The Forgotten Third Pillar of the American Society……..[the Prison System].

By Benjamin Adams

The first two pillars of our American society are easily answered and are unquestionably the private sector and our system of government. Today, ordinary American citizens wake up every day, prepare to go to work, provide for their children, their families and their homes or they’re in the public atmosphere of affecting the rules and regulations that govern our society. Rules and regulations that are held accountable by the people but many of us are ignorant and uneducated to then system, yet we are split apart as a nation when it is time to vote for the leader that sets the agenda for the rules and regulations that we know nothing about.

Conversely, there is a third pillar to our American society. It has a deep-rooted history in slavery, the Civil War and the continued struggle for equal rights for all. It is an ugly, dark and hidden part of American society that many of us blatantly ignore. The criminal justice system being the third pillar has surfaced to the degree that it can no longer be ignored. Local, state and federal government officials are running prisons for profits and conducting predatory and oppressive burdens on prisoners and their families, i.e. GTL, Connect Network and J-Pay. Warehousing our citizens for profit. Indiscriminately excessive sentencing for low level misdemeanor and non-violent offenses. Practices, customs and systematic racism, abuses of power, assaults on prisoners, wrongful executions of innocent prisoners and corruption floods the Department of Corrections. The corruption is imbedded throughout the fiber of the Department from the lowest level correctional officer all the way up to the Governor’s office where the corruption is continuously reaffirmed. The evidence is overwhelming and the rate at which black/African American males are being incarcerated. The mass incarceration of black, brown and poor whites by the individual states, without just cause, is criminal in and of itself.

For example, take my home state of Indiana which has a total state population of approximately 6.8 million people.  According to the Prison Policy Initiative, Indiana locks up a higher percentage of its people than any democracy on earth.  They incarcerate 765 per 100,000 of its people.  Out of that 6.8 million, approximately 4.2% are black males. Whites make up about 89% of the State’s total population. There are about 47,000 people incarcerated in Indiana.  Of these, black people are incarcerated at a much higher rate.  Think about that merely 4% of the State’s population constitutes almost half of its incarcerated population. And that segment of the population just coincidently happens to be Black/African American. But even the reader of this article may have very little concern about this statistical crisis. However, if the races were reversed and white males made up 4.2% of the State’s population and they were being incarcerated at the same rate, there would be a national if not global crisis. Even animals if were relatively experiencing similar treatment there would be outrage from multiple groups and segments of society. However, here is the data for a mass incarceration crisis for black and African American males, but what is absent, is the outrage. Where is the outrage?

Black/African American males who makes up only 4.2% of the entire State’s population make up almost half of the people that they have adjudicated as being incapable of functioning in society. This pattern of systemic oppression has been rooted into our society since its inception. The United States Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v Sandford, where Chief Justice Roger B. Taney held writing for the majority 7-2 Court, that the Missouri Compromise was null and void. Any person of African descent was deemed property and according to the Chief Justice could never be a citizen of the United States. But he did not stop there. In his lengthy opinion, he enlightened us with his reminder of how the white race is the dominate one and how the red man is a savage race, but still recognized as a foreign government on their own land. Conversely, the African descendance were determined to be, again according to the Chief Justice incapable of coexisting in the white males’ social, economical and political system and therefore, does not enjoy the equal rights as a citizen of the United States.

Let us analyze the three pillars of the Chief Justices’ American society. First, the social status of the Black/African American male in the American society is so that an unarmed black man or even child can be shot and murdered in broad daylight, on video, impermissibly by a police officer and that officer would not even lose pay while he is being investigated and ultimately cleared of all wrongdoing without even having a court appearance. And on the other hand, I have a friend who is serving a life sentence in the federal system for a non-violent offense while the Court is requiring him to beg for their mercy, which they define as “extraordinary and compelling reasons.” I can articulate many compelling reasons why a Black/African man should not be incarcerated for life for a non-violence offense. Let’s begin with the fact that prisons were originally created for violent criminals who injured persons, took life or damaged property. After all these are the only guaranteed protections that a citizen has under the United States Constitution’s Due Process Clause. Socially, I would say that the late Chief Justice would be smiling at the social status of Black/African Americans today.

