Sunday, May 31, 2015

Paterson Loiter Law: Local Government Contribution to Mass Incarceration – Revenue Raising Off Backs of Impoverished

Decarcerate the Garden State, a statewide effort, needs to bring our Decarceration effort to the local level often by looking at how local administrations manage policing, local ordinances and how such policies can either help reduce incarceration or exacerbate the problem.  We have launched a petition drive in Bridgeton NJ and will be circling back there shortly to gather signatures and make a presentation to the council on the topic.  The petition launch led to this reporting of our effort:

We happened across a report coming out of Paterson NJ – the city passed a strict ordinance outlawing “loitering” on the streets of Paterson.  The law includes a loose definition of loitering that states that it could be applied any where the loitering can be construed as a problem.

Here is the news report on the development:

The Paterson city council is Black / Latino - I bet they would consider themselves on the side of Decarceration.  Yet they implement this draconian local policy that does not help the situation and will only contribute to it.  Here is the page for the local city council:

Per the news story the development appears to be driven by the demands of local store owners.  It quotes people sayng they are afraid to go past loiterers to go to stores and store owners saying they are losing business.  The report talks about large numbers “hanging out.” 

Council member McDaniel, the apparent spokesperson for the new law states that it “shouldn’t be like that” but he does not really get at the reasons as to why it is like that – only offering the ordinance as a solution.  Per the report, the ordinance will also act as a tax on the impoverished who end up with a summons per the ordinance with a $2000 fine and / or community service penalty.

While it might not have been intentional, McDaniel referenced protecting quality of life of “citizens” – which per the demographics of Paterson, which has a large number of immigrants, is exclusive language toward the non-citizen portion of the community.

Chilling also is councilman McDaniel’s reference to the law as giving authorities a “tool in their arsenal to deal with (the loitering issue).”  Perhaps a simple bad choice of words but using weaponized war terminology as a reference to dealing with the impoverished out of work community members is minimally unfortunate.

The report mostly focused on the point of loitering “in front of stores” as the cause of the ordinance but it is apparently arbitrarily defined so it can be enforced “any where it becomes a problem,” including in front of homes in residential areas according to the report.

Media did not reach out to any of the so-called loiterers or to any youth or any advocates of justice or activists for their views.

Posting the link to the report on this development on our group page for Decarcerate the Garden State (joiners welcome, here is the link: touched off a lively conversation.  Here is some of the commentary that came in.

Debi Madaio, a medical worker involved in support for improvements to NJ’s medical marijuana policies, had this to say about the new loitering ordinance in Paterson, NJ: 

“I work in Paterson and it is many people who are homeless, people with substance abuse problems and people with such complex medical needs that are just in and out of the hospital....There is such a need in this community...but so little resources.......Catholic Charities does it's best but it just isn't enough.....These people need help....not more restrictions placed on them.

There is a large population of undocumented individuals who are unable to apply for medicaid and medicare also. It wouldn't be a Friday at the hospital if we were not making arrangements to discharge a gun shot wound. A lot of poverty, a lot of violence and gangs. A lot of disease and despair.  It is overwhelming sometimes for me as a nurse because there are not enough resources out there. And of course there is a big homeless shelter there Eva's Kitchen Idk where the people that stand outside there are suppose to go if they are homeless and can not loiter....because it is loitering if you have no money in your pocket also correct ?

“It is a vicious cycle....these people do not need to be arrested they need help with their addiction or mental health issues We get them in the hospital and discharge them right back into the street it is disgusting and you know they are going right back to that same circumstance.  By the time the people are homeless on the the street or addicted to something it is hard is the key ......put some money into the schools and after school programs and mentors."

Akbar McEntyre is a local resident and advocate involved in support for those returning to the community from incarceration.  Asked to comment, he offers:

“I believe that this is an attempt to criminalize individuals for no other reason but for being displaced/homeless, or just socializing in their neighborhoods. This is similar to the post civil war vagrancy laws that helped to form the Black Codes- criminalizing people for having no where to go. We have bigger monsters to attack in Paterson.

Responding to the councilman McDaniel quoted in the news report, Akbar MeEntyre adds:

It is ironic that the councilman at the time had no real solution to the problem. Considering Paterson is a densely populated city with very complex issues related to how it was designed. There are very few places you can go, and not see people congregating in public. The easiest thing to do is charge people, fine them, and generate revenue from people, who if they had money, probably would not have been caught in this situation. Where are the tangible solutions to these problems? Any answers?

Lizbeth Ramirez, from the steering committee of the 15 NOW NJ movement demanding a statewide $15 per hour minimum wage had this to offer:

“This is another example of fascism at its best. The bosses want to impose this ridiculous ordinance knowing full well that the working class people cannot and will not be able to afford this outrageous fine. More reason to up-up mass racist incarceration and increase militarization of police. Why not fund community programs to help deal with the impoverishment the citizens of Paterson constantly face especially at a time when employment is so scarce? What are the politicians missing here? I also think they are trying to instill fear in the people purposefully in order to carry out their agenda to continue militarizing the police.

