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Law Firm of Stephne G. James

Injustice System

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This is attorney at law Stephen G. James, and as this is our first installment of our bi-weekly about law for the magazine, Our World on Sutphin, it’s very important that we start off with a topic that is of import to our community and the future of our community. We would like to talk about how to prevent our young black men from ending up incarcerated in the so-called criminal “in-just-us” system.

As an attorney for 30 plus years, I’ve seen so many of our young people slip-sliding towards those prison gates; whether it be starting off with juvenile contacts in the juvenile justice system or as a young adult being tried as an adult and maybe not going to jail the first or second time, but getting that record. That record has been so important to many a prosecutor. They’ll even dangle “no jail. we’ll let you go home if you pay a fine. You don’t have any money? No fine, but just take the conviction.” Because they knew that down the line as an adult that does not come off your record, and it can lead you to be prevented from living in certain housing, whether it’s public housing or even private, where they do background checks and criminal record checks, or getting certain jobs that pay certain money, or getting licensing in certain occupations and fields. So you’re getting yourself closed out by having these convictions, which will lead to the frustration of not being able to move forward and progress in your life, which can sometimes lead you to crime. Prosecutors knew if they can just get that conviction, you will be back for the big house later. We don’t have to offer you jail today at 16 or 17 as long as we get to that adult conviction by the time you’re 25, 30 and you run into the frustrations that this conviction will create in your life, you’ll somehow commit some type of crime that will bring you back here and therefore slip down a pathway into the prison system.

So why can’t this knowledge be taught in elementary school so that you can avoid it from the earliest stage? The same reason why I often told people over the years that finance, investing and the stock market are not taught. They don’t teach you how to do banking in school either, and that’s something that is part of everyday life as an adult. In fact, you’re expected to not only know how to handle your own personal banking interests, but also to be relatively competent at it–where do you learn all that? Schools don’t teach about the stock market or how to handle finance. They don’t teach about investing, and another thing that they do not teach intentionally is how to be an entrepreneur. We have to somehow, despite that system, go out and learn it because the schools intentionally don’t teach you how to be an entrepreneur, and they don’t teach you how to avoid the school-prison pipeline system. You are educated (or miseducated) towards the goal of being another worker. Just another person to keep the system chugging along. You’re oil for the machinery. Whether you’d be an average everyday worker as oil in a low-paying, unsatisfactory job, or an inmate in the prison system, which is the clearest example of how you are typically used as oil. You don’t get to decide what prison you’re going to, or what level of prison you’re going to–whether its medium, maximum, minimum. You don’t get to decide how long you stay in any particular prison; they can shuffle you around. As long as you are in that system, you are owned.

In fact, the 13th amendment to the United States constitution makes slavery legal as long as you have a criminal conviction. It specifically says that slavery is abolished in sum and substance from the commencement of the 13th amendment, unless someone is lawfully convicted of a crime. So if you are convicted of a crime, you’re considered a slave according to the 13th amendment. Look at the system of convictions. In certain institutions, you’re actually required to have a job, but the jobs pay such a paltry sum of twenty five cents a day, fifteen cents a week in 2018. I’m not telling you figures from the twenties and thirties. That wage is to help the economy in the towns, across the country and indeed around the world. For example, the entire license plate industry in every state in the union is made by prisoners. There are no license plate factories. They’re made by inmates. In the federal system, federal prisoners wash the laundry and adorn the clothing and make the uniforms of soldiers. That was true from the thirties and it’s true today. Alcatraz prison was a very popular prison where uniforms were fabricated and cleaned by federal inmates. Alcatraz was open from 1936 to 1967. It’s a very long time and a lot of prison uniforms, and the wages were in many instances free labor because, according to the 13th amendment of the United States constitution under the situation of a convicted criminal in the penal system, slavery is absolutely legal. Read your constitution and that 13th amendment. It’s very important because people tend to remember it or recognize it as the amendment that abolished slavery and it does, but there’s an exception if you have a criminal conviction. You don’t even have to be incarcerated because you could be on parole or probation, but you have a criminal conviction, and you could be forced to work at what some people have quoted as slave wages. If you’re incarcerated you absolutely have no rights in terms of how much money you get for your labor–if you get any–but you can be forced to work.

