NO WAY OUT: Mother Jailed for ‘Stealing’ Child’s Education – News & Views – EBONY


Mother Jailed for ‘Stealing’ Child’s Education

The Tanya McDowell case is (yet another) heartbreaking example of the country’s failure to educate its youth

By David Leonard Writer

Tanya McDowell has joined the ranks of millions of people, mostly of color, facing incarceration. In April 2011, McDowell was arrested and charged with larceny for allegedly enrolling her 6-year old child in a Norwalk, Connecticut elementary school instead of the required Bridgeport school associated with her “residence” (she was reportedly homeless at the time).

Less than a year later, McDowell entered an Alford Plea, which is not an admission of guilt but rather an acceptance that the state has sufficient evidence to make its case. In exchange for her plea as well as a guilty plea stemming from a drug case, the court sentenced McDowell to 12 years in prison with the possibility of release after 5 years.

The media response has emphasized how her sentence reflects punishment for her “stealing of an education,” worth over 15,000 dollars as well as a consequence of the narcotics arrest. Subsequent to her arrest for educational larceny, McDowell allegedly sold drugs to an undercover officer on three separate occasions. While the timing of this arrest was questionable (her attorney at the time described the investigation that led to the drug charges as “‘retaliatory’ because the community was embarrassed by McDowell’s April 14 arrest for allegedly sending her son, A.J., to Norwalk’s Brookside Elementary School while they lived in Bridgeport), the efforts to paint her as a bad parent, as a criminal, as an unredeemable person is further revealing. Upon her arrest, Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia scoffed at those who represented McDowell as a victim: “This is not a poor, picked-upon homeless person. This is an ex-con, and somehow the city of Norwalk is made into the ogre,” he noted. “She has a checkered past at best … This woman is not a victim.”

Her subsequent arrest has been used to further substantiate these claims, justifying the initial charges and the subsequent sentence of 12 years. The conflating of these cases (beyond their simultaneously adjudication) points to the ways that the drug case has obscured the horrible injustice of the wrongful enrollment arrest. It would be a mistake and a further miscarriage of justice to excuse the criminalization of her decision to enroll her child at a school that provided better services, a better education, and a better future for her child by referencing her drug arrest.

She was forced to choose between terrible schools and violating the law so that her child could receive a quality education. Fordham University professor Mark Naison says “If there were enough good schools around so that any school you chose would be acceptable, and if there were enough decent paying jobs to keep your head above water through legal work, that would be one thing. But what if NEITHER of those things were true. What are you supposed to do? Let your child go hungry to a terrible school.” Even so, she became the first person in the history of Connecticut to be prosecuted for enrolling a child out-of-district, even though experts claim it to be a common practice.

She was forced to choose between terrible schools and violating the law so that her child could receive a quality education.

McDowell isn’t the first Black woman to face criminal prosecution and jail for enrolling her children out-of district. In Akron, Kelley Williams-Bolar was charged and served 10 days in jail for enrolling her two daughters at a Copley Fairlawn school even though they should have attended an Akron school. Her decision was easy to understand given that Copley-Fairlawn School District met 26 out 26 standards set up the Ohio Department of Education, whereas Akron City School District met only 4 of these same standards. Graduation rates were equally disparate with almost 98% of students graduating from Copley-Fairlawn compared to 75% within Akron City. Williams-Bolar, like McDowell, sought to challenge the inequity and segregation that defines America’s school system, and thus faced the sanctions and condemnation from a system that mandated that she stay in her place.

McDowell’s incarceration on drug charges reflects a willingness to wage the war on drugs with the greatest force and consequence against communities of color. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, Latinas are 1.6 times and Black women are 3.8 more times more likely to be sent to prison than White women despite similar rates of usage and distribution. McDowell is indicative of the consequences of a racialized war on drugs. It reflects the pipeline from failed schools to prisons; it reflects an effort to incarcerate those who challenge this process.

