Monday, September 28, 2015

"We have 3 unsolved murders; which one do you want?"

My name is James Edward Calhoun. I'm currently confined at the Lakeland Correctional Facility for a murder I didn't commit. The injustice in the justice system that led to my incarceration continues to result in the unjust incarceration of young and old Black men today, both in the city of Detroit and statewide.

In 1986 I was picked up in the Browster Projects and held on the 9th floor at 1300 Beaubien for a murder that I didn't commit. Two homicide detectives conspired to pressure me into testifying against a person who they felt committed the crime. They told me that they knew I had information that could lead to a conviction. At that time, they had an informant by the name of Anthony Jones in custody on an unrelated charge. He claimed to be an acquaintance of mine and of the victim of the murder. According to Jones, the victim and I worked together selling narcotics, which was a lie. He also claimed that we fought with each other on the day before the victim was murdered. Following this alleged fight, I allegedly said I was going to "get someone." According to Jones, the fight arose because the victim had been selling fake narcotics to my customers.

I was bound over on the charge of murder and arraigned in the 36th District Court. During the arraignment, Molly, the victim's sister, and the victim's mother walked into the courtroom and went with the prosecutor into a room off from the courtroom. My conviction was later overturned based on the evidence that came out of that room. Prosecutor Agacinski tried to coerce Molly to go along with what the informant Jones was claiming. But Molly told Agacinski that she was with me when her brother was killed and not with Jones as he claimed. So the prosecution couldn't use Molly's testimony.

Agacinski, who recently headed the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission, says nothing was ever done to address the concerns he outlined concerning false prosecutions. He said he was "low-middle ranking management" and that he "wasn't part of the top level." As reported to Truthout, he said nobody ever told him anything else and he had no idea if the memo he authored about the problem was acted on.

My first murder conviction was overturned in 1989 after I stayed in the county jail for two years. Wendy Baxter was the presiding judge at the time and the prosecution tried to get me to take a plea of nolo contendre, which would have kept my false conviction in place. I refused and was released in 1991.

In 2004 I was picked up again for a different homicide. This time my son was shooting dice with the victim, named Jimmy Powell. An argument broke out over the dice game and they tussled. Charlie Ameson, my son, threw Jimmy to the ground, who then got up and pulled a gun and fired shots at Charlie. A month later, Jimmy Powell was killed. Barbara, a live-in girlfriend, told homicide detectives that I told her I shot Jimmy Powell first, my brother shot him second, and my son shot him last. This was a lie. My brother who shot and killed Jimmy Powell was killed by SWAT. My son, who actually plead guilty to the murder and was given four years for the murder and two years for the gun, was not even the one who killed the victim.

The Innocence Project has my application. I pray that they take my case. I can take a lie detector test, and my son is willing to take a test as well. I also have affidavits from witnesses that could exonerate me. Informants lie primarily in exchange for leniency for their own crimes, although sometimes they lie for money according to a recent report. I need whatever help I can get. I've currently been locked up for eleven years for a murder I didn't commit.

Whirlpool's Corporate Welfare (Crime)

