Racial Disparity + Police Brutality + Mass Incarceration = Violation of Human Rights + Intimidation + Individual and Community Impoverishment and Disenfranchisement
first researched and published in Feb. 2005; updated in Dec. 2014
The USA now imprisons a higher percentage of her people than any other country on earth. This distinction, acquired around the turn of the 21st century, is largely due to a huge escalation in incarcerations caused by drug law enforcement. The escalation is not due to increased use of illegal drugs. It is a result of the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ waged selectively and with markedly different tactics in different communities, since the 1980’s. (more…)
James Cameron, born 92 years ago in Wisconsin, died peacefully this week. Mr. Cameron was the only known living survivor of a lynching in America. Those in the mob of 15,000 who did the beatings and killings that day were never charged with a crime. But Cameron, the lucky, terrorized survivor, was charged, basically with being a friend of the other two who were murdered by the mob, and he was imprisoned.
It’s likely you and I never use “rapid transit” to get around. Or experience that strange feeling of being lonely while in a crowd of people we don’t know, who are doing the very same thing that we are. And we aren’t particularly familiar with the sights and sounds of a subway. Not using it daily, it’s likely that when we hear the word “subway”, we shudder and associate it with images of thugs and gang tags and warnings of terrorists and close proximity to people we haven’t even met and think we’d rather not have to meet. All this came to mind when I ran across this very recent back pages news item.
“Outside The Box” was an arresting and moving display at the Cedarburg Cultural Center of “Artwork by Prisoners in Wisconsin Correctional Institutions”.
America now imprisons a higher percentage of her people than any other country on earth. This recently acquired dubious numero uno distinction is due largely to a huge escalation in the number of incarcerations for drug violations. The escalation is not due to increased use of illegal drugs. It is due to the ‘war on drugs’ waged selectively and with varied tactics in different communities since the late 1980’s.
I attended the entire day and a half long inquest into the death in police custody of 20-year-old Mequon resident Matthew Sheridan, and was perhaps the only person who did so who was neither a friend or family member, nor a police officer, nor paid or required to be there. I was the ‘public’ referred to in the term ‘public inquest’. I heard the evidence presented to the jury, and I had never met any of the people who caused or were affected by this tragedy. But I was not a disinterested observer. Two months ago I had written in this column about Matthew’s demise. Because of that involvement, I am compelled to comment on the inquest.
A plastic bag, designed to be impermeable and to prevent any (potentially toxic) air from getting inside the bag and then to the lungs, was yanked roughly over his head.
He couldn’t get the bag off, or tear it open, or even make a little opening to let some air in, because his ankles were bound and his hands were bound behind his back, and he was shackled where he was seated. He said over and over, “I can’t breathe”, and he begged for help. He was terrified, he struggled, and he desperately needed help to live. But no help came. He lost consciousness. And then he died, not old enough to count yet as an adult, in the back seat of a Mequon police car.