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This ain’t Wonderland, this is Ferguson, Missouri, antechamber of Hell

2015 February 10
by Ian Welsh

Conditions in the Ferguson city jail:

“They are kept in overcrowded cells; they are denied toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap; they are subjected to the constant stench of excrement and refuse in their congested cells; they are surrounded by walls smeared with mucus and blood; they are kept in the same clothes for days and weeks without access to laundry or clean underwear; they step on top of other inmates, whose bodies cover nearly the entire uncleaned cell floor, in order to access a single shared toilet that the city does not clean; they develop untreated illnesses and infections in open wounds that spread to other inmates; they endure days and weeks without being allowed to use the moldy shower; their filthy bodies huddle in cold temperatures with a single thin blanket even as they beg guards for warm blankets; they are not given adequate hygiene products for menstruation; they are routinely denied vital medical care and prescription medication, even when their families beg to be allowed to bring medication to the jail; they are provided food so insufficient and lacking in nutrition that inmates lose significant amounts of weight; they suffer from dehydration out of fear of drinking foul-smelling water that comes from an apparatus on top of the toilet; and they must listen to the screams of other inmates languishing from unattended medical issues as they sit in their cells without access to books, legal materials, television, or natural light. Perhaps worst of all, they do not know when they will be allowed to leave.”

Ah, America.  The City on the Hill.

16 Responses
  1. Q. T. permalink
    February 10, 2015

    “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down” – Randy Newman, Faust. The devil sings about himself.

  2. Monster from the Id permalink
    February 10, 2015

    “Some residents spend (3-5) weeks in the jails, not to serve a criminal sentence, but because they can’t afford to pay a fine to get out…”

    The debtor’s prison returns by the back door.

    “Christian nation”, my @$$. My country’s actual god is Mammon, and always has been Mammon.

    The Capitalist Shahadah: “There is no god but Mammon, and Ayn Rand is his prophetess.”

  3. CMike permalink
    February 10, 2015

    Ferguson, Missouri has a City Council controlled by seven voting members. The city has three districts which, from a glance of the map, do not appear to be gerrymandered. Each district elects two voting members to the council with the mayor holding the seventh voting seat. Two of the six district seats are up for election each April, though no more than one seat from any given district is scheduled to be determined in a given election cycle. The mayor’s office on the ballot every third year. Therefore every two consecutive Aprils a majority of the holders of the voting seats are elected to office.

    The City Council chooses the City Manager, the City Manager hires the police chief. In 2011 the current mayor, a white who ran that year against two other whites, was first elected. He won the seat again in 2014 against no opposition in an election with a 12% turnout. Apparently, there were no pressing issues facing the community that year. Currently five of the six council members are white. As of the 2010 census, Ferguson was 67.4% African American with a total population of 21,203.

  4. Mary McCurnin permalink
    February 10, 2015

    Hard to vote from jail.

  5. CMike permalink
    February 10, 2015

    Mary McCurnin,

    That’s one explanation for the low voter turnout in Ferguson. Last August a blogger at Kos went with the idea you can’t expect people to go to the polls in April. Back then, too, in his “In Ferguson, Black Town, White Power” submission a New York Times guest columnist was pitching the obvious to him idea that as African Americans had only been a significant voting bloc in Ferguson for fifteen years- significant as in the majority bloc of eligible voters -that that would explain the lack of African American voter participation in city elections. Other progressives, I assume, would blame Ronald Reagan.

  6. guest permalink
    February 11, 2015

    With significant police targeting of black voting age people, it is very easy for a 67% majority to become a less than 50% of eligible voters.
    Once you have a conviction, at least for a felony, that is usually the end of your voting rights. Also, registering to vote, I would assume, would put you on the radar for any outstanding warrants, even for misdemeanors, even if those misdemeanors wouldn’t disqualify you from voting. I don’t know the actual legal requirements in Missouri, in general, or Ferguson in particular. But I would doubt that the black residents of Ferguson with past problems with the police would know either. If I was them, I’d be afraid to register to vote too.
    And don’t something like 50% of black males have criminal histories? Take 67%, cancel out half of that, and then your 33.5% remaining pretty much equal to the 33% nonblack vote. If the rate in Ferguson is significantly higher than 50% for black adults, then welcome to permanent White Rule.
    Disenfranchisement is one of the primary goals of the wars on crime and drugs, and whatever.