Corporate Welfare Grows to $154 Billion even in Midst of Major Government Cuts

The Embodiment of Corporate Welfare Himself - Mr. Moneybags
Editor’s Note: Even as the federal government executes major cutbacks, it’s giving huge subsidies in the form of tax breaks to industry, a fact legislators rarely acknowledge. The Boston Globe recently published a thorough and eye-popping report detailing the nature and extent of these breaks. We think it’s a must-read. 
By Pete Marovich
First published in the Boston Globe
WASHINGTON — Lobbying for special tax treatment produced a spectacular return for Whirlpool Corp., courtesy of Congress and those who pay the bills, the American taxpayers.
By investing just $1.8 million over two years in payments for Washington lobbyists, Whirlpool secured the renewal of lucrative energy tax credits for making high-efficiency appliances that it estimates will be worth a combined $120 million for 2012 and 2013. Such breaks have helped the company keep its total tax expenses below zero in recent years.
The return on that lobbying investment: about 6,700 percent.
These are the sort of returns that have attracted growing swarms of corporate tax lobbyists to the Capitol over the last decade — the sorts of payoffs typically reserved for gamblers and gold miners. Even as Congress says it is digging for every penny of savings, lobbyists are anything but sequestered; they are ratcheting up their efforts to protect and even increase their clients’ tax breaks.
‘It’s not about tax policy, it’s about benefiting the political class and the well-connected and the well-heeled in this country,’ Said Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
The Senate approved tax benefits for Whirlpool and a host of other corporations early on New Year’s Day, a couple of hours after the ball dropped over Times Square and champagne corks began popping. A smorgasbord of 43 business and energy tax breaks, collectively worth $67 billion this year, was packed into the emergency tax legislation that avoided the so-called “fiscal cliff.’’
In the days that followed, the tax handouts for business were barely mentioned as President Obama and members of Congress hailed the broader effects of the dramatic legislation, which prevented income tax increases on the middle class and raised top marginal tax rates for the wealthy.
Yet the generous breaks awarded to narrow sectors of the American business community are just as symptomatic of Washington dysfunction as the serial budget crises that have gripped the capital since 2011. Leaders of both parties have repeatedly declared their intention to make the corporate income tax code fairer by lowering rates and ending special breaks, while intense lobbying, ideological divides, and unending political fights on Capitol Hill block most progress.
The result: sweeping bipartisan tax reform of the sort negotiated in 1986 by Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip’’ O’Neill Jr. is rated a long shot once again this year. In fact, the most visible signs of cross-party cooperation on corporate taxes are among regional groups of lawmakers who team up, out of parochial interest, to maintain special treatment for businesses in their home states.
In the absence of meaningful change, corporations like Whirlpool continue to pursue the exponential returns available from tax lobbying. The number of companies disclosing lobbying activity on tax issues rose 56 percent to 1,868 in 2012, up from 1,200 in 1998, according to data collected by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Whirlpool had plenty of company on New Year’s, including multinational corporations with offshore investment earnings, Hollywood companies that shoot films in the United States, railroads that invest in track maintenance, sellers of energy produced by windmills and solar panels, and producers of electric motorcycles.
Their special treatment is a fraction of a broader constellation of what the federal Joint Committee on Taxation estimates will be $154 billion in special corporate tax breaks in 2013, contained in 135 individual provisions of the tax code.
Watchdogs and tax analysts denounce these favors as a hidden form of spending that amounts to corporate welfare. In essence, these “tax expenditures’’ are no different than mailing subsidy checks directly to companies to pad their bottom lines.
Congress reduced the number of tax breaks in 1986 as part of the broader reform package. The breaks steadily crept back, particularly in the last decade, as lawmakers heeded requests from advocacy groups and business lobbyists to lower taxes as a way of subsidizing particular industries.
“There’s a justification and rationale for virtually every one of these. They have their intellectual advocates, and they have their political advocates, and that’s how they get in the law,’’ said Lawrence F. O’Brien III, an influential lobbyist and a top campaign fund-raiser for Senate Democrats who represents financial industry clients and other interests.
Whirlpool has a powerful Michigan delegation behind it, including key committee chairmen of tax-writing and energy committees in the House. In response to questions from the Globe, the company said its special tax breaks led it to save “hundreds’’ of American jobs from the effects of the recession.
“Energy tax credits required that Whirlpool Corporation make significant investments in tooling and manufacturing to build highly energy-efficient products,’’ Jeff Noel, Whirlpool’s corporate vice president of communication, said in an e-mail. “If you look at our 101-year history, we have definitely paid our fair share of US federal income taxes.’’
But its federal income taxes have been minimal in recent years, thanks in large part to tax credits and deferrals, according to public filings. Its total income taxes — including foreign, federal, and state — were negative-$436 million in 2011, negative-$64 million in 2010, and negative-$61 million in 2009. It carries forward federal credits as “deferred tax assets’’ that it can use to lower future tax bills.
The renewed tax breaks granted by Congress in January, which were retroactive to the beginning of 2012, will not be recorded until Whirlpool pays its 2013 taxes. Because of the absence of that tax credit, and because of greater earnings and changes in foreign taxes, the company estimated its total 2012 tax expenses will be $133 million.
Whirlpool did not provide a specific number of jobs retained. The benefits were not sufficient to protect Whirlpool’s employees at a refrigerator manufacturing plant in Arkansas. Last summer, the company laid off more than 800 hourly workers, closed the factory, and moved manufacturing of those refrigerators to Mexico. It was part of an overall reduction of 5,000 in its workforce announced in 2011 in North America and Europe.
Congress “made a big mistake,’’ by authorizing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits for Whirlpool based on arguments that the company would retain domestic jobs, said Howard Carruth, a machine maintenance worker and union official who began work at the plant in 1969 and lost his job last year when the plant closed.
“They really hurt the economy around here,’’ he said. “I blame the corporate greed.’’
The closing also transformed Carruth from loyal to embittered customer: “We bought Whirlpool for our own house, for family and friends. If one of those goes out in my house right now, it will not be replaced by Whirlpool.’’
Many companies would probably pay much higher taxes — including Whirlpool — if Congress eliminated special breaks and lowered the income tax rate to 25 percent from the current 35 percent.
An extra benefit of winning government subsidies through the tax code: Recipients remain immune from spending cuts like the automatic “sequester’’ imposed on March 1.
Called the “tax extenders,’’ 43 credits, deferrals, and exceptions for general business and energy firms were lumped into the fiscal cliff legislation. The returns on lobbying investments companies realized when the Senate passed its fiscal cliff bill helps explain why Washington tax lobbyists remain in demand:
  • Multinational companies and banks, including General Electric, Citigroup, and Ford Motor Co., with investment earnings from overseas accounts won tax breaks collectively worth $11 billion — a return on their two-year lobbying investment of at least 8,200 percent, according to a Globe analysis of lobbying reports.
  • Hollywood production companies received a $430 million tax benefit for filming within the United States. As a result, companies like Walt Disney Co., Viacom, Sony, and Time Warner — with the help of the Motion Picture Association of America, chaired by former Connecticut senator Christopher J. Dodd — realized a return on their lobbying investment of about 860 percent.
  • Railroads lobbied on a broad array of issues, a portion of which yielded $331 million for two years’ worth of track maintenance tax credits. Return on investment: at least 260 percent.
  • Even at the low end of the economic scale the returns can be large. Two West Coast companies that manufacture electric motorcycles — Brammo Inc. of Oregon, and Zero Motorcycle Inc. of California — reported combined lobbying expenditures of $200,000 in 2011 and 2012. They won tax subsidies payable to the consumers who buy their products worth an estimated $7 million. The electric motorcycle market stands to receive a return on that investment of up to 3,500 percent.
Like each of the industries that won special treatment in the Jan. 1 “extenders’’ corporate tax measure, the electric motorcycle lobby argued that tax breaks would protect or create jobs. Electric motorcycle manufacturers only employ hundreds of workers now, said Jay Friedland, Zero Motorcycles vice president, but could employ thousands in the future.
“There are definitely provisions in the extenders that people scratch their heads at, but if your goal is to build a replacement for the pure oil economy, this is the kind of industry you want to make an investment on,’’ he said.
Measuring the rewards for lobbying on individual tax provisions is by nature imprecise, especially for large corporations that weigh in on dozens of issues. Companies file blanket disclosure reports that do not break down their lobbying expenditures by individual issue.
Publicly traded companies like Whirlpool with narrower lobbying agendas, and who publish their annual tax credit benefits in shareholder disclosure reports, are easier to track.
In addition to seeking tax breaks, corporate lobbyists also seek to protect favorable elements that are already baked into US tax policy. Private equity firms, for instance, fight each year to defend the tax treatment of “carried interest’’ payments for investment managers. Those payments are treated as a capital gain by the Internal Revenue Service, and thus taxed at a much lower rate, 20 percent in 2013, than the top income-tax rate of 39.6 percent.
The best-known example of a millionaire benefiting from “carried interest’’ tax treatment was Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, who reduced his individual tax rate to below 15 percent by applying the provision to his extensive Bain Capital profits.
The publicity surrounding Romney’s tax returns fueled an onslaught by critics. The private equity industry’s trade group and the nation’s largest firms spent close to $28 million on lobbying in 2011 and 2012, according to public records. So far, they have won — a benefit that the Obama administration has estimated is worth at least $1 billion over two years. The return on investment for maintaining the status quo on the carried-interest tax rate over two years was at least 3,500 percent.
The returns show how cheap it is, relatively speaking, to buy political influence.
“It’s an end run around policy, and that makes it very efficient,’’ said Raquel Meyer Alexander, a professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia who has examined the investment returns on lobbying. “Firms that sit on the sidelines are going to lose out. Everyone else has lawyered up, lobbied up.’’
Critics lament that fiscal combat between Republicans and Democrats is preventing serious reform of the business tax code.
“What we’re doing is running a Soviet-style, five-year industrial plan for those industries that are clever enough in their lobbying to ask all of us to subsidize their business profits,’’ said Edward D. Kleinbard, a former chief of staff at the Joint Committee on Taxation and now a law professor at the University of Southern California.
“These are perfect examples of Congress putting its thumb on the scale of the free market,’’ he said. “I’ll be damned if I know why I should be subsidizing Whirlpool.’’
Congress has the opportunity every two years to stop doling out a good portion of these favors. A peculiarity of many special tax breaks is that Congress places “sunset’’ provisions on them.
Some observers say passing temporary tax breaks gives lawmakers an ongoing source of campaign funds — from companies that are constantly trying to curry favor to get their tax credits renewed. Others say it’s because making these tax rates permanent would require a 10-year accounting method — a step that would show how much each provision is truly costing taxpayers.
Whatever the reason, Congress has made many of them quasi-permanent, by simply extending them again and again.
“It’s the same cowardice that Congress has on everything. They don’t want to be truthful about what they are doing,’’ said Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican and persistent critic of government waste and special deals in the tax code.
Coburn voted against the raft of “extenders’’ when they were previewed and approved by the Senate Finance Committee at a hearing in August 2012. He offered amendments to strip individual tax breaks out of the package — including the high-efficiency appliance tax credit for Whirlpool and GE — but they were shot down by the majority Democrats on the committee, led by chairman Max Baucus, of Montana.
“It’s not about tax policy, it’s about benefiting the political class and the well-connected and the well-heeled in this country,’’ Coburn said in an interview. “We’re benefiting the politicians because they get credit for it. And we are benefiting those who can afford to have greater access than somebody else.’’
Whirlpool pursues its Capitol Hill agenda from an office suite it shares on the seventh floor of a building on Pennsylvania Avenue that is loaded with similar lobbying shops and sits just a few blocks from the Capitol. Across the street, lines of tourists wait to view the original Declaration of Independence and the Constitution at the National Archives.
Whirlpool and other appliance manufacturers won tax breaks for producing high-efficiency washing machines, dishwashers, and refrigerators in 2005, as part of a sweeping package of energy incentives approved by the Republican-controlled Congress.
But that victory was just the beginning of a prolonged effort. Whirlpool and other appliance manufacturers must perpetually work to win renewal of their credits every two years or so. In recent years, the company has spent around $1 million annually on lobbying, up from just $110,000 in 2005.
The fiscal cliff legislation represented the third time the appliance tax credits were included in a tax extenders bill.
Defending the credits has become easier, said a person who has participated in Whirlpool’s lobbying efforts. The extenders, this person explained, is an interlocking package of deals, each with a particular senator or representative demanding its inclusion.
“Some of it is the inherent stickiness of something that is already in the tax code,’’ said the person, who was not authorized to speak about Whirlpool’s efforts and requested anonymity. “If they open Pandora’s box and start taking things out, it’s politically very difficult.’’
The paradoxical posture of senators of both parties was on full display at the hearing last summer of the Senate Finance Committee to consider the most recent package of tax extenders. Some members lamented the system of doling out tax breaks, pledging to reform the corporate code, even as they defended individual items in the legislation and voted to approve it.
The senators said they wanted to provide stability and predictability for businesses that had come to rely on the temporary provisions to stay afloat and retain workers.
They did make an effort to trim the package: Some 20 provisions were left on the cutting room floor, according to data cited in committee. The panel ultimately approved the bill with a bipartisan, 19-to-5 majority.
Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, went to bat for Whirlpool and other companies who she said are creating next-generation appliances that save water and electricity.
“We have one of those major world headquarters in Michigan — and it’s amazing what they are doing,’’ she said. “Right now, we are exporting product, not jobs,’’ she added, without mentioning Whirlpool’s Arkansas plant closure last year.
Former senator John F. Kerry, another member of the committee, said certain industry sectors need temporary tax subsidies. Oil and gas companies, Kerry explained, benefit from permanent tax breaks in the law, while the wind, solar, and other alternative energy interests are forced to come to Congress “hat in hand’’ every two years.
Coming “hat in hand’’ in this context means deploying teams of lobbyists, mostly former Capitol Hill aides. They left their government jobs with an understanding of the tax code and, working in the private sector, are able to leverage their political connections to gain access to congressional leaders and staff.
Among the busiest and most influential of these tax-lobbying teams is Capitol Tax Partners, a firm headed by Lindsay Hooper, and his partner, Jonathan Talisman. Hooper served as a tax counsel to a senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee in the 1980s. Talisman held the post of assistant treasury secretary for tax policy during the Clinton administration. They did not respond to requests for comment.
Capitol Tax Partners lobbied on behalf of 48 companies in 2012, according to its mandatory disclosure reports. That client roster includes a bunch of companies that won tax breaks in the fiscal cliff bill: Whirlpool (energy-efficiency tax credits), State Street Bank (tax treatment of offshore investment income), and the Motion Picture Association of America (tax breaks for domestic film production), to name a few.
In Whirlpool’s case, Capitol Tax Partners and other boutique tax lobbyists helped the company win access to key lawmakers, said the person who has participated in the company’s lobbying efforts.
“There is a certain amount of door-opening and phone-call-answering quality of some of these firms that can be useful to make sure that you are getting your message to the right person at the right point in time,’’ the person said. “But on the substantive issues, these were done by the energy-efficiency advocacy groups and the companies themselves.’’
After the Senate Finance Committee approved the tax extenders package last summer, it remained uncertain when it would materialize on the Senate floor for a final vote. Insiders kept their eyes peeled as the rancorous debate over the fiscal cliff — whether taxes would rise on the middle class wealthy — drowned out any voices discussing corporate tax reform.
Nothing was certain, until majority Democrats rolled out their bill on New Year’s Eve. With tax increases for the rich included, it would raise $27 billion in new revenue in 2013. The Obama administration trumped that figure as helping to reduce the deficit.
But in reality, any gain from taxing the rich was easily eclipsed by waves of tax cuts in the bill — including the $67 billion in the corporate tax breaks that had been resurrected at the last minute and voted on early on Jan. 1.
“They finally do it, and the extenders were bigger than the tax increases on the rich,’’ said Robert McIntyre, director of the advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice. “Wow. What was this fight about?’’

