Sunday, November 30, 2014

Anti-Violence . . . What does Decarceration have to do with it?

Cities across the US, including New Jersey's Newark, Camden, Trenton and many others, face a daily drum beat of violence and street killings at the hands of an armed element in the communities, some of it drug and crime connected.

In various cities there are grassroots organizations that take up the clarion call to put the guns down, to stop the violence and killing:  this includes Newark Anti Violence Coalition, Anti-Violence Campaign in Elizabeth, KYSS in Plainfield, many others.

Some might ask, why is an article about the issue of street violence being offered at this decarceration site – how are these issues connected?

For me, personally, the issues are very closely connected through my own personal experience where the two issues literally intersected physically in a very real way.

On Thursday, November 6, 2014, I was in Newark on my way to attend a meeting on the issue of Decarceration hosted by Dr. Justice and the Community Life organization at the REFAL center.  I had printed off directions without checking them that unfortunately led me to the wrong part of Newark.  I incessantly called Cassandra Dock, a co-founder of Decarcerate the Garden State Committee, who repeatedly gave me the directions to the office.  I was running a half hour late to the meeting and less than a block from the meeting – on the phone with Casssandra – when I heard two bursts of 3 gun shots.  There was a red light and I was confused by what to do.  I told Cassandra about the gun shots and she told me to get out of there and confirmed I should run the light.

Two girls on the other side of the street ran as the shots rang out.  A half block down they were already walking.  Apparently they were more used to hearing shots in the community than I was.  I was wondering myself whether I should park the car and go to the meeting – I ended up doing so.

We had a nice and productive meeting that was primarily focused on building for a Decarceration panel discussion in Newark that was to occur on November 13 (but ended up getting re-scheduled to December 5).

Later that night, Cassandra had called me to see if I was ok and to tell me that she had been out to the site – two young male adults were loaded into ambulances – one or both possibly dead.

The following are articles about the shootings:

I do not spend THAT much time in Newark – that one of my few visits put me on the same corner at the same time as what turns out to be a double homicide is a demonstration of just how relentless the killing is.  The physical connection of doing decarceration work to the blood-letting leads me to examine the very real connection between the issues of mass incarceration--and other aspects of systemic failure as far as super oppressed communities are concerned--to the street violence.

The facts and factors that surround each street killing in Newark no doubt vary --with causes ranging from there being too many guns in too many hands, criminal gangs, illegal trading of banned substances -- there is no one explanation that can suffice for all of the many killings.  It can be safely said though that street violence of Newark and other NJ cities as well as cities across the country has roots in the failures of social, political and economic structures with regard to Black and impoverished people-- aka. “super oppressed” sectors of the population – and saying this is so does not excuse the actions of the perpetrators of the bloodshed.  It simply offers a larger context.

 If it is a safe assumption that the street crime including illegal substance marketing contributes to the continuous blood flow . . . then the questions of the nature of the “war on drugs”, the very illegality of the drugs as well as economic issues surrounding the lack of availability of gainful “legitimate” employment and the inability of the few jobs that are available to meet economic ends of individuals let alone of families are relevant.

There is no pause button on the individual debt meters and on the need for funds for food, to pay rent or mortgage, meet medical costs, keep a vehicle on the road – and many other aspects of survival for individuals and those trying to head up a family.  Faced with prospects of what feels like begging from one prospective employer to another, day after day with no end in sight, and when a job does come along it is barely minimum wage, maybe slightly above, maybe not, with an indefinite shifting schedule, part-time and without benefits . . . versus the prospect of a “street” job in the alternative illegal economy that has the risk of violence but pays relatively well, offers more leisure time... a tough decision is posed for the individual when faced with the alternative of not eating, not paying the rent, losing the vehicle, having hungry children.

 Making the decision to take the illegal street job might be “wrong answer” but it is easy to understand how such decisions are made. The precariousness of life for those who reside in American cities, particularly the youth, also contributes to the willingness to accept the vulnerability to violence and even the willful participation in such violence.  As mentioned from having heard the 6 shots on the corner of South 9th. on November 6, there were two young girls I saw running once the shots rang out.  They are not participants, but given their proximity to the gun fire, they could have easily fallen victim to the gunfire via ricochet or bad aim or just plain carelessness by the shooter(s).

The swirling cycle of hopelessness for youth in NJ’s cities has the likely affect to cause some to question the value of their own lives.  Another factor contributing to the hopelessness is the endemic mass incarceration that largely targets the Black youth and impoverished in the USA.  Youth look to their futures and see violence, joblessness or minimum wage exploitation, likeliness of incarceration . . . bleakness.  In those circumstances, it is easier to make the decision to embrace a life style that increases the propensity to fall victim to and even to participate in acts of violence.