  7. guest permalink
    February 11, 2015

    PS,
    I when I lived in Texas, you could register to vote when you renewed your drivers licence. And you could also get arrested renewing that licence quite easily. I knew lots of people (whites) who had unpaid parking tickets or traffic tickets they completely forgot about, and ended up in jail when they went to renew their licences and found out there were warrants out for them. Not like they didn’t pay the tickets because they didn’t know about them, or knew but forgot about them. They didn’t pay them for whatever reason, then a year or two or three later when it was time to renew, they forgot that they were still out there (like they paid two or three old tickets and forgot there was another one out there). And they didn’t know that they could get arrested for that shit.
    When I moved out of Texas, I had to go thru a 1/4 mile of a toll road. There was no way to pay, and no phone number or address given to send a payment. They just photographed your license plate and sent a bill to your address (which in my case I had moved out of 30 minutes earlier, with no forwarding address because I had no home for the next 30 days). I never got the first notice, and by the time the bill got to me 2 months later, the toll of less than $2 was up to $17 with penalties (and the due date for the $17 was already past). I paid the toll, but refused to pay the penalty, since I paid as soon as I was given notice. The penalties went up to $60, and they hounded me by mail and phone for years. I would call the number they gave to dispute the bill, but there was no way to reach a human. Just more and more recordings saying you must pay, with no information given on how to dispute it.
    I haven’t gone back to Texas for years, and one big part of that is the fear that if I get pulled over a traffic ticket or because my rental car has a broken tail light, I will get arrested for that stupid toll.
    Texas has lost a lot more than $60 in the amount of hotel and rental car taxes I would have paid if I’d gone back even once a year to visit, not to mention sales taxes at restaurants and just money spent in the economy.
    But fuck ’em all for being such grubby idiots.

  8. February 11, 2015

    please stop insulting Dis. their are some good points to it.

  9. February 11, 2015

    Humankind’s inhumanity to others never ceases to disturb me

  10. CMike permalink
    February 11, 2015

    Interesting that those would be your speculations guest.

    Actually, Ferguson is 55% female with 71+% of its total population made up of over eighteen year olds. Voter registration is at about 80% of the city-wide voting age population. It would appear that City of Ferguson African Americans voted in numbers equal to City of Ferguson European Americans in the 2012 presidential election.

    It has been suggested that the low voter turnout in the April elections by African American voters relative to European American voters in the City of Ferguson has to do with the fact that voting age African Americans as a group are younger and have a lower property ownership rate than the European Americans in the city, and therefore that explains why they participate less in local civic affairs.

  11. Sandman permalink
    February 11, 2015

    So what’s your point, CMike?

  12. markfromireland permalink
    February 11, 2015

    @ CMike February 11, 2015

    It has been suggested that …

    By whom has it been suggested and in what context did they suggest it?

    mfi

  13. joe marchal permalink
    February 11, 2015

    Heres the news for what it’s worth from some one living in a quite poor central California county. I was surprised to see a huge new beautifully designed modern prison and courthouse, impressive steel and glass facade etc, quickly being constructed near the site of the adequate old prison and courthouse. The new 200 room prison is apparently the product of a bond measure recently passed by the state.
    The poverty and barely functional local economy led the sheriff in a recent reelection campaign to publicly state he’s not going to “make growers a priority” This has created a flood of buyers snapping up any real estate with water and a decent southern exposure.
    I had a conversation recently at a bar with a union roofer who was working on the new prison roof. He told me he could see pot patches all over the place from the rooftop. I learned the county has contracted with the state to house prisoners from other overcrowded prisons around the state as ordered to do so by the feds. The imported prisoners are seen as way for the county to make money.

