Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A special tribute to a Legacy, Celebrating the Life of Dr. Maya Angelou

Several years ago, I wrote and dedicated a poem to the remarkable legacy of Dr. Maya Angelou.  I titled the piece, “Essence of Black Beauty”, to serve as an anthem for today’s generation woman, in hopes to inspire them to appreciate their beauty on the inside, which is what Maya always taught me.

Had it not been for the collection of her most inspirational poems, mostly notably, "Still I Rise” and “Phenomenal Woman",  I would not have been able to survive 20 years of blatant discrimination in the US Navy.  Her noble strength, profound words and radiant spirit, helped to inspire me to rise from the bottom of the enlisted ranks to later becoming a senior Supply Corps officer.  Despite the circumstance that led to the abrupt end of my military career.

Having been raised by a stern and strict single mother of four, Maya’s words continued to provide me guidance, counseling, shelter and protection over my spirit, as I endured years of workplace abuse.  After God survived me in the end and paved a new path for the next chapter of my life, her collection inspired me to publish my first poetry book, “Essence of Black Beauty”, and I’m in the process of publishing my second one, which I will dedicate to her memory.

My Dearest Maya, and fellow Poetess,

As the Holy Spirit prepares a place for you in her Heavenly Kingdom, I hear the triumphs playing your anthem, to welcome their Angel back home.  May your profound words of wisdom continue to serve as a pillar of strength, resilience and righteousness.   Like the threads that bond us, may your legacy help to keep me grounded and balanced, while I continue to spread seeds of joy, hope, love and peace. 
 I salute you!


            Essence of Black Beauty
                © 2007 Syneeda Penland

            As time has changed
            so have generations of our times,
            leaving intriguing tales
            and mysteries of our past;
            I search for answers, seeking to find…

            I seek to explore the Essence
            that defines the mystery
            of our hidden taboos;
            depicted by false labels and stereotypes,
            shamelessly dictating all that we do.

            Have we allowed these labels to shame us
            from vicious acts exploited in the past?
            Allowing this fear to still haunt us,
            how much longer will it last?

            No one put us on a pedestal
            to be portrayed as delicate and pure.
            Instead, curious of the ‘Essence of our Black Beauty’,
            strongly desired by those seeking to endure.

            To fulfill the desires of their fantasies,
            to strip us of all that was once pure.
            Planting a seed to become nameless,
            scarring our souls leaving us shameless
            of brutal acts never painless!

            This scar, passed on to each generation,
            left never to be discussed
            yet complete annihilation
            from the history of the heritage of “African Queens”.

            This heritage, so enriched by the beauty of her land,
            cradled in the Essence of her bosom, her jewels
            and all her riches are strongly desired by man.

            No longer will we be haunted
            by the mystery of our hidden taboos,
            which defaces our heritage
            and wrongfully defines what is true.

            For being Black defines the beauty
            that lies deep within our skin;
            either at its purest or mixed with other,
            combining such a beautiful  blend.

            To all my sistahs of color,
            “Be proud of who you are!”
            Show the world that you are able
            to lift the taboos, stereotypes
            and many false labels.

            Look in the mirror and inhale your beauty…
            Embrace it! And say out loud,
            with a wink of an eye of acceptance, say:
            “I’m Black!”
            “I’m Beautiful!”
             “I’m Proud!”

Monday, May 26, 2014

Let us remember why we serve... "A Message to the Class of 2014 U.S. Naval Academy Graduates"...

On a recent Facebook post, the Navy’s CNO, Admiral Johnathan Greenert posted, “I had the distinct honor to commission 784 Ensigns yesterday as part of the USNA commencement ceremony for the class of 2014. These Ensigns are our future. I told them to guard their integrity, treat everybody with dignity and respect, trust their shipmates and that their allegiance is to the institution, country and Constitution. Most importantly, I urged them to stay in touch with their Families. Congratulations on your graduation, I and your Shipmates around the world welcome you to an unbeatable Naval Team!” 

Full speech:

I have but one question for the Navy’s top chief… “How can you advise a group of young Ensigns on “integrity” and respect, when 7 years ago, while serving as the Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, you denied me the opportunity to exercise my Equal Employment Opportunity rights, granted to me under the passage of the 1964 CRA.  You furthered failed to provide me whistle blower protection, this came after I’d investigated and reported (to your office) evidence of contract bid ridding, illegal revolving door practices, misuse of war funds, reprisal and subsequent violation of my human rights.  I was serving as a senior Supply Corps Officer and certified Navy IG investigator.  As a leader of the world’s most powerful Navy, you do not suppress evidence of wrong doings. When you do, it will eventually weaken the thread that holds our country (Navy team) together. 

