JESSE JACKSON: Our criminal justice system needs radical reform

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Our criminal justice system needs radical reform

Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr.

In the civil rights movement, we have been constantly reminded to keep our eyes on the prize. What is the price? Equality of opportunity and outcome, which demands fairness in all aspects of our lives – education, housing, property, job training, employment, political access and most importantly in the criminal justice system.

Our criminal justice system still needs radical reform. Blacks make up over 40% of the prison population, but only 13% of the country’s population.

The geographic numerator changes – north or south – but the denominator remains the same – an unfair nationwide criminal justice system. Three current incidents illustrate: Jelani Day in Peru, Illinois; Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin; and Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia. Jelani Day, a 25-year-old black medical student at Illinois State University, was a “shining light” in her family; he and his sister were in competition to become doctors. He disappeared on August 24. The family and a teacher reported her missing on August 25.

His car was found two days later in a wooded area near where his body was later found in Peru, miles from where he was last seen. LaSalle County law enforcement officials discovered his body on September 4 “floating near the south bank of the Illinois River about a quarter of a mile east of the Illinois Highway 251 bridge. “. Parents continue to criticize the investigation as little attention was initially given to her disappearance. This happened against the backdrop of the disappearance and subsequent death of Gabby Petito, who was enjoying national coverage.

There are inconsistencies, a high degree of incompetence and a lack of cooperation between the various law enforcement agencies surrounding the case. There is still no closure on what happened to Jelani Day. Racial Dimensions in the Trials of Rusten Sheskey, Accompanied by Two Other White Police Officers Responding to a Domestic Complaint from Jacob Blake’s Fiancee – a Black Man – Shot Blake Seven Times in the Back, with her Children Watching in the Backseat . Blake, they say, refused to obey the officers, so they opened his car door and went inside.

Blake was left partially paralyzed by the incident. Racial violence followed in Kenosha. Constable Sheskey has not been charged with a felony. As the unrest continued, 17-year-old white Kyle Rittenhouse decided to take justice into his own hands. He left his home in Antioch, Ill., With his mother who drove him to Kenosha with a loaded military-style semi-automatic rifle (illegal for someone his age) “to help police protect companies “. He killed two protesters and injured another, but walked freely past police and military vehicles even as onlookers shouted that he had just shot several people.

The next day, Rittenhouse was arrested and has now been found not guilty of five felonies and one misdemeanor. A white judge, Bruce Schroeder, who has a history of controversial judicial behavior, appeared unfair as he told the prosecution that they could not characterize the victims of the shooting as victims, but the defense could call them victims. qualify as rioters and looters. , if they had such evidence. A juror has been removed from his post for making a racial joke on Jacob Blake.

The judge also attacked the press in court for being unfair in their coverage, and the trial seemed unfair from the start.

Ahmaud Aubery, an unarmed black jogger, was shot and killed by three white vigilantes who were not even arrested until more than a month later after video of the shooting went viral. Ultimately, the jury was made up of 11 white jurors and a single black juror in a 25% black town. Defense attorneys used preemptive challenges to remove several potential black jurors, who were asked questions like what they thought of Black Lives Matter and if there were any racial issues between the black community and the police. .

Their responses were then used to remove them from the jury. Additionally, the defense appeared to be trying to bring Mr. Aubery to justice by showing photos of him looking around in buildings under construction, claiming that there had been recent thefts in the community, and that the defendants were only trying to arrest a citizen and detain him until the police arrive, as if they were protecting the community.

Fortunately, the predominantly white jury did not fall for the defense argument. The three white vigilantes – Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan – have been convicted of multiple counts of murder.

But the easiest way to demonstrate the racial dimension of the three incidents – and one could add the events of January 6 at the United States Capitol – is to reverse the racial roles of each. Imagine that the real victims are white and the alleged perpetrators are black.

What these cases show is a pattern – a line of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, George Floyd, Michael Brown, the Charleston Nine – that we cannot accept as normal. Would we view these incidents the same if they were reversed? Obviously not. Even in Aubery’s murder – despite the guilty verdicts – the late arrests, jury selection, among other aspects of the case, remain questionable.

The only solution is to engage in mass action and mass voting that will allow the truth to come out, which will lead to a radical reform of our criminal justice system.

Photo of Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr.

Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr.

Founder and President of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, is one of the foremost American figures in civil, religious and political rights. Over the past forty years, he has played a central role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice. On August 9, 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded the Reverend Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.



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