Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Cuts for cops, prison cells that won't lock, protesters punished but not prosecuted, the relationship between urban planning and police violence, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention:

Budget Cuts for Austin Cops: Possibly as early as today, the Austin City Council is poised to cut funding to law enforcement by more than $23 million and remove numerous functions out from under the police department. The most controversial measure would eliminate new cadet classes for fiscal year 2021 so that training can be revamped before bringing more officers onboard. KUT had the best coverage so far, along with The Appeal.  Chief Brian Manley is fighting the changes but he's a flawed messenger. Despite widespread calls to "defund the police," Austin appears to be the only major city in Texas and one of the only large towns nationwide to reduce the police department budget significantly. Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio are all increasing police budgets.

Many Texas Prison-Cell Doors Don't Lock: The Marshall Project's Keri Blakinger reported that the locks on cells in many Texas prisons are easily defeated with materials like cardboard and bar soap. It's been this way for years. Normally, incentives to avoid punishment and basic institutional norms keep prisoners from leaving their cells. But long-term COVID lockdowns are pushing people to the brink and causing more episodes. At the Briscoe Unit in July, "dozens of prisoners swarmed a day room and took a 21-year-old guard hostage for more than two hours." To Grits, this story speaks to the illusion of "control" and the extent mass incarceration only works if imprisoned people cooperate. 

Punished but not prosecuted: Cops misusing so-called "less lethal" munitions has been a recurring theme of this summer of protest. The Dallas News captured the moment when a riot-gear-clad shot improperly shot a protester with a pepper-ball gun on the side of the road. "Combined with other photographs and witness accounts, the image tells the story of how police stormed peaceful protesters who, in the end, were not prosecuted for anything." MORE: DPD Internal Affairs is now investigating the episode, reported the Dallas News.

On the nexus between urban planning and police violence: To what extent does urban planning encourage aggressive, racist policing? “Historically, planners have been responsible for manifestations of institutional racism including redlining and the construction of freeways and toxic industrial development in poor and Black and Brown neighborhoods, among many others,” according to a letter to the planners' professional association. In a poignant example, the family of Breonna Taylor out of Louisville think her death implicates that town's land-use policies and priorities. "A lawsuit filed on behalf of Taylor’s family accuses the city of engaging in aggressive police tactics in pursuit of a redevelopment project." Said the complaint: “The origin of Breonna’s home being raided by police starts with a political need to clear out a street for a large real estate development project and finishes with a newly formed, rogue police unit violating all levels of policy, protocol and policing standards.”

'A Sense of Home in Prison?': I enjoyed this essay on the "sensory experience" of prison, check it out.

Abolitionist Horizons: We've heard a lot of debate over what people really mean when they call for abolishing police, since so few of the necessary, prerequisite services exist now to supplant them. I've read two pieces this week that contribute significantly to that debate. The first is a 2017 piece from the Boston Review by Tracy Meares arguing that policing should be reimagined as a "public good," to use economists' jargon. That framework makes it easier to identify vectors along which public safety can be pursued outside of a law-enforcement paradigm, avoiding the tautological reasoning that causes police to be deployed in response to every social problem. Grits also liked the framing in this article of working toward an "abolitionist horizon." Identifying abolition as a goal can help determine next steps, even if everyone acknowledges the next steps won't achieve that goal. The future we're working for in many ways hasn't even been imagined yet. As Grits said on the podcast recently, things got this bad because of bad laws and policies passed over several decades, there's no magic bullet that will solve the problem overnight.

Empowering Sex Workers to Prevent Violence: There has been much written lately about non-policing alternatives to responding to violence, so Grits was interested to learn of a radical program in Nicaragua in which sex workers have been empowered by the judiciary as dispute mediators. There's a documentary film from 2017 about the program, but I can't figure out where/how to access it. I'd definitely like to learn more.

Jailbreak(s): I want someone to make a movie based on Veneida/Vernieda Smith's early life. Grits ran across her story researching jail breaks after reading the Keri Blakinger story on prison locks linked above.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Even the whole concept of accredited "judicial facilitators" - folks who lead in conflict resolution in whatever their group is. Sex workers, mobile vendors, soccer clubs, ...

Gadfly said...

Boston Review has a lot of good stuff on public policy, applied philosophy, and often, on matters that involve the intersection of the two.

Steven Michael Seys said...

Since 2016 there has been a tendency to spin in the media by calling rioters "peaceful protesters." After the last presidential election many innocent people were hospitalized with injuries consistent with assault during "peaceful protests." These "peaceful protesters" have destroyed public monuments, small businesses and police vehicles on a nightly basis. Videos are all over the internet of "peaceful protesters" using commercial grade fireworks, deadly weapons when used against human beings, to attack police officers and government buildings. If it quacks like a duck and it walks like a duck, why don't you call it a duck?

The Habern Law Firm said...

This story on cell doors has been going on for years. i recall over ten years ago being at the prison in Cuero to interview an inmate-client. At that time I happen to engage the warden in a discussion of the quality of the construction of that prison unit. During the course of that discussion he told me of the defective cell doors. Said they could be unlocked with a piece of plastic and the defect was common with the cell doors. I had this discussion over TEN YEARS ago. I cannot report if those doors are or are not repaired. The warden, at the time, opted that the locks all needed replaced.

Bill Habern
Houston Attorney

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@Steven, read the DMN article. The protesters in the Dallas story WERE peaceful. It was the cops who inexplicably broke out into unnecessary violence. That explains the nomenclature.

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Anonymous said...

The comment below and the following response to the points that were raised are an example of the methods used by msm to deflect truth and facts. Heres an example......

" Steven Michael Seys said...
Since 2016 there has been a tendency to spin in the media by calling rioters "peaceful protesters." After the last presidential election many innocent people were hospitalized with injuries consistent with assault during "peaceful protests." These "peaceful protesters" have destroyed public monuments, small businesses and police vehicles on a nightly basis. Videos are all over the internet of "peaceful protesters" using commercial grade fireworks, deadly weapons when used against human beings, to attack police officers and government buildings. If it quacks like a duck and it walks like a duck, why don't you call it a duck?"

Your response.....

"Gritsforbreakfast said...
@Steven, read the DMN article. The protesters in the Dallas story WERE peaceful. It was the cops who inexplicably broke out into unnecessary violence. That explains the nomenclature"

The problem with your response is the same as that of MSM when reporting news. Yes, the issues covered in Stevens post are occuring daily. Looting, arson, assaults on persons and the destruction of property, it is a widespread conftaigion the needs to be addressed. Failing to do so emboldens everyone with the propensity to engage in criminal behavior.


.

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