More than the Usual Media

The New Jim Crow -Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Review by Chuck Armsbury

The longtime civil rights advocate and former law clerk for US Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun has written a book that summarizes almost three decades of race-based imprisonment in the US. Yet, more than a decade ago Michelle Alexander didn’t understand the caste system that characterizes the US prison population. Over the last few years her solid grasp of the drug war’s role tightened, and she can now easily explain how the mass incarceration of black and brown people was accomplished with coldhearted indifference and deliberateness.

Rushing to catch a bus in the late 1990s, “a bright orange poster on a pole caught my eye.” In large, bold print: The Drug War is the New Jim Crow. On the bus she dismissed the phrase as exaggerated rhetoric of a radical group, musing, “People will just think you’re crazy.”

Her well-written book represents a full turnaround in her thinking, and the result is this year’s bestselling illustration of the seamless historical development from the end of chattel slavery in 1865, through decades of Jim Crow laws into the 1960s, and to what is still a US Jim Crow caste system in 2010 that relies on mass incarceration of black and brown people. 

Get your copy of The New Jim Crow at the New Press, or wherever books are sold.


Prison Valley, an Online Shockumentary

A unique and shocking web documentary by French Filmmakers David Dufesne and Philippe Brault, takes you to a town in the middle of nowhere with 36,000 souls and 13 prisons, one of which is Supermax, the new “Alcatraz” of America. A prison t
own where even those living on the outside live on the inside. A journey into what the future might hold.

“We’d been fantasizing about this town ever since we read in some newspaper, ‘Canyon City is a clean version of hell’,” filmmakers explain to visitors at the beginning of the online film.

They bring you down the backroad into town, a road built by “convicts” of an earlier era and it’s eerie straight-away,” this shockumentary as critics have called the place at, . The Rivera Motel is in the valley where you’ll get checked in, but to understand this interactive website you really need to check it out.

The interactive film could easily broadcast to an adult Sunday School, or for a meeting of a community group. Take a completely expense-free and horrifying visit to a prison town. Invite your friends to join you online at Prison Valley today. Watch for an autumn 2010 book version release.


A subject ne
ar, not dear, to our November Member hearts is the profusion of criminal informants.

Not just for scholars or lawyers, this webblog can empower defendants, defense attorneys, judges and people of good conscience.

Natapoff’s book, Snitching Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice is a must read. Barnes of Noble gave it Best of 2009: Bookseller's Choice, with reviewer Peter Philbrook saying, “Of course the rat, the grass, the informer have always been among us, and Alexandra Natapoff makes clear that informers are a vital part of any justice system, especially in the pursuit of organized and white-collar crime. Her concern is to show how pervasive, and growing, the system really is, and to document its proneness to overuse, inherent corruption, evasion of standard rules of evidence, and lack of oversight. She shows how the most serious criminals often go free and are never tried, and how poor communities are divided and demoralized when snitching pervades local drug markets involving low-level dealers and users -- not to mention much outright falsehood and manufacturing of evidence, especially in prisons. It’s a truly eye-opening book and a fascinating look at how much police work depends on a system no one wants to talk about, as ironic as that may be. I can’t imagine anyone devoted to police procedurals wouldn’t find it engrossing -- and not a hair follicle stuck in a window with a DNA map in sight.”

Some of the hundreds of documents well-organized and accessible on Natapoff’s weblog are:

Federal Guidelines and Data: Attorney General’s Guidelines Regarding the Use of FBI Confidential Human Sources, U.S. Dep’t of Justice (2006); The FBI’s Compliance with the Attorney General’s Investigative Guidelines, U.S. DOJ Inspector General Report (2005);; Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations, U.S. Dep’t of Justice (2008) (“Filip Memo”) (contains guidelines for corporate cooperation); Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Dep’t of Justice

Sample Filings: Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct a Sentence By a Person in Federal Custody; Petition for Relief from a Conviction or Sentence by a Person in State Custody (Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus); Motion for an Informant Reliability Hearing; Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, ACLU Amicus Brief (2008) (addressing government obligation to collect and disclose information about informants); Motion to Dismiss Informant - Based Charges for Lack of Record Keeping (Missouri, 2008)


Thousand Kites, the group that brought you 1.000 Kites Radio, Calls from Home is now mapping prisons of the world. Using Google Earth, You Tube and a domain portal, any mortal human with a little knowledge of each of these public utilities, can literally show the free people of the world, the prison industrial complex November members warn of. Visit today and put your loved ones prison on the Incarceration Nation website.


"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized."

The folks at Flex have two movies, Busted, and 10 Rules for Dealing with Police. They are available on DVD and online. The Flex Blog keeps readers updated on 4th amendment and issues of police over-reach.

Based in Washington, DC, Flex collaborates with community activists to fight new policing schemes that violate citizens' Bill of Rights protections. Successes include decisive victories against Mayor Fenty's so-called Safe Homes Initiative and an attempt by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to implement random searches of Metro passengers.

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