Category Archives: Drugs

Violence is a symptom of oppression and poverty

By Randall Hill

"Your children ain't violent because they black" … "what are you putting in my malt liquor white boy? … "malt liquor is sold by white companies but only sold in black neighborhoods and you ain't checked it to see what's in it!" – Dick Gregory, 2008 State of the Black Union 

The violence including murders happening in the City of St. Louis is a symptom of decades of intentional oppression, poverty, and exclusion. The violence in St. Louis is concentrated mostly in low income, black neighborhoods, 40% of black households in St. Louis are living in poverty. Those neighborhoods became low income because resources and opportunities were removed.

We need to stop trying to treat the symptom (violence) rather than finding a cure to the causes of the disease. As long as the disease festers in our community, the symptoms will keep multiplying and infecting other communities. Victims of poverty, children who are missing basic necessities and who struggle with poor healthcare or nutrition are more likely to encounter or engage in violence.

When you're black and poor in St. Louis, your opportunities to escape poverty are sabotaged. Schools in black neighborhoods are designed to make kids fail by providing substandard education, eliminating trade programs such as carpentry, defunding enrichment programs like art and music, non-existent honors program and criminalizing normal childhood behavior. Just last month, a court ruled that it was reasonable to handcuff a black 7-year-old hearing-impaired child for crying because he was being taunted by a group of boys.

Young black men are profiled and targeted as gun-toting drug dealers, although white people are more likely to deal drugs. Black people who do end up selling drugs, often do so because they become desperate and don't see any other option. Most people would never choose behaviors resulting in prison or death if they had other options. Harsh punishment breeds resentment which can lead to violence, we need to focus more on treatment and education.

Nearly four years ago, we published an article titled, "Crime Won't Decrease Until Oppression Decreases". That year, St. Louis had the highest murder rate in the country and not much has changed, except the increasing number of young children dying. Our communities are under attack and our primary response is to hold vigils and rallies. It's time to stop begging for change and start demanding change with direct action!

"Protest minus disruption or violence equal failure".  We need to disrupt the systems that benefit from our oppression and destruction. The law is the primary means by which our community is oppressed but very few black people understand how to perform legal research and use that research to benefit them. Unscrupulous businesses, slum landlords, shady creditors, and even corrupt municipalities weaponize ignorance to enrich themselves. 

Bail bondsmen, private prisonsdigital jail devices, companies that contract for cheap prison labor, thousands of vendors that cater to correction facilities, and non-profit organizations including those that are poverty pimps would all lose income and funding if major reductions in prison populations occur. 

There are 6.7 million people under correctional control including 2.3 million people behind bars. The criminal justice industry employees roughly 3 million people. For every two people under correctional control, a person in the criminal justice system is employed. Our freedom equals unemployment for others, see the articles, "What happens to a prison town after it's prison closes?" and "Kit Carson prison in Burlington to close; 142 jobs lost".

Question everything, especially mass media and even things you've believed to be true your entire life. We've been fed a diet of half-truths and lies all our lives. During the 1980s and 1990s, people bought into the lies about crack and addicts were criminals that should be locked up. Now that white people are increasingly becoming addicted to drugs, its a national health crisis and suddenly the error of criminalizing addicts became clear. 

City Government & Police

Now some are calling for more police and the criminalization of gun possession, the end result would be more black people criminally charged for behaviors considered a constitutional right for everyone else. Mayor Lyda Krewson stated St. Louis should be allowed to issue concealed weapons permits.

Where there are no guns, there are no gun deaths. Let me be clear, I am not pro-guns at any cost. If it was possible, I could even be in favor of an absolute gun ban for everyone. However, I believe it would be almost impossible to repeal the second amendment. With that said, I would never support restricting the rights of only a particular group of people. 

In Missouri, it is your constitutional right to bear arms including a concealed weapon. Any attempt to deprive the citizens of St. Louis of that right is unconstitutional. The vast majority of people committing violent crimes in St. Louis are criminals using illegally obtained guns. Requiring gun permits in the city would create barriers to law-abiding poor (mostly black) residents from being able to afford the permit fees. As Tupac stated, people living in the most dangerous areas need weapons the most.  

Recently, Mayor Krewson said she wants to relax the residency rule to hire police officers. The result of that policy would be more racist white officers policing a population they don't understand in a community they have no ties to. Racist cops and a previously racist prosecutor unfairly targeted and criminalized black men especially youth. Some were forced to accept plea deals rather than spend months in jail awaiting a trial. Atlanta’s population is about 54 percent African-American and 38 percent white. Its police force is 58 percent African-American and 38 percent white and Atlanta pays officers roughly the same as St. Louis City. Atlanta doesn't seem to have a problem recruiting and retaining black police officers, so why does St. Louis? Racism may not be the only reason, but it is among the reasons. 

It's generally understood that police exist to keep order. What's not understood is that order is white supremacist patriarchy. – Zellieimani (Twitter 10-9-2014)

The year following Zellieimani's tweet, a leaked memo revealed that 12 white police officers on a specialized narcotics team in Dothan, Alabama, planted drugs and guns on over 1,000 innocent young Black men. All of the officers reportedly were members of a Neoconfederate organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center labels "racial extremists".  Cobb County, GA police Lt. Greg Abbott, stated, "But you're not black. Remember? We only kill black people,"  to a white woman afraid to move her hands during a traffic stop. 

St. Louis Police Department has a long reputation for being a racist organization. Most recently an investigation of racist Facebook posts resulted in 22 St. Louis City police officers being barred from bringing cases to the prosecutor. How many innocent young Black men did those 22 St. Louis police officers plant drugs and guns on? 

Mayor Krewson if you want more black police officers, partner with St. Louis Public Schools and bring back the officer friendly program; encourage officers to go into predominately black schools to remove the fear of encounters and to spark interest in careers in law enforcement. How about creating a junior police academy program, similar to ROTC, to get high school students interested in law enforcement. Create an apprenticeship program where kids from high crime areas can apprentice in police offices during the summers before their junior and senior years. They could help in call centers, data entry, general office tasks, social media, and other functions where they become more familiar and comfortable with the idea of law enforcement as a career. Find out how other cities such as Atlanta recruit and retain black officers and at the same time develop methods to weed out racist and abusive officers.

Cure Violence

The City has announced plans to implement Cure Violence, a program created by Gary Slutkin, a white doctor in Chicago. I'm not sure giving $8.5 million to a white savior is the best way to go, the staff members with decision-making power appear to be all white. Cure Violence began as the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention in 1995 and implemented its first program, known as CeaseFire, in 2000, but Chicago aka Chiraq does not have the best reputation in regards to violence.

We already have plenty of non-profit organizations in St. Louis, why not fund and utilize existing programs; Cure Violence doesn't seem much different from the efforts of Better Family Life. Another underfunded organization doing great work helping at youth risk is the Demetrius Johnson Foundation. 

Opportunity is the best cure for violence that occurs in the City of St. Louis!

How about encouraging partnership between organizations. Instead of wasting millions of dollars with developers like Paul McKee, funnel funds to joint program between St. Louis YouthBuild and North Grand Neighborhood Services (NGNS). This would provide construction job training to at-risk youth while at the same time restoring St. Louis' housing stock and providing affordable housing.

Why not call a non-profit summit a sort of meet and greet where St. Louis Government and non-profits can get together and figure out how they can partner to solve issues. There are plenty of underfunded grassroots organizations already in target neighborhoods doing quality work and could do wonders with additional funding. 

Solutions

Solutions to the problems facing the black community will require individual and collective sacrifice. Solutions will require time, effort, creativity, and money.

Beware of Strangers Bearing Gifts

What seems like an act of goodwill may mask a hidden destructive or hostile agenda. In order to find effective solutions, we must first realize that what might look like a solution could actually be a trap. There are some who disguise themselves as friends but have declared war on black people and "all warfare is based on deception".

Margaret Sanger, the founder of what today is Planned Parenthood, was a racist eugenicist who wanted to exterminate the black population thru birth control. Under the pretense of better health and family planning, Sanger deceived and convinced some of the most prominent black doctors and well educated black clergy members into supporting her scheme. The black elites were so concerned with economic empowerment and garnering the respect of whites, that they jeopardized the very survival of Black people in America.

It seems to me from my experience … that while the colored Negroes have great respect for white doctors they can get closer to their own members and more or less lay their cards on the table which means their ignorance, superstitions and doubts.

We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal.

We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members. – Margaret Sanger: 1939 Letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble

The Civil Rights movement reached its peak with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The vicious racists who killed Emmett Till, bombed churches, sicked dogs and sprayed hoses didn't just suddenly disappear, they simply faded into the background. Ku Klux Klan members traded their sheets and hoods for police uniforms, judge robes, the suits of politicians and prosecutors. Since overt discrimination had been outlawed, they implemented a tactic of covert racism.

Racist politicians created policies that sabotaged President Johnson's Great Society legislation including the  Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, Food Stamp Act of 1964, Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Programs created during Johnson's administration were implemented in ways that wreaked destruction on the black community. Listen to Dr. Umar Johnson's discussion about how the black community has been under attack since 1970.

Between 1934 thru 1962, St. Louis' murder rate was usually between 6-13 per 100,000 people. After 1963 it begins to rise and then rises further during Nixon's "War on Black People", then again during Reagan's first term and then peaked during the crack epidemic. Chicago experienced a similar trend, 1974 was Chicago's deadliest year with 970 homicides, we checked because Cure Violence originated there.

More recently, three-strike laws, mandatory minimum sentencing, truth in sentencing laws, harsher punishment for certain drugs so-called solutions promoted to reduce crime resulted in mass incarceration and destroyed generations within the black and brown communities. Desperation to reduce gun violence appears to be setting the stage for gun possession to become the new mass incarceration tool.

Others Don't Care

Although oppressive discriminatory practices by others are directly and indirectly responsible for many of the issues plaguing the black community, most people outside our community don't care.

How often do you think about those 2.8 billion people on the planet who struggle to survive on less than $2 a day, and more than one billion people who lack reasonable access to safe drinking water?

Do you ever think about how many of those people's are forced to work in dangerous conditions so that you can purchase cheap products at Wal-Mart and DollarTree?

Probably not, because you're too busy concentrating on your problems. That's how other people feel about our problems, they don't care. Dave Chappelle expressed this sentiment during his NetFlix special, "Sticks and Stones" while talking about the opioid and heroin crisis.

Regardless who caused our problems, we better work at fixing them, because others don't care enough to fix them for us.

Support Our Champions

A person who truly fights or argues for a cause or on behalf of someone else is a champion. Champions are rare, so when you have one, it behooves you to vigorously support them. Kimberly Gardner has become an unexpectant champion. I've never met Kimberly Gardner, but I did vote for her.