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The City of Detroit's Corrupt Police Force

My name is Willie Allen Merriweather. I was arrested on March 10, 1987, when I was falsely convicted through means of manufactured evidence and tampering with witness testimonies. I sit in the Michigan prison system for multiple murders and assault with intent to commit murder, charges falsely placed upon me by members of the Detroit police simply because I refused to make false statements against four other individuals. These four went to trial and were all found not guilty because I refused to lie and file false statements against them.

I was first offered a 10 to 20 year sentence and the opportunity to have sex with my female companion in police headquarters (1300 Beaubian) if I cooperated with homicide detectives and signed a statement that coincided with another person's statement. I refused to cooperate and was beaten, then transferred to another police station where I was continually beaten. I overheard one police officer upon my arrival to the 5th precinct tell another officer that I was to receive no phone calls, visitors, food or water--that I was to get nothing but "ass kickings." Even so, on numerous occasions I asked for an attorney and nothing was done.

At about 12:30 am the night of my arrest, I was told by police at the 5th precinct that detectives wanted to talk to me. Upon being escorted to see detectives, I assumed, instead the 5th precinct officer held me while another officer beat me, then dragged me back to the holding cell. At or around 2 am I was moved from the 5th precinct to another precinct where I was held down onto the unmarked police car backseat and could not see where I was being taken. At about 8 or 9 am on March 11, 1987, I was then transferred back to police headquarters (1300 Beaubian) where I was then fingerprinted.

If you find this difficult to believe, please see page 95 of the Judge's assessment. Please read. If you are interested in contacting me, I can be reached at:
Willie Merriweather #131483
Lakeland Correctional Facility
141 First St.
Coldwater, MI 49036

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Ring of Snitches: How Detroit and Many Others Slap On False Murder Convictions

I, Rev. Edward Pinkney, live in Benton Harbor, Michigan. The Berrien County Sherriff paid people to testify against me in my election fraud case of 2009. We even have it on tape. When Tommie Travis was making a tape for the Sheriff, after completing the tape, Tommie asked the question on tape: "Are you still going to pay me?"

There are many stories of this nature all around the country. Here is a story about two young men, Brooks and Bell, both drug dealers, who had been friends for a year. While Brooks was selling crack outside of a laundromat on the eastside of Detroit, he happened to see Bell leaving a home where less than a week later police discovered the body of Willa B. Bias shot to death. Brooks casually mentioned to Bell what he'd seen. According to Brooks, Bell was mum at first, but then invited Brooks to blow lines of cocaine in his Ford Bronco. Inside the car, Bell confessed to the murder.

Lonnie Bell said he killed Bias because she was supposed to be killed, possibly for the $70,000 in drug money her foster son kept hidden in the basement. He also told Brooks that if he ever told anyone what he saw he would lay Brooks' corpse next to Bias's. Brooks was shaken--Bell had a reputation as a cold, careful killer. Brooks soon decamped for Monroe, Michigan, fearing Bell would kill him if he stayed in Detroit.

Brooks says he never told anyone what he saw until 2013, the year he was contacted by an independent investigator reassessing the murder case. Brooks said he is coming forward now because he believes the wrong man is in prison for Bias's death.

Today Lonnie Bell is dead, a casualty of Detroit's gang warfare. The man imprisoned for Bias's murder is Lacino Hamilton, her foster son, who grew up in her home and was 19 years old when she was killed. Hamilton is now 40, has always maintained his innocence, and he always says he loved his foster mother, who he simply referred to as "Mom." Without a retrial, the earliest he can expect to be let out of prison is 2046 when he will be 71.

Hamilton's murder conviction hinged on two pieces of evidence--a coerced statement and testimony from a jailhouse informant claiming that Hamilton confessed to the murder while awaiting trial in his jail cell. According to affidavits, courthouse transcripts, letters, and internal memos obtained by Truthout, the informant (who is long deceased) may have received incentives from Detroit police to falsely testify against a number of individuals to send them to prison for the rest of their lives. These documents also suggest that the informant was part of a ring of jailhouse informants, or snitches, that allegedly received lenient sentences as well as food, drugs, sex, and special privileges from detectives in the Detroit Police Department's homicide division, in return for making statements against dozens of people eventually convicted of murder.

We must re-examine the role of the criminal justice system. The future of the Black community itself depends on the willingness of those who care about racial justice to re-examine their basic assumptions about the role of the criminal justice system in our society. We need to face the fact that more than half of the young Black men in many large American cities are currently under the control of the criminal justice system. More than 40% of the people in prison are innocent, because informants lie!

A report published by Northwestern University School of Law traced the first documented use of "snitch testimony" in the United States to 1819, when the state of Vermont convicted Jesse Boorn for murder based on testimony from their jail cell while awaiting trial. In exchange for testifying, the cellmate was freed after Boorn's trial, and Boorn was sentenced to the gallows.

This basic reward system underpinning jailhouse informant testimony persists to the present day. It is not difficult to imagine why a prisoner informant, or anyone else, would lie about overhearing a confession if it means real material benefits. Informants lie primarily in exchange for lenience for their own crimes and also for money. Snitch testimony was key in over 45.9% of cases in Michigan. The prosecutor with all his resources will stomp to the gutter to get a conviction. He has taxpayer money to burn! Most white people believe that Black people get what they deserve.

