Homeowner, resident, mother, advocate, community leader, a woman whom is afraid of nothing, “except being burned to death”!!!
July 9, 2012
To the City of Detroit Council Members, To All In Lansing Who Represent “OUR FAMILIES in the City of Detroit”:
IMPORTANT Please Read! Please Save our Fire Stations!!
I am writing to each of you and all that you know, asking/begging that you please “Stop the Closing of Our Firehouses.” Decisions such as these are not keeping our families safe in any manner. Without our fighters, our homes and our lives are in more danger everyday.
As many of you know I live in the 48210 Claytown Neighborhood, with 400 or more burned houses. Our hard working “Ladder 22″ men run themselves back and forth, not only doing their very best to save our homes and lives, at the same time going to what other areas they are called to help put out another fire. Our firefighters are not a group that picks and chooses a house to save, they save all they can!!
I was at a rally on Friday to save Engine 33. This is the 48209 area, as I stood there chanting to save Engine 33, all I could think of was 48209 will become 48210 in no time at all. Meaning homes will burn one after another, lives will come to an end, many asking why would the City of Detroit make decisions to close a another Fire Station, again putting more lives in “DANGER?”
Think of it like this: How many of you are under stress because you can’t or will not do what is needed for the City of Detroit, so these decisions are “eating at you” day and night? Change places with our firefighters, you are doing your very best to do their jobs as a firefighter, you are so worn thin and under stress from fire stations begin closed one after another, you at that moment in time as a firefighter wasn’t thinking as a firefighter does with each call they make, not only did a building/home burn to the ground, a life/lives came to an end, and how many of our strong firefighters lives had been placed in more danger or died?
How many of the City Council members has ever gone to the families of a firefighter and had to tell them their “Husband, father, brother, sister, granddad” died in a fire saving others lives and homes? Think of it like this, you’re sitting around that table making more decisions and the City building is burning, who would come to your aid, knowing you were the ones to close the doors on the fire stations?
“The Firefighters” would be there to save your lives, not looking at you as a bad guy, taking your hand doing what ever they could to save your lives, think about that!! At the same time, one or two of our neighborhoods are going up in flames, will there be enough stations/firefighters to save everyone’s lives? Who do they have choose? How could you place that on another to have to make that decision??
“Please we are asking/begging to each of you, Stop Closing Our Fire Stations.
I can stand outside of my home with my hose in my hand screaming, crying, choking to death, while trying to spaying water from my hose pipe, but never could I replace a firefighter, “NEVER”…
I was told Ladder 22 is on a temporary days, did you forget the $22.3 million dollar school that was built “across the street from Ladder 22″. Children will fill that school this fall, their lives lay in your hands. Remember the school is just across the street; by the way the DPS doesn’t have its own Fire Department. Dingeman Park was set on fire by a M80 just a few weeks ago, who put the fire out that was heading for our homes on Cecil? No one but “Our Ladder 22″!!
As for you in Lansing:By passing a bill that fireworks can be sold, brought, and set off, did you think before you held up your hands, saying yes to this bill? Without firefighters to put the fires out, what will happen to Detroit? Homes will go up, people will die, the City of Detroit doors will be closed for ever. I must ask, has a plan been set to get rid of the people in Detroit, no matter what the plans are for the people?
Bob Day (l) calls for end to dictatorship of the banks, who are behind demands that Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon end her legal fight against Detroit PA4 consent agreement.
Crittendon files for reconsideration of case vs. PA4 consent agreement
Supporters ask for turnout at City Council Tues. July 10 10 a.m.
By Diane Bukowski
July 6, 2012
DETROIT – The same day Detroit Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon filed a motion for reconsideration of her lawsuit asking to void the city’s Public Act 4 consent agreement, July 5, a group called “We the People for the People” filed a motion to intervene in her support. They are also asking Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette to set aside his dismissal of Crittendon’s suit. Their motions are scheduled to be heard on Wed. Aug. 15 at 10 a.m. in Collette’s courtroom at the Ingham County Circuit Courthouse in Mason, Michigan.
Threats from Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, State Treasurer Andy Dillon, and Wall Street have deterred neither Crittendon nor “We the People.” These entities declared the people of Detroit would face dire consequences including withholding of state revenue-sharing funds if Crittendon exercised her constitutional right to participate in the judicial process.
Detroit Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon.
“Please be advised that I, as corporation counsel, stand by my decision to have the courts determine the validity of the (financial stability agreement) as a good faith performance of my obligation to my client, the City of Detroit,” Crittendon told the City Council in a letter explaining her action.
Supporters from “Free Detroit-No Consent” are calling on people to pack Council chambers Tues. July 10 at 10 a.m. to support Crittendon. Several Council members have said they do not support her appeal. It is possible that another attempt to have Council vote to remove her is in the offing.
In his ruling dismissing her lawsuit, Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette said Crittendon did not have standing to file. He did not address newly-revised City Charter language making her office an independent entity with the right to take judicial action, nor Crittendon’s claim that the state owes Detroit over $307 million.
James Cole, Jr., Leonard Eston, Cornell Squires, Clifford Stafford, and Tyrone Travis dispute his determination in their filings. In addition to Crittendon as Corporation Counsel, they say that as city taxpayers they have firm standing to sue.
Cornell Squires, co-litigant and leader of “We the People for the People”
“The money involved belongs to the city and its people,” Squires told VOD. “If we don’t get the money, it affects our service. We are the people suffering right now because of the consent agreement and because of Judge Collette’s ruling. Dave Bing isn’t going to represent us because he doesn’t have the guts, and he’s listening to the wrong attorneys. Crittendon was just doing her job following the Charter. What’s wrong with that?”
James Cole, Jr. who attended the hearing in front of Collette with a group from “Free Detroit, No Consent,” called Collette’s ruling “sua spontae.”
“That means he ruled without the real input of the complainants,” Cole explained. “It’s crazy that he pulled it off like that. It was plain error on his part.”
Cole said he wants to file a federal challenge to Collette’s ruling as well.
James Cole, Jr. (r) with Cindy Darrah and Sandra Hines after June 13 hearing in front of Judge William Collette.
The pleading filed by “We the People” says, “On June 13, 2012, the Michigan Court of Claims by Judge William Collette erroneously dismissed this Civil Action by rendering an “arbitrary” “capricious” “unfounded” “harsh” “untenable” judicial decision that was inconsistent and clearly contrary with “Fundamental Fairness;” “Due Process of Law” and “Equal Protection of the Law.”
