Crib to Criminal

From Crib to Criminal

The title of the podcast that I listened to for this blog post is, Growing up With Gangs, Poverty, and Knife Crime which was produced by Joshua Kelly from Today in Focus on December 23, 2019. I found this podcast on Spotify and it immediately peaked my interest. Growing up With Gangs, Poverty, and Knife Crime is about a reporter named, Phillip Alston, who spends four months at a youth club in West London, England called The Bollo. Here he meets two teenage boys and others who explain their hardships with living in such an impoverished area. The big contributor to their decision making process and livelihood is the outlet that most tend to seek of gang membership. Not only is there one gang in this area, but there are two who are very present and have an intense rivalry that is very much so alive and well. Because of this, a lot of youth clubs in the London area began to close down. Violence has gotten out of hand and inequality continues to grow in West London. Housing is impossible to obtain and the only place that the youth have to go to that was not school or home was being demolished for middle-class housing. These kids continuously struggle and have lived their lives with the government placing a band-aid on their problems instead of taking care of their problems. Throughout the podcast, multiple kids who attended the Bollo Youth Club had been killed or charged with murder. Those involved were as young as fifteen. The Bollo Club was moved after the upper middle class cried about their neighborhoods being overpopulated with delinquents. The club agreed to move in hopes that the move would better their environment and remove themselves from the predominant gang activity by leaving it all behind. Unfortunately, the club brought the gang violence and members with it and the middle-class in the new area began to make noise about the club and demanded they be evicted. Their main reasoning was that their community could use it for something for the tenants’ benefit like a laundromat or coffee shop. In the conclusion of the podcast, Alston asked the kids about the petition for their removal and the holiday coming up. The kids responded that they hope that the petition holds out a little longer because a lot of them spend Christmas at the center. I found that to be absolutely heartbreaking and very similar to the United States and our poverty-stricken areas.

I chose this podcast because I thought it would provide us with some interesting insight on other countries and their struggles with poverty and crime. I think it is important to acknowledge that this is a universal problem, not just a nation-wide one. Very much so like Lakish Briggs mentioned in, Not a Crime to be Poor, these kids are being criminalized when in reality they are very much so victims of the system (Edelman, 2019). Briggs was a victim of the law that prohibited citizens from calling 9-1-1 more than three times within four months. She suffered from domestic abuse and did not have one reliable outlet because the people who were supposed to protect her the most, the government and the police, enforced a law as if people like her were an inconvenience. Because of this, Briggs continued her toxic lifestyle and not by choice (Edelman, 2019, p. 135). These kids in London at the Bollo are very similar. They are endlessly rejected and turn to what they know whether it fits their morals or not. They do not have a choice, it is about survival. Another connection I made was with the kids at Bollo and their situation with Sandra Park of the ACLU’s statement. She described the laws I previously discussed as victimizing the victim twice (Edelman, 140). The same idea pertains to the kids in Bollo. They are already victims of inequality, attempt to find a resource to better themselves, and then are run out of that resource by the city. Poverty and its connection to crime is an endless cycle until the government acknowledges the seriousness of poverty and its effects.

 

Resources

Edelman, Peter B. Not a Crime to Be Poor: the Criminalization of Poverty in America. The New Press, 2019.

Kelly, Joshua. “Growing Up With Gangs, Poverty, and Crime.” Today in Focus,  performance by Anushka Asthana, and Phillip Alston, 23 Dec. 2019.

More Than Just Poor

More Than Just Poor

I listened to the podcast of Broken Justice as they talked about how the justice system in failing for indigent people. As the 6th amendment goes, everyone has the right to a speedy trial and an attorney if you cannot afford one but that is just the opposite of what is going on in this country. Many indigent citizens are sitting in jail for days, months, weeks, and some cases years just waiting for trial simply because they cannot afford bail. Public defenders are working their hardest to try to get these people out of jail and to see their day in court but the public defenders are so back up on work they do not have the appropriate amount of time to dedicate to the cases. A lot of this backup is due to underfunding; Missouri is 49/50 according to reports of funding and is the one of the highest for incarceration rates. Of all felony charges public defenders handle 82% nation wide and in Missouri they handled 93%. Not enough lawyers and public defenders as Missouri had 380 workers handling 75,000 cases.

