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NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

Kal Penn Tweets in Support of Stop-and-Frisk

Kal Penn Tweets in Support of Stop-and-Frisk

Update on 8/16/13: Cololrines publisher Rinku Sen and a coalition of South Asian leaders write open letter opposing stop and frisk, and Kal Penn offers agreement.

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For a guy who launched his career with the stoner movie “Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle,” actor Kal Penn’s recent tweets in support of stop-and-frisk come as a surprise. Yesterday, he applauded NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent op-ed, saying “Great op/ed by @MikeBloomberg on the merits of “stop-question-frisk.”

In a series of tweets, which have since been deleted but were saved by The Aerogram, he responds to criticism from fans, saying he supports racially profiling black and Latino people because they commit most crimes. 

Kai_Penn_tweet_081513.jpg

It seems he’s had a change of heart around racial profiling. In a 2011 interview with GQ he said he’d experienced racial profiling at the airport, and thought the practice was counterproductive. And, ironically, Penn’s recent film “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo” centers around two college friends who are racially profiled as terrorists. 

(h/t The Aerogram

That Time Lee Daniels’ ‘The Butler’ Was Bashed as ‘Historical Porn’

That Time Lee Daniels' 'The Butler' Was Bashed as 'Historical Porn'

Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” hits theaters this weekend, and there’s at least one person who’s decidedly not excited to see it: actor Harry Lennox. In a wide-ranging conversation with Sergio over at Shadow and Act earlier this summer, Lennox doesn’t hold back on his criticisms of the film, specifically, and black imagery in the media, more generally:

Which leads me to asking do you constantly have to think about the image you are portraying as black man every time to do a role?

“I think about it every day and any time that a role is offered, and believe me lots of crummy roles are offered. But at this point people know better than to mess with me with a lot of these things. For example Lee Daniels sent me the script for that film he’s making now, The Butler, about the black butler at the White House. I read five pages of this thing and could not go any further. I tried to read more of it, and I’m not a soft spoken guy, but it was such an appalling mis-direction of history in terms of taking an actual guy who worked at the White House. But then he “niggerfies” it. He “niggers” it up and he gives people these, stupid, luddite, antediluvian ideas about black people and their roles in the historical span in the White House and it becomes… well… historical porn. I refused.”

Read more over at Shadow and Act.

Russell Simmons Apologizes for Harriet Tubman Sex Tape

Russell Simmons Apologizes for Harriet Tubman Sex Tape

UPDATE 10:44 am EST: We’ve removed the video. It’s truly disgusting. 

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Yes, you read that headline correctly. Someone in Russell Simmons’s camp thought it would be a good idea to release a Harriet Tubman sex tape parody. Predictably, not many people thought it was funny. Shocked and outraged viewers, including the NAACP, thought the video was a desecration of the legendary abolitionist’s legacy, according to the Kansas City Star.

On Thursday, Simmons issued a lengthy apology on his GlobalGrind.com, writing:

In the whole history of Def Comedy Jam, I’ve never taken down a controversial comedian,” he wrote. “When my buddies from the NAACP called and asked me to take down the Harriet Tubman video from the All Def Digital YouTube channel and apologize, I agreed.

“I’m a very liberal person with thick skin and it’s hard to offend me. My first impression of the Harriet Tubman piece was that it was about what one of actors said in the video, that 162 years later, there’s still tremendous injustice. And Harriet Tubman outwitting the slave master, I thought it was politically correct. Silly me.”

Shabazz Palaces’ Ishmael Butler Wants to Sign Imaginative Acts to Seattle Label

Shabazz Palaces' Ishmael Butler Wants to Sign Imaginative Acts to Seattle Label

Ishmael Butler was well known to hip-hop fans before his latest hip-hop collective “Shabazz Palaces” began to make waves beyond their Seattle headquarters. Butler was formerly part of Digable Planets and Cherrywine, and along with making music, he’s also got a new gig: A&R rep for Seattle-based label Sub Pop.

What’s he looking for in the groups he’s scouting?  “Courageous artists, independent-thinking artists,” Butler told Billboard. “Artists that aren’t relying on trends or superficial things to get noticed, artists that are more musically inclined rather than image inclined, artists that are hard workers and … cool.” 

