The Poor Are Enslaved In American Prisons

America turns its head to those who are incarcerated, especially those considered as brutal and thoughtless. The average American believes that the justice system is perfect and would never incarcerate those who are innocent. This line of logic is grossly inconsistent with reality, as thousands of formerly incarcerated inmates have been freed by DNA-evidence only. Our justice system is failing day by day, minute by minute. One wrongful conviction is one-too-many, and numbers are escalating well into the tens of thousands. Adequate legal representation is available to those who are able to pay; those who cannot, however, suffer. Consequently, inadequate legal representation mostly leads to an inevitable unjust verdict.

As a legal analyst, I’ve observed the legal processes in depth over the years, and watched those with money, resources and networks receive justice within a system allegedly designed to serve all. I’ve observed the poor and unknowledgeable suffer, as finances, resources, and networks are very limited or void!

It is our right under the Constitution to petition our courts for justice. What does this say for a Nation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — Inalienable Rights?

Slavery Is Alive and Flourishing In America

Poor people are enslaved in America’s Prison Industrial Complex. Indigent legal representation unfolds as inexperienced, underpaid and overworked lawyers provide inadequate representation to the poor – resulting in wrongful convictions; thus, enslavement to the prison industrial complex increases. The use of felonious, unethical, and often, illiterate witnesses is an increasing vehicle for wrongful convictions. The financially disempowered are the burden barriers for society’s ills, but those with money and corporate networks never experience this enslavement.

As the poor suffer, prosecutors and law enforcement officers are becoming even more corrupt in their policies. America incarcerates more individuals, especially minorities, than any other nation in the world. Wrongful convictions are on the rise and corruption is escalating. Slavery is alive and flourishing in America. In my years of service to the community, I’ve come across two distinct cases that yield inconsistencies from the onset.

The case of Ali Khalid Abdullah is one of them. Ali Khalid Abdullah was released from prison on August 1, 2008 and has had multitudes of problems dealing with a new society, ever since. Ali describes his experience as “being freed from Prison but not free.” Ali served 19 years in prison for taking action against a drug dealer who had molested an 11-year old. How does a government release prisoners with no assistance, financial or social, and expect positive results? My opinion is, they do not. They expect and hope for recidivism as it is the key to maintaining The Prison Industrial Complex.

The other case is that of two sisters, Jamie and Gladys Scott. In 1994, Jamie and Gladys Scott were wrongfully convicted in the state of Mississippi. A corrupt sheriff used coercion, threats, and harassment to convict the Scott Sisters of armed robbery. The case of the Scott sisters is an intriguing one, with transcripts stating that perhaps 9, 10, or 11 dollars was stolen, at most. It’s important to note that no one was murdered or injured. One of the state’s witnesses, a 14 year old, testified that he did not have an attorney present when signing a statement prepared by the sheriff. Jamie and Gladys Scott have served 14 years of double-life sentences, thus far. That’s Double Life Each! The absurdity of their sentencing reaches new heights with the reality that neither of the Scott sisters had prior convictions. Sadly, the cases of Mr. Abdullah and the Scott sisters are becoming an accepted phenomenon in our society.

The Prison Industrial Complex is the 21st century slave master in the minority community, and unless we are made aware and trained to take action, the enslavement will continue to fester more and more rapidly in years to come.

Don’t Wait Until It Happens To You!

For more on the case, see Jamie & Gladys Scott and Black Commentator.

Nancy Lockhart, is a legal representative and community organizer, living in South Carolina. She has worked tirelessly - for no pay - on the case of two Black females illegally charged and sentenced to double life. She can be reached at: nancylockhart@gmail.com. Read other articles by Nancy, or visit Nancy's website.

16 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Shaheed Omar said on January 1st, 2009 at 4:34pm #

    I have not had a chance to read anything but the title. I am sure there is some merit within it’s content even though my spirit doesn’t agree with the blanket statement. However, I know that African Americans and Muslims are abused in many facilities. The one’s that I have been involved in bringinmg some attention too are in South West Virginia. They arecalled Wallens Ridge and Red Onion, both of which was built 10 years ago and has consistently and systematically brutalized specific inmates.

    This one Warden called Tracy Ray that runs Red Onion is a cold racist and if he wouild have let his goons hurt my son I was going to personally spank his ass! The State Legislators have done nothing, even the African Americans don’t say a word.