They cite legal precedents from Michigan courts including Maldonado v. FordMotor Co., Barnett v. Hidalgo, and Vicencio v. Ramirez.
Crittendon contends in her suit that the state owes Detroit over $307 million, which would wipe out the city’s current deficit, and eliminate 2,566 layoffs and massive service cutbacks if paid. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Dillon have refused to acknowledge the debts.
Detroit COO Chris Brown, previously a DTE executive, consults with Atty. Michael McGee before Financial Advisory Board meeting June 28, 2012.
Bing engaged the law firm of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone to argue against Crittendon’s suit before Collette. Attorney Michael McGee of that firm, who admitted he helped draft Public Act 4, argued the case for the consent agreement before City Council on behalf of the Mayor’s office.
Bing has announced that he will no longer use Crittendon or the Law Department to represent the city, despite Charter Section 7.5.209, which says the Corporation Counsel is the legal counsel for the City.
“By filing this motion of reconsideration, on the last possible day to appeal Judge William Collette’s previous ruling, she keeps the legal challenge of the FSA [Financial Stability Agreement, as the consent agreement is titled] alive and she keeps Detroit’s financing at risk, making it harder for us to stabilize the city,” Bing said in a statement.
Cecily McClellan (l), vice-president of APTE and now a leader of “Free Detroit-No Consent,” demonstrated with others against Mayor Dave Bing in 2010.
“Moreover, the corporation counsel’s lawsuit has already caused the city to pay higher interest rates on its borrowed money and damaged the city’s credit rating. It has caused our lenders to call in a portion of our short-term financing. And, it nearly caused the city to lose a $28-million revenue sharing payment this month, which was avoided only by the efforts of city Chief Financial Officer Jack Martin and the state Treasury Department.”
It was not Crittendon, however, but the three major credit ratings agencies, Standard and Poor’s, Fitch, and Moody’s, who downgraded Detroit’s bond ratings in the midst of the controversy.
Detroit attorney Bob Day earlier called such actions the “dictatorship of the banks,” since the banks finance the ratings agencies.
Students protest in Montreal.
“This battle is going on in Montreal, Greece, Spain, France and everywhere,” Day said at a rally June 9 calling for a moratorium on Detroit’s $12.4 billion debt to the banks.
“People are saying to hell with the banks and their austerity programs,” Day told marchers in downtown Detroit. “The banks set our communities up for disaster, and when it all fell down, they didn’t get hurt. They got bailed out by our tax dollars. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people are out of their homes, and the loss of tax revenues to our cities has brought in Public Act 4 and emergency managers, which guarantee that the banks will get paid first. This is nothing but a dictatorship of the banks.”
Moody’s explained its downgrade on June 14.
Greeks expressed mass anger after Moody’s downgraded their credit rating again citing a risk of default despite an earlier debt write-off deal.
“Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the City of Detroit’s (MI) General Obligation Unlimited Tax (GOULT) and Certificates of Participation (COPs) ratings to B3 from B2 due to recent events that have highlighted risks associated with the city’s illiquid cash position and lack of a clear political consensus to successfully implement the city’s Financial Stability Agreement (FSA).Concurrently, Moody’s has downgraded the city’s General Obligation Limited Tax (GOLT) rating to Caa1 from B3. The GO, COPs and GOLT ratings remain on review for possible downgrade pending completion of the sale of the Michigan Finance Authority’s Local Government Loan Program Revenue Bonds, Series 2012B (Second Lien) and Series 2012C (Third Lien), along with the release of the escrowed proceeds from a private placement loan with Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML)(long term rated Baa1/ratings under review for possible downgrade).
DWSD water/sewage rates will rise as a result of Wall Street downgrade in credit rating.
The loans cited are NOT related to the $137 million short-term loan the Michigan Finance Authority issued to the city under terms of the consent agreement.
“Moody’s also downgraded the ratings for the Detroit Water and Sewage Enterprise Revenue debt to Baa2 (Senior Lien) and Baa3 (Second Lien) as the risk of a city bankruptcy filing has incrementally increased in light of persistent liquidity pressures at the city level and ongoing political instability,” Moody’s said. “ This rating action also applies to the Sewage Disposal System Revenue and Revenue Refunding Senior Lien Bonds, Series 2012A. Ratings for the Detroit Water and Sewage Enterprise Revenue Bonds remain under review for possible downgrade pending the completion of the above referenced Michigan Finance Authority sale along with the release of the escrowed funds from the private placement with BAML.”
In past years, bond ratings for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), which is currently being dismantled under U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox’s oversight, have ranged around AAA. It is likely Wall Street wants to sever the DWSD from city ownership.
To read “We the People” lawsuit, click on Crittendon intervenor filings. To contact “We the People for the People,” call Cornell Squires at 313-460-3175.
Detroit Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon speaks at NAACP meeting June 28, 2012.
By Diane Bukowski
July 4, 2012
Breaking news: Three Detroit women, Yolanda King, Yvonne Ross, and Rose Roots, have filed a citizens’ lawsuit challenging the Detroit consent agreement. It replicates the grounds in the lawsuit filed by Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon June 1 against the state, but City of Detroit officials are the defendants in this suit. It was filed in Wayne County Circuit Court July 3. It is to be heard in front of Judge Amy Hathaway on July 13. More on this from Voice of Detroit later.
July 3, 2012
DETROIT – One strong, brilliant Black woman attorney has so far held off the administrations of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, the state courts, the major media, and the banks and corporations who are dancing them on puppet strings in their pursuit of Detroit’s public income and resources.
Backed up by a half-dozen members of her family, Detroit Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon spoke at the NAACP general membership meeting June 28, which was held at Triumph Baptist Church.
State Treasurer Andy Dillon before the June 28. 2012 Financial Advisory Board meeting, held at WSU Law School. Dillon did not appear publicly at the meeting itself, but most of the meeting was held in closed session behind closed doors, with Attorney Michael McGee, co-auther of Public Act 4, also in attendance.
Wall Street had threatened to further downgrade the city’s bond ratings if she appealed Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette’s dismissal of her lawsuit against the Detroit Public Act 4 consent agreement. State Treasurer Andy Dillon had threatened to withhold another revenue-sharing payment if she persisted.
At the time, the appeal or a motion for reconsideration was due by July 5. Crittendon did not reveal her office’s plans on the matter, but explained what has given her the strength to stand firm so far.
“I have had so much support expressed from people all over, people I don’t even know, emails and flowers,” she said. “My mother has heard from people she had not heard from for 40 years.”
One member of the audience called out, “Stand strong, sister,” as others encouraged her to appeal.
