Project MI gets so much AMAZING content by our AWESOME Facebook group members, that we want to share the week in review with our members everywhere!  


1.  Nashville Locks Up the Unrepresented in “Assembly-Line Atmosphere”

A few weeks ago we learned that the state of Tennessee is number 10 in the WORLD for locking folks up.  It should come to no surprise that the state’s capitol, Nashville, is locking folks up on misdemeanors, often while not making people aware of their right to an attorney.  According to this report by the Innocence Project:

“[D]efendants were quickly ushered through court—with never a defense attorney present—and told that they had the option to either take a plea deal or not take a deal and then go to trial. When individuals asked to speak to a judge, they were told that they could not do so unless they rejected the plea deal offered.

. . .

For the most part, judges were absent from the courtroom. When they did appear, they did not ask defendants whether they ‘understood the plea agreement or its consequences; did not inform defendants of their right to counsel and to a trial; and did not ask if defendants were waiving any of their rights…’”

Despite the Supreme Court’s holding over fifty years ago in Gideon v. Wainwright, that the Sixth Amendment requires that states provide counsel in criminal cases to represent indigent defendants that cannot afford to pay their own, the Innocence Project report illustrates how many criminal defendants continue to go unrepresented at crucial phases of criminal proceedings, often resulting in jail or prison time.


2. Trump to Roll Back Police Demilitarization Reforms

The militarization of local law enforcement has been a hot button issue in the past few years.  Nevertheless, as this New York Times Article notes, President Trump has “rolled back several Obama-era policing reforms” to help bolster Trump’s support among law enforcement and solidifying his aggressive campaign “law and order” stance.   This policy shift allowing local law enforcement to stock surplus U.S. military equipment, including personnel carriers and grenade launchers, is undoubtedly also tied to Attorney General Sessions’ renewal of the failed “War on Drugs,”

Military Police
Following the death of Michael Brown in August 2014, and a surge of media images portraying police as highly militarized, a critical debate emerged on whether “serve and protect” remains the focus of work by local police.


3. Mass Incarceration Contributing to the Achievement Gap

Of all the collateral consequences to mass incarceration, one of the most heartbreaking is the impact on families, and especially, the children of imprisoned parents. As noted by this Washington Post article, “the ‘evidence is overwhelming that the unjustified incarceration of African American fathers (and, increasingly, mothers as well) is an important cause of the lowered performance of their children’” and of the racial achievement gap.”  Further, the report concludes that “[t]he number of children affected has grown to the point that we can reasonably infer that our criminal justice system is making an important contribution to the racial achievement gap in both cognitive and noncognitive skills.”  Indeed.


4.  Over-Criminalizing Blacks in the Military

Black criminalization is everywhere, not just toward actual alleged criminals, but even toward those that choose the highest of honorable acts like serving this country.  Another member posted an article from the Huffington Post, “Even In The Military, Black People Are Punished Disproportionately,”  According to the article, “black service members were as much as two and a half times more likely than their white counterparts to face court-martial or nonjudicial punishment in an average year.”   This is a notable disparity considering White service members make up 70% of those serving in the military.


5.  Weekend Point to Ponder

Facebook MI member Suzanne Jackson posed a great question that gives us something to ponder in between our thoughts, prayers, and assistance for the Houston area people impacted by Hurricane Harvey:

“What will WE do to respond to the analysis, perspectives and understanding of the Colonial Middle School students?” 

student art

See all works of the Colonial students which Just City’s Executive Director Josh Spickler describes as, “[p]oignant, complex, and horrifying,” and states the works “should remind us that we are passing down a dangerously broken system to our children.”


6.  Odds & Ends

One Facebook member posted about the Prison Policy Initiative blog, a great resource with loads of graphs and other information frequently cited by MI members.

Another Facebook MI member posted on the Georgia Cop’s Traffic stop where he creepily and casually declared, “we only kill Black people” prompting Project MI’s Professional Liaison Attorney Corbin Carpenter to question, “how can we truly combat and destroy something (racism) that is as normal as breathing?”

Finally, make every effort to attend our Project MI September Meet-Upon Tuesday, 9/5 at 6pm at U of M Law School (1 North Front Street, Downtown). This is our monthly business meeting and the perfect opportunity to get straight to work in the fight to end mass incarceration!

Be active.  Be educated.  Be vigilant.

Written by demefrank

mother, womanist, law prof, prison abolitionist. Demetria does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from the viewpoints expressed in this article or post.

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