vicious cycles: poverty + prison

The following links and quotes are the types of stories I read on a daily basis. They speak volumes on poverty, privilege, the prison industrial complex, abusive authority in the police force, and overall, how people of color are locked into an institutionalized and racist system.

TripDeuces // Aug 10, 2014

I’m a firefighter in Troy, NY. These are the apartments I spend a majority of my shift in, these are the patients I take care of, the floors I kneel on doing CPR, the hallways I crawl down filled with smoke and fire. When I first got on the job; scenes like these picture made me livid. I was enraged, I wanted to blame someone. I wanted to blame them, I wanted to blame the system, the rich, the poor, the government, someone. Surely, someone had to be to blame. But as time goes on, you get used to it, you accept it. Some people are just dealt a shitty hand, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Yes, there will always be success stories of those who “broke the cycle”, but there will also always be lottery winners, too (and unfortunately, the latter is more common).

But beyond these images, and the scenes I have been a part of myself, they are not what haunts me at night. It’s what separates me from them that scares me. Like many hardworking families, my daughter depends on me working 3 side jobs on top of the fire department to take care of her, and we still only just barely scrape by. I know that if I fall off a roof at a fire, or a ceiling collapses on me, workers comp will cover my main career, but not any of my side jobs. I won’t be able to feed and clothe her. I won’t be able to put a roof over her head. So, you see, what TRULY separates the working class from abject poverty is luck. Luck that we don’t get in a car accident, or an on-the-job injury, or a week long illness. Many, many hard working American families are only one missed paycheck away from the pictures seen here. Consider that before passing judgement.

commenter on A New Way to Talk About Poverty in Troy via slate

Brenda Ann Keneally is one of my favorite photographers of all time. She covers poverty in America and it is brutal. Her book Money Power Respect shows how drug addiction and the cycle of poverty deeply affected her Bushwick, Brooklyn neighborhood in the mid to late 90s. On her website, you can see how gentrification has changed the lives of one of the subjects in her book. He was a child feeding dogs in an alley in the 90s; now he is a grown man facing addiction and poverty in a neighborhood where he is not welcome anymore.

Brenda also went back and gave us a full glimpse into Jeanette’s powerful story of crack addiction and recovery.

Cormega on the Combat Jack show. Cormega’s ‘Mega Philosphy’ is a must-listen.

In this episode they discuss having to teach their children how to act around cops. Combat Jack host Reggie Osse asks Cormega, “Did you ever think you would have to teach your kids how to act around cops?” Cormega then shared a recent situation where he was bullied by a white cop in front of his daughter.

Cormega spends a lot of time discussing the hip hop industry and the content of today’s most popular songs.

In the New Yorker’s October 6th issue
Before the Law: A boy was accused of taking a backpack. The courts took the next three years of his life.
Kalief Browder never made it to trial. He spent 3 years of his teenager life in Rikers with 600 other 16-18 year old males, waiting for a trial. 3 years of just waiting to defend himself. It should have been a maximum of 6 months, but time runs differently in the Bronx.

The Bronx courts are so clogged that when a lawyer asks for a one-week adjournment the next court date usually doesn’t happen for six weeks or more.

What killed Kenwin Garcia?

The full story behind Garcia’s death has never been told, the details never publicly disclosed by state authorities or the court system. Now, more than six years later, an NJ Advance Media investigation reveals a series of flaws and inconsistences in the official accounts of that day, which were then incorporated into a criminal investigation into the troopers’ actions that determined Garcia died of a controversial medical condition.

NJ Advance Media’s five-month review of public and confidential records found:

• Police gave differing explanations of what happened during the incident, and there are no complete, objective accounts of the events leading to Garcia’s death. The dashboard cameras in five patrol cars, including the two with the best view of what occurred, were not recording, and another was turned off during the struggle. Calls to the local 911 dispatcher were not recorded, which officials blamed on an equipment malfunction.

• Three experts on policing said the troopers’ actions toward Garcia were risky, perhaps excessive. They also said those on scene failed to heed several early warning signs that Garcia was suffering from a medical emergency and needed help, starting with his complaint that he was having trouble breathing before a confrontation occurred.

• And police records show the state’s more than five-month investigation focused on a controversial syndrome called excited delirium as the cause of Garcia’s death, a finding that was supported by two experts on the condition that state authorities hired as part of their presentation to a grand jury, which found the troopers’ use of force to be justified.

Some police experts, physicians, researchers and medical examiners say excited delirium, described as a lethal overdose of adrenaline that leads to heart or respiratory failure, is an emergency that first responders must be trained to recognize, and that officers are often wrongly accused of excessive force as a result of it.

Critics contend the syndrome — which remains rare but has increased in prevalence since a surge in cocaine use in the 1980s — is still vague and poorly understood, almost always cited after a struggle with police, and open to abuse by police agencies or prosecutors.

an introduction to Dr. Carl Hart

So that’s what I’m trying to do with the book: I’m trying to make sure people understand that there’s a case to be made for all these drugs to be legal. There’s a strong case, a compelling scientific case, to be made for it — but you can’t make the case if you’re arguing with a bunch of idiots, with people who don’t pay attention to evidence.

Dr. Carl Hart / via High Times

His book: High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society (P.S.)

Nearly two times a week in the United States, a white police officer killed a black person during a seven-year period ending in 2012, according to the most recent accounts of justifiable homicide reported to the FBI.

via USA Today

I started this collection of articles in August 2014. That’s when most of these were posted. I got busy and lost track of time. But after this month, between Ferguson and NYC, I needed to revisit these stories. The majority of these articles aren’t thinkpieces based on popular opinion; they are pieces of journalism based.

+ Trayvon Martin
+ Michael Brown
+ Tamir Rice
+ Eric Garner