Crittendon explained the grounds for the lawsuit and the emptiness of the state’s threats.
“That bond deal goes through the Michigan Finance Authority (MFA), which is not the state of Michigan,” Crittendon said. “It’s an autonomous agency. The treasurer has only a statutory appointment as chair. It’s the treasurer, not me, who is threatening to withhold his signature from the documents.”
Crittendon explained the basis for her lawsuit, which contends that both state and city law forbid municipalities from contracting with entities in debt to them. So far, her office has identified at least $307 million the state owes to Detroit.
“Under the Home Rule City Act in the Michigan Constitution, it has been the case since 1909 that you cannot contract with anyone who is in debt to the city,” Crittendon said. “The City Charter didn’t contain a similar provision until 2012, under its current revision. Any contractor has to get a number of clearances from the city, from its Human Rights Department, its income and property tax divisions, and others before it is approved. That has always been the case.”
Crittendon said she had attended Charter Revision Commission meetings and argued against giving independent power to the Corporation Counsel and the Law Department, saying she did not feel it was necessary.
“But now, under Sections 2.113, relating to default, and 7.5-209, I am absolutely clear on what my responsibilities are under the Charter. The Charter also contains more stringent and enhanced definitions of what constitute violations of the Charter. It would be a Charter violation for the Corporation Counsel not to enforce the Charter.”
She cleared up a commonly-held misconception about the possible repeal of Public Act 4, the emergency manager act. Many believe that its predecessor Public Act 72 would be resurrected if PA4 is repealed.
But Crittendon said, “If PA4 is no longer the law, PA 72 would not come back.”
She said the Bing administration did not use the Corporation Counsel’s office in the process of drafting the PA4 consent agreement. That agreement gives broad powers to a nine-member Financial Advisory Board, a Chief Financial Officer, a Program Management Director, and the Michigan treasurer and governor which allow them to overrule decisions of elected city officials. The overseers must approve all bond and debt matters, determine whether the city has breached the consent agreement, and see to it that Appendix B of the agreement, which provides that collective bargaining will no longer be required after July 16, is enforced.
Attorney Michael McGee (center) consults with Detroit COO Chris Brown prior to Financial Advisory Board meeting 6/28/12. McGee and numerous others from the audience followed the FAB into their closed session, allegedly to discuss union collective bargaining agreements. The city has notified its unions that it does not plan to continue conditions of their current contracts after June 30 while bargaining, which is normally done. The PA 4 consent agreement calls for an end to any obligation on the part of the city to bargain after July 16. During conversation with VOD, Brown claimed VOD reports that McGee is the co-auther of Public Act 4 are “slanderous,” despite the fact that McGee admitted his role in drafting the agreement himself in a Michigan magazine article which VOD re-published earlier.
“I was asked by a City Council member to look at it over the course of a weekend,” Crittendon said. “I issued a very cursory opinion before the Council vote, but the document was turned back over to outside counsel [attorney Michael McGee, of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone]. He should have looked at the City Charter, state law, federal law, but on April 4 the Council passed a resolution approving the agreement, and on April 11, the Governor put his seal on it.”
Crittendon said that afterwards, she had time to more fully review the legality of the agreement. She discovered not only the much disputed $224 million in revenue-sharing owed to Detroit since a 1998 agreement between former Mayor Dennis Archer and former Governor John Engler. She noted in a letter to Dillon April 11 that he had admitted the existence of that debt on the air.
“We discovered a lot of other unpaid bills owed by the state,” Crittendon said. “They included sewer water drainage bills from the state freeways, $347,000, and electric bills for traffic lights on state trunk lines owed to the Public Lighting Department. I issued another privileged and confidential document to the City Council in light of the newly discovered information, telling them it was my obligation to inform them of the debts. Our office did not immediately file a lawsuit, but the State of Michigan said it had no contracts in default.”
She said her office had followed all preliminary steps required of it to enforce the Charter, and was left with no other option than “judicial action” newly cited under the Charter.
Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette at hearing on lawsuit June 13, 2012. He said his mind was made up to dismiss the suit from the beginning.
Crittendon said that Collette made no determination of the merits of the lawsuit before arbitrarily dismissing it, and did not consider the new charter provisions giving independent powers to the Corporation Counsel.
Crittendon said her office has now asked for and received a copy of the Miller, Cohen contract under which McGee was being paid, since the new Charter requires that the Corporation Counsel approve all contracts with outside Counsel. She said the contract, however, was approved by “a previous Corporation Counsel.”
Crittendon became Corporation Counsel under interim Mayor Kenneth Cockrel, Jr. in 2009. Previous Corporation Counsels under Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick were Valerie Colbert-Osamuede and John Johnson, Jr., who is now counsel for the Michigan NAACP. Johnson chaired the meeting.
Johnson earlier issued an opinion, which Crittendon noted in her advice to the City Council, that the $224 million state revenue-sharing debt to Detroit was not enforceable. Crittendon, however, disagreed in her opinion, noting Dillon had admitted its existence.
Crittendon said the best way for citizens to contest the agreement now is to file ethics charges against the city officials responsible for approving it. That includes Mayor Dave Bing, Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis, COO Chris Brown, and the “Fatal Five” members of the City Council who voted for it.
This is the most recent Free Detroit Ethics Complaint form, please distribute. Please note there is NO contact information on the form other than the Board of Ethics. Please instruct those receiving to contact 313-444-0061 or firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange turning their form in as a group.
Visit http://freedetroit.org and subscribe to email announcements of new posts using the box at top right. Rich media content will not come through those emails (video, audio, photos, etc).
A No Struggle, No Development Production! By KennySnod *
Fighting The Attack On Democracy i.e., Emergency Managers! Protesters/Activists disrupt the order of the day by carrying out a march and sit-in inside the State of Michigan building in Detroit (Cadillac Place on W. Grand Blvd.) on June 26, 2012. They locked out the public out, to stop and disrupt business as usual. They announced that continued civil disobedience protests will continue until the referendum against the “Dictator Law,” PA4, is on the November ballot.
A No Struggle, No Development Production! By Kenny Snodgrass, Activist, Photographer, Videographer, Author of From Victimization To Empowerment… www.trafford.com/07-0913 eBook available at www.ebookstore.sony.com
Protesters disrupt Gov. Rick Snyder’s Speech To Detroit’s Council of Baptist Pastors at Bethel East
A No Struggle, No Development Production! By Kenny Snodgrass
The appearance by Gov. Rick Snyder at the Council of Baptist Pastors in Detroit was disrupted Tuesday, June 26, 2012 when several dozen protesters and activists disrupted the meeting with shouts and chants about the emergency manager law etc. “Are you going to make sure the repeal gets on the ballot?”