In the podcast some of the discriminations and inequality not just in Missouri, but also all over the country is how the indigent go through trial. District attorneys, prosecutors, and even those who are able to hire their own lawyer are treated differently than the indigent. In the podcast they had mentioned that you can sometimes and it is rare, that you could get your bail reduced for those who cant afford bail but the catch is, you need a lawyer for that. Therefore, coming back to the point of these people not having money to do that in the first place and not wanting to sit in jail waiting for a public defender and their day in court. In addition, some of the inequality comes in the courtroom as well. In my reading of the “Michigan Law Review Indigent” defense article that in the case of Cronic v. United States the defense attorney only had 25 days to prepare and the prosecution of U.S attorney already had 4.5 years preparing for this (Samantha Jaffe, 2017). The difference in the amount of time each side has to prepare wasn’t even close and is sad that in a fair statement, Cronic was already on the losing side from the beginning. Some people of the court don’t care either as in chapter three of Edelman’s book “Not a Crime to be Poor,” he states that Steinberg and Feige know that in some states judges have the option of setting a personal recognizance bond or an arrangement involving the signing of a promissory note rather than paying cash up front but they do not use that option (Edelman, 2017).

In class we have talked about the chronic underfunding that is going on that plays a huge role in failure of the indigent defense system. There are so many laws in place that seem to keep them in a constant cycle of debt. In the “Court Fees Create ‘Endless Cycle of Debt’ for poor” report shows that collection fees and interest that keeps accruing are trapping some defendants in an endless cycle of debt (The Crime Report, 2016). In chapter three of Edelman’s book is all about money bail and tells about the problems it creates and some solutions that aren’t really doing any good. New York wants to spend $18 million annually to triple the number of defendants under pretrial supervision instead of being in jail. This may seem like a good idea and had high praise but Steinberg and Feige said, “the proposal is a combination of expensive and unnecessary hurdles for the accused to jump over, with failure resulting in incarceration” (Edelman, 2017).

The event that happened in this podcast that shows just how bad the system works was a 21 year old, African American male was convicted of killing two men. His name is Ricky Kidd, he had a rock solid alibi, multiple people said he did not do it, and Ricky said he knew who did it and told his public defender and the police but after all of that he was still convicted, serving four life sentences with no chance of parole. After spending 23 years in jail he was finally exonerated and let out of jail but still faces many challenges coming back into the public. Sadly events like theses ones aren’t isolated events there are tons of other people just like Ricky. For example Kaleif Browder who was locked up for three years awaiting trial for a crime he did not commit. Kaleif bail was set way to high for what he could afford and would not accept a plea deal for a crime he did not commit, while awaiting his trial he was abused by other inmates and guards and spend 2/3 years in solitary confinement and when he finally got out he tried to put his life back together but ended up committing suicide (Edelman, 2017).

I think others should listen to this broken justice podcast because you get to have a look into some people’s real lives and see the struggle that they are going through because I’m sure many other just like myself were not aware of these things going on and how bad is it. With such severe underfunding the indigent defense system needs help more of the attention that is brought up the more change that is going to happen. Just like the women who was cleaning herself up and found herself in over $11,000 in debt to the court system when wrote about in the New York Times Tulsa was embarrassed and dropped all charges (Edelman, 2017). Instead of making laws trying to hide and get rid of indigent people only making situations worse lawmakers should be trying to help them get back on there feet then many problems would be solved.

 

By: Rachel Garris

 

References:

Podcast:

Broken Justice, Triage, 2020 NewHour Productions LLC. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/broken-justice/id1485498774?mt=2&app=podcast

 

 

Jaffe, S. (2017) Michigan Law Review Indigent defense article https://d2l.iup.edu/d2l/le/content/2751158/viewContent/20629042/View

 

The Crime Report. (2016). Court Fees Create ‘Endless Cycle of Debt’ for Poor https://d2l.iup.edu/d2l/le/content/2751158/viewContent/20629051/View

 

 

Edelman, P. (2017). Not a Crime to Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America. New York.