There is a rising female incarceration rate around the country as well. I think it’s a combination of things, not the least of which include a lack of employment opportunities and lack of quality education. During the Nixon administration, back in the late sixties and early seventies when he was president, there was a concerted effort by Richard Nixon and his White House to dumb down the American population. There was a time when my grandparents or my parents went to school and you learned Latin, you learn three or four different areas of languages. You had classes like home economics. You had shop, meaning you could learn a trade in one class. Maybe it was an hour a day, every other day, or three times a week. You learned metalwork. You learned a trade whether you would gear towards being a tradesman or not, you still had the knowledge of it. They had trade schools, but even in your so called “academic high schools”, you still had a trade course. You learned how to cook, make a bed, adorn clothing. They had sewing machines in the high schools. They taught you and prepared you for adulthood. Well, all that has been taken away two generations ago or more. Now you have people coming out of high school and if you ever look at Facebook or Snapchat or Twitter or any of these social media vehicles where people are actually writing, you can really see the illiteracy of the nation. Now you have people who are actually writing day to day. I’m not talking about Internet speak where they abbreviate or use certain terminology to cut short. No, I’m talking about when they’re trying to actually say or write a word out you see just how few people can actually read and write the English language who only speak English. You can see that the Nixon plan has now taken full effect two or three generations later from the late sixties to 2018. The whole century you see that there’s been a dumbing down and it started with the school system. Nixon said that the American populace was too intelligent. They were able to read the New York Times, which was geared towards someone with a twelfth grade education. He wanted people to read more like the New York Post, which was geared and still is apparently, towards a second or third grade education person. There was a concerted plan put into place through the school systems around the country to dumb down the education of the populace. Certain courses were no longer being taught. Certain history was no longer being explained. Languages were pulled away in many school districts, so that now not only are people not learning foreign languages, but in many instances they haven’t even perfected the one language that they do speak. This is all programming. This was planned out by fat cats who decided that the economy of their personal wealth would be better served by having a more proletariat or worker class mentality rather than an entrepreneurial class, which is why knowledge of economics, how to navigate the stock market and banking are not taught. They even started taking away cursive writing in a lot of districts. Students aren’t even learning how to sign their own name anymore unless their parents teach them. Many students now coming out of high school can’t write in script. When I was in school, we actually had penmanship classes. Those don’t exist anymore. They’d teach you to write between the lines, and the difference between small and large letters in cursive. They don’t teach that anymore. Why is that? Because this is part of the dumbing down of society. This began as a conversation about the prison system, but it’s all connected. We can’t talk about the fruit, without talking about the root. So we’re going back to the root causes of why we’re now bearing this type of fruit, where women are starting to climb the ladder in terms of incarceration rate and crime, because they can’t find jobs Why? Because they’re not skilled. Because of the dumbing down of our society. Because to have a system of worker bees instead of queen or King bees serves the few at the top. That’s why 98 percent of this country’s economy is in the hands of two percent of its populous, and 98 percent of the populace fights over two or three percent of the wealth of the nation.

One of the solutions begins with the parents. You must stay vigilant in your child’s educational process. Don’t assume the schools and the teachers, who history has shown us often do not have our childrens’ best interests at heart, are fully educating your child. You must, as a parent, be an active participant. I think those young people who grow up to be the most successful as adults tended to have a lot of hands on by their parents as children. For example, I have a son, he’s 19 years old. He’s my paralegal. He’s learning from his dad, hands on, not only about the practice of law and the nuances of paralegal work, but also due to the nature of our practice he’s learned what you don’t want to do: you don’t want to end up a client of mine in essence, because that means somebody went wrong. I teach him about the stock market. I taught him about banking when he was 12 or 13. That’s how I know the schools didn’t teach it, because he was the only one in his age group who knew it. I teach him about a lot of those things at the schools, either neglect or teaching a faulty manner.

Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu who wrote many important books, such as Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys, has spoken out about the miseducation of the black child. I think that miseducation is not an accident. It is a concerted, deliberate act. So we have to counter that by also being very active in our children’s education and teach them about our history. We should be teaching about the civil rights movement, teaching who Malcolm X was, be teaching about Elijah Muhammad, and massive fraud. Teach them about Christianity and Islam. We have to impart knowledge about our culture, about our history and about their history. We have to teach our children about his story and our story.

We also should teach them to eradicate the word “minority” from their vocabulary. Because as a person of color you are a member of the global majority. The term “minority” was designed by the white man to support and to give nourishment to white supremacy because they are the minority in reality, not us. Everywhere you go around this planet, you see yourself. We are native to this world. We are everywhere. There’s more of us in a global sense, but what they’ll do is try to categorize you in smaller subsets by saying West Indians or continental Africans or North American blacks or black American or African American. We should look at each other as one big family of the same mother. Africa is the origin of all people: people made in the image and likeness of God from whom all others flow. All cultures come from us and gravitate to us.