-Rev. Pinkney

Reference: Ring of Snitches

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Devil Made Him Do It: Berrien County Commissioner Steals Over $1 Million from Taxpayers

Former Berrien County Commissioner, Robert Wooley, was sentenced on April 20, 2015, to only 34 months in prison for embezzling more than a million taxpayer dollars from the Senior Center he directed.

Wooley forged checks for over seven years and was not charged with forgery. Judge Sterling Schrock and Prosecutor Mike Sepic are his very good friends, so he was charged with only one count of embezzlement. In Berrien County, it's all about who you know. He was never charged with forgery, although he forged over 30 checks to steal money from the seniors. The theft of funds depleted the seniors' reserves.

Robert Wooley started taking money from the senior center in 2007 and it continued through 2014. Wooley thought he was above the law.

Robert Wooley also embezzled money from the North Berrien Fire Rescue from 2011 through 2014. He embezzled over $50,000, forged checks, and was never charged with forgery.

The North County Center is one of several senior centers in the county that get a large portion of their funding from a voter-approved property tax.

A state police investigation began in January 2014 and Wooley was charged in December 2014 with embezzlement--but only attempted embezzlement, because of his friendship with Judge Sterling Schrock and Prosecutor Mike Sepic: the good ol' boys club.

The initial investigation was triggered by questionable transfers of money from senior center accounts into Robert Wooley's account. He periodically transferred funds from senior center accounts to an investment account. He then moved funds regularly from the investment account into his personal account.

After Wooley was charged with embezzling from the senior center, the fire board discovered through an audit that over $50,000 was missing, as well as several other financial irregularities, including checks with forged names. Yet Robert Wooley was never charged with forgery. He forged checks for over seven years: possibly over 100 forged checks.

Under terms of a plea agreement with his good friend Prosecutor Mike Sepic, the prosecutor's office agreed to reduce all charges and not file any additional charges in either case.

Robert Wooley should be thanking God for being a privileged white man with friends in high places. As the corruption rolls on! Evidence does not lie, but judges and prosecutors do!

-Rev. Pinkney

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Color of Justice in America

From The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Today most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration. For more than three decades, images of black men in handcuffs have been a regular staple of the evening news. We know that large numbers of black men have been locked in cages. In fact, it is precisely because we know that black and brown people are far more likely to be imprisoned that we, as a nation, have not cared too much about it. We tell ourselves people like Rev. Pinkney deserve their fate even though we know he did not do anything wrong. We tell ourselves they deserve their fate even though we know and don't know that whites are just as likely to commit many crimes, especially drug crimes.

We know that people released from prison face a lifetime of discrimination, scorn, and exclusion and yet we claim not to know that an undercaste exists. We know and we don't know at the same time.

It is relatively easy to understand how Americans come to deny the evils of mass incarceration. Denial is facilitated by persistent racial segregation in housing and schools, by demagoguery, by racialized media imagery, and by the ease of changing one's perception of reality simply by changing television channels.

There is little reason to doubt the prevailing "common sense" that black and brown men have been locked up en masse merely in response to crime rates when one's sources of information are mainstream media outlets. In many respects, the reality of mass incarceration is easier to avoid knowing than the injustices and sufferings associated with slavery or Jim Crow. Those confined to prisons are out of sight and out of mind. Once released they are typically confined in ghettos.

Most Americans only come to know about the people cycling in and out of prisons through fictional police dramas, music videos, gangsta rap, and "true accounts" of ghetto experience on the corrupt evening news.

Most Americans never hear about the paid informants and do not care, as long as a person is sent to prison. Today 81% of those responding to a Gallup Poll agreed with the statement that law and order has broken down in this country and the majority blamed Blacks, for starting "riots," and "communists."
This country has declared war on Black people. We must say enough is enough! Evidence does not lie! Judges lie, prosecutors lie, sheriffs lie, and police chiefs lie, but evidence does not lie.

-Rev. Pinkney

Big Dreams and Bold Steps Toward a Police-Free Future

Wednesday, 16 September 2015 00:00

By Rachel Herzing, Truthout | Op-Ed 
6 December, 2014: Demonstrators in Seattle, Washington march in support of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two unarmed men killed by police officers. (Photo: Scottlum)Demonstrators in Seattle, Washington, march in December 2014 in support of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two unarmed men killed by police officers. (Photo: Scottlum)
Police scanners, Tasers, increased data collecting and sharing, SWAT teams, gang injunctions, stop-and-frisk, "quality of life" ticketing - all of these policing reforms have been taken up to improve the quality of policing in the United States. The dominant school of thought on police reform has suggested that reforms like these make for safer communities and that improving policing will allow us to escape its violence.

The goal should not be to improve how policing functions but to reduce its role in our lives.

This orientation toward police reform imagines that documentation, training or oversight might protect us from the harassment, intimidation, beatings, occupation and death that the state employs to maintain social control under the guise of safety. What is missing from this orientation, however, is the recognition of the function of policing in US society: armed protection of state interests. If one sees policing for what it is - a set of practices empowered by the state to enforce law and maintain social control and cultural hegemony through the use of force - one may more easily recognize that perhaps the goal should not be to improve how policing functions but to reduce its role in our lives.
Today, calls for policing reform in the United States are louder and more frequent than they have been for many years. The protest movements fueled by bold, dynamic resistance in Ferguson, Baltimore and other cities across the country have raised awareness about police killings, especially of Black people, and brought new voices and ideas to the fore. Those same movements are also making recommendations about policing reforms. Some recommendations have been broad and ideological such as Ferguson Action's demand for an "end to all forms of discrimination and the full recognition of our human rights." Others have involved collecting data and holding hearings, such as Ferguson Action's demand to call "a Congressional Hearing investigating the criminalization of communities of color, racial profiling, police abuses and torture by law enforcement." Others, such as the Organization for Black Struggle's recommendation that police should receive "enhanced personal unarmed combat training" or Campaign Zero's recommendation that body and dash cameras be required and funded, are more focused on the day-to-day aspects of policing practice. And these examples are merely representative of the range of recommendations currently being circulated.
This wave of reform recommendations comes within the context of an increased public focus on police killings, during a presidential election cycle, and in the age of social media dominance. Context matters in determining what will be understood as viable or politically advantageous, what is perceived as legitimate and who is accepted as having expertise. And, of course, the media are serving as an amplifier, turning up the volume on certain voices, recommendations and critiques, while rendering others silent.
A reform is merely a change. When people experience harms being done by the systems that govern their interactions, movements and behaviors, some of them will undoubtedly be moved to improve those systems in hopes of reducing that harm. Eager for relief, they craft plans designed to bring that relief quickly and in a way that generates as little resistance as possible. Similarly, they may recommend reforms in reaction to a set of incidents or a pattern of harm of which they are newly aware, suggesting tools or vehicles they imagine are most expedient to address that specific set of incidents or patterns. In the case of law enforcement, if the primary goal is to eliminate deaths at the hands of cops, the focus of reforms may be on the fastest way to curb those deaths by targeting the practices that most frequently lead to fatal incidents.
Making incremental changes to the systems, institutions and practices that maintain systemic oppression and differentially target marginalized communities is essential to shifting power. Taking aim at specific aspects and demanding change helps build power among repressed communities in ways that are more lasting and sustainable. Without a strategic long-term vision for change, however, today's reforms may be tomorrow's tools of repression.

Without a strategic long-term vision for change, today's reforms may be tomorrow's tools of repression.