One Out of Five Lower-Class Schizophrenics

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/released/

In the PBS documentary The Released by Miri Navasky and Karen O’Connor, they follow five severely mentally ill men after they had been released from prison. In this case, severe mental illness was defined by requiring daily anti-psychotic medication to begin functioning in a stable way (Navasky & O’Connor, 2009). Following the deinstitutionalization of mental illness, those men are joined by over half of prisoners with serious mental illness to become a part of the largest exodus in our nation’s history. Nearly two-thirds of those prisoners were re-arrested in a little over a year, most for crimes that directly related to their mental illness (Navasky & O’Connor, 2009). This deinstitutionalization was meant to give them the same rights and freedoms as the rest of us, but failed to consider that one isn’t really free when struggling with mental health; a well-meaning policy, but it went too far.

After being released with only a bus ticket, seventy-five dollars, and two weeks’ worth of medication, these five men began to see how there was a better level of care while incarcerated than what they could receive in the community. Most were isolated from their support systems because of their past histories of violence, but this proved only to perpetuate further violence, as no one was there to guide these individuals in their transition back into their communities or even help them stay on their medications. After being re-incarcerated only 1 month following release, one of the men being documented said “I was going to stay on my meds. And they were working. So I got tired of taking them. I thought I was cured” (Navasky & O’Connor, 2009). This refers to the all too familiar “revolving door” concept, in which those with mental illness are too often incarcerated and stabilized, then set free unsupervised to ultimately stop taking their medication in the belief that they no longer need it (Edelman, 2017). This ends in mental relapse, increasing the likelihood of crime and re-incarceration. Proving this point, four of the five men followed in this documentary had been rearrested within the seven month filming period (Navasky & O’Connor, 2009).

This production went on to ask the questions, what happens to the mentally ill after they leave prison and why are they coming back at such shocking rates? Well to start, I said the revolving door concept was all too familiar because it is also a key function in the criminalization of the homeless population (Edelman, 2017). That vicious cycle is only different in its added priority of medication, to the already insurmountable need for stable housing and work that leave little income for necessities such as that medication. Some individuals may qualify for income support towards their treatment, but our society’s broken mental health system and impoverished social networks can take away these eligibilities once the individual has a criminal record (Edelman, 2017).

As we discussed in class, homelessness is one of the many destabilizing life events that can disproportionately affect subgroups like the mentally ill population, acting as a trigger to other problems like psychotic breaks. These breaks are commonly the result of experiencing trauma and violence, which we also know are highly correlated with homelessness (Edelman, 2017). Emergency shelters are set as somewhat effective solutions for the typical homeless population, but many are known to negatively target this subset of the low-income homeless population. The article discussed in class, Housing Not Handcuffs, explicitly describes how these institutions foster an unstable environment not fit for mental rehabilitation and can outright turn away those with documented severe mental illness. This leaves the mentally ill lower-class to join encampments, risking sweeps that could result in the loss of medications and irreplaceable mementos that are essential for mental stability (Middleton, 2014).

The lucky few offenders, one out of every fifty on average, get reentry programs to help them transition back into their community. Few homeless shelters even house the mentally ill, and even fewer help with their treatment (Middleton, 2014). Just one of the five men that this documentary followed had been one of those few, and he was the only left that had not been re-arrested by the time the filming period ended (Navasky & O’Connor, 2009). For obvious reason, I don’t believe that to have been a matter of coincidence.

The content presented in this documentary not only enhanced my knowledge about the mentally ill, but also solidified the belief that lower-income individuals are disproportionately affected by the cyclical nature of re-incarceration. I would recommend this media source to others that wish to see what is really waiting for lower-class ex-convicts on the other side. They would see that mental illness acts as a catalyst to both re-incarceration and homelessness, but not for lack of trying. Since this goes against the negative social blame we pin on those who struggle in ways we cannot understand, it is best to hear it from the five men themselves. But to sum up, every one of the five men had said they were “going to be gone and stay gone” from jails, and would be sure to take their medications to ensure that would happen (Navasky & O’Connor, 2009). Even so, what met them on the outside did next to nothing to facilitate true treatment; not financially, mentally, or socially within their communities. And so, whether they are lower-class individuals wrought with homelessness, lower-class individuals wrought with mental illness, or any variation and combination of the two, the released are inevitably lead to the damnation of repeated debt, re-incarceration, and relapse.

