Abandoned Symbols: Confederate Flags and Criminal Justiceby Joseph Margulies

ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Old Confederate FlagIn the wake of the horrific massacre in Charleston, leading social conservatives across the country have loudly called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from public display. But some people have wondered whether their call, however welcome, will prove nothing more than an empty gesture, a cynical strategy to woo moderate whites to the conservative camp in the 2016 election.
As is my wont, I am more hopeful. In ways that have not been adequately appreciated, the elite repudiation of the flag in the wake of Dylan Roof’s murderous rampage could be an important step, not simply in the debate over slave-era symbolism but in the contemporary struggle for criminal justice.
***
Why do we care about symbols? They don’t put food on the table, money in your pocket, or a roof over your head. You can’t eat a symbol. But they are nonetheless as important to our lives as anything we can buy.
Symbols play two equally important roles in American life. In the most obvious sense, they represent a belief system. The Constitution, for instance, symbolizes our belief in and commitment to the rule of law. Yet symbols also signal our membership in a particular community. For many years, Christians have used the ixthus to signal their faith to fellow believers, and many conservative Christians now display the symbol in their home or business or affix it their cars.
This dual role makes symbols vital to both our personal and communal identity; they declare what we believe as individuals and confirm our place in a tribe of like-minded others. We could never survive without symbols, and if suddenly they were taken from us, we would surely create others to take their place.
Yet symbols are deliberately vague and ambiguous. That’s part of what makes them so valuable. It is important that the Constitution, as a symbol, not be given a single, inflexible meaning, since that would prevent it from accommodating the shifting demands of the day. Equality, for instance, means something very different today from what it meant during the heyday of Jim Crow. In fact, historians have shown that its meaning today bears only a distant “family resemblance” to its meaning at the time of the Founding.
What is true for equality is no less true for many of the other terms and expressions in the Constitution, as recent historic events in the Supreme Court have made abundantly clear. What we mean by liberty, wrote the historian Michael Kammen, has “changed and broadened over time, . . . ranging from constraints upon authority to improvements in the conditions of social justice, of privacy, and a growing concern for the protection of personal liberty.”
This process is not only natural but inevitable, despite what Justice Scalia might think. As Justice Felix Frankfurter once observed, “Great concepts like . . . ‘due process of law,’ ‘liberty,’ [and] ‘property’ were purposely left to gather meaning from experience. For they relate to the whole domain of social and economic fact, and the statesmen who founded this Nation knew too well that only a stagnant society remains unchanged.”
The meaning of symbols is thus perennially a work in progress, continually renegotiated in the many spaces occupied by both the individual and the community—the private space, where the individual reflects on her own beliefs; the communal space, where the community speaks with its own members; and the public space, where the community speaks with the wider world.
In this never-ending negotiation, we have long understood the prominent role played by the community’s elites. These are the politicians, religious leaders, and other public figures that are widely believed by the community itself to be the keepers of the flame, the men and women who best represent the ideas and ideals of the belief system.
And that brings us at last to the Confederate Flag. In the days since the massacre in Charleston, elite social conservatives have consciously redefined the flag in both its individual and communal sense. Consider this statement from South Carolina State Senator Paul Thurmond, the son of arch-segregationist Strom Thurmond:
I think the time is right and the ground is fertile for us to make progress as a state and to come together and remove the Confederate battle flag from prominent statue outside the Statehouse and put it in the museum. It is time to acknowledge our past, atone for our sins and work towards a better future. That future must be built on symbols of peace, love, and unity. That future cannot be built on symbols of war, hate, and divisiveness.
. . .
Now we have these hate groups and the symbols that they use to remind African Americans that things haven’t changed and that they are still viewed as less than equal human beings. Well, let me tell you: Things have changed. Overwhelmingly, people are not being raised to hate or to believe that they are superior to others based on the color of their skin. My generation was raised to respect all people, of every race, religion, and gender.
At the individual level, Thurmond declares that the Confederate flag cannot be a legitimate representation of the southern, socially conservative belief system. A true southern conservative, he admonishes, does not believe in these things.
But the communal redefinition is even more important. Pronouncing that “things have changed,” Thurmond emphasizes the need “to come together” as a state and build a future around “symbols of . . . unity” rather than “divisiveness.” The implication is unmistakable. Contrary to the long-held socially conservative mantra, Thurmond says the flag does not represent fidelity to an honorable heritage, but to a racist, violent, sinful past.
In announcing this change, Thurmond has declared that the voice of the black community, which long called for this change, is more important than the voice of a significant portion of the white community, which had for just as long called to maintain the status quo. Inclusivity, with its explicit appeal to common membership in a broader community that transcends race, has trumped the traditional exclusivity of southern, white, social conservatism.
This is an extraordinarily potent declaration. Calling divisive symbols into question, demanding anew that they prove themselves worthy of inclusion in the conservative canon, and repudiating them if they are found wanting implies a healthy receptivity to profound change. And if applied conscientiously, a determination to denounce symbols deriving from a racist, divisive past would sweep away much of the iconography of modern conservatism.
In particular, we have known for years that much of the architecture of the criminal justice system has been built around precisely such symbols: Willie Horton, the welfare queen, the crack whore. These and other symbols have generated an entire set of divisive law enforcement and prosecution strategies, like the war on drugs and “zero tolerance” policing, that have been broadly endorsed by whites but widely deployed against blacks. If the denunciation of the Confederate flag implies a willingness to revisit these toxic symbols and failed strategies, and to heed the voice of the black community, then criminal justice reform is truly upon us.
I may be hopeful, but I am not naïve. I have no illusions that the repudiation of the Confederate battle flag, by itself, will eliminate racism in this country or make the criminal justice system fair. But the combination of message and messenger—elite social conservatives siding with an historically marginalized black community over numerically, economically, and culturally dominant whites to remove a divisive symbol of oppression—is an enormously important step that should be encouraged.