Today I give tribute to the memory of a fallen soldier, whose life came to a tragic end while she was serving in Iraq. Though she made bad decisions, her actions were influenced by those serving above her.  Though I vowed to never follow her same faith, I honor the reason why she served.  As a tried and proven humanitarian, the advice I offer to the distinct young graduates is to never sever ties with your roots, which begins at the grassroots of our country.  As America continues to afford us freedom, liberty and equality, continue to uphold and protect her moral code of conduct,“Lady Justice”.   As future humanitarians, I encourage you to stay balanced and grounded while keeping your eyes full speed ahead. 

Brava Zulu, “I salute you”!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Thought for the day...

When God puts you through a test, you are tested from within, especially when you are willing to step forward to accept the responsibility of governing the lives of of millions. 

Like all "labels and stereotypes", people are quick to judge you based on the color of your skin, not the content of your character, education, professional experience, world views (and experience), ethnic background, etc.  Although I must admit, I've labeled President Obama in the past, in hopes that one day he would find the courage to do what’s right for military veterans.  Also considering the fact that he’s a Leo, I digress. 

During some of my advocacy discussions with other veterans that are suffering from PTSD, I’ve expressed how disappointed I am at how he continues to allow senior military officials legal authority to investigate and cover-up crimes of Civil and Human Rights violations. Meanwhile, active duty veterans are forced to suffer at the hands of their oppressor (supervisors) when they chose to follow a moral high ground after witnessing and reporting crimes being committed by fellow service members.  

When President Johnson signed off on the 1965 Executive Order, governing America’s Equal Employment Opportunity Act; the law granted the Secretary of Defense executive authority to manage the military's “Race Related Issues”, which is what they called it back then. This is what continues to allow senior military officials legal authority to investigate and look out for themselves.  Yet the majority of senior officers are "white men"!

Be it rape, sexual assault/discrimination, bullying, race/gender/sexual orientation discrimination, etc.  It’s all the same.  How can you pass laws and not hold our country’s military law enforcement agency accountable to properly protect and defend their own kind?!!   SMH!!!

This is why the Constitution was amended, to outline the Bill of Rights for (at the time) a select group of citizens.   I’ve oftentimes compared (measured) him to previous Presidents, yet he still falls short.  Those that I have admiration for, despite the odds against them while facing the storm (God’s test), stood the test to bring an end to oppression (at least during a particular time in America’s history). 

As the military's Commander in Chief, I hold him personally responsible and accountable for the actions of those who serve under him.  As a former Naval officer, I took an oath to obey the orders of the President, which is why I had a hard time turning a blind eye to fraud and work place abuse.  As a Human Rights advocate and survivor of many of God’s tests, I ask, for the last time, "Mr. President, do right by us, especially those of us who are being denied justice and are forced to work in "non-combat" hostile working environments". 

As we come to celebrate Memorial Day, let us be reminded and be thankful to those who have since perished and were willing to sacrifice their lives for the safety and security of America, whether for “Truth or a Lie”, deep inside, we still believed that what we were fighting for is what keeps America Free.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

President Obama: It Gets Better.... Help put an end to bullying, it should not be tolerated.

As a human rights advocate, this is one of many causes I support, primarily because I have several family members that are gay and each of them have experienced bullying at some point in their lives.
Having encountered a large number of lesbians a few years ago during my brief incarceration at Mira Mar Brig, I must admit, I was terribly afraid of them. In my memoir, “Broken Silence”, I intimately discuss how I was preyed upon by lesbian inmates and even feared for my life, which caused me to become closed minded in wanting to learn more about their cause, and even help their “equality” struggles, until years later.

After I started blogging about military issues, primarily fraud, equality and human rights violations, I was contacted by a white male Navy officer who decided to openly serve after the passage of the DADT repeal.  At the time, he was being bullied by several senior officers in the Navy Aviation community.  After surviving the gauntlet, Lt. Steve Crowston decided to extend his time on active duty in a courageous attempt to further the Navy’s diversity efforts (or lack thereof), in hopes to make it better for the next generation.  Steve has come a long way since 2010 and continues to be a target of ongoing bullying, yet I applaud and “Salute” his bravery.

