By Mumia Abu-Jamal
[col. writ. 3/5/15] © ’15 Mumia Abu-Jamal
With breathless news reports, the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s Pattern and Practice Study paints a damning picture of a long, cruel and bitter train of maltreatment, mass profiling, police targeting and brutality against Black people in the Missouri town of Ferguson.
What may be even worse, however, is how the town’s police, judges and political leaders conspired to loot the community, by fining them into more poverty – fines which today account for some 25% of the county’s budget.
Correctly, cops have been criticized for their juvenile emails and texts of racism and contempt against the local Black community and even Black leaders in Washington, DC.
There is largely silence, however, over the role of judges, who used their robes to squeeze money from the community, with unfair fines and fees – even using their jails as an illegal kind of debtor’s prison.
In 1869, during the reign of England’s Queen Victoria, a statute known as the Debtors Act was passed, which forever abolished imprisonment as punishment for debt.
In today’s Missouri, it’s still used to punish and exploit the poor.
But, truth be told, it ain’t just Missouri.
Famed Rolling Stone writer, Matt Taibbi, in his 2014 book, The Divide, tells a similar tale, but from points all across America: Brooklyn, Bed-Stuy, Gainesville, GA, LA, San Diego and beyond, poor people are being squeezed and squeezed, by cops, by judges, by local governments – to part with their last dime – to support a system corrupt to the core.
Taibbi’s full title might give us some insight: The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.
It’s the system, one of exploitation, or predation; ultimately, of capitalism.
Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal is forthcoming from City Lights Publishers. Edited by Johanna Fernandez with a foreword by Cornel West.