Jailed For Being Broke

Jailed For Being Broke

Matt Taibbi writes another article that documents how the criminal justice system is tilted against the less fortunate.  I will continue to recommend his book The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.

Injustice in Ferguson

Details From Ferguson

The details emerging from the Justice Department’s investigation into Ferguson are pretty ugly.  There is definitely racism is our criminal justice system and this is just the latest example.  If you don’t think there is, you are probably white, and you probably haven’t read enough.  Again, I think one of the best one stop shop reads you can have on this subject for modern times is Matt Taibbi’s The Divide:  American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.  But if you are somehow new to all of this just read the details in the above article, it won’t take very long.  A few samples:

  • Ferguson’s black drivers were more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to be stopped and searched, according to records over two years. Black drivers were also 26 percent less likely to be found in possession of contraband.
  • According to the police department’s internal records concerning force, 88 percent of those cases involved force against blacks. All 14 canine bite incidents involved blacks.
  • Blacks were 68 percent less likely than others to have their cases dismissed in municipal court. An arrest warrant was more likely to be issued for blacks.

Militarization of Our Police


The above link is to a Huffington Post article about how our policed forces are becoming more militarized.  In fact the article says that a lot of the weapons from our recent wars are making their way home.  The militarization of our police has been going on for awhile now, so this article doesn’t surprise me.  If you read Matt Taibbi’s eye opening The Divide, about the injustice of our justice system, you will see how our society is slowly becoming a dystopia. It starts at the law enforcement level and goes the whole way up the chain.  That’s not to say there aren’t still good people at every level, just that the system itself is flawed.  

Crimes of the New Dystopia

Dear god, all day long I’ve been reading the Matt Taibbi book I’ve been talking about, The Divide, and it is fucking depressing.  It’s also essential reading if you want to understand what you know, but just can’t piece together in a coherent argument.  Here is one of the many, many passages that will stick with me:

In the Orwellian dystopia the original sin was thoughtcrime, but in our new corporate dystopia the secret inner crime is need, particularly financial need.  People in America hide financial need like they hide sexual perversions. 

Why?  Because there’s a direct correlation between need and rights.  The more you need, the more you owe, the fewer rights you have. 

Conversely, the less you need, the more you have, the more of a free citizen you get to be.  On the extreme ends of this spectrum it is literally a crime to be poor, while a person with enough money literally cannot be prosecuted for certain kinds of crimes. 

What keeps the poor poor and rushes the money upward is the complexity of the bureaucracy.  If you’re the wrong kind of person and you get caught up in the criminal justice system, or stuck in the welfare bureaucracy, or mired in debt, you can’t get out without navigating a maze so complex and dispiriting and irrational that it can’t possibly even be mapped.  It’s not brains that you need to get through it, but time, energy, strength.  You have to stand on line after line, send letter after letter, make call after call. 

And if you want to change even the smallest law, in your home state or in Washington, you need an army of thousands of lobbyists to get it done.  And even in the rare case that you succeed, you then need to commit to ten years or more furiously boring legal battles and inane bureaucratic rule-writing sessions and fend off tens or hundreds of thousands of pages of dissenting reports and comment letters and policy papers, all developed mechanically by an industry that responds not by human decision, but bureaucratic reflex. 

On the other side of the coin, the secret to conquering the financial bureaucracy isn’t savvy business sense, or the ability to spot a good entrepreneurial idea.  Instead, it’s pure bureaucratic force, the ability to throw a hundred lawyers at every problem, to file a thousand motions and never get tired, to file ten thousand, a hundred thousand, a million lawsuits. 

In other words, you need to be a bureaucracy in order to survive one.  This is the overwhelming narrative of modern American economics, that the individual, particularly the individual without a lot of money, is inherently overmatched.  He’s a loser.  And if he falls into any part of the machine, he goes straight to the bottom.

This is obviously a small passage of a much larger narrative that Taibbi tells through stories and statistics.  A must read if you want to understand what is going on.  Also, before you think of this as some leftist screed, Taibbi holds back no venom for policies enacted under Clinton and Obama.  All presidents of modern times in one way or another have helped this reality along the way.  Our current economic system would be a joke if it was the least bit funny.