    I am almost finished with a document that covers the last 10 years of abuse and when I finish it those African Americans State Legislators are going to have to explain to me what they are going to do about these facilities.
    Shaheed

  2. T O said on January 1st, 2009 at 5:02pm #

    Nancy Lockhart is a freedom-fighter, who should be commended for her tireless work on behalf of the Scott Sisters. This is a blatant atrocity which must be unshrouded for the world to see.

  3. lry rdr said on January 1st, 2009 at 6:05pm #

    Erosion of the 13th amendment runs a little deeper than some like to admit.

  4. Aine O'Brocken said on January 1st, 2009 at 6:07pm #

    I am amazed and gratified to read an article like this one by Nancy Lockhart. It reminds me how much a human being of integrity can accomplish. Since I work on a case on behalf of another unjustly imprisoned individual, Lockhart’s article was a great way to start my new year. I feel encouraged just by learning of her dedication to her battle for justice on behalf of Jamie and Gladys Scott.

    As to her final statement: “Don’t Wait Until It Happens To You!” I can only say to anyone who reads this, you better believe this woman! This kind of “justice” is happening frequently and everywhere. This kind of slavery is rampant among people of color. But it is happening to everyone.

  5. George Coombs said on January 1st, 2009 at 10:41pm #

    An excellent, very true article which people must take real notice of

  6. Nancy Lockhart said on January 2nd, 2009 at 10:15am #

    Members of the Campaign to Free Jamie & Gladys Scott are conducting a Five dollar ($5) fundraiser. We are asking individuals to assist us financially in furthering the fight for justice on behalf of Jamie & Gladys Scott with a Five Dollar Donation.

    Several organizations have requested legal documents for this case and we are presently in need of donations for postage and making copies. This request is a first step toward gaining an organization’s assistance for the exoneration of the Scott Sisters. Your assistance with this would be greatly appreciated. Please locate our donation button on the blog. http://www.freejamieandgladyscott.blogspot.com
    We are also happy to accept donations via US mail – P.O. Box 389 Green Pond, SC 29446. If you are unable to make a donation please assist in making this case public by forwarding the links below to family and friends.
    Thank You,
    /S/
    Nancy R. Lockhart
    http://freejamieandgladyscott.blogspot.com/
    http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2009/01/the-poor-are-enslaved-in-american-prisons/
    http://blackcommentator.com/300/300_mississippi_vs_scott_lockhart_guest.html
    PLEASE SIGN!
    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Free-Jamie-Gladys/index.html

  7. George Thompson said on January 2nd, 2009 at 11:54am #

    The prison industrial complex is modern day slavery with one caveat: instead of enslaving all and only blacks it is designed to entrap mostly blacks, Latinos and poor whites. The threat of prison keeps most of the middle class in line and the upper class do what they want without repercussion since their attorneys are well connected with the judges.

    This system is a mockery of justice and equality. That’s why I’m still glad OJ got off to prove the point that money makes the free man in this country along with race. If OJ had been white and killed two black people then the story would have garnered the media’s attention for a few weeks, not over a year. Of course OJ had to pay eventually because he angered so many whites of all socioeconomic backgrounds and in America that is inexcusable. The problem is white supremacy started by the Jews with the Hamatic Myth in the Bible. Whites always complain about black people playing the race card but it is whites who invented the race card and stacked the entire deck against all darker-skinned people on the planet.

    I am firmly convinced that not enough white people are capable at this time of changing and ridding themselves of their superiority complex (which is really an inferiority complex) so nonwhites will continue to suffer until a cataclysmic natural or unnatural event occurs. In effect, a race war is in our near future and if I was white I would want to avoid that since whites are only 1 out of every 11 people on the planet. Whites may control most of the weapons but they will not prove a huge advantage against six billion nonwhites. The question for humanity is simple: Will white people change before they destroy the planet and every living thing on it? The answer is no but I have to keep living until I die.

