Friday, December 12, 2014


Kelly Savage is a domestic violence survivor.  Kelly Savage has been in prison since 1995.

In 1995, Kelly's abusive husband killed her son Justin after she put her children to sleep and left the house to run errands. 

Although Mark Savage beat his three year old son to death while Kelly was gone, she was arrested along with for not preventing the death.

The state of California believed Kelly should have left her husband and taken her child with her.

During her trial, the prosecution scoffed at the idea that Kelly had not left her husband out of fear associated with a history of domestic violence.  The prosecutor said Kelly enjoyed being beaten.

Kelly was sentenced to live behind bars without the possibility of parole for the rest of her life.

Huh, Kelly got life?

Are you kidding me?

Nearly 30 U.S. states, including California, have failure-to-protect laws that criminalize a parent’s inability to protect her children.
In many cases, the woman’s abuse is not taken into consideration or, as happened in this woman’s case, it is even used against her in court.
A petition on Kelly's behalf states:

Kelly was not present for her son’s killing, but the DA blamed her for not escaping and saving her children sooner, ignoring the very real and documented dangers associated with attempting to leave an abusive partner. The DA also exploited Kelly's history of abuse to suggest that she didn't run because she enjoyed the beatings, and sacrificed her son to "please" her abusive husband.

California’s Intimate Partner Battering legislation allows Kelly to petition for a review of her conviction by introducing expert testimony about her abuse that was not allowed in her trial. Kelly’s defense was severely harmed by the absence of expert testimony to explain how prolonged intimate partner battering was relevant to her case. Kelly’s lawyer and trial judge fought her request for an expert in domestic violence who could have testified on her behalf.

It is Prison Friday at Scission.

For Kelly Savage it is just another day in confinement.

The following is from the Prison Activist Resource Center.

Why Is California Keeping Kelly Savage in Prison for a Crime She Didn't Commit?

But 15 hours before their escape, while she was running last-minute errands, her husband beat her 3-and-a-half-year-old son Justin. The boy died. Both Mark and Kelly were arrested.

At her trial, the prosecutor argued that Kelly enjoyed the beatings and that, because she had not fled, she was equally at fault for her son's death. Both were convicted of torture and first-degree murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. In 1998, nearly three years after her son's death - years Kelly Savage spent in jail - she entered California's Valley State Prison for Women. This year marks her 19th in prison.
But her story - and her imprisonment - is neither unique nor exceptional.Nearly 30 states, including California, have failure-to-protect laws that criminalize a parent's inability to protect her children. In many cases, the woman's abuse is not taken into consideration or, as happened in Kelly's case, is even used against her in court. But Section 1473.5 of the California Penal Code now allows women like Kelly, who did not have expert testimony about battering at her trial, a second chance.
A History of Abuse
Kelly Savage was 23 when she was arrested for her son's death. But those 23 years were marked by a history of physical and sexual abuse beginning when she was 3 years old. As a child, she was repeatedly beaten and raped by a number of people, including her father, her uncle, her stepmother's stepfather, and a trusted friend of her father. Although the police had been called several times, they did nothing to stop the abuse or remove Kelly from her abusers.
She married at 18, but her husband also turned out to be physically and sexually abusive. She left him two months before her son Justin was born in December 1991.
The following year, she met Mark Savage. Like the other men in her life, he quickly became both physically and sexually abusive. "I was about to leave him when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter," she said in a phone interview from prison. Noting that she had been raising Justin as a single mother, she explained, "I made a stupid choice. I didn't want to have two kids without a father, so I stayed." Their daughter Krystal was born on November 25, 1993. The couple married the following month.
Krystal's birth did not stem the abuse. Her husband regularly choked, pushed, shoved and yelled at Kelly. He blackened her eye on at least two occasions, burned her with cigarettes and broke her toe.
By Mother's Day 1995, Kelly had had enough. At the local community college, she found a flier for a domestic violence hotline. When she called, the hotline counselor advised her on how to escape. Kelly began preparing, including gathering copies of her children's birth certificates and other paperwork. In the meantime, her husband's abuse escalated. When Mark found her packing the children's photos and birth certificates, he struck her, nearly breaking her hearing aid. She managed to convince him that she had not been packing them. He also tied her to the couch and tried to tattoo his name on her leg using a sharpened paper clip. "I still have a tattoo of an 'M' on my right ankle from this incident (although it is covered by the tattoo of my children's names)," Kelly told Truthout. This type of escalation is so common that it has a name - separation violence. Fearing the impending loss of control, batterers increase their violence and are more likely to kill their family members as they are attempting to leave or have just escaped.
The night before Justin's death, Kelly woke to her son screaming and her husband yelling. When she tried to enter Justin's room, she reported that Mark pushed her out before tossing the boy onto the bed. It was the first - and only - time she had ever seen Mark hit Justin. Usually, she recalled, the boy seemed attached to his stepfather. In court later, she learned that this was traumatic bonding, in which an abuse victim, in an attempt to deflect further harm, forms an emotional attachment to his abuser.
The following day, Kelly put the children to bed at nap time before running some last-minute errands. Her bags, including the children's birth certificates and photos, were packed. When she returned home, Justin was no longer breathing. She called 911, but it was already too late.
In court, the prosecutor used her history of abuse to argue that Kelly enjoyed being beaten and that she allowed her husband to beat Justin in order to please him. Although her lawyer employed a psychologist, Dr. Phyllis Kaufman, as a defense witness, she was not an expert in battered women's syndrome or intimate partner battering. Instead, she testified that Kelly had post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from a history of childhood abuse and that people suffering from PTSD sometimes block out or fail to hear signs of danger.
After entering prison, Kelly discovered that Kaufman had been struggling with a similar case in her personal life at the same time: Kaufman's 3-year-old granddaughter had been tortured and murdered by her daughter's abusive boyfriend. As Kaufman was preparing to testify at Kelly's trial, her daughter was awaiting trial at the Sacramento County Jail while her remaining grandchildren were in separate group homes. In prison, Kelly met her daughter whom she is now training to be a peer educator in domestic violence.
When a History of Abuse Becomes a Failure to Protect
As Kelly Savage discovered when she met Kaufman's daughter, her situation is neither unique nor exceptional.
"Abuse is the dominant reason that so many women are locked up," Colby Lenz, a volunteer organizer with the advocacy group California Coalition for Women Prisoners, told Truthout. "Either they didn't speak out or they were at the scene of the crime or they were defending themselves or they didn't stop their abusers from harming or killing their children."
In California, a prison study found that 93 percent of the women who had killed their significant others had been abused by them. Sixty-seven percent of those women reported that they had been attempting to protect themselves or their children. However, there are no comprehensive studies on the number of women incarcerated for failing to protect their children. There is, however, anecdotal evidence that shows a broad pattern across the country. A recent investigation by BuzzFeed News, for instance, found 28 mothers incarcerated in various states for not protecting their children despite evidence that they themselves were being abused.
Now a domestic violence peer educator inside the prison, Kelly has found that approximately 70 percent of the women around her have experienced abuse. She recalled one class of 49 women in which only four of the women reported that they had no abuse in their homes before the age of 18. Of those four, only one woman said that she had never experienced abuse in her adult life.
She has also met numerous women in her situation. She recalled a planned workshop for women imprisoned specifically for the harm or death of a child. More than 70 women, including Kelly, filled out the four-page survey to participate. The number of women who could have participated is probably higher, Kelly said, but because of the stigma and threats of violence against women who allow a child to be hurt, many (including Kaufman's daughter) continue to keep quiet.
Losing Both Her Children
Kelly's daughter Krystal was 18 months old when her brother Justin was killed. Given her history of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of relatives, Kelly decided not to ask her family to take care of Krystal. Instead, Mark's mother came from Florida to take custody.
The last time Kelly saw Krystal was in October 1995; the girl was nearly 2 years old. "I was supposed to have a one-hour contact visit, but I didn't get a full hour," Kelly said. She recalled that both Mark's mother and the social worker warned her not to say anything about Justin to her daughter. "They also told me not to be surprised if she didn't know who I was since it had been two months since we saw each other," she said. "But she knew right away who I was." Mark's mother took the toddler to Florida soon after the visit.
For the next two years, their only communication was through phone calls. "We'd sing the Barney song together," she remembered. But when Kelly refused to accept a plea bargain that would enable Mark to face a lesser sentence, all contact was cut off. Kelly wrote to her daughter via Mark's sister, who promised that she would one day show her letters to the girl. But even then there were rules. "They said I wasn't allowed to be called mom. I had to be called Kelly or else they wouldn't give her the letter," she said. But Kelly wrote to her daughter every month. "I just kept trying."
In 2007, Krystal finally got to see her mother's letters. She had left her grandmother's house and moved in with Mark's sister, who had saved the letters for her. After reading them, she contacted her mother. "Half the time she's angry and half the time she just wants to know what really happened," Kelly said.
"My Only Hope"
In 2001, California passed Section 1473.5 of the Penal Code, which allows incarcerated abuse survivors convicted of defending themselves to file a writ of habeas corpus if expert testimony about battering and its effects was not presented during their trial. In 2004, it was expanded to allow abuse survivors convicted of any violent felony to file a petition. The law's expansion meant that Kelly was eligible to petition for a review of her conviction by introducing expert testimony about her abuse that had been absent at her trial.
In 2002, advocacy groups Free Battered Women, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, the California Women's Law Center and the USC Post-Conviction Justice Project established the Habeas Project to recruit and train volunteer legal teams (attorneys, advocates, investigators and expert witnesses) to work with abuse survivors filing habeas petitions under the new law. By 2007, its efforts had helped free 19 battered women with life sentences. However, despite its best efforts, many women still lack an attorney to help them navigate the process and the Habeas Project closed in 2013 due to a lack of funding. While advocates, including formerly incarcerated battered women, continue to reach out to attorneys, the demand far outweighs the supply. "What's very apparent is the lack of resources for women trying to petition for relief, " noted Lenz, the organizer with California Coalition for Women Prisoners.
When Kelly first learned about 1473.5, she did not apply. Then she began training to become a peer educator in domestic violence, which required 387 hours of workshops with advocates, social workers and others in the field. After one workshop, Kelly spoke to the facilitator, a social worker from Weave, a battered women's shelter in Sacramento. The social worker told her about different training, which examines the effects of child abuse on the mother, and about one mother she had worked with whose husband had killed all three of their children while she was out of the house. "You can't beat yourself up to the point where you give up," Kelly recalled the social worker telling her. Kelly took those words to heart. Thus in 2005, three days before the 10-year anniversary of her son's death, friends helped her fill out the paperwork to request a lawyer to help navigate the habeas process.
The Habeas Project connected Kelly with the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Two of the firm's attorneys, Christina Harper and George Cumming, took on Kelly's petition pro bono. After reviewing her case, Cumming was appalled. "Kelly was convicted by the exploitation of every single derogatory gender stereotype," he told Truthout. "The prosecutor argued that Kelly didn't leave because she enjoyed the beatings and that she allowed her husband to beat Justin in order to please him. But anyone who knows anything about battered women knows how horribly difficult it is for them to leave."
Cumming and Harper wrote Savage's habeas petition. In addition, they also wrote a six-page letter to Kamala Harris, California's attorney general, requesting a meeting to discuss the case. They also included 100 pages of declarations from domestic violence experts. Harris' office declined to meet with them. Sister Helen Prejean, with whom Cumming had worked on a death penalty case in Texas, also wrote to Harris, asking that she meet with Cumming. Harris' office did not respond.
Kelly's petition is currently before the Court of Appeals, which has twice asked Harris to file a response to her petition. In both responses, the attorney general has made clear that she opposes Kelly's petition, arguing that since her lawyer retained Kaufman, a clinical psychologist, Savage had not been prevented from introducing evidence of battered women's syndrome at her trial. In her second response, she argued that 1473.5 was not meant to "eviscerate the well-established rule that prohibits defendant from relitigating matters on habeas corpus that were previously litigated and resolved at trial simply because she has secured a more favorable opinion." In fact, the response continues, "A contrary finding would leave state court judgments vulnerable to indefinite collateral attack based on the evolving state of the expert's disciplinary studies in Battered Women's Syndrome/Intimate Partner Battering."
Cumming and Harper aren't buying that argument. "If the statute doesn't apply to Kelly, then it doesn't apply to any battered woman," Cumming said.
But Harris' office has, on at least one occasion, withdrawn its opposition, Harper noted. When Sara Kruzan, imprisoned since age 16 for killing her abusive pimp, filed her habeas petition, Harris originally opposed it. Kruzan first met George Gilbert Howard when she was 11. He was 31. When she was 13, Howard raped her, and then forced her to begin working as a prostitute. When she was 16, she killed him. She was originally sentenced to life without parole plus an additional four years. In 2010, after she had spent 16 years in prison, her sentence was commuted to 25 years to life. Her habeas petition argued that if evidence of intimate partner battering had been introduced at her trial, the results might have been different. Harris' office originally opposed Kruzan's petition, arguing that Kruzan's circumstances did not fit the definition of cohabitation or a dating relationship. But in 2012, it withdrew its opposition, stating that it recognized that, although Kruzan's exploitation was not from domestic or dating violence, the reasoning behind 1473.5 still applied. Kruzan was released in October 2013 after spending 18 years in prison.
"It's highly unusual for the appellate court to ask the attorney general to file a second response to a habeas petition," Cumming said. He is hopeful that the request means that the court is seriously considering Kelly's petition and will rule favorably. If it does, Kelly could be granted a new trial where an expert witness could testify on her behalf.
Meanwhile, the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, which has worked with Kelly for over a decade, has started petition asking Harris to withdraw her opposition. More than 7,500 people have signed, many of whom identify as domestic violence survivors. Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) has also put out an online petition. The attorney general's office has declined to comment.
"Going through this process has given me an education, knowing that people care and that people want to help," Kelly told Truthout from prison. Still, she realizes that her habeas petition is her last - and only - chance. "This is my only hope. If not, this is where I stay."
By Victoria Law, Truthout    Saturday, 29 November 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014


