During the video you can hear the officers talking to me and saying that they know who I am and know my background. At minute 5:05 the officer can be heard saying, “You done selling drugs yet or what? I know your rap sheet.” Then again around 5:55 the officer can be heard saying, “Go sell some more drugs sir. We know your background, I know who you are.” The officers let the men in the car go without charges. But they had other plans for me.
In December of 2011, the very same officers stopped my car and conducted an illegal search. They found a pocket knife and a mini replica baseball bat in the car, and charged me with two counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree, a felony punishable with two to seven years on prison. My stop and arrest was unequivocal retaliation for my surveillance of these officers and work in the community.
Today I need your help. Please contact Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance and demand that all charges against Joseph Hayden be dropped and that the NYPD be put on notice that citizens have a right to monitor their “servants” as they perform their duties without retaliation. The significance of these cases of retaliation for covering “our servants” extends beyond my case alone. These actions by NYPD raise the larger issue of their role in communities of color, the rights of citizens to monitor law enforcement, and the rights/role of new media in covering the news. What is happening to me has happened to hundreds of thousands of citizens in New York City.
SUPPORT JAZZ HAYDEN!
Enough is enough! Send your letter to: Cyrus Vance Manhattan District Attorney One Hogan Place New York, NY 10013 You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please cc me on your letter at email@example.com. A sample letter is included below. If you can make it, please join me at my next court appearance on July 31, 2012 in Part F at 100 Centre Street in Manhattan.
We will be gathering outside the courthouse at 8:30 am. Thanks for your support. Yours truly, Joseph Jazz Hayden Campaign to End the New Jim Crow www.allthingsharlem.com SAMPLE LETTER TO CYRUS VANCE Cyrus Vance Manhattan District Attorney One Hogan Place New York, NY 10013
Dear District Attorney Vance, [PLEASE MAKE INCLUDE YOUR NAME, YOUR JOB OR OTHER IMPORTANT AFFILIATION AND HOW YOU KNOW JAZZ] I am writing today about an urgent matter, the case of Joseph Hayden. Your office has chosen to seek an indictment against him for two counts of Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree. I believe that his arrest was a retaliatory act on the part of the police against one of their most outspoken critics, a long-time neighborhood cop watch activist and police reform advocate. There is no doubt that Mr. Hayden has a lengthy criminal record. But he has put his past behind him and become an important community activist. He is a longtime member of The Riverside Church Prison Ministry and a founding member of the Ministry’s Campaign to End The New Jim Crow, a group dedicated to combatting mass incarceration and building caring communities. And for the past four years, Mr. Hayden has videotaped police officers as they stop and frisk people in Harlem as part of a neighborhood copwatch program and posted these videos on his website, All Things Harlem. Mr. Hayden was pulled over for a traffic stop in Harlem in December 2011. When the police approached his car, they made it plain that they recognized Mr. Hayden by statements such as “We know you.” The two officers who stopped him in December were the same officers filmed by Mr. Hayden several months earlier (view the video here: http://bit.ly/NjOZTN). After clearly acknowledging that they knew who he was, the officers unlawfully searched his car, finding a penknife and a small commemorative replica baseball bat. These items are the weapons for which he is now facing felony charges punishable by 2 to 7 years in prison. During your campaign for District Attorney, you sat down with Mr. Hayden for an interview for his website. During that interview, Mr. Hayden asked you what you would do to stop racial bias and harassment of people of color by the NYPD. You told him that while you “can’t tell the police who to arrest or who not to arrest,” but as District Attorney you would like to assure that “when it comes to us, that we are not making charging decisions that are biased in any way.” You can view the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEu5yZ4Pwxc In light of your commitment to make unbiased charging decisions, I urge you to drop the charges against Mr. Hayden. Given Mr. Hayden’s prominent role in filming the police, it is clear that his arrest was retaliation for his community activities. I also urge you to take seriously the dangers of police practices that effectively silence citizens who dissent. United States Attorney General Eric Holder has affirmed the right to record police officers in the public performance of their duties. By allowing Mr. Hayden’s indictment to proceed, the Manhattan District Attorney casts a chilling effect on this right. Thank you for your kind attention to this letter.
Sincerely [NAME] [ADDRESS]
If you’re looking for one of the reasons why the United States imprisons more people — by miles — than any other nation, you can look to the development of private prisons as a means of making some people rich. Those people spend millions of dollars to lobby elected officials to do two things: Convert government-run prisons to private prisons, and lock up more people for longer periods of time. Because that makes them even richer.
A new study by the Justice Policy Institute reaches exactly that conclusion and documents it thoroughly.