(h/t Billboard)

Five Things We Know About DACA on its First Anniversary

Five Things We Know About DACA on its First Anniversary

The Brookings Institute released a report today looking at the last year of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a band aid approach to addressing immigration reform for the estimated 1.6 million undocumented immigrant youth living in the U.S. DACA is by no means a permanent solution, but it does offer temporary reprieve from deportation and work authorization.

Nearly half of the estimated 936,000 eligible immigrants have applied and received DACA, and with immigration unlikely to pass this year it’s a significant option for many DREAMers. While the report is just a snapshot that doesn’t go into the program’s successes or failures, it does provide some insight into DREAMer demographics. A few things we know so far about DACA applicants: 

1. More than half of those eligible have applied, but applications have been on the decline.

USCIS has received 557,412 applications between August 2012 and June 2013. Of those, 74.5 percent have been approved, 24.5 percent are still being reviewed, and only 1 percent has been declined. 

To qualify for DACA, applicants must meet strict requirements around age, amount of time they’ve lived in the U.S., current school enrollment, and a clean criminal record, in addition to the $465 application fee. The numerous requirements are prohibitive for many immigrants, and according to the Brookings Institute older DREAMers may have a tougher time meeting all the requirements. In particular, proving continuous residence in the U.S. since 2007 involves documentation that may be challenging for older immigrants or those who have moved frequently. 

2. The vast majority of applicants are from Latin America, but the accepted applicant pool is a little more diverse.

Although DACA applicants hail from 192 countries, nearly all of them come from 25 predominantly Latin American countries. Mexican immigrants dominate the DACA applicant pool at 74.9 percent, with immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador also showing high numbers.  

Despite the high number of Mexican applicants, immigrants with higher-than-average approvals ratings are more varied. Applicants from South Korea, Philippines, Peru, India, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil have higher approval ratings, whereas only 57 percent of Mexican-born applicants have been approved. And some countries have lower-than-average approval ratings, such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, and Venezuela. 

3. Applications reflect migration patterns

Perhaps not surprisingly, California, Texas, New York, Illinois, and Florida have the largest number of DACA applicants. Over the past ten years these states have also had the fastest-growing immigrant populations in the country, and have ranked highest in number of undocumented immigrants. East Coast states have more diverse applicant demographics, with New York being the most widely varied in applicant countries of origin. 

4. Most applicants are under 21, and are evenly split male and female

While one-third of DACA applicants were between 15-18 years old, 54 percent were younger than 21 years old. There are only slight deviations between men and women across age groups and states, with women trending only slightly older overall. 

5. They were young when they arrived and have been here for a while

Nearly three-quarters of applicants have been in the U.S. for more than 10 years, and about one-third were younger than 5-years-old when the arrived. The period from 1994—2001 had the highest influx of immigrants to the U.S. over the past two decades.

Cory Booker Wins Senate Primary Easily, Despite Criticism

Cory Booker Wins Senate Primary Easily, Despite Criticism

The people have spoken in New Jersey — at least the Democrats have — and Newark Mayor Cory Booker is the winner of the special primary election to replace deceased Sen. Frank Lautenberg. While criticisms of 44-year-old Booker as a mayor and as a candidate are plentiful, moderation seems the unavoidable tax for African-American candidates looking to win statewide offices in states like New Jersey. If Booker wins the general election, he will be the first African American candidate to represent New Jersey in the U.S. Senate, the sixth African American in the nation’s history elected to the U.S. Senate, and only the fourth popularly elected (two Senators from Mississippi, Hiram Rhodes Revels and Blanche Kelso Bruce, were elected to the U.S. Senate by the state senate). 

Also, New Jersey will be the only state with people of color serving as both of its representatives in the U.S. Senate — and the first state in history to do so (other than Hawaii, where people of color are the majority), writes NorthJersey.com political columnist Mike Kelly. The other senator is Robert Menendez, a Cuban-American Democrat. 

The fact that Booker has such huge support in New Jersey — his closest opponent Rep. Frank Pallone brought in just over 20 percent of the votes to Booker’s 60-plus percent — is no small feat, even with New Jersey’s strong Democratic lean. The state is still run by a Republican governor, Chris Christie, and a popular one at that. And Mitt Romney won over 40 percent of New Jersey voters last November (though Obama won the largest share of votes for a Democratic candidate in the state since 1964). But the state has never elected an African American to a statewide office. Only 14.7 percent of the population is African American compared to a 73.8 percent white population. Latino Americans make up 18.5 percent of the state.