Follow the Money . . . to Ferguson

March 9, 2015., by Joseph Margulie

Original Article



“Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs.” So began the report written by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, a 100-page indictment of the Ferguson Police Department. The entire document repays careful study, but at its core, the report describes a department—and municipality—beset by two overlapping problems.

First, the City uses its police to close gaps in the city budget rather than deter or investigate crime. As a result, the police in Ferguson are fee- and fine-producers instead of peace officers, which has predictably led to chronic over-policing. “Many officers,” the report found, seem to view Ferguson’s residents “less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue.”

Second, the Ferguson Police Department has developed an adversarial culture that routinely trumps the restraints imposed by the Constitution. “Officers expect and demand compliance even when they lack legal authority.” As symbols of authority so often do, Ferguson police apparently confuse disagreement with disobedience, and mistake a legitimate exercise of constitutional rights with an unpardonable display of disrespect.

The report implies that the second condition follows from the first, but in this regard it is mistaken. The fact that the police are misused as revenue agents need not make them hostile to the community they ostensibly serve. One can imagine, in other words, an officer handing yet another ticket to a Ferguson resident for some trivial or non-existent offense with an apology instead of a snarl.

The problem of an adversarial police culture—in which the police view themselves as operating in hostile territory and treat the community as the dangerous enemy—has been recognized for decades. It was immortalized in the movie, Ft. Apache, the Bronx, and helps account for the too-quick decision to acquire and deploy the latest and most advanced weapons of war on neighborhood streets. I hope to address this problem in future columns, since it is almost impossible to imagine meaningful reform of the criminal justice system so long as it persists.

But today, I want to address the first problem identified by DOJ—viz., the distorting influence of money. More than anything, the DOJ report confirms the familiar insight that financial incentives can have a profound, if not always dispositive, influence on behavior. Implicit in this insight, and similarly confirmed by the lesson of common experience, is that if you alter the incentives, you can influence the behavior.

Ironically, this was a key insight in the earliest years of the punitive turn in American life. In 1975, conservative political scientist James Q. Wilson published, Thinking About Crime, where he argued that offenders were fundamentally rational actors who assessed the relevant incentives and chose crime because the anticipated balance of risk and reward favored lawlessness. Change the balance and you will alter the behavior, or so he thought. His work was exceptionally important in advancing the view that punishment should be far more swift, certain, and severe, a view which many legislators and criminal justice policymakers quickly endorsed.

Tinkering with incentives is also an essential component of the neoliberal approach to crime control, which relies on, among other things, the management and control of physical space to corral and redirect would-be offenders. Have you ever noticed that newer park benches use metal armrests to divide the bench into two or three distinct seats? That’s not for comfort. It prevents the bench from being used as a bed, and therefore deters the homeless from mixing with the good people of the city.

To date, proposals to redirect the flow of money have not played a prominent part in the discussion of criminal justice reform, which has focused instead on statutory changes, mostly at the state level. But there is some evidence this may be changing. Recently, the MacArthur Foundation announced a $75 million grant to develop programs aimed at reducing jail populations. Last week I spoke with Nancy Fishman, the Project Director of the Center on Sentencing and Corrections at the VERA Institute, a major player in criminal justice reform and one of four groups charged with administering the MacArthur grant.

As Fishman explained, the idea of the grant is to create incentives for municipalities to think systemically about how to eliminate what has become a reflexive over-reliance on jail. Over the past two decades, violent crime has fallen by nearly 50 percent and property crime by 44 percent. Yet annual admissions to jails in the United States have almost doubled, from six million to nearly 12 million. The great majority of these people, perhaps as many as three-quarters, are held for nonviolent traffic, property, drug, or public order offenses. Many are mentally ill or have alcohol or drug dependencies but are warehoused in jail for want of alternatives. Finally, to compound the crisis, pretrial detainees are held far longer than in the past: over the past three decades, the average stay has increased from 14 to 23 days. (VERA’s report is available here).

