Sunday, October 22, 2017

GateHouse: Prison labor: A legacy of involuntary servitude

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
October 21, 2017
The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. As any high school sophomore knows, President Abraham Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation were driving forces behind the official abolition of slavery.
The 13th Amendment was passed by Congress and ratified by the states in 1865. However, there was a notable exception to the 13th Amendment. Slave labor and involuntary servitude could continue in America’s prisons “as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”
And, continue it does.
At the federal level, the Bureau of Prisons operates the Federal Prison Industries Program that pays inmates $0.90 an hour to produce everything from mattresses and spectacles to road signs for government agencies, earning the government about $500 million in sales in 2016, according to the Economist.
Overall some estimate that prison labor generates about $2 billion of revenue annually for federal, state and local governments and private businesses.
Prison labor has become so widely accepted that recently Caddo Parish, Louisiana Sheriff Steve Prator lamented a new state program that could release non-violent prisoners early. According to the New York Times, Prater said, “In addition to the bad ones (prisoners) ... in addition to them, they’re releasing some good ones that we use every day to wash cars, to change oil in our cars, to cook in the kitchen, to do all that, where we save money.”
Low-cost, and at times, no-cost prison labor has become so common that most people don’t even know that prisoners are providing essential services. For example, as wildfires ravage California, inmates account for about 40 percent of the firefighters trying to contain the devastating blazes.
Thousands of state prisoners work as firefighters, for as little as $2 a day. As news reports herald the heroic and dangerous work done by firefighter combating wildfires few realize those efforts are being provided for practically nothing.
Incarcerated workers, although not expressly excluded from the definition of employee in federal labor laws, are not provided the protections afforded other workers because of the wording of the Constitution. Courts have reasoned that the relationship between the prison and a “duly convicted” worker is penological in nature and not that of an employer and employee.
According to The Atlantic, incarcerated persons — in spite of the 13th Amendment — lack a constitutional right to be free of forced servitude. The forced labor is not checked by the protections enjoyed by workers laboring in the exact same jobs on the other side of the wall.
Heather Thompson, a professor at the University of Michigan who studies the history of prison labor, told The American Prospect, labor unions ensured during the New Deal era that strong regulations on the use of prison labor were put in place, including a ban on selling prison-made goods across state lines.
However, as the prison population began growing in the 1970s, businesses began lobbying to undo many of those regulations. In 1979, Congress enacted a law that for the first time since the 19th century allowed private companies to “lease” prisoners for work.
Last fall, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, a project of the Industrial Workers of the World union, drew up plans for a national strike “against prison slavery,” to draw attention to the exploitation of prison labor. Loosely organized strikes sprung up in prisons across the country.
Interestingly, according to The New Yorker, neither the A.F.L.-C.I.O. nor the S.E.I.U., the nation’s two largest union umbrellas, supported the prison strike.
The American labor movement had long opposed “free” work performed by prisoners — on the theory that it undercuts wages on the outside. Today big unions also represent prison guards, and probation officers and government workers who benefit indirectly from cultivating, implementing and managing prison labor.
Slavery continues in America — in every county and state of this great country.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.comand follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
To visit the column CLICK HERE

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Condemned Alabama man flips-off state before execution

The 21st Execution of 2017
Alabama  executed Torrey Twane McNabb on October 19, 2017. He convicted of killing Montgomery police officer Anderson Gordon in 1997.
McNabb's attorneys filed appeals in the case throughout Thursday to halt the execution that was set for 6 p.m. at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. the last stay was lifted between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. McNabb's official time of death was 9:38 p.m.
Gordon's family issued a statement after the execution.
"Over 20 years ago we lost a companion, a father a brother and a friend who only wanted to make a difference in his community. Brother, who we affectionately called him, worked to make a difference in his community until his life was taken from him," the statement read in part. "Though this has been a difficult day for the Gordon family, we also continue to pray for the family of Torrey McNabb."
McNabb's final words were as follows:
"Mom, sis, look at my eyes. I'm unafraid ... To the state of Alabama, I hate you motherf***ers. I hate you. I hate you."
A brief portion of his final words was unintelligible.
McNabb raised both of his middle fingers twice during the lead-up to his death.
He raised his right arm and grimaced about 20 minutes before he was declared dead, just after a corrections officer performed the second round of consciousness checks. McNabb's family members and attorneys audibly expressed concern that he was not yet unconscious at that point.
To read more CLICK HERE