  8. Diane Seltzer said on January 2nd, 2009 at 6:56pm #

    Nancy, As always, you are right on target. It just amazes me how many people do not realize or refuse to acknowledge the corruption of “America’s Prison Industrial Complex” as you call it.We the people have to open our eyes and not allow this to continue. We have to make our system be accountable for the civil rights that are being withheld and the abuses that are allowed to be inflicted on our citizens. We have to educate and make people understand the realities of what is acceptable behavior and perpetuated in our legal system. How many people understand that false confessions or coerced testimonies are extracted everyday? How many people understand that it can take years of legal procedures to get permission for a DNA test that may never happen. How many people understand that it can take even more years for the results to be acknowledged? Part of the situation is because of the media and their involvement and ability to pronounce a verdict before proper investigation or proper legal proceedings. Another component is the refusal to update the system and accept modern technology as a routine procedure. If there are tests that can prove one’s innocence, what would be the reason for having them withheld? However, the ultimate reason and responsibility is with the public that accepts the corruption and doesn’t demand proper justice for all the citizens. There is some slight headway being made to correct this situation but it is another situation being misrepresented by the media. When headlines scream that another person is exonerated due to the work of the Innocence Project, it leads people to believe there is now a one stop shop for wrongful convictions. Although the Innocence Project is a very noble cause, there is a crazy wait list and only the very few get taken. Perhaps if the media told the true story of the wasted years and the corruption that caused years of wrongful conviction and the increasing possibilities of that happening, there would be more support from the public. It makes me sad to hear the outrage over Guantanamo when people in our prisons are ignored. Probably given the choice, every person in our system would be happy to transfer to a place that is being regulated by humanitarian groups. Don’t misunderstand what I am writing. I am looking for fairness and a standard of acceptance for all people. If anyone reads about the situation of Jamie and Gladys Scott or Paul Cortez, I defy them to find anything acceptable about the years that have been wasted. Unfortunately, their story is one of so so many. People just have to wake up and not put blind trust into an antiquated and corrupt system. More media misrepresentation allows us to think of prisoners lifting weights in between their visits to the law library and their TV shows. Has anyone ever heard of the reality of being locked away in a cage for most of one’s day and being subjected to constant indignities? Has anyone seen the drug use rates in our prisons? Does anyone understand the increased violence this encourages or question how these drugs make their way into the system? Perhaps this inhumane existence can be justified in someone’s mind as a means of punishment for criminal deeds but imagine the horror if one is wrongfully convicted with no way to prove otherwise? We are constantly reminded that our prisons are filled to capacity and more are needed. Rather than feed the system, why not attempt to weed out the mistakes? The costs would certainly be less and the human lives that would be saved are invaluable. The only way this corruption can continue is if people allow this to happen. Yes, people have to wake up and get involved, salvage humanity. and demand justice before it is denied to someone you love.

  9. Annie Harris said on January 5th, 2009 at 7:18am #

    My concern is what, is taking them so long to let these young ladies free. Their time has been served. My prayer goes out for them everyday. Lord God please have mercy upon these sisters

    Annie

  10. Annie Harris said on January 31st, 2009 at 12:13pm #

    Lord God we know we are not, and do not understand your ways and your will, but Lord right now we are praying for strenght. I difiantly give the Scott sisters mother Evenlyn’ my prayers, which are my nieces through marriage to their uncle. I really dont know if I could endure all she has encounter to this point. God must really be keeping her in his arms. We would have to wear the shoes the feel the whole effect. And if I am as hurt about his situation as I am then I can’t even begin to imagine what their mother must feel like. This is such a unfair and hurtful situation until when you hear about it. It’s like your own life it on hold and this is all your mind and how can you help. Imagine this happening to us. What would we do, we would reach out to other the same way the Scott sisters mother are reaching out to us. So let’s tell everbody we know about this. What this situation does is let us know being the color we are there is not much chance for us evening trying to live by the law that has been created just for the poor especially the blacks. WHY! If they dont get us one way they will get us another way. Just like they did OJ. Yes I am convinced being a person of color in this life is like walking on glass if you dont break, they will break you anyways. If anyone deserve to be punishment what about the horrorifed situation that happened to our black ancestors that wasn’t right. And it constantly happened and all that was for absolutely no reason what so ever. Just like Jamie and Gladys life being destroyed behind bars is for no reason beside hatred. Nothing but hatred because of having such a beautiful black color.

    God be with us.
    Annie

  11. Erika Conner said on January 31st, 2009 at 9:24pm #

    Being poor should not be a crime let’s fix our system

  12. Yoke said on March 18th, 2009 at 8:15am #

    Subject: REFORM and REHABILITATED inmates serving life terms
    Petition at :
    http://www.change.com

    http://criminaljustice.change.org/actions/view/reform_and_rehabilitatedinmates_serving_life_terms_2

    Targeting: National Black United Fund Inc (National Black United Fund Inc), American Bar Association (American Bar Association), Greg Worley (NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.), your Governor, members of your State Senate, members of your State House, the President of the United States, members of the US Senate and members of the US House of Representatives

    This petition which needs so many signatures as possible, from people who strongly support

    REFORM and REHABILITATED inmates serving life terms, be placed in the electronic monitoring or furlough programs.