The national media has taken the spotlight off the racist police murders piling up in America and the protests that have followed to opine about the Senate torture report.  Actually, the connection between the two is obvious, if only one takes a moment to see it (Read Chauncey DeVega's post below for some good insight on this).

Torture, everybody's talking about torture...the pundits are all aghast at the Senate report.  ..have we lost a moral compass, they ask?

Seriously?  What moral compass are they even talking about?

Ain't nothing new here, not really.

Torture has been a part of USA history since the git go.

Even before the USA was a thought, we find  A Spanish missionary, Bartolome de las Casas, describing eye-witness accounts of mass murder, torture and rape of indigenous people. Author Barry Lopez, summarizing Las Casas' report wrote:
"One day, in front of Las Casas, the Spanish dismembered, beheaded, or raped 3000 people. 'Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight,' he says, 'as no age can parallel....' The Spanish cut off the legs of children who ran from them. They poured people full of boiling soap. They made bets as to who, with one sweep of his sword, could cut a person in half. They loosed dogs that 'devoured an Indian like a hog, at first sight, in less than a moment.' They used nursing infants for dog food." 

Ask the shocked pundits about slavery.  Take a peek at Ed Baptist’s The Half that Has NeverBeen Told.  Slaves were tortured by whipping, shackling, hanging, beating, burning, mutilation, branding and imprisonment.  They were tortured with knives, guns, field tools and nearby objects.  George Rawick in the book From Sundown to Sunup, writes about the torture of slave women,

If the woman was pregnant, workers might dig a hole for her to rest her belly while being whipped. After slaves were whipped, overseers might order their wounds be burst and rubbed with turpentine and red pepper. An overseer reportedly took a brick, ground it into a powder, mixed it with lard and rubbed it all over a slave

The Atlanta Blackstar has a pretty horrifying piece entitled  "8 Disturbing Photos of Instruments of Torture Used on Black People."  Let me quote from the article about one of the devices:

The thumbscrew is a torture instrument that was used on captured Black people aboard slaver traders’ ships on the Atlantic Ocean. The torture device was often used against the Africans involved in uprisings and insurrection during the Atlantic slave trade from the 16th to 19th century. The leader would be forced to place his thumbs between two flat metal pieces, connected by one or more screws. The metal bars had ridges, either smooth bumps or sharp spikes, that would bore into a victim’s thumbs, trapping him into the metal mechanism as his bones were crushed. It was a small, torturous device that inflicted extreme pain without too much effort.