Over the past 15 years, the number of people held in all prisons in the United States has increased by 49.6 percent, while private prison populations have increased by 353.7 percent, according to recent federal statistics. Meanwhile, in 2010 alone, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group, the two largest private prison companies, had combined revenues of $2.9 billion. According to a report released today by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), not only have private prison companies benefitted from this increased incarceration, but they have helped fuel it. Gaming the System: How the Political Strategies of Private Prison Companies Promote Ineffective Incarceration Policies, examines how private prison companies are able to wield influence over legislators and criminal justice policy, ultimately resulting in harsher criminal justice policies and the incarceration of more people. The report notes a “triangle of influence” built on campaign contributions, lobbying and relationships with current and former elected and appointed officials. Through this strategy, private prison companies have gained access to local, state, and federal policymakers and have back-channel influence to pass legislation that puts more people behind bars, adds to private prison populations and generates tremendous profits at U.S. taxpayers’ expense.“For-profit companies exercise their political influence to protect their market share, which in the case of corporations like GEO Group and CCA primarily means the number of people locked up behind bars,” said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of JPI. “We need to take a hard look at what the cost of this influence is, both to taxpayers and to the community as a whole, in terms of the policies being lobbied for and the outcomes for people put in private prisons. That their lobbying and political contributions is funded by taxpayers, through their profits on government contracts, makes it all the more important that people understand the role of private prisons in our political system.”
America’s obsession with locking up more and more people, while simultaneously ignoring the numerous ways that innocent people are railroaded by a corrupt and inept justice system, is not only destroying important constitutional principles, it’s also bankrupting state and local governments. It needs to be fixed.
“We want justice, not just us,” protesters chanted at a march and rally for Marissa Alexander Friday morning in downtown Jacksonville, Fla.
Alexander’s case is an example of a controversial Stand Your Ground decision that didn’t go in Alexanders favor. Many leaders, community members and the Alexander family expressed dissatisfaction with her sentence—20 years for firing a “warning shot” near her reportedly abusive husband.
The Jacksonville chapter of the NAACP hosted the event, which included local, state and national leaders as well as Alexander’s lawyers and her mother and sister. Attendees were in the hundreds.
Rep. Corrine Brown, a vocal champion of Alexander, told the crowd that the verdict pained her. She said that at first she could not stop crying.
While Brown found Alexander’s sentence upsetting (a fact made known when Brown confronted State Attorney Angela Corey about the case), the congresswoman also said youth are being classified as adults and felons at a startling rate. Brown said that help is needed for other victims and, “I know that the Lord has sent us help” with Alexander’s case in the form of New York based attorney, Michael G. Dowd.
Dowd told the crowd that society frequently supports battered women until they “are forced to defend themselves.”
On Alexander he said, “She didn’t even harm this animal.” According to NAACP representatives, Alexander’s sentence and other 10-20-life mandatory sentences are miscarriages of justice and “judicial lynchings.”
Jacksonville NAACP President Isaiah Rumlin encouraged supporters to vote for representatives with their best interests at heart and vote out people who didn’t deliver. He said that minorities were being overcharged and disproportionately sentenced at the state level.
Martin Luther King III echoed the need for people to use their political power. He said that people have to read the entire ballot when they vote. ”Rarely do we see justice”, calling the criminal justice system “the criminal system.”
Alexander’s mother, Helen Jenkins, thanked the crowd for support and advocated for her daughter. “She did not commit a crime. She was protecting herself,” Jenkins said.
Alexander, a mother with a master’s degree, had no prior criminal history, but in less than 15 minutes a jury found her guilty of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. During her trial, she invoked Stand Your Ground and said that she fired in self-defense. Many have drawn parallels between Alexander’s case and Trayvon Martin’s shooting death at the hands of George Zimmerman. Even though a judge denied Alexander Stand Your Ground immunity, police protected Zimmerman from arrest using Stand Your Ground.
As traditional media did not initially cover Alexander’s case, she now continues to be championed across several social media platforms.
Marissa Alexander’s name is a hashtag. A Facebook group entitled “Stand Your Ground: Justice for Marissa Alexander” boasted about 1,350 likes as of press time. “Support for Marissa Alexander” had more than 1,200 likes. A Free Marissa Alexander petition on change.org includes more than 15,000 signatures.
As far as courtroom work goes, Alexander’s attorney seemed unshaken when he addressed listeners. He said that his team would walk in the footsteps of one of the “great legal lights,” Thurgood Marshall and pursue justice.
“We are going to go back into the system, twist and turn it, and make it do the right thing,” Dowd said. If the status quo continues, Alexander’s mother reminded onlookers of the risks.
“It could be someone else tomorrow,” Jenkins said.