Later when Gov. Snyder was asked another question about the repeal, by Rev. Charles Williams II, which was considered another disruption, Snyder was whisked out of the Bethel Baptist Church by his security detail.
The meeting took place at Bethel East Church on Detroit’s east side, Rev.Michael Owens the pastor.
A No Struggle, No Development Production! By Kenny Snodgrass
Activist, Photographer, Videographer, Author of From Victimization To Empowerment… www.trafford.com/07-0913 eBook available at www.ebookstore.sony.com
YouTube: I have over 300 Video’s, over 94,600 hits averaging 3,000 a month on my YouTube channel @ www.YouTube.com/KennySnod
New Marcus Garvey Movement protests Snyder at Bethel East church June 26, 2012.
SNYDER RUNS FROM ANGRY DETROITERS
Protesters pledge escalation of fightback
By Diane Bukowski
July 2, 2012
Protesters said Snyder had “gall” to come to Bethel Baptist East on Detroit’s poor east side.
DETROIT – Opponents of Public Act 4 and other anti-Detroit legislation ran Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder out of the heart of the city’s east side June 24, chanting as he stood to speak, “Pay us our money!” They were referring to over $307 million in debt owed by the state to Detroit, cited in Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon’s June 1 lawsuit.
The Detroit Council of Baptist Pastors had invited Snyder to speak at Rev. Michael Owens’ Bethel Baptist Church East. Towards the end of the session, Rev. Charles Williams II of the National Action Network stood and loudly asked Snyder, “Are you going to honor the decision of 260,000 voters? Are you going to make sure Public Act 4 is on the ballot?”
Rev. Charles Williams II
PA4, passed in 2011 with Snyder’s full support, has so far disenfranchised over half of the state’s African-Americans. It has put in place emergency managers with unlimited powers, or draconian “consent agreements,” in Detroit, Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Flint, Inkster, Highland Park, Muskegon Heights, and other majority-Black cities.
Snyder looked around nervously and abruptly sat down after Rev. Williams’ question. Then Rev. Owens and Snyder’s security team rushed him out of the church, as a woman called out sarcastically, “What’s wrong?”
Gov. Rick “Sniper” Snyder
“I would have more respect for the governor if he had said ‘no I’m not going to let PA4 get on the ballot because I don’t believe in it,’ Rev. Williams said afterwards. “But he’s just going to go to running? This is not a game. People’s lives are on the line, justice and democracy are on the line. He answered nothing about what he’s going to do about the money the state owes the city. What about the amounts other than the $220 million [in revenue-sharing]?”
Williams added, “Snyder has a gun to Krystal Crittendon’s head telling her she will be fired for doing her job, but we’re planning an escalation of protests against him until number one, he vetoes the voter suppression bills and number two, he gets Public Act 4 on the ballot,” Williams said. “Why is he running from 260,000 signatures?”
He said it was likely that Snyder ventured into the poor neighborhood on Holcomb near Gratiot only because the Council of Baptist Pastors had promised him that all discourse would be polite.
Rev. Charles Williams leads NAN march against Snyder down Holcomb June 26, 2012
Two demonstrations, sponsored by the Detroit chapter of the National Action Network (NAN), and by the New Marcus Garvey Movement (NMGM), converged outside the church prior to the meeting.
Richard Fields and Elaine May on Gratiot before marching to church.
“We have no rights in this city,” said NAN protester Richard Fields. “Many folks have no homes and even no food. I don’t understand why they’re not helping our city. Detroit is a viable city, if you help Detroit, you help the state. The children have no hope. The schools are in bad shape. Why don’t they put money in the schools?”
Elaine Mays noted, “There is real unrest in our city among everyone.”
“I call him Governor Sniper because he’s got Detroit in the crosshairs,” said Pastor L.A. Porche of NMGM. “The people need support, not the politicians.”
Stephen Malik Shelton, who grew up on Detroit’s far southwest side, said, “I think people’s outrage is triggered by his arrogance. It’s traditional for politicians to show up only when they want something. He wants support for the second bridge [across the Detroit River]. We already have one bridge, and the pollution from traffic there has never been addressed. When the Marathon Oil refinery got built, they promised us jobs, but those never materialized. Detroiters are beaten and downtrodden, and being pushed even further down, but we are getting ready for a fight-back.”
Marathon Oil promised jobs in exchange for tax abatements when it built this refinery in Detroit; no jobs have been produced.
Many NMGM protesters carried signs demanding “No Bridge Card, No Bridge,” referring to the tens of thousands of poor people in Michigan who have been cut off public assistance under Snyder’s administration.
“His policies in our District’s schools have stripped citizens of all their rights,” said Detroit School Board member Wanda Akilah Redmond. “If a parent is concerned about what is happening to their child in school, they have no one to go to except Emergency Manager Roy Roberts, because we, the board, have no power to do anything.”
Min. Malik Shabazz before meeting (r); radio talk show host Richard Hairston is behind him.
Minister Malik Shabazz, who led the NMGM march as well as the initial chants inside the church, said, “His policies of cutting women and children off assistance, his anti-union policies, forcing the consent agreement, which I call the ‘descent agreement’ on Detroit, and then threatening us with further consequences, are despicable. He is anti-working class, anti-poor, and anti-urban. Now he comes here to the Black Baptist pastors trying to get their endorsement on his bridge, which will cost taxpayers billions.”
Shabazz said he no longer works with The Detroit 300, the “anti-crime” group which he, Raphael B. Johnson, and Angelo Henderson initially set up. Many Detroiters consider it a vigilante organization. “They’ve lost their way,” he commented.
Gary Webb, author of “Dark Alliance,” first exposed U.S.- Contra guns-for-drugs conspiracy which devastated U.S. cities with the crack cocaine epidemic. He allegedly later committed suicide, shooting himself TWO TIMES in the head.
(VOD ed. note: This article puts into perspective the current controversy over “Fast and Furious,” a gun-running operation jointly sponsored by the U.S. and Mexican drug cartels. It has been politicized as a Republican assault on President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, with Republicans in Congress voting to censure Eric Holder for withholding documents. BOTH parties, however, are absolutely criminally responsible for allowing our cities and our youth to fall victim to the results of gun and drug-trafficking sponsored by the United States for at least the last four decades.