Ask the pundits about the Filipinos who fought against the USA back in 1898.  US troops used torture to interrogate suspects for information. One method was the ‘water cure.’
USA soldiers  would shove a funnel into the victim's mouth and then fill him with water until his stomach distended. Then they would jump on the victim's stomach until he vomited. 
Ask the pundits about  people being questioned by cops back in the 1900s.  That same water cure was just one of the tools in the arsenal of the police.  Psychologist G.Daniel Lassiter  in his 2004 book about it.  He wrote:  
...the water cure consisted of holding a suspect's head in water until he almost drowned; or thrusting a water hose into his mouth or down his mouth; or forcing a suspect to lay on his back (if not already strapped to a cot or slab) while pouring water into his nostrils, sometimes from a dipper until he was nearly strangled.

Ask the pundits about CIA torture research back in the 1950s?  As the History Network notes:

From 1950 to 1962, the CIA led a secret research effort to crack the code of human consciousness, a veritable Manhattan project of the mind with costs that reached a billion dollars a year. Many have heard about the most outlandish and least successful aspect of this research -- the testing of LSD on unsuspecting subjects and the tragic death of a CIA employee, Dr. Frank Olson, who jumped to his death from a New York hotel after a dose of this drug. This Agency drug testing, the focus of countless sensational press accounts and a half-dozen major books, led nowhere.

But obscure CIA-funded behavioral experiments, outsourced to the country’s leading universities, produced two key findings, both duly and dully reported in scientific journals, that contributed to the discovery of a distinctly American form of torture: psychological torture.With funding from Canada’s Defense Research Board, famed Canadian psychologist Dr. Donald O. Hebb found that he could induce a state akin to psychosis in just 48 hours. What had the doctor done—drugs, hypnosis, electroshock? No, none of the above.

For two days, student volunteers at McGill University, where Dr. Hebb was chair of Psychology, simply sat in comfortable cubicles deprived of sensory stimulation by goggles, gloves, and ear muffs... 

Dr. Hebb himself reported that after just two to three days of such isolation “the subject’s very identity had begun to disintegrate.”If you compare a drawing of Dr. Hebb’s student volunteers published in “Scientific American” with later photos of Guantanamo detainees, the similarity is, for good reason, striking.

Meanwhile, the CIA was training military interrogators across the Americas in torture techniques. 

Ask the pundits to take a look at the testimony of Vietnam War veteran Brian Wilson who stated (and I present this in full):

I became aware of torture as a U.S. policy in 1969 when I was serving as a USAF combat security officer working near Can Tho City in Vietnam's Mekong Delta. I was informed about the CIA's Phong Dinh Province Interrogation Center (PIC) at the Can Tho Army airfield where supposedly "significant members" of the VCI (Viet Cong infrastructure) were taken for torture as part of the Phoenix Pacification Program. A huge French-built prison nearby was also apparently utilized for torture of suspects from the Delta region. Many were routinely murdered.

Naive, I was shocked! The Agency for International Development (AID) working with Southern Illinois University, for example, trained Vietnamese police and prison officials in the art of torture ("interrogations") under cover of "public safety." American officials believed they were teaching "better methods," often making suggestions during torture sessions conducted by Vietnamese police.

Instead of the recent euphemism "illegal combatants," the United State in Vietnam claimed prisoners were "criminal" and therefore exempt from Geneva Convention protections.

The use of torture as a function of terror, or its equivalent in sadistic behavior, has been historic de facto U.S. policy.

Our European ancestors' shameful, sadistic treatment of the indigenous inhabitants based on an ethos of arrogance and violence has become ingrained in our values. "Manifest destiny" has rationalized as a religion the elimination or assimilation of those perceived to be blocking American progress—at home or abroad—a belief that expansion of the nation, including subjugation of natives and others, is divinely ordained, that our "superior race" is obligated to "civilize" those who stand in the way.

When examining my roots in New York and New England, I discovered that Indian captives were skinned alive and dragged through the streets of New Amsterdam (New York City) in the 1640s. Scalping enabled Indian bounty hunters to be paid.

Captains Underhill and Endicott, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony governed by John Winthrop, spent their time "burning and spoiling the country" of Indians in Rhode Island and Connecticut in 1636–37, while sparing the children and women as slaves.

My hometown of Geneva in the Finger Lakes region of New York State was once home to the Seneca Nation with its flourishing farms, orchards, and sturdy houses. In one two-week period in September 1779, General George Washington's orders "to lay waste…that the country…be…destroyed," instilling "terror" among the Indians, were dutifully carried out by General Sullivan, who promised that "the Indians shall see that there is malice enough in our hearts to destroy everything that contributes to their support." Sullivan's campaign has been described as a ruthless policy of scorched earth, bearing comparison with Sherman's march to the sea or the search-and-destroy missions of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam.

In northern California, where I now live, the same grueling history exists. Bret Harte wrote in 1860 that little children and old women were mercilessly stabbed and their skulls crushed by axes: "Old women…lay weltering in blood, their brains dashed out…while infants…with their faces cloven with hatchets and their bodies ghastly wounds" lay nearby.

In 1920, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) investigated the conduct of U.S. troops who had occupied Haiti since 1915. More than 3,000 Haitians were killed by U.S. Marines, many having been tortured.

When indigenous Nicaraguan resistance fought against the occupying U.S. forces in the late 1920s, the Marines launched counterinsurgency war. U.S. policymakers insisted on "stabilizing" the country to enforce loan repayments to U.S. banks. They defined the resistance forces as "bandits," an earlier equivalent to the "criminal prisoners" in Vietnam and "illegal combatants" in Iraq. Since the United States claimed not to be fighting a legitimate military force, any Nicaraguan perceived as interfering with the occupiers was commonly subjected to beatings, tortures, and beheadings. When the Somoza dictatorship (installed by the United States) was overthrown in 1979, the Somoza torture centers were immediately destroyed.

In 1946, the U.S. Army institutionalized teaching torture techniques to Latin American militaries with the opening of its School of the Americas (SOA), which continues today as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC).

Torture has been a historical U.S. practice in police stations and prisons—and via countless vigilante crimes of sadistic torture and mutilation against black Americans.

The Wickersham Commission's 1931 Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement concluded that "the third degree is the employment of methods which inflict suffering, physical or mental, upon a person, in order to obtain from that person information about a crime… The third degree is widespread. The third degree is a secret and illegal practice."

Seventy years later, the 2002 Human Rights Watch World Report documented systematic use of torture by U.S. police: "thousands of allegations of police abuse, including excessive use of force, such as unjustified shootings, beatings, fatal chokings, and rough treatment."

My studies of brutality in Massachusetts prisons in 1981 concluded (in "Walpole State Prison, Massachusetts: An Exercise in Torture") by noting "a clear pattern and history of systematic torture including withholding water, heat, bedding, medical care, and showers; imposition of hazards such as flooding cells, placing foreign matter in food, igniting clothes and bedding, spraying with mace and tear gas; regular physical assaults and beatings; and forcing prisoners to lie face down, naked and handcuffed to one another…on freezing…outdoor ground while being kicked and beaten." This was two decades before the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo revelations.

Terry Kupers, a psychiatrist, has testified about human rights abuses in U.S. prisons. "The plight of prisoners in the USA is strikingly similar to the plight of the Iraqis who were abused by American GIs. Prisoners are maced, raped, beaten, starved, left naked in freezing cold cells and otherwise abused in too many American prisons, as substantiated by findings in many courts…"

It would behoove us to attempt to understand the underlying psychological defenses that seem to have afflicted us like a cultural mental illness since our origins.

So, I say to Mr. Pundit, I say to Anderson Cooper and to Rachel Maddow, get over it.  This isn't a new story.  This is American history pure and simple.

The following is from our old friend Chauncey DeVega. 

