Nan-Hui Jo, guilty of dignity and survival

 

#StandWithNanHui

Nan-Hui Jo is a single mother, Korean immigrant to the United States, survivor of domestic violence, and prisoner. She stands, and struggles, at the intersection of State violence against immigrant women, women of color, and domestic violence survivors. While her story of being subjected to at least three forms of State violence is in many ways tragic, Nan-Hui Jo does not embody a failure of the State. The State wants Nan-Hui Jo suffering in prison and that’s what’s happening.

Nan-Hui Jo’s story is complicated, because of the innumerable details and turns, and yet simple, because of its familiarity. As a survivor of domestic violence, her story joins with those of Marissa Alexander, Tondalo Hall, and so many other women of color survivors who have been sent to prison for the crime of survival. As an immigrant woman, she joins Kenia Galeano and the mothers in Karnes Immigration Detention Center, in Texas, who are struggling to end State violence against immigrant women. In both categories, the women’s crime is having asserted their dignity.

Very briefly, Nan-Hui Jo came to the United States as a student, met a guy, fell in love, returned to Korea to get a fiancé visa, returned, married. Her husband abused her, and so Nan-Hui Jo filed for separation, moved across the country to California, returned to school, met a guy. Soon after, Nan-Hui Jo became pregnant, the guy pushed for an abortion, she resisted, they broke up, they re-united, they broke up again. Two months later, Nan-Hui Jo gave birth to Vitz Da, a beautiful baby girl. The father re-entered the picture a few months after Vitz Da’s birth, seemed to love the child, and the two adults re-united. The father exhibited unpredictably violent behavior, striking at Nan-Hui Jo at least once and threatening constantly. In July 2009, the two separated.

Here’s where it gets `complicated.’ Because Nan-Hui Jo had separated from her husband, she lost his sponsorship, and so ICE denied her application for a green card. Because no one told Nan-Hui Jo that she had rights as an immigrant survivor of domestic violence, she agreed to return to South Korea, which she did with her daughter. Five years later, in July 2014, Nan-Hui Jo and Vitz Da returned to the United States. Jo was arrested for child abduction. Her daughter was taken away. Despite his violent history, the father was given full custody of the child. Mother and daughter have not seen each other since.

Nan-Hui Jo’s trial ended in a hung jury. She stayed in jail, awaiting a second trial, where she was found guilty. In April, Nan-Hui Jo was sentenced to 175 days time served and three years probation. Immediately, Nan-Hui Jo was turned over to immigration authorities, who decided to place her in prison. She could have remained in the community until her hearing. Instead, she sits in jail.

Many organizations, such as the Korean American Coalition to End Domestic Abuse, have campaigned for not only Nan-Hui Jo’s release but for her exoneration and freedom. 170 Asian American organizations sent an open letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security. They note, “Ms. Jo’s case highlights the vulnerable and marginalized situations that undocumented people and survivors of domestic violence face … As a coalition of organizations dedicated to protecting and advancing immigrants’ rights and providing support to survivors of domestic violence, we especially are concerned about Ms. Jo’s case, given her status as an immigrant, domestic violence survivor, and mother. We ask that the Department of Homeland Security drop the immigration hold request against Ms. Jo and release her from detention.”

Silence.

Who benefits from separating this woman from her daughter? Who benefits from her sitting in jail? In a related context, Silvia Federici provides a clue, “The struggle of immigrant domestic workers fighting for the institutional recognition of `carework’ is strategically very important, for the devaluation of reproductive work has been one of the pillars of capital accumulation and the capitalistic exploitation of women’s labor.”

When Nan-Hui Jo arrived in the United States, survival became her carework, and the State has extracted value from that since day one. The State passes laws that `protect’ women, and then the same State refuses to implement those laws when women need them to survive and to live. That is no failure; that is the program. This is the lesson those organizing the Stand With Nan-Hui Campaign are learning and teaching others. State violence against domestic violence survivors is wrapped in State violence against immigrant women is wrapped again in State violence against women. And the result? Women – survivors, immigrants, women of color, prisoners – have to work ten times as hard to survive and assert their dignity.

For the rest of her life, Nan-Hui Jo will have to struggle and labor furiously to have any contact with her daughter. This is the price women, and their daughters, pay for the crime of asserting the dignity of women.

