. What will drive these decisions is evidence, sometimes we simply dont have enough to satisfy the CPS which is not only frustrating for victims but also for those police officers investigating the crimes.