The Culture of Cruelty is International: From Lynchings to Eric Garner and the CIA Torture Report

In its deranged madness to prevent a second 9/11 attack on "the homeland", the United States tortured and brutalized suspected "terrorists" with drownings, beatings, forcing food through their anuses, handcuffing people with broken legs to the ceiling, parading them around naked, threatening to sexually assault their mothers and families, exposing them to extreme temperatures, and sensory deprivation.

This is a sterile bullet point-like summary--the irony of that office speak MBA language is fitting and unintentionally macabre and darkly humorous--of the tortures that the CIA will publicly admit to having committed; the real horrors are likely far worse, hiding behind redacted passages and in dark corners, hushed rumors that circulate in the alcohol influenced bar and private conversations of CIA agents and private contractors, never to be publicly admitted to or spoken of.

A willfully ignorant public and a deceptive lying chattering class wrap themselves in American exceptionalism as a means of claiming surprise, shock, and horror at the faux revelations in the CIA torture report. They do this because the truth cannot be reconciled with the myths of an America that never really existed.

America tortures people. It has done this domestically to war resisters, conscience objectors, pacifists, suffragettes, slaves, civil rights workers, and inmates.

Inflicting pain on the black body is a special obsession andparaphilia for white America. In its pogroms, land theft, and riots, white Americans lynched at least 10,000 black citizens.

The CIA torture report is a damning document and a difficult read. It is child's fare compared to the tortures inflicted on black people by white folks for centuries in their ritual birthright of American Apartheid and Jim Crow.

A member of the white lynching party that destroyed Mr. Claude Neal in 1934 offers this account of White America's habit of racial torture on the black body:

“After taking the nigger to the woods about four miles from Greenwood, they cut off his penis. He was made to eat it. Then they cut off his testicles and made him eat them and say he liked it. Then they sliced his sides and stomach with knives and every now and then somebody would cut off a finger or toe. Red hot irons were used on the nigger to burn him from top to bottom.” From time to time during the torture a rope would be tied around Neal’s neck and he was pulled up over a limb and held there until he almost choked to death when he would be let down and the torture begin all over again. After several hours of this unspeakable torture, “they decided just to kill him.”
The United States has tortured people abroad in its wars, secret prisons, and other covert operations. Because the United States has historically been, and remains in the present, a white racist society, it is far easier to torture those who are marked as some type of Other.

Thus, white on black and brown racial violence and torture is far more common than white on white torture.

The United States is also an expert in torture. Its School of the Americas taught soon to be petit-thug dictators and their secret police forces how to torture, intimidate, and terrorize their own people. The hundreds, if not thousands of amateurs in the art of pain would graduate from the School of the Americas as masters, proliferating and spawning many more minions in their own countries, like fruit flies or bacteria, as they "disappeared" and tortured "Communists" in the name of "democracy" and "freedom".

But ultimately, the United States tortures on both sides of the colorline--perhaps this is one of the few spaces that has been radically democratic and inclusive?

America's torture machine, and the culture of cruelty that produced it, exist internationally and across the colorline.

Torture is sustained and legitimated by the banality of evil and a numbness to violence and harm done to others as a learned behavior--one taught by violent movies, video games, and conditioned by a neverending "War on Terror" where robots and drones kill from afar with ruthless efficiency.

Consequently, the "War on Terror" is a persistent "state of emergency" that retards and damages a democratic polity and public sphere.

The philosopher and social critic Slavoj Zizek details this processwith his usual keen insight:

The paradox is that the state of emergency was the normal state, while ‘normal’ democratic freedom was the briefly enacted exception. This weird regime anticipated some clearly perceptible trends in our liberal-democratic societies in the aftermath of 11 September. Is today’s rhetoric not that of a global emergency in the fight against terrorism, legitimising more and more suspensions of legal and other rights?

The ominous aspect of John Ashcroft’s recent claim that ‘terrorists use America’s freedom as a weapon against us’ carries the obvious implication that we should limit our freedom in order to defend ourselves. Such statements from top American officials, especially Rumsfeld and Ashcroft, together with the explosive display of ‘American patriotism’ after 11 September, create the climate for what amounts to a state of emergency, with the occasion it supplies for a potential suspension of rule of law, and the state’s assertion of its sovereignty without ‘excessive’ legal constraints. America is, after all, as President Bush said immediately after 11 September, in a state of war.

The problem is that America is, precisely, not in a state of war, at least not in the conventional sense of the term (for the large majority, daily life goes on, and war remains the exclusive business of state agencies). With the distinction between a state of war and a state of peace thus effectively blurred, we are entering a time in which a state of peace can at the same time be a state of emergency.
The CIA report, and the persistent "state of emergency" that was used to legitimate the crimes detailed therein, exists in the same moral, ethical, and cognitive space, as those white people which are stuck in the White Gaze, and twisted by white racial paranoiac thinking, who can watch the video of Eric Garner being choked to death, and subsequently reason that he is responsible for his own death.

The banality of evil is shown by the spokespeople and defenders of the CIA who are more concerned that wicked (and ineffective) torture was "understandable" in the context of America's fear of terrorism, and that those personnel who committed such deeds will be "unfairly" persecuted.

Fear as the justification for cruelty and evil is a common defense. It is deployed by both the nation state and individuals. Darren Wilson, the police killers of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, and other white authorities retreat as a function of habit and training to this plea of "reasonable" fear (as processed through White racial logic) when they kill unarmed black and brown people.

It is empty and possesses little moral weight. Fear as a defense for wrong-doing is a surrender to cowardice and the most low thinking, practices that are more akin to that of impulsive instinct-driven beasts than human beings who imagine themselves as possessing the highest and most evolved capacity for reason.

Half of the American people have succumbed to the banality of evil and the cultural logic of torture.

A new poll by Pew Research details how:

Amid intense debate over the use of torture against suspected terrorists, public opinion about this issue remains fairly stable. Currently, nearly half say the use of torture under such circumstances is often (15%) or sometimes (34%) justified; about the same proportion believes that the torture of suspected terrorists is rarely (22%) or never (25%) justified.
Here, civil virtue and commonsense have been betrayed by fear mongering and manipulation: the American people are legitimating and rationalizing the very policies (directly through the physical act of torture; culturally through a numbing to poverty, human suffering, and an abandonment of a humane society) that have been and will en masse be turned against them in an era of Austerity and Inverted Totalitarianism.

There are many questions that cannot be asked within the limits of the approved American public discourse.

A basic definition of terrorism is the use of violence and fear to accomplish a political goal.

What if the language of "terrorist" and "torture" were applied to the behavior of the United States government and the American people both at home and abroad? Would the same justification for torture remain?

American exceptionalism--and nationalism more generally--can through arbitrary distinctions of territory, and the various colors of dye on a piece of fabric called a flag, make what is deemed to be wrong in one context legitimate and acceptable in another. The distorting of morality, reason, and ethics through nationalism makes the above questions verboten in American public discourse. This does not mean that such questions ought not to be asked or related scenarios explored.

White racial terrorism against people of color was and remains the norm in American life, society, and culture.

The Ku Klux Klan has been (and likely remains) the largest terrorist organization in the history of the United States.

For centuries, white slave patrollers intimidated, harassed, and killed both black human property as well as free people. American Apartheid, that period from the establishment of America as a slave society in the 17th century, through to the softening of legal white supremacy and the resulting colorblind and institutional systems of white racial advantage in the post civil rights era, use(d) violence--and the threat of violence--to intimidate and control the African-American community.

In the post civil rights era and the Age of Obama, America's police have continued with their historic mission of maintaining the colorline through committing acts of both interpersonal and institutional terrorism and violence against black and brown people.

The killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and those hundreds and thousands of others (so many dead, which given the lack of police accountability and transparency, may never be fully and publicly known) killed at least once every 28 hours in the United States serve the political goal of maintaining state custodial citizenship, providing human beings for the profits to made by the prison industrial complex, and satisfying the psychological wages of whiteness in the form of "law and order" and a sense of safety and security from black people in a hyper-segregated society.