I on the other hand, have since embraced the uniqueness of our LGBT community.  After returning home to my roots, I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about the unique gay and/or “bi-sexual” culture, from my gay family members. One of them is my niece.  Since middle school, she’s been bullied by rich white kids and her teachers, which led her to be bullied by young boys in her neighborhood.  Unfortunately, she eventually became a bully herself.  I also watched a few television documentaries and TV shows about their culture, and I’ve concluded, they are just as normal as everyone else!!

Like a flower, or a tree, we cannot stop our youth from growing up; unless you cut it down, which is what bullying does to someone, it hinders them from reaching their full potential.

As we begin to celebrate Memorial Day weekend, let us render our military veterans a “Proud” hand salute to pay tribute to those who have fallen and thank those who continue to serve us in uniform and ask that our senior military officials embrace every unique quality that each of our children, wives, sisters, mothers, sons and fathers bring to the fight, that keeps America “free” and protected for the next generations to come.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The US Navy was hacked from inside its own aircraft carrier

The reports -- "When the Navy Criminal Investigative Service started looking into a breach of one of their low-security networks, the team got an unpleasant surprise: at least one of the culprits was a Navy sailor, performing the attacks from an aircraft carrier at sea.

The hacking group called Team Digi7al breached at least 24 websites in 2012, including the Navy's own SmartMove system, used to help sailors coordinate changes of address.

The team was looking for social security numbers and other personal data, the raw material for identity theft, targeting sites like the Toronto Police Service and Stanford University. For the most part, the attacks were small enough to stay under the radar — but when a tweet posted to Team Digi7al's Twitter account from an internal Navy network, NCIS realized the SmartMove attack had been an inside job, and sprang into action.

It took an elaborate sting operation to find Digi7al's inside, including a fake database designed as an attractive target, but finally NCIS traced the breach back to Nicholas Paul Knight, the systems administrator for the nuclear reactor onboard the USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier. On Tuesday, Knight plead guilty to charges of identity theft and obstruction of justice in federal court. He faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine."


Food for thought:  As a former Navy cryptologic technician, this situation is not unusual.  There are a lot of "hackers" serving in various ranks of our military.  Not too long ago, I encountered a "hacker" at the VA.  He was prior Air force and shared with me how he'd designed missile systems software for the AF.  Since he's been out, he's built a "mega" computer system that allows him to hack into various entities and download information within milli seconds, before detection by an antivirus software.  He also told me, which I almost didn't believe until I read this story, that he has developed a "hacking" program that allows him to download someone's personal information, ranging from medical information, banking information, etc., by simply clicking on a person's photo, from any website. Of course, this tells me that he's probably hacked into the Pentagon mainframe database or one of their satellites?!  

The worse threat to our national security is "inside" personnel!! I learned this in "A" School in the early 90s.   

If you think Snowden is a traitor, read about former Navy Radioman John Walker.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pre 1965: Events Leading to the Creation of EEOC

EEOC was created in the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act was an omnibus bill addressing not only discrimination in employment, but also discrimination in voting, public accommodations, and education as well. The law was forged in an atmosphere of urgency. There was growing unrest in the country emanating from the pervasive and egregious racial discrimination and segregation exposed during the civil rights protests in the 1960s. The civil rights struggle was played out in the streets of Birmingham, Alabama and other southern cities and because of television witnessed by America. During the spring of 1963, the world watched as demonstrators were beaten, attacked by police dogs, sprayed with high pressure water hoses, and then arrested and jailed. The sight of this kind of brutality against peaceful demonstrators, including children, outraged Americans at home and tarnished the image of the United States abroad. Ironically, these images galvanized the nation by confronting it with its own failings.

On June 11, 1963, during the height of the civil rights protests and demonstrations, President John F. Kennedy went on television to address the nation. He gave a simple but eloquent message:

We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and it is as clear as the American Constitution. The heart of the question is whether all Americans are afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated . . . [O]ne hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet free from the bonds of injustice. And this nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all of its citizens are free.

Now the time has come for this nation to fulfill its promise. The events of Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or state or legislative body can prudently ignore them. We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It cannot be met with repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations on the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act in Congress, in your state and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives. Next week I will ask the Congress of the United States to act, to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law.

