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Green Party leaders call attention to the racially motivated case of the ‘Jena Six’ in Louisiana

Green Party urges far-reaching steps in the US justice system to correct biases against African Americans, Latinos, and poor people, and to end record US incarceration rates

Green Party leaders call attention to the racially motivated case of the ‘Jena Six’ in Louisiana

Green Party leaders called the US’s high percentages of people in prison and racial disparities in incarceration a “shame on America” and urged dramatic steps to reverse the criminalization of large numbers of Americans.

Greens expressed special alarm at recent cases that have revealed systematic racial bias in law enforcement and sentencing, including the prosecution of six black high school students in Jena, Louisiana, for fighting after racial tensions sparked by the display of three nooses in a schoolyard in 2006 www.truthdig.com. The students initially faced 100-year sentences for attempted murder after an incident that many believe should have led to suspensions from school. An all-white jury convicted one of the students, who now faces a 22-year prison term. No white students were prosecuted.

“We ask Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco to step in and overturn the Jena Six convictions,” said Diane F. White, Pennsylvania delegate to the Green Party’s National Committee, Acting Corresponding Secretary for the Black Caucus, and “Dismantling Racism Ally.” “The state of our justice system should provoke outrage from every American who has some sense of real justice. Democrats and Republicans have tolerated racial bias, unfair sentencing practices, and abuses in our courts and prisons for too long. The US imprisons more of its population than any other country in the world. We can no longer trust them to correct these injustices. The Green Party exists because we need a political party, candidates, and elected officeholders to reverse bipartisan laws and policies that have turned record numbers of Americans, especially African Americans and Latinos, into inmates.”

“The case of the Jena Six is emblematic of how people of color in the US face prosecution and sentencing,” said Clifford Thornton, , Green candidate for Governor of Connecticut in 2006 and co-founder of Efficacy, Inc. <http://www.efficacy-online.org>, which promotes major reforms in drug policy. “The Jena Six prosecution is one of the more blatant and scandalous examples of how our justice system regularly criminalizes black and brown people — especially children.”

The Green Party cited a recent study by the Sentencing Project http://www.sentencingproject.org, which revealed severe disparities based on race and ethnicity in incarceration, with African Americans imprisoned at over five times the rate of whites and Latinos imprisoned at nearly double the white rate. Greens further noted that America has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of all the world’s prisoners, far surpassing Russia, China, and North Korea.

Green Party leaders listed several urgent measures to overhaul the justice system:

• Federal monitoring of prosecutorial practices and sentencing patterns in all jurisdictions where such disparities are evident, in accord with civil rights laws.

• Cancellation of the war on drugs, which the Green Party has called “a war on youth and people of color” www.gp.org/press/pr_2007_05_16.shtml. According to the DEA, FBI, Department of Justice, police agencies, and numerous public interest groups and researchers, 72% of all illegal drug users and most of those involved in the drug trade are white, while African-Americans make up only 13% of all illegal drug users and a tiny percentage of drug importers. Despite these numbers, the overwhelming percentage of those incarcerated for drugs are black.

• Abolition of the death penalty. “The death penalty is already barbaric and we know that it has been applied in many cases in which people convicted and executed were later exonerated,” said Alfred Molison, Co-Chair Green Party Black Caucus http://gpblackcaucus.blogspot.com. “But the death penalty should also be abolished because black, brown, and poor white people disproportionately get executed. When those who can’t afford to defend themselves adequately in court are targeted for the ultimate and irreversible punishment, the punishment itself becomes murder.”

• Repeal of zero tolerance and mandatory sentencing statutes, which enlarge the power of prosecutors and erode judicial discretion.

• An end to abuses of the plea-bargaining system, which have resulted in the imprisonment of innocent people who lack the financial resources to defend themselves sufficiently in court.

• An end to the privatization of the prison system, which creates economic incentives to put more people behind bars, since corporate prison owners and contractors increase their profits when more cells are filled up. The Green Party has drawn links between privatized prisons and draconian drug laws, the targeting of poor people and people of color for prosecution, mandatory and severe sentencing, high death penalty rates in some states, and other policies.

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