Torture as public policy by America's police and prisons has been condemned by groups such as Amnesty International and the United Nations:

The U.N. Committee against Torture urged the United States on Friday to fully investigate and prosecute police brutality and shootings of unarmed black youth and ensure that taser weapons are used sparingly. 
The panel’s first review of the U.S. record on preventing torture since 2006 followed racially-tinged unrest in cities across the country this week sparked by a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury’s decision not to charge a white police officer for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager. 
The committee decried “excruciating pain and prolonged suffering” for prisoners during “botched executions” as well as frequent rapes of inmates, shackling of pregnant women in some prisons and extensive use of solitary confinement. 
Its findings cited deep concern about “numerous reports” of police brutality and excessive use of force against people from minority groups, immigrants, homosexuals and racial profiling. The panel referred to the “frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals.”
Incidents of torture by the police against black and brown people are many.

In 1997, New York cops tortured Abner Louima, by anally raping him with a broomstick:

One officer, Justin A. Volpe, admitted in court in May 1999 that he had rammed a broken broomstick into Mr. Louima’s rectum and then thrust it in his face. He said he had mistakenly believed that Mr. Louima had punched him in the head during a street brawl outside a nightclub in Flatbush, but he acknowledged that he had also intended to humiliate the handcuffed immigrant. He left the force and was later sentenced to 30 years in prison. The commanders of the 70th Precinct were replaced within days of the assault. As the legal case wore on, Charles Schwarz, a former police officer, was sentenced in federal court in 2002 to five years in prison for perjury stemming from the torture case. A jury found that Mr. Schwarz had lied when he testified that he had not taken Mr. Louima to the station house bathroom where the assault took place.

Mr. Louima, who was born in Thomassin, Haiti, in 1966, and immigrated to New York in 1991, suffered a ruptured bladder and colon and spent two months in the hospital. The charges against him were dropped.
More than 100 black men in Chicago were tortured by police over the course of several decades in order to force them to give false confessions:
Men who say they were tortured by Chicago police into confessing to crimes they did not commit are renewing calls for compensation from the city. 
They held a news conference Thursday to ask the City Council to pass an ordinance establishing a $20 million fund to torture victims who didn't qualify for settlements because of the statute of limitations. 
More than 100 men have accused former police commander Jon Burge and officers under his command of shocking, suffocating and beating them into giving false confessions. Burge has never been criminally charged with torture. 
But he is serving a 4 1/2 -year sentence for lying about the torture in a civil case, and was scheduled to leave prison on Thursday to serve the remainder of his time in a halfway house.
Michael Brown's body laying in the street for four hours; Eric Garner's plea for mercy that "I can't breath!"; the sodomizing of Abner Louima; the tortures that are day-to-day policy in America's prisons and jails; police brutality and militarization; the beatings, anal force feeding, sensory deprivation, drownings, and other cruelties detailed by the CIA torture report, are part of a broader culture of cruelty where human life is cheapened and debased.

Moreover, the culture of cruelty is international and domestic. On both terrains, it is far easier for the American state and its representatives to torture and render other violence against non-whites. White racial logic deems it acceptable to kill some nebulous brown Muslim "terrorist" Other in the same way thatunarmed black men are transformed into "giant negroes" with superhuman strength who are demonically possessed while they supposedly attack white police officers.

If the Pew survey is correct--and half of the American people actually believe that "terrorists" from abroad should be tortured--then philosophical consistency should demand the same treatment for (white) American terrorists at home who harass, kill, or otherwise benefit from institutional and interpersonal white on black and brown violence by police and the state.

Such a suggestion may be met with shock or upset by those who are afraid to ask foundational questions about human decency and the Common Good outside of the comforting blinders of flag-waving nationalism and the panoply of myths which sustain a belief that America is "the best country on Earth".

Torture is wrong. It is unacceptable when done against "terrorists" or other "enemies of the state" abroad. Torture and terrorism are unacceptable when done by the United States government, police, or other representatives against its black and brown citizens and communities, as well as white folks too.

Moral consistency is the simplest of principles and behaviors; it is also very difficult for many Americans, especially those drunk on American exceptionalism and Right-wing authoritarianism, to comprehend and understand.

This is the failure of national character that made the horrors detailed in the CIA torture report possible.

All Americans of conscience should decry, condemn, and hold accountable the individuals, government behavior, and cruel policies detailed in the CIA torture report. Those same Americans of conscience should demand accountability from the police who kill unarmed and innocent black and brown people.

"Not in my name!" is a slogan and command for America's broken foreign policies to be corrected.

"Not in my name!" should be shouted (and acted upon) by all of our white brothers and sisters at the police thugs who are engaging in racial terrorism against the black community.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014


With all the attention right now focusing on cops killing African Americans, maybe we should dig even deeper into what is going on with policing in general.  These killings don't just happen and they are not escalating for no reason.  Racialized police practices, which have always existed in the USA, are quite simply becoming more intense.  There is of course this Broken Windows policing theory we have heard more about lately, at least I have. By the way, Stop and Frisk should be seen as just an element of this overall policing policy.  An editorial by the Kasama Collective rightly shows,

The supposed theory behind the Broken Windows policy is that if the NYPD keeps poor people in line, and enforces “order” in poor and working-class neighborhoods, overall crime will go down citywide. The liberal establishment likes the policy because it is aimed at keeping things away from them they don't want to see. But it's no kind of actual “police reform,” it accepts the police as they are, their brutality not checked but only slightly redirected. And this policy doesn't challenge the right of the city to use military-style repression against New York City communities as long as they're outside the neighborhoods where real-estate money has squeezed regular people out.

report on NYPD practices, published on recently by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan provide plenty of evidence that the Broken Windows policy has indeed been racist.   The report finds that, since 1980, “the percentage of New Yorkers arrested for misdemeanors has tripled” and that this huge increase has disproportionately fallen on the city’s communities of color. Since 1990, “[t]he number of blacks arrested for misdemeanors nearly doubled.” And for Latinos, the numbers are even more dramatic; 30,885 were arrested for petty crimes in 1990, while 78,733 experienced the same fate in 2013.  

At the same time Salon points out:

White people, on the other hand, had an easier go of it. Back in 1990, a shade less than 22,000 were nabbed for small stuff like jumping a subway turnstile or carrying with them a small amount of pot. By 2013, that figure was 28,996 — a relatively minor bump. 

New York's liberal mayor's good buddy and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton claims that the Broken Windows policy is not racist, rather, he says it is the troubled nature of black and Hispanic neighborhoods that cause the concentration of this sort of police activity.  Liberals usually applaud this policy which they say  holds that urban crime is facilitated when small problems are left to fester.  When broken windows are left unfixed, streets unswept and minor crimes unpunished, criminality – the theory goes – is encouraged.   Supporters of the policy, "to use the metaphor of the idea, actual broken windows create the appearance of disorder, which creates actual disorder as criminals take advantage of the inviting environment. Rather than wait for the serious crimes to begin, police should “repair the windows”—focus on petty crime like loitering, and you’ll stop the worse crime from taking hold."  

Unfortunately, study after study, including one in 2006 carried out by the University of Chicago find no evidence that the policy works.  The study reports:

...the evidence from New York City and from the five-city social experiment provides no support for a simple first-order disorder-crime relationship as hypothesized by Wilson and Kelling nor for the proposition that broken windows policing is the optimal use of scarce law enforcement resources.

In reality, the theory is rooted in the belief that poverty is a moral failing, with the lower classes having too many civil rights. The broken windows approach to law enforcement encourages the police to treat people of color and the poor as less then human, as criminals, and to abuse them accordingly in the name of law and order.  Justin Peters writes in the Atlantic, 

The principle behind this idea, however, is at the root of broken windows policing: the idea that lower-class men are inherently dangerous and untrustworthy and are likely to commit crimes in the future even if they’re not doing so today. To put it another way, there are times where “the essential welfare of individuals must be sacrificed for the good health of society... 