Eight days later, on June 19, 1963, President Kennedy sent comprehensive civil rights legislation to Congress. Although opposition within the Congress was fierce, the need for civil rights legislation to address growing unrest in the country held sway. In August 1963, approximately 250,000 Americans of all races marched in Washington, D.C. in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The event, marked indelibly into the psyche of the nation by the famous "I Have A Dream" speech of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to symbolize the irresistible insistence for meaningful legislation to address the demand for racial equality and justice. This need, together with the mobilization of the civil rights and labor organizations and strong Presidential leadership, coalesced. The result, on July 2, 1964, was the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was to become effective one year later.

Despite the urgency for such legislation, the process to pass it was not easy. The Administration faced stiff opposition in the Congress. The loss of President Kennedy in November 1963 to an assassin's bullet threatened to derail the legislation he championed. However, a new champion an unlikely one in the minds of most civil rights organizations was found in the person of the new President, Lyndon B. Johnson.

Five days after the assassination, while the nation was grieving its terrible loss, President Johnson eloquently invoked that tragedy in an effort to give some meaning to that most senseless of acts. President Johnson, addressing a joint session of Congress, stated:

We have talked long enough in this country about civil rights. It is time to write the next chapter and to write it in the books of law . . . . No eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long.

Civil rights leaders, initially distrustful of President Johnson, soon came to recognize him as an ally and worked closely with him to ensure the Act's successful passage. Many legislative battles forced concessions and compromises to avoid a Senatorial filibuster that threatened to kill the entire Civil Rights Act.

Perhaps the most serious compromise occurred in the employment section of the proposed Civil Rights Act, a section that became known simply as Title VII, that prohibited discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, and retaliation. That compromise resulted in a bill that eliminated any real enforcement authority for EEOC. 

Instead, EEOC a five-member bipartisan commission was left only with power to receive, investigate, and conciliate complaints where it found reasonable cause to believe that discrimination had occurred. Where EEOC was unsuccessful in conciliating the complaints, the statute provided only that individuals could bring private lawsuits, and where EEOC found evidence of "patterns or practices" of discrimination, EEOC could then refer such matters to the Department of Justice for litigation.

As will be seen, the decades since 1964 have seen a steady, growing emergence of EEOC as the lead enforcement agency in the area of workplace discrimination, as Congress intended. Over the four decades that EEOC has existed, it has become a respected advocate for the communities it was created principally to serve. Those communities include all peoples of the nation because discrimination can occur to anyone of any race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, and of either sex. EEOC recognizes that as an agency of the government, it has a role of fairness not only to those protected classes whose forebears helped forge the alliances that resulted in the passage of civil rights legislation, but also to the employers and unions that are subject to EEOC jurisdiction.

EEOC has worked tirelessly to eliminate discrimination from America's workplaces since its creation. The hard work, idealism, and commitment of EEOC employees has been instrumental in widening the doors of employment opportunity for all Americans and helping to create a standard of living for this nation's diverse citizenry that is the envy of the world. But challenges still abound. In far too many workplaces, old ways die hard. Discrimination, while often boldly evident, persists now in subtle forms as well. The need for an agency like EEOC is as evident today as before 1964. This is the unfortunate but true state of affairs as the nation enters the new Millennium.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Are senior military officials above the law? According to Military Corruption, YES!

WILL SWENSON'S M.O.H. PAPERWORK reports – “At long last, after stonewalling for six months, the Pentagon Inspector General's Office has finally released under the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) their report concluding that retired GEN David Petraeus lied when he claimed to investigators he knew nothing about a missing Medal of Honor award packet for hero Army CPT Will Swenson.

Typical of bureaucratic language and double-speak, the IG report said the facts - that the "perfumed prince" (our phrase) deliberately tried to deceive probers as to his role in down-grading the award - "outweighed GEN Petraeus' testimony."

In other words, the former U.S. military commander in Afghanistan and Obama apologist on Benghazi, is a damn liar! He ought to be brought back off retirement and face charges, not just for his deception regarding Swenson, but for his admitted adulterous affair with his fawning biographer, Army Reserve officer Paula Broadwell.


But some people are above the law. Petraeus has his trump card thanks to the unsolved murder of four Americans, including our ambassador, in Benghazi.

The political general has the power to bring down both Barack Hussein Obama and Hillary Clinton if he ever came clean on what he really knows about the festering scandal.

However, Petraeus is the closest thing to teflon the Army has ever had. His crimes will be ignored and unpunished by wimpy Chuck Hagel, Obama's stooge and secretary of defense. Likewise, Broadwell will not be busted back to captain 0-3, despite her admitted adulterous affair with Petraeus in Kabul.