In the 1990s, under the influence of Police Commissioner William Bratton, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) embraced CompStat, a data tracking and analysis system used to monitor incidences of "crime and disorder" precinct by precinct. This system is meant to track, in detail, crime complaints, arrests and summonses, with corresponding locations and times. The information from all the precincts in a jurisdiction is combined and used to generate a weekly report used in management meetings among departments' leadership.
Decreasing crime and increasing officer accountability were just two of the benefits CompStat was purported to have, and it represented a reform to the previous methods for documenting daily policing practices. CompStat has spread widely among law enforcement agencies across the county and the world and has become one of the standard tools of modern police forces. And while advocates like William Bratton maintain that CompStat is crucial in decreasing crime rates, time has shown that these decreases tend to initially be dramatic and then increase again. Time has also led to more and more cops coming forward to describe the coercion they felt to overreport or underreport certain types of incidents to generate particular kinds of CompStat results. The accountability that CompStat was supposed to encourage among individual cops was supplanted by pressure to deliver the kinds of crime statistics desired by the city's political leadership, including police chiefs and commissioners. When crime rates continued to fall in fairly predictable patterns, police had to demonstrate their effectiveness and legitimate their role by continuing to prove that they were making contact with people that would do harm to residents if not for their intervention.
In New York City, stop-and-frisk was one way that cops were able to demonstrate the power of these interventions. Before CompStat, cops had usually stopped and questioned people of whom they were suspicious and generally only searched them under reasonable suspicion of danger (usually involving suspicion of carrying a weapon). The broken windows orientation underlying Bratton's mode of policing, which also extended to CompStat, suggested that the very presence of suspicious persons was a danger to the community. Through CompStat, the police could demonstrate that they were neutralizing that danger.
Soon, "stop and question" transitioned to "stop and question and frisk," and eventually to stop-and-frisk. By 2011, the NYPD was doing over 684,000 street stops per year, nearly 90 percent of which resulted in no arrest or summons. These stops disproportionately targeted people of color (especially Black people), young people, homeless people, and queer and trans people. The depth and breadth of the physical and psychological harm done by the practice of stop-and-frisk ignited a citywide campaign to eliminate the practice and resulted in a lawsuit against the city based on the practice's racial bias. While CompStat is still prized by departments across the country, the longer it is used, the more clearly the problems inherent in its use become evident.
The specialization of policing is another reform meant to reflect responsiveness to the changing needs of police forces and the residents they police. As modern policing has evolved, many forces created units to focus on specific areas of crime such as homicide, gangs or vice. One of the most notorious of these units is special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams.

Why not take steps toward a future free of the violence of policing?

First used in the mid-1960s as small, elite units designed to respond to situations requiring paramilitary force and precision, SWAT and other paramilitary policing units have ceased to be the exception in policing and have become the rule. Roughly 90 percent of all police departments in cities with populations over 50,000 have some type of SWAT team as do federal departments including the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education. Additionally, SWAT teams routinely run training for new cops. They are used in a wide range of policing activities from traffic stops to seeking informants, to more high-impact policing. And although SWAT is a reform initiated from within law enforcement, its overwhelming expansion and mission creep are consistent with other forms of police specialization.
Keeping the function of policing in focus - armed protection of state interests - increases clarity about what policing is meant to protect and whom it serves. Further, that clarity helps us reflect on what asking for police accountability really means. Police forces tend to be very accountable to the interests they were designed to serve, and those interests frequently clash with the interests of the communities targeted most aggressively by policing. Recognizing policing as a set of practices used by the state to enforce law and maintain social control and cultural hegemony through the use of force reveals the need for incremental changes that lead toward the erosion of policing power rather than reinforcing it. This recognition may also move us toward ways to reduce the impacts of the violence of policing without ignoring the serious issues that lead to violence within our communities.
For anyone with experience dealing with the grinding harassment, psychological or physical harm, or death meted out by policing, it's clear that the best way to reduce the violence of policing is to reduce contact with cops. Plans for change must include taking incremental steps with an eye toward making the cops obsolete, even if not in our own lifetimes. Taking incremental steps toward the abolition of policing is even more about what must be built than what must be eliminated. Further, it requires steps that build on each other and continue to clear the path for larger future steps while being mindful not to build something today that will need to be torn down later on the path toward the long-term goal.
The context created by the powerful protest movements referenced above has created an opportunity to make bigger, bolder changes than we have seen in a very long time. Now should be the time to draw from the organizations that have been hard at work making that change on the ground and to test out creative new approaches rather than attempting to develop brand new platforms or repackaging reforms already in the Department of Justice pipeline, or reintroducing old reforms such as civilian review boards that have a demonstrated track record of being more theater than substance.
Here are just a few examples of ideas that have received less attention than body cameras or special prosecutors, but are promising incremental steps toward eroding the place and power of policing in US communities: Youth Justice Coalition's 1% Campaign advocates for just 1 percent (roughly $100 million) to be diverted from the Los Angeles Police Department budget and directed toward programs and services for young people that are alternatives to youth suppression. Similarly, Los Angeles Community Action Network's (LA CAN) Share the Wealth Campaign advocates for more equitable distribution of investments in Los Angeles' Downtown neighborhood such that they benefit all residents without displacement or fear from police violence. Given adequate resources and an opportunity to develop, imagine what incremental shifts of funding priorities of this sort could create.
Projects such as the Harm Free Zone project in Durham, North Carolina, and Audre Lorde Project's Safe OUTside the System Safe Neighborhood Campaign are testing grounds for community responses to harm that do not rely on law enforcement interventions. The Harm Free Zone is building community knowledge and power to enable community members rather than the police to be called upon as first responders. The project educates and trains interested Durham residents to intervene in situations of harm without police intervention. Based in Brooklyn, New York, the Safe Neighborhood Campaign focuses on reducing harm to lesbian, gay, bisexual, two spirit, trans and gender-nonconforming people of color by working with local businesses and community spaces to provide safe haven for people in need without contacting the police. The campaign also trains campaign partners on combating homophobia and transphobia and developing strategies for addressing violence without calling the police.
These projects have been replicated in cities across the country and could serve as models in scaling up these kinds of community-based interventions. Meanwhile the StoryTelling & Organizing Project reminds us that people are already using creative means to address interpersonal harms everyday without police intervention. These projects take seriously harms that generate fear, violence and even death, but also understand that police intervention is not the right remedy.
Broader reaching ideas such as eliminating the use of police forces in addressing mental health crises instead of creating special teams of mental health cops, ending the use of broken windows policing or banning cops that use excessive force from any employment in any type of law enforcement (public or private) are just some of the bolder recommendations currently being circulated.
This is the era for bold ideas and big dreams. While the whole world is watching and monitoring how the United States will address its policing crisis, why not take steps forward toward a future free of the violence of policing rather than one that has improved the functioning of a killing machine? The surest path toward a future free of the violence of policing is one that aims to eliminate contact between those violent forces and the people it targets. Why not start taking steps down that path today?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Rev. Pinkney Speaks from Prison: Appeal Bond Denied

The Michigan Court of Appeals panel of judges denied my request to be released on bond, by a vote of 2 to 1. The only thing smellier than the Rio de Janeiro is Berrien County trial court in St. Joseph, as the corruption rolls on.

Let the truth be told, the charges leveled against me are but the latest saga in a ruthless pursuit of the naked corporate rule that is gripping the state of Michigan.

Benton Harbor, home of corporate giant Whirlpool, is a poster child of the rust belt's post-industrial destruction of the manufacturing life we once knew. Benton Harbor is over 90% African American and over 70% of the population lives in poverty. Benton Harbor's rich Lake Michigan beachfront park has been stolen from the people. Benton Harbor was one of the first to experience the warth of an Emergency Manager/dictator. Now more than 17 municipalities and school districts, including Detroit, have been pulled into the mire of dictatorship.

Due to my opposition and outspokenness, I am paying a debt to society which I do not owe with my life, along with my family and my community.

Prosecutor Mike Sepic claimed that because I was so involved with political and community matters, including those far beyond the Hightower recall effort, I was willing to commit illegal acts to promote my political position. That makes no sense at all. Under MRE 404(b) and the Constitution, there was no basis in the case to admit evidence of completely legal political activity to support an allegation of motivation to participate in other activity that is illegal. Prosecutor Sepic's misconduct violated my constitutional right to a fair trial. Evidence does not lie, but prosecutors do.

Berrien County Judge Sterling Schrock ignored the law and evidence during my trial. Judge Schrock and Prosecutor Sepic worked together as a team against me. We must stop the corruption in Berrien County courthouse.

The big question is, how can you send a man to prison with no evidence to convict him, and sleep at night? Evidence does not lie! Judges lie, prosecutors lie, but evidence does not.

-Rev. Pinkney

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Visiting Issues at Lakeland Correctional Facility

Over the course of the years this facility has been opened to house prisoners, and prior to renovations that took place over the mid-90s with the addition of the pole barns being erected, this facility managed to accommodate the visiting population without incident.

Now that the number has increased by double bunking permanent structures and the added increase of prisoners into the pole barns, the population has grown to 1,452. That number was once 720 at its highest point when opened on July 2, 1986.