Journalist Gary Webb, who was likely assassinated for his exposes of these crimes in the 1990′s, writes in “Dark Alliance–The CIA, the Contras and the Crack Cocaine Explosion:”
” Dark Alliance does not propound a conspiracy theory; there is nothing theoretical about history. In this case, it is undeniable that a wildly successful conspiracy to import cocaine existed for many years, and that innumerable American citizens–most of them poor and Black–paid an enormous price as a result. This book was written for them, so that they may know on what altars their communities were sacrificed.”
It is up to us who live here in “the belly of the beast” to forge a new “war on drugs” and the banks who profit from them, independent of both Republican and Democratic politicians.)
US Banks Love Real Dollars, and Illegal Drug Money Comes in Cash
A recent article in The Guardian UK offers evidence that “while cocaine production ravages countries in Central America, consumers in the US and Europe are helping developed economies grow rich from the profits.”
According to The Guardian UK story, the study by two Colombian professors found that “2.6% of the total street value of cocaine produced remains within the country [Columbia], while a staggering 97.4% of profits are reaped by criminal syndicates and laundered by banks, in first-world consuming countries.”
One of the researchers, Alejandro Gaviria said: “We know that authorities in the US and UK know far more than they act upon. The authorities realize things about certain people they think are moving money for the drug trade – but the DEA [US Drug Enforcement Administration] only acts on a fraction of what it knows.”
“It’s taboo to go after the big banks,” added Gaviria’s co-researcher Daniel Mejía. “It’s political suicide in this economic climate, because the amounts of money recycled are so high.”
Since Wachovia Bank (now owned by Wells Fargo) was levied a fine in 2010 (but no criminal charges) for money laundering hundreds of millions (perhaps billions) of illegal drug cartel dollars, there does not appear to be any large crackdown on the practice in the United States, although lip service is often given to coming down hard on money laundering.
Indeed, more than one analyst has speculated that the billions of dollars in drug cash are vitally important to US banks because so many of their financial assets are tied up in non-fluid assets.
Antonio Maria Costa, former executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said in 2008, “there’s evidence to suggest that proceeds from drugs and crimes were the only liquid investment capital for banks in trouble of collapsing [during the financial crisis].”
If billions of dollars in drug money rescued banks and other financial institutions from closing down then it’s reasonable to argue that the economy itself is addicted to drugs.
As professor Dale Scott noted in his book, American War Machine: Deep Politics; the CIA Global Drug Connection: “A US Senate … banking committee reportedly estimated that between $500 billion and $1 trillion dollars are laundered each year through banks worldwide, with approximately half of that amount funneled through US Banks.”
In the ’70s and ’80s, Miami became known as a city that was experiencing an economic renaissance based on the flow of illegal drug money (mostly from Colombia at the time) into the city. But the cash didn’t just get laundered through banks; it was used to buy legitimate businesses; condos; houses; investments; and more than likely a lot of corrupt law enforcement, custom and government officials.
Estimated $50 Billion in Illegal Drug Sales From Mexico Can Only Occur With US Corruption
In interviews, Truthout has been told again and again that the chain of distribution for illegal drugs is changing. Whereas before it was divided primarily among Mafia families in big cities, the Latin American cartels have now set up networks within the US.
Former Tulsa police officer Harold Wells, serving 10 years in federal prison conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute controlled substance (methamphetamine), Conspiracy to steal U.S. funds, stealing U.S. funds and use of a telephone to commit a felony.
However, rarely does one come across the arrest and prosecution of a kingpin in the United States, or of a high-level law enforcement official in a major city or a politician being indicted. Does this mean that powerful individuals in the government and law enforcement are all squeaky clean as $50 billion in illegal drugs go whizzing through America, day in and day out? Not likely.
The emphasis of the DEA, FBI and the Department of Homeland Security is on catching the “guppies” without appearing to be working their way up to the people running the wholesale-to-retail illicit drug business in the US or their protectors. (In Latin America, however, the US is all about catching kingpins, although hat doesn’t often happen.)
Former ATF agent Brandon McFadden, who pled guilty to Tulsa drug conspiracy in 2010.
For instance, the El Paso Times reported last year that “two former law enforcement officers allege that they cannot get anyone to investigate allegations that the Mexican drug cartels have corrupted US law officers and politicians in the El Paso border region…. Gonzales and Dutton allege that the FBI dropped them after ‘big names’ on the US side of the border began to surface in the drug investigations.”
David Ramirez rose up the ranks of the Border Patrol to become a special agent at the Department of Homeland Security. He just wrote a book, “Beneath the Same Sky,” a candid analysis of the borderland drug war. Interviewed by the Texas Tribune, he described US customs corruption matter-of-factly:
“I can only tell you my experiences and what I saw. It was the lure of the money and as I write in the book, they offer this inspector $50,000 for what I call a ‘wave’ – a loaded vehicle to come through the port. And they guaranteed them five vehicles a week so you are talking that kind of money, which is tempting. You have to be a man or a woman who knows their moral ground to say, ‘No. I am not doing it….’”
Former U.S. Border Patrol Agent David Ramirez
“It’s capitalism, I would think – supply and demand,” Ramirez said further. “The demand for the drug is here and then we say, ‘Okay Mexico or Latin America, fix your problem over there, but we still want our drugs.’”
Different Interests in the US Financially Gain From the War on Drugs
It’s not just that some law enforcement officials are corrupt. They don’t need to be for police departments to make money from arresting minor drug offenders. Continue reading →
The Obama administration has ordered a major buildup of American military forces in the Persian Gulf, as punishing economic sanctions imposed by both the US and the European Union within the last week have sharply escalated tensions with Iran. The Pentagon has deployed both a large number of warships in the Gulf itself, as well as advanced warplanes in neighboring countries.
The Strait of Hormuz is strategically located for international oil shipping traffic.
The purpose of this buildup, according to a report published Tuesday in the New York Times, is to send various “signals”—to warn Iran against any attempt to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, to convince Israel not to carry out its own strike on Iranian nuclear facilities and to deflect Republican criticisms of Obama as “weak” on Iran.
Whether or not these are the real intentions of the US military buildup, the effect is to put a hair trigger on the threat of an armed confrontation that could provoke a devastating and potentially nuclear war with untold consequences in terms of human life, physical destruction and economic disruption throughout the region and internationally.
F-22 Raptor warplane
The US Navy, the Times reports, “has doubled the number of minesweepers assigned to the region to eight vessels,” while the Air Force has, since late spring, deployed “stealthy F-22 and older F-15C warplanes” at US bases in the region. These warplanes are in addition to “combat jets already in the region and the carrier strike groups that are on constant tours of the area.”
