Amidst Talk Of Prison Reform, Courts Continue To Oppress The Poorest Americans


Chris works on a farm by day and works for a secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny at nights, two jobs to make ends meet. Today he came in to see me, he also pro­vides some basic ser­vices through my busi­ness to the Jamaica men and women who do sea­son­al work on farms in Dutchess and Ulster Counties New York.

Chris was unable to do much of any­thing to earn a liv­ing today, though he came in wear­ing farm clothes, he was on his way to traf­fic court in the Town of Poughkeepsie right here in Dutchess County.
He asked me jok­ing­ly, what would hap­pen to him if he is late for court, I told him they would like­ly issue a war­rant for his arrest, he laughed and hur­ried left.

I thought about his chances as walked briskly away, I con­clud­ed to myself that he is in for a rough time in that court, which for all intents and pur­pose is a cash fac­to­ry for the coun­ty. The Town of Poughkeepsie court churns out mil­lions from large­ly the poor­est res­i­dents of the coun­ty who can least afford to pay the humungous fines met­ed out for the slight­est traf­fic infrac­tions.

The Town’s offi­cers are large­ly dis­cour­te­ous, arro­gant and are almost 100% white-male. They use the route 9 cor­ri­dor as a feed­ing tree for writ­ing tick­ets, but they are to be found hid­ing in bush­es on lit­er­al­ly every lit­tle road­way which snake their ways through­out the town.
Main street runs through the city to the Town where it forks into Routes 44 and 55, both arter­ies run through the town.
Many of their traf­fic stops end up in the city. Other stops begin in the city because they fol­low motorists into the city from the town before ini­ti­at­ing traf­fic stops. As you may well imag­ine their vic­tims are usu­al­ly black and brown motorists, who make up the bulk of the city’s res­i­dents, In oth­er words, peo­ple who look like Chris.

For years peo­ple have com­plained about this police depart­ment. This includ­ing a 2014 Essay pub­lished by Gawker and writ­ten by Kiese Laymon, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of English and a con­tribut­ing edi­tor at Gawker. It began with the author at a traf­fic stop, being chas­tised by a white offi­cer from the depart­ment.

After tak­ing my license and ID back to his car, he came to me with a tick­et and two lessons,” Laymon wrote. “ ‘Looks like you got a good thing going on over there at Vassar College,’ he said. ‘You don’t wan­na ruin it by rolling through stop signs, do you?’ ”
Laymon says that was the fourth time a local police offi­cer had told him his job made every­thing “O.K.,” a phrase that inspired the essay’s title, “My Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything OK.”

About an hour and a half lat­er Chris walked in, he con­ced­ed he was­n’t wear­ing his seat­belt. Then he told me that the pros­e­cu­tor told him he had reduced the seat-belt vio­la­tion to a non-mov­ing vio­la­tion. He was encour­aged to plead to a park­ing vio­la­tion for which he was forced to pay $175.
That’s in addi­tion to los­ing a whole day of work.

There is no legal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for break­ing the laws. However, when a poor per­son who makes such a small mis­take is forced to pay such a high price and the sys­tem uses the guise of a reduced charge, one has to rea­son­ably con­clude that he was spared the mov­ing vio­la­tion just so that he could go make more mon­ey for them to steal.

Trump meets with Black pas­tors

All across America, the poor­est peo­ple who can least afford it are being used as cash cows to feed city and town cof­fers and fund­ing bud­gets.
At a time when mis­guid­ed black apos­tates mas­querad­ing as pas­tors are meet­ing with Trump about prison reform, these are the real issues affect­ing the poor­est Americans.

Unfortunately, these pas­tors make a mock­ery of them­selves, they do not speak for the black com­mu­ni­ty and gen­er­al­ly have no influ­ence in the black com­mu­ni­ty.
In essence, these pho­to-ops with Trump have zero to do with the com­mu­ni­ty and every­thing to do with the egos of these dis­gust­ing oppor­tunists.

If Donald Trump want­ed to have mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tions about prison reform he would have picked up the phone and speak to Reverend William Barber. He could call Congressman John Lewis over to the White House. He is free to call Michelle Alexander and many oth­ers who can engage him in sub­stan­tive con­sul­ta­tions on this press­ing issue. Instead, he choos­es to con­sult with lack­eys and stool pigeons who have no influ­ence and are only engaged in it for them­selves.