Thursday, November 07, 2019

DA brings humanity to Suffolk County, MA -- the polar opposite of the Berrien County draconian system of human suffering

Law enforcement’s old guard claims that policing low-level crime protects communities. That’s not just wrong; it’s dangerous.

For time immemorial, we have been told that our communities are safer with each criminal that our local law enforcement locks up—often for low-level offenses like drug possession, shoplifting, or loitering. 

The problem with this narrative is that it’s largely false, predicated on a pervasive and pernicious myth known as “broken windows” theory. It’s an anecdotal, fact-free approach perpetuated by an old guard in law enforcement who use fear to justify actions that, rather than increasing public safety, end up creating and reifying divisions in our communities. This approach is not the answer: “Broken windows” is, and has always been, broken.

I am a prosecutor who ran for office to challenge this and other myths, and the people who have wielded them for way too long. I have seen firsthand the devastating effect that violence and mass incarceration have on families and communities, especially those of color, and I promised voters that I would bring transformational change to the criminal justice system. 

This change has included a reinvestment strategy within my office to utilize our limited resources to focus on violent crime and homicides, both solved and unsolved. It includes an unprecedented community engagement effort that works collaboratively with external partners, including the public school system and law enforcement, to address the root causes of criminal behavior. My challenge—our challenge—must be overcome collaboratively. And I will use my position and office with great intention and passion. Our work is urgent.

And I am working with urgency to fulfill those promises I made to the community. For example, my office has moved away from cash bail and set policy to sharply limit use of pretrial detention. We have published a list of 15 offenses, such as drug possession and driving without a valid license, for which even if the police make an arrest, the office will generally decline to prosecute the case criminally—often seeking restitution, treatment, or consequences other than incarceration instead. And I am not alone. There is a strong and growing movement to elect prosecutors and sheriffs across the country who are willing to make these bold changes. 

In Suffolk County, our primary law enforcement partner, the Boston Police Department, has achieved nearly historical lows in arrests while also reducing crime. These simultaneous accomplishments speak to the department’s commitment to policies that prioritize the well-being of the communities they serve. And our county’s elected sheriff has implemented promising treatment and rehabilitation programs at our jail and house of corrections—programs that pick up the pieces where our public health and education systems and every other safety net have failed. But even the successes we’ve seen in Boston still present opportunities for new approaches to criminal justice.

The issues that I speak of are larger than any single jurisdiction. Mass incarceration is not just a set of local or national policy choices; it is a style of politics that prosecutors like me are seeking to disrupt. Unsurprisingly, the old guard and their powerful political allies are fighting back—often with the assistance of an unquestioning or sensationalist media—to preserve the decades-old structures of power and privilege that benefit them. 

In Chicago, when State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced that her office would no longer charge shoplifting cases involving under $1,000 as felonies, Kevin Graham, the head of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police, attacked her publicly, saying: “We need to have a prosecutor who is going to charge people when they commit a crime. If there’s no charges and nobody goes to jail, then obviously the law doesn’t mean anything.” 

In Baltimore, after State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that her office would no longer prosecute marijuana possession offenses, Gary Tuggle, the interim police commissioner at that time, instructed his officers to continue making arrests and explained that he felt marijuana possession drives violent crime. 

When Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot said he would stop prosecuting low-level theft and other offenses, Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted that Creuzot “stokes crime.” 

I’ve felt this pushback at home, too. Michael Leary, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association (BPPA), recently said, without any evidence, that as a result of prosecutorial reforms, “Crime will go up. Shootings will occur.” 

The data has not borne this out.  In fact, the Boston Police Department’s own data shows that, so far in 2019, serious crime in the city is down by approximately 8 percent compared with the same period last year.  

The old guard insists that criminal justice is a zero sum game, as if remedying systemic injustices, including racial and economic unfairness, requires a corresponding decrease in public safety.  For example, Art Acevedo, the Houston police chief who also leads the Major Cities Chiefs Association, accused prosecutors like us of “going so far that we’re putting the criminal and their interest in front of the victim’s interest.” The hegemony of the old guard relies upon false binaries—pitting efficiency against fairness, safety against justice, supposed heroes against alleged villains. But make no mistake: This is not a battle between safety and justice; it is a battle between two competing visions of public safety. 