According to the Times, “Those additional attack aircraft give the United States military greater capability against coastal missile batteries that could disrupt shipping, as well as the reach to strike other targets deeper inside Iran.”
USS Ponce, mothership for fleet in Persian Gulf.
In addition, the military has sent the USS Ponce, an amphibious transport and docking ship specially converted into an “Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB),” into the Persian Gulf. Equipped with a helicopter landing deck, field hospital and a large number of bunks for Special Operations troops, it can be used as a floating staging area for sea, air and land attacks on Iran.
The Times report, which appears to stem from a deliberate attempt by the Obama administration and the Pentagon to intimidate Iran, is laced with highly provocative and bellicose rhetoric from unnamed “senior administration officials.”
President Barack Obama is commander in chief.
“When the president says there are other options on the table besides negotiations, he means it,” said one official, referring to the military buildup in the gulf.
“The message to Iran is, ‘Don’t even think about it’” the Times quoted an unnamed “senior Defense Department” official as saying. “Don’t even think about closing the strait. We’ll clear the mines. Don’t even think about sending your fast boats to harass our vessels or commercial shipping. We’ll put them on the bottom of the gulf.”
The real message is that Washington is treating the Persian Gulf like an American lake under conditions in which the US and its European allies are ratcheting up economic sanctions that more and more resemble a blockade, an act of war.
U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at World Bank meeting.
On Sunday, the European Union, which previously accounted for one fifth of Iran’s oil exports, put into effect a total embargo on Iranian oil. The move followed even more sweeping sanctions imposed by the United States, which penalizes third countries by denying access to the US banking and financial system to banks and corporations that do business with Iran’s central bank.
These measures come on top of a host of previously enacted sanctions that together have reportedly cut Iran’s oil exports by approximately 40 percent since last year. The real impact of this economic warfare is felt by working people in Iran in the form of sharply rising prices of basic necessities and growing unemployment.
Sanctions against Iran have caused trade with China to increase, endangering Western economies.
The ostensible purpose of these sanctions is to force the Iranian government to bow to Western ultimatums regarding the country’s nuclear program. The US and its allies have repeatedly made unsubstantiated charges that the Iranian government is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran has denied these allegations, insisting that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Another round of the stalled talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 countries—the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany—took place in Istanbul on Tuesday, although on a lower level than previous negotiations. The session was held between nuclear experts from Iran and the major powers to determine whether differing technical interpretations were impeding the talks.
Talks held in Moscow last month stalemated, however, because the US and its allies issued a series of ultimatums to Tehran—that it halt its enrichment of uranium to the 20 percent level, relinquish its stockpile of enriched uranium and shutter its enrichment plant at Fordow. The US and its allies, however, brushed aside Iranian demands that they recognize Iran’s right under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium and lift economic sanctions. Continue reading →
Families and even victims of juvenile offenders joined to support "Second Chance" legislation outlawing JLWOP at state legislature in 2006.
Ruling did not completely outlaw juvenile life without parole
Michigan attorneys rally to represent 360 lifers in re-sentencing hearings
By Diane Bukowski
July 2, 2012
"I see my light come shining"
DETROIT, MI – A light has come shining for more than 2600 people in the U.S. sent to die in prison when they were children. There are 360 such cases in Michigan, the second highest number among the states. On June 25, the U.S. Supreme Court required that juveniles given mandatory life without parole sentences in homicide cases be re-sentenced.
The ruling affects all those who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime and is retroactive.
The decision, Miller v. Alabama/Jackson v. Arkansas (link at end of story) “requires the lower courts to conduct new sentencing hearings where judges will have to consider children’s individual characters and life circumstances, including age, as well as the circumstances of the crime,” according to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).
EJI’s director Attorney Bryan Stevenson argued the cases of Evan Miller and Kuntrell Jackson, both 14 at the time of the crimes for which they were convicted. His own grandfather was killed by a group of juveniles, but that has not affected his passion for justice for prisoners, especially juveniles. He has also argued many death penalty cases.
EJI Director Bryan Stevenson argued Miller v. Alabama before the high court.
The Court said such sentences violate Eighth Amendment protections against “cruel and unusual punishment.” Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan said the “imposition of a State’s most severe penalties on juvenile offenders cannot proceed as though they were not children.”
The ruling struck down statutes in 29 states, including Michigan. The United States, which has a record 2.5 million people in prison, remains the only country in the world which allows such sentences. It is one of only two countries that refused to sign the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of a Child.
The Court’s ruling in Miller v. Alabama/Jackson v. Arkansas flowed from its earlier decisions outlawing the death penalty and life without parole for juveniles in non-homicide cases, Roper v. Simmons and Graham v. Floridarespectively.
Kuntrell Jackson, 14 when sentenced to life without parole.
“This is an important win for children,” Attorney Stevenson said in an EJI article. “The Court took a significant step forward by recognizing the fundamental unfairness of mandatory death-in-prison sentences that don’t allow sentencers to consider the unique status of children and their potential for change. The Court has recognized that children need additional attention and protection in the criminal justice system.”
The decision does not prevent judges from re-sentencing juvenile offenders to life without parole, although it severely restricts their options.
It applies only to juveniles sentenced under mandatory guidelines, which includes the majority of cases. In many states, bindover of a juvenile as an adult for certain crimes is automatic, while in other cases, the decision is made by a prosecutor or judge.
Evan Miller, 14, with co-defendant Colby Smith; Miller tried to kill himself four times due to abuse, the first time at 5 years old.
Michigan has imposed mandatory life without parole sentences in first-degree murder cases since 1931, and now binds over children without regard to age as adults in some cases. Despite a broad campaign demanding a second chance for juveniles, Michigan’s legislature under former Governor Jennifer Granholm refused to enact proposed laws against juvenile life without parole.
Juvenile lifer Edward Sanders has been incarcerated in Michigan prisons since 1975, when he was 17, for aiding and abetting a first-degree murder. He spoke to VOD from Kinross Correctional Facility in Kincheloe, in the state’s Upper Peninsula.
He expressed overwhelming elation as well as anguish, as he looked back on his time behind bars. He was not the shooter in his case, but said he acknowledges his responsibility to the victim and his family, and prays for them every day. He also expressed concern that he be re-sentenced, not on first-degree murder charges, but at least on second-degree or manslaughter charges, because his jury was never properly instructed on those alternatives.
Edward Sanders, who has been in prison since 1975 when he was 17.