This facility's visiting room is allotted 49 people, which consists of both prisoners and the visiting public, and now it is supposed to accommodate the current 1,452 prisoners with an odd and even numbered visiting day. It is close to the smallest visiting room in the state, with the exception of Marquette Correctional Facility.

From the very beginning, the size of Lakeland's visiting room has been an issue, where plan after plan has been denied or merely set aside as being too costly and scrapped, regardless of who would be footing the cost.

It goes without saying that numerous renovations have taken place at this facility, and none of them are geared towards improving the current visiting room or choosing some alternate site which would accommodate a larger visiting room within the facility.

As it stands now, the prisoner population of this facility is constantly having their visits terminated due to over-crowding, regardless of the day (odd or even) on which visits take place.

The warden has expressed concerns regarding additional staff. She insists that additional staff are needed here, and even if that were true, it would do nothing to improve the visiting situation as it exists. As it stands, at any given time, you can find staff huddled together laughing and joking, feet atop the desk, drinking coffee, and reminiscing about the one that got away, or the love interest they missed out on.

We have requested waivers from the Governor's Office, allowing for the return of Tuesday and Wednesday visiting, with additional visiting hours to better serve the public and the prisoners alike. The response is that the warden has the final say, regardless of the issue at hand. This warden has no interest in providing proper visiting for the public, let alone the prisoners, at this facility. If it were up to her, video visiting would be the norm, and contact visiting would be eliminated altogether. This would prove less of a headache for her and her staff, thus providing additional time to sit around and earn a living playing on the computer and taking prisoner counts.

This facility is in need of the assistance from the general public in order to get anything done regarding a waiver as mentioned above, forcing the MDOC to spend the money to enlarge the current visiting room at Lakeland instead of all the other renovations taking place in order to deplete the funds on hand and entitle Lakeland to a new budget to spend come the new fiscal year.

This is an issue worth taking a stand upon, which is why I have reached out to you, the general public. Call your legislators and the MDOC for answers and help us make this issue a reality. Remember: WE THE PEOPLE (decide the outcome of all things as taxpayers of this state).

Monday, September 21, 2015

Wrongful Incarceration: Letter from a Prisoner at Lakeland C.F.

Close your eyes and imagine what it would be like to spend your entire adult life in prison. I don't have to imagine what it would be like, because I have been in prison my entire adult life. My name is Charles Lewis, I am a 56-year-old African-American poet, writer, musician, and convict. I have been locked up since August 1, 1976. When my graduating class was walking across the stage to get their diplomas, I was in the Wayne County Jail literally fighting for my manhood and my life. At seventeen I didn't have a job or the resources to hire an attorney. I was represented by an attorney furnished by the State that was prosecuting me. My seventy-year-old lawyer, Arthur Arduin, came to see me only once in the county jail and simply showed up for trial. When you see movies about trials and you see all of the planning sessions that go on before trial, that only happens in the movies. My lawyer showed up for trial and winged it.

I was arrested a few months after my seventeenth birthday for a murder and a robbery that I knew absolutely nothing about. Your first instinct may be to question that statement. I'm presently being held in prison without a conviction or sentence because the system completely broke down. During my trial in 1977 the prosecution failed or refused to call five police officers to testify. If the five officers had been called, the jury would have found me not guilty. I filed an appeal and argued that the prosecution failed to produce the five officers and it denied me a fair trial. The prosecution had thirty days from the day that the order was granted (1980) to conduct a Pearson evidentiary hearing and show that the witnesses were not necessary. The prosecution failed to conduct the hearing within 30 days and my conviction therefore should have been vacated. Instead of dismissing the conviction, the judge allowed the prosecutor to later conduct a Pearson evidentiary hearing. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office conducted the hearing and the transcripts went missing for fifteen years.

In 1999 I filed a Motion for Relief from Judgment and argued that I did not have a conviction. The judge ordered the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office to respond to the motion. The prosecutor's office argued that I was only entitled to a new trial and not a complete dismissal. Judge Gershwin A. Drain issued an order dismissing my conviction on April 3, 2000. The order was sent to the Wayne County Clerk's Office and filed in the wrong case file. In 2010, I obtained a copy of the order and all of my files and records came up missing. I have just spent the first 30 days of my fortieth year in prison without a conviction or sentence.

I'm writing this story to shed light on the problems that exist in the judicial system in the hope that my story will effect change. Sometimes it takes dramatic situations to bring about change. What comes to mind is Trayvon Martin; regardless of who you are, you know who Trayvon Martin is. I am truly sorry that Trayvon Martin lost his life. However, I know that God had a plan for his life. God has a plan for my life as well. There is a reason why I have spent forty years in prison. There is a reason why I've spent the past fifteen years in prison with no conviction or sentence. I may not fully comprehend or completely understand God's plan, I just know that God has a plan.

I'm sure that as you are reading the words you are asking the question, "what can I do to help?" You can start by changing the way that you think. As a society we effect change by changing the way that we think. In the 1930's and 1940's racism was deeply entrenched in the very fabric of the country. People began to change one person and one thought at a time, and the walls of racism began to come down. Today we have a Black president in office because the walls of racism came down. There is still systemic racism in the very fabric of the judicial system and police departments. The walls of racism in those institutions will come down when we begin to change the way that we think as a society.

If you truly want to help me, the next time that you see institutional racism, don't turn a blind eye to it. If you want to effect change, speak up, and speak out.

If you want to help, know that the struggle for liberation is an expensive struggle. I am blessed to have the law firm of Foley and Lardner representing me. However, it is difficult to put money on the phone so that I can call them. All of the letters that I write to the attorneys on my case cost money to send. You can write to me: Charles Lewis, #150709; Lakeland Correctional Facility; 141 First Street; Coldwater, Michigan 49036, or you can send me a J-Pay message.

The most important thing that you can do for me is pray for me. Know that God is still in control and that prayer changes things. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read this blog. Thank you for your prayers and any support that you can give. Know that when prayers go up, blessings rain down. Know that the greatest weapon that we have to combat hate is love.

Charles Lewis

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Who Determines Parole Eligibility? Letter from a Prisoner at Lakeland C.F.

I am a lifer serving a second degree life sentence for murder that took place some 38 years ago. I am still serving this sentence, which might suggest a number of things, yet the facts are that this parole system lacks standards. It no longer functions under even the pretense of serving the citizens of the state, of which I am one, I might add, even as a convicted criminal.

This begins with my wife being accidentally shot and killed while at her brother's home by an individual attempting to sell a gun (which will sound familiar in a few moments, I promise you). During a brief struggle over the gun, it went off and killed my wife, leaving me with four children (who are now grown with children of their own) to look after, not to mention a funeral to plan...imagine the devastation I was experiencing.

So, on November 13, 1977 (less than a week after my wife's death), a guy I was barely acquainted with (who later became my co-defendant in this case) asked if I knew of anyone that might be interested in purchasing a few guns. Ironic, huh? Yet those are the facts and I often wonder, what were the chances this would happen to me, since I had never really been involved with the law. So, since this is not about what actually lead up to me being convicted, I will move on to what it is about, which is why some are overlooked and others, with similar records, are eligible for parole.

Over the course of those thirty-eight years, I have had eight parole interviews and all were positive, with the exception of two: the last one and the one in 1994. The result of the 1994 interview involved an interviewer not having a clue as to how to conduct a parole interview regarding what was acceptable, and what was not.

No doubt you are not aware, when it comes to second degree lifers, that there are no real procedures in place to govern how they are chosen for release, which results in a lifer with 21 years with similar records being released over an individual with, say, 31 years. How is this possible, you ask, especially with similar records?!

The answer is, it's a crap shoot as to whom will be considered, not to mention released. No one knows how one individual is picked over another for consideration. Although you would think that it would matter whether one individual serving a life sentence had one victim or three victims who were murdered, it doesn't.

I have witnessed a number of male prisoners over the past ten years be released, and their record made mine look as if I were up for the priesthood, yet those individuals received parole.

I did not shoot President Reagan, Robert Kennedy, a Michigan State Trooper, nor a police officer. That's not to say that one life is more precious than another, yet what I am saying is, what I value most these days is equality, fairness, and justice. More so since my incarceration than before, which I now see less of as time passes.

