Between the 1930s and 1970s, 90% of all workers shared 70% of the income growth. Because of political corruption and massive greed, between 1980 and 2012, 90% of all workers got none of the income growth in America.
Most Americans (65%) now say they are living paycheck to paycheck and almost ¾ (73%) of Americans enrolled in public assistance programs are from working families.
More than 46 million Americans, 15% of the population, lives below the poverty level and 20 million of them, 44% of those in poverty, live in severe poverty, with incomes below 1/2 the poverty threshold.
More than half (51%) of US public school students live in low-income households, getting free or subsidized lunches, up from 32% in 1989.
Studies now show poor Americans die much earlier than rich Americans and that this gap in life expectancy has gotten worse, doubling in the last 30 years. Approximately 133,000 people in the US each year die because of poverty.
The richest 1% of American males live 15 years longer than the poorest 1%. For women, the gap is 10 years. In some parts of America, the poorest adults die on average as young as people in poor nations like Rwanda.
The superrich and Republican governors pushed for massive tax cuts for the rich, promising it would create jobs and bring prosperity. Instead, these tax cuts sabotaged their state government funding and economies.
When they soon and inevitably run out of money, they plead poor and cut pay for police, fire fighters, other government workers, pensions, and funding for services like daycare, public transit, health care, unemployment insurance, education, and universities.
This is so unfair! Government workers paid for their pensions in taxes while working. The superrich want to privatize pensions to charge fees and commissions on them and speculate with the money.
Every Republican budget proposal wants massive tax cuts for mostly the superrich and big cuts to government services—the same strategy that has failed so miserably in every state that tried it.
Republican leaders want to cut and privatize Social Security, too, so the superrich can charge fees and commissions and speculate with the money. Only Democrats want to protect and expand Social Security.
In perhaps the worst example of Republican cuts to government funding, consider Governor Snyder of Michigan, who let children drink poisoned water in Flint while Nestle pumped clean water nearby for free.
Snyder passed $1.7 billion a year in tax breaks for corporations, while increasing taxes on poor and middle class families and senior citizens. Later, along with cuts to schools, pensions, and welfare, bureaucrats decided to save $15 million by switching Flint, Michigan’s water from clean Lake Huron to a toxic river.
This poisoned the 102,000 residents of Flint with lead and other chemicals. Within months, General Motors complained the Flint River water caused their car parts to corrode when washed on the assembly line, so Governor Snyder quickly provided the factory with clean water.
For the next year, then, the only address in Flint getting clean water was the GM factory! All this time, Flint residents bathed and drank the filthy, toxic water, paying one of the highest water costs in the US, with the average person paying $140 a month just for water.
At the same time, Nestle, with a profit of $14.5 billion in 2014, long had a permit to pump up to 400 gallons of clean water a minute for free from the aquifers that feed Lake Michigan, just a couple hours north of Flint. In fact, Michigan gave Nestle $13 million in tax breaks to locate their plant there.
Our working poor have less protection against unpaid overtime, unfair dismissals, the abuse of temporary workers, or mass layoffs than all but 1 of the top 43 nations.
As the rich funneled all the wealth into their pockets and as corporations literally became more powerful than countries, Americans have had to work much harder for less and less in pay and benefits.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that average American employees now work 160 more hours (a whole month) more each year than they did in 1976.
Even so, rank and file blue collar American workers have lost all job security, lost retirement pension benefits, lost health care benefits, watched their schools deteriorate, and paid more and more of the taxes.
Companies use temporary workers to avoid workers’ compensation claims, unemployment taxes, and benefits like health care or pensions. Now 65% of all new jobs added to the economy were part-time.
Temps earn 25% less than permanent workers, but they suffer higher injury rates than other workers doing the same jobs. A study in Washington state found temporary workers in construction and manufacturing were twice as likely to become injured.
Temporary workers often wait for hours without pay outside the temp agencies, even in winter, and often pay fees for temp agency van rides to the job site. They may pay for the ride, then find there is no job when they arrive. Many of them have worked in the same factories for years.