 

Many young people out there do not know their mother, their father, their grandparents, they have no idea of anything about their family. Young people are taken away from their mother or their father, placed into foster care and sent to somebody else’s family. Some don’t even know any by in their own blood line right now that has creates additional problems for us medically, psychologically, emotionally. Because we don’t know who your mother and father were, we don’t know if your father was a diabetic, or a hemophiliac. Therefore we can’t know what your medical issues may or may not become. That creates a lot of issues for these young people who find themselves caught up in this cycle of foster care. Some foster parents are very good, but then you’ve got those who are in it for the money and it’s a business for them. That’s how they make their money. Young people are very perceptive and very sensitive to when they don’t feel genuine love. If they feel like no one cares, that can create an adult that’s very angry, very disoriented, very insecure and unsure of their futures. They act out.

I’ve been around the system for about 40 years as an attorney, but even before I became an attorney, I worked at legal aid. I was an intern assisting lawyers. I’ve been around the business all my life. I see that it makes a difference if a judge can tell a defendant, that young person or older person, that they care and show some compassion. I find that helps a lot to eradicate some of the ills that life may have thrust upon that particular individual, but unfortunately many who wear the robe don’t show that compassion and can’t serve that concern and that love that an authority figure has to know how to give when it’s appropriate. Some of them only know one way: assert authority, and that’s not always the best way for every single person in every case. Part of being an authority figure is knowing that balance. As I tell people, I’m an attorney and counselor at law. It’s not always about pulling out the law books, sometimes you have to be a source of understanding and good human advice.

The problems we face have been many years in the making, and were built into the structures of the system we live in. Though we may not be able to correct those systems immediately, we can make small adjustments in our lives to counter the broken system. Looking forward towards a solution, we will need to encourage authority figures to focus on compassion and understanding in their work to help ease the anger and frustration that drives many people back into the courtroom. We can also be vigilant in educating our youth, teaching them what the schools won’t teach them about adulthood, showing them the injustices in the system, guiding them to becoming well-rounded people and thus keeping them from getting caught up in the prison cycle. We can also change the way we speak and think of ourselves by not spreading the idea that we are a “minority.” Let’s teach the youth that they aren’t what their oppressors have labeled them as; they are part of a strong global majority that represents people all around the world.

Law Firm of Stephne G. James

Injustice System

Published

on

This is attorney at law Stephen G. James, and as this is our first installment of our bi-weekly about law for the magazine, Our World on Sutphin, it’s very important that we start off with a topic that is of import to our community and the future of our community. We would like to talk about how to prevent our young black men from ending up incarcerated in the so-called criminal “in-just-us” system.

As an attorney for 30 plus years, I’ve seen so many of our young people slip-sliding towards those prison gates; whether it be starting off with juvenile contacts in the juvenile justice system or as a young adult being tried as an adult and maybe not going to jail the first or second time, but getting that record. That record has been so important to many a prosecutor. They’ll even dangle “no jail. we’ll let you go home if you pay a fine. You don’t have any money? No fine, but just take the conviction.” Because they knew that down the line as an adult that does not come off your record, and it can lead you to be prevented from living in certain housing, whether it’s public housing or even private, where they do background checks and criminal record checks, or getting certain jobs that pay certain money, or getting licensing in certain occupations and fields. So you’re getting yourself closed out by having these convictions, which will lead to the frustration of not being able to move forward and progress in your life, which can sometimes lead you to crime. Prosecutors knew if they can just get that conviction, you will be back for the big house later. We don’t have to offer you jail today at 16 or 17 as long as we get to that adult conviction by the time you’re 25, 30 and you run into the frustrations that this conviction will create in your life, you’ll somehow commit some type of crime that will bring you back here and therefore slip down a pathway into the prison system.

So why can’t this knowledge be taught in elementary school so that you can avoid it from the earliest stage? The same reason why I often told people over the years that finance, investing and the stock market are not taught. They don’t teach you how to do banking in school either, and that’s something that is part of everyday life as an adult. In fact, you’re expected to not only know how to handle your own personal banking interests, but also to be relatively competent at it–where do you learn all that? Schools don’t teach about the stock market or how to handle finance. They don’t teach about investing, and another thing that they do not teach intentionally is how to be an entrepreneur. We have to somehow, despite that system, go out and learn it because the schools intentionally don’t teach you how to be an entrepreneur, and they don’t teach you how to avoid the school-prison pipeline system. You are educated (or miseducated) towards the goal of being another worker. Just another person to keep the system chugging along. You’re oil for the machinery. Whether you’d be an average everyday worker as oil in a low-paying, unsatisfactory job, or an inmate in the prison system, which is the clearest example of how you are typically used as oil. You don’t get to decide what prison you’re going to, or what level of prison you’re going to–whether its medium, maximum, minimum. You don’t get to decide how long you stay in any particular prison; they can shuffle you around. As long as you are in that system, you are owned.