All of this is not to say that there is an excuse for the violence that terrorizes not only other participants in criminal endeavors, but the entire population of NJ's cities and the country.

The perpetrators of these acts are part victim of systemic circumstances and also victimizers and oppressors in their own right.  They add to the oppressive condition in these communities. 

In so much as the biggest benefactors of the illegal trades are not the street workers but the overlords behind the operations, they are serving as minions for the profit taking enterprises that profit from the violence and the harm done by the illegal substances.  The violence being perpetrated is also creating fear in the community to speak out in opposition to the illegal operations that are providing yet another aspect of the oppression of those communities – thus reinforcing the control the criminal overlords exercise over the streets.

The related issues are layered and complicated and contribute to each other.  Like all of the issues we face, there is a peril to taking on issues singularly without recognizing interconnectedness.  A comprehensive program of action is needed to fully root out many of the injustices and oppressive conditions yet at the same time focus is needed to deliver any immediate relief for communities and members of the communities to survive from one day to the next.

I would like to see the Committee to Decarcerate the Garden State partner up with other groups that have particular focuses in other related areas in forums and discussions and in the creation of action plans that recognize the inter connectedness of the related issues.

Those who are considering picking up the guns in the neighborhood need to be firmly told to desist immediately, but I believe they also need to see that there is an effective people’s movement that is addressing their other needs – like:
* demanding decent employment for everyone at livable wages and benefits,
* an end to the war on drugs and the violence and mass incarceration that entails
* and massive prison release and relief from pending charges for low level offenses.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Could this Friday be A Perfect Storm of Social Protest?

There already is a call among the movement demanding justice for Michael Brown for a boycott of Black Friday.

There already is a mobilization of retail working people and the $15 minimum wage movement for protests outside the retail box stores, particularly Walmart.

While these issues are not exactly the same, the retail workers are not calling for the boycott and the justice demand is not particularly aligned with the pro-worker movement . . . there is too much in common and too much momentum not to at least consider the potential of turning the call for boycott of Black Friday possibly into a PHYSICAL BOYCOTT at targeted large box stores.
Black Friday is a sacred day to capitalism which is motivating so much of the oppression and repression that is leading to mass incarceration and wanton police violence.

The stores that intend to profit this Friday do so through massive exploitation of working people.  There refusal to pay decent wages and afford decent conditions like full time, full benefits is what makes it impossible to survive off the employment they offer.
One of the pillars of this economic system is impunity for police – it is of utmost importance because the system depends upon a policing force that is willing to brutalize and if need be kill – with impunity – on an as needed basis should there be any sort of effective movement that challenges the power relationship between the owners of the Walmarts and Targets (and prison industry) and those that are oppressed and exploited by them.

The connections are there . . . the two movements are in motion at this time of year and are very much overlapping.  The Walmart work force for example has a significant Black component, youth component and is likely largely sympathetic to the demand for justice.  Those demanding justice – among them are many that are working in Walmart type arrangements or unemployed.  The overlapping of concern and constituency invites the question – WHY NOT COMBINE FORCES FOR FRIDAY?

What if as the justice protests continue to mobilize – consider amassing, not at police stations but at the parking lot entrances of the big boxes or where these stores have sidewalk entrances – at those entrances with the call to boycott.  The economic muscle that could be flexed is immense.

I am not saying that is what should DEFINITELY be done – it is not really my place to say by any means.  I am just throwing the idea out there for consideration because the idea begs to be considered.  I am not sure it could work but believe it can not hurt to think about it and talk about it . . .

WHAT IF . . . .

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Impunity a Pillar of Oppression to be Maintained at Any Cost

"Impunity" for the armed guardians of property and status quo (the police) . . . how important is it? It is important enough to spend tens of millions mobilizing armed forces, national police and security agencies, state and local forces, to conduct a massive media manipulation and containment operation and to possibly commit grave acts against those that attempt to affect such "impunity" in the days ahead. Impunity is part of the foundation of the systemic oppression and repression used to maintained power relationships between the billionaires and owners and those that are oppressed and super oppressed.

Next - could Friday be "Perfect Storm" for Social Protest?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Explaining The NJ Decarcerator Daily . . .

Explaining The NJ Decarcerator Daily . . .

What is it?