Clearly this ordinance is a draconian response to the issue of so-called loitering that is not only the product of issues of addiction and mental illness, but is driven by massive unemployment, under employment and lack of viable employment, lack of activities and just neighbors being neighborly.  The idea that it can be enforced in front of residencies opens up the spector to neighbors pulling chairs out of their 100 degree apartments and chatting out front being shaken down by over zealous cops.

What can possibly go wrong?

Decarcerate the Garden State would likely support efforts to roll back this ordinance – it is the kind of law making that multiplies mass incarceration at a time when we are trying to fight it.  If folks are interested, we can put together or support a petition for starters – and we are certainly interested in working with the Paterson community on holding a Decarceration meeting there in Paterson.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015




Decarcerate the Garden State has been following the Free Alabama Movement communicating with Melvin Ray, aka Spokesperson Ray on several occasions.  We have interviewed him and a comrade in his movement and wrote this report from the interview:
Other articles we have carried on the Alabama St. Clair facility and the Free Alabama movement include:
St. Clair Correctional Facility Hit by Strike - 3rd Facility Hit in Wave of Incarcerated Protests

Free Alabama Movement Protests Riot Crew Brutality at St. Clair Facility

McDonalds is Target of Incarcerated Led Corporate Campaign for its Use of Incarcer-enslaved Labor

The following are some of the reports coming in about the assault on Spokesperson Ray and calls of action to support him:

Melvin Ray the founder of FAM (Free Alabama Movement) was brutally attacked in his cell while handcuffed today. This brutality was done by the hands officers of the ADOC St. Clair facility !! This is NOT acceptable by any means... FAM is a Non-violent movement fighting against the inhumane treatment of prisoners and their right to be rehabilitated to return to society. It is URGENT that we flood the phones at St. Clair facility and demand the Warden Estes give a status on his physical condition.
St. Clair Facility
(205) 467-6111
Call Now !!!

Just got off the phone with prison, everyone acting like or was told to act like they never heard of Melvin Ray, got transferred 3 time the last person explain he was a new guard just starting the job, not giving any specific information, I did let them know why and who it was that I was calling Melvin Ray

 Brief documentary on policy brutality in AL prisons:


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

McDonalds is Target of Incarcerated Led Corporate Campaign for its Use of Incarcer-enslaved Labor

Last week in Newark a meeting was coordinated by Macapinlac Responsible Endowments Coalition to propose a NJ divestment effort targeting prison privatization firms like CCA and GEO as well as other firms that profit off of incarceration through construction and service contracts. Also discussed was targeting of NJ politicians like Menendez and Pascrell who are accepting campaign support from prison profiteers.  In NJ the immigrant detention facilities are run by private prison firms and much of the half-way house facilities as well.  Specific proposals from the new committee will be forthcoming shortly.  See:

Meanwhile, another corporate target effort has been launched by the Free Alabama, Free Mississippi, Free California and other allied incarcerated led organizations targeting McDonalds.   McDonalds is not targeted because it runs facilities . . . but because it profits off of the use of enslaved incarcerated workers.    See:

They are initiating the effort on May 30 with a handful of coordinated actions at McDonalds restaurants including this action at a McDonalds restaurant in Birmingham Alabama.

As stated in the Facebook event:

“Join FREE ALABAMA-MISSISSIPPI MOVEMENT UNITED's "S-To-P" Campaign Initiative Against McDonald's to "S-To-P" the "school-to-prison" pipeline.

McDonald's and many other corporations are investing in "zero-tolerance" school policies and other laws that makes it easier to target children for incarceration. Once in prison, McDonald's and other corporations then rely on prison authorities and policies to exploit prison slave labor from those they have incarcerated.
McDonald's uses prison slave labor to produce their uniforms, beef for patties, milk, bread, and plastic spoons. McDonald's builds factories in prisons to exploit prison slave labor, but won't build these same factories in communities where people in prison come from, where unemployment is high and jobs are needed.
Organize a campaign in your State and join us on May 30, 2015, as we DEMAND that McDonald's and their complicit corporate partners "S-To-P" profiting from mass incarceration FOR prison slavery.”

There has been much media lately about McDonald’s falling in popularity and catching some heck – largely due to exploitation of restaurant workers who are paid minimum wage and subject to unsafe conditions, shifting schedules – given the rise of the 15 NOW movement demanding significant rise in minimum wage – that has included McDonalds as a target of its efforts.

McDonalds is also infamous for the unhealthy and non-nutritious nature of its food product.

However the use of enslaved labor has not been a widely reported feature in the recent reports of its slide in popularity and economic demise.

As most decarcerators should know – the 13th. Amendment “freeing the slaves” in the United States made explicit exemption of those who have been convicted of a crime:

The history of incarceration in the United States has always been tied to the use of enslaved labor – for public work as well as contracted out to private interests.  Currently there are a wide range of goods produced and services provided by incarcerated enslaved labor.