 

(Image Credit: Korean American Coalition to End Domestic Abuse)

Women organize the choir to end mass incarceration … and beyond

Michelle Alexander presented her thoughts on race, rights, and mass incarceration in the United States at a recent talk in Washington, DC.  A law professor and civil rights lawyer, Alexander is the author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.  In this book, Alexander examines how State political-economic policy—specifically the War on Drugs—has created a regime of caging and profiling Black and Brown men and led to a new racial caste system, a New Jim Crow.

At her talk in DC, Alexander said that she wanted her book to be not just a tool for educating more people on mass incarceration.  She remarked that it should be a starting point for further organizing and activism.  Alexander stated, “Nothing short of a major social movement, a human rights movement, has any hope of ending mass incarceration.”

However, in conversations about mass incarceration, including in Alexander’s book, women are left out of the narrative.  Women, especially women of color, have faced the fastest-growing rate of incarceration in the world.  Though in the United States women’s imprisonment has slowed a bit, this fact remains true globally.

When asked a question about how the lack of women in her book and talk adds or subtracts from movement building, Alexander affirmed the importance of women’s experiences and voices in conversations about ending mass incarceration.  She highlighted that “women often pay a higher price than men do” in the prison system, such as the burden of being separated from their children.  Alexander added that because men are the vast majority of targets of mass incarceration, women and other people’s experiences (such as immigrants, gays, and lesbians) are often marginalized, though it is extremely important to include them in movement-building conversations.

Alexander is correct, but her answer is incomplete, for two reasons.  First, the State positions women’s incarceration in the neoliberal economy as both a pre-condition and most extreme condition of economic exploitation. This means that women get jailed the fastest, women experience extra violence in prison, and, as Alexander also noted, women must do the work of surviving and fighting back in criminalized communities.  It means that women’s migration provides enough bodies to fill the new warehouses of immigrant detention centers, and that we must connect the reasons for women’s migrations—namely economic interventions of the IMF/World Bank, militarism by the United States, and the worldwide crusade to criminalize sex work—to the rise of mass incarceration, as well.  Women, especially women of color, have always been primary, not secondary, targets of the global prison system, just as women have always been primary, and not secondary, targets of economic exploitation.

The second reason is that movement building cannot relegate women’s experiences to just ‘being included.’  Women of color, immigrants, LGBTIQ people, and all others marginalized under neoliberalism must be (and already are) leading the conversations from the beginning.  By ensuring our anti-incarceration conversations follow their lead, we can best do as Alexander suggested in her talk: not just preach to, but organize the choir.

 

(Image Credit: UprisingRadio.org)

Recognizing Virginia’s “non-violent felon” women voters

Great news from Virginia: “In a major victory for voting rights, Virginia’s Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell has announced he will automatically restore voting rights for people with nonviolent felony convictions. His decision will eliminate the two-year waiting period and petition process that currently disenfranchises thousands of nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences and satisfied all the conditions of their punishments. According to the Sentencing Project, 350,000 Virginians who have completed their sentences remained disenfranchised in 2010.”

Last year the Sentencing Project reported that 350,000 Virginians fell under the felony disenfranchisement regime. Virginia is one of six states where more than seven percent of the adult population is disenfranchised. Virginia is one of three states in which at least 20 percent of African Americans is disenfranchised. That’s three states – Florida, Kentucky, Virginia – out of fifty. Virginia is one of the seven states in which more than 7 percent of the adult population is disenfranchised.

The key phrase is “people with non-violent felony convictions.”

While it’s not particularly surprising that the gender of “people with nonviolent felony convictions” goes unnoticed, it’s worth noting. The majority of formerly incarcerated women in Virginia are “nonviolent offenders” … and are women of color.

In his letter to the Secretary of the Commonwealth, the Governor, not surprisingly, ignores the gender and racial component: “I believe that a person who is a non-violent felon, and has served his time as well as probation or parole, and fully satisfied all court costs, fine, restitution, and other court-ordered conditions, should be able to regain his civil rights and resume his life as a fully engaged member of society.”

Before you think this is too fine a point, the Commonwealth of Virginia Restoration of Rights page doesn’t speak of the restoration of his rights. It speaks of the restoration of his or her rights. The her matters.

