Thursday, January 13, 2011

Two Little Pigs: How Some Cops Get Jail While Others Go Free

"Sorry, thought you were black!"
This holiday season, many of us had to worry about drunk drivers and also having to go through check points. Check points are a continuous fixture in many cities, especially in the Central Valley where traveling by car to work or the store is almost a daily necessity. These road blocks are set in place by police officers to catch drunk drivers. They are also designed to net other offenders and more often, check on people’s immigration status. With such an importance that the police put into check points, (and thus the millions of dollars it helps flood into the state) it is always interesting to see how the police react when one of their own is caught drunk driving. Recently, officer Todd Parsons, who’s blood alcohol content was 0.22 percent, 2½ times the level at which a driver is considered under the influence, received a DUI after he drove his car off an embankment on Scenic Drive (too bad he didn’t hit a Nazi!) In the last several days, a Stockton police sergeant has also been charged with drunk driving. Officer Parsons, who plead guilty and received a ‘work release’ citation from the DA, is now working in the detective division of the Modesto Police in order to 'save is sick leave,' according to an anonymous source from within the department

Officer Todd gets so drunk that he drives off a cliff at Scenic, but his only ‘punishment’ is to spend a few hours…right back at work? We all know that there are two laws, one for those that own and run this system and one for the rest of us. This latest ruling brings to mind the case of Stanislaus Sheriff “Chip” Huskey, who served only one year in jail and did not have to register as a sex offender after a judge found him guilty of molesting and raping his step daughter.

That’s why the recent case of Mike McCann, a guard at the San Joaquin Correctional Facility, is so interesting. According to the Stockton Record:
A San Joaquin County correctional officer suspected of smuggling cell phones to jail inmates was arrested…[after] detectives obtained evidence that McCann had been smuggling cell phones to inmates. Deputy Les Garcia, a Sheriff's Office spokesman, said McCann is also suspected of having shared information with inmates he obtained through the jail's computer system.
McCann was arrested late Thursday night at the County Jail, where he had reported for work as usual. He was booked into that same jail around 12:09 a.m. Friday on suspicion of conspiracy, unauthorized communication with prisoners, unauthorized use of a computer system, and provision of records or information to an unauthorized person. He is being held in lieu of $216,000 bail.
So, let’s review here. McCann is the target of an investigation. He’s sought by police for arrest. He’s arrested at his work (a jail) and then thrown into that same jail for selling prisoners cell phones.

This is the same town that several months before witnessed James Rivera, a young African-American boy, being shot down brutally by Stockton Police after a high speed chase. For more information on James case, go here. A day earlier, police came to James’ home and told his family that they were looking for them and that they would be “going to a funeral” after they found him. A wrongful death suit has been filed on behalf of James family, however the police have stated that the murder of James (according to them) was completely justified. Clearly, the Stockton police and Sheriffs are not concerned with stopping corruption, brutality and criminal activity in the Stockton area from within their ranks. So why are they so concerned about guards selling cell phones in the local jail?

Revolt on the inside, revolt on the outside.
They are scared of prisoners organizing with them, that's why. During the week of December 12th, inmates in at least 7 Georgia prisons engaged in the longest prison strike in U.S. history. Organized mostly by contraband cell phones, prisoners refused to leave their cells in protest of forced labor without pay (Georgia prisons refuse to pay even meager wages for work including maintaining other government buildings) and other dismal conditions, including a 10% charge for money transfers and being charged $55 a month for just 4, 15-minute phone calls. Inmates came together across boundaries of religion, skin color, and gang affiliation to fight for their shared interests. In the words of Elaine Brown who helped legally represent the prisoners: “If you’re at Macon or Smith or Hayes, you’re participating in the strike. It’s not five people. This isn’t rabble-rousing. It’s a universal, unified effort on the part of men who have been treated like slaves, whether they are black, white or Latino.”

           For six days, prisoners endured near-lethal beatings from not only prison guards but SWAT teams, destruction of their property, starvation and other conditions of lock down. Demands included: a living wage for work, educational opportunities beyond the GED, decent health care, an end to cruel and unusual punishments, decent living conditions, nutritious meals, job opportunities, access to their families, and fair parole decisions.

          In January, prisoners in Ohio on death row launched a hunger strike against harsh treatment. The men are on death row for their part in a multi-racial prison uprising in 1993 that also sought better conditions.

Beaten for resisting.
          We can start to see why the prison system is keeping such a close eye on the guards who help supply inmates with cell phones; they are tools that might help them link up and organize with each other. We can also see how the state treats it’s enforcers when they behave recklessly (molesting, raping, and drunk driving) and when they commit ‘crimes’ that might help poor and working people organize against their conditions. Keep in mind, we aren’t holding McCann up as some sort of hero; he’s clearly just another guard who thought he could make a couple bucks off some prisoners stuck in a bad situation. But in light of Georgia, the whole prison system is running scared of a full blown revolt. It’s willing to even lock up some of its own jailers to send a message to the rest of the ‘screws’ that such activity will not be tolerated. At the same time, the State gives out light sentences to drunk cops and rapist Sheriffs. Thus, it lets all those boys in blue who go with the program know, that if they mess up, they’ll have nothing to fear from the people who cut their checks. But to those that mess with the program of repression, watch out. 


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