Now more than one out of four Americans live in high-poverty neighborhoods, with higher crime rates, slower police response times, poor schools, more pollution, less access to healthy foods, and less green space.
In southern states, over 30% live in such areas. Living in these areas leads to higher stress levels, more obesity and disease, and less success in education and work, dragging down our economy.
With constant cuts, the cost of college has constantly increased. Government studies show students who have worked hard and graduated have so much debt, they can’t buy cars or homes or start businesses, dragging down our economy.
But the injustice in our society goes far beyond even all this! In stark contrast to the unpunished, horrific crimes of the rich in America, the poor go to jail just for being poor or for all kinds of trivial things. This doesn’t happen in any other advanced Western country.
Debtors’ prisons were outlawed in the 1830s and a 1983 Supreme Court decision ruled this practice violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. Many states also have laws against debtor’s prisons.
In both 2013 and the summer of 2016, the Justice Department scolded courts for running debtors’ prisons and urged judges to end these unconstititional policies.
Even so, courts and judges in about a third of our states illegally jail people for not being able to pay their medical, utility, car, or credit card debts, bail, or court fines or fees.
One woman didn’t know most employers won’t direct deposit the last check—she had to pick it up in person. Because of this, she bounced a check for $28.93.
The town of Sherwood, Arkansas arrested her 7 times on charges related to that bounced check, resulting in fines and court costs of nearly $3,300. When she couldn’t pay it, they jailed her for 25 days.
A man with cancer in that same town wrote some bad checks for amounts ranging from $5 to $41. He ended up owing the court $3,054 and received a sentence of 3 months in jail.
Our bail bond system is expanding. Both the number of crimes assigned bail and the dollar amount of bonds have increased 50% since the 1990s.
Because of our bail bond system, nearly 500,000 Americans are in local city and county jails, innocent in the eyes of the law, just waiting for their court hearings. Most of them are the sole breadwinners in their families.
At the urging of Attorney General Robert Kennedy, in 1966, Congress passed the Bail Reform Act, made it illegal to keep poor people in federal prisons simply because they can’t pay bail.
Nothing changed in the state jails, however. Our commercial bail bonding industry is illegal in every other country worldwide except the Philippines. Here in America, these companies make $2 billion in profits each year.
This makes a mockery of justice. It means the constitutional guarantee of innocence until proven guilty only applies to people with enough money.
Our country is far safer than in the past. Violent crime has fallen by nearly 50 percent in the last 30 years and property crime has dropped by more than 40 percent from its peak.
People with low-level, nonviolent crimes are not likely to be a threat to public safety, nor at risk of fleeing from justice.
Even so, instead of jailing just dangerous people or those at risk of fleeing, our jail population has skyrocketed, creating vast warehouses of poor people and people with mental illness or drug problems.
Nearly 75% of people go to local jails for minor, nonviolent acts such as public intoxication, shoplifting or other traffic, property, or public order offenses but couldn’t afford to pay their fines or court fees.
The number of women in local jails has skyrocketed from less than 8,000 in 1970 to nearly 110,000 today, with most of them black, Hispanic, and poor. The vast majority of them (80%) are mothers.
These women have high rates of trauma, sexual or domestic violence, and mental and physical illnesses. And most of them go to jail for low-level nonviolent offenses.
We even have 10- and 11-year-old girls in jail simply because people trafficked them for sex, raping them and perhaps even sodomizing them!
The average poor person who can’t afford bail waits 23 days in jail after the arrest just to see a judge in court. Some people spend 5 years in jail just waiting for a trial.
Poor people living paycheck to paycheck are caught in a horrific, humiliating, terribly destructive bind. If they go to jail because they can’t pay the bail bond, they often lose their jobs, fall behind on their debts, and lose their homes or children.
Studies show poor people with no or very little history of crime are more likely to lose jobs, housing, and custody of their chldren after just two or three days in jail. Of course, going to jail may leave elderly parents or children without caretakers.