Most of the press joins the Governor in ignoring the her side of rights restoration. Most, but not all.

For example, Benjamin Jealous suggested: “If you’re a drug addict and you’re poor, you tend to go to prison. You’re rich, you tend to go to Betty Ford, right? Or the equivalent. And when you go in, if you’re a woman—and that’s been sort of the huge increasing demographic over the last 20 years—your kids go to foster care. Well, you don’t get your kids out of foster care when you get home from prison. You get them home—you get them out of foster care when you get home from prison and find a job and can keep it. And for formerly incarcerated people, they find that they have this kind of scarlet “F” on their forehead, where it’s almost impossible in many places to get a job, where you can’t vote in places like Virginia, where—one woman spoke passionately yesterday about what it was like to be speaking to the Republican Women’s Club and asked to sign a petition for somebody who wanted to run for office, and be interrogated about why you couldn’t sign it, and finally have to sort of re-out herself as somebody who, on her worst day, had done something wrong and become a felon. And so, this is how we put people in—you know, kind of push people out of our society while having them live right amongst us.”

In Virginia incarcerated women are the huge increasing demographic for the last two decades, and the overwhelming majority are in for non-violent offenses. Since 1990, Virginia has had one of the highest increases in time served by prisoners and keeps people in prison for longer than most states. Recently the Commonwealth established the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission to address the possibility of diversion and alternative sentencing.

The Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission found that for drug and fraud offenses, women are a much, much better `risk’ than men, nine times better. For larceny, men are a somewhat better risk, about 1.5 times better. Most recently, these numbers translated as follows: 635 drug cases for review; 951 fraud cases; 185 larceny cases. In the overwhelming number of cases, then, women are a much better prospect for anywhere but behind bars. That’s according to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Virginia has taken a historic first step. It’s not quite a leap, but it’s an important step. Now, revoke the lifelong ban on access to welfare. Virginia still has a complete lifetime ban on welfare receipt for formerly incarcerated people. Less than a third of the states have such a ban. That ban targets women, and especially women of color, most directly and intensely.

At the same time, invest in diversion programs. Keep those convicted of non-violent offenses out of prison. Do it now, Virginia.

 

(Photo Credit: Eve Arnold / Magnum Photos / Slate)

La Palabra: In DC, women of color resist school closures

 

Public school closures are sweeping the nation, devastating cities like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and our home of Washington, D.C. Since 2008 DCPS has closed 29 schools, and Mayor Vince Gray and Chancellor Kaya Henderson recently announced plans to close up to 20 more schools by the end of the 2013 school year.

It’s a trend located in a larger shift toward privatization in education and elsewhere—a move that threatens democratic access to vital social resources.

It’s also a racist trend: overwhelmingly, families of color are affected. With just the most recent wave of closures in DC, of the 3,800 students who will be displaced by closures, only 36 are white. Of those students, 80% are low income.

In DC, activists are fighting the closures—in the courts, and on the streets. La Palabra, an internet radio project broadcast on WPFW’s Latino Media Collective, is interviewing people at the schools slated to be closed. They have interviewed grandparents, parents, and other caregivers affected by the closures and the response is unanimous: Mayor Gray, Chancellor Kaya Henderson, you CAN NOT have my school!

Since women are overwhelmingly the primary caregivers in families, women are the most burdened by these closures, after, of course, the students themselves. Some parents at Ferbee-Hope elementary school have already survived multiple school closings. Mothers and grandmothers are worried about the impact on their kids lives, the safety of the new neighborhoods they’ll be in. They see a city government that cares more about paving the way for development than about their kids.

Children with disabilities will be especially hard hit by the displacement and disruption the closures entail. Their entire learning community will be relocated without their input, and the staff on which they depend will be forced to reapply for their job. Tamara, a mother at Sharpe Health (a school for special needs kids), observes that the mayor and chancellor “don’t care about the emotional stability, the physical stability of our children.”

But mothers in DC care, and La Palabra is listening—parents are ready to act and block the closures! Support their voices with yours by signing Empower DC’s petition calling on an immediate moratorium on public school closures.

