With nearly two million people in prison and an incarceration rate five times higher than most countries on the planet, the United States is the world’s only carceral superpower. Our nation has a long tradition of “justice” that is articulated in a cold, calculating and harsh expression of punishment. Despite this history, a counter narrative surrounding imprisonment and punishment in the United States has also existed — one that is based in reform, repentance, restoration and redemption. Quakers in Philadelphia spent decades in the early 19th century protesting harsh prison conditions and ultimately convinced the Pennsylvania Assembly to reform their model of imprisonment.
The horrific choking murder of 30-year-old Jordan Neely by a white MTA rider on May 1, 2023, in the New York City subway sparked mass outrage, with demonstrators converging on subway stations while cops brought “force and chaos” to a vigil in his memory. The murder has put a renewed spotlight on carceral logics of the state that assume the disposability of Black, poor and unhoused people — in particular those said to be in “mental health crisis.” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s response to Neely’s killing deflects from the white supremacist violence and ongoing lack of accountability for the killer, and instead medicalizes Neely’s death: “People who are homeless in our subways, many of them in the throes of mental health episodes, and that’s what I believe were some of the factors involved here.
On Sunday, March 28, 2021, at 3:04 p.m., our brother, uncle, cousin, comrade and friend, Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald, joined the ancestors. For a week, he lay barely conscious in a Los Angeles hospital as he struggled to extend his life after suffering a massive stroke in California’s gulag known as Lancaster. Chip’s strength and dedication to life remained intact as he defied those doctors who said he would not make it through the night in the hours after his initial arrival at the hospital. A stalwart soldier, he fought until his very last breath. Chip died as he had lived: fighting. A Service is being planned which may be in a month or so due to COVID, followed by a memorial. We want to also thank the many thousands who put their voices together to free Brother Chip.
On the show this week, Chris Hedges discusses with Emily Allen-Hornblower and Marquis McCray the power of the classics, such as Sophocles’ play Philoctetes, to elucidate mass incarceration. Emily Allen-Hornblower is a professor of Classics at Rutgers University and is the recipient of a Whiting Foundation grant to foster dialogues about the classics with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women. Marquis McCray is a social justice advocate. He spent 28 years in prison, during which time he studied the classics through the prison college program offered by Rutgers University.
The United States has long used citizenship status and perceived criminality as a means to determine whether individuals deserve basic human rights. This week’s egregious allegations of mass hysterectomies at an immigrant jail in Georgia are consistent with the long U.S. tradition of state-sanctioned eugenics, medical abuse and forced sterilizations against those whose humanity the state does not recognize or value. News reports on Monday revealed that gynecologists in an immigrant jail in Georgia have performed high rates of hysterectomies, often without the full awareness of the immigrant women themselves.
Newly released video footage shows a Black man in custody in medical distress, repeatedly telling corrections officers he couldn't breathe as officers struggled to detain him after he experienced a medical event in a North Carolina jail two days before he died. Five corrections officers and one nurse have since been fired and charged with involuntary manslaughter for their role in the death of a 56-year-old James Elliott Neville, who died on December 4, 2019. The video, released this week as part of a judge's order, depicts events that occurred at the Forsyth County Jail on December 2, 2019, two days before his death and one day after he was arrested on assault charges by the Kernersville Police Department, according to the report. The Forsyth County Medical Examiner said Neville's death was caused by "complications of hypoxic-ischemic brain injury due to cardiopulmonary arrest due to positional and compressional asphyxia during prone restraint." The Greensboro, North Carolina, man had been revived several times, both at the jail and in the hospital before he entered a coma and ultimately died.