Because of facing these horrific personal and family consequences, many completely innocent poor people plead guilty to reduced charges and end up with a criminal record, simply because they can’t afford bail!
Sabotaging these low-risk people’s lives in these ways just makes it harder for them to succeed and makes them less stable. Some jails expose inmates to overcrowding, violence, filth, or disease.
Jailing people is so traumatizing that suicide is the leading cause of death for inmates in local jails. Nearly 1/3 of the 900 or so people who die in local jails each year committed suicide. Over 70% of those who die there were not convicted of any crime.
Because of our bail bond system, it is most often poor people committing suicide in local jails. Many of them were only facing misdemeanor charges.
We spend an estimated $9 billion each year of our tax dollars keeping millions of people locked up, even though they are presumed innocent.
Studies show keeping poor people accused of minor, nonviolent offenses in jail for more than one day increases the chance they will commit more crimes.
Research suggests our foolish, expensive bail bond system is not only inefficient, but actually contributes to high incarceration rates by sabotaging people’s lives.
Four states—Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, and Wisconsin—have outlawed commercial bail bonds. Colorado, New Jersey, Nevada, and Washington D.C. have greatly limited the use of bail to make it more fair to poor people.
Alternatives to bail generally evaluate the risk of pretrial release based on the type of offense and criminal history. Many can be released “on their own recognizance,” just signing a promise to appear in court.
Requiring defendants to sign a form agreeing to pay money for not showing up in court works as well as bail but saves states vast amounts of money by avoiding jailing the poor.
Our constitution gaurantees the right to a lawyer, no matter how poor you are. Yet huge numbers of people wait in jail for long periods without ever seeing a lawyer.
In some places, you have to wait for a grand jury to make an indictment before you can get a public defender. This may take a year because some grand juries only meet a few times a year.
One reason our prison population has exploded is funding for public defenders has fallen over the last 20 years, while we’ve hired more prosecutors and increased funding for them.
In New Orleans, public defenders have so many clients, they’ve started refusing cases, including even murder cases. Public defender offices in a number of other states have taken similar steps.
This makes a mockery of justice. We have a two-tiered justice system, where the well off often pay fines, post bail for their crimes, or go to rehab and walk free but the poor often end up stuck in jail for the very same crimes.
Just look at OJ Simpson being found not guilty of two murders, the “affluenza” teenage drunk driver that killed 4 people but just got probation and time in a posh rehab, and radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh avoiding prosecution for fraud and drug charges for 2,000 pain pills by going to rehab.
The injustice is obvious every day, all across the US. On the news, we regularly see video proof of police brutality over minor infractions or talking back to an officer.
For example, policemen choked Eric Garner to death in New York for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. And a Baton Rouge police officer shot and killed Alton Sterling for selling CDs.
Injustice like this surely causes resentment that makes us all less safe. In Chicago, since 2011, police have killed 10 people and yet charged someone else with the murder.
This can happen because in most states, prosecutors can charge you with a felony for setting in motion a chain of events leading to a crime. In the felony murder rule in Illinois, however, there are less safeguards for the innocent.
In one of these cases in Chicago, two best friends—Tevin Louis and Marquise Sampson—robbed a restaurant. They ran off separately and policeman Antonio Dicarlo killed Sampson.
Dicarlo claimed the young man pointed a gun at him but the dashcam video shows no evidence for this. Dicarlo had over 20 complaints for misconduct on his record, including four excessive force complaints, with one involving the improper use of a weapon.
In fact, Chicago had settled at least two civil lawsuits against Dicarlo for a total of $55,000, including one in which Dicarlo beat a man badly, left him bleeding, tried to stop other officers from calling an ambulance, then lied about the cause of the injuries.
Even so, courts found 19-year-old Tevin Louis guilty of murder for the police killing of his best friend and gave him a 20-year sentence. Chicago gave Dicarlo a hero’s award for outstanding bravery for killing Sampson.
Several of these other cases in Chicago of murder by police charged to civilians involve police shootings of passengers in fleeing vehicles. In one of these cases, the police officer killing a passenger had previously shot and killed three other civilians.