This means that Booker needed a broad, multi-racial pool of voters to win the special election against two of his white primary opponents, and will need the same to defeat his Republican opponent Steve Lonegan.

He will also need money. While Booker has drawn much controversy for reeling in millions from Facebook and other Silicon Valley investors, having an outsized celebrity profile, and recently skipping NAACP events to raise money with non-New Jersey constituents like Oprah Winfrey, the stakes are certainly high enough in U.S. Senate races for such political maneuvering. Failing to focus on black communities and courting the Hollywood crowd are the same criticisms that were filed against Barack Obama as he became the first black president of the United States. African-American Democratic candidates for statewide offices have either had to opt for political moderation that angers African-American and progressive constituencies, or run from the far right as Republicans, like former U.S. Rep. Allen West in Florida. 

Lonegan, the legally blind, climate change-denying, anti-immigrant, Koch Brothers-funded Republican candidate has promised Booker a “street fight.” But all that money raised by Oprah and other Silicon Valley millionaires has already come in handy for Booker, who is already in the general election race, as rapper Q-Tip said while DJing Booker’s party last night, “waaaayyy ahead.”  

Booker’s primary win comes on the eve of the sentencing of former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. — son of civil rights activist Jesse Jackson Sr. and once largely popular black congressman with a promising future — who was given two-and-a-half years in prison for misspending campaign funds.

Shonda Rhimes Does Not Think ‘Scandal’ is a Guilty Pleasure

Shonda Rhimes Does Not Think 'Scandal' is a Guilty Pleasure

From an interview with Vulture:

You made it clear when you talked to Willa Paskin earlier this year that you’re not a fan of folks who call Scandal a “guilty pleasure.” Why do some folks still insist on that phrase?
I
t’s because I write Grey’s Anatomy, because I write things people think are a little fluffier in their mind. Which is weird, because Grey’s Anatomy is pretty dark. It’s the same reason that when people call it a soap opera I get pissed — because it’s not a soap opera. And I don’t think it’s a guilty pleasure. It just sounds like a back-handed compliment. If you think it’s a guilty pleasure, don’t watch it. The Real Housewives of any city is a “guilty pleasure.”

 

TAGS: Scandal

How Does Jenji Kohan Write About Women of Color? With a White Lead

How Does Jenji Kohan Write About Women of Color? With a White Lead

Jenji Kohan, the writer behind this summer’s hit Netflix series “Orange is the New Black”, on writing about race and getting the industry to watch:

You’re not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories. But it’s a hard sell to just go in and try to sell those stories initially. The girl next door, the cool blonde, is a very easy access point, and it’s relatable for a lot of audiences and a lot of networks looking for a certain demographic. It’s useful.

It’s a tactic that’s definitely proved successful, first with “Weeds” and now with “Orange is the New Black.”

(h/t NPR via Jezebel)

 

 

Lifetime Says ‘Devious Maids’ Is a Hit, Renews Second Season

Lifetime Says 'Devious Maids' Is a Hit, Renews Second Season

ABC may have passed on airing ‘Devious Maids’, but the show is turning out to be a hit on Lifetime. The show follows a group of Latina maids and their rich, white employers and has been sharply criticized for its portrayal of domestic workers. Still, Lifetime is calling the show its “fastest-growing drama ever” and has renewed the show for another season. The show got off to a sluggish start but has steadily gained more viewers over the course of July. 

“One of the most daring series on television, Devious Maids has quickly become a hit,” says Rob Sharenow, the executive vice president of programming at Lifetime Networks. “We are very proud of the show and are delighted to continue our partnership with Marc Cherry, Eva Longoria, Sabrina Wind, ABC Studios and Televisa USA. I am thrilled we are bringing Devious Maids back for a second season to lead our scripted slate in 2014.”

(h/t Shadow and Act)

Phil Jackson (Yes, That One) Offers Kendrick Lamar Some Advice

Phil Jackson (Yes, That One) Offers Kendrick Lamar Some Advice

Everyone’s got something to say about Kendrick Lamar’s verse this week on Big Sean’s “Control.” In it, the 26-year-old rapper pretty much destroys all of his peers and anoints himself the King of Rap. It’s the sort of unfiltered braggadocio that’s been at the essence of hip-hop for years and it’s got everyone from LeBron James to the Washington Post and the LA Times talking. Some of the responses have even been too much for words  — cue Lamar’s Compton brethern Dr. Dre. And some have been downright hilarious.