In December 2016, prior to Ms. Gardner's swearing-in ceremony, I stated in a post, "if Ms. Gardner proves to be a fair prosecutor, there will certainly be those that will attempt to distort her statements, vilify her actions and generally discredit her. There is a private prison system that stands to lose millions of dollars under a non-oppressive system".

Kimberly. Gardner has exceeded my wildest expectations, shown tremendous courage, and has gained my utmost respect. She's actually trying to fight the disease. She's created a list of officers who she won't accept cases from including 22 officers for racist Facebook post. Ms. Gardner has removed or reduced amounts of cash bond for minor, nonviolent offenses. She is also expanding diversion and drug court programs and ending prosecutions of low-level marijuana possession cases.

Two white prosecutors who served under Gardner's predecessor, Jennifer Joyce, conspired with white police officers to cover up a police beating of a handcuffed suspect, recently lost their law licenses because of their crimes committed while prosecutors.

The white St. Louis Police Officers' Association, has called for Gardner's resignation. Jeffrey Roorda, the association's spokesperson was fired from the Arnold, MO police department for making false statements and filing false reports.

 

It's not surprising that a police association with a racist history would target the City's first black prosecutor, especially since she is holding police accountable for their unethical and illegal actions. The Ethical Society of Police, founded by African American Police Officers was created to address race-based discrimination within the community and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

As long as Ms. Gardner continues to champion our rights and act as a buffer between police abuses, we need to provide as much support as we can provide to her and others who similarly act on our behalf.

Withdraw Support from Betrayers

I felt betrayed after the democratic mayoral primary. Of the four major black candidates, I had previously voted for three. Antonio French was the only candidate I hadn't voted for because I did not live in his ward, but my parents did. As I mentioned in "Black Ego lost the St. Louis Mayoral Race", "How is it possible that three intelligent, seasoned politicians didn't understand they would split the black vote so severely that none of them would win?" 

When I see all the obstacles Kimberly Gardner is facing, I often wonder how things might have been different if she had a black mayor to work with. Remember, much of her opposition is coming from the police who are under the mayor's chain of command. I also wonder if the violence might have been reduced and some of those children's lives spared if things had worked out differently.

I've lived in the city for nearly 40 years and moved shortly after the last election. However, if still a city resident, I would not vote for any of the candidates who couldn't work together to ensure a black power structure in St. Louis City.

Different Ideas

We must respect different ideas. No one idea or solution will solve all our issues and problems. Just because your idea is different from mine doesn't make yours wrong. We need to work more closely together on the things were agree rather than fighting over what we disagree. Disagreement slows progress. "United we stand, divided we fall".

Washington vs Du Bois

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) the most influential black leader of his time preached a philosophy of self-help, racial solidarity and accommodation. He urged blacks to accept discrimination for the time being and concentrate on elevating themselves through hard work and material prosperity thru education in the crafts, industrial and farming skills. 

W.E.B. Du Bois (1868–1963) a founding member of the NAACP,  advocated political action and a civil rights agenda. He believed that developing a group of college-educated blacks, 10% of the black population “the Talented Tenth” would provide direction and leadership for the other 90% to change their social and economic status. Although Du Bois early on agreed with Washington’s strategy, later he decided it would serve only to perpetuate white oppression, which he expressed in his book, "The Souls of Black Folk".

The Washington/Du Bois dispute divided African-American leaders into two camps; Washington's accommodationist philosophy or Du Bois philosophy of agitation and protest for civil rights. Washington was born a slave, didn't know who his father was, was raised in the south and taught himself to read. Du Bois was born three years after the Civil War, was raised in Great Barrington, MA, a relatively tolerant and integrated community of 4,000 with only about 50 blacks. With encouragement from his teachers, Du Bois was the first black student to graduate from his high school.

Washington's and Du Bois' circumstances and upbringing were polar opposites, so naturally, because of their vastly different experience, their perspectives were different, so they had different ideas and solutions. We needed both Washington's practical approach for the masses of black people especially in the South and Du Bois approach of developing educated leadership. Those two giants might have achieved so much more working together instead of working against each other. 

King vs Malcolm X

Half a century later, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X would also split black leadership into two camps. Again, we have two men with vastly different backgrounds. King was the descendant of prominent ministers went to college earned a Ph.D. and became a minister himself. Malcolm X's father was murder and he became a foster child after his mother was hospitalized with mental issues, he later engaged in drug dealing, gambling,  racketeering, robbery, and pimping and went to prison where he became enlightened by another inmate. Dr. King's non-violent integration movement and Malcolm X's any means necessary racial separatism philosophy were both valid strategies. Unfortunately, they both denounced the other's strategy.

There are roughly 44 million Black people in the United States and we all face some form of discrimination. Forty-six percent of us are in poverty, the working poor or the working class earning $35,000 or less; 40% are in the middle class earning between $35-100K, the upper 14% includes the upper middle class and wealthy. Poverty by itself does not necessarily result in violence, the majority of poor people are non-violent. Poverty coupled with discrimination, oppression and poverty being criminalized, people become desperate and or hopeless. Those at the bottom face the most number of barriers and experience the worst oppression. 

"The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose." – James Baldwin

Non-violence vs Violence

According to the latest 2018 U.S. Census figures, there are 46,919,000 African-American with a per capita income of $23,993 generating total income of $1,125,727,567,000. In 1934, W.E.B. Du Bois spoke of, "A Negro Nation Within a Nation". If African-Americans were a country, we'd have the 17th largest economy by GDP in the world between Indonesia and the Netherlands.

Countries have diplomats and soldiers working together employing both peaceful tactics and force when necessary. There's no reason a movement can't utilize different tactics at the same time to arrive at a common goal. Near the end of their lives, both Malcolm X and King slightly adjusted their philosophies. A year before his death, King stated, "My Dream Has Turned Into a Nightmare". Like Washington and Du Bois, King and Malcolm X might have achieved more working with one another.

Groups such as the National African American Gun Association (NAAGA) are increasingly aware of the need for self-defense and may one day be positioned as a deterrent against violence from outside groups. Organized armed groups of black men might even organize into neighborhood patrols.

Violence isn't always physical, sometime we must inflict economic violence to achieve our goals. Imagine what would happen if a large percentage of black people boycotted Christmas to protest a particular issue or form of oppression. Affected retailers and manufacturers might be motivated to speak out or intervene. If corporations can speak up for LGBT bathroom rights, the companies we spend our dollars with should speak up for us as well.

Education

Even though the St. Louis area is home to SLU, Wash. U, Harris-Stowe, UMSL, Fontbonne, SLCC, Ranken and a number of other colleges and universities, the quality of education in the City of St. Louis has been horrible for decades and no one can seem to come up with solutions.

Washington University has a $7.5 billion endowment, St. Louis University's endowment is $1.3 billion. Wouldn't it be great if those and other institutions funded grants or scholarships to St. Louis Public School students who commit to teaching in the district for a minimum number of years. Those teachers would then be able to better relate and understand the challenges of their students because they were those students.

But it probably won't happen. There are many smart people at Wash. U. and SLU, if they wanted to help, they probably would have done something before now.

Wash. U. and SLU both have law schools. Certainly they've known for decades about abuses occurring in St. Louis area courts. After just a few visits to courtrooms, I saw the abuses instantly, that's why I created this self-help legal information site by myself. Those law schools could have easily provided meaningful online self-help legal information decades ago. 

Maybe the city could partner with Ranken to offer technical education to students who commit to a revitalization program where their skill would be used to help repair the houses of elderly and disabled residents. Instead of burdening poor residents with housing violation fines and court fees, maybe they could be referred to the revitalization program for low-cost repairs and repayment arrangements.

Independently educate yourself and your children. Supplement your child's education with additional material, especially if they attend public schools; "how can you expect powerful people to give you the training, give you the education to take their power away from them".

Check out our "Free Money for College" page to find funding for your child or yourself, there's no age limit. 

Individual Efforts

What can you do individually to make things better? 

  • Educate yourself thru self-study by using public libraries, the Internet and other resources to develop new skills so you can develop sources of income outside of your job. This is how businesses are created which leads to the employment of others. 
  • Where you spend your money is where your create jobs. Patronize businesses in your own neighborhood which supports job creation.
  • Before you stop patronizing a business in your neighborhood, talk to or write the owner and express the reasons why you are dissatisfied with their product or service so they might improve.  
  • Black business owners, understand decades of negative imagery and stereotypes put black businesses at a disadvantage, even among our own. Most of us are familiar with the saying "black people have to work twice as hard to get half as much". Your business has to price its products and service competitively, you must treat your customer with respect, you must invest profits back into your business and constantly improve.   
  • Share your knowledge with others. Not everyone knows what you do. Sometimes the difference between someone failing and succeeding is the proper knowledge. Think about the knowledge and advice that was passed along to you and how helpful a particular piece of advice was. Give that gift of knowledge to someone else, it could quite literally save someone's life.
  • Provide a home to child thru foster care or adoption.
  • Volunteer or donate to an organization trying to make a difference in St. Louis.
  • Ask your church or any organization you donate money to explain exactly how they use your donated money. 
  • Reach out and get to know your neighbors. Join or start a neighborhood watch or association. 
  • Stand up for your individual rights no matter how small. Rights and privileges are seldom taken away swiftly; they are usually taken away slowly almost unnoticed until one day they are gone 

Dr. Kwaw Imana, Class of 2000 at Morehouse College, delivered a powerful Valedictorian speech where he rejected a Rhodes Scholarship, the oldest and most prestigious scholarship in the world, because of Cecil Rhodes racist history. Imana compared it to a person of Jewish descent being offered a Hitler scholarship and challenged his fellow graduates to create businesses and institutions in black communities.   

Churches and Organizations

Black churches, organizations and community members could partner together form a non-profit corporation to act as a central clearinghouse for resources. Black organizations and institutions compete against each other for government grant funding. Competing for that funding drains resources and once secured, yearly audits are required to show how funds were spent. Pooling the resources of multiple organization under the umbrella of a single entity would be more efficient and those resources could become much more effective.

"the educated Negro does not understand or is unwilling to start small enterprises which make the larger ones possible." – Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro 1933

As we mentioned during a reparations post, Black churches take in an estimated $12-13 billion per year, which is greater than the GDP of dozens of entire nations. How much of those funds are being spent to benefit the community in which you live? If a fraction of church donations were pooled together think about the endless possibilities: schools, homeless shelters, urgent care clinics, hospitals, business incubators, convention venues and more. Consider how the Catholic church builds schools, hospitals, senior housing, and nursing homes all under the Catholic Charities Umbrella.    

The Betrayal of the Black Elite

Drugs

We have declared drug use to be a health crisis, so we need to decriminalize possession of small amounts of drugs, otherwise, we are declaring drug addiction is a crime. In the United States, drugs became illegal in the early 1900s due to racism and drug enforcement tends to highly disproportionately affect minorities.