This theory encourages the police to conflate supposed cultural deviance with criminal deviance, to assume that a “disreputable or obstreperous” demeanor indicates some more destructive pathology. Kelling and Wilson cited the example of one effective Newark, New Jersey, police officer who had the habit of “taking informal or extralegal steps to help protect what the neighborhood had decided was the appropriate level of public order.” In other words, he targeted those who deviate from behavioral norms—norms that are defined by the dominant social class, of course. And while Banfield insisted that he was not making a racial argument—that there were lower-class whites as well as lower-class blacks—the fact is that class status correlates to socio-economic status, and urban poverty is minority poverty. No need for code words here: In modern America, “lower class” basically means “black.” “Disreputable or obstreperous or unpredictable”—that also means “black.”
Broken windows will always become an agent of neighborhood bigotry, because broken windows encourages cops to define lower-class men as basically another species and to make ad hoc cultural judgments the linchpin of crime prevention strategies. This is how looking different transforms into looking dangerous. This is how Eric Garner dies, mumbling “I can’t breathe,” held in a chokehold by a white police officer who works for a department led by a man who believes that if “you take care of the little things, then you can prevent a lot of the big things.”  

While Bratton tries to pass off the disproportionate number of Blacks and Latinos who are impacted by this policy he loves so well, on a stronger police presence in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods, where the population is largely Black and Latino, the truth is obviously otherwise.

In fact a New York Daily News review of nearly two million Broken Windows summons found:

It doesn’t matter where in the city it’s taking place, Blacks and Latinos are being targeted once again.

Some areas with large disparities are indeed largely Black and Latino. In the Mill Basin and Flatlands neighborhoods that make up the NYPD’s 63rd Precinct, Blacks and Latinos make up 52 percent of the population and 81 percent of summonses—a 28-percentage point difference. The disparity is the same in the 88th Precinct’s Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods, where the population is 60 percent Black and Latino, as are those who receive 87 percent of the summonses.

But why do Blacks and Latinos make up just as large a share of summonses in neighborhoods that are predominantly white? In the 20th Precinct’s tony Upper West Side, where 87 percent of the population is white, Blacks and Latinos receive 60 percent of the summonses, a 47-percentage point disparity. In its neighboring precinct to the north, the 24th Precinct, Blacks and Latinos receive 84 percent of the summonses, despite making up only 34 percent of the population. And across the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, in the Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO and Boerum Hill neighborhoods, 84th Precinct officers issue 78 percent of their summonses to Blacks and Latinos, who represent just 28 percent of the population.

The last two represent racial disparities of a full 50 percentage  points.

Another 17 precincts—20 total—have disparities of at least 30 percentage points. Only one is a neighborhood that is home to a 50-plus percent Black and Latino population. (Officers in the 70th Precinct’s Flatbush and Ditmas Park neighborhoods, which are 52 percent Black and Latino, issue 84 percent of summonses to Blacks and Latinos.)

In every neighborhood where the disparity was six percentage points or smaller, Blacks and Latinos represent at least 87 percent of the population, but never fewer than 87 percent of the summonses.

Commenting on the Daily News  report Rep. Hakeep Jeffries of Brooklyn said, 

 The traditional law-enforcement excuse is that Black and Latino neighborhoods suffer from disproportionately higher shares of crime, and that’s why Broken Windows is disproportionately enforced. These numbers reveal that the Broken Windows strategy targets Blacks and Latinos all throughout the City of New York, even in neighborhoods of relatively low crime.
These citations are minor—“consumption of alcohol on streets” and “bicycle on sidewalk”—but they produce frequent (and potentially dangerous) police encounters. The policy, in other words creates a world for millions of black and Latino New Yorkers far different then the one lived in by white citizens. For Blacks and Latinos, the city is a literal police state, where officers patrol for papers and detain individuals on the slightest suspicion of illegal conduct.

Am I surprised in any way that policing policies are so obviously racist?

I think not.

They simply reflect the white supremacist foundations upon which this nation is based and upon which it continues cheerfully to function.

Do I think that such policies led directly to the death of Eric Garner?


Need I continue?

I think not.

The following is from Medium.


Raven Rakia

In 1982, George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson introduced the Broken Windows Theory to a national audience with an article published in The Atlantic Monthly. Theorizing about policing in low-income, inner-city, and predominantly black neighborhoods, Kelling and Wilson put forth an argument that cracking down on public disturbances and petty crimes with foot patrol officers would stop larger, more violent crimes from occurring. The essay cites the Newark Foot Patrol Experiment, a study orchestrated by George Kelling and funded by the Police Foundation — created by the Ford Foundation in 1970. Using the study as evidence, Kelling and Wilson admit that while this way of policing shows no reduction in crime or any affect on crime rates altogether, it does give people (some residents and those with commercial interests in the neighborhood) a sense of safety.
Despite mentioning early on that “the foundation concluded, to the surprise of hardly anyone, that [policing during the Newark Experiment] had not reduced crime rates,” they go on to argue that this feeling of safety brought by the police presence prevents more violent crimes from occurring.
Occasionally evoking racist tropes, such as referring to people as “animals” or communities as “jungles,” Kelling and Wilson argue that the role of the police is to maintain a type of social control:
“We suggest the ‘untended’ behavior also leads to the breakdown of community controls. A stable neighborhood of families who care for their homes, mind each other’s children, and confidently frown on unwanted intruders can change, in a few years or even a few months, to an inhospitable frightening jungle.”

George L. Kelling, thinking.

The title of the article refers to a theory on deteriorating property that is not tended to: “one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows cost nothing.” The idea is that a broken window should therefore be replaced or fixed. Wilson and Kelling then apply this theory about damaged property to living and breathing human beings: “the unchecked panhandler is, in effect, the first broken window.” The United States has a long history of implementing systems of control for the black population — from auction blocks and slave patrols, to black codes and sharecropping — resting on the notion that black people are not free or human but rather, someone’s property. These systems of control, depending on free or cheap labor, create great profits for the ownership class. It is quite revealing that the theory behind contemporary urban policing across America still rests on the concept that black people are property — and should be ‘handled’ as such.
Wilson and Kelling go on to detail the other types of humans they have declared damaged property. They argue that a group of young people saying things that aren’t nice deserve to be policed and criminalized simply because they make people uncomfortable: “a gang can weaken or destroy a community by standing about in a menacing fashion and speaking rudely to passersby without breaking the law.”
Searching for what is feared in the neighborhood, they zero in on a specific, irrational one — regardless of whether the majority concerns itself with that particular fear.
A “survey, in Baltimore, discovered that nearly half would cross the street to avoid even a single strange youth. When an interviewer asked people in a housing project where the most dangerous spot was, they mentioned a place where young persons gathered to drink and play music, despite the fact that not a single crime had occurred there.”
But instead of pointing out that this is profiling based on race and age (Kelling and Wilson are only discussing black neighborhoods); they use the irrational fear of young, black people to promote policing and criminalizing their existence. Kelling and Wilson want to purge the neighborhood of the undesirable — the homeless, the poor, the loud, the young and black — by harassing, abusing and forcibly removing them so often that they either no longer appear in public or get locked in a cage.
In the end, Kelling and Wilson cannot truly answer their own question, “how can a neighborhood be ‘safer’ when the crime rate has not gone down — in fact, may have gone up?” because it debunks their entire theory. The answer is an obvious one: It cannot. It is not. The Broken Windows method of policing offers nothing more than a false security, centered around irrational biases most likely developed from living in a country that has salivated and feasted on white supremacy for the past five hundred years.