In another case, Chicago police shot 30 to 40 bullets into a car fleeing a robbery, killing one of them, even though the three people in the car were unarmed. Chicago charged the other two with murder and they are serving 20- and 25-year sentences.
We should demilitarize our police and train all of them in de-escalation techniques. We need police cameras on at all times, both car dash board and personal, wearable cameras. We need access to the videotapes on demand.
We need to establish expert, independent citizen reviews boards to investigate all deaths and injuries caused by police, with the power to subpoenae both police and witnesses. They should also have the power to hire and fire police chiefs.
Debt agencies are now using arrest warrants for collections. Many people go to jail for simply missing a probation appointment or not having the money to pay a fine or traffic ticket.
Because of how the greedy superrich have sabotaged our economy, now financially pressured cities are making money with fines and new court fees. In some cities, you can’t even get a court date to defend yourself until after you’ve paid your fine.
In 43 states, poor people must pay a portion of their public defender’s fees. In South Dakota, the poor must pay $92 an hour for this, even if they’re found innocent. So you can be found innocent and go to jail anyway for being too poor to pay the lawyer’s fees.
1n 2013, Ferguson city court issued 32,975 arrest warrants for nonviolent offenses, 50% more warrants than there are people living there.
The doors to the Ferguson court often close 5 minutes after the set time and if you arrived after the doors closed, they charged you an additional $120 to $130 fine, along with another $50 fee for a new arrest warrant and 56 cents for each mile the police drive to deliver it.
If you can’t pay your fine or post bail, you go to jail until Ferguson’s next court session, but they only have 3 sessions a month. If you go to jail, they charge you $30 to $60 for each day in jail.
Many cities charge for the cost of jail room and board, police investigations, prosecution charges, parole supervision, public defender services, electronic monitoring devices, and even jury trials, sometimes with varying fees depending on how many jurors you request.
Some judges punish missed payments by suspending drivers licenses, which just makes it harder to get to work, get to court, or to pay, often triggering more fines.
When for-profit private companies run probation programs, they can make money from optional fines they themselves can issue.
Pagedale, Missouri gives fines for residents failing to have blinds and matching curtains on their homes, for having a dish antenna on the front of a house, a hedge above three feet in the front yard, unsightly lawns, a wading pool in front of the front line of the house, or wearing pants below the waist in public.
One hospital night worker there had to replace her siding, repaint her gutters, downspout, and foundation, put up screens or storm covers outside every window, blinds or curtains on the inside, and make changes to her roof, fence, and yard. Her fines, fees, and court costs alone added up to $2,400, forcing her to take out a payday loan.
Putting poor people in jail just for owing money costs us taxpayers far more than the debts owed. It also throws families into chaos and worsens poverty, sabotaging the future of the next generation.
One Alabama circuit court judge scolded a local court and a private probation company for jailing people over court fines and fees, calling this a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket.”
Harlem residents can go to jail and get strip-searched for blocking pedestrian traffic, which can actually mean just standing in front of your own home at 1 a.m. after just getting home from work.
In Portsmouth, Virginia, a court held a young black man with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in jail for almost 4 months for stealing just $5 worth of groceries from a 7-Eleven.
The court never transferred him to a mental health facility, even though he refused his psychiatric medicines and meals until he starved to death. His family estimated he looked like he lost 65 pounds.
A high school sophomore from the Bronx constantly maintained his innocence of stealing a backpack and therefore refused all plea deals offered to him and repeatedly requested a trial.
The court never convicted him and repeatedly delayed his trial, so he spent nearly three years in Rikers Island jail and nearly 800 days in solitary confinement before the court dismissed his case and released him.
During his time at Rikers, he attempted suicide five times. Three years after his release, he finally killed himself. His family said he never overcame the pain and torment of solitary confinement.
In addition to all this, our major banks and hedge funds have used their political power to prey on the poor more and more. Up until the 1970s, we had laws protecting people from excessive interest rates.
Then big banks pushed through new laws eliminating these limits in many states. This created our massive payday loan industry preying on poor people and pushing them further into poverty.