Many other countries including Spain, Italy, Germany, and Mexico have already decriminalized small amounts of drug possession. Canada is treating opioid addiction with prescription-grade heroin. In August 2009, Argentina’s supreme court declared in a landmark ruling that it was unconstitutional to prosecute citizens for having drugs for their personal use – "adults should be free to make lifestyle decisions without the intervention of the state".

Decriminalizing drugs would reduce many of the criminal justice encounters that create conditions which result in violence. It will also free police officers to concentrate on other crimes.

Conclusion

Violence always indicates that something else is wrong. Treating violence as a symptom of a disease is a step in the right direction. As long as the disease goes untreated, all of us including our children are in danger of becoming victims. 

A handful of people participated in the civil rights movement that provided new rights to everyone and protected denied rights to oppressed people. Had more people participated greater achievements might have been made.

What will you do? If your plan is to let others tackle this problem, then it will never be solved. If you can identify just one person who needs help and then assist them, you can change the world!

How the government can steal your stuff: 6 questions about civil asset forfeiture answered

by Nora V. Demleitner, Washington and Lee University

Editor's note: Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Congress and the states are challenging the Trump administration’s embrace of civil asset forfeiture abuse, which strips billions of dollars a year from Americans – who often have not been charged with a crime. Law professor and criminal justice expert Nora V. Demleitner explains how this procedure works and why it irks conservatives and progressives alike.

The authorities don’t need a conviction or even for a suspect to be charged with a crime before seizing a car, cash or even a house.

1. What is civil asset forfeiture?

Civil asset forfeiture laws let authorities, such as federal marshals or local sheriffs, seize property – cash, a house, a car, a cellphone – that they suspect is involved in criminal activity. Seizures run the gamut from 12 cans of peas to multi-million-dollar yachts.

The federal government confiscated assets worth a total of about US$28 billion during the decade ending in 2016, Justice Department data indicate.

In contrast to criminal forfeiture, which requires that the property owner be convicted of a crime beforehand, the civil variety doesn’t require that the suspect be charged with breaking the law.

Three Justice Department agencies – the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – do most of this confiscating. Most states also permit local prosecutors to take personal property from people who haven’t been charged with a crime. However, some states have begun to limit that practice.

Even when there are restrictions on when and how local and state authorities can seize property, they can circumvent those limits if the federal government “adopts” the impounded assets.

For a federal agency to do so requires the alleged misconduct to violate federal law. Local agencies get up to 80% of the shared proceeds back, with the federal agency keeping the rest. The divvying-up is known officially as “equitable sharing.” Crime victims may also get a cut from the proceeds of civil forfeiture.

John Oliver’s ‘Last Week Tonight’ segment on civil asset forfeiture in 2014 used humor to help viewers understand the practice.

2. Can people get their stuff back?

Technically, the government must demonstrate that the property has something to do with a crime. In reality, property owners in most states must prove that they legally acquired their confiscated belongings to get them returned. This means the burden is on the owners to dispute these seizures in court. Court challenges tend to arise only when something of great value, like a house, is at stake.

Unless an owner challenges a seizure and effectively proves his innocence in court, the agency that took the property is free to keep the proceeds once the assets are liquidated.

Many low-income people don’t use bank accounts or credit cards. They carry cash instead. If they lose their life savings at a traffic stop, they can’t afford to hire a lawyer to dispute the seizure, the Center for American Progress – a liberal think tank – has observed.

And disputing civil forfeitures is hard everywhere. Some states require a cash bond; others add a penalty payment should the owner lose. The process is expensive, time-consuming and lengthy, deterring even innocent owners.

There’s no comprehensive data regarding how many people get their stuff back. But over the 10 years ending in September 2016, about 8% of all property owners who had cash seized from them by the DEA had it returned, according to a report from the Justice Department’s inspector general.

3. Who opposes the practice?

Many conservatives and progressives dislike civil asset forfeiture. Politicians on the left and right have voiced concerns about the incentives this practice gives law enforcement to abuse its authority.

Critics across the political spectrum also question whether different aspects of civil asset forfeiture violate the Fifth Amendment, which says the government can’t deprive anyone of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” or is unconstitutional for other reasons.

Until now, the Supreme Court and lower courts, however, have consistently upheld civil asset forfeitures when ruling on challenges launched under the Fifth Amendment. The same goes for challenges under the Eighth Amendment, which bars “excessive fines” and “cruel and unusual punishments,” and the 14th Amendment, which forbids depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

In 2019, the Supreme Court unanimously found for the first time that these constitutional protections against excessive fines apply not just to the federal authorities but to the states as well.

Some concerns resonate more strongly for different ideological camps. Conservatives object mostly about how this impounding undermines property rights.

Liberals are outraged that the poor and communities of color tend to be disproportionately targeted, often causing great hardship to people accused of minor wrongdoing.

Another common critique: The practice encourages overpolicing intended to pad police budgets or accommodate tax cuts. Revenue from civil asset forfeitures can amount to a substantial percentage of local police budgets, according to a Drug Policy Alliance study of this practice in California. This kind of policing can undermine police-community relations.

The Justice Department’s guidelines state that forfeitures “punish and deter criminal activity by depriving criminals of property used in or acquired through illegal activities.”

However, the Inspector General’s office noted “without evaluating data more systemically, it is impossible for the Department to determine … whether seizures benefit law enforcement efforts, such as advancing criminal investigations and deterring future criminal activity.”

Critics of civil asset forfeiture argue that it can make policing more about raising revenue than improving public safety.

4. What is the scale of this confiscation?

The federal revenue raised through this practice, which emerged in the 1970s, mushroomed from $94 million in 1986 to a high of $4.5 billion in 2014, according to the Justice Department.

The Justice Department says it returned more than $4 billion in forfeited funds to crime victims between 2000 and 2016, while handing state and local law enforcement entities at least $6 billion through “equitable sharing.”

The scale of seizures on the state and local level is less clear.

5. What happened during the Obama and Trump administrations?

Under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder, the Obama-era Justice Department determined that civil asset forfeiture was more about making money than public safety. It then changed the guidelines for asset adoption.

Beginning in 2015, joint state-federal task forces could continue to share forfeiture proceeds but state agencies were no longer permitted to ask the federal government to forfeit property they had taken on their own.

I love that program,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in 2017. “We had so much fun doing that, taking drug dealers’ money and passing it out to people trying to put drug dealers in jail. What’s wrong with that?”

Attorney General William Barr, Sessions’ successor in the Trump administration, has also defended this policy.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has expressed astonishment regarding the unpopularity of civil asset forfeiture.

6. Congress and the states

When Sessions changed the policy, legislative changes seemed possible. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley sent Sessions a memo about how the federal funds obtained from seizures were wasted and misused. In some cases, Grassley wrote, the government provided “misleading details about some of these expenditures.”

The House of Representatives voted in 2017 for an amendment that would restrict civil asset forfeiture adoption.

The House also approved a bipartisan measure restricting civil forfeiture on June 20, 2019. This one goes further though and would substantially curtail the federal government’s powers.

State governments have also tried to discourage this kind of confiscation. New Mexico, Nebraska and North Carolina have banned civil forfeiture. Michigan has made it easier to challenge these seizures. California limited equitable sharing, and other states have increased the burden of proof the government must meet. But in many states, investigative reporting has shown that innocent owners continue to lose their property.

In a Georgia Law Review article, I gave examples of other ways to keep police departments and municipalities funded, such as increasing fines and fees.

Unless the police pursue some alternatives, funding woes will continue to contribute to abusive policing practices that fall most heavily on those who can the least afford them: the poor and communities of color.


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation 

Released from prison by Obama, now on the dean’s list

Obama Sends Letter to Prisoner He Freed Who Turned Her Life Around

President Obama let Danielle Metz out of prison. Then she enrolled in college and made the dean's list. Obama heard about Metz's success and sent a letter telling her how proud he is of her for turning her life around and graduating college.

“I am so proud of you, and am confident that your example will have a positive impact for others who are looking for a second chance, Tell your children I say hello, and know that I’m rooting for all of you.”

Barack Obama's letter to Danielle Metz. (Photo: Danielle Metz)

Danielle Metz's full story about her journey from jail to college is below.

From prison to dean’s list: How Danielle Metz got an education after incarceration

by CASEY PARKS

NEW ORLEANS – The sun glowed gold, and a second line parade was tuning its horns just a few streets away. But Danielle Metz had missed half her life already, and she couldn’t spare the afternoon, even one as unseasonably warm as this mid-February Sunday.

She climbed the stairs to the shotgun house her mom had bought in uptown New Orleans more than half a century ago. Metz slipped through the screen door, then shut it tight enough to keep out the sun. Inside, she dug through a box next to her bed and pulled out the clothbound journal that a woman had given her in 1996, when they were both incarcerated in the Federal Correctional Institute in Dublin, California. Metz hadn’t kept much from the 23 years she spent in prison, but the journal had been too special to leave behind. She opened it and read the dedication as a reminder of what she hoped to accomplish now that she was out.

“To Danielle — There’s so many things we can’t get in here, but knowledge and education can’t be kept out by walls.”

Growing up, Metz had believed that college was for white kids and for “Huxtables” — black people she named after the upper-middle-class family in “The Cosby Show.” She knew, as she looked at the laptop screen, how improbable people might think earning a degree would be for her now. She’d dropped out of high school her junior year. At 26, a judge had sentenced Metz to three life sentences plus another 20 years for her role in her husband’s cocaine distribution. She’d thought she’d never see New Orleans again, let alone visit a university.

Even after President Barack Obama granted her clemency in 2016, Metz believed she couldn’t go to college. Nationwide, less than 4 percent of formerly incarcerated people have a bachelor’s degree, according to a report released last year. The chances seemed especially low in Metz’s home state. Louisiana had long held twin records, the world’s highest incarceration rate, and the country’s lowest rate of black college graduates. Put together, this meant tens of thousands of residents lacked a viable pathway to middle-class security.

But lawmakers had come to believe that a change was imperative for the state’s future. In 2017, Louisiana became the first state in the nation to “ban the box” on public college and university applications, prohibiting school officials from asking whether an applicant has a criminal record. Metz knew that people across the country were working to help people like her go to college after prison. Though Illinois and New York failed to pass “ban the box” measures for university applications, several other states are trying to follow Louisiana’s lead. And federal lawmakers from both parties are pushing to allow incarcerated people to access Pell Grants, financial aid that they’ve been barred from using since Metz first went to prison.

Metz was grateful for the legal shifts, but political momentum alone would not carry her through school. As the parade began its march through Uptown, she scrolled through the university’s website and hovered over the tab marked “current students.” She had no idea how long it would take or how much it might cost, but Metz didn’t care. She was going to college.