  14. CMike permalink
    February 11, 2015

    Sandman wants to know what my point is. OK, unlike in a multi-tiered system like voting for the President of the United States where voters are eventually cut out of the process, I would say when it comes to the prevailing public policy on long standing issue of local controversy the voters in the local jurisdiction are ultimately responsible for that policy.

    Now over the years I’ll admit that I have not been much involved in local politics and that the local authorities where I have lived have handled various issues in a manner I suppose most of my fellow-citizens might have objected to if polled. However, the disagreeable policies put in place to handle those issues which we voters did not band together to address tended not to rise to a level of impropriety that would fairly be described as totally outrageous. Nonetheless, I would expect that after a few years those of us living in a city or town of, say, less than 100,000 people would find a way to address such a disastrous state of affairs.

    Hopefully, the citizens of Ferguson will be using their votes in the coming elections to make some overdue changes with the way revenue is raised in their city, with who is in charge of the police department, and with how the city jail is run. I do find it odd that when Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and some of his fellow MSNBC anchors turned their attention to Ferguson late last summer that organizing the vote there was not at the top of their “to do” lists- odd, but not surprising.

    I wrote:

    It has been suggested that the low voter turnout in the April elections by African American voters relative to European American voters in the City of Ferguson has to do with the fact that voting age African Americans as a group are younger and have a lower property ownership rate than the European Americans in the city, and therefore that explains why they participate less in local civic affairs.

    markfromireland asks:

    By whom has it been suggested and in what context did they suggest it?

    I’m not sure why who suggested it would be especially relevant. Without having checked it out further myself I, nonetheless, would expect that theory to have been drawn from accurate data. As to the conclusion itself, it makes some sense to me, also. Does it depend upon by whom it was suggested as to whether that conclusion is a pejorative one? Actually, I had heard this theory mentioned by different commentators a few months back, but when I was clicking around last night I saw it again here [LINK]:

    St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch also has been criticized for what many in the African-American community see as the slow pace of the investigation into Brown’s shooting. In April, McCulloch, who is white, defeated an African-American challenger, Leslie Broadnax, in the Democratic primary….

    It doesn’t help that Missouri’s city council and school board elections are held in April, rather than in November when they would coincide with state or federal contests. That arrangement leads to lower turnout across the board, but especially among racial minorities. Some southern cities have been accused of deliberately moving their municipal elections to the spring or summer in order to reduce black turnout.

    The region’s recent migration trends also have worked against black engagement. Many of Ferguson’s black residents only moved there in the last decade or so, and are unlikely to own their homes, local leaders say. As a rule, newer residents and renters tend to be less likely to register to vote, and to cast a ballot, than those who have been there longer and own their own homes, who often have developed the voting habit – a fact that often works against minority and low-income participation.

    “A lot of the voters are the older Caucasian families that have been there for years,” said Broadnax….

    And Sandman, as to another point that might be made, the same article concludes:

    But State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, whose district includes Ferguson and who has been involved in the protests, said she thinks the anger over the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown will translate into increased political engagement among the region’s blacks.

    “I think this issue is changing the game completely,” said Chappelle-Nadal. “People are upset.”

    Still, for Gaskin, a board member of the national NAACP, the current lack of participation among the area’s minorities makes it’s tough to hear older activists talk about the sacrifices made in the civil rights struggle.

    “It brings me to tears hearing from Julian Bond and everyone how important it is to vote, for the people that lost their lives,” Gaskin said, “when we’ve had to almost try to convince people to utilize this precious tool that so many people in the world don’t have access to.”

  15. February 12, 2015

    Ahhhh, yessss: “America. Land of liberties and the epitome human rights. The reason so many immigrate here from their native lands”…
    So proud to be from the U.S.A.
    (Chuck Berry once “couldn’t wait to get back” here. I wonder why.)

  16. Vbo permalink
    February 13, 2015

    I’m in Heaven, and I’m surrounded…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2J0E56JpGJw

    http://lyrics.wikia.com/Men_Without_Hats:Heaven

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