“All praise to Allah,” Sanders said. “This is an answer to my prayer which I have been awaiting for 38 years. I long ago repented and asked for forgiveness and mercy for what I did as a kid, and now finally the U.S. Supreme Court has done this after our legislators failed to respond. This is a good decision for our society. It puts us in a position to be a model for the rest of the world.”
He said life without parole does not allow a juvenile offender to move on from his youth.
“What happened was not something I would do as an adult,” Sanders said. “I look back and I see myself then, and we are two different persons. To tell a kid there is a law on the books that will do this to you is not comprehensible to him.”
Since his incarceration, Sanders earned a bachelor’s degree before Michigan banned higher education in the prison system. He is a devout Muslim, who prays and exercises every day. He has also studied law and functioned as a “jail-house lawyer” to help others.
Edward Sanders at 17
He said juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) is both a human rights and a civil rights issue.
“Adults commit crimes against children every day and they are forgiven,” Sanders said. “They have molested children in church and some of these same children are now locked up. Miller tried to kill himself four times, once when he was the age of a kindergartener, because of the abuse he suffered before he went to prison at 14. There are more rapes committed against children by adults than vice versa. Adults abandon children, society abandons children, and they are not punished.”
He said juveniles serve a much longer term of years than adult offenders, making such sentences inherently unequal.
“Mound Road was the prison where I spent the longest, 10 years,” he said. “Do you know what it is like to see the whole prison environment change, to have no one left you even recognize, no one who talks to you in the yard, because so many except you have finally gone home? Not to have anyone say hello to you and call your name?”
He said he has watched as people young enough to be his children have come and gone. He has watched juvenile lifers who came in barely needing to shave grow old and gray, with some ending up in wheelchairs and some dying. He was transferred from Mound after his brother Richard was moved there inadvertently. It was the first time in 35 years that he had seen and spoken to his brother.
Charles Lewis, incarcerated since the age of 17 in 1976.
Wendy Lewis, a disabled veteran and mother, was 12 years old when her brother Charles Lewis, then 17, was sentenced to mandatory life without parole in 1976.
“I was very close to Charles,” Lewis said. “I looked up to him, he was my idol. I tried to follow him everywhere he went. He was a musician who played with Anita Bryant’s group back then. Our basement was full of musical instruments. I would sit on the basement steps and listen as so many people practiced with him. He used to ask me to braid his hair so he could get a girl-friend. But he always had to bring everybody with him when he went to a girl’s house, so it was hard for him to ‘get game.’”
Breaking into tears, Lewis said, “My brother never got the chance to ‘get game.’ I’ll never forget the day police officer Gilbert Hill [who later became City Council President] came to our house and took him away for killing an officer who was actually shot by another cop in a domestic situation. My mother and father had no money to hire an attorney, so he got two court-appointed attorneys who stipulated to his possession of a gun although there was no gun in evidence.”
Charles Lewis as young musician
Lewis said for the last 37 years, she and her mother Rosie Lewis have kept in constant contact with Charles, writing, visiting and now emailing him.
“He never had a social security number, he never had a job, he has never had the chance to have children,” she said. “If he is released, it has been so long since he has been out in the world that he will have to re-learn everything.”
The Supreme Court decision attests to much of the experiences of Sanders, Lewis and their families, along with the experience of thousands of other juvenile lifers.
Justice Kagan summarized many of the reasons why children cannot be treated like “miniature adults” in the decision.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan
“Mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features—among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences,” Kagan wrote. “It prevents taking into account the family and home environment that surrounds him—and from which he cannot usually extricate himself—no matter how brutal or dysfunctional. It neglects the circumstances of his homicide offense, including the extent of his participation in the conduct and the way familial and peer pressures may have affected him. Indeed, it ignores that he might have been charged and convicted of a lesser offense if not for incompetencies associated with youth—for example, his inability to deal with police officers or prosecutors (including on a plea agreement) or his incapacity to assist his own attorneys . . . And finally, this mandatory punishment disregards the possibility of rehabilitation even when circumstances most suggest it.”
Attorney Deborah LaBelle, with the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, has fought juvenile life without parole sentences for over 10 years. She said Michigan defense attorneys have a monumental task ahead of them.
Attorney Deborah LaBelle
“There are probably 360 prisoners in Michigan serving life without parole for crimes committed before they were 18,” LaBelle told VOD. “Each one is entitled to re-sentencing. It will be necessary to present all the evidence including the prisoner’s juvenile status, his/her home circumstances, and lesser culpability so the court can issue a proportional sentence based on the individual’s youthfulness. There are a total of six factors the decision requires judges to consider in the mitigation hearings.”
She said defense attorneys and their organizations across the state are “gearing up to make sure that each person has very skilled attorneys. Many of the judges who chafed at this mandatory requirement will recognize that a lesser term is necessary.”
She said much of their work will have to be done pro bono due to the circumstances of many juvenile lifers.
Attorney Mark Fancher
The organizations, including the Michigan ACLU, the State Appellate Defender’s Office (SADO), the Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys Association, and various law school clinics, are planning to hold training sessions for defense attorneys beginning July 27, with the details still to be worked out.
“I hope Michigan will begin to move on reforming its laws that automatically designate 17-year-olds as adults, in light of this decision,” LaBelle said. “That is the case in civil law. If a 17-year-old cannot be responsible enough under civil legislation, they shouldn’t be criminally punished as adults.”
LaBelle is still pursuing a precedent-setting federal case known originally as Hill v. Granholm. In it, the plaintiff juvenile offenders are requesting a broader decision than that issued by the U.S. Supreme Court—to outlaw all juvenile life without parole sentences period. A status conference in the case has now been set for July 11, 2012 at 1:45 p.m. before U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara in Ann Arbor.
Detroit Central High School student placed on police bus after sweep in 2009.
Attorney Mark Fancher also has long fought for the rights of juveniles, particularly those of color. He was co-authored the Michigan ACLU study, “The School to Prison Pipeline.” It found that children of color are far more likely to be suspended from school in districts throughout the state, leaving them vulnerable to the influence of the streets and eventual incarceration.
“We are extremely pleased by this development,” Fancher said. “It is welcome news to anyone at all concerned about maintaining the most basic morality in our criminal justice system. Juvenile life without parole disproportionately affects youth of color, which compounds the injustice of this sentence. Lately, the public has been very anxious to ignore the impact of race in so many situations, but this ruling came from a Court not known to be bleeding heart liberals who bend over backwards on racial issues.”