Despite the old guard’s view that deprioritizing low-level order-maintenance offenses is an affront to victims, it is their theory of public safety that leaves victims—especially victims of the most serious violent offenses—without recourse. As FBI data shows, roughly 40 percent of the nation’s murders, and over half of sexual assaults, went unsolved in 2017. For example, in Houston, police only cleared 34 percent of violent crimes, including just 51 percent of murders and 39 percent of rapes. In other cities, law enforcement’s failure to address and hold people accountable for the most serious crimes is even more pronounced. In 2017, the Phoenix Police Department cleared 6.7 percent of reported rapes. 

In Baltimore, the city has seen almost one killing per day. Meanwhile, homicide clearance rates remain low. As Mosby said when she announced that she would no longer prosecute marijuana possession, “No one who is serious about public safety can honestly say that spending resources to jail people for marijuana use is a smart way to use our limited time and money. … If you ask that mom whose son was killed where she would rather us spend our time and our attention—on solving that murder, or prosecuting marijuana laws—it’s a no-brainer.” 

Like Mosby, I believe in prioritizing the offenses that cause serious physical harm or death rather than misspending our limited resources on low-level offenses. Murders, shootings, and sexual assaults should be our highest priority; offenses like drug possession, loitering, and driving on a suspended license should not. 

I also believe that incarceration should be a tool of last resort. Often people commit low-level offenses because they are struggling with mental illness, housing and food insecurity, poverty, or substance use disorder. These people need treatment, a helping hand, and stability in their lives. Jails provide none of these things. Jails separate families; cause people to lose their homes and jobs; and confine people to dehumanizing, violent, and chaotic spaces. Jails provide little in the way of meaningful treatment and rehabilitation. They further traumatize already traumatized people. They make people worse rather than better. That means people often leave incarceration less stable and more likely to re-engage in criminal activity. The better approach for most offenses is to provide people with treatment and other services when necessary, and to hold people accountable while keeping them in our communities, through community service, restitution, and restorative justice programs. 

The old guard depicts our efforts to move past their decades-long obsession with hyper-enforcement and harsh prosecution for even low-level offenses like marijuana possession as “soft on crime” and a threat to public safety. But nothing is softer on crime, or more dangerous, than their failure to address violent crime. Prioritizing violent crime and funneling resources to prevention and intervention programs isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do. The most effective way to address most problematic behaviors is to treat people humanely and help them to heal, while devoting our resources to identifying and holding accountable the people who commit serious violent offenses and too often face no consequences at all. That’s what will make us all safer. 

Justice is not at odds with public safety, and reform-minded prosecutors are not the enemy of police officers. Although the leadership in many police departments across the country have expressed hesitancy or outright disdain for progressive policies, I know that this movement cannot succeed without buy-in from police officers on the ground. This is the reason why I have spoken with the president of the BPPA several times and addressed a meeting of union representatives to explain my progressive policies and hear their concerns. I welcome feedback and constructive criticism. I will embrace evolution and adaptation when warranted. I will not, however, tolerate the rejection of indisputable data or blind acceptance of the status quo. The costs of remaining complacent are too high. 

Anyone who is ready to commit to the change we so desperately need is an ally. The new guard cannot be limited to prosecutors. Our team is growing, and we welcome new recruits.

Rachael Rollins is the district attorney of Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Truth is the system in America is a fraud

When I say the system is a fraud. I mean we have the most corrupt system in the world. The court system is rigged especially to destroy Blacks and all other minorities. Judges preside over phony trials , often influenced by corporate interests. Extortion by prosecutors and defense counsel. His or her clients is common and unjust.