Second, the economic status of the Black/African in America is more of a mathematical equation that cannot be refuted by any credible or reliable evidence. All one must do is pick up any run-of-the mill Almanac and discover that Black/African American males are last in every economical statistical category that exists. Dead last.

Thirdly, the political status of the Black/African American male is alarming for multiple reasons. Many, young, Black/African American males would argue whether he believes that he is even a citizen or not. Imagine the look on the late Chief Justices’ face when hearing this dilemma.  Moreover, like my home state of Indiana, a very overwhelmingly conservative state, 4.2% of the state’s population is no where near enough to affect elections or public policy. Unless it’s a swing state in a very contested election the “black male vote” has its challenges because of the lack of numbers and participation. Particularly, the number of eligible voters that for whatever reason refuses to exercise their voice.  The result is that as currently is, the Black/African American male has very little power being exercised in the political system. The lack of education, the lack of participation and the lack of accountability all leads to an almost perfect system benefitting all segments of its society and instrumental in destroying the one segment of society… the one most adversely affected by it.

I believe that if the late Chief Justice Roger B. Taney were still alive and after articulating how Black/African American males are inferior to whites he would probably be of the belief that the future has reaffirmed his decision from one-hundred and sixty-five years ago. I must admit that the Dred Scott decision angered me. But, instead of allowing my passions to cloud my judgment, I used it as fuel to begin to right the wrongs of the Courts and the prosecutors and even the attorneys who are by Constitutional law are supposed to be our only defense against a criminal accusation by one of the states of the United States of America. These attorneys are operating without any accountability. The attorney meets with family members of the criminally accused knowing that they are uneducated in law and artfully use language that’s doesn’t necessarily violate the rules of ethics and professionalism, but attorneys knowingly scheme with the prosecutor to agree to an outcome befitting of the prosecutor’s approval at the expense of his client all based the fact that the criminally accused and his family are uneducated and ignorant to Constitutional law. Imagine if your run-of-the-mill criminal was an expert at criminal and constitutional law? Then ponder what would the criminal justice conviction rate look like then?

I have tested this theory for the past 19 years. I received an eighty-five (85) year sentence myself by the Honorable Judge, Tanya Walton Pratt in the Marion County Superior Court Criminal Division Room One, for Felony Murder and Attempted Murder. At sentencing, Judge Pratt asked me if I had anything to say and I said that the conviction was in violation of my constitutional right and that she should reverse it. She stated to me that she could not reverse a jury’s decision. I stated to her that that was not true. Judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV). The judge then stated that she would not overturn it and that I would have to just file an appeal and told me “That’s enough Mr. Adams.” She then sentenced me to fifty-five (55) years for the felony murder and thirty years (30) for the attempted murder. On October 18, 2005, my conviction and sentence for felony murder were reversed by the Court of Appeals of Indiana. While serving the time for the attempted murder, I mastered the Constitutional Amendments and the criminal justice system. I mastered how to take even someone who was illiterate without the ability to read basic English and with enough determination and drive he could properly represent himself in a federal habeas corpus proceeding, pro se and present cogent argument and litigate himself to a successful outcome worthy of confidence. It led me to the only solution of changing the system and ridding ourselves of the people in the system that have been for years and that is keeping the Black/African American community in oppression. If that is not true, then let the reader of this article explain how 4.2% of a state’s population can represent almost half of its incarcerated population. Until that dramatically decreases then our local elected and appointed officials are not to be let off the hook.

But something is changing. Black and African American people are becoming awakened by the realities of what they see versus the lies of what they have been taught. There is a sense of cognizance that is permeating throughout the younger generation of black, brown and even poor whites that are even affected by this government’s war on the undesirables. Younger Black and African American males are participating more in the efforts to get out the vote. More are running for elected office.  But I am sure there will be increased attempts to stymie the new Black and African Americans namely government mandates.


Reference Links for Research: By C. O’Jon

Essie Justice Group – https://essiejusticegroup.org/

https://www.partnersforjustice.org/

Four Things We Can Do to End Mass Incarceration | Brennan Center for Justice

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