Metz grew up the youngest of nine children in a city barreling toward chaos. As a kid, she considered herself lucky. Both of her parents worked — her father as a cement finisher, her mother in a bakery — and together they earned enough to buy a home three miles away from the St. Thomas Projects, a public housing development where many other black families lived. St. Thomas was so poor and violent when Metz was young that Sister Helen Prejean described the neighborhood in the opening of her book “Dead Man Walking” as “not death row exactly, but close."

Even as a little girl, Metz knew people who’d gone to jail, but her neighborhood was quiet, and her parents were dreamers. For years, her father urged her to become a nurse. Metz knew the job required a college degree, but she didn’t know anyone who’d earned one. In 1980, the year Metz enrolled at Walter L. Cohen High School, more than half the city’s black adults didn’t have even a high school diploma, let alone a university credential.

Instead, Metz longed to become a hairstylist. She’d practiced since she was a little girl on her mom, whose locks grew in so straight that people speculated she must have white ancestors. But even that goal felt unreachable after Metz became pregnant in 1985, her junior year of high school. She dropped out and assumed she wouldn’t have a career. She’d be a mother instead.

Six months after Metz gave birth to her son, Carl, his father was murdered.

Metz became a single mother just as the state’s economy was collapsing. Louisiana had long been dependent on oil — profits from the natural resource accounted for nearly half of the state’s budget then. But the price per barrel began falling in 1981, and by the mid-1980s, one in eight Louisiana workers was unemployed, the highest rate in the nation. New Orleans lost nearly 10,000 jobs, leaving few openings for a teenage mother with no credentials or documentable skills.

Metz didn’t take time to grieve. Most black people in New Orleans knew someone who’d been killed, she said. Instead, she started looking for someone to help raise her child.

Glenn Metz had money. He’d grown up poor in the Calliope housing projects, one of the most violent neighborhoods in New Orleans, but he owned two tow-truck companies by the time Metz met him. At age 30, he possessed the kind of quiet maturity that Metz, then 18, thought would make him a good substitute father for Carl. Glenn Metz wore such nice clothes and jewelry the night Metz met him that she suspected he at least dabbled in drug-dealing, but she told herself his business had nothing to do with her.

Growing up, Metz believed that college was for white kids and for “Huxtables” — black families she named after the upper-middle-class family in “The Cosby Show.” Cheryl Gerber/The Hechinger Report

According to federal prosecutors, Glenn Metz formed a drug ring just before he met the girl who would become his wife. Between 1985 and 1992, Glenn Metz and his crew came to dominate St. Thomas and Calliope, prosecutors said, distributing more than 1,000 kilos of cocaine and killing 23 rivals. Glenn Metz sat atop an organization manned by more than half a dozen enforcers, two of whom, prosecutors said, drove through town in an armor-plated pickup with the word “homicide” spelled out on the hood in gold letters.

Metz spent most of those years at home. “The Cosby Show” debuted the year she should have graduated high school, and she watched it and its college-based spin-off “A Different World” every week, dreaming of the life she wished she had. She took a few beauty school classes and occasionally cut hair in someone’s home, but Glenn Metz didn’t like when she left the house, she said. They married in 1989, and Metz soon gave birth to their daughter, Gleneisha. Metz didn’t have a social security number or any way to make money on her own. When Glenn Metz told her to ride with her aunt to deliver a few packages to Houston, Metz said, she did it.

Crack cocaine was spreading through black neighborhoods across the country then, and lawmakers blamed the drug for an increase in inner-city violence. New Orleans was especially hard hit. In 1990, the city topped 300 murders for the first time. Nearly every edition of The Times-Picayune that year carried news of cocaine busts. Police arrested scores of black men, including Metz’s older brother, Perry Bernard, for possession. As the city’s murder rate rose to the nation’s highest, investigators worked to take down Glenn Metz. His was the biggest and most violent drug ring in the city, prosecutors said. They indicted him and eight others, including Metz, in the summer of 1992.

Metz, who’d been temporarily living in Las Vegas with her husband before the indictment, fled to Jackson, Mississippi. She rented an apartment near Jackson State University and planned to enroll after the investigation concluded. When police arrested her there in January 1993, Metz figured she’d just get probation. Most people she knew went to jail “seasonally.” Her older brother had drifted in and out before a 1989 arrest netted him 13 years in a state prison.

After crack cocaine became popular, Congress adopted the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, establishing for the first time mandatory minimum sentences triggered by specific quantities of cocaine. The penalties were worse for defendants charged with possession or distribution of crack cocaine, favored by African-Americans, than for those accused of possessing or distributing the powder cocaine primarily used by white people.

But Metz, 25 then, had never had so much as a traffic ticket. She believed her involvement in her husband’s narcotics sales was minimal enough that prosecutors would let her go with a warning. Police did not find any drugs with her, and she was never implicated in any violence.

Instead, federal authorities charged Metz and her co-defendants under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Lawmakers created RICO in the 1970s under President Richard Nixon as a tool to combat the Mafia, but prosecutors increasingly used it in the 1980s to fight drug rings. The charges under RICO carried automatic sentences of life in prison without parole.

The U.S. attorneys who prosecuted her case presented witnesses who were major narcotics suppliers or small-time drug dealers. They testified that Metz had driven packages to Houston for her husband and, on occasion, accepted cash payments and wired money to suppliers. The jury decided she was guilty.

Four months later, in mid-December, U.S. District Judge A.J. McNamara sentenced Metz to three life sentences plus another 20 years in federal prison.

How Black Pharmacists Are Closing The Cultural Gap In Health Care

SHILOH, Ill. — After a health insurance change forced Bernard Macon to cut ties with his black doctor, he struggled to find another African American physician online. Then, he realized two health advocates were hiding in plain sight.

At a nearby drugstore here in the suburbs outside of St. Louis, a pair of pharmacists became the unexpected allies of Macon and his wife, Brandy. Much like the Macons, the pharmacists were energetic young parents who were married — and unapologetically black.

Vincent and Lekeisha Williams, owners of LV Health and Wellness Pharmacy, didn’t hesitate to help when Brandy had a hard time getting the medicine she needed before and after sinus surgery last year. The Williamses made calls when Brandy, a physician assistant who has worked in the medical field for 15 years, didn’t feel heard by her doctor’s office.

“They completely went above and beyond,” said Bernard Macon, 36, a computer programmer and father of two. “They turned what could have been a bad experience into a good experience.”

Now more than ever, the Macons are betting on black medical professionals to give their family better care. The Macon children see a black pediatrician. A black dentist takes care of their teeth. Brandy Macon relies on a black gynecologist. And now the two black pharmacists fill the gap for Bernard Macon while he searches for a primary care doctor in his network, giving him trusted confidants that chain pharmacies likely wouldn’t.

Black Americans continue to face persistent health care disparities. Compared with their white counterparts, black men and women are more likely to die of heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza, pneumonia, diabetes and AIDS, according to the Office of Minority Health.

But medical providers who give patients culturally competent care — the act of acknowledging a patient’s heritage, beliefs and values during treatment — often see improved patient outcomes, according to multiple studies. Part of it is trust and understanding, and part of it can be more nuanced knowledge of the medical conditions that may be more prevalent in those populations.

For patients, finding a way to identify with their pharmacist can pay off big time. Cutting pills in half, skipping doses or not taking medication altogether can be damaging to one’s health — even deadly. And many patients see their pharmacists monthly, far more often than annual visits to their medical doctors, creating more opportunities for supportive care.

That’s why some black pharmacists are finding ways to connect with customers in and outside of their stores. Inspirational music, counseling, accessibility and transparency have turned some minority-owned pharmacies into hubs for culturally competent care.

“We understand the community because we are a part of the community,” Lekeisha Williams said. “We are visible in our area doing outreach, attending events and promoting health and wellness.”

To be sure, such care is not just relevant to African Americans. But mistrust of the medical profession is especially a hurdle to overcome when treating black Americans.

Many are still shaken by the history of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were used in research worldwide without her family’s knowledge; the Tuskegee Project, which failed to treat black men with syphilis; and other projects that used African Americans unethically for research.

“They completely went above and beyond,” says Macon (center) of Vincent and Lekeisha Williams, owners of LV Health and Wellness Pharmacy.

Filling More Than Prescriptions

At black-owned Premier Pharmacy and Wellness Center near Grier Heights, a historically black neighborhood in Charlotte, N.C., the playlist is almost as important as the acute care clinic attached to the drugstore. Owner Martez Prince watches his customers shimmy down the aisles as they make their way through the store listening to Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Kirk Franklin, Whitney Houston and other black artists. Prince said the music helps him in his goal of making health care more accessible and providing medical advice patients can trust.

In rural Georgia, Teresa Mitchell, a black woman with 25 years of pharmacy experience, connects her customers with home health aides, shows them how to access insurance services online and even makes house calls. Her Total Care Pharmacy is the only health care provider in Baconton, where roughly half the town’s 900 residents are black.

“We do more than just dispense,” Mitchell said.

Iradean Bradley, 72, became a customer soon after Total Care Pharmacy opened in 2016. She struggled to pick up prescriptions before Mitchell came to town.

“It was so hectic because I didn’t have transportation of my own,” Bradley said. “It’s so convenient for us older people, who have to pay someone to go out of town and get our medicine.”

Lakesha M. Butler, president of the National Pharmaceutical Association, advocates for such culturally competent care through the professional organization representing minorities in the pharmacy industry and studies it in her academic work at the Edwardsville campus of Southern Illinois University. She also feels its impact directly, she said, when she sees patients at clinics two days a week in St. Charles, Mo., and East St. Louis, Ill.

“It’s just amazing to me when I’m practicing in a clinic setting and an African American patient sees me,” Butler said. “It’s a pure joy that comes over their face, a sigh of relief. It’s like ‘OK, I’m glad that you’re here because I can be honest with you and I know you will be honest with me.’”

She often finds herself educating her black patients about diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other common conditions.

“Unfortunately, there’s still a lack of knowledge in those areas,” Butler said. “That’s why those conditions can be so prevalent.”

Independent black-owned pharmacies fill a void for African American patients looking for care that’s sensitive to their heritage, beliefs and values. For Macon, LV Health and Wellness Pharmacy provides some of that vital support.

Avoiding Medical Microaggressions

For Macon, his experiences with medical professionals of backgrounds different from his own left him repeatedly disappointed and hesitant to open up.

After his wife had a miscarriage, Macon said, the couple didn’t receive the compassion they longed for while grieving the loss. A few years later, a bad experience with their children’s pediatrician when their oldest child had a painful ear infection sparked a move to a different provider.

“My daughter needed attention right away, but we couldn’t get through to anybody,” Macon recalled. “That’s when my wife said, ‘We aren’t doing this anymore!’”

Today, Macon’s idea of good health care isn’t colorblind. If a doctor can’t provide empathetic and expert treatment, he’s ready to move, even if a replacement is hard to find.