La Palabra, http://lapalabradc.tumblr.com/. Beck Levy,  beck@astropressdc.com

 

(Photo Credit: http://lapalabradc.tumblr.com)

In the United States, when the police attack, “it’s the women’s fault”

 

Many have watched the video of Lt. John Pike, of the University of California Davis police department, casually spray a line of seated, peaceful protesters, and many have expressed horror. Many have expressed horror as well at the decision by the University President Linda Katehi to call in the police in the first place.

The horror is real and well deserved, as are the condemnations. But the surprise and shock are something else altogether. The violence committed was absolutely ordinary. Ask people of color across the United States. In particular, ask immigrant women of color.

Violence by police officers, by detention center staff, by the State, against immigrant women of color happens every day. The United States has declared war on immigrant women of color, and like so many wars of recent years, the war is identified as a form of peace making. Thus, the United States is `really’ waging peace against immigrant women of color. If they have scars, if they suffer trauma, if they lose their children or their partners, if they are sexually abused … it’s the women’s fault. They shouldn’t have opposed the peace process.

Institutional violence against women of color immigrants is ordinary. It happens every day in immigrant detention centers, like T. Don Hutto Family Residential Center in Taylor, Texas. Sara, Kimberly and Raquel `Doe’ are three asylum seekers currently suing Hutto’s owner/operator, Corrections Corporation of America, CCA, for the sexual violence and abuse they suffered while `guests of the system.’ They are part of a fast growing sisterhood, a nation of Does.

Police and State violence against women of color immigrants happens every day on the streets. Ask Susana Ramirez, who never had trouble with the law in either the US or Mexico, until one night she was stopped for … basically for nothing. She changed lanes without signaling. Next thing, her daughters were whisked away, and Ramirez faced deportation. Threatened in Durango, Ramirez was threatened in Illinois. She is part of a fast growing sisterhood as well, of women of color immigrants who face, and often face down, the culture of fear and intimidation.

State violence against women of color immigrants happens every day, when families are split up by ICE, when children are taken away and lost into the so-called foster care system. Those children are disappeared, kidnapped, and their parents are left to search for them. In the first six months of 2011, 46,000 parents of US-born citizens were deported. What happened to their children? What is happening to their children?

Sometimes, the mothers, like Clara and Josefina, sisters, are taken away, and the children, effectively, vanish. Other times, the mothers are US-citizen partners to men who are deported and are left stranded. That the children are US citizens is irrelevant to the State. Where once nations recognized citoyens du sang, citizens of blood, now they create immigrants of blood. Citizenship doesn’t matter: it’s what in your bones, in your blood, in your DNA.

Some say the brutality of the immigration detention system is inhumane. It’s worse than inhumane. It’s humanity-to-come, the promised land. Militarized police, militarized borders, increased sexual violence and abuse against immigrant women of color, increased and intensified systemic racist and sexist violence directed at immigrant women of color … and for what? To keep the nation safe, free and democratic. Behind those words is the real promise: this is what humanity will look like.

In Davis, police and University have committed violence casually and even comfortably. In so doing, they are not alone and they are not exceptional. In fact, they’re quite ordinary, and therein is the horror.

 

(Image Credit: PBS Frontline)

Marta Orellana must just live with the devil that haunts her

Marta Orellana

In the 1940s, the United States sent doctors to Guatemala to address syphilis, gonorrhea and chancroid. Not to stop them but rather to spread them. Specifically, the U.S. Public Health Service wanted to know if penicillin after sex would prevent sexually transmitted diseases. So the doctors went to Guatemala and `recruited’ some 5500 soldiers, mental patients, children, sex workers into the program. They told them nothing, actually less than nothing. They infected the mental patients, all women; the children, all girls in orphanages; and the sex workers, all women, and then sent them to the soldiers. For Guatemalans, this was “the devil’s experiment.”

Marta Orellana was one of those orphans. She was nine years old when she was injected. For years, for decades, she lived with syphilis but was told that she had “bad blood”. She was in pain, and tired, her entire life. As she puts it, a “loving and patient” husband helped her overcome intimacy issues.

More than sixty years later, the United States [a] acknowledged the event, [b] apologized to the government of Guatemala, and [c] appointed a commission. The commission met yesterday and heard `shocking’ testimony. The story that attracted the most attention thus far is this: “a woman who was infected with syphilis was clearly dying from the disease. Instead of treating her, the researchers poured gonorrhea-infected pus into her eyes and other orifices and infected her again with syphilis. She died six months later”.

