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["Speaking Truth To Empower"]
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer: “In FY 2017, New York City defendants’ and their families and friends posted more than 12,300 private bail bonds, with a total bond value of $268 million.”
Photo: YouTube

Why are New York politicians, like Gov. Cuomo, pushing to rollback bail reform during COVID-19 pandemic?

The deadly COVID-19 coronavirus crisis has upset the fragile balance of daily life across the globe.

The world is largely in lockdown mode now. “Social distancing” and “flattening the curve” have become important trending terms.

Increasingly, some voices are raising the alarm regarding how COVID-19 will decimate the most desperate and vulnerable among us. The world’s poor and homeless, always ignored by so-called civil society, are even more at risk.

There is another high-risk group to consider: those closely confined in our jails and prisons.

Here in America, the eventuality of this pandemic exploding inside our prisons and jails has become a serious source of concern. There are currently calls for the commonsense release of elderly inmates and those imprisoned for non-violent crimes.

For his handling so far in this crisis, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been praised profusely. Cuomo has helped calm the fears of many because of his hands-on engagement, unlike the head-scratching dissonance coming from Trump’s White House. Cuomo has done what leaders should be expected to do during turbulent times.

However, we must ask this: why is Cuomo trying to rollback bail reform measures many have fought for to bring fairness to a broken biased criminal justice system during this health crisis?

Like others, Governor Cuomo has repeated the call to practice social distancing to contain the spread of COVID-19. So, why would he be involved in an attempt to alter bail reform at this critical point? Why clog the jail system when the talk has been about “flattening the curve?”

Why turn New York’s jails into incubation centers for COVID-19?

Ever since these bail reforms were enacted, we have heard regressive elements—those with the “lock them up and throw away the key” mentality—complaining. Some have conveniently tried to connect a recent spike in crime as being associated with these bail reforms. Here, they act as if periodic episodic increases in crime statistics is somehow abnormal in America.

In February, the New York City Police Department said, “Criminal justice reforms serve as a significant reason New York City has seen this uptick in crime.” “Significant reason?” Meaning what, not the only or even main reason?

Why should we believe an institution that repeatedly lies and protects murderous killer-cops like Daniel Pantaleo? Self-professed progressive New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also said, regarding the recent crime spike, that “there’s a direct correlation to a change in the law.”

But what are the really important driving forces behind most “crimes” in America, that never ever get addressed by dishonest politicians? Why is economic inequality, and poverty, rarely ever mentioned in conversations about crime?

In America, crime, historically, has always been promoted and publicized as having a Black face. This is the principal reason the institution of American policing is allowed to terrorize and kill Black Americans with the silent blessings of both Republicans and Democrats—and their “justice” system. This is also why Black culture is characterized as inherently criminal in nature, as if the very foundations of this nation aren’t built on rapacious criminality.

The criminalization of Black America is indeed one of White America’s greatest crimes. That criminalization has always been underpinned by oppression and economic exploitation, since it arose to re-enslave African-Americans after the Emancipation Proclamation. This economic exploitation continues.

Therefore, we must ask these essential questions: why are these folks really opposed to criminal justice reforms? Does this have anything to do with safeguarding the jail/prison industries that employed and enriched some?

History tells us the prison industrial complex had a starting point in the 13th Amendment's loophole which states “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States...

This allowed White America to turn prisons into ruthless profit-making plantations. “Freed” slaves were the main targets for criminalization after Emancipation. The criminalization of Black Americans for profit explains our exceedingly high representation in America’s prisons today.

Prison profiteering corporations, like Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, generate billions in annual revenue. The prison plantation system is economically beneficial to these corporations.

Additionally, some politicians, and the districts they represent, including here in New York State, gain politically from having prisons filled with Black bodies in their towns and cities. Prisons are leading employers in many of these locations—and politicians count these Black prisoners among their constituents. Moreover, Census dollars are rerouted to these white communities.

In the aftermath of the police killing of Michael Brown, the then Justice Department admitted the City of Ferguson used fines and fees against Black people to help balance their budget. However, Ferguson isn’t the only place using criminal justice measures as an economic warfare tool against Black America.

Consider what the Brennan Center for Justice said regarding the imposition of fees and fines in criminal courts, in a November 2019, report “The past decade has seen a troubling and well-documented increase in fees and fines imposed on defendants by criminal courts. Today, many states and localities rely on these fees and fines to fund their court systems or even basic government operations.”

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer in a September 2019 report also wrote: “The deeply inequitable manner in which the mass incarceration system saps wealth and opportunity from communities of color has led to some important reforms recently, including most profoundly New York State’s decision to eliminate cash bail in most criminal cases by 2020.” Stringer noted that “Despite recent reforms advanced by the City Council, private companies continue to profit off New York City’s criminal justice system.”

Besides the economic transfer of Black wealth through America’s prison slave labor, along with all the ancillary services connected to it—the quotas, fines, and summonses--we also have: the bail bond business rip-off scheme.

Here again, Comptroller Stringer’s comments give us an idea of the malicious malfeasance at work. Stringer noted the following in a 2018 report:

In FY 2017, New York City defendants’ and their families and friends posted more than 12,300 private bail bonds, with a total bond value of $268 million.” Stringer’s report also noted that “Last year the private bail bond industry extracted between $16 million and $27 million in nonrefundable fees from people arrested in New York City and their family and friends. This sum represents a sizeable transfer of wealth from already low-income communities to the pockets of opportunistic bail bond agents.”

There are many questions to be asked about these bail bond agents including who are they politically connected to?

The economic exploitation of Blacks by white America’s unjust "legal" system is a main issue Black America must ferociously fight to overturn. Every aspect of America's racist so-called criminal justice must be re-examined.

We must look carefully for what comes from Governor Cuomo’s behind-the-scenes bail reform rollback maneuvering.

Black Americans must remember this: those who have made money—and advanced their careers from Black suffering and exploitation—will not willingly go along with changes made in criminal justice to treat us with humane equality.

Therefore, we must continue to vigilantly fight those who have always enriched themselves off our deprivation within America’s criminal industrial plantation.

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