Kimberly Wilson, 31, will soon launch an app for consumers like Macon who are seeking culturally competent care. Therapists, doulas, dentists, specialists and even pharmacists of color will be invited to list their services on HUED. Beta testing is expected to start this summer in New York City and Washington, D.C., and the app will be free for consumers.

“Black Americans are more conscious of their health from a lot of different perspectives,” Wilson said. “We’ve begun to put ourselves forward.”

But even after the introduction of HUED, such health care could be hard to find. While about 13% of the U.S. population is black, only about 6% of the country’s doctors and surgeons are black, according to Data USA. Black pharmacists make up about 7% of the professionals in their field, and, though the demand is high, black students accounted for about 9% of all students enrolled in pharmacy school in 2018.

For Macon, though, the Williamses’ LV Health and Wellness Pharmacy in Shiloh provides some of the support he has been seeking.

“I still remember the very first day I went there. It was almost like a barbershop feel,” Macon said, likening it to the community hubs where customers can chitchat about sports, family and faith while getting their hair cut. “I could relate to who was behind the counter.”


Republished with permission from Kaiser Health News.

I went from prison to professor – here’s why criminal records should not be used to keep people out of college

By Stanley Andrisse, Howard University

Beginning next year, the Common Application – an online form that enables students to apply to the 800 or so colleges that use it – will no longer ask students about their criminal pasts.

As a formerly incarcerated person who now is now an endocrinologist and professor at two world-renowned medical institutions – Johns Hopkins Medicine and Howard University College of Medicine – I believe this move is a positive one. People’s prior convictions should not be held against them in their pursuit of higher learning.

File 20180815 2915 1l5lr0z.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The U.S. leads the world in the rate of incarceration. kittirat roekburi/www.shutterstock.com

While I am enthusiastic about the decision to remove the criminal history question from the Common Application, I also believe more must be done to remove the various barriers that exist between formerly incarcerated individuals such as myself and higher education.

I make this argument not only as a formerly incarcerated person who now teaches aspiring medical doctors, but also as an advocate for people with criminal convictions. The organization I lead – From Prison Cells to PhD – helped push for the change on the Common Application.

My own story stands as a testament to the fact that today’s incarcerated person could become tomorrow’s professor. A person who once sold illegal drugs on the street could become tomorrow’s medical doctor. But this can only happen if such a person, and the many others in similar situations, are given the chance.

There was a time not so long ago when some in the legal system believed I did not deserve a chance. With three felony convictions, I was sentenced to 10 years in prison for drug trafficking as a prior and persistent career criminal. My prosecuting attorney once stated that I had no hope for change.

Today, I am Dr. Stanley Andrisse. As a professor at Johns Hopkins and Howard University, I now help train students who want to be doctors. I’d say that I have changed. Education was transformative.

US incarceration rates the highest

The United States needs to have more of this transformative power of education. The country incarcerates more people and at a higher rate than any other nation in the world. The U.S. accounts for less than 5 percent of the world population but nearly 25 percent of the incarcerated population around the globe.

Roughly 2.2 million people in the United States are essentially locked away in cages. About 1 in 5 of those people are locked up for drug offenses.

“‘How I Learned to Read – and Trade Stocks – in Prison,’ by Curtis ‘Wall Street’ Carroll.

I was one of those people in prison not so long ago.

Early life of crime

Growing up in the Ferguson, North St. Louis area, I started selling drugs and getting involved with other crimes at a very young age. I was arrested for the first time at age 14. By age 17, I was moving substantial amounts of drugs across the state of Missouri and the country. By my early 20s, I found myself sitting in front of a judge and facing 20 years to life for drug trafficking charges. The judge sentenced me to 10 years in state prison.

When I stood in front of that judge, school was not really my thing.

Although I was a successful student athlete and received a near full scholarship to play football for Lindenwood University, a Division II college football program, I found it difficult to get out of the drug business. Suffice it to say, there were people in the drug world who wanted me to keep moving drugs. And they made it clear that they would be extremely disappointed if I were to suddenly stop. So I continued. For this reason, I didn’t view my undergraduate college experience the way I view education now.

The transformative power of education

Education provides opportunities for people with criminal records to move beyond their experience with the penal system and reach their full potential. The more education a person has, the higher their income. Similarly, the more education a person has, the less likely they are to return to prison.

A 2013 analysis of several studies found that obtaining higher education reduced recidivism – the rate of returning to prison – by 43 percent and was four to five times less costly than re-incarcerating that person. The bottom line is education increases personal income and reduces crime.

Despite these facts, education is woefully lacking among those being held in America’s jails and prisons. Nearly 30 percent of America’s incarcerated – about 690,000 people – are released each year and only 60 percent of those individuals have a GED or high school diploma, compared to 90 percent of the overall of U.S. population over age 25. And less than 3 percent of the people released from incarceration each year have a college degree, compared to 40 percent of the U.S. population.

Rejected by colleges

I had a bachelor’s degree by the time I went to prison but never got the chance to put it to use. Then something tragic happened while I was serving time that prompted me to see the need to further my education. Due to complications of diabetes, my father had his legs amputated. He fell into a coma and lost his battle with Type 2 diabetes. I was devastated. This experience made me want to learn more about how to fight this disease.

While incarcerated, I applied to six biomedical graduate programs. I was rejected from all but one – Saint Louis University. Notably, I had a mentor from Saint Louis University who served on the admission committee. Without that personal connection, I’m not sure I would have ever gotten a second chance.

I finished near the top of my graduate school class, suggesting that I was likely qualified for the programs that rejected me.

Restore Pell grants to incarcerated people 

Based on the difficulty I experienced in going from prison to becoming a college professor, I believe there are things that should be done to remove barriers for incarcerated or formerly incarcerated people who wish to pursue higher education.

One of those barriers is cost. When the government removed Pell funding from prisons by issuing the "tough on crime” Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the vast majority of colleges offering courses in prison stopped. Due to the federal ban on receiving Pell grants while incarcerated, most of those serving time are not able to afford to take college courses while in prison. The Obama administration took a step toward trying to restore Pell grants for those in prison with the Second Chance Pell pilot. The program has given over 12,000 incarcerated individuals across the nation the chance to use Pell grants toward college courses in prison.

Inmate Terrell Johnson, a participant in the Goucher College Prison Education Partnership at Maryland Correctional Institution-Jessup, speaks with then-Education Secretary Arne Duncan in 2015. Patrick Semansky/AP

Through the program, 67 colleges and universities are working with over 100 prisons to provide college courses to the incarcerated.

Under the Trump administration, this program is at-risk of being discontinued at the end of 2018. Historically, some have argued that allowing Pell dollars to be used by those in prison takes precious Pell dollars from people who did not violate the law. However, the current Second Chance Pell pilot funding being directed to prisons, $30 million, accounts for 0.1 percent of the total $28 billion of Pell funding. Even if the program were expanded, based on historical levels, it would still amount to one-half of 1 percent of all Pell funding. This is justified by the impact that Pell dollars would have in prison in terms of reducing recidivism.

Remove questions about drug crimes from federal aid forms

Federal policymakers could increase opportunities by removing Question 23 on the federal student aid form that asks if applicants have been convicted of drug crimes. A 2015 study found that nearly 66 percent of would-be undergraduates who disclosed a conviction on their college application did not finish their application.

Federal student aid applicants likely feel the same discouragement. I felt discouraged myself when I was applying to graduate programs when I came across the question about whether I had ever been convicted of a crime. It made me feel like I was nothing more than a criminal in the eyes of the college gatekeepers.

This question also disproportionately effects people of color, since people of color are disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system. Furthermore, the question runs the risk of making formerly incarcerated people feel isolated and less valuable than those who’ve never gotten in trouble with the law.

When people who have been incarcerated begin to feel like they don’t belong and higher education is not for them, our nation will likely not be able to realize their potential and hidden talents.

It will be as if we have locked them up and thrown away the key.


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation

War on Black People

The "War on Black People" which was disguised as a "War on Drugs" has resulted in unintended mass casualties of white people. A report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January revealed that drug-overdose deaths reached a new high in 2014, totaling 47,055 people. Opioids were involved in 60% of those deaths, 90% of heroin users are white.

John Ehrlichman, President Richard Nixon's domestic policy advisor, admitted to a conspiracy when he made the following comments during a 1994 Harper's Magazine inteview concerning the "War on Drugs".

"You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies, the anti-war left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."

Until the late 19th century drugs were used legally in the United States with much public indifference and very little government interference. Taxes on psychoactive substances provided a significant part of government revenue for most modern nations prior to the advent of income taxation.

Prior to 1800, opium was widely available in the United States, and throughout the world, as an ingredient in numerous products and “multidrug prescriptions. Morphine, a derivative of opium, was first discovered in 1804. Heroin, an opiate derived from morphine, was “discovered” in 1874 and marketed in 1898 by Bayer Pharmaceuticals as “The Sedative for Coughs.”

States were the first to enact drug prohibition laws. In 1875 San Francisco passed an antiopium law that is widely considered the first of its kind, targeting only the smoking of opium, which was common among Chinese immigrants, and not affecting the myriad other forms of opium use favored by most Americans. The states of California and Nevada passed similar laws and the federal government soon followed. In 1883 Congress raised the import tariff on smoking opium, leaving opium imported for other purposes unaffected

There’s Never Been a Drug Law That Wasn’t Tied to Race

Concern about drug use in America began with associating opium with the Chinese, cocaine with “Negroes,” alcohol with urban Catholic immigrants, heroin with urban immigrants, and marijuana with Mexicans. 

Associating Chinese opium use with corruption of American values and female chastity was an easily alluring explanation for social problems. Smoking opium, like the "Chinamen" who introduced the habit, became a despicable practice.

Changing perceptions of cocaine at the turn of the 20th century were also linked to race. Plantation owners and other employers soon found great value in cocaine as a means of improving productivity and controlling workers, and some even began supplying it to their black crews. 

In the late 1800s poor black laborers in the South developed the habit of snorting cocaine to help them endure strenuous conditions. Sniffing was the quickest and cheapest way to ingest cocaine. Although, cocaine sniffing was more popular with whites and was especially associated with the criminal cultures of prostitutes, pimps, gamblers and other white “urban hoodlums,” poor blacks and cocaine became firmly linked in the public mind. People from the upper and professional class preferred injecting cocaine with a needle. 

Racial tensions in the South soon transformed the image of black cocaine use into a source of white fear. Propaganda about “cocainized” blacks leaving plantations and construction sites on sexual rampages having their way with white women stirred panic. Medical publications supported this myth with stories of how cocaine could transform law-abiding Negroes into menacing predators with increased and perverted sexual desire. Newspapers reported that there was "little doubt that every Jew peddler in the South carries the stuff." 

Other popular legends attributed cocaine giving blacks superhuman strength and that southern police departments switched from .32 caliber to .38 caliber revolvers because cocaine made crazed blacks impervious to the smaller rounds.