Friday, October 20, 2017

Mangino interviewed on WFMJ-TV21

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV21 regarding Mercer County District Attorney Miles Karson who is facing 17 misdemeanor charges, including obstruction of government functions, officially oppressing an arrest or search warrant, and hindering prosecution.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Locking up crime victims as material witnesses, again victimizing the victim

Sarah Stillman is a staff writer at The New Yorker writes a compelling story about the arrest and jailing of innocent material witnesses. Here is a sample of her provocative article:

In New Orleans, Renata Singleton called the cops after her then boyfriend, in a jealous fit, grabbed her cell phone and smashed it; she’d feared for her safety.
As trial rolled around for her ex-boyfriend, Singleton the victim, was put in jail as a material witness. She was locked up for a week although she had three small kids, ties to the community, and a job.
On the day of trial she showed up ready to testify, only to learn that her ex-boyfriend had already pleaded guilty, avoiding jail time altogether.
According to Stillman, “Her testimony wasn’t needed after all. He’d agreed to a six-month suspended sentence, with one year of inactive probation. “I was so violated, so upset and hurt that I had to sit in jail,” Singleton told me. “So, when I found out he took a plea and didn’t have to do anything, I was, like, ‘Are you serious . . . I wish I could have had that deal.”
The right to jail these so-called material witnesses has deep roots in America. (A material witness is an individual considered vital to a case, often because he or she saw a crime unfold or was its victim.) As early as 1789, the Judiciary Act codified the duty of witnesses to appear before the court and testify. From a public-safety perspective, the statute has a clear purpose: the perpetrator of a crime should not escape punishment because of a witness’s reluctance to testify. “The duty to disclose knowledge of crime rests upon all citizens,” a 1953 U.S. Supreme Court opinion, in the case Stein v. New York, reads. “It is so vital that one known to be innocent may be detained, in the absence of bail, as a material witness.” 
In 1984, Congress reaffirmed the right to jail material witnesses, but also noted that their testimony should be secured by deposition, rather than imprisonment, “whenever possible.” Jailing crime survivors and innocent witnesses, in other words, was legal but undesirable.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft identified the material-witness statute as a convenient weapon for the war on terror. Federal agents could use it to detain individuals of interest, even without sufficient evidence to arrest them as criminal defendants, by deeming them “witnesses” to terrorism-related crimes. In late 2001, the Department of Justice used material-witness laws to target Muslims, often arresting them at gunpoint and later placing some in solitary confinement. According to Human Rights Watch, the U.S. government eventually apologized to at least thirteen people for wrongful detention as material witnesses, and released dozens more without charges. 
“Holding as ‘witnesses’ people who are in fact suspects sets a disturbing precedent for future use of this extraordinary government power to deprive citizens and others of their liberty,” Human Rights Watch argued. In the face of lawsuits and public scrutiny, the practice slowed.
Recently, however, controversy over the use of material-witness statutes has resurfaced—this time at the state and local level.
To read more CLICK HERE


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Beaver County, Pennsylvania sues opioid manufactures