The Anti-Immigrant Industrial Complex

Often you can feel something is wrong before you know that it is.  You hear about our prison industrial complex but it doesn’t completely register, unless you are one of the unfortunate poor caught in it, until you really read in depth what is going on.  I was arrested once for a DUI and thrown in jail for 24 hours after passing my breathalyzer!  Apparently this is just day to day bullshit that African Americans and Latino immigrants put up with.  Anyone that wants to know the cruel injustice that is a part of day to day American life for many should read Matt Taibbi’s book The Divide.   As with most things in this country the problem can be traced back to greed.  There is one company called, I shit you not, Corrections Corporation of America.  Here is a just a little piece of Taibbi’s book on this corporation, that makes its money off of detaining immigrants:

The big influx of cash impressed investors on Wall Street.  Back in 2000, when the federal government began housing immigrant detainees in mostly privately run prisons, CCA’s share price hovered around a dollar.  today, as I write this in the summer of 2013, CCA’s share price is $34.34.  It was at $23 just two years ago.  The company’s revenues went from just around $300 million in 2000 to an astonishing $1.7 billion in 2011.  Overall, the corrections industry is one of the soundest stock/equity bets in the world, with soaring revenues – the industry as a whole pulled in more than $5 billion in America in 2011.  

The jailing-Hispanics business is the perfect mix of politics and profit.  Companies like CCA donate generously to politicians everywhere, particularly at the state level.  The firm has spent as much as $3.4 million lobbying in a single year and on average spends between $1 million and $2 million a year.  Its lobbyists are everywhere, and in every major anti-immigrant bill, you can usually find a current or former CCA lobbyist lurking in the weeds somewhere.  Arizona governor Jan Brewer, for instance, had two ex-CCA lobbyists on her staff helping write the legislation when she pushed through her notorious 1070 law, which essentially legalized racial profiling in the cause of catching illegal immigrants.  

Most of the time when the press talks about illegal immigration it is an abstraction.  We might even feel for people that are ripped apart from their families, but we have no clue what their experience is really like.  Apparently a good many of the people that we deport, especially ones that have families in the U.S., are kidnapped in Mexico and held for ransom until their families can pay that ransom.  Once they are captured by law enforcement in our country, unlike violent criminals that are citizens, they have absolutely no rights.  Often after being treated like animals here they are exploited again once they cross the border.

If you have a strong stomach, read Taibbi’s book.  Even though they entered our country illegally, you will find yourself sick at how we treat our fellow human beings.  Why can’t people see that everyone only has one life?  A flag and an imaginary border should not allow us to strip other people of their dignity.

Injustice in the Drug War


The link above is to a Matt Taibbi blog at Rolling Stone where he talks about the outrageous behavior of our justice department for not only failing to send anyone to jail HSBC, a bank that was caught laundering drug money for cartels among other things, but also for the amount of people we throw in jail for simple possession.  Below is a quote from his book The Divide, which is essential reading for anyone that wants to understand how screwed up our justice system is (The Tory Marone that gets mentioned is a homeless man and a low level drug user.):

For aiding and abetting drug cartels suspected in more than twenty thousand murders, groups, famous for creating the world’s most gruesome torture videos – the Sinaloa Cartel in particular, with its style of high-volume reprisal killings and public chainsawings and disembowelings, makes al-Queda look like the Peace Corps – HSBC got a walk.  Tory Marone, for smoking their product and passing out on a park bench, got sent to jail.   

After reading this book it is hard to view Eric Holder as anything but incompetent at best.  

The Wealth and Justice Gap

I just started reading Matt Taibbi’s book The Divide: American Justice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.  This book, as the title suggests, talks about how the rich and poor in our country are facing an ever increasing amount of disparity in how the justice system treats them.  I thought the following paragraph would be a good thing to ponder:

We’re creating a dystopia, where the mania of the state isn’t secrecy or censorship but unfairness.  Obsessed with success and wealth and despising fairness and poverty, our society is systematically dividing the population into winners and losers, using institutions like the courts to speed the process.  Winners get rich and get off.  Losers go broke and go to jail.  It isn’t just that some clever crook on Wall Street can steal a billion dollars and never see the inside of a courtroom; it’s that, plus the fact that some black teenager a few miles away can go to jail just for standing on a street corner, that makes the whole picture complete.