I find arguments about whether we live in a police state to be a distraction. Kind of like arguments over whether Obama is a communist, socialist, democrat, new democrat, republican-lite, republican or conservative. The label affixed doesn't matter half as much as the actual actions, the policies implemented, and the actual effects on our society.
Is this a police state? I'll leave it to others define. We are a state:
- where police have near immunity from prosecution for wrongdoing committed against citizens. For example, Scottsdale AZ police officers shot an unarmed man, holding a child, in the back and received no criminal punishment.
Recorded by Hulstedt's neighbor through a screen, the video shows what happened during and just after the 2008 shooting. Watch as Scottsdale police shoot Hulstedt, handcuff him, then drag him on his knees 400 feet across rough ground and asphalt.http://www.courthousenews.com/...
Fearing that the officers who responded to the scene would shoot him, Hulstedt refused to come out of the house with his 2-year-old daughter, D.H. At one point Hulstedt threatened to "pile drive" the child unless police negotiators sent his brother into the house.Hell, they are still working there!
About 30 minutes into the standoff, Hulstedt left the house, unarmed, with the child in his arms. But he turned around after only a few steps and walked back toward the front door, holding D.H. over his head. Scottsdale Police Sgt. Richard Slavin, about 96 feet away, yelled, "Put that child down!"
Within seconds of the warning, Officer James Dorer fired his rifle twice at the small of Hulstedt's back. Slavin fired twice as well. Three bullets hit Hulstedt, causing him to drop D.H. headfirst onto a concrete path. Doctors later treated the little girl for a skull fracture. The gunshots left Hulstedt paralyzed.
- that imprisons far more people than any other industrialized nation often for non-violent and status offenses.
ACLU Report on Debtor's Prisons: http://www.aclu.org/...
Most people who receive a traffic ticket or a fine related to a criminal conviction simply pay it and move on with their lives. But for the poor, court fines and fees may be completely unaffordable. Thirty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to imprison debtors simply because they cannot pay court fines or fees. State law in Ohio also requires that a judge determine whether a person can pay a fine before she is jailed. Nonetheless, many courts throughout the state are simply ignoring the law and routinely incarcerating people multiple times for failing to pay their fines.US Prison rates vs. the rest of the world: http://www.bloomberg.com/...
The U.S. also leads the world in the number of prisons in operation at 4,575, more than four times the number of second- place Russia at 1,029. U.S. states spent $52 billion to construct and operate those prisons in 2011, more than quadruple the $12 billion spent in 1987, according to data from the Pew Center on the States.
- that enforces laws inequitably. There are too many examples to list them all, but some examples: bankers vs. gov't whistleblowers, minority drug users vs. white drug users, corporations vs. people.
Incarceration Rates for African Americans: http://rt.com/...
The incarceration rate for American-Americans is so high that young black men without a high school diploma are more likely to go to jail than to find a job, thereby causing the breakup of families and instilling further poverty upon them.- that allows private companies to profit from the incarceration of others, going sometime as far as guaranteeing a population rate. These private prisons go and lobby our state and federal legislatures to implement or keep in place laws that guarantee high rates of incarceration, such as outdated and racist drug and immigration policies:
“Prison has become the new poverty trap,” Bruce Western, a Harvard sociologist, told the New York Times. “It has become a routine event for poor African-American men and their families, creating an enduring disadvantage at the very bottom of American society.”
Private Prisons and Immigration: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...
Americans have grown accustomed to the crackdown on illegal immigration as part of the fabric of contemporary political debate, one in which Arizona's strict enforcement posture frequently captures attention. The private prison industry has exploited the crackdown as something else: a lucrative business model.Private Prisons Lobby for Harsher Sentences: http://seattlefreepress.org/...
"The policy in this country has changed from catch and release to more detention," CCA's former board chairman, William Andrews, told investors in 2006, according to the transcript of an upbeat earnings call. "That means we'll be incarcerating more illegal aliens."
Over the past 15 years, the number of people held in all prisons in the United States has increased by 49.6 percent, while private prison populations have increased by 353.7 percent, according to recent federal statistics. Meanwhile, in 2010 alone, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group, the two largest private prison companies, had combined revenues of $2.9 billion. According to a report released today by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), not only have private prison companies benefitted from this increased incarceration, but they have helped fuel it. Gaming the System: How the Political Strategies of Private Prison Companies Promote Ineffective Incarceration Policies, examines how private prison companies are able to wield influence over legislators and criminal justice policy, ultimately resulting in harsher criminal justice policies and the incarceration of more people. The report notes a “triangle of influence” built on campaign contributions, lobbying and relationships with current and former elected and appointed officials. Through this strategy, private prison companies have gained access to local, state, and federal policymakers and have back-channel influence to pass legislation that puts more people behind bars, adds to private prison populations and generates tremendous profits at U.S. taxpayers’ expense.- and has been documented here before, we are a state that increasingly targets protesters and leakers.
In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on "how to suppress" Occupy protests.http://www.csmonitor.com/...
In St. Louis, police began arresting protesters who refused to leave Kiener Plaza just after midnight Saturday morning.http://www.nytimes.com/...
The arrests came about 15 minutes after officers warned protesters that anyone who refused to leave the downtown plaza would be arrested, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
"None of us are choosing to be arrested," said Brian Staack, one of the protesters, just before he was taken into custody. "We are choosing to maintain our occupation and our right to peaceably assemble."
In Portland, Oregon, Mayor Sam Adams has ordered the 300-tent encampment closed by midnight Saturday.
The Obama administration, which promised during its transition to power that it would enhance “whistle-blower laws to protect federal workers,” has been more prone than any administration in history in trying to silence and prosecute federal workers.Are these the actions of a police state? I don't know. They are the actions of our law enforcement community, which includes politicians on both sides of the isle, corporate interests, and, of course, the police. I'll let someone else worry about labels.
The Espionage Act, enacted back in 1917 to punish those who gave aid to our enemies, was used three times in all the prior administrations to bring cases against government officials accused of providing classified information to the media. It has been used six times since the current president took office.
UPDATE: I find that the title of my diary proved to be as distracting as the "police state" question and changed it. The American criminal justice system is broken. It is inequitable, overly punitive and driven by profit. Its a national disgrace. That is the only label that matters.