The Newark Foot Patrol Experiment, published in 1981, cites the “burgeoning illicit drug trade” as to why the country is “besieged by criminal activity.” Conveniently, the following year and the same year the Broken Windows Theory was introduced, Ronald Reagan announced that drugs were a “threat to national security.” To put this in perspective, crack cocaine wasn’t found on America’s streets until 1985, when it was smuggled in by Nicaraguan guerilla armies. Years later, the CIA would admit that as they were actively using these armies for their covert war in Nicaragua, they were aware of the crack smuggling and did nothing to stop it. Today, George L. Kelling is a Senior fellow at The Manhattan Institute, a neoconservative think tank and long-time promoter of Broken Windows policing, and has worked with the think tank since the ’80’s. The co-founder of the Manhattan Institute, William J. Casey, was Ronald Reagan’s campaign manager during his presidential run and went on to be the Director of Central Intelligence during Reagan’s administration from 1981 to 1987.
Reagan’s campaign for the presidency advocated for the nation to take a “tough on crime” approach. He promised to restore law and order, a popular Republican campaign point after the 1960’s urban riots and political movements. Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, contends that The War on Drugs was the manifestation of Reagan following through on his campaign promise. The American government established militarized police occupations in black and brown neighborhoods and harsher sentencing for drug offenders, as it simultaneously stripped social services. The results were America’s prisons overflowing with black and brown people, while our government rapidly worked to build more — just to fill them up again. And as broken windows policing — a strategy based on manipulating racial fears — was about to be implemented in cities across America, a fear-mongering media frenzy was occurring. Spurred by Robert Sutman, of the Drug Enforcement Agency, the irresponsible media hysteria inaccurately depicted all crack cocaine addicts as black, violent, and dangerous.
By 1994, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his police commissioner, William Bratton were implementing the broken windows theory in New York City. George L. Kelling worked as a consultant for William Bratton as they implemented broken windows policing strategies on New York’s subways. Termed the “Quality Of Life initiative”, Giuliani referred to the broken windows theory as “an integral part of [his] law enforcement strategy”, giving examples such as policing “reckless bicycle riding, noise pollution, littering, [and] panhandling,” as well as, jaywalking, street vendors, “squeegeeoperators and graffiti vandals.” They also began to police non-criminalactivity like “standing, congregating, sleeping, eating and/or drinking in public spaces” and truancy. According to Christian Parenti, “NYPD planners drew up lists of names and maps of youth hangouts…to hunt down [and criminalize truancy]” with “operations…usually reserved for serious narcotics busts.” The racism behind the implementation was apparent: 90 percent of those stopped by the NYPD Street Crime Unit were black or latino. Broken windows policing nourished the drug war. After Giuliani implemented it,marijuana arrests began to steadily double each year. In 1991, there were 774 marijuana arrests in New York City. By 2000, the number of marijuana arrests were over 51,000. 86% of those arrested for marijuana were black and latino, a statistic that remained static until the end of Giuliani’s administration. Even though black and white people used marijuana at the same rate, black people were eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people in New York City. Between 1994 and 2002, the percentage of prisoners in New York State who were admitted for drug offenders ranged from 40 to 44.7 percent, second only to New JerseyThe overwhelming majority were nonviolent. By 2002, 94 percent of drug offenders in New York’s prisons were black or latino.

a photo of a squeegee man, targeted by the NYPD in the ‘90s.

In 1994, the number of civilians shot dead and the number of civilians who died in police custody both increased significantly (34.8% and 53.3% respectively). Between 1992 and 1996, complaints of abuse and brutality at the hands of police officers increased by 60 percent, most of which came from the precincts policing low-income black and latino neighborhoods. On the increase of police brutality during this time period, Amnesty International says of the NYPD, “In many of the cases, examined international standards as well as US laws and police guidelines prohibiting torture or other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment appear to have been violated with impunity” and notes,
“the evidence suggests that the large majority of the victims of police abuses are racial minorities, particularly African-Americans and people of Latin American or Asian descent. Racial disparities appear to be especially marked in cases involved deaths in custody and questionable shootings.”
It was the rampant abuses during Giuliani’s era, that called for the transparency of stop and frisk under Mayor Bloomberg.
Meanwhile, broken windows policing and similar strategies were being implemented in cities and black neighborhoods across the country, includingTampa, Chicago, Washington D.C., Denver and New Orleans. When William Bratton went on to be the commissioner of the Los Angeles Police Department, he drove up stop and frisk to over 875,000 stops (70% of which were black and latino). These numbers rivaled stop and frisk in New York under Michael Bloomberg. Bratton also introduced predictive policing, which the LA Weekly described as “a sophisticated system developed…by the US military, based on ‘insurgent’ activity in Iraq and civilian casualty patterns in Afghanistan.” Using past crime data to justify occupying specific neighborhoods with police officers, the system simply tracks past arrests of minor property offenses and contributes nothing to predicting or preventing violent crimes such as murder. These surveillance tools help make broken windows policing easier to implement in poor neighborhoods, but won’t actually make the community any safer.
Politicians, police commissioners and think tanks like the Manhattan Institute continue to try and credit the Broken Windows theory for the crime drop in New York City. However, multiple studies have proven this not to be true. New York University sociologist David Greenberg found “no causal connection between officers per capita at the precinct level and reductions in violent crime or between an increase in misdemeanor arrests and a drop in felonies.” Surveys from NYPD retirees working at the time also revealed “police commandeers faced heavy pressure from higher-ups to reduce felonies to misdemeanors — or in some cases to not report crime at all — in order to make the numbers look prettier.” In Bernard Harcourt and Jens Ludwig’s study titled Broken Windows: New Evidence From New York City and a Five City Social Experiment they find “that the declines in crime observed in New York City in the 1990s are exactly what experts would have predicted from the rise and fall of the crack epidemic, with or without broken-windows policing initiatives.”

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) and William J. Casey (1913-1987).

While some of these great white men have passed away, these policies, theories and mindsets that produced this country’s mass incarceration persist. Over the years, police departments have given it different names: quality of life policing, community policing, hot spot policing, stop and frisk, neighborhood policing, and zero tolerance policing, to name a few. In the comfort of criminal justice classes and textbooks, these descriptions each have a specific definition. However, in practice over the past 30 years, these tactics mirror one another in their reliance on racial profiling and cracking down on petty crimes and ‘disorder’ to yield the same result: criminalizing the poor, black and brown. Those who champion it should be honest with themselves: it’s not crime they’re afraid of — it’s the black body.
As Bernard Harcourt says, “this type of policing is premised on society being divided into two groups, the ‘orderly’ upstanding law-abiding citizen and the ‘disorderly’ criminal-in-the-making.” Even in New York in the 1990s, where racial and economic divides have always been sharp, who is perceived to be law-abiding is most often white; while the disorderly criminal-to-be is black, poor, or both. In the height of gentrification, the racial and economic divide in New York has only increased. The original 1992 theory did not shy away from showing they valued commercial interests over others:“if a dispute erupted between a businessman and a customer, the businessman was assumed to be right” and at least half of those interviewed on their feelings of safety for the Newark Foot Patrol Experiment were individuals with commercial interests in the neighborhood. Police protect the interests of the developers; therefore, instilling an illusion of white safety becomes of utmost importance. And as the social norms that are expected in neighborhoods are increasingly white and upper class ones, what gets criminalized is the very existence of blackness.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and William Bratton, smiling.

During the mayoral election, Bill de Blasio spoke out against the use of stop and frisk under Bloomberg in the outer boroughs, while telling his Upper West Side audiences that he believes in the “core notions of the broken windows theory.” Conveniently, both stop and frisk and the broken windows theory call for the policing of young, black people. For stop and frisk, they claim they’re looking for guns; for broken windows, they claim they’re keeping the order. After Mayor De Blasio was elected on his anti-stop and frisk stance, he appointed William Bratton as police commissioner at the beginning of the year and Bratton returned to his old job.
In the first half of 2014, reported stop and frisk statistics have gone down. Meanwhile, in a year where homelessness hasn’t been this high since the Great Depression, Bratton made plans to remove homeless people from the subways. The homeless removals are part of a larger subway crackdown, in which Bratton has created two NYPD special units to patrol the subways. The crackdown, that started at the beginning of 2014, is extensive; arrests on fare dodgers, panhandlers, subway performers and homeless people in subways have increased by 300 percent. The NYPD has even gone as far as to monitor generally obsolete (and originally anti-homeless) MTA rules — such as no sleeping on the train in a way that disturbs other passengers — to the extent that they will brutally arrest and detain a black man for dozing off in a near empty subway train while he is on his way home from work. The recent announcement of Bratton’s plan to put cameras on all subway cars, will be yet another surveillance tool that will aid the police department in cracking down on petty crimes and non-criminal ‘disorder’.