Yet, the attempts, whether from the criminal justice system, the media, or the broader community to justify her criminalization and ultimate incarceration by linking the drug charges with the larceny charges is both troubling and without basis. The state prosecuted her before any drug charges so the injustice of her arrest cannot take cover from a subsequent arrest.

Continue reading @ NO WAY OUT: Mother Jailed for ‘Stealing’ Child’s Education – News & Views – EBONY.

New post from @NewBlackMan- Campus PD: Criminalizing Higher Education?


Campus PD: Criminalizing Higher Education?
by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

In what was obviously a slow night television night, I found myself searching for something to watch.  After perusing up and down the onscreen schedule, I came across Campus PD (I was somewhat familiar with show having read about their filming in Pullman, WA, where I live), a show that “takes viewers along for the ride with officers on duty to capture firsthand all the mayhem and excitement they take on night after night when student fun spirals out of control.” The show is described in the following way:

From policing parties and security issues, to keeping the peace at sports events and arresting possible suspects, ride with the “Campus PD” as they tackle the ongoing challenge of keeping students safe. Depicting university life from the perspective of the law enforcement professionals who police them, this ground-breaking new series presents a real-life account of these modern-day campus heroes. As they gear up for a shift, these courageous cops know they’re in for a few surprises!

The series heads to five college towns across the country including Tallahassee, FL, San Marcos, TX, Cincinnati, OH, Chico, CA, and Greenville, NC. It takes viewers deep inside the internal lives of the law enforcement professionals policing a town of fun-loving college kids. It isn’t easy, but these dedicated officers love their jobs, and wouldn’t have it any other way.


The emphasis on “fun,” “keeping student’s safe” “fun-loving college kids,” parties, and “binge drinking COEDS” is instructive, demonstrating how a show about criminal misconduct goes to great extents to decriminalize its primarily white, middle-class, “participants” and in doing so criminalizes the Other once again.


The show might as well be called “Warning PD.”  In the three episodes I watched on television, and countless clips online (which don’t necessarily show the encounters from start to finish leaving it hard to see the final resolution), I have only seen a handful of actual arrests.  For the most part, the show brings to life several excessively permissive campus police forces, who tolerate abuse, disrespect, and a culture of chaos.  In many instances, college students are given countless warnings, and only after failing to comply with instructions, are they forced to deal with the repercussions of their actions with a ticket or an arrest.


Another common theme within these initial episodes I watched from start to finish was a belief from the students they were unjustly being persecuted by the police.  Students would often note that, “they were not doing” anything wrong, or that they were simply engaged in “harmless fun” only to be harassed by campus police.  Given the ways in which harassment, racial profiling, and pre-text stops so often define the experiences of youth of color, it is a troubling re-imagination of policing in America.  Worse yet, Campus PD does a good job in showing why many college students view police as unfairly harassing them.


In two different episodes (as in the book Dorm Room Dealers), students respond to the presence of police by telling them to go “police” and investigate some real criminals.  That is, they were wasting their time with the happenings of college students since they were harmless, as opposed to those who “lived over there.”  In both instances, “over there” was clearly the neighborhood inhabited by poor people of color.  This assumption (one that is reinforced by the show) that the “real criminals” exist elsewhere reflects the power of American racial and class logic.


According to a study from the Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education, 95 percent of respondents imagined an African American when asked about drug users.  In other words, blackness operates interchangeably with criminality, especially in relationship to the urban poor.  Better said, “to be a man of color of a certain economic class and milieu is equivalent in the public eye to being a criminal.” (John Edgar Wideman, p. 195)


The consequences of the permissive policing and a culture that imagines college students engaged in criminal activity as just having fun (as opposed to the “real criminals”), is evident in the lack of attention directed at the criminal misconduct taking place at America’s colleges and universities.


According to a 2007 study reported in USA Today, over half of America’s college student regularly abuse alcohol and drugs.

The study found that college students have higher rates of alcohol or drug addiction than the general public: 22.9% of students meet the medical definition for alcohol or drug abuse or dependence — a compulsive use of a substance despite negative consequences — compared with 8.5% of all people 12 and older.