In the 1920s the Du Pont Company had developed and patented numerous petroleum-based products, including fuel additives, chemical processes for the manufacture of paper from wood pulp and numerous synthetic products such as nylon, cellophane and other plastics.  

By 1935 raw cellulose from hemp (cannabis) had become a viable option for fuel, fabric and plastics and paper – a cheaper, cleaner and renewable raw material compared to petroleum. Faced with this competition, Lammont DuPont lobbied the U.S. Treasury Department to seek the prohibition of hemp

Business interests of William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate, were also threatened by hemp, as his timber holdings and his joint enterprises with DuPont for wood-based pulp papermaking would have been rendered uncompetitive. Hearst used his chain of newspapers to aggravate racial tensions, portraying Mexicans in particular as lazy, degenerate and violent and as job stealers and smokers of “marihuana” – a word brought into the common parlance due in part to frequent mentions in Hearst’s publications. The aggressive efforts to demonize cannabis were effective, as the sheer number of newspapers, tabloids, magazines and film reels under Hearst’s control enabled him to inundate American media with propaganda. Americans readily accepted the stories of crazed crimes incited by marijuana use, and official accounts of the “evils” of marijuana continue to color popular opinion of the drug today. 

President Nixon embarked on a new era of drug control. Shortly after assuming office in 1969, Nixon announced a global campaign to stamp out drugs and drug traffickers. He launched “Operation Intercept” and ordered the closure of 2,500 miles of the Mexican border and searches of hundreds of thousands of people and vehicles. In 1970 Nixon created the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse and in 1971 he declared drugs to be “public enemy number one.” These actions marked the initiation of the national and international “War on Drugs.” Thanks to Erlickman, we now know the real motivation behind the "War on Drugs" was to target blacks and other political enemies. However, African-Americans have now become the primary targets. See related post, "40 Reasons Our Jails and Prisons Are Full of Black and Poor People".

There was no wave of compassion when addicts were hooked on crack

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people. Overdose deaths in white communities have reached epidemic proportions because society in general was so indifferent to drug addiction when it was a consider a black problem. As was stated in "First They Came", It’s just a matter of time before the injustices people remain silent about, visits them.

It's time to stop denying racism exist and is a major problem.

"The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything." –  Scott Woods

Bayer and Monsanto: A Marriage Made in Hell

Today, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that, "Bayer, Monsanto said to be moving closer to a merger deal". Considering the history of Black people being victimized by medical experimentation and the history of Bayer's participation in the Holocaust while part of IG Farben, the merger is not welcome news to me.

On December 25, 1925 six companies Bayer, BASF, Hoechst including Cassella and Chemische Fabrik Kalle, Agfa, Chemische Fabrik Griesheim-Elektron, and Chemische Fabrik vorm merged to form IG Farben. 

The IG Farben Trial concluded that IG Farben had committed war crimes including active participation in the Holocaust. IG Farben had constructed a plant next to the concentration camp  Auschwitz, with the clear intent to use inmates as slave workers. The indictment against IG Farben included:

  • Planning, preparation, initiation, and waging of wars of aggression and invasions of other countries.
  • War crimes and crimes against humanity through the plundering and spoliation of occupied territories, and the seizure of plants in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, France, and Russia.
  • War crimes and crimes against humanity through participation in the enslavement and deportation to slave labor on a gigantic scale of concentration camp inmates and civilians in occupied countries, and of prisoners of war, and the mistreatment, terrorization, torture, and murder of enslaved persons.

The Soviet Union seized most of IG Farben's assets located in the Soviet occupation zone. However, because of the company's large investment of American companies, the idea of destroying IG Farben was quickly abandoned in the western occupation zone. In 1951, the company was split into its original companies and the four largest including Bayer quickly bought the smaller ones. IG Farben was officially put into liquidation in 1952, however, as of 2012, it still existed as a corporation in liquidation.

It's important to consider a company's past history and consider what it may be capable of in the future. The article below provides information concerning the history of both Bayer and Monsanto.


By Martha Rosenberg, Ronnie Cummins

The two multinationals that teamed up during the Vietnam War to poison millions of people with its Agent Orange herbicide—St. Louis, Mo.-based Monsanto and Germany’s Bayer AG—are looking to become one. 

Bayer has announced a bid  to buy Monsanto in a deal that would expand Bayer's GMO and pesticide holdings and add drugs to Monsanto’s global portfolio. Monsanto has rejected the latest bid, but the two are still in talks.

If Monsanto, perhaps the most hated GMO company in the world, joins hands with Bayer, one of the most hated Big Pharma corporations on Earth (whose evil deeds date back to World War I and the Nazi era), the newly formed seed-pesticide-drug behemoth would have combined annual sales of $67 billion.

That’s a staggering figure. But here’s another, even more alarming: Combined, the new mega-chemical/seed company would control 29 percent of the world’s seed market and 24 percent of the pesticide market. 

The Bayer-Monsanto merger is the third recent proposed consolidation in the agriculture markets in just months, following on the heels of proposed mergers between chemical and agritoxics titans Dow and DuPont, and ChemChina and Syngenta.  

"All of a sudden we have three major transactions at the same time," Matt Arnold, an Edward Jones analyst, told the News Journal. "One would think that would prompt regulators to really dial up the scrutiny and think long and hard about whether that much consolidation is in the best interest of farmers and consumers."

Indeed, reports the Journal, all three proposed mergers face antitrust reviews by agencies in the U.S., Europe and China, reports the Journal, including by the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Department of Justice, the European Commission and stockholders of the publicly traded companies.

Already shareholders have spoken out, terming the move "arrogant empire-building," reported Reuters. Shareholders also worry that the takeover would dilute Bayer’s core drug business currently flush with sales of its blood-thinner Xarelto and Eylea, a drug to treat blindness.

As noted, this is not the first time Bayer and Monsanto will have teamed up, if the deal goes through. “During the Vietnam war, Bayer was involved in the development of Agent Orange production….carried out at the firm Mobay, founded jointly by Bayer and Monsanto,”says Coalition Against Bayer Dangers. The defoliant herbicide Agent Orange was sprayed over millions of acres in Vietnam for over a decade in “Operation Ranch Hand,” despite numerous scientific studies and thousands, later millions of medical cases linking the toxic chemical to birth defects and stillbirths in animals and humans.

Bayer, a history of unsafe drugs

Bayer and Monsanto both sell controversial toxic agricultural chemicals and GMO seeds. But if Bayer’s bid to take over Monsanto goes through, it would mark Monsanto’s first entry into Big Pharma. 

Last year, Bayer was named the ninth largest drug company in the world on the basis of its yearly revenue of $25.47 billion. The drug giant, though, has been beset with drug safety scandals, including deaths, for at least three decades. Here are just a few of the scandals that made the news,

•    Blood clotting drug spread AIDS

In the 1980s, Bayer sold Factor VIII concentrate, a blood-clotting medicine acquired from Cutter Laboratories in 1978. Though Factor VIII carried a high risk of transmitting AIDS and Bayer knew, Bayer continued to sell the drug in Asia and Latin America while selling a new, safer product in the West. 

In Hong Kong and Taiwan alone, more than 100 hemophiliacs got H.I.V. and "many have since died, "reported the New York Times. Cutter's "financial investment in the product was considered too high to destroy the inventory," said William Heisel of the Center for Health Reporting. "Cutter continued to sell the contaminated AHF to markets willing to accept it, including overseas markets in Asia and Latin America, without the recommended precaution of heat treating the product to eliminate the risk."

•    Statin Baycol recalled

In 2001, Bayer withdrew its lucrative new statin drug Baycol because more than 50 people had died and more than six million patients were at risk from the deadly side effects of rapidly dissolving of muscle tissue. Bayer removed the drug from pharmacy shelves in the U.S., Europe and Japan, and U.S. and German lawyers announced that they are planning an amended class-action lawsuit in the U.S. that would allow European victims to seek damages.

As deaths grew, Bayer stuck to its story "that there is currently no proof that the drug is the cause of the deaths" and assured shareholders that "Our sales this year will increase even though Baycol will now be absent." Recently, Bayer was sentenced to pay damages to Baycol victims in in Argentina and Italy. "Internal documents show that Bayer’s management was aware of the serious health risk for patients and even ignored warnings from within the company," . 

•    Yaz birth control pill causes deaths

Bayer's Yaz birth control pills promised to clear up acne and treat severe PMS in addition to preventing pregnancy. But soon after the Yaz launch in 2006, there were reports of associated blood clots, gall bladder disease, heart attacks and even strokes. The Bayer birth control pills contained drospirenone, a drug that was never before marketed in the U.S. and likely caused the heart problems through elevated potassium, and a change in acid balance of the blood.

TV ads for Yaz in 2008 were so misleading, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), in a rare move, ordered Bayer to run correction ads. Thousands of injuries and approximately 100 deaths were linked to Yaz in law filings that followed. 

•    Xarelto, shady approval of a dangerous drug

In 2012, the New York Times reported on a class of new anti-clotting drugs which have no antidote and can cause alarming bleeding deaths. Xarelto is one of them. Even as 379 deaths have been linked to Xarelto, there are reports of hidden and falsified data and faulty technology that helped win the controversial drug FDA approval. Trials were conducted by Duke's Robert Califf, who later became the new FDA Commissioner. No conflict of interest there. 

•    Baytril, animal antibiotic blocked by FDA

2015 Bayer brochure, coinciding with public awareness of antibiotic abuse in livestock, says Bayer Animal Health "objects" to "routine prophylactic use in healthy animals" of fluoroquinolones, a type of antibiotic. 

Yet it was just such "prophylactic use" that got Bayer's fluoroquinolone Baytril blocked by the FDA a decade ago.  The FDA said  the routine use of Baytril in chickens "has made it difficult for doctors to treat human patients who have food poisoning." Union of Concerned Scientists called the decision a "big victory for public health." The FDA Commissioner at the time, Lester Crawford, remarked that Baytril "has not been shown to be safe for use in poultry." The FDA continues to struggle against the powerful lobbying of drug companies selling livestock antibiotics, often by the ton.

The devil’s chemist

Many people have heard rumors about Bayer’s roles in WWI and WWII. Sadly, they are true and sometimes worse than have been reported. “Carl Duisberg, the Bayer General Director for decades, was personally involved in the development of poison gas such as ‘Mustard Gas’ in World War I and pushed for its use on the front–contrary to international law,”reports Coalition against Bayer Dangers. Duisberg demanded the deportation of tens of thousands of Belgian forced laborers, according to the Coalition, and “strongly supported the merging of the German chemical industry to create the Ig Farben” implicated in Nazi atrocities.

“The Ig Farben cartel was crucial to the Nazi war effort by supplying synthetic fuel, rubber, and other chemicals,” reports Natural News. The cartel also manufactured Zyklon-B, the nerve gas used to kill millions at the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Birkenau and elsewhere. Later known as the Devil's Chemists, Ig Farben used unwilling inmates of the concentration camps as slave laborers and guinea pigs to test chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and vaccines. Tens of thousands died, and those who became too ill to be of any use were murdered in the gas chambers, according to a Natural News report. 

It is hard to believe a company linked to the Holocaust, including grisly human experiments conducted on concentration camp victims, would be thriving in the pharmaceutical, agrochemical and GMO sectors. But it’s true, as evidenced by this correspondence between an Auschwitz camp commander and Bayer Leverkusen, which cites the “sale” of 150 female prisoners for experiments:

With a view to the planned experiments with a new sleep-inducing drug we would appreciate it if you could place a number of prisoners at our disposal (…)" – "We confirm your response, but consider the price of 200 RM per woman to be too high. We propose to pay no more than 170 RM per woman. If this is acceptable to you, the women will be placed in our possession. We need some 150 women (…)" – "We confirm your approval of the agreement. Please prepare for us 150 women in the best health possible (…)" – "Received the order for 150 women. Despite their macerated condition they were considered satisfactory. We will keep you informed of the developments regarding the experiments (…)" – "The experiments were performed. All test persons died. We will contact you shortly about a new shipment (…)"

From chemical warfare to “crop science”

Bayer is in agrochemicals and GMOs as deeply as Monsanto, the company it seeks to buy. In 2008, the German Coalition against Bayer brought a charge against the Bayer Board of Management with the Public Prosecutor in Freiburg (south-western Germany) accusing Bayer of contributing to the mass death of bees all over the world through its aggressive pesticide marketing. Since then, the bee debacle has only grown worse, with thousands of hives collapsing after poisoning by the pesticide clothianidin, producing a worldwide crisis.

Since 1991, Bayer has been producing the insecticide Imidacloprid, one of the world’s best-selling insecticides. Imidacloprid is used to pre-treat genetically engineered corn, sunflower and rapeseed (canola) seeds, despite evidence seeds with insecticides is ineffective. Imidacloprid was one of Bayer´s top pesticides, exported to more than 120 countries. When its patent expired, Bayer brought a similarly functioning successor product, Clothianidin, onto the market in 2003. Both substances are systemic chemicals that work their way from the seed through the plant. The substances also get into the pollen and the nectar and can damage beneficial insects such as bees.

In 2006, the Washington Post reported that Bayer’s GMO rice, LLRICE 601 rice, endowed with bacterial DNA that makes rice plants resistant to a weed killer made by the agricultural giant Aventis, was spreading out of control. U.S. commercial supplies of long-grain rice had become inadvertently contaminated with the rice not approved for human consumption, said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. 

The following year, Bayer admitted it was unable to control the spread of its genetically-engineered organisms despite “the best practices [to stop contamination],” demonstrating once again that all outdoors field trials or commercial growing of GMO crops must be stopped

Europe has been way ahead of the U.S. in acknowledging the dangers and banning GMOs and dangerous pesticides.

Is merger a sign of decline?

While a Bayer-Monsanto deal (like a DuPont-Dow deal or ChemChina-Syngenta deal) certainly threatens the world food supply with domination by GMOs and destructive agrochemicals, there may be an underreported bright side: Industries that are doing well generally spin off; industries that are performing poorly generally merge and consolidate.

Recent reports suggest the stock of large agricultural, biotech and seed companies, including Monsanto, is foundering, –a likely reflection of the growing, world-wide rejection of their products.  Moreover, even though the long-awaited, industry-friendly National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report did not find human “dangers” in eating GMOs, it also definitively did not find they produced greater crop yields. Wait—wasn’t that the justification given for creating GMO crops? 

Thanks in large part to the global anti-GMO and Millions Against Monsanto movement, the Biotech Tech Bully from St. Louis is on the ropes. By changing its name, Monsanto hopes we’ll forget its evil deeds.

Not a chance, On October 14-16, merged or not with Bayer, the OCA and the global grassroots will expose Monsanto’s crimes against humanity and the environment at the Monsanto Tribunal, a citizens’ tribunal which will take place in The Hague, Netherlands. 

Perhaps it’s time to put Bayer and Big Pharma on trial as well and build an even larger global united front: Billions Against Bayer-Monsanto.


Republished with permission under license by CommonDreams

When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose

Political leaders, police and news media always seem to be perplexed about violent crime, especially when it happens in unexpected areas. The recent incidents of criminal activity in downtown St. Louis prompted people to ask why some seem to have so little regard for others.

Mayor Slay pledged a crackdown on downtown St. Louis crime, but didn't promise a similar crackdown on crime in other areas. It's as if crime happening in other areas was unimportant or as if suddenly people are now committing illegal acts, but only in areas that matter. Evidently, murders and other crime that occur in some neighborhoods are less urgent than others.

Poverty and crime are related. The United Nations and the World Bank acknowledge poverty, oppression, inequality and lack of economic opportunities results in increased criminal activity. When inequalities are great, crime goes through the roof. When people see vast wealth differences, especially if the wealth disparity is based on injustice, crime becomes even worse. People who have nothing, often feel they have nothing to lose and they aren't that concerned about what others have to lose. 

Before heroin addiction became an epidemic in white middle-class communities, drug addicts, especially black ones were treated as criminals which increased the vicious nature of some crimes. Factor in poverty and drug addiction and increased criminal activity is easy to understand. Common sense tells me that since drug addiction has increased in white communities, crime has already increased or will soon. Those white drug addicts consider their drug of choice a necessity and will do anything to get them. Drug distribution networks that government and law enforcement allowed to flourish during the black crack epidemic are now fully entrenched to supply the white heroin epidemic. Ironically, most of the black heroin addicts that I have learned about recently lived in predominately white communities.

The FBI ranks St. Louis as the top US city for violent crime. St. Louis was ranked as one of the most segregated and the third poorest city with a population over 200,000 in the United States. The City of St. Louis has a legacy of racism and corruption that has contributed to poverty and current crime problems. Ferguson should have been a wake-up call for the region, instead the St. Louis City Police Chief coined the phrase "Ferguson Effect", to indicated increased crime was caused by those complaining about oppression.

The entire St. Louis Region appears to be in denial about racial and economic injustice and oppression. St. Louis has the Delmar Divide, a street that divides communities by race which gained international attention a few years ago. St. Louis has a reputation of being a racist city. In the short documentary film, "Racism in St. Louis", one film creator explained that even a homeless man in New York mentioned how racist St. Louis was.

Many of the U.S. Supreme Court Decisions concerning St. Louis involved racial issues including the Dred Scott Case which was one of the major issues leading the country to Civil War. In fact, in 1847, William W. Brown stated, "no part of our slave-holding country, is more noted for the barbarity of its inhabitants, than St. Louis". Racial restrictive covenants were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the St. Louis case of Shelley vs Kraemer.

Even the standard test of racial employment discrimination by the U.S. Supreme Court was created in the St. Louis case of Green vs McDonnell Douglass. Until St. Louis takes steps to correct past injustices, this city and region will continue to decline. 

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Just about every college student learns about a motivational theory developed by Abraham Maslow in the 1940's. His theory is taught in a variety of subjects including education, psychology, business management and marketing.

Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory proposed that motivation is the result of a person's attempt at fulfilling five basic needs: physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualization.

Physiological needs are those needs required for human survival such as air, food, water, shelter, clothing and sleep. A person will do just about anything to meet these needs; including violent crime.This doesn't mean that only poor people commit crimes, but the motivation for committing those crimes are different.  

People of means often commit crimes of greed, so-called "white-collar crime".

White collar crime is usually financially motivated, nonviolent crime committed by business and government professionals such as bribery, kickbacks, corruption, fraud, embezzlement, insider trading and a variety of other crimes. These are not victimless crimes. A single scam can destroy a company, devastate families by wiping out their life savings, or cost investors billions of dollars (or even all three). Today’s fraud schemes are more sophisticated than ever. 

Poor people often commit crimes of need, based on perceived necessity or survival. 

When a person can't feed himself or his family and can't find work what do you think they'll do? Starve? No, depending on their level of desperateness, they will do whatever is necessary. Some will borrow, some will seek public assistance if they qualify or beg, others will steal. Some time ago, the media was reporting how theft of Tide laundry detergent had dramatically increased and most recently, a shoplifter was shot trying to steal steaks and toilet paper. Those people were stealing food and other basic need items.

Many people facing hunger or homelessness believe they have nothing to lose, and nothing is more dangerous to society than a person who has nothing to lose. St. Louis needs to start addressing the causes of crime instead of just reacting to it. 

A Dose of Heroin Reality

A West Virginia television news station ran a segment, "WSAZ Investigates: A Dose of Reality," showing an EMS supervisor, Chad Ward, responding to a heroin overdose, while wearing a body cam depicting the devastating effect Heroin is having in West Virginia.

This same sort of tragedy is playing out all over the country, including Missouri. I saw many people, including classmates, friends and family members suffer from the effects of drug addiction. Criminalizing drug use and mass incarceration  of drug users and addicts compounded the negative effects.

Narcan (Naloxone) is a drug that reverses an overdose, it is creating more concern than comfort according to an EMS professional because "it gives drug users a false sense of security." They are concerned that people who are using or abusing these drugs are going to get into the mindset of "well somebody's going to have Norcan."

Rising Overdose Deaths

Deaths from overdoses of narcotic prescription painkillers more than tripled in the U.S. from 2000 to 2014. These drugs now kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined.

Years ago, many people believed that drugs was a black or brown problem and didn't care as long as their community was not negatively affected. The same was true when crime and murders seemly occurred only in certain areas. However, as mentioned in a previous post, the fastest growing demographic of drug addiction is in white communities. Within the last two years, there have been at least 767 overdose deaths in the St. Louis area. With increasing drug use comes increasing crime.

I was raised in North St. Louis during the seventies and literally saw the decline. During the early 70's, just about any service or product was available in the neighborhood. First there was white flight, then a reduction in city services, then businesses left, drug use increased (some government sanctioned), crime increased, and now the North Side is a shell of it's former self.

Just about all major manufacturing left North City and moved to predominately white communities, often rural areas, far removed from the city. For example, GM manufactured Corvettes at Union and Natural Bridge until 1981, two years later in 1983, GM opened a manufacturing plant in Wentzville, MO.

When manufacturers began leaving black urban areas, no one cared. Once that pattern was established, corporations realized they could "flight" the country and move manufacturing to China and Mexico with little or no repercussions. Now many of the same jobs that left urban areas are now moving out of predominately white areas to other countries. As Martin Luther King once stated, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Carrier Corporation is the latest example of this trend, earlier this week, Carrier announced the closure of manufacturing plants in Indiana. Those jobs will be moving to Mexico.

Trump and others have been proposing closing the border, so I guess corporations figure if those workers can not longer come here, they will go there. Remember, closing the borders can work both ways. If the best manufacturing jobs end up in Mexico in the next decade, Americans may not be able to cross the border to get those jobs. Just food for thought. It's easy to be insensitive to economic suffering, when that suffering is not your own.

Economic Predictions

It has been estimate that computerization and robotics will eliminate half of all jobs in the U.S. in less than ten years. That doesn't include the number of jobs lost to other countries.

As economic conditions worsen, drug use will most likely continue to skyrocket. If an ultra conservative candidate gets elected as president, many of the safety nets that currently exist could be reduced or eliminated completely.

West Virginia's coal economy has been devastated because of clean coal regulation and alternative energy. Like most other states, West Virginia, over time reduced social programs and now many people there, in mostly white communities, lack adequate food, housing and health care.  Some of these people who now need social services may have been among the very ones who argued for reductions. West Virginia is a window into the future.

Since World War II, the dominant or reserve currency of the world has been the U.S. dollar, but that is changing. Around the time I was born, GM, U.S. Steel, General Electric, Goodyear and AT&T were among the nation's largest employers. Those companies provided good paying jobs and firmly established the middle class. Today, Wal-Mart is the nation's largest private employer; Target, Kroger and Sears are among the top ten largest employers in the country and many of those jobs are part-time low wage positions.

In 1945, there were 41.9 workers supporting each social security retiree; by 2010 there were just 2.9 workers per retiree and as baby boomers continue to age, the numbers will only get worse. This is not a sustainable system. The private pension system is not much better off, that's why some union retirees will see their pensions reduced, some more than half starting in July 2016.

I suspect one of the reasons union organizers were trying so hard to unionize fast food workers and get them pay increases, was to have a fresh supply of dues paying members to shore up union pension funds for existing union retirees.

When the great recession hit, I had a managerial position and reported directly to the company president. I owned four homes and I was the last person worried about a job loss. Things changed! Hopefully you'll use the information presented on this website to prepare yourself in case things also change for you. If you're not prepared for change, the consequence could be devastating.

Crime Won’t Decrease, Until Oppression Decreases

St. Louis has the highest murder rate in the country. Unfortunately, it seemed as long as murders were only being committed within certain neighborhoods, no one outside the community really cared. Once murders and shootings began occurring in the Central West End, Downtown and other areas a crisis was declared. The speed in which suspects were found when the victim was white, was amazing and reflects an urgency disparity.

Greater concern, effort, and resources are expended when the victim is white. The media uses a different vocabulary to describe white victims and seldom are drugs or illegal activity mentioned. When a black shooting victim states they don't know why they were targeted, their integrity is questioned along with the possibility of the incident being drug or gang related. White victims appear to be instantly believed, even when their stories seem bazaar.

I am fifty years old, and during my lifetime, there have been 9,415 murders in St. Louis; an average of 188 per year. Among those victims were my brother-in-law and nephew. I don't know any black family that hasn't been touched directly or indirectly by murder. There was no crisis declared, no end violence initiatives by news channels until multiple white people became victims.

Ironically, some people seem to think that before channel 4's #EndViolenceSTL, that no one was concerned or addressing violence in our community. There have been multiple attempts to raise awareness and end violence, the most notable recent attempt was a Call to Oneness.

Unfortunately, a 16-year-old was killed just hours after the Call to Oneness event.  There was a "Clergy call for citywide prayer to end violence in St. Louis", months before Michael Brown. Until the  root causes of crime are addressed, various forms of oppression, it will continue and we are all at risk to falling victim to it.

War on drugs

The war on drugs was waged almost exclusively against black and brown people. After a new drug crisis was declared when methamphetamine and heroin began affecting white communities, no new drug war was declared. In fact, once large numbers of white kids became addicted to drugs, the country suddenly started to realize that the war on drugs was too harsh and unfair. Instead of calling for incarceration of these new white addicts, medical treatment was prescribed for their "illness".

American Drug War:The Last White Hope (a kevin booth film)

Visit Los Angeles, New York, Chicago or any other major city in the United States and you'll discover a statistical anomaly; each of these cities contains impoverished areas that are overwhelmingly black or brown. Unless you're prepared to say that black and brown people are less ambitious, less intelligent or inferior; you must come to the realization that those groups are artificially held back by institutionalized oppression and discrimination.

The sad reality is that many people  have been conditioned to believe that something is wrong with black and brown people. Unfortunately, some black people even believe this myth. Some have even convinced themselves that because they achieved some measure of success, they are somehow the exception to the rule. They don't seem to understand that when they move into an all-white community or attend white schools, that standard is applied to them and they are considered by those around them as less than. If you indict a group of people and you are a member of that group, you cannot escape the indictment.

Until systemic oppression and inequality ends, including; abusive policing, government policy, inferior education, business practices, media bias, resource distribution, unfair court practices, mass incarceration, and employment discrimination, crime will continue to rise and will spill over into communities that had previously been considered immune or safe.  Increasingly, criminals are beginning to realize it is more profitable to target people with more resources.

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced,  where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe” – Frederick Douglass

Crime and Poverty

Both the United Nations and the World Bank indicate  poverty, oppression, inequality and lack of economic opportunities results in increased criminal activity. When inequalities are great, crime goes through the roof. When people see vast wealth differences, especially if the wealth disparity is based on injustice, crime becomes even worse.

According to the U.S. Census  Bureau, in the United States, there were 46.7 million people in poverty in 2014. The official poverty rate was 14.8 percent. Contrary to some common stereotypes about America’s poor, which included 25,659,922 Whites, 11,197,648 Hispanics, 9,472,583 Blacks, and 1,899,448 Asians; poverty affects all groups.

At least 4.2 million, one-third of the 13 million children living in poverty are white, 27% of Latino children (4 million), 33% of black children (3.6 million), 12% of Asian children (400,000) and 40% of American Indian (200,000). Source National Center for Children in Poverty.

Even Elvis' recognized this when he recorded, "The Ghetto" in 1969. This song is about poverty, describing a child who can't overcome his surroundings and turns to crime, which leads to his death. It was the first song Elvis recorded with a socially-conscious message. He was reluctant to do it for that reason.


Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Just about every college student will learn about a motivational theory developed by Abraham Maslow in the 1940's. His theory is taught in a variety of subjects including education, psychology, business management and marketing.

Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory proposed that motivation is the result of a person's attempt at fulfilling five basic needs: physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualization.

Physiological needs are those needs required for human survival such as air, food, water, shelter, clothing and sleep. A person will do just about anything to meet these needs.

Safety needs include those needs that provide a person with a sense of security and well-being. Personal security, financial security, good health and protection from accidents, harm, and their adverse effects are all included in safety needs.

Social needs also called love and belonging, refer to the need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. Social needs are important to humans so that they do not feel alone, isolated and depressed. Friendships, family, and intimacy all work to fulfill social needs.

Esteem needs refer to the need for self-esteem and respect, with self-respect being slightly more important than gaining respect and admiration from others.

Self-actualization needs describe a person's need to reach his or her full potential. The need to become what one is capable of is something that is highly personal. While I might have the need to be a good parent, you might have the need to hold an executive-level position within your organization.

I remember watching the Hurricane Katrina news coverage and wondering if the government was purposefully trying to create a Maslow situation to cause people to act on their survival instincts to show images of blacks behaving like animals. How else could the government's lack of aid to such an enormous disaster be described?

The opposite occurred and the people of New Orleans displayed exceptional amounts of humanity towards one another.


Food Stamps

In many countries that do not provide an adequate safety net, kidnapping and other crimes that target well-off citizens are common. What many people do not seem to understand is that social programs such as food stamps, section 8 and others that help people meet basic needs, prevents people from being forced to turn to crime to meet those needs.

Use a simple common sense approach. What would you do if after following all the rules, you could not afford to provide for the basic needs of your family and your children are hungry? If you do not have family or friends who can help; and if there is no outside assistance available, many people would do things they would not have considered doing previously.

The media has demonized the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — formerly known as "food stamps" over the years, often portraying the recipients as lazy, dependent, or unwilling to work.

Most SNAP recipients don’t rely exclusively on the benefits for food – only 22 percent of the program’s 47 million beneficiaries in 2013 had zero gross income. Many recipients have recently lost their jobs, are low wage earners or employed part time. Among those 22 percent with zero gross income are children, elderly, people affected by disasters, injured or too ill to work.

As pointed out in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, when a person can't feed themselves or their family, they will do whatever is necessary to fulfill that need.  Oxford University and the Pew Research Center have estimated that half of all job that exists today will be gone within ten years. The irony is that as computerization and robotics displace large numbers of workers; the very people complaining about these benefits today, will be the same ones that the benefits will not available for tomorrow.

Recent profiles of successful individuals illustrate how SNAP helps disadvantaged people achieve success.

Famous People who were on Food Stamps

When Jan Koum sold his company, WhatsApp, to Facebook for $19 billion on February 19, 2014, he signed the paperwork against the front door of the welfare office where his family used to collect food stamps. After the sale of WhatsApp, the Huffington Post profiled a number of prominent people who have had to rely on food stamps, including:

President Barack Obama and his mother Ann Dunham received food stamps when the future president was a baby.

Musician Bruce Springsteen received food stamps during the earlier parts of his career. I have always respected the fact that Springsteen recorded "American Skin (41 Shots)" is a song inspired by the police shooting death of Amadou Diallo.

For those not familiar with Amadou Diallo

Dr. Ben Carson, in his book "Gifted Hands", wrote, “By the time I reached ninth grade, mother had made such strides that she received nothing but food stamps," …"She couldn’t have provided for us and kept up the house without that subsidy.”

Craig T. Nelson who was once helped with food stamps seemed to be making an argument against government assistance for others.

Other notable food stamp recipients

Olympic speed skater Emily Scott was forced to apply for food stamps when her monthly Olympic stipend was cut to just $600.

Viola Davis, Actress – grew up in extreme poverty and stated, "I Have Stolen, Jumped in Garbage Bins With Maggots For Food"

Scarlett Johansson – She stated, “My family grew up relying on public assistance to help provide meals for our family”.

Taraji P. Henson,  – Was on welfare after the tragic death of her husband

Kelly Clarkson – grew up poor living on food stamps.

Oprah Winfrey, – her mother had to rely on welfare to feed her family.

J.K Rowland – “Harry Potter” author argues government assistance helped her survive in her early years.

Whoopi Goldberg – became a mother at 17 and relied on welfare until she was able to do better.

Iyanla Vanzantraised in a family that relied on welfare to get by.

Tobey Maguire "As a kid, I was very poor. I mean, it's all relative, but we would get groceries from neighbors. I always had a roof over my head, but I slept on couches of relatives, and some night we wandered into a shelter. My family had food stamps and government medical insurance.

I've often wondered if we as a society have failed to properly educate and support a child who would have cured cancer.


Five Hour Energy Billionaire Trying to Make a Difference in the lives of the poor