In Lamar’s verse, he calls out Jackson, rapping, “If Phil Jackson come back/still no coachin’ me/I’m uncoachable/ I’m unsociable.” On Twitter, Jackson — who knows a thing or two about coaching stars at the top of their games — offered up some unsolicited advice: “it’s okay to be cocky and sure, but we all need somebody to lean on. Let’s just call it mentoring.”

(h/t Bleacher Report)

 

Here’s Why Stop-and-Frisk Shouldn’t Stop You From Going Places

Here's Why Stop-and-Frisk Shouldn't Stop You From Going Places

In light of Monday’s ruling by a federal court judge in New York City that Stop-and-Frisk unlawfully targets people on the basis of race, here’s a video from a local campaign from Communities United For Police Reform that shows the impact of the practice. The message is simple: We all have places to go, and Stop-and-Frisk shouldn’t stop you.

Here’s Kasiem Walters, a high school senior from East Flatbush in Brooklyn.

Atlanta Teen Denied Heart Transplant Due to ‘Noncompliance’

Atlanta Teen Denied Heart Transplant Due to 'Noncompliance'

Anthony Stokes has been given less than six months to live after being denied a heart transplant due to ‘noncompliance.’ Stokes, a 15-year-old Atlanta native, was hospitalized on July 14 when he was diagnosed with an enlarged heart. Authorities at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston have given little explanation for deciding to not put Stokes on the organ transplant waitlist, but his parents suspect it is because he’s had poor grades and ‘been in some trouble’ in the past. According to his mother, Melencia Hamilton, the doctors said they ”don’t have any evidence that he would take his medicine or that he would go to his follow-ups.” 

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is also advocating for Stokes, saying the doctors’ vague decision isn’t good enough to give up on a young boy’s life. The hospital’s refusal to be more specific about the basis for ‘noncompliance’ resonates with a larger system of denying rights to people with criminal backgrounds, and racially motivated skepticism about young people of color. 

(h/t Think Progress)

Activists Rally Around Rosanell Eaton as NC Voter ID Becomes Law

Activists Rally Around Rosanell Eaton as NC Voter ID Becomes Law

They said they would “slow walk” to a photo voter ID bill, but there has been no tar in the heels of North Carolina Republican state legislators in their race to make it law. After less than nine months as governor, Republican Pat McCrory signed what’s been called the most restrictive elections bills in the nation into law yesterday. The “Voter Information Verification Act” signed by Gov. McCrory was created and passed by a Republican-dominated state legislature on the premise that voter fraud is riding roughshod all over the elections system. But no evidence of system-upending fraud exists in North Carolina. 

Besides asking voters now to carry one of a narrow list of photo ID cards to vote (starting with the 2016 election), the new law also slices a full week off of the early voting period, eliminates same-day voter registration, allows vigilante poll observers of the Vote Truther variety more leeway to harass voters, and makes it more difficult to add satellite polling sites for the elderly and disabled. 

Thousands have marched and demonstrated, while hundreds have been arrested during the “Moral Mondays” sit-ins and pray-ins at the state legislative building this year, protesting this and other bills that may have a punishing effect on people of color and low income. 

Right after Gov. McRory signed the elections bill into law, civil rights groups announced lawsuits against the state, anticipating that the law might lead to the disenfranchisement of thousands of African Americans, Latino Americans, college students and elderly voters. 

One of those lawsuits, filed by the civil rights organizations North Carolina NAACP and Advancement Project, argues that the new law is in violation of Section Two of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits any voting procedure that discriminates against people of color from taking effect. It also claims the law violates voting rights protections for people of color guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit aims at a number of the more punitive voting provisions for minorities in the state, including the elimination of same-day registration and reducing early voting. During the 2012 elections, almost 70 percent of African Americans used early voting. 

When Florida lawmakers reduced its early voting period last year, a federal judge found that it discriminated against black voters, who were more likely to vote early than white voters. Florida later apologized and restored the early voting period. 

The NAACP’s lawsuit is filed on behalf of 92-year-old Rosanell Eaton, who was one of the first African Americans to vote in North Carolina. She registered in the 1940s amid threats of literacy tests and intimidation from the Ku Klux Klan. Her name on her driver’s license does not match the name on her birth certificate or voter registration card, which may disqualify her from getting the free voter ID card she’ll need to vote under the new law, according to a press release from the Advancement Project. 

Mrs. Eaton follows in the footsteps of Viviette Applewhite of Pennsylvania and Desiline Victor of Florida, African-American women who withstood voter suppression last year to stand for the voting rights of all Americans. Mrs. Eaton has served with her state’s NAACP for over 60 years and has survived her house being riddled with bullets and crosses burned on her lawn for her work registering African Americans to vote. This year, she was one of the hundreds arrested with Moral Mondays protestors when speaking out against the new voter ID law. A Facebook page “Stand With Rosa Nell Eaton” has been created in her honor. 

Baby Veronica’s Father Turns Himself in After Refusing to Hand Her Over

Baby Veronica's Father Turns Himself in After Refusing to Hand Her Over

In a new twist in the Baby Veronica story, her biological father Dusten Brown turned himself in to Oklahoma authorities on Monday morning.  His surrender came after he failed to show up to a court-ordered hearing in South Carolina where he was to deliver Baby Veronica back to Melanie and Matt Capobianco—the white couple that tried to adopt her as an infant. Veronica, a Cherokee Nation citizen who is now 4-years-old, has been living with Brown for the past two years and many question whether the South Carolina court ruling in favor of the Copabiancos is in her best interest. 

Brown refused extradition to South Carolina by turning himself in in Oklahoma and paying the $10,000 fugitive bond to be released. He has another hearing in 30 days. Baby Veronica is currently with her paternal grandparents and Brown’s wife, and the Copabiancos continue to appeal for her return and have accused her family members of kidnapping.

This most recent development comes after the U.S. Supreme Court found that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) did not protect Brown’s parental rights, and a South Carolina court decided to allow Veronica to be adopted the Copabiancos last month. The case has brought national attention to issues of tribal sovereignty and the complexities of adopting Native children.

Race-Based Claims Thrown Out in Paula Deen Suit

Race-Based Claims Thrown Out in Paula Deen Suit

A federal judge in Georgia has ruled that the plaintiff at the center of a lawsuit against Paula Deen has no standing for the race-based claims in the suit. Why? Because the plaintiff is white.

Lisa Jackson, a white woman, sued Deen and her brother last year alleging that she was subjected to sexual harassment and racist attitudes during her five years on Deen’s payroll.  When information from Deen’s deposition was made public, it led to a public relations meltdown; in addition to admitting that she used the n-word, Deen also fessed up to her fantasies about hosting a “traditional” southern dinner party in which black people dressed up as slaves. But most importantly, Deen was alleged to have paid her black employees less than minimum wage — even as her cooking empire grew to become one of the most recognizable brands in America.

Dora Charles, an African-American woman who worked as a cook at Paula Deen’s restaurant for years, described her experiences to the New York Times.

Mrs. Charles spent years making less than $10 an hour, even after Ms. Deen became a Food Network star. And there were tough moments. She said Ms. Deen used racial slurs. Once she wanted Mrs. Charles to ring a dinner bell in front of the restaurant, hollering for people to come and get it.

“I said, ‘I’m not ringing no bell,’ ” Mrs. Charles said. “That’s a symbol to me of what we used to do back in the day.”

But U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr. ruled that Jackson, the white plaintiff, could not rightfully sue for racial discrimination. Judge Moore said that it was not the job of the court to mediate human resources problems — apparently even if those disputes are against federal discrimination laws.

TAGS: Paula Deen

Why Does Google Translate Mistranslate and Use the I-Word?

Why Does Google Translate Mistranslate and Use the I-Word?

Our former colleague Jorge Rivas ran into an offensive glitch when using Google Translate this weekend. In eight out of ten tries, the Spanish language word “indocumentado,” which translates to “undocumented,” was mistranslated by Google Translate as “illegal” when it appeared in a headline. As Rivas writes in a letter published by ABC-Univision’s Fusion,

As a journalist, when I use the term undocumented immigrant instead of illegal immigrant I’m doing so in order to remain more neutral and not use language charged with anti-immigrant sentiment. When you use the term illegal immigrant, it affects attitudes towards immigrants and people of color.  