I feel that I deserve no less than those who have served their time and managed to be released in 20 or 30 years upon a sentence equal to my own. So what I am asking: I require your assistance in obtaining the equality that I believe I deserve. Whatever form that comes in, I would be most thankful. Contact your legislator, the MDOC Parole Board Members, or anyone you believe might be helpful, or contact me: William M. Hill, at Lakeland Correctional Facility, #153219, 141 First Street, Coldwater, MI, 49036-9687.

Thank you.

-William M. Hill

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Prison System: Taxpayers Pay the Price of Unchecked Discretion!

The taxpayer pays the cost for a Michigan prison system they do not know. Michigan's oldest inmates in 2013 included 43 inmates older than 80, 414 inmates ages 70 to 79, and more than 2,000 in their 60s, like myself. The state figures show health care costs rise sharply with age: $16,000 per year for prisoners ages 65-69 and $40,000 per year for prisoners over 80.

Michigan's non-violent, non-assaultive prison population in 2013 included:

  • 67 in prison for failure to pay child support
  • 277 for passing bad checks
  • 515 for shoplifting
  • 8 for prostitution
  • 5 for breaking and entering a coin-operated device, and
  • 5 for masking parking meters.
Drug offenders included:

  • 169 for selling marijuana
  • 319 for possession of less than 25 grams of a narcotic, and
  • 11 for pot possession.

The mentally ill: 20%, or about 8,500 inmates (at least) have symptoms of severe mental illness, according to a University of Michigan survey, but 65% of those receive no treatment at all.

Parole violators include more than 2,000 who served their minimum sentence and returned to prison in 2013 as a result of a technical violation, according to CAPP. CAPP also found that about 2,700 people on probation, some for a felony, were sentenced to prison on violations that may range from new offenses to such non-criminal conduct as changing a residence without the parole officer's permission.

The drug-addicted: Retired Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Donald E. Shelton researched 5,000 felony cases and found that 70% were somehow drug related. Those figures tell us that we have a disease problem.

It costs $35,000 a year to house a prisoner in Michigan out of a $2 billion budget. One reform advocate said taxpayers and politicians will have to decide if they want to continue to foot the bill for this caliber of inmate. If you choose to use prison only as a last resort for people who are dangerous to the public, then you could push Michigan's prison population way down.

There needs to be some alternative for people who may not present a threat of immediate harm. We have not been very good in this state at developing an alternative when it comes to prisoners. We the people must take a stand for the people. This is an attack on democracy to bring back slavery.

-Rev. Pinkney

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Derailing of Democracy

The State of Michigan Public Act 436, the Emergency Manager Law, was hastily introduced and passed during a lame duck session of the state legislature just 37 days after Michigan voters overturned an earlier version. This law allows the governor to appoint anyone of his/her choosing to any municipality deemed in probable financial distress, removing all power from local elected officials. It gives the governor the power, through his appointed proxy, to run everything, to make financial decisions, to supersede local ordinances, to sell public assets, and even to unilaterally break union contracts.

Since this law was passed 17 municipalities, including school districts with predominantly African American populations, have been placed under an emergency manager. This law is designed to dismantle democracy and suppress the rights of citizens. An internal state analysis concluded that this bill allows the emergency managers too much power and control over local units of government, stripping local elected officials of power and is therefore anti-democratic.

One of the cities placed under an emergency manager, Benton Harbor, illustrates how corporations use emergency manager laws to dismiss the will of the people. The global Whirlpool Corporation is headquartered in Benton Harbor, in a community that has been under attack through efforts fueled by the corporation to gentrify the community and to privatize public property and resources.

Rev. Pinkney is Benton Harbor's best-known African American ctivist who has fought for decades for the rights of Benton Harbor's poorest citizens, including leading a petition drive to recall theh nation's most corrupt mayor, James Hightower. Rev. Pinkney was sentenced to 30 months to 10 years in prison by an all-white jury that was motivated by something other than the truth. Let the truth be told, the charges leveled against Rev. Pinkney in Benton Harbor by the Berrien County criminal enterprise--the trial court itself--are the latest in the saga of ruthless pursuit of naked corporate rule that is gripping the state of Michigan.

The all-white jury's conviction for forgery with absolutely no evidence is a crime all by itself, alleging that he changed dates on recall petitions despite hearing testimony that other people changed dates and some dates were changed by the signers themselves.

This is an attempt to silence a defender of the rights of the poor, and yet another example of how corporate driven politics, and the corrupt court system, is disproportionately used against African Americans and other people of color, as well as a tool to silence dissent against a corporate-driven agenda against the working class.

Rev. Pinkney has become the face of resistance to the notion that the working class has no rights that the corporation is bound to respect. Charges against Rev. Pinkney must be overturned, as a step toward overturning the spread of this model to the rest of Michigan and the nation.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Policing the Enemy

The court's blind eye to race discrimination in the criminal justice system has been especially problematic in policing. Racial bias is most acute at the point of entry into the system for two reasons: discretion and authorization. Although prosecutors, as a group, have the greatest power in the criminal justice system, police have the greatest discretion--discretion that is amplified in drug-law enforcement and unbeknownst to the general public, the Supreme Court has actually authorized race discrimination in policing, rather than adopting legal rules banning it. This nation's hypocrisy has no limits. Let's not call it anything but what it is; this country condones racism with unrevealed, deeply held prejudices. This country has no desire to achieve justice.

Racially-biased police discretion is the key to understanding how the overwhelming majority of people who get swept into the criminal justice system are mostly black or brown, even though the police adamantly deny that they engage in racial profiling.

The police have discretion regarding who to target (which individual) as well as where to target (which neighborhoods or communities). At least 10 percent of Americans violate drug laws every year, and people of all races engage in illegal drug activity at similar rates. With such an extraordinarily large population of offenders to choose from, decisions must be made regarding who should be targeted and where the drug war should be waged.

The drug war could have been waged primarily in overwhelmingly white suburbs or on college campuses. SWAT teams could have rappelled from helicopters in gated suburban communities and raided the homes of high school lacrosse players known for hosting coke and ecstasy parties after their games. The police could have seized televisions, furniture, and cash from fraternity houses based on an anonymous tip that a few joints or a stash of cocaine could be found hidden in someone's dresser drawer. Suburban homemakers could have been placed under surveillance and subjected to undercover operations designed to catch them violating laws, regulating the use and sale of prescription "uppers." All of this could have happened as a matter of routine in white communities, and especially in St. Joseph, Michigan, but it did not!

Instead, due to this deeply held, unrevealed prejudice, whenever police go looking for drugs, they look in the hood. Tactics that would be political suicide in an upscale white suburb are not even newsworthy in poor black and brown communities. So long as mass drug arrests are concentrated in impoverished communities, police chiefs have little reason to fear a political backlash, no matter how aggressive and warlike the efforts may be. And so long as the number of drug arrests increase or at least remain high, federal dollars continue to flow in and fill the department's coffers.

As one former prosecutor put it, it is a lot easier to go out to the hood, so to speak, and pick up a black person than to put your resources in an undercover operation in a community where there are potentially powerful people. The hypersegregation of the black poor in ghetto communities has made the roundup easy. Confined to ghetto areas and lacking political power, the black poor are convenient targets. Segregated ghettos were deliberately created by federal policy, not impersonal market forces or private housing choices. Black and brown youth are the primary targets. It is not uncommon for a young black teenager living in a ghetto community to be stopped, interrogated and frisked numerous times in the course of a month, or even a single week, often by paramilitary units.

History and present-day reality show that unless and until people stand up and refuse to go along with it, injustice, outrage, and horror will continue.

-Rev. Pinkney

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Jungle

Lakeland Correctional Facility, better known as the Penitentiary, is a place for imprisonment and punishment. It is the Jungle, a wild, ruthless place, something that baffles the mind or perplexes, a maze. A struggle for survival, very violent, in the Jungle--man made!

Those who do benefit from rural prison sitings are the political backers and bankers who funnel funds to prisons, the companies that hawk their wares to prisoncrats, and a handful of lucky locals in prison host communities who scavenge for the leftovers.