The payday companies charge Mafia-type rates as high as 911% for loans. The average effective interest rate is 455%. In an estimated 120 million of these loans each year, people borrow a total of nearly $50 billion, with most of them taking out 7 or more loans a year.
An average person borrowing $300 will pay back $775, with interest and fees. One study found 76% of payday loans go to people stuck repaying older payday loans. Poor people pay about $30 billion a year in these charges, often paying thousands of dollars just to pay back initial loans of a few hundred dollars.
Understanding how abusive payday loans are, Congress outlawed payday lenders from exploiting members of the military, limiting the interest to 36% annually on several types of credit, and Washington D.C. and 15 states have banned payday loans to protect their citizens.
Payday lenders then migrated to the internet and set up shop offshore in places like Cancun, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Grenada, Belize, Malta, and the Isle of Man in order to exploit people, even people in states with laws against it.
Some of these states are now suing offshore payday lenders, but these companies often hide behind layers of corporations, making it difficult to trace them.
Our largest banks finance 42% of the payday loan industry and enable all the payday lenders by processing the withdrawals from customers’ bank accounts. About 27% of the payday loans then result in overdrawn bank fees, compounding the problems of poor people.
One woman went to her local JP Morgan Chase bank account to close her account to stop six payday lenders from taking her money, but Chase kept the account open against her wishes and allowed six internet lenders to try to withdraw money 55 times. Chase bank charged her $1,523 in fees for this.
Banks also cheat the poor by charging excessive overdrawn bank account fees. The typical fee for this is $34, even though studies show the average transaction triggering this fee is $24 or less and most overdrafts are paid off within three days.
If you took out a small, short-term loan like this and paid this amount in fees, the loan would equal an annual percentage rate of over 17,000 percent.
Because of these kinds of charges, people with no bank accounts now pay up to 10% of their incomes just to be able to access and use the money they’ve already earned.
ATM fees average $2.50 and go as high as $5, another predatory burden to the poor, as the real cost of processing a transaction is only about 35 cents. We should cap ATM fees at a maximum of 50 or 60 cents.
Now credit card companies are raising interest rates on millions of people for missing just one payment. In some cases, their rates have gone up to 30%. When supplemented with late fees that also have interest charges, the resulting interest rates can be as high as 600% a year.
Many major banks and hedge funds, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank America, are now buying up delinquent taxes or water or sewer bills or other local government fees from towns in auctions.
Next, they add on high interest rates and legal fees, and foreclose on people who can’t afford to pay. In this way, property owners can lose even fully paid-off homes because of tiny bills.
One woman whose husband just died lost a $280,000 house over $6.30 in unpaid interest she didn’t even know about. At the time of the house tax auction, she only owed $235, with other fees and interest.
A 95-year-old church choir leader with Alzheimer’s disease lost her family home to a Maryland investor over a tax debt of $44.79 while she was in a nursing home.
A retired Marine sargeant with dementia in Washington D.C. lost his paid off $179,000 home because of a $134 property tax bill when the extra fees added up to $4,999.
An unemployed woman in Baltimore with four children lost her fully paid off home because of a $362 water bill after investors took over and added thousands of dollars in legal fees she couldn’t afford.
About $6 billion in liens go on sale every year in the 28 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands where this practice is legal.
Very often, the major banks and hedge funds hide these abusive practices of vulture investing by setting up new companies to do their dirty work of throwing sick and elderly people out on the street.
The massive greed and tax loopholes of the superrich have also made it impossible for states to provide high quality education.
School systems struggle with deteriorating buildings and states have had to constantly raise tuition at our public colleges and universities.
This is a shame because a high quality education is one of the best investments we can make. Every dollar invested in education returns $10 to $15 dollars to our government later on.
Now wealthy school districts in America spend $19,000 per child each year, while the poorest spend only $7,400. Worldwide, only two other countries—Turkey and Slovenia—have such terrible educational inequality.
A federal commission at our Department of Education reported “no other nation has … so thoroughly stacked the odds against so many of its children.”