A West Point ring-knocker like her onetime lover, Broadwell will be allowed to complete 20 years of military service to guarantee her a retirement pension, and will maintain her present rank of major, regulations be damned!

If she were anyone else, especially an enlisted member or junior company-grade officer with no Pentagon connections, she'd have been reduced in rank and gone from the military long ago.

The regulation reads that officers can retire in grade ONLY if they have "satisfactorily" served in that rank. Period. Obviously, Broadwell has not.


As for Petraeus, we think he should face the music for what he has done. The retired four-star ought to be stripped of his top general's rank and receive retirement pay as a lieutenant general instead.

He has lied to Jonathan Landay of McClatchy Newspapers when the embedded war correspondent asked him flat out if he knew anything of CPT Swenson's Medal of Honor paperwork.

Petraeus lied again to I.G. investigators when asked the same question, as we have pointed out earlier in this article.

The only possible reason for the general to escape the consequences of his shameful actions is because he holds the fate of the "most transparent administration in history" in his hands. And Hussein knows that better than anyone else.

General, if you have any honor left, why don't you issue a public apology to CPT Swenson for under-cutting him, lying about what you knew of his case, and then deceitfully "down-grading" his Medal of Honor recommendation to a Distinguished Service Cross, as a sop to the top brass who were rankled by Swenson's loud complaints regarding lack of air cover when he risked his life to save others back in Afghanistan in 2009?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Live, LOVE, be Happy!!

Thought for the day...

When I take in too much negative energy, I have to remind myself, God created by the darkness and the light. Balancing your energy is the key!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Thought for the day...

Call out my Name

Awaken your heart
so I can nourish your soul,
within each of your pedals,
my story is told.

Eat of my earth,
to experience rebirth,
breath of my air,
for I am everywhere.

For my spirit is fire,
my passion fuels your desire;
my water will soothe
your burning flame,
surrender yourself to me;
just call out my name.

© 2014

Happy Mother's Day, Mother Earth

Mother Earth

When I look at you, I see me,
when I think of life’s possibilities;
I see the sun in the sky,
the moon up above,
the stars in heaven;
like you, they represent Love.

Happy Mother’s Day,
and thank you for giving birth
to all your starseeds!

© 2014  Syneeda Penland

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Veterans Affairs purged thousands of medical tests to 'game' its backlog stats

Thousands of orders for diagnostic medical tests have been purged en masse by the Department of Veterans Affairs to make it appear its decade-long backlog is being eliminated, according to documents obtained by the Washington Examiner.
About 40,000 appointments were “administratively closed” in Los Angeles, and another 13,000 were cancelled in Dallas in 2012.
That means the patients did not receive the tests or treatment that had been ordered, but rather the orders for the follow-up procedures were simply deleted from the agency’s records.
It is not known how widespread the practice is, or how many veterans hospitals have mass-purged appointment orders to clear their backlogs.
Agency officials refused an Examiner request for documents describing when the practice began or how many appointments have been canceled.
Read more
Food for thought:  Not only have I personally experienced this, but I've spoken to dozens of veterans that are experiencing the same nightmare!!  It's one thing to have already risked our lives for the liberty and freedom our citizens are afford, but to come home from war to experience additional pain and suffering from the VA hospital is inhumane.  
There is so much more about the military and the VA system that the average American have NO idea about!!!  Just google the military's rape/sexual assault, suicide epidemic and drug addiction and overdosing of our veterans.  I forgot to mention the hundred of thousands that are incarcerated after being diagnosed with PTSD.  
 As one of my fellow shipmates put it, "Military medicine is the new War on veterans"!  I must say, the evidence and reports speaks for itself!!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Knowing The Equal Protection Clause

The Equal Protection Clause is part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Many view it as the attempt to uphold the professed "all men are created equal" clause written in the Constitution. The Equal protection law implies that no State has the right to deny anyone within jurisdiction equal protection of the law.

The implementation of the Equal Protection Clause marked a pivotal point in the American Constitution. Before the Equal Protection Clause (part of the Fourteenth Amendment), the Bill of Rights was only limited to the protection of individuals from the Federal Government. Once the Fourteenth Amendment was enacted, the Constitution was extended to provide protection from State governments. 