Increasingly, along with the traditionally seen drug and alcohol abuse, college students are abusing prescription drugs like Adderall, termed “smart drugs” by many college students.  “For many middle and upper-middle class young people in New York,” notes Lala Straussner. “Adderall is much more acceptable than using methamphetamine (more common on West Coast) or crack cocaine, although the brain doesn’t know the difference.” Yet, the ubiquity and acceptance of “smart drugs” is simply the perceived function or the consequences of these drugs but the ways in which crack and meth are both racialized and connected to distinct class identities.  Prescription drugs, on the other hand, are linked to those in college, who are said to have a future, illustrating criminality and criminals are identities are constructed as elsewhere and not within college communities.


While shows like Campus PD illustrate the ubiquity of instances of public intoxication, cases of drunk-driving, and physical assaults, other issues plague college communities.  As such, it does little to elucidate the problem of sexual violence (20-25% of women in college will experience rape or an attempted rape), prescription drug abuse, and even drug dealing.  The erasure of these systemic problems reflects a culture that imagines college as a space of parties, fun, and adolescent behavior rather than criminal activity.


This type of narrative is evident in the recent drug busts at San Diego Sate University and Columbia University.  In 2008, after a several month investigation, authorities arrested 75 students (96 people in total), confiscating drugs worth a total of approximately $100,000 worth of drugs.  Among the 20 students arrested for distribution and sales was a criminal justice major, who when arrested was in possession of two guns and 500 grams of cocaine.   San Diego County Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis made clear that their investigation demonstrated “how accessible and pervasive illegal drugs continue to be on our college campuses and how common it is for students to be selling to other students.” This was certainly true with Columbia University, where 5 students were arrested as part of “Operation Ivy League,” “a five-month undercover sting, during which police purchased $11,000 worth of drugs from the students out of Columbia fraternity houses and dorms.”


While the media rendered this incidence and that at SDSU as a shocking spectacle, it is clear that the situation at these schools is a national phenomenon.   This should actually be surprising given how drug markets are as segregated as the rest of America.  According to A. Rafik Mohamed and Erik D. Fritsvold, authors of Dorm Room Dealers, who spent 6-years examining drug distribution at a Southern California Private school, not only do students sell to other students, but do in a reckless manner, which in their mind highlight a sense of entitlement based on the students’ middle-class white identities.  Phillip Smith describes their findings in “Dorm Room Dealers: A Peek into the Drug World of the White and Upwardly Mobile”:

Mohamed and Fritsvold show repeatedly the reckless abandon with which their subjects went about their business: Dope deals over the phone with uncoded messages, driving around high with pounds of pot in the car, doing drug transactions visible from the street, selling to strangers, smuggling hundreds of pills across the Mexican border. These campus dealers lacked even the basics of drug dealer security measures, yet they flew under the radar of the drug warriors.

Even when the rare encounter with police occurred, these well-connected students skated. In one instance, a dealer got too wasted and attacked someone’s car. He persuaded a police officer to take him home in handcuffs to get cash to pay for the damages. The cop ignored the scales, the pot, the evidence of drug dealing, and happily took a hundred dollar bill for his efforts. In another instance, a beach front dealer was the victim of an armed robbery. He had no qualms about calling the police, who once again couldn’t see the evidence of dealing staring them in the face and who managed to catch the robbers. The dealer wisely didn’t claim the pounds of pot police recovered and didn’t face any consequences.



A former Columbia student highlights a similar culture there, adding more evidence to the arguments offered in Dorm Room Dealers.

But, in fact, the prestigious institution on Manhattan’s Upper West Side has long been “ripe” for drug trafficking, a knowledgeable 2009 Columbia graduate told The Daily Beast. “I think the permissive environment of Public Safety”—as Columbia’s campus police force is known—“makes it a no-brainer proposition,” said this former student, who described himself as a recreational drug user who dabbled in selling. “I always felt safe.”