A subway showtime dancer. Photo by Kelly Stuart,

The NYPD arrests on subway performers, that escalated at the beginning of this year, are unrestricted; they target both performers on the subway trains and on the platforms, as well as, performers who both comply and don’t comply to the strict MTA rules. However, multiple performers have said that the New York Police Department specifically targets young, black performers.Reports have come out that over 240 subway showtime dancers (who are more often than not, young and black) have been arrested this year, compared to 2 dancers who were arrested in all of 2013. Most of the subway dancers are charged with reckless endangerment (which can be either a misdemeanor or felony and goes on one’s record regardless); others are charged with disorderly conduct (a violation). Kids who get lite on the subway and people who ask for money, “create a sense of fear” on the subway trains, according to Bratton. However, he admits it “isn’t a serious crime.” His reasoning doesn’t explain why these subway dancers continue to receive a steady income from the same public who ‘fears’ them so much. Nor does it explain why young, black breakdancers are also targeted on the subway platform — a performance that complies with MTA rules — and charged with reckless endangerment. Just like how the drug war “has never been about drugs”, here is the root of mass incarceration: heavily police and incarcerate black and brown people — give the public another reason beside their skin color.

Photo by Kelly Stuart of subway showtime dancer,

In the first three months of 2014, there were more marijuana arrests than in Bloomberg’s third or fourth quarter of 2013, according the Marijuana Arrest Research Project. The arrests are dominated in low-income black and latino communities. 500 arrests were made in East New York and 408 arrests were made in Morris Heights between January and April 2014, where residents are 89% and 95% black and latino respectively. Meanwhile, 13 arrests were made in Park Slope and 8 arrests were made on the Upper West Side during those same months. Even in these two majority-white neighborhoods the majority of those arrested were still black or latino. Of the 9,906 total marijuana arrests made between January and April 2014, 86 percent were black and latino. At this rate, marijuana arrests will continue to be just as high as they’ve been for the past five years and New York will continue to make more marijuana arrests than any other city in the world. Even though the Brooklyn District Attorney, Ken Thompson, announced plans to dismiss small marijuana charges, Bratton called marijuana decriminalization “a mistake” and declared that the NYPD will continue to make arrests. Bratton even seems to be steadily increasing marijuana arrests during the short amount of time he’s been in office: 4,360 arrests were made in the first two months of 2014 (up from from 3,964 arrests made in November and December 2013) and there were 5,276 arrests in March and April of 2014. De Blasio’s campaign promise to decriminalize seems to have disappeared.
Thirty years later, the power of broken windows policing to sustain mass incarceration and preserve the system of control and ownership indefinitely is harrowing. Michelle Alexander conceived the term “the invisible cage” to describe the life that a person convicted of a felony lives once out of prison:
“the unique set of criminal sanctions that are imposed on individuals after they step outside of the prison gates…These laws operate collectively to ensure the vast majority of convicted offenders will never integrate into mainstream, white society. They will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives — denied employment, housing, education and public benefits. Unable to surmount these obstacles most will eventually return to prison and then be released again, caught in a closed circuit of perpetual marginality.”
furthermore, those on probation and parole,
“are at increased risk of arrest because their lives are governed by additional rules that do not apply to everyone else. Myriad restrictions on their travel and behavior (such as prohibition on associating with other felons), as well as various requirements of probation and parole (such as paying fines and meeting with probation officers), create opportunities for arrest. Violation of these special rules [can result in a warrant issued for one’s arrest and] can land someone right back in prison.”
In fact, in 2011, nearly 40 percent of prison admissions in New York were because of parole violations. Even after someone is released from prison, they remain property of the state. With broken windows policing, those who are already products of the prison industrial complex are more likely to come in contact with the police, increasing their chances of a parole or probation violation. The person selling items on the street without a permit may not be able to get traditional employment because they have a record — and is the same person targeted by police in the name of ‘maintaining order’. Broken windows policing continues to push new people into the carceral system but also continues the cycle of those already locked out of society.
Take, for example, William Bratton’s police raids on homeless shelters. In May, the NYPD raided the Freedom House shelter at 4 a.m. without probable cause and checked everyone for outstanding warrants. The commanding officer of the 24th precinct said the raids, “serve as a deterrent of deviant behavior.” Residents of the shelter describe the raids as, “disruptive and frightening.” Since people with felonies are discriminated against in housing, many have no choice but to go to the city’s shelters. During a press conference on the raid, an advocate mentioned that most of the ‘warrants’ justifying the raids are simply from unpaid fines and tickets.

The Manhattan Institute held a forum called The Future of Policing on May 21, 2014 with guest speakers William Bratton and George L. Kelling. Their current relationship is described as follows, “Kelling is assisting Bratton as the Department ponders strategies to answer such transformative questions.” Kelling, who speaks first, mentions that he and Bratton are “taking a look on the impact of traffic enforcements on crime” and asserts “if one is dealing with traffic offenses, one is dealing with crime…and that’s [where] there are additional opportunities for crime control.” Mayor Bill de Blasio and William Bratton recently received $800,000 in federal funds to gear up their launched “Vision Zero” initiative which will crack down on traffic violations and jaywalking. The initiative will also include installing significantly more traffic cameras that are conveniently necessary for certain surveillance tools being put on the policing market.

Kang Wong, 84 years old, brutally arrested for jaywalking a couple weeks after Vision Zero began.

Kelling eventually introduces William Bratton as “one of the the three most important police leaders in the history of policing of the Anglo-Saxon world, my friend and colleague, Commissioner Bratton.” Bratton begins his speech by saying that the Broken Windows theory “has always been the principal of [his] form of policing.” Mentioning that people give him a hard time for going after graffiti, he diagnoses graffiti as “the first sign of the disease. The first sign that people are not conforming to what we accept as the principals of modern society.”
He goes on to discuss policing disorder and introducing predictive policing to the New York Police Department, as he did in Los Angeles. In a city council hearing in May, Bratton expressed his support for drones — unmanned machines with cameras and microphones that would be used to spy on communities. With surveillance drones, predictive policing, increased traffic and subway cameras, broken windows policing in this new age will grow more effective and therefore, more brutal and dystopian — creating an Orwellian Broken Windows society concerned only with the Quality of Whiteness.
The deadliness of Bratton’s Broken Windows policing has surfaced in a short amount of time. Joining Amadou Diallo (23 years old), Mohammed Asssassa (55 years old), Nicholas Heyward, Jr (13 years old), Anthony Rosario (18 years old), Hilton Vega (21 years old), Devin Brown (13 years old), Anthony Baez (29 years old) and many more, are Eric Garner and Jerome Murdough.

Jerome Murdough

Eric, a 42-year-old black man, had been arrested in the past for petty infractures like alleged marijuana possession and selling untaxed cigarettes and has long spoken up about constant harassment from the police. As the police approached him last Thursday, his words echo the frustrations and trauma of a person who has been labeled a threat to the social order for the crime of selling loosies: “I didn’t do shit. I was just minding my own business…Every time you see me you want to mess with me. It stops today!” A police officer puts him into a choke hold; another slams his head on the sidewalk. Eric exclaims, “I can’t breathe” six times before going silent. At the hospital, he is pronounced dead on arrival. The police officers kill a husband, a father of six, and a grandfather of two.
Jerome, a man with black skin and no home, trying to stay warm on a cold winter night, falls asleep in a stairwell. the New York Police Department arrests him, charges him with trespassing, throws him in Rikers. Why? Because he is the broken window. His existence is a threat. Stripped of humanity, he is the state’s property. A week later, he dies from overheating in his jail cell.

editing done by: Charlotte P.
Please contact Raven Rakia at before reprinting. Thank you.

Further Reading:
Incite Info Sheets on ‘Quality of Life’ Policing: here & here
Reina Gossett and Dean Space: “What Counts As Violence” (video)
Michelle Alexander: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age of Colorblindness, 2012
Ruth Wilson Gilmore: (1) The Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis and Opposition in Globalizing California, 2007(2) Globalisation and the US Prison Growth; (3) Mothers and Prisoners in the Post Keynesian California Landscape
Bernard E. Harcourt: Illusions of Order: The False Promise of Broken Windows Policing, 2001
Christian Parenti: Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis, 1999
Jeremy Travis, Invisible Punishment
State of Surveillance: Police Privacy and Technology by the Center for Investigative Reporting (video), partial transcript here.