There are other stories, and others will follow … of injections, of pain and suffering, of abuse; of torture, grand and petty, slow and swift. Of 13,000 infected Guatemalans, around 700 received any treatment. 83 died.

The Commissioners have found the research to have been “grievously wrong”, “chillingly egregious”, “morally culpable”, unjust, tragic, shameful, reprehensible, “cruel and inhuman”, unethical.

The medical researchers did not act in a vacuum nor were they without context or history. The problem isn’t that they were unethical but rather that they were ethical men engaged in `ethical’ violence. In the same way that the experiments in the Nazi death camps, occurring in the same period, didn’t require justification because they were part of a moral crusade, a longstanding war against Jews, people of color, gay and lesbian people, the disabled, the experiments in Guatemala didn’t require justification because they were part of a longstanding war against the indigenous and the rural, against women of color, against the weakest and the most marginal who somehow … somehow … pose the ultimate threat.

The US medical researchers in Guatemala were not rogues, renegades, or outlaws. They were ethical White men who saw as part of their dominion over all living things the obligation to decide the fate, and design the excruciating death, of women, people and nations of color.  The United States of America has apologized to the Republic of Guatemala. Marta Orellana must just live with the devil that haunts her.

(Photo Credit: Rory Carroll / The Guardian)

Critical: Does Social Injustice Alter Our Epigenome (for generations to come)?

A new subset of genetics—“epigenetics”—appeared on the horizon in the 1990s and has been getting a lot of attention lately because it suggests some fascinating and frightening things about how “lifestyles and environment can change the way our genes are expressed” over the course of our lifetime. It has even reintroduced the once discredited idea that “traits acquired during an organism’s lifetime could be passed on to future generations”, and several studies on plants and animals have already shown that such modified gene expression can be inherited. Unfortunately, other more problematic scientific theories—that activists and social scientists worked hard to debunk—are also being resurrected in the wake of epigenetic research, including genetic (or epigenetic) determinism”.

On one hand, research into epigenetics has the potential to strengthen social justice movements, especially environmental justice, by uncovering yet another way in which low-income communities of color are disadvantaged on a global scale. We already know that the so-called “Green Revolution” has wreaked havoc on women’s health, a fact which becomes even more ominous in light of epigenetic research showing that exposure to pesticides (in mice) has negative impacts on their offspring’s health for at least four more generations. This is not good news for migrant farm workers and their families in the United States or Yaqui girls in Mexico who are already unable to breastfeed due to pesticide exposure. Although epigenetic studies of human populations are just beginning, there is already some cutting edge research that supports these findings- for instance, Kaati, et al, analyzed a century of demographic information from Sweden, exposing that even temporary famine experienced by grandparents can affect the life expectancy of grandchildren.  

On the other hand, in our neoliberal age that stresses “personal responsibility” it may be more likely that this research will be used to blame people rather than help them. In his appearance on the PBS show about epigenetics, Dr. Randy Jirtle, Director of the Epigenetics and Imprinting Laboratory at Duke University, says that people have a responsibility to consider their lifestyle choices in light of the impact it could have on their children. In a similar vein, Dr. Szyf, professor of pharmacology and therapeutics at the McGill University School of Medicine, explains the relevance of epigenetics for psychiatry as follows:

the environment early in life anticipates the kind of life the person is going to live, for example whether it is going to be a stressful life or a calm life…The mother can convey to the offspring the type of world they are going to live in; that changes DNA methylation in the brain, and now we know, also in peripheral cells… I think that social environment can be as toxic as the chemical environment, if not more so.”

This sounds frighteningly similar to twentieth-century psychiatric theories on the etiology of mental illness- for instance, the once popular belief that children developed schizophrenia because they had a “schizophrenogenic mother”. In fact, schizophrenia.com has already jumped at the opportunity to re-open the mother-blaming theory- the website uses epigenetics to assert that “Research findings suggest that a mother’s parenting style can affect the activity of a child’s genes”, leading to mental illness. As always, no mention of the father’s (or other guardian’s) parenting style here.