The Fourteenth Amendment was implemented in 1868, a short time after the American Civil War. It preceded the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery, leading many former Confederate states to adopt Black Codes after the Civil War. To combat the list of Black Codes enacted in Southern states, Congress imposed the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

This Act was a direct effect of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Dred Scott v. Sanford case. The law required that all citizen regardless of race and color have the equal benefits of all laws, as enjoyed by white citizens. The doubts that arose with the law under the Constitution that was in existence then lead Congress to implement changes to the Constitution, which became known as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 

In order to ensure the fair practice of the Equal Protection Clause, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to apply different tests to the different State classifications and its response to fundamental rights. Usually the Court finds a State classification Constitutional as long as it has a "rational basis" to a "legitimate state purpose". The U.S. Supreme Court, however, established a firmer sense of analysis to certain cases. 

To measure the form of equal protection it will scrutinize any distinction when it encounters suspect classifications. When the Supreme Court orders a classification subject to scrutiny, it must have substance that a State law or the State’s administration holds intentions to discriminate. If any intent of a State law provides discrimination, the U.S. Supreme Court further analyzes the basis of race, national origin and in some cases U.S. citizenship. In order for a classification to pass a U.S. Supreme test, the State must prove that that there is an imperative interest to the law and the classification is needed to further its interest. The U.S. Supreme Court will also apply strict scrutiny if any classification interferes with the fundamental rights, such as the First Amendment, the right to travel, or a persons right to privacy.

Learn more at

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Prison Industry in the United States: Big Business or a New Form of Slavery? reports -- Human rights organizations, as well as political and social ones, are condemning what they are calling a new form of inhumane exploitation in the United States, where they say a prison population of up to 2 million – mostly Black and Hispanic – are working for various industries for a pittance. For the tycoons who have invested in the prison industry, it has been like finding a pot of gold. They don’t have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All of their workers are full-time, and never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don’t like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.
There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people. From less than 300,000 inmates in 1972, the jail population grew to 2 million by the year 2000. In 1990 it was one million. Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports.
What has happened over the last 10 years? Why are there so many prisoners?
“The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself,” says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.”
The prison industry complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and its investors are on Wall Street. “This multimillion-dollar industry has its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs. It also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cells in a large variety of colors.”
According to the Left Business Observer, the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.
According to reports by human rights organizations, these are the factors that increase the profit potential for those who invest in the prison industry complex:
. Jailing persons convicted of non-violent crimes, and long prison sentences for possession of microscopic quantities of illegal drugs. Federal law stipulates five years’ imprisonment without possibility of parole for possession of 5 grams of crack or 3.5 ounces of heroin, and 10 years for possession of less than 2 ounces of rock-cocaine or crack. A sentence of 5 years for cocaine powder requires possession of 500 grams – 100 times more than the quantity of rock cocaine for the same sentence. Most of those who use cocaine powder are white, middle-class or rich people, while mostly Blacks and Latinos use rock cocaine. In Texas, a person may be sentenced for up to two years’ imprisonment for possessing 4 ounces of marijuana. Here in New York, the 1973 Nelson Rockefeller anti-drug law provides for a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years to life for possession of 4 ounces of any illegal drug.
. The passage in 13 states of the “three strikes” laws (life in prison after being convicted of three felonies), made it necessary to build 20 new federal prisons. One of the most disturbing cases resulting from this measure was that of a prisoner who for stealing a car and two bicycles received three 25-year sentences.
. Longer sentences.
. The passage of laws that require minimum sentencing, without regard for circumstances.
. A large expansion of work by prisoners creating profits that motivate the incarceration of more people for longer periods of time.
. More punishment of prisoners, so as to lengthen their sentences.
Prison labor has its roots in slavery. After the 1861-1865 Civil War, a system of “hiring out prisoners” was introduced in order to continue the slavery tradition. Freed slaves were charged with not carrying out their sharecropping commitments (cultivating someone else’s land in exchange for part of the harvest) or petty thievery – which were almost never proven – and were then “hired out” for cotton picking, working in mines and building railroads. From 1870 until 1910 in the state of Georgia, 88% of hired-out convicts were Black. In Alabama, 93% of “hired-out” miners were Black. In Mississippi, a huge prison farm similar to the old slave plantations replaced the system of hiring out convicts. The notorious Parchman plantation existed until 1972.
During the post-Civil War period, Jim Crow racial segregation laws were imposed on every state, with legal segregation in schools, housing, marriages and many other aspects of daily life. “Today, a new set of markedly racist laws is imposing slave labor and sweatshops on the criminal justice system, now known as the prison industry complex,” comments the Left Business Observer.
Read more: