Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘illinois

Mass Incarceration and the War on Terror

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A common criticism of the Bush Administration was that, in prosecuting the War on Terror, the administration turned its back on fundamental American ideals such as due process, the right to counsel, and habeas corpus. (See, for instance, Jane Mayer’s indispensable expose The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, Doubleday, 2008.) Yet, in a recent article in the NYU Review of Law and Social Change, Georgetown law professor and former public defender James Forman Jr. suggests that the War on Terror was not so much a reversal, as the logical extension of the War on Crime in the era of mass incarceration. The full cite is “Exporting Harshness: How the War on Crime Helped Make the War on Terror Possible,” 33 NYU Rev. L. & Soc. Change 331 (2009). From the introduction (pp. 332-33):

While I share much of the criticism of how we have waged the war on terror, I suspect it is both too simple and ultimately too comforting to assert that the Bush administration alone remade our justice system and betrayed our values. …

By pursuing certain policies and using particular rhetoric domestically, I suggest, we have rendered thinkable what would otherwise have been unthinkable. Moreover, as the world’s largest jailer, we are increasingly desensitized to the harsh treatment of criminals. We have come to accept such excesses as casualties of war—whether on crime, drugs, or terror. Indeed, more than that, we no longer see what we do as special, different, or harsh. Certain practices have become what [NYU sociology professor] David Garland calls “the taken-for-granted features of contemporary crime policy.” In part for this reason, despite the mounting evidence regarding secret memos, inhumane prison conditions, coercive interrogations, and interference with defense lawyers, the Bush administration’s approach to the war on terror went largely unchecked and unchanged.

Forman argues that by placing all the blame on isolated Bush Administration officials, we avoid confronting our own responsibility (p. 339): Read the rest of this entry »

Written by sara

February 16, 2010 at 7:56 am

Census Bureau to States: Count Prisoners Where You Want

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The U.S. Census Bureau has agreed to release 2010 population data in a way that will give states the option of whether or not to count prisoners as residents of the county where they’re incarcerated. Although it’s too late for prisoners to be counted at their home addresses in the 2010 Census, this announcement paves at least some of the way for reforms being urged by civil rights groups around the country to eliminate the practice of so-called “prison gerrymandering.” The New York Times reports:

A number of states — including Florida, Illinois, Maryland, New York and Wisconsin — are weighing legislation requiring that prisoners be counted at their last known address — for purposes of reapportionment, a change that would likely favor larger and mostly Democratic cities.

In New York, the change could prove pivotal because of the see-saw fight for control of the State Senate and the fact that the state faces the loss of at least one Congressional seat after the 2010 census.

“Most people in prison in America are urban and African-American or Latino,” Representative William Lacy Clay, a Missouri Democrat who is chairman of the census subcommittee, wrote the bureau, but the 2010 census “will again be counting incarcerated people as residents of the rural, predominantly white communities that contain prisons.”

Other groups that have lobbied for the change include the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc. and Demos, a research and advocacy organization.

The New York Times editorialized its approval of the Census change here; I previously blogged about the issue here.

Written by sara

February 11, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Prison Controversies at Issue in Illinois Governor Race

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Controversies over prisons near and far may be at issue in the upcoming Illinois gubernatorial campaign, at least for Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn. From a recent AP report:

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is in danger of losing in the primary because of his association with disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was expelled from office.

Quinn twice ran as lieutenant governor on the same ticket as Blagojevich. He has also taken heat for proposing a tax increase to clean up the state’s financial mess and for working with Obama to move terror suspects from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to an Illinois prison. His effort to cut costs by letting some nonviolent inmates out of prison turned out to include releasing violent offenders – some of whom have been accused of serious new crimes.

Written by sara

January 30, 2010 at 5:03 pm

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