The phony courts are a danger to every individual who risks entering Berrien County territory, where I live, is known as one of the most corrupt counties in the world. It is led by evil judges such as Dennis Wiley, Sterling Schrock, Charles LaSata, Art Cotter, and we cannot forget the county prosecutor Mike Sepic.All these individual care about Whirlpool, the largest corporation in the region not the poor. You can easily be the very next victim in Berrien County; the innocent sent to prison for the rest of his life or strapped to a table and put to death or robbed of your life saving by a lawyer who care less about you, but wants all your money. If you are a mother , beware that your child can be taken without a reason and no lawyer even if they wanted to can not protect you and your child, because of the corruption of Berrien County Family Court. The corruption is well hidden by the fake news service of the Herald Palladium newspaper (owned by the wealthy Paxton Family in Kentucky.)

Another part of the corrupt system here is Lakeland Regional Hospital, which has an outstandingly poor record of not caring and serving Black patients and placing thousands of Black lives at risk. The pediatric unit reported there is too many infant deaths yet infant death continue to rise in Berrien County. The problem is nobody really cares about Black babies dying.

Corruption and profit motive facilitates criminal enterprises in the entire country, but it is so common citizens such as a racist jurists like Gail Freehling, interact with government, they add to are part of the corruption.

We are seeing a new level of disaster and tragedy in the country. Most shocking is the mistreatment we see of the poor, the elderly , the women and the children. We see water issues. Water is a human right. It is said you must have clean water. Yet the families of Benton Harbor, Michigan and elsewhere are struggling with the poisoning of their water, our children and elderly are dying. My good friend Claire McClinton from Flint said " what good is it if you can go to the store and get lead free paint and buy lead free gas , but you cannot go home and get lead free water?"

We must stop worshiping profit and start standing up for the people. There are more of us than them.            

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Governor Attacks Benton Harbor schools , creating crisis

Let the truth be told by the people of Benton Harbor.The tentative agreement between Benton Harbor's school board, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer and other state officials to save the Benton Harbor schools was never on the table. There were no deal.

Gov Whitmer and Whirlpool Corporation are working together to destroy the city of Benton Harbor.
Whirlpool wants to close Benton Harbor High School and steal over 625 acres of lakefront land that the school sits on. This is nothing but a land grab.

Whitmer and Michigan Department of Treasury indicated in May that it was planning on shutting down Benton Harbor's only high school. A letter was sent from the Treasury Department to families stating that under a plan starting in 2020, students will be able to attend one of seven high schools in the county. All are white schools.

Even in the tentative agreement ,Gov Whitmer didn't guarantee she would not close the high school in the future. The agreement requires academic improvement and that the city's 18 million dollars debt go away That is why the compromise ought to be viewed critically.The factors triggering the threat of closure haven't changed. I do not see dramatic and positive changed offered. And it is impossible for a system that has been abused for so long to change in  just one year. Gov Whitmer is not forgiving the Benton Harbor district's debt, that the state helped to create by forcing the schools to accept and anything the government wanted and then pointing the finger at Benton Harbor.

If a Republican administration were offering the kind of bitter pill that the Whitmer administrations now trying to shove down the throat of Benton Harbor , my cellphone would be filled with messages alleging all kinds of racist treatment in this poor black city. There would be no talk about personal responsibility and all the mainstream black civil rights groups would be preparing for statewide press conferences to make the case that it is a pattern of historic disinvestment in the black cities. They would cast the fight as an Armageddon battle said Detroit News Columnist Bankole Thompson.

Who would give a school district one year to improve or be closed down? What kind of government administration would even attempt to destroy a whole city by closing down its only high school? The question should be how can we save the city and high school. We must stand together and fight back.

Whirlpool has taken over Benton Harbor. It has engaged in stealing land from the city for a long time.
It is a sordid history that previous governors Granholm and Snyder participated in. Gov Whitmer is under big pressure from Whirlpool and their business partners. They're a billion dollars corporation with an abysmal human rights record. Rep Fred Upton , the Whirlpool corporation heir , has a history of racist views and is a major player in the hostile takeover.