    They need your voices to RING OUT LOUD for them as FORGOTTEN MEN.

    The voice of Law abiding, working-class,tax-paying,voters,family and friends.

    As the voice of the voters were heard during the attempted Legislative pay raise, they will be heard again.
    Voters have always made a difference in getting Laws implemented

    And they would greatly appreciate your assistance in performing the task at hand.

    This is not just for them, this is for our state and our future.

    They asking you to read, date and sign.

    The petition going to the House Sub Committee on Crime,Terrorism and Homeland security.

    If you are able to help them, please send this petition to your friends, family etc in and other state.
    And national Official or ministers that will aid in this matter

    To House Sub Committee on Crime,Terrorism and Homeland security, a petition From Eligible Louisiana Citizens In Support of the Implementation of R.S 15:550 and R.S 15:833 (b) (1)

    In GENERAL
    R.S 15.550, Approving of inmates convicted of a crime of violence as defined in 14 (2) and sentenced to a life-term to participate in Location Tracking and Electronic Monitoring Program.
    And
    Sub part (b) (1) of 15:833, authorizes the Secretary to grant Furlough es to deserving inmates of any adult correctional institution.

    Both allows REFORMED inmates convicted of violent crimes as defined in 14 (2) to participate in these programs.
    This would be greatly alleviate the State of its multi-million-dollar (burden) of caring for any offender who has shown to be no lonfer a threat to OUR Community.

    The state of Louisiana now suffers from a $ 894 million dollar deficit and thus much of the tax payers monies are being spent on prisons and or housing :REFORMED AND/OR REHABILITATED INMATES.
    Rather than affording quality EDUCATIONS to our children !

    Please give consideration to this resolution.

    Sincerely:

    All inmates who’s serving a life terms !!!!!!!!
    Thank you all for signing our petition

    God Bless You All !!

  13. Nancy Lockhart, M.J. said on March 18th, 2009 at 2:06pm #

    Thanks for posting Yoke!
    Also Post here~
    http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2009/03/women-in-prison-where-doe-we-draw-the-line/

  14. SSand said on April 4th, 2009 at 6:28pm #

    Perhaps they should just let everyone go free. Lets just forgive them all. It is the humane thing to do. Perhaps we should eliminate criminal courts as well. Reduce or eliminate police forces and not participate in any wars around the world – no matter what the reason. Just believe in the goodness of people to do the right thing – and if they don’t, then just forgive them and try to help them find there way. What an interesting world that would be. It amazes me how the excuse of being poor is constantly pulled out and plopped on the table. It is the reason why our jails are full, Muslims are radicalized and other wise good people do bad things. It is, for the most part, a cop out. We are becoming a society of the weak minded and left leaning lefty lunatics. Here is a concept to float. Try having all the citizens exercise personal responsibility for there actions. Nothing is perfect – but it is what we have to work with.

  15. bozh said on April 5th, 2009 at 8:45am #

    SSands,
    once upon a time, perhaps an eon or two ago, we had no prisons, government, modern governance, taxes, schools, hospitals, police,clergy, politicians, media, money nor banks, army, crime, embezzlement, etc.

    they have, tho, spawned us and enabled us to rise to such ‘lofty highs’?
    or i cld say, enabled us to reach such low lows?
    and with an ideal constitution- actualy hallowed by now- police, fbi, cia, army; lofty politicos, clergy, educators, media people in the mns, et al, how did such a lofty and noble empire sunk so low?

    is it because of the ‘mighty’ lows and and lower, tho obviously very powerless, that there are perpetual drug wars, wars, poverty, crime, etc? obviously not!
    tnx

  16. michael Thering said on April 16th, 2009 at 1:19am #

    Hello I’m a white man enslaved by our government that controlled by corportate America. Believe me it not a racial issue anymore it’s about the have and the have nots. I feel that any form of hate is not rightous or becoming in our creators eyes. Yes I believe that there is no justice for the have nots. Because of the lack of rightousness in our society. Oh and where has all the faith gone when it comes to believing and trusting our maker. Far as I’m concerned is, come on Jesus no time is better than the present to eliminate all this nasty mesh of a world that is controlled by evil. Please whip it clean and allow the people to be rightous and respectful to the breathe that was breathed into each and everyone of us. We are all his children and wrongs need to be right. Growing restless I understand all I ask is know your enemy.