MacArthur, VERA, and its partners hope to identify and fund creative proposals from municipalities that will reward alternative strategies. Backed by MacArthur’s resources and tied to VERA’s technical expertise, these alternatives will—one hopes—change the incentives in a way that encourages police, sheriffs, prosecutors, judges, and legislators to think of jail as the last resort rather than the first. This, after all, is the intended purpose of pretrial detention, which should be limited to those very few who cannot safely be returned to the community. All evidence shows that jails long ago took on a far different role.

One lesson of the DOJ report is that if you reward municipalities to think and behave differently, they will. If cash-strapped cities are paid to reserve jail for the appropriate population, they will, and the message will gradually spread from the mayor in city hall to the cop on the street, and all the actors in between. Prosecutors will learn not to seek pretrial detention for those who should be diverted elsewhere, judges will no longer impose bail that sounds reasonable to a middle class sensibility but is far beyond the reach of a poor man or woman, and legislators will think twice before creating yet another category of crime that calls for presumptive pretrial detention.

No one remotely thinks that the MacArthur grant will solve the problem of distorted incentives and misallocated money in the criminal justice system. After all, $75 million is almost literally nothing compared to the tens of billions of dollars awarded by the federal government to states and local municipalities across the country over the past 50 years to shape and expand their criminal justice system. But all of this money represents an extraordinarily powerful resource, if only it can be harnessed in the service of a new vision of criminal justice. Ferguson points the way, and MacArthur is taking the first step.


SCOTUS Rules Cops DO NOT Need A Warrant To Search Your Home

Original Article

Join #FOWLERNATION!! http://bit.ly/SubscribeFowlerNation

In another devastating blow to freedom, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police don’t need a warrant to search your property. As long as two occupants disagree about allowing officers to enter, and the resident who refuses access is then arrested, police may enter the residence.

“Instead of adhering to the warrant requirement,” Ginsburg wrote, “today’s decision tells the police they may dodge it, nevermind ample time to secure the approval of a neutral magistrate.” Tuesday’s ruling, she added, “shrinks to petite size our holding in Georgia v. Randolph.”

Georgia v. Randolph was a similar case the Supreme Court addressed in 2006, in which a domestic violence suspect would not allow police to enter his home, though his wife did offer police consent. The police ultimately entered the home. The Court ruled in the case that the man’s refusal while being present in the home should have kept authorities from entering.

“A physically present inhabitant’s express refusal of consent to a police search [of his home] is dispositive as to him, regardless of the consent of a fellow occupant,” the majority ruled in that case.

The majority, led by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., said police need not take the time to get a magistrate’s approval before entering a home in such cases. But dissenters, led by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, warned that the decision would erode protections against warrantless home searches. The court had previously held that such protections were at the “very core” of the 4th Amendment and its ban on unreasonable searches and seizures, reports the LA Times.

According to the AP, Justice Samuel Alito wrote the court’s 6-3 decision holding that an occupant may not object to a search when he is not at home.

“We therefore hold that an occupant who is absent due to a lawful detention or arrest stands in the same shoes as an occupant who is absent for any other reason,” Alito said.

Read more at http://thefreethoughtproject.com/supr…

The Sad Facts People Forget, Because They Don’t Pay Attention To History

Sunday, 12 October 2014

IRISH – ‘THE FORGOTTEN WHITE SLAVES’

IMG_2373.JPG
Rebecca Harvey’s photo.

IRISH – ‘THE FORGOTTEN WHITE SLAVES’ claims expert The Irish slave trade began when the Proclamation of 1625 James II required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies. By the mid 1600s, Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70 percent of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.” “Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants and the majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.”

“During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, [Oliver] Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.”

Martin goes on to explain that for some reason, the Irish slaves are often remembered as ‘indentured servants.’ However, in most cases during the 17th and 18th centuries, they were no more than “human cattle.”
“…the African slave trade was just beginning during this same period,” writes Martin. “It is well recorded that African slaves, not tainted with the stain of the hated Catholic theology and more expensive to purchase, were often treated far better than their Irish counterparts.”
During the late 1600s, writes Martin, African slaves were far more expensive than their Irish counterparts – Africans would sell for around 50 sterling while Irish were often no more than 5 sterling.

The Irish were further exploited when the British began to “breed” Irish women – or girls, sometimes as young as 12 – with African males.
“These new “mulatto” slaves brought a higher price than Irish livestock and, likewise, enabled the settlers to save money rather than purchase new African slaves. This practice of breeding Irish females with African men went on for several decades and was so widespread that, in 1681, legislation was passed “forbidding the practice of mating Irish slave women to African slave men for the purpose of producing slaves for sale.” In short, it was stopped only because it interfered with the profits of a large slave transport company.

http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/whtslav.htm