Three hours and 42 minutes. That's how close Kevin Cooper came in 2004 to being murdered by the state, strapped down to a gurney and poisoned via lethal injection. He had been placed in what he calls a "death chamber waiting room" stripped of his clothes and body searched several times before he was granted a stay of execution. Five years later, in an unprecedented dissent of a ruling denying him a new trial, five federal judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion that began: "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." A rash of evidence appeared to substantiate their claim of his likely innocence. In the opinion, Judge William A. Fletcher details multiple Brady disclosures—key information that the prosecution illegally ignored or actively suppressed that could exculpate Cooper.
Across the country, state and local governments are running modern-day debtors’ prisons that rip families apart because they cannot afford fines and fees owed to courts, including for traffic offenses and misdemeanors. For single mothers of color, who are far more likely to live in poverty, the consequences are nothing short of devastating. I represent four of these women, including Brown, in Brown v. Lexington County, South Carolina, the ACLU’s lawsuit against one of the most draconian debtor's prisons we’ve ever seen.
I have been attending protests at the White House since Jimmy Carter lived there and with each succeeding administration, the space allowed for political discourse has been reduced and the once protected free speech of citizens increasingly criminalized there. Under Trump, half the width of the formerly public sidewalk in front of the White House is fenced off, the inner perimeter now patrolled by officers armed with automatic weapons. Pennsylvania Avenue, long ago closed to vehicular traffic, is now closed off to pedestrians at the hint of a demonstration.
As prisons continue to devastate communities — particularly low-income communities of color — and drain government budgets, there’s been a shift from the ferocious “tough on crime” mentality of the 1980s to questioning whether so many people need to be locked up. The continued popularity of Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow,” daily news stories about prison atrocities, and the rise in prison justice organizing both inside prisons and in outside communities demonstrate that more and more people — including those who formerly advocated for draconian prison sentences — are questioning the need for mass incarceration. Conversations about ending mass incarceration often center on people imprisoned for non-violent drug offenses. But what about everyone else? How do we address the harm they’ve caused without relying on locking them in cages? Maya Schenwar, editor-in-chief of the daily news site Truthout, starts to answer this question in her new book “Locked Down, Locked Out: How Prisons Don’t Work and How We Can Do Better.”
In this clip form Acronym TV’s full show on the call for a month of resistance To Mass Incarceration, Carl Dix and Juanita Young call on people to recognize the injustice of the system of Mass Incarceration and join the resistance to put an end to it. Watch the full episode here. Learn more about the Call For A Month Of Resistance To Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression And The Criminalization Of A Generation here.