Pennsylvania's Beaver County filed a lawsuit on against opioid manufacturers, reported Jurist.
The lawsuit, filed in the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas [official website], accuses manufacturers and doctors of deceptive acts, fraud, unjust enrichment, negligence, misrepresentation and public nuisance, seeking in return compensatory damages, punitive damages and the county's legal costs.
The complaint describes the state of the opioid epidemic in Beaver County, noting it spends millions annually in response to the opioid crisis, including expenses for emergency responses, police overtime, and increased incarceration and treatment. The first 10 pages of the 83-page complaint set forth support for the county's claim, citing to national and county-wide opioid-related statistics. According to the complaint, deaths associated with opioid use have tripled in Beaver County from 1999 to 2015, causing it to incur the highest rate of fatal overdoses in Pennsylvania in 2017 at 59.9 per 100,000 people.
The majority of the text concentrates on manufacturers' alleged strategy and tactics which caused and continue to cause addiction, illness, and death to users. As described in other similar lawsuits, these plaintiffs accuse manufacturers of promoting the sale and use of opioids through third-parties, many of whom are doctors:
Recognizing that doctors are gatekeepers for controlling access to prescription drugs, not surprisingly, manufacturers focused the bulk of their marketing efforts ... on the professional medical community. As a controlled substance with significant regulatory barriers limiting access, Defendants knew doctors would not prescribe opioids to patients with common chronic pain complaints unless doctors were convinced that opioids had real benefits and minimal risks. Accordingly, Defendants concealed from prescribers, patients, and the public that evidence in support of their promotional claims was inconclusive, non-existent and unavailable. Instead, each Defendant disseminated misleading and unsupported messages that caused the target audience to believe those messages were corroborated by scientific evidence. As a result, Beaver County doctors began prescribing opioids long-term to treat chronic pain—a treatment choice that most if not all never would have considered prioir to Defendants' campaign.
Named defendants in the lawsuit include four allied physicians, and manufacturers and some subsidiaries of Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions, Allergan, Actavis, Watson Pharmaceuticals, McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen.

To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sen. McCain lashes out against 'spurious' nationalism

Sen. John McCain of Arizona set rhetorical fire to what he called "half-baked, spurious nationalism" in a speech in Philadelphia, reported Business Insider.
McCain was there to accept the National Constitution Center's Liberty Medal, in recognition of his decades of service to the US. Former Vice President Joe Biden presented McCain with the honor on Monday evening.
"To refuse the obligations of international leadership, and our duty to remain the last, best hope of Earth for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems," McCain said, as the audience erupted in a raucous applause.
McCain said that kind of nationalism "is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history."
"We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil," McCain declared, referencing the racist ideologies of Nazi Germany that have resurfaced in the midst of the current white-nationalist movement in the US.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, October 16, 2017

Suit filed against white supremacists for riots in Charlottesville, VA

 A lawsuit filed Thursday morning seeks to hold white supremacist Richard Spencer and the organizers of the Aug. 12 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA accountable for the harms and injuries they caused, reported Slate. The suit, filed by 11 plaintiffs harmed that day, was filed in federal court in the Western District of Virginia. Plaintiffs include clergy leaders, peaceful protesters, and University of Virginia students. One suffered a stroke. Two were struck in a car attack. Among the named defendants are Spencer, rally organizer Jason Kessler, Vice interviewee Christopher Cantwell, Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin, and James Alex Fields, the driver of the car that killed Heyer.
The suit was brought by a pair of seasoned litigators: Roberta Kaplan, who successfully represented Edie Windsor in the 2013 case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, and Karen Dunn, a former federal prosecutor in Virginia. (Disclosure: Kaplan is a friend.) It was funded by a new nonprofit, Integrity First for America, dedicated to defending democratic norms and ensuring equal rights for every American. “The whole point of this lawsuit is to make it clear that this kind of conduct—inciting and then engaging in violence based on racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism—has no place in our country,” Kaplan told me via email. “We are a nation of laws, dedicated to the principle that all people are created equal. On behalf of our very brave clients, we are using those laws to prevent these defendants and others like them from being able to repeat what happened in Charlottesville ever again.”
The 96-page filing, which accuses the white supremacists of violating the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 and other statutes, paints a picture of the events in Charlottesville that bears no resemblance to the president’s “good people on both sides” narrative. It is shot through with tweets, photos, and messages that capture the gleeful planning and howling execution of an event that was intended to be the largest and most terrifying white supremacist event in decades.
To read more CLICK HERE