Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People’s Movement
Letter in Solidarity
There comes a time when the American people must recognize that we lead the world in prison cells. The American people must also recognize that these cells do not fill themselves, as mass incarceration is the result of policy decisions. The American people must finally recognize that all of us are not created equal in the dark shadows of the prisons, the courthouses, the legislatures, or the New York City Police Department. The Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People’s Movement stands together with those who believe the “Stop and Frisk” policy belongs in fascist countries with brutal rulers, not in the United States of America.
On Ellis Island there is a plaque reading “Send me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” A torch is held aloft to the Atlantic Ocean, while Lady Liberty’s back is turned away from us. What has been going on behind her back has been police tactics that have no connection to crime rates. We can look at the data, compare the rates among different neighborhoods, compare New York City to other large cities, and we can see the one clearest fact: People of Color are the ones being stopped. Young Black and Latino men living in the communities targeted for high rates of crime are being hassled by the police in this city; they are being targeted and dehumanized by tactics that demean and oppress them as young people, they are being put up against the wall and frisked, only to find nothing, and then released to go about their business. These hassles, these frisks and uses of force do not make our communities safer, and do not make our children safer.
The NYPD are stopping more Black and Latino people than actually live in the city, harassing nearly 700,000 people last year alone. They say that this is because crime victims are predominantly Black and Latino, yet in most crimes the race of the perpetrator is not even reported. They say crime is going down, but they don’t say crime is going down at a similar pace in all major cities. When we look at the statistics, we see that the ten whitest areas, like the Upper East Side and Bensonhurst have crime dropping at double the rate as the ten most Black and Latino, such as BedStuy, Central Harlem and Hunts Point. Coincidentally, people in these ten precincts, all of which are over 90% Black and Latino, are stopped by the police four times more than those in the ten whitest precincts. The NYPD’s own statistics show that the more you Stop and Frisk, the less crime goes down. The people ask Bloomberg for books, teachers, and classrooms, yet to the Black and Brown people of this city: he sends guns, police, and jails.
Those who have heard the phrase “Crash the System” can recognize when the criminal justice system is creating policies to crash itself. Consider all the 90% of Stop and Frisks last year that resulted in no arrest nor ticket; stops where people were just told to then “move along.” Stops where people were sometimes frisked, sometimes thrown to the ground, and then expected to “go about their business….” There were twice as many of these harassment stops than there were arraignments in all of New York City. Harassment Stops were double the actual arraignments. Consider also that a quarter of all summons handed out by the NYPD are thrown out as being invalid. If all of these wronged people were to take their claims to the courts, where the System expects people to handle their wrongs, the System would be hit with a tidal wave the same way that the NYPD is hitting certain communities in New York.
Fathers need to pass on an example, to tell stories about life that inspire their children to strive and succeed. Black and Latino fathers in New York City however, have to tell their children to stay away from the police, to fear them, lest they be a statistic of someone being manhandled for just walking down the street in a “High Crime Area” (otherwise known as a place where People of Color are trying to build their communities) and making “furtive movements” like texting on their cell phone.
When the police overwhelmingly target Black and Latino men as suspects, they will be the ones who fill the court houses. The courts create prisoners, and the prisons (when we are fortunate) return men to us with criminal records. The discrimination against people with criminal records has replaced racism in education, housing, and employment. And the next time the police come in contact with that father, son, sister, or mother with a criminal record: the vise is already so tight there is hardly room for any innocent person to escape.
From throughout the country, the Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People’s Movement calls on police departments to rejoin their communities rather than occupying them.
For More Information: www.silentmarchnyc.org