I guess the residents of Benton Harbor have to go on bended knees to beg the government to not close our high school.

We must confront the evil empire.    

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Open Letter to Michigan Governor Whitmer

Dear Governor Whitmer

We respectfully and urgently request that you visit Benton Harbor in person to meet in an Open Public Meeting with the community and elected School Board Trustees regarding the future of Benton Harbor High School and K-12 District as a whole.

The School Board is hosting an Open Public Meeting  at the Benton Harbor High School Student

Hopewell you are aware that representative from your office,Treasury and the Department of Education are claiming that on your behalf , a unilateral decision has been made to close Benton Harbor High School in 2020. The board was told by your representatives that a decision was made by your office to intentionally exclude the School Board Trustees and exclude open community input from the decision making process. Honestly we are completely shocked and  dismayed by this action. Our Board has been working in good faith with both Treasury and Education to address issues at BHAS including an outline for a new Strategic Plan , submitted to Treasury , but upon which your department have taken no action.

We also want to openly confront the many elephants in the room that neither your staff nor the news media have addressed.

The land which the Benton Harbor High School sits with its athletic field and adjacent School Board properties are the last Major Undeveloped Waterfront Properties in Berrien County, Michigan. Is this just a coincidence , given that your office just told our Board representative on 5/24/2019 that your plan to close Benton Harbor High School has major (unnamed ) supporters in the nearby business community?

The Draft Plan from your office is explicitly a transfer of wealth from an overwhelmingly poor and black community (Benton Harbor) to nearby white , more affluent communities. Under your Plan , that transfer of wealth will occur through the loss by Benton Harbor of its school facilities and use of school land, transfer of state funding from Benton Harbor to the adjacent nine school districts where you plan Benton Harbor students to be redistributed and loss of jobs for local teachers and staff of all levels.

The Contention by representatives of your office that hiring a single staff person to act as a Cultural Dean to smooth over discomfort that displaced 700 black students might feel when transported out of
their community to predominantly white school is an appalling insult to our youth and the community.Such insensitivity to the painful history of racial segregation, unsuccessful past desegregation efforts, and continued State sponsored dis-investment in Benton Harbor calls for a swift and strong response.

We call upon you to fulfill your 2018 campaign promises to support public schools, especially in high poverty communities, to fight urban poverty and to hold government accountable.

BHAS need balanced , constructive leadership from you, your office and all State agencies We need complete transparency. We need State and local leaders to stop sensationalizing limited facts about Benton Harbor in the media and on the Michigan. gov website created by your office to promote your plan to close Benton Harbor High School. Our community needs to feel that our youth are respected , valued and worth meaningful investment, so that they may achieve their tremendous potential. The students , their families, our teachers, and our our community deserve that.

Please allow me to thank you in advance. 


Thursday, June 06, 2019

Let Look Deeper at the closing of Benton Harbor only High School

Benton Harbor Area School and Governor Whitmer Proposal to close Benton Harbor High School.
Benton Harbor Area School Board is strongly committed to improving education and opportunity for students. And the deeper part of the story is about Money, Land and Jobs. Losing schools and students affects the entire community.

Background Information Source , Michigan Dept of Education website School of choice . Schools Data 2016-2017. www.mischooldata .org/districtSchoolprofiles.

In Michigan most education funds are based on Student Count and Allowance per students for the year2019-20, the allowance is approximately $8000 per student.

Each BH student going to school outside the District take with them $8000 per year in funding which is equivalent to loss of 0.25jobs per-student for adults in the community.

Michigan school of choice Transfer of funds and jobs out of Benton Harbor.

2016 -17  2782 Benton Harbor Area School students attended school outside our District = lost to BHAS.  2782 students times $8000 each =

1632 students attended school outside Benton Harbor, 1150 at local Charter Schools. 1632 outside our community Benton Harbor, 0.25 jobs per student =406 jobs lost in Benton Harbor.