It is a daily internet newsletter that pulls together links to articles, pictures, blog content, videos related to the topic of Decarceration with a particular focus on NJ.  It is a resource of Decarcerate the Garden State, an organization that is fighting to pass the NJ Decarceration Act with the aim of reducing NJ’s incarcerated numbers by 50% in the next 4 years.

 How does it work?

The motor for this newsletter is the twitter account:

This account follows a limited number of twitter accounts, particularly those that have a tendency to post around this topic.  The site that hosts the newsletter runs a twitter app that assembles postings to the account into the newsletter which publishes around 10pm every night.  The search engine for the articles prioritizes articles with the HT #DecarcerateNJ .

How can you help?

What is needed most is people who champion this resource by sharing the link and RT-ing it on twitter – every single day – to various outlets all over social media.  Ideally there would be about 30 people that RT it every single day – perhaps a few times per day.  Also folks should share it in Facebook groups and pages etc.  Try to write something about what is in the current newsletter to make it more likely to be viewed and re-shared, RT-d etc.
Also, content providers are needed.  The newsletter will function best if it can assemble 10 – 25 relevant articles each day so folks when you come across a relevant article, tweet it as follows.  Here is an example how to send content:

@DecarcGardState  #DecarcerateNJ
Send 1 or more regularly – even every day.

It also would help if more people would follow on Twitter.  The more people that are already followers – it encourages more new folks to also follow which will lead to more RT’s – etc.
Also if you want to write articles for it, we can set you up as an author at:

and once you write your article, event announcement, etc. you then use the above explained method to send it to The NJ Decarcerator Daily “paper.”

You too can become a NJ Decarcerator Daily – just spend a couple of minutes a day, RT-ing the newsletter, sharing it around, calling your friends attention to it and sending one or more article into the evening’s run.

Already we have assembled dozens of links and distributed them widely.  However, we will only reach the full potential when we have a full throttle support network that works the materials every day!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Press Release: Decarcerate NJ Panel Discussion December 5, Newark

 Dr. Justice,Director
Community Life Services

Report from event:!

For Immediate Advance Release

Contact Dr. Justice, Director of Community Life Services,  (908) 906-7146  

 On Facebook:  


Ending mass incarceration and calling upon NJ legislators to take swift action to introduce and pass sweeping legislation to immediately release non-violent low level offenders is the topic of a major Newark event scheduled for this Friday, December 5, 6pm at the Metropolitan Baptist Church, 149 Springfield Avenue in Newark. 

The event is open to the public and free. The event will feature speakers from several proponents for ending mass incarceration in NJ including: 

Dr. Justice of Community Life services, a former political prisoner will speak on the challenges of escaping the mass incarceration, public defenders, displacement 

Lawrence Hamm of Peoples Organization for Progress will give an overview of the political underpinnings of mass incarceration and the historic role it has played and continues to play in stifling social progress in Newark, in NJ and throughout the country.

 Dique of the National Jericho Movement will discuss the importance of keeping support for the immediate release of the hundreds of political prisoners in America’s prisons be at the forefront in the demands for justice of the decarceration movement. 

Munirah B. of the Million Woman’s Movement will be speaking on the aspect of how incarceration affects women and family. 

George Hornsby of Black Wall Street will be speaking on prevention, and offering employment to formally incarcerated for drug offenders, as well as drug counseling. 

Bob WItanek will speak on behalf of the organization called Decarcerate the Garden State which has published a newspaper called The New Jersey Decarcerator. The organization calls for the passage of a “NJ Decarceration Act” to bring about a 50% reduction of NJ’s state incarcerated population through a combination of sentence reduction and immediate release of non-violent offenders. 

Randy Burley of Fathers on Fire will speak on reaching out to the families of the incarcrated to bring them and even the incarcerated themselves into the fight for decarceation.

Several other prominent speakers will address the various evils of mass incarceration.

According to Dr. Justice, “We of Community Life seek to put an end to mass incarceration by way of legislation.   The way the system stands , poor whites blacks and Latinos are used a commodities for profit. We have to understand as well. the system is used for social control. "

The event hopes to examine several questions on the topic of mass incarceration:
1. Many people have been displaced by incarceration , that means children in the system of foster care and homelessness. Hence, there will be preliminary applications for affordable housing given out at this conference.
 2. We will look at the position of the Public defender being accountable to a strong defense.
3. “There have been several people who have been released from prison because of DNA. This aspect tells us that what was presented to a jury was not at all true”.
4. The aspect of “ A Jury Of One’s Peers “ will be looked at.
For more information, contact Dr. Justice (908) 906-7146 \