Most poor people spend over half their income on rent, 25% spend over 70% of their income on rent and utilities, and some pay over 80% for just rent. Landlords can charge not only unpaid rent but late fees and even double rent for each day someone stays after an eviction.
Only 1 out of 4 poor families eligible for rental assistance gets any and waiting lists for public housing are often many years long. In larger cities like Washington D.C., people wait on lists for public housing for decades.
Single mothers are more likely to face eviction than other families and the instability of repeated evictions and moves often sabotages low-paying jobs and children’s success in schools.
Often noise violations or police reports from domestic violence can lead to eviction, forcing abused women to choose between calling the police when they are beaten and losing their apartment.
Nuisance laws hold property owners responsible for crimes committed there. These laws may charge landlords hefty fines or force them to evict renters if the police have to go to the property a certain number of times.
Because of these horrible nuisance laws, many victims suffer and refuse to report violence just to keep their apartments.
Over 10% of all evictions and over 25% of all housing denials involve victims of domestic abuse. This helps make domestic violence the cause of 1/3 of all homelessness among families.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, evictions were far less common than today, yet people gathered in the thousands, rioting to prevent evictions.
Nowadays, millions are evicted every year, around 1 in 8 renters, often from substandard housing, and nobody pays any attention. And poor people facing unfair eviction in civil court have no right to any free legal counsel.
Civil asset forfeiture, in which police can seize and keep money or property even if the person is never charged, has grown from about $800 million in 2002 up to $4.5 billion in 2014.
In Philadelphia, half of civil assets seized are less than $192. Most people just give up trying to get fairly small unfair seizures back because it takes so many court appearances.
Our schools have become criminalized, with over 82,000 full-time and part-time police officers patrolling in them. Many security officers carry Tasers or stun guns, even though the Taser manual says using them on children can cause serious injury or death.
Things that schools used to handle themselves, like a child mouthing off or trying to run from the principal’s office, now result in the use of a Taser or end up in criminal courts and juvenile detention centers.
Very often, there are far more security officers than guidance counselors and social workers in the district. And many armed officers in schools get little or no training on de-escalating conflicts.
You don’t have to imagine the results. In Bastrop, Texas, a 17-year-old boy tried to break up a fight between his girlfriend and another girl. The video clearly showed he was the peacemaker.
A security officer pushed him out of the way and tased him, causing him to fall and hit his head, which required a medically-induced coma for 52 days, plus rehabilitation.
The school had no rules for how to deal with security officers and poor training for them. The officer in this case had a history of violence against students. The child is still not the same, but he received a large settlement.
A Chicago school security guard abandoned a 6-year-old girl handcuffed in the dark under a stairwell near a boiler because other children accused her of taking a piece of candy. The mother said she put the candy in her lunch box. Now the child fears the dark and anyone wearing a police uniform.
In Tennessee, police arrested 10 elementary school children and took them to juvenile detention for simply not stopping a 6-year-old boy and an 8-year-old boy hitting each other once over a basketball.
In Virginia, an 11-year-old autistic child walked out of class without permission. When the security officer grabbed him, the child reacted, pushing him. The officer slammed him to the ground, handcuffed him for three hours, and charged him with felony assault on a police officer.
In Kentucky, a deputy sheriff working as a security officer handcuffed two elementary school children with disabilities so small, he had to cuff their biceps because their wrists were too small.
In Brooklyn, a child had been going to school with broken glasses for weeks. One day, however, the security guard wouldn’t let him in because the safety pin holding his glasses together triggered the metal detector. This led to an altercation and the guard tackled him, giving him a summons and calling the police.
Because of zero tolerance policies and perhaps a previous problem, children can get locked up in juvenile detention for wearing the wrong color socks, talking back to a teacher, starting a food fight, or a curfew violation. These children can be jailed for days without any hearing.
American children often go to juvenile detention for having a cell phone on school grounds, walking in a hallway at school without a hall pass, swearing, or dress code violations.