If Governor Whitmer's Plan to close Benton Harbor High School in 2020 proceeds this will increase students out of BHAS to 3400 = total loss of  $ loss of 575 jobs , loss of additional 170 Benton Harbor jobs next year. Job loss includes contracted service such as food service , bus , custodial.

Whirlpool Corporation want this lakefront at all cost of our community.

No Benton Harbor High School No Senior PGA. This is final. . 

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Stop the closing of Benton Harbor Public Schools!! Meeting June 4

The Mich. Department of Education has proposed a unilateral plan to close Benton Harbor High School in 2020 with redistribution of high school students to a proposed charter school under Lake Michigan College and nine other local school districts.

Would this EVER happen to St. Joe schools?  NEVER!

Please spread this email and help pack this meeting if you can.

Benton Harbor area school board will hold the first open public meeting at the High School Public Commons to discuss the future of Benton Harbor High School and the entire K-12 school district. 

Tuesday June 4, 2019, 6pm 
870 Colfax Ave.Benton Harbor, MI  49022

Students, families, teachers, and friends from BH and across the state are strongly encouraged to participate.

We are urgently requesting that Governor Whitmer appear in person to fulfill 3 of her campaign promises:

to support public schools especially in high poverty communities, to fight urban poverty, and to hold government accountable. See Governor Whitmer website.

As has been widely covered in the media over the past few days, Governor Whitmer's office, the Michigan Treasury, and part of the Mich. Department of Education have proposed a unilateral plan to close Benton Harbor High School in 2020 with redistribution of BHAS high school students to a proposed charter school under Lake Michigan College and nine other local school districts.

We must hold Governor Whitmer accountable for her words, her action and inaction. Let fight back!!

Rev Edward Pinkney
269.925.0001 for info.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Exposure of Slavery Legacy

The U.S. government has a despicable history of down playing and outright dismissing the issue of reparations. To grant compensation to millions of descendants of African slaves would expose the institutionalized racism that African Americans and other people of color still suffer today.

The disproportionate number of  African Americans populating U.S. prisons is just one glaring example of the legacy of slavery.

Former Congressional Black Caucus member John Conyers  Michigan back in 1989 introduced bill HR 40, called Commission to study Reparation Proposals for African American Act.Conyer said that
African slaves were not compensated for their labor. More unclear, however , is what the effects and remnants of this relationship have had on African Americans and our nation from the time of emancipation through today. I chose the number of bill, 40 as a symbol of the 40 acres and a mule that the United States initially promised freed slaves.

Conyers cited a number of objectives of the bill including setting up a commission that would then make recommendations to Congress on appropriate remedies to redress the harm inflected on living freed slaves.

Malcolm X also raised the question of reparations in a speech on Nov.23, 1964, in Paris. If you are the son of a man who had a wealthy estate and you inherit your father's estate, he said you have to pay off the debts that your father incurred before he died. The only reason that the present generation
of  white Americans are in a position of economic strength is because their fathers worked our fathers for over 400 years with no pay.

The reparations struggle intensified with the military defeat of the Confederacy at the hands of the Union Army at the end of the Civil War. The victorious Northern government promised the newly freed slaves in the South 40 acres and a mule in effect acknowledging that brutal slaves labor had not only greatly enriched the coffers of the former slaves master but also the emerging U.S. capitalist economy.

This just compensation for the freed people never came to fruition due to the counter revolution that destroyed Reconstruction. In the Compromised of 1877 , the Union Army abandoned the freed  slaves ,who had tried to bring about real social equality in the South by establishing their own institutions for political empowerment and elevation of their living and educational standards. For 10 years, the Union Army had played the role` of a buffer between this progressive , democratic process and the former confederate forces, who regrouped during Reconstruction.

The counter revolution then evolved into a bloody terrorist campaign that drove the freed slaves to accept semi- slavery conditions. Under sharecropping which still exists today, the former slaves went back to tilling the land of their former owners. They weren't owned outright anymore, but had to work on the plantation for slave wages.

In 1896 , the U.S. Supreme Court legally sanction segregation as separate but equal. amazing