In fact, the 13th amendment to the United States constitution makes slavery legal as long as you have a criminal conviction. It specifically says that slavery is abolished in sum and substance from the commencement of the 13th amendment, unless someone is lawfully convicted of a crime. So if you are convicted of a crime, you’re considered a slave according to the 13th amendment. Look at the system of convictions. In certain institutions, you’re actually required to have a job, but the jobs pay such a paltry sum of twenty five cents a day, fifteen cents a week in 2018. I’m not telling you figures from the twenties and thirties. That wage is to help the economy in the towns, across the country and indeed around the world. For example, the entire license plate industry in every state in the union is made by prisoners. There are no license plate factories. They’re made by inmates. In the federal system, federal prisoners wash the laundry and adorn the clothing and make the uniforms of soldiers. That was true from the thirties and it’s true today. Alcatraz prison was a very popular prison where uniforms were fabricated and cleaned by federal inmates. Alcatraz was open from 1936 to 1967. It’s a very long time and a lot of prison uniforms, and the wages were in many instances free labor because, according to the 13th amendment of the United States constitution under the situation of a convicted criminal in the penal system, slavery is absolutely legal. Read your constitution and that 13th amendment. It’s very important because people tend to remember it or recognize it as the amendment that abolished slavery and it does, but there’s an exception if you have a criminal conviction. You don’t even have to be incarcerated because you could be on parole or probation, but you have a criminal conviction, and you could be forced to work at what some people have quoted as slave wages. If you’re incarcerated you absolutely have no rights in terms of how much money you get for your labor–if you get any–but you can be forced to work.

There is a rising female incarceration rate around the country as well. I think it’s a combination of things, not the least of which include a lack of employment opportunities and lack of quality education. During the Nixon administration, back in the late sixties and early seventies when he was president, there was a concerted effort by Richard Nixon and his White House to dumb down the American population. There was a time when my grandparents or my parents went to school and you learned Latin, you learn three or four different areas of languages. You had classes like home economics. You had shop, meaning you could learn a trade in one class. Maybe it was an hour a day, every other day, or three times a week. You learned metalwork. You learned a trade whether you would gear towards being a tradesman or not, you still had the knowledge of it. They had trade schools, but even in your so called “academic high schools”, you still had a trade course. You learned how to cook, make a bed, adorn clothing. They had sewing machines in the high schools. They taught you and prepared you for adulthood. Well, all that has been taken away two generations ago or more. Now you have people coming out of high school and if you ever look at Facebook or Snapchat or Twitter or any of these social media vehicles where people are actually writing, you can really see the illiteracy of the nation. Now you have people who are actually writing day to day. I’m not talking about Internet speak where they abbreviate or use certain terminology to cut short. No, I’m talking about when they’re trying to actually say or write a word out you see just how few people can actually read and write the English language who only speak English. You can see that the Nixon plan has now taken full effect two or three generations later from the late sixties to 2018. The whole century you see that there’s been a dumbing down and it started with the school system. Nixon said that the American populace was too intelligent. They were able to read the New York Times, which was geared towards someone with a twelfth grade education. He wanted people to read more like the New York Post, which was geared and still is apparently, towards a second or third grade education person. There was a concerted plan put into place through the school systems around the country to dumb down the education of the populace. Certain courses were no longer being taught. Certain history was no longer being explained. Languages were pulled away in many school districts, so that now not only are people not learning foreign languages, but in many instances they haven’t even perfected the one language that they do speak. This is all programming. This was planned out by fat cats who decided that the economy of their personal wealth would be better served by having a more proletariat or worker class mentality rather than an entrepreneurial class, which is why knowledge of economics, how to navigate the stock market and banking are not taught. They even started taking away cursive writing in a lot of districts. Students aren’t even learning how to sign their own name anymore unless their parents teach them. Many students now coming out of high school can’t write in script. When I was in school, we actually had penmanship classes. Those don’t exist anymore. They’d teach you to write between the lines, and the difference between small and large letters in cursive. They don’t teach that anymore. Why is that? Because this is part of the dumbing down of society. This began as a conversation about the prison system, but it’s all connected. We can’t talk about the fruit, without talking about the root. So we’re going back to the root causes of why we’re now bearing this type of fruit, where women are starting to climb the ladder in terms of incarceration rate and crime, because they can’t find jobs Why? Because they’re not skilled. Because of the dumbing down of our society. Because to have a system of worker bees instead of queen or King bees serves the few at the top. That’s why 98 percent of this country’s economy is in the hands of two percent of its populous, and 98 percent of the populace fights over two or three percent of the wealth of the nation.