The “FREE ALABAMA” and similar movements believes that the power of the strike by incarcerated workers against such production is a powerful weapon and a way that the incarcerated themselves can directly impact and lead the Decarceration fight.  More on the philosophy is in this interview we conducted with leaders of the Free Alabama movement:

While there is much activity on many issues in NJ and there are many initiatives even within our own efforts that need more attention, we should indeed consider developing some strategies in NJ in support of efforts to target corporations that profit directly from use of enslaved incarcerated labor.  Meanwhile, we can help spread the word about the May 30 actions and also explore the feasibility of including information about incarcerated enslavement by McDonalds for profit as 15 Now efforts mobilize to demand a livable $15 per hour wage for McDonalds outside local restaurants.


Monday, May 25, 2015

POP Updates May 25 - 31; Meeting, Zuniga Support, MPM Anti Brutality March, More


POP meets each Thursday, 6:30 PM, Abyssinian Baptist Church, 224 West Kinney Street, Newark, NJ.

Currently meetings are dedicated to organizing for the Million Peoples March Against Policy Brutality, Racial Injustice and Economic Inequality on July 25, 2015.  Meetings usually feature guest speakers on pressing local, state and national issues, discussion and updates on POP projects and efforts as well as business reports.  All are welcome.

POP website 


The People's Organization For Progress (POP) is continuing the fight for justice and the reinstatement of Marylin Zuniga, the Orange, New Jersey school teacher who was terminated because her students wrote get well letters to prison inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal. POP is asking everyone to write letters condemning the decision of the Orange Board of Education to terminate her and to demand her reinstatement. The letters should be sent to:

Patricia A. Arthur, President
Orange Board of Education
C/O School Board Secretary
Orange Public Schools
451 Lincoln Avenue
Orange, New Jersey 07050
SEND YOUR LETTERS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. In addition, POP is asking people to condemn the decision to terminate Marylin and to demand her reinstatement at the Orange Board of Education meeting in June and to also attend the June meetings of the Orange City Council and the Essex County Board of Freeholders to solicit support for Zuniga. The specific dates and times for those meetings will be announced next week or people can call POP at973-801-0001.


 Dr. Cornel West will attend a press conference this Wednesday in Newark, New Jersey to announce his endorsement of the MILLION PEOPLE'S MARCH Against Police Brutality, Racial Injustice, And Economic Inequality, which will take place Saturday, JULY 25, 2015,12 Noon, at the Lincoln Monument, near intersection of West Market Street & Springfield Avenue in downtown Newark, New Jersey. The march is sponsored by People's Organization For Progress (POP), and endorsed by community, labor, student, and progressive organizations. For more information about this event people can go to the Million People's March Against Police Brutality page on Facebook or call POP at . You can also call that number to get the date, time, and location of the press conference if you would like to attend. Please go to the Million People's March Against Police Brutality, Racial Injustice, and Economic Inequality page on Facebook. Please "Join" it, "Invite Friends" to join it, and share it. Thank you.


The acquittal of the white police officers who fired 137 shots killing an unarmed black couple in Cleveland is one more reason why everyone should attend the Million People's March Against Police Brutality, Racial Injustice, and Economic Inequality on Saturday, July 25th in Newark, New Jersey. Click on the link below to go to the Facebook page for the march. "Join" it, "Invite Friends" to join it, and "Share" it.

POP Million Peoples March Details:


HERE ARE SIX POLICE BRUTALITY AND REFORM RELATED BILLS CURRENTLY BEFORE THE NEW JERSEY STATE LEGISLATURE. DISCUSS THEM WITH THE STATE SENATORS AND ASSEMBLY PEOPLE THAT REPRESENT YOUR DISTRICTS. A4081 Choke hold, sponsored by Assemblyman Charles Mainor; S2718 Special Prosecutor, sponsored by State Senator Peter Barnes; A4265 Residency requirement for new police recruits, Assemblyman John McKeon; S2518 Body Cameras for police, State Senators Donald Norcross, Nia Gill, James Beach; A4343 Diversity training for police, Assembly representatives Vincent Prieto, Gary Schaer, Shavonda Sumter; A4130 School curriculum on interaction with police, Assembly representatives Sheila Oliver, Ralph Caputo, Grace Spencer. Please go to the Million People's March Against Police Brutality, Racial Injustice, and Economic Inequality page on Facebook. Please "Join" it, "Invite Friends" to join it, and share it. Thank you.


I want to commend the People's Organization For Progress (POP) membership recruitment street team under the leadership of Field Marshall Steven Hatcher.  On Saturday, the team was on Broad and Market Streets in downtown Newark.  Team members Brad, Doug, Nat, Tyrone, Jimmy, Alfreda, Ellen, and Steve were on the scene.  They recruited 51 new members yesterday. And the week before they recruited 52 members.  They are doing outstanding work. Membership recruitment is the most important task in building our organization. While I recognize the efforts of the team I also want to say that membership recruitment is the responsibility of every member of People's Organization For Progress (POP).  Every POP member must make an effort to recruit members. I also want to urge all POP members to volunteer and spend some time helping out the POP membership recruitment street team. The team is on Broad and Market in Newark every Saturday. The team needs and would like your help no matter how much or how little time you have to give.  I want the team to know that that it's efforts are greatly appreciated. Thank you for all that you have done for POP.  Keep up the great work. Power to the people!!!

Lawrence Hamm


People's Organization For Progress