Police arrested a black child in Louisiana, handcuffed him, and dragged him out of a social studies test in front of his peers, throwing him into juvenile detention for six days simply because he threw Skittles candy at another child on a school bus the day before. The arresting officer even cursed at him and threatened to beat him up.
One child in Michigan was arrested and expelled for 180 days for starting a physical alteration with his teacher by grabbing a confiscated note from her hand.
One girl in North Carolina spent nearly three weeks in jail for punching another girl on a schoolbus, even though the school already suspended her for five days.
Studies show black, Hispanic, and disabled children are far more likely to face harsh disciplinary measures, including arrest, than are white children committing the same first offenses in schools.
Thousands of children get locked up for non-criminal behavior like running away or truancy. Many of them face bullying at school or live in abusive home environments.
We should get police out of our schools and deal with these problems using community-based services, not the criminal justice system. We should require the the child to fix or make up for what was done, perhaps with service work.
Each year, we arrest about 1.5 million Americans for drugs, with 660,000 arrested just for having marijuana for personal use. No other advanced country wastes their time and money in this way.
It costs an estimated $10,000 for each marijuana arrest and conviction. Every dollar wasted in this way is time and money not spent on real crime.
For example, over 100,000 rape test kits across the country sit idly in police storage lockers. They’ve never been sent to laboratories for testing, leaving rapists free on the street. Some of them have been neglected for decades.
Cell-phone video technology now shows us unjustifiable killings by police. Sadly, our federal and state governments have never systematically tracked deadly force by police and police are virtually never held responsible.
An unusually thorough study of this issue, investigating 184 people shot by police in Georgia since 2010 found nearly half were unarmed or shot in the back, yet the state found every shooting lawful.
At least 20 of these officers had serious prior issues documented in their records, with 4 previously fired or resigning under threat of being fired from a previous police job in Georgia.
In the chapter on more effective crime laws, we’ll see experts believe our overuse of jail has pushed up our poverty rate by 20% and devastated millions of families, harming their children, the next generation.
Because of a lack of mental health services, there are ten times as many mentally ill people in prisons and jails as in psychiatric hospitals. These prisoners cost far more than other prisoners, stay in jail longer, and end up in solitary confinement far more often than other prisoners.
We’re also paying to settle lawsuits that result from these foolish policies. One mentally ill inmate gouged out both his eyes while in prison.
Another ate his clothes, paper clothes, padded cell liners, and Styrofoam containers, forcing the jail to send him to have his stomach pumped six times and requiring two operations.
Now there are whole industries preying on people in jails. The growing for-profit prison industry lobbies to keep and expand massive incarceration.
Prison telecommunications companies charge $3.15 for a phone call and up to $15 for a 15-minute phone call. An internet and banking company charges inmates $4.95 for a bank transfer into prison accounts and 33 cents for an email.
These companies, valued at $1.2 billion, make it a constant financial struggle for poor families and children who just want to talk to their parents in jail.
In most prisons, guards rarely fire guns. In Nevada, however, prison guards use 12-guage shotguns and even semi-automatic rifles to control inmates.
In 2015, at least 22 inmates were injured by shotgun blasts in Nevada. On average, officers shot a live shotgun round once every 10 days between January 2012 and June 2015.
One man was handcuffed behind his back next to another inmate handcuffed the same way. When they started kicking each other, the guard shot them. He died with at least 30 pellets in his face, 30 in his neck, and as many as 200 in his chest and arms.
Another man was eating when prisoners got in a fight less than 50 feet away. The officers shot and ricocheting pellets hit his face and upper body and blinded his right eye. He sued but the judge dismissed his lawsuit, saying an accident is not cruel and unusual punishment.
In the chapter on more effective crime laws, we’ll also see how denying ex-convicts jobs, government assistance, education, and housing increases homelessness, and drives many of these people back into prison.
Ex-convicts need a helping hand to build a productive life. Providing help is much cheaper than paying for repeated imprisonment. Sabotaging the rest of people’s lives because of one mistake just destroys families and communities and makes our country more dangerous.