In their interview for PBS, Szyf and Meaney explain their research on rats: offspring put in cages with “attentive” females could deal with stress better later in life than those raised by more “neglecting” females. To prove this was an epigenetic response, Szyf and Meaney gave the rats a drug that undoes the effects of epigenetics, which miraculously made the neglected rats “normal” again. How is this a women’s issue? Well, to build on this research there is a “10-year study, now underway, that will look at children from both nurturing and neglected backgrounds”. Szyf predicts that as a result of this research scientists will be able to show how stressful childhoods lead to poor health in adulthood, including depression, anxiety, drug abuse, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. In other words, being a “neglecting” mom can give your kid heart disease. Surprisingly (or not surprisingly) the show fails to explore the idea that other stresses in a child’s environment—such as aspects of social inequality—might have similar effects. Given that disadvantaged groups, such as low-income African American women, often have disproportionately high levels of these illnesses (depression, obesity, heart disease, diabetes), will epigenetics be used to investigate the links between stress and poverty, racism, and sexism, or to blame these women for their children’s poor health?

In the Psychological Bulletin, Lawrence Harper (Chair of the Human Development program at UC Davis) does argue that social injustice can alter epigenetic expression:

oppression, is another recurrent, if unpredictable, and often long-term event that also meets the criteria for a selective advantage for epigenetic transmission. In this case, the nature of an adaptive response is not so obvious, but some aspects of temperament would be likely candidates for consideration….To the extent that undue bravery in the face of a potential enemy could lead to anything from reduced access to resources to death, caution would be an adaptive trait” (p. 11).

In other words, disadvantaged individuals may pass on “advantageous” personality traits to their children, like timidity. That’s a troubling assertion. Moreover, Harper decides that women are most likely responsible for this: “because the egg provides the larger contribution to the developing zygote, any epigenetic modifications are most likely to be transmitted via the mother”.

Epigenetic research is still in its infancy and there are certainly many scientists—perhaps even the majority—who think that the above studies relating to humans are correlational at best. However, the potential implications of future epigenetic research are virtually endless. In all likelihood, the field will lead to significant advances in medicine, including therapies for cancer that “turn off” the expression of certain genes. Yet the seemingly endless human propensity for using science to support ideological agendas makes it imperative that academics outside of the “hard” sciences, and activists, are included in the discussions about epigenetic findings in the coming decades.

Laura Meek, laura6@gwu.edu

The priceless gift of infinite standards

Amy Goodman is upset at double standards, specifically two standards of detention.

Scott Roeder is in jail for having killed Dr. George Tiller. While in jail, Roeder has just about unlimited access to the press, to visits, to the internet, to phone calls. The conditions of his incarceration in and of themselves are not the problem. The problem is all the others held incommunicado. Fahad Hasmi, for example, or Andrew Stepanian: “Hashmi is a U.S. citizen who grew up in Queens, N.Y., and went to Brooklyn College. He went to graduate school in Britain and was arrested there in 2006 for allegedly allowing an acquaintance to stay with him for two weeks. That acquaintance, Junaid Babar, allegedly kept at Hashmi’s apartment a bag containing ponchos and socks, which Babar later delivered to an al-Qaida operative. Babar was arrested and agreed to cooperate with the authorities in exchange for leniency….Fahad Hashmi was extradited to New York, where he has been held in pre-trial detention for more than two years. His brother Faisal described the conditions: “He is kept in solitary confinement for two straight years, 23- to 24-hours lockdown. … Within his own cell, he’s restricted in the movements he’s allowed to do. He’s not allowed to talk out loud within his own cell….He has Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) … against him.” Hashmi cannot contact the media, and even his lawyers have to be extremely cautious when discussing his case, for fear of imprisonment themselves”

Animal rights and environment activists are treated to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s newest toy, “communications management units”, or CMUs. According to Stepanian, the CMU is “”a prison within the actual prison. … The unit doesn’t have normal telephone communication to your family … normal visits are denied … you have to make an appointment to make one phone call a week, and that needs to be done with the oversight of … a live monitor.” 70% Muslim prisoners, CMUs are commonly referred to as Little Guantanamo. Amy Goodman thinks this situation is wrong: “Nonviolent activists like Stepanian, and Muslims like Hashmi, secretly and dubiously charged, are held in draconian conditions, while Roeder trumpets from jail the extreme anti-abortion movement’s decades-long campaign of intimidation, vandalism, arