Michelle Alexander Says We Should Grind the Unfair Justice System to a Halt

AFTER years as a civil rights lawyer, I rarely find myself speechless. But some questions a woman I know posed during a phone conversation one recent evening gave me pause: “What would happen if we organized thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of people charged with crimes to refuse to play the game, to refuse to plea out? What if they all insisted on their Sixth Amendment right to trial? Couldn’t we bring the whole system to a halt just like that?”

The woman was Susan Burton, who knows a lot about being processed through the criminal justice system.

Her odyssey began when a Los Angeles police cruiser ran over and killed her 5-year-old son. Consumed with grief and without access to therapy or antidepressant medications, Susan became addicted to crack cocaine. She lived in an impoverished black community under siege in the “war on drugs,” and it was but a matter of time before she was arrested and offered the first of many plea deals that left her behind bars for a series of drug-related offenses. Every time she was released, she found herself trapped in an under-caste, subject to legal discrimination in employment and housing.

Fifteen years after her first arrest, Susan was finally admitted to a private drug treatment facility and given a job. After she was clean she dedicated her life to making sure no other woman would suffer what she had been through. Susan now runs five safe homes for formerly incarcerated women in Los Angeles. Her organization, A New Way of Life, supplies a lifeline for women released from prison. But it does much more: it is also helping to start a movement. With groups like All of Us or None, it is organizing formerly incarcerated people and encouraging them to demand restoration of their basic civil and human rights.

I was stunned by Susan’s question about plea bargains because she — of all people — knows the risks involved in forcing prosecutors to make cases against people who have been charged with crimes. Could she be serious about organizing people, on a large scale, to refuse to plea-bargain when charged with a crime?

“Yes, I’m serious,” she flatly replied.

I launched, predictably, into a lecture about what prosecutors would do to people if they actually tried to stand up for their rights. The Bill of Rights guarantees the accused basic safeguards, including the right to be informed of charges against them, to an impartial, fair and speedy jury trial, to cross-examine witnesses and to the assistance of counsel.

But in this era of mass incarceration — when our nation’s prison population has quintupled in a few decades partly as a result of the war on drugs and the “get tough” movement — these rights are, for the overwhelming majority of people hauled into courtrooms across America, theoretical. More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury. Most people charged with crimes forfeit their constitutional rights and plead guilty.

“The truth is that government officials have deliberately engineered the system to assure that the jury trial system established by the Constitution is seldom used,” said Timothy Lynch, director of the criminal justice project at the libertarian Cato Institute. In other words: the system is rigged.

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5 Responses to Michelle Alexander Says We Should Grind the Unfair Justice System to a Halt

  1. anonymous March 16, 2012 at 6:53 am

    Why do we spend so much time fighting for brotha’s who have been locked up? What about all the educated black male professionals who have never been in trouble and can’t find work?

    Reply
    • Reneegede March 20, 2012 at 4:07 pm

      Because the black male professionals who have never been in trouble and can’t find work should be building businesses and non-profits that put the brothas who have been locked up to work.

      Why should they have to keep begging for jobs from people who could care less whether they live or die?

      Reply
  2. Reneegede March 20, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Because the black male professionals who have never been in trouble and can’t find work should be building businesses and non-profits that put the brothas who have been locked up to work.

    Why should they have to keep begging for jobs from people who could care less whether they live or die?

    Reply
  3. Reneegede March 20, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Someone should be offering up legislation to the Fed for police oversight committees in every city in America — administrated by the Justice Department … and made up of citizens from all walks of life in teams of 15 per city, 13 plus two alternates. Criteria for who serves on each committee to be determined and teams rotated on a regular basis.

    Reply
  4. Ambassador Charles Linder Floyd March 25, 2012 at 10:01 am

    THIS IS A MUST READ AND A MUST POST ON EVERYONE
    FACEBOOK

    Before we can ever understand, why this is happing still today to the Afro/American Descendants of 1712 James Town Willie Lynch Slavery Letter Doctrine: You must first understand who created the Jew, Christian and the KUSHITE RACE?

    Believe it or not? GOD_the JEW_ Jehovah’s E-ternal W-ORD W-ay-T-ruth L-ife: created both of them, by placing HIS ETERNAL WORD SEED in and upon them for His LIGHT BEARES TO ALL MANKIND in regaining their Eternal Life back with their CREATOR.

    The Jew is not just a Race of People, but rather a People, which GOD_the JEW_ entrusted HIS DIVINE WAY OF SALVATION INTO THEM AS A LIGHT TO THE GENTILES in Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6. AS in the Christians, He made us in New Testament HIS LIGHT of the WORLD: because the Jews failed both HIM and all Mankind with Our Salvation Message in Genesis 3:15, 3:21 and John 3:16.

    Here is the answer from the TORAH/BIBLE: Kushite/Blacks do not know, that GOD_the JEW- has left them a Special Kushite Blessing in Psalm 68:31(b). He removed the Canaan-Curse in Jeremiah 39:16-18, but the Kushite has imposed a another far Greater- Damnation Curse in Ezekiel 38:5; 39:1-29 and Revelation 20:7-10.

    Whatever Race or Person, that GOD_the JEW_ places HIS ETERNAL SEED WORD of Genesis 3:15, into or upon them: they are single out by Satan for his Holocaust destruction. Jews, Christians and Kushites will never understand their collective: WHY until they understand why they were created and selected above all men?

    This Tea-ONE-Republicans/Democrat-Dixicx-Crates Parties Wall Street Industrial Prison Complexes; are Satan’s New Holocaust Gas Ovens to eliminate and distinguish the ETERNAL WORD SEED out in all Jews, Christians and the Kushite Races.

    Remember Satan the Father of Evil and the lie believes, that if he can cause just (one jot or tilt not to be fulfilled in the TORAH/BIBLE)? He can then defeat, GOD_the JEW_ as stated, by none other than the ETERNAL WORD SEED JESUS CHRIST: HIMSELF.

    There is a new Nationwide Origination Now; The Family And Inmates United.ws: (MORIAHN-TFAIU) just waiting for the 2.4+/6 millions prisons population and their Families to come together and join in their own FAITHBASE, social, education-scientific political PAC. Please contact me and see how you can make this happen in your own city and State? At 760-881-3247 or 877-515-4924 or Emails , , website .

    PLEASE don’t sleep in 2012, on this current Christians and Kushites and the soon coming Final-Jewish Holocausts before their 1000 years Kingdom-Blessing-Rest.

    SHALOM,
    Ambassador Charles Linder Floyd

    Reply

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