Backdoor prison financing through state bonds shows that states are tethering themselves to privatized prison companies by providing taxpayer funded bonds to the industry to build and maintain prisons. To ensure payment on the bonds, prison beds must be filled to capacity. The  major problem is, it does not matter if the person is innocent, creating a troubling relationship between state power, criminal justice, and the people of the state.

There are political and financial impacts of census figures that count prisoners as residents of the communities in which they serve their time, rather than their communities of origin. The counting of prisoners as residents of the prison towns in which they are incarcerated benefits politicians in the area, where prisons enlarge their district with nonvoting members. It is a jungle outside the prison and the real jungle which was made by the politicians is inside the fence of the prison.

Although there is an expanding body of writing and analysis regarding the harms caused by mass incarceration in America, there is little discussion about the increasing number of entities that profit from and subsequently engender the growth of prisons. The prison system is pimping the poor and the taxpayers, who the media keep in fear. We the people must change our thinking and fight back. There will be no change unless the people, of all colors, stand together.

-Rev. Pinkney

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Real Drug Dealers

A survey was conducted in 1995 asking the following question. Would you close your eyes for a second, envision a drug user, and describe that person to me? The startling results were published in the Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education. Ninety-five percent of respondents pictured a black drug user, while only 5 percent imagined other racial groups. These results contrast sharply with the reality of drug crime in America. Blacks constituted only 15 percent of current drug users in 1995 and they constitute roughly the same percentage today. Whites constituted the vast majority of drug users then and now, but almost no one pictured a white person when asked to imagine what a drug user looks like. The same group of respondents also perceived the typical drug trafficker as black.

More than four decades later, news stories regarding virtually all street crime have disproportionately featured African American offenders. One study suggests that the standard crime news script is so prevalent and so thoroughly racialized that viewers imagine a black perpetartor even when none exists. In that study, 60 percent of viewers who saw a story with no images falsely recalled seeing one, and 70 percent of these viewers believed the perpetrator to be black.

Decades of cognitive bias research demonstrate that both unconscious and conscious biases lead to discriminatory actions, even when an individual does not want to discriminate. One study involved a video game that placed photographs of white and black individuals holding a gun or other object (such as a wallet, soda can, or cell phone) into various photographic backgrounds. Participants were told to decide as quickly as possible whether to shoot the target. Consistent with earlier studies, participants were more likely to mistake a black target as armed, when he was not, and mistake a white target as unarmed, when in fact he was armed. Only in America!

A fairly consistent finding is that punitiveness and hostility almost always increase when people are primed even subliminally with images or verbal cues associated with black people. In fact studies indicate that people become increasingly harsh when an alleged criminal is darker and more stereotypically black. They are more lenient when the accused is lighter and appears more stereotypically white. This is true of jurors, judges, prosecutors and law enforcement. We must remember, government is instituted for the people for equal benefit, security, and protection, and not for the corporations.

-Rev. Pinkney

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Reconsideration Denied

On Sept. 8, 2015, the appelate court denied the motion for reconsideration of Rev. Pinkney’s bond pending appeal.

Judge Shapiro would have granted reconsideration.

Thank you to all who sent letters to the appeals court.

This news is very disappointing, but not surprising.  The appeal process continues.

If you can contribute funds for ongoing expenses while Rev. Pinkney continues to serve time in Coldwater Prison, either send a check or use Paypal (

1940 Union St.
Benton Harbor, MI 49022

The Lockdown Bad Deal: Corruption

Almost no one goes to trial. Nearly all criminal cases are resolved through plea bargaining, usually a guilty plea by the defendant in exchange for some form of leniency by the prosecutor. Though it is not widely known, the prosecutor is the most powerful enforcement official in the criminal justice system. One might think that judges are the most powerful, or even the police, but in reality the prosecutor holds the cards. It is the prosecutor, far more than any other criminal official, who holds the keys to the jailhouse doors. The prosecutor's job is to seek the truth. Unfortunately, the unrevealed, deeply held prejudices he has are not based on a desire to achieve a just, fair, or moral outcome. This is the norm for over 98% of prosecutors.

The prosecutor, with all his resources and control, have home court advantage and the referee in his pocket directs all calls in his favor. Judges take the side of the prosecutors.

After the police arrest someone, the prosecutor is in charge. Few rules constrain the exercise of his or her discretion. The prosecutor is free to dismiss a case for any reason or no reason at all. The prosecutor is also free to file more charges against a defendant than can realistically be proven in court, so long as he is in charge. The bad prosecutors are wicked people who took an oath of office in which the person promises to perform the duties of that office in good faith, but they never do.

The practice of encouraging defendants to plead guilty to crimes, rather than affording them the benefit of a full trial, has always carried its risk and downsides. Never before in our history, though, have such an extraordinary number of people felt compelled to plead guilty, even if they are innocent, simply because the punishment for the minor, nonviolent offense with which they have been charged is so unbelievably severe. When the prosecutor offers only three years in prison and threatens to give life imprisonment, only extremely courageous defendants would turn the offer down.

This is called ethnic cleansing. The purpose is to drive all members of the victimized group out of a territory or city. Ethnic cleansing is nearly synonymous with genocide as mass murder is a characteristic of both. They murder and destroy families.

The law in the county itself may be fair on its face and impartial in appearance, yet if it is applied and administered by public authority with evil eyes, a wicked heart, and an unequal hand, it practically enables unjust and illegal discrimination between persons in similar circumstances. The denial of equal justice is still prohibited by the Constitution.

Immunizing prosecutors from claims of racial bias and failing to impose any meaningful check on the exercise of their discretion in charges, plea bargaining, transferring cases, and sentencing has created an environment in which conscious and unconscious biases are allowed to flourish. The Berrien County trial court operates a criminal enterprise. The must be stopped at all costs. Evidence does not lie, but prosecutors do!

-Rev. Edward Pinkney

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

The All White Jury

The struggle that has taken place in recent years in Benton Harbor is a case in point, and one that holds a number of lessons for the American people. The fight in Benton Harbor is a war over whether Americans will have justice.

Rev. Edward Pinkney is a victim of the struggle. He was convicted by an all-white jury that was motivated by something other than the truth. The jury had unrevealed, deeply-held racial prejudices. The verdict was not based on a desire to achieve a just, fair, or moral outcome.

Rev. Pinkney was charged under MCL 167.937 with five felony counts of forgery based on allegations that he altered dates next to signatures on petitions to recall Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower. Rev. Pinkney was convicted by an all white jury with absolutely no evident that he committed the crime.

Rev. Pinkney is in Lakeland Correctional Facility, better known as the penitentiary in Coldwater, Michigan. He applied for an appeal bond on July 6, 2015, and on Aug. 4, 2015, the bond was denied. Judge Douglas B. Shapiro would have granted the bond pending appeal, but Judge Joel P. Hoekstra and David H. Sawyer denied bond pending appeal.

Rev. Pinkney has already raised substantial issues in the trial court and will raise substantial issues in the merit brief that will be filed in the Court of Appeals.

Rev. Pinkney's brief in support of motion for bond sets forth, in substantial detail, issues that will be included in his merits brief on appeal. Additional issues may also be raised in the merits brief on appeal. The issues raised will prevent retrial.

Pursuant to MCL 7.219, Rev. Pinkney seeks reconsideration of the Court of Appeal's Aug. 4, 2015, order denying bond pending appeal. A palpable error occurred if the Court of Appeals accepted the prosecution's argument which misled and stated that the Court of Appeals could only grant bond pending appeal if the trial court abused its discretion in denying bond pending appeal. The prosecution cited no case law indicating that the abuse of discretion standard applies when the Court of Appeals is asked to grant bond pending appeal.

The Court of Appeals must exercise independent judgment when deciding a motion for bond pending appeal. The Court's independent exercise of discretion should result in the granting of bond pending appeal.

"A heavy and cruel hand has been laid upon me. The greater the good one seeks to do the greater the trials one must endure. The more worthy the goal of the good one seeks to do, the greater the effort one must put forth to succeed in the doing of that which is good. We must continue to fight for what is right. The corruption in Berrien County must be stopped!" -Rev. Pinkney

Monday, September 07, 2015

Support from the United Kingdom

Letters sent to the Appellate Court on Rev. Pinkney's behalf from abroad! Thank you ""