The culture and climate of Columbia in terms of public concern and policing, as opposed to the levels of surveillance found a few miles away in Harlem, tells an important story about how race and class operate in contemporary America.  Campus PD offers a similarly distorted glimpse a crime as well.


Media accounts of these two recent drug operations and shows like Campus PD have done little to shine a spotlight on the double standards that exist between the primarily white middle-class student population and poor youth of color when it comes to policing and incarceration.  With the situation at Columbia, one student has plead guilty thus far; although charged with the most serious crimes, he was sentenced to 6-months in prison in July.  In a city where 46,500 people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2009, with 87% of these people being black and Latino, the inequality is quite clear.


San Diego saw a similar outcome, with many of those arrested pleading guilty only to face probation and entrance into a drug diversion programs, leading some people to question why police are spending so much time and energy conducting investigations against college students that do not result in incarcerations.   When considering the media coverage, popular representations of college campuses, levels of policing and unzealous prosecution, it is no wonder that while African Americans constitute 13% of all monthly drug users, they represent 38% of these arrested for drug possession, 55% of convictions and 74% of prison sentences; it is as argued by Michelle Alexander, the new Jim Crow, ostensibly cordoning off America’s college and universities from policing and prosecution.  The criminalization of black and brown youth and the decriminalization of white America, particularly its middle-class college-bound constituency, have material consequences.


Evident in a show like Campus PD and the various examples provided here is the ways in which  “what it means to be criminal in our collective consciousness to what it means to be black.”  In other words, “the term black criminal is nearly redundant . . . . To be a black man is to be thought of as a criminal, and to be a black criminal is to be despicable – a social pariah” (Alexander 2010, p. 193).   No wonder so many students yell at cops to go focus on the “real criminals”; that is the message they have learned all too well.

Originally posted at NewBlackMan

Huffington Post (Gabriel Lerner): Jailing Undocumented Immigrants Is Big Business (VIDEO)

Jailing Undocumented Immigrants Is Big Business (VIDEO)

by Gabriel Lerner

LOS ANGELES — At dawn on July 19, nearly 40 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Immigration (HSI) agents burst into the home home of Carmen Bonilla, 44. The agents were searching for “Robert” an alleged drug dealer, but ended up terrifying Bonilla and her son Michael, 16, daughter Josefina, 23, daughter-in-law Leticia, 28, and two of her granddaughters.

According to Jessica Dominguez, the family’s lawyer, and Jorge Mario Cabrera, spokesperson of the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), the family was subjected to “different levels of physical and verbal abuse,” including screaming, “kicking, beating and aggression.” Their treatment was documented last week by HuffPost LatinoVoices’ Jorge Luis Macías.

What happened to the Bonillas has happened to thousands of immigrant families. Immigration authorities — both local police and federal ICE agents — have embarked on a program to seek out “criminal illegal aliens” and, whether they find them or not, have often rounded up entire families for deportation.

Even though the Bonilla family members do not have criminal records, they face removal proceedings before an immigration judge. The family was able to find legal representation and general public support, enabling their release from ICE custody, but undocumented immigrants who are less lucky are routinely sent to prisons and detention centers where ICE will process their paperwork and decide whether they may be released.

“If they have a criminal record, particularly a drug or security-related conviction, or a felony or violent crime, or crime of moral turpitude, they will likely have to remain in custody until their trial before the [immigration judge],” explained Aggie R. Hoffman, an immigration attorney.

The Department of Homeland Security pays between $50 to $200 per day per person to local, county and state prisons to house apprehended aliens. A few years ago, a series I wrote for La Opinión showed how prisons in general, and California’s prisons in particular, benefit from the largesse of the federal government and vie for a piece of this lucrative business. At that time, I visited a detention center in Lancaster, Calif., run by the Sheriff of Los Angeles, where immigrants rounded up in raids were housed until their deportation or legal proceedings. The process is supposed to take just a few days, but some of the detainees rushed to tell me that they had been kept there for more than two years.

