There is broad interest in the United States over policing and imprisonment as a racist attack directed primarily against black and Latin workers. The US leads the world in imprisonment with over two million people in prison and more under the control of the criminal “justice” system. Detention centers for immigrants add to the toll with approximately 50,000 people held in custody every day (AP, 2019) and thousands of children isolated in camps apart from their parents, a strategy to deter and terrorize immigrants fleeing even more terrifying situations in their home countries.
Reformers call for adjusting sentencing and parole for crimes, reducing overcrowding, supporting rehabilitation and reentry, releasing older and sicker prisoners, decreasing the number of black and brown men being arrested and incarcerated, ending solitary confinement, and improving prison health and access to educational programs. Juvenile justice proponents argue for the presence of lawyers during questioning and alternatives to prison.
This article argues that reforms do not achieve sustainable improvements because incarceration and legal processes (bail, plea deals, inadequate legal aid) serve to control rebellion and dissent. Replacing capitalism with an egalitarian social system can alter the environment that causes crime and transform offenders through restorative justice and other alternatives to policing and prison.
Communities besieged by humiliating, oppressive, abusive, and outright brutal treatment at the hands of law enforcement often call for civilian oversight of police misconduct complaints. They reason that public scrutiny is essential to justice, which is invariably denied by the obscure workings of internal affairs and by prosecutors whose cozy relationships with police officers leave them reluctant to press charges, even for the most horrific offenses. What activists fail to realize, however, is that civilian review boards (CRBs) are inherently flawed—and purposefully so—engineered by the political elite to preserve the status quo. On the one hand, CRBs are typically starved of the resources, authority, and autonomy needed to hold officers and departments accountable, while on the other, their veneer of citizen participation acts as a safety valve to release outrage that might otherwise explode into a full-on rebellion. It’s a lose-lose situation for the people, a win-win for the police state.
The US assassination of Iranian General Soleimani, leader of the paramilitary wing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, puts millions of people at risk from violence, either retaliatory or from wider war. It represents an escalation and expansion of US aggression in the Middle East. On January 3, Trump’s forces used a drone to target and kill Soleimani as he rode in a car at the Iraqi airport, generating a vow of revenge from Iranian leaders. The US rationalized this killing as payback for Iranian attacks on US interests and as prevention of future attacks. Trump cited unproven accounts of impending Iranian actions to justify his decision. This certainly sounds like other US lies to sanction the invasion of Iraq because of their non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” and of Afghanistan because they allegedly tolerated Al Qaedas plotting of the 2001 crash into the World Trade Center towers. These are only two recent examples of US pretenses to wage wars, which are really designed to control resources.
Few books are written about workers and by workers. Timothy Sheard’s Lenny Moss mystery series is a welcome change. This series, written by a retired emergency room nurse based his detective, Lenny Moss, on a real life janitor and union steward in a Philadelphia hospital. These books contain all the elements of a good mystery: suspense, developed characters, believable plots. Each mystery takes place within a larger medical framework. Lenny realizes early on in the series that when major crimes arise, he has to notify the police. He and Detective Williams learn to trust and respect each other’s skills.
On October 24, 130 mechanics and bus and garage workers at the Cinder Bed Road Metro garage in Lorton, Virginia walked out to demand equitable pay and benefits. Like auto and food industry workers, they receive lower wages and higher health insurance costs than other Metro employees performing the same jobs who are part of the same union.
WMATA, or Metro, is the publicly funded transportation system of bus and subway routes serving the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 represents the 8,000 workers who operate out of bus garages, offices, and subway stations. Members earn relatively high wages, health benefits, and pensions compared to other jobs that don’t require advanced education.
I recently read A Tale of Two America’s, a book on social class in the United States. Expecting a familiar data driven account of class based inequalities, I was surprised to discover 36 stories of real life experiences with class, stigma, and racism. Collated by John Freeman, the stories convey the subtle and overt challenges people face as workers and students from all walks of life. They give voice to people many of us don’t know, and capture characters and situations sharply and poignantly.
On Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Philadelphia, PA over 80 members at the American Public Health Association (APHA) meeting and several local activists from Puentes de Salud (Bridges of Health, an NGO) protested detention centers, deportations and borders with a spirited march to the ICE office four blocks from the Convention Center, chanting “No Borders!” to recognize that borders only help the capitalists and divide workers. Thirty (30) marchers signed up to be contacted in the future to strengthen the fight against racist deportations and ICE.
Chicago teachers struck for 2 weeks in October 2019, adding to the 373,000 teachers who walked out in six states in 2018 to demand better wages and conditions and improved education for their approximately 400,000 students. The strike of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and SEIU Local 73 of school staff raised the bar for the labor movement. This article covers its demands, significant support, and lessons learned.
By Nayvin Gordon and Karyn Pomerantz, October 28, 2019
The US Department of Health and Human Services promoted October 20-27, 2019 as national lead prevention week. As of 2017, pediatricians reported that more than half a million US children had lead poisoning (AAFP, 2019).
The poisonous effects of lead have been documented for over 2,000 years. It is an environmental toxin whose effects are totally preventable; it has no biological role in the human body. Lead causes irreversible brain damage, especially in children. It affects numerous organs, such as the heart and kidneys, and influences behavior and cognition measured by IQ scores and other tests. Researchers have postulated that lead poisoning contributes to higher rates of impulsive behavior, attention deficit disorders, and poorer ability to process information. Nonetheless, the law does not require testing of all children for dangerous lead levels.