 

By Jenna Albitz

 

References

Edelman, P. B. (2017). Not a crime to be poor: the criminalization of poverty in America. New York: The New Press.

Middleton, M. K. (2014). Housing, Not Handcuffs: Homeless Misrecognition and “SafeGround Sacramentos” Homeless Activism. doi: 10.1111/cccr.12055

Navasky & O’Connor (2009, April 28). The Released. Retrieved February 14, 2020, from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/released/

The Reality of Poverty

https://www.amazon.com/Line-Poverty-America-Melissa-Travis/dp/B00RACL2XA

The media source I chose to watch was a documentary called Line: Poverty in America. This documentary follows several hard-working individuals who fell below or are on the poverty line in America. The poverty line in America is classified as those who make only $23,000 a year. These individuals bring to light what it is like to have everything fall out beneath you and have to live without knowing if they are going to lose their home or where their next meal is coming from. The documentary also gives an inside to the violence within the lowest of low-income neighborhoods. This documentary shows the public that anyone can become a victim of poverty. It also explains the misconception the public has about those who do live in poverty.

The key points presented in this media source were that poverty isn’t just a homeless individual in the inner city. Poverty in America is a little section of a town or county that know one talks about. Those living above the poverty line do not go to that section because they see it as a violent place or rock bottom. The documentary pointed out that those who never grew up or fallen below the poverty do not want to help fix the problem or care. Another key point the documentary pointed out was the violence within the communities in these low-income neighborhoods. One individual explained that children that grew up in poverty do not expect a future and they don’t plan for a future. The reality is that a large portion of these children will either be killed or resort to criminal behaviors. The criminal behavior starts out as running drugs for the local gangs and gradually increases to more serious violent crimes.

Some of the discrimination and inequality shown toward the lower class is that society labels them as lazy, violent, alcoholics, drug abusers, etc. The reality is that those who fall below the poverty line are hard-working Americans who are two times more likely to lose sleep to work two low-income jobs. The one individual in the documentary talked about how her sister was walking to the store in a low-income neighborhood in which they lived and she was shot for no reason. The police only showed up one time and never did an investigation. This is an example of inequality that low-income neighborhoods face when crimes occur. They do not receive the same treatment from the police as those living in the upper- and middle-class neighborhoods.

We discussed in class what comes to mind when you think about poverty and homelessness. Most people said unemployed, living on the streets, no possessions, etc. This documentary expanded my knowledge on poverty, it opened my eyes to the reality that people who live in poverty are not just runaways or senior citizens, poverty can affect everyone. This documentary interviewed individuals who were living comfortable lives then just one day everything fell out beneath them. One man in the documentary found himself homeless because he moved to a different state and could not get a job because he had his previous job for 22 years and had no other skills. Another man had a good paying job at a company then one day he lost his job and could not get a new one so he relies on the food pantry in his neighborhood to provide food for his three children.

These stories relate to what we discussed in class about criminalizing homelessness. Society targets the homeless by making laws forbidding them from camping, sleeping, loitering, etc. on the streets. By displacing the homeless or arresting them it makes it harder for that individual to get a job because it shows that they had run-ins with the police. This media source suggests that individuals living in poverty need assistance in gaining training to be able to get a job. The problem is that those who don’t live in poverty or never experienced it often ch0ose to ignore it.

The content that was covered in this documentary helped me to understand more about living in poverty and dealing with violence, and how it’s a lot harder to get a job if you were born into or fell below the poverty line in America. While the documentary showed a few non-profit organizations that are helping the homeless get back on their feet, I believe there needs to be more training opportunities for individuals who can work. Most of the people who find themselves in poverty were fired or let go of their job and they only know how to do one job because they had been doing it for most of their life. I think its important for those who never experienced poverty or lived in a bad neighborhood that those who do live in poverty are not all lazy, inexperienced, or homeless but, they have families and they are able to hold a job if someone would give them a chance. I would recommend that everyone watch this documentary to better understand how poverty works and how society can help to fix the problems with homelessness and violence. If society begins to show support and provides communities living in poverty the programs they need, than children in the communities will see that they can have a future that doesn’t involve violent and criminal behavior.

By Allison Toth

References

Edelman, P. B. (2019). Not a crime to be poor: the criminalization of poverty in America. New York: The

New Press.