Fancher added, “Hopefully this will not be an uphill battle for our state’s juvenile lifers, and the state’s judges will take their cue from the Supreme Court, which said that juvenile life without parole is at the very least disfavored if not outright unconstitutional.”
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy testifies before state legislature, with top assistant prosecutor Robert Moran at right.
But it appears that state officials are gearing up for a battle.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s communications officer Maria Miller said, “Currently our office is working with the Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council and the Michigan Prosecuting Attorneys Association (PAAC/PAM) to formulate a uniform policy that will be applied by the 83 elected prosecutors across the across the state.”
Worthy, along with other prosecutors across the state, testified before Michigan legislators against the proposed “Second Chance” legislation for juvenile lifers.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette issued a statement that further gives advocates for juvenile lifers cause for concern.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette
“The Supreme Court did uphold the discretionary ability of sentencing judges to issue life without parole sentences when appropriate,” Schuette, known for his right-wing views, said. “”We will comply with the Court’s ruling, and will work aggressively to ensure reviewing judges never lose sight of the victims and families who were permanently damaged by these vicious murders. I intend to work closely with prosecutors throughout Michigan to ensure the courts are fully informed of the facts and circumstances surrounding the murders that tragically took victims’ lives and merited these life sentences.”
His release stressed, “At these hearings, the judges will maintain the ability to affirm the sentences of life without parole, or to modify them to make the life sentences subject to parole.”
In fact, justice cries out for juvenile lifers like Edward Sanders, who has spent nearly 60 percent of his life behind bars, to be re-sentenced to “time served.” The majority of countries in the world do not even have life without parole sentences for any category of offender, with many limiting sentences for ANY crime to no more than 15 years.
Former parole board head Stephen Marschke has long been suspected in the drowning death of a Black Benton Harbor youth in 1994, when he was county sheriff.
Even sentences of life with parole will subject Michigan’s juvenile offenders to the proclivities of a parole board that has refused to release thousands of parolable lifers. In many of these cases, sentencing judges have said they intended the individuals to become eligible for parole after 10 to 15 years if they showed evidence of rehabilitation. That was the parole board’s practice prior to the advent of former Governor John Engler’s administration.
Under Engler, then Parole Board head Stephen Marschke, a former Berrien County Sheriff, declared, “Life means life.”
In fact, for juveniles and for all prisoners, “life” means “death” in prison.
Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion abolishing life without parole (LWOP) sentences for the 2,500 prisoners across the U.S. who were condemned to die in prison for crimes they were convicted of as juveniles.
Some of Michigan’s juvenile lifers, from 2005 ACLU publication
Courts will now have discretion to impose a lesser sentence in those cases and consider age as a factor in sentencing. Juveniles can receive LWOP sentences, however, it is a discretionary sentence now, not a mandatory sentence in cases involving homicide. Prisoners already serving LWOP sentences for crimes they were convicted of as juveniles are now eligible for resentencing. How that process occurs will vary by state.
The court conveyed what any parent, educator and common sense can tell us: children are different than adults. They possess the unique capacity for change and growth because they are still cognitively developing, and should be provided a path for rehabilitation during their incarceration.
Children are not “miniature adults”
Children are not incorrigible or expendable, nor are they miniature adults. They are not transformed into adults because they make mistakes or bad choices no more than they are transformed into adults for positive achievements or making good decisions.
It is undisputed that young people must be held accountable for their actions. This accountability, however, can only be achieved in ways that reflect the young person’s age and his/her capacity for change. Just as the punishment should fit the crime, the punishment should also fit the offender.
In Michigan, 73% of the prisoners serving LWOP sentences for crimes they were convicted of committing when they were juveniles are people of color, yet they comprise only 27% of the youth in the state.
Earlier chart on states with highest JLWOP sentences; Michigan’s have since increased to 360.
Nearly half of those convicted are also first-time offenders. Most grew up in impoverished areas, were victims of abuse, and were regularly exposed to drugs and violence.
The International Journal of Forensic Mental Health reports that 2/3 of males and 3/4 of females in the juvenile justice system show signs of one or more psychiatric disorders.
Taken together these findings reflect a very vulnerable demographic of 200,000 to 250,000 juveniles annually transferred to adult courts that are disparately being subjected to the harshest sentences meted out by judges.
Juvenile lifers Terrance Graham, 14 at time of crime, in prison since 2002; Joe Sullivan, 13 at time of crime, in prison since 1989.
Sadly, the vast majority of these juveniles are incapable of defending themselves against the political gamesmanship and cascade of abuses and mistreatment they are subjected to by older, experienced professionals in the criminal justice system.
It is a moral imperative that we now amplify the national conversation about the draconian policy of sentencing juveniles in adult courts. Rather than abandon and demonize young people, citizens should urge legislators to reform sentencing guidelines and work to ensure fairness in the parole process.
Life sentences in any form are veritable death sentences in Michigan. As long as they remain sentencing options for juveniles their opportunity for serious parole consideration will remain unattainable reality.
(Efren Paredes, Jr. is a Michigan prisoner sentenced to LWOP as a juvenile in 1989. Learn more about Efren at www.4Efren.com)
For millions of people, who groaned under the gross, lumbering stupidity of the Bush years, the advent of the Obama administration seemed like the rising of a sweet springtime sun after storms of bleak chaos.
Who knew that the rise of Barack H. Obama would echo, in some ways, the Bush years?
Bush reveled in war, and boasted of being a ‘War President.’
Obama, by contrast, seldom speaks of war, never brags of it, and wages it with an intensity that can only be called chilling.
According to a recent New York Times article, Obama has become a secret warrior, unleashing drone attacks on suspected (!) enemies of the State at a rate that would have dizzied his bellicose predecessor, George W. Bush.
In Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in the Federated Territories (bordering both countries), in Yemen, in Somalia the drone wars reign, silent, computerized death from the skies, killing ‘suspects’, their clansmen, families and neighbors.
President Barack Obama greets U.S. troops in Afghanistan; the slaughter of Afghanis, Pakistanis, and U.S. troops as well continues unabated.
The wonder is that anyone could claim surprise, for Obama said exactly what he would do –attack terrorist suspects no matter where they were; and capture or kill Osama bin Laden.
His giddy supporters, so sick of Bush’s clumsiness and malapropisms, ignored Obama’s promises, or pretended not to hear them.
But Obama at war is more martial that Bush, more technological, more targeted – and less oral.
One wag, offered the view that Obama was Bush on steroids—quieter, more aggressive, more ruthless.
And that – albeit unwittingly—is the world we voted for.