Continue reading at Huffiington Post

via Jailing Undocumented Immigrants Is Big Business (VIDEO).

NewBlackMan: America’s Most Wanted? The Locked Out NBA Baller

Saturday, August 13, 2011

America’s Most Wanted? The Locked Out NBA Baller

Saturday Edition

America’s Most Wanted? The Locked Out NBA Baller

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

While the NBA players remained locked out by the owners, they continue to be subjected to what Alice Walker describes as “a prison of image, whereby stereotypes function not as errors, but rather forms of social control.” The media reports resulting from two separate altercations invoking Matt Barnes and Michael Beasley, and efforts to connect them to the NBA lockout, the culture of the NBA, and blackness demonstrates the power and threats inherent in these imprisoning images.

Trying to wax sociological, Chris Haynes, in “Overseas Not Problem, Pickup Games Are NBAers will continue to get into trouble if they keep playing streetball, ”uses Beasley and Barnes to point to the bigger dangers of the NBA lockout: the NBA player. “The NBA just like any other professional league, is also comprised of young, immature, volatile, emotional players who need structure in their lives 365 days out of the year. Unable to workout and have contact with their individual teams, players may be left searching for a good pickup game to stay in shape.” In other words, the NBA lockout will lead these immature and volatile to be free on the streets (playing street ball), just waiting to attack the nearest fan or competitor.

Celebrating the “grounded players such as Steve Nash, Derek Fisher, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki” (the good ones) Haynes is concerned about the behavior of the OTHER (the bad ones) NBA star during the lockout. He goes on to argue that the danger stems not only from the lack of structure experienced during the lockout, but the backgrounds of the players themselves:

Several players come from poverty-stricken backgrounds and still have some form of street mentality embedded in them. In the heat of the moment, competing against amateurs who are disrespecting and derogating athletes in their face, is a bad recipe for something potentially to pop off. Beasley and Barnes are lucky, it could have escalated to firearms.

The efforts to link “poverty” to criminality is problematic at many levels. At one level, it demonstrates the power of stereotypes and racial narratives relative to black bodies given the backgrounds of both Barnes and Beasley. Barnes, who was born in Santa Clara, California, and grew up in Sacramento, is the son of Ann and Henry Barnes. His mother, who died of cancer is 2007, was an elementary school teacher that worked with mentally challenged kids. His biography (like so many in the NBA – over half of NBA players grew up in Suburban neighborhoods) doesn’t mesh with the stereotypical discussion of inner-city ballers that Haynes works through in this piece. Likewise, Beasley, who was home-schooled and raised by his mother, Fatima Smith, exists on a different plane.

At another level, the media discourse evident here reflects a larger history of white racial framing and white supremacy. Playing on a myriad of racial narratives and tropes, Haynes uses the Beasley and Barnes incident, as well as the assumptions about streetball, the rhetoric here reflects a larger history of race in America.

For Elizabeth Alexander, the nature of racism within the United States is defined by practices wherein black bodies are systematically displayed “for public consumption,” both in the form of “public rapes, beatings, and lynchings” and “the gladiatorial arenas of basketball and boxing” (1994, p 92). Jonathan Markovitz similarly locates the criminalization of the black body within the narratives of the sports media: “The bodies of African American athletes from a variety of sports have been at the center of a number of mass media spectacles in recent years, most notably involving Mike Tyson and O.J. Simpson, but NBA players have been particularly likely to occupy center stage in American racial discourse.”

Amid the NBA lockout, the narrative space available for NBA players is increasingly limited to the projects of demonization and criminalization that are central to white supremacy. The coverage afforded to these instances, the efforts to spotlight their missed-steps as evidence of a larger problem facing the NBA, the narrative prison that links them to larger frames regarding black criminality, and the rhetorical devices offered demonstrates the process of criminalization central to the history of black America.

TO CONTINUE READING GO NewBlackMan: America’s Most Wanted? The Locked Out NBA Baller.