Rivas is asking that Google Translate be “honest and accurate” in its translations. Read his entire letter, with numerous examples of Google Translate’s mistranslations on the Fusion site

Janelle Monáe Nabs Prince, Erykah Badu, Esperanza Spaulding for New Album

Janelle Monáe Nabs Prince, Erykah Badu, Esperanza Spaulding for New Album

Take a look — but not quite a listen — at Janelle Monáe’s new 2-disc album, which is due out on September 10. The album’s packed with big-name guests, including Erykah Badu, Solange Knowles, Miguel, and Prince, who talked about his support of Monáe in a recent interview. Check out the tracklist below.

The Electric Lady Tracklist:
Disc 1:
1. Suite IV Electric Overture
2. Givin Em What They Love (Feat. Prince)
3. Q.U.E.E.N. (Feat. Erykah Badu)
4. Electric Lady (Feat. Solange)
5. Good Morning Midnight (interlude)
6. PrimeTime (Feat. Miguel)
7. We Were Rock & Roll
8. The Chrome Shoppe (interlude)
9. Dance Apocalyptic
10. Look Into My Eyes

Disc 2:
12. Suite V Electric Overture
13. It’s Code
14. Ghetto Woman
15. Our Favorite Fugitive (interlude)
16. Victory
17. Can’t Live Without Your Love
18. Sally Ride
19. Dorothy Dandridge Eyes (Feat. Esperanza Spalding)
20. What An Experience

(h/t Okayplayer)

Judge Rules That NYC’s Stop-and-Frisk Violates Rights, Orders Monitor

Judge Rules That NYC's Stop-and-Frisk Violates Rights, Orders Monitor

A federal judge ruled on Monday that the New York City Police Department’s Stop-and-Frisk policy unlawfully targeted people on the basis of race and that an independent monitor must oversee reforms of the practice.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan was careful to also say that she wasn’t ordering a wholesale end to stop-and-frisk. As the New York Times reports:

Judge Scheindlin also ordered a number of other remedies, including a pilot program in which officers in at least five precincts across the city will wear body-worn cameras in an effort to record street encounters. She also ordered a “joint remedial process” — in essence, a series of community meetings — to solicit public input on how to reform stop-and-frisk.

The ruling came after a federal class action lawsuit was brought against the NYPD because of the practice, leading to a nine-week trial that ended on May 20.

David Floyd was the lead plaintiff in that lawsuit and spoke to Colorlines.com last spring. You can watch video of that interview below.

 

Interscope Announces Release Date for M.I.A.’s ‘Matangi’

Interscope Announces Release Date for M.I.A.'s 'Matangi'

After threatening to leak her own album unless her label announced a release date for it, Interscope did just that and set November 5 as the official date when the singer’s “Mantangi” will be available to fans. The album’s been a long time coming; M.I.A. tweeted a teaser video for the track “Come With Me” over a year ago.

Check it out below:

(h/t Okayplayer)

TAGS: MIA

Holder: ‘We Can’t Incarcerate Our Way to Becoming a Safer Nation’

Holder: 'We Can't Incarcerate Our Way to Becoming a Safer Nation'

Well, the private prison industry won’t like this at all: Today, Attorney General Eric Holder will announce new policies that will reduce maximized sentences for nonviolent drug offenders who aren’t tied to gangs or large-scale drug organizations. Holder will also seek sentencing reductions for elderly, nonviolent inmates while seeking alternative ways to handle other nonviolent criminals besides sending them to prison. 

Holder is expected to make these announcements, which he’s been hinting at for months, today at the national conference for the American Bar Association in San Francisco, according to The Washington Post

“A vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities; however, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem rather than alleviate it,” Holder will say today, as written in excerpts of his speech obtained by the Post. “Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law enforcement reason. “We cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation.”

Between 1999 and 2010, the number of federal prisoners held in private prisons rose 784 percent, from 3,828 to 33,830, according to The Sentencing Project. State inmates in private prisons rose 40 percent in the same time period. In their report “Too Good to be True: Private Prisons in America,” they attribute that growth to the War on Drugs, which “fueled a rapid expansion in the nation’s prison population.” 

The U.S. Sentencing Commission has reported that racially biased convictions are most evident in cases involving the sale or use of crack cocaine. While white Americans are far more likely to use crack cocaine, 79 percent of those sentenced for crimes involving the drug were black, while only 10 percent were white.  

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