One of the solutions begins with the parents. You must stay vigilant in your child’s educational process. Don’t assume the schools and the teachers, who history has shown us often do not have our childrens’ best interests at heart, are fully educating your child. You must, as a parent, be an active participant. I think those young people who grow up to be the most successful as adults tended to have a lot of hands on by their parents as children. For example, I have a son, he’s 19 years old. He’s my paralegal. He’s learning from his dad, hands on, not only about the practice of law and the nuances of paralegal work, but also due to the nature of our practice he’s learned what you don’t want to do: you don’t want to end up a client of mine in essence, because that means somebody went wrong. I teach him about the stock market. I taught him about banking when he was 12 or 13. That’s how I know the schools didn’t teach it, because he was the only one in his age group who knew it. I teach him about a lot of those things at the schools, either neglect or teaching a faulty manner.

Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu who wrote many important books, such as Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys, has spoken out about the miseducation of the black child. I think that miseducation is not an accident. It is a concerted, deliberate act. So we have to counter that by also being very active in our children’s education and teach them about our history. We should be teaching about the civil rights movement, teaching who Malcolm X was, be teaching about Elijah Muhammad, and massive fraud. Teach them about Christianity and Islam. We have to impart knowledge about our culture, about our history and about their history. We have to teach our children about his story and our story.

We also should teach them to eradicate the word “minority” from their vocabulary. Because as a person of color you are a member of the global majority. The term “minority” was designed by the white man to support and to give nourishment to white supremacy because they are the minority in reality, not us. Everywhere you go around this planet, you see yourself. We are native to this world. We are everywhere. There’s more of us in a global sense, but what they’ll do is try to categorize you in smaller subsets by saying West Indians or continental Africans or North American blacks or black American or African American. We should look at each other as one big family of the same mother. Africa is the origin of all people: people made in the image and likeness of God from whom all others flow. All cultures come from us and gravitate to us.

 

Many young people out there do not know their mother, their father, their grandparents, they have no idea of anything about their family. Young people are taken away from their mother or their father, placed into foster care and sent to somebody else’s family. Some don’t even know any by in their own blood line right now that has creates additional problems for us medically, psychologically, emotionally. Because we don’t know who your mother and father were, we don’t know if your father was a diabetic, or a hemophiliac. Therefore we can’t know what your medical issues may or may not become. That creates a lot of issues for these young people who find themselves caught up in this cycle of foster care. Some foster parents are very good, but then you’ve got those who are in it for the money and it’s a business for them. That’s how they make their money. Young people are very perceptive and very sensitive to when they don’t feel genuine love. If they feel like no one cares, that can create an adult that’s very angry, very disoriented, very insecure and unsure of their futures. They act out.

I’ve been around the system for about 40 years as an attorney, but even before I became an attorney, I worked at legal aid. I was an intern assisting lawyers. I’ve been around the business all my life. I see that it makes a difference if a judge can tell a defendant, that young person or older person, that they care and show some compassion. I find that helps a lot to eradicate some of the ills that life may have thrust upon that particular individual, but unfortunately many who wear the robe don’t show that compassion and can’t serve that concern and that love that an authority figure has to know how to give when it’s appropriate. Some of them only know one way: assert authority, and that’s not always the best way for every single person in every case. Part of being an authority figure is knowing that balance. As I tell people, I’m an attorney and counselor at law. It’s not always about pulling out the law books, sometimes you have to be a source of understanding and good human advice.

The problems we face have been many years in the making, and were built into the structures of the system we live in. Though we may not be able to correct those systems immediately, we can make small adjustments in our lives to counter the broken system. Looking forward towards a solution, we will need to encourage authority figures to focus on compassion and understanding in their work to help ease the anger and frustration that drives many people back into the courtroom. We can also be vigilant in educating our youth, teaching them what the schools won’t teach them about adulthood, showing them the injustices in the system, guiding them to becoming well-rounded people and thus keeping them from getting caught up in the prison cycle. We can also change the way we speak and think of ourselves by not spreading the idea that we are a “minority.” Let’s teach the youth that they aren’t what their oppressors have labeled them as; they are part of a strong global majority that represents people all around the world.

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