Posts tagged prison abolition
Tell Me News//Sipho Sepamla
Tell me of a brother
who hanged himself in prison
with a blanket
was he punchdrunk
Tell me of a brother
who flung himself to death
from the ninth floor of a building
did his grip fumble with the loneliness up there
Tell me of a hooded man
who picked out others of his blood on parade
was his skin beginning
to turn with solitude
Oh, tell me of a sister
who returned home pregnant
from a prison cell
has she been charged under the Immorality Act
Tell me of a brother
who hanged himself in jail
with a piece of his torn pair of jeans
was he hiding a pair of scissors in the cell
Tell me, tell me sir
has the gruesome sight
of a mangled corpse
not begun to sit on your conscience
RIP TROY DAVIS (AND THOUGHTS ON PRISONS AND VIOLENCE OF THE LAW)
This is an interview with Troy Davis’s sister, Martina Correia, and nephew, De’Jaun Correia. This was conducted before the execution. Just try to watch it without crying through the whole thing. Try. Martina—a tireless activist with advanced cancer—talks about her struggle to free her brother, the need to abolish capital punishment, the injustice of the criminal “justice” system, and racism in the south.
And being a little girl at Kmart spinning the jewelry rack playfully and having a little white girl scream and yell, “That nigger touched me! Daddy, that nigger touched me!”
And wondering what the trees of Savannah would say if they could talk. The trees whose majestic beauty conceals the secrets of racial injustice. The trees with the lynching nooses grown into them. The canopied south.
And how when high profile people started visiting Troy, they took him outside through the backdoor because they wanted to make it seem to the outsiders like they were treating him real well. And how he asked the warden if he could stop for a second and said, Can I put my feet in the grass? Because he hadn’t seen grass in 18 years.
The wife of the murdered cop Mark MacPhail said, “We have laws in this land so that there is not chaos. We are not killing Troy because we want to.”
Yet they did want to. After his 2nd scheduled execution was stopped 90 minutes before the time he was supposed to be executed, the family of MacPhail stomped out all pissed that he wasn’t put to death.
And since we’re on the topic of the barbarism of whites, here’s something Martina, Troy’s sister, had to say about the the MacPhail family’s treatment of her family, which I transcribed from the video interview above:
We always, when we speak, we always pray for the other family. When we’re at events we pray for the other family. And then when they talk about us, they talk about us in disgust. We’ve never done anything to you. You treat my family like we’re all murderers or we’re pariah. I mean, I volunteer in my community more than just about anybody (by) doing healthcare, (and) education advocacy for children—no matter what color they are—just (doing) things that make things better for people. I give up my self. I was told in 2001 that I would die in 6 months of stage 4 cancer. 10 years later I’m still here. I’m still advocating.
Even though the MacPhail family has been aggressively pushing for the murder of a man who was probably innocent, Troy’s family still prays for them. Like the family of James Anderson.
Troy’s words right before being murdered:
Mr. Davis remained defiant at the end, according to reporters who witnessed his death. He looked directly at the members of the family of Mark MacPhail, the officer he was convicted of killing, and told them they had the wrong man.
“I did not personally kill your son, father, brother,” he said. “All I can ask is that you look deeper into this case so you really can finally see the truth.”
He then told his supporters and family to “keep the faith” and said to prison personnel, “May God have mercy on your souls; may God bless your souls.” (Source: NYTimes)
The MacPhail family says that calling Troy a victim is ludicrous and assert “We have lived this for 22 years. We are victims” (Joan MacPhail-Harris). Seriously—take a second to think about the loss of the Davis family.
From an older Colorlines story:
As a tiny boy, De’Jaun didn’t understand that his uncle was incarcerated, much less slated for death. De’Jaun told me, “When the family was getting ready to leave after a visit, I’d say, ‘Come on, Troy, let’s go, let’s go!’ But he couldn’t go with us, and my mom would say, ‘He’s in school. He can’t come. One day, he’ll come home with us.’”
In the silence of the ride, De’Jaun turned to his mother. “Mom, are you going put my dog to sleep like they’re trying to put my Uncle Troy to sleep?”
“I looked at my son, and he was looking at me…. I had to swallow this giant lump in my throat to hold back the tears,” Martina recounted. “I didn’t know that he related the two things. That he knew they were trying to kill his Uncle Troy. And he knew about which method that they wanted to [use to] kill him. At that point, I decided … [even] if I had to pawn my car, I wasn’t going to be able to put my dog to sleep.”
Troy Davis and his nephew De’Jaun.
Troy’s case isn’t an isolated incident. To understand it you have to understand the legal system and the prison-industrial complex. These are incredibly racist and corrupt institutions we’re talking about here. If you don’t see this then you have serious delusions about the reality of the situation. The expansion of the prison system emerged directly out of slavery and the need to keep black folk in bondage and extract their labor after the “legal” abolition of slavery. Companies relied on chain gang labor and had direct contracts with the prisons. This is the way things are now done in the United States—people don’t have to get their hands dirty by directly killing or keeping people in bondage because the arm of the Law will do it form them. They use the language of neutrality, justice, and safety so that the State’s monopoly on violence remains uncontested. It’s baffling to me that some people still believe in the legitimacy and fairness of our courts—they might think something like the hundreds of people who have been released from prison because of DNA testing are atypical, or perhaps somewhere in the back of their minds they believe that the reason why people of color are over-represented in jails and prisons is because black and brown people just do more bad things.
But the reality of the situation is that if you are a person of color, especially if you are poor and black, you are more likely to be profiled, searched, arrested, accused, given inadequate representation, convicted, written off as someone who doesn’t warrant sympathy, and given a harsher sentence for whatever charges are brought against you. A 2001 UNC study found that a defendant whose victim was white was 3.5 times as likely to receive the death penalty in NC than if the victim were non-white. Think about whose life counts in this country, in cases like Troy Davis’s.
Since 1973, 138 people have been released from death row, largely because of new DNA evidence that proves their innocence. You have to wonder—how many more people are on death row who are innocent, especially in cases like Troy’s where there is no physical evidence linking him to the crime, and the conviction is based solely on testimonies? (In Troy’s case, 7 out of the 9 testimonies used to convict him were recanted/changed and were procured by coercive means.) In Illinois, almost 40% of the death row exonerations were cases where jailhouse snitches were used to wrongfully convict the accused. From 1989-2009, 250 people were released from prison because DNA tests proved their innocence, but shockingly, 67 percent of them were convicted after 2000, a decade after the use of modern DNA testing.
If these are just the people we know are innocent, beyond a doubt, imagine how many thousands of people have been put behind bars and had their life taken away for no reason. Imagine you are sentenced to death and/or locked up because you are a used as a scapegoat, because you are black or brown, because the prosecutor is corrupt and out to get you to advance their career, because you are poor, because you can’t afford a lawyer, because nobody gives a shit about you, because you are presumed guilty, because the victim involved is white, because law enforcement officers pressure people to testify against you, because no one will grant you an appeal, because the appeal and parole boards and judges are all former police officers and prosecutors, because prosecutors fight to block the testing of evidence because they will lose (most prosecutors fight to block post-conviction DNA testing—why?), because nobody in the court will even take the time to read the motion your lawyer prepared, because the media demonizes you (especially if you are a person of color), because jailhouse snitches are given time off their sentences to fabricate stories to use against you, because people want “justice” and it doesn’t matter if it’s at your expense. Think about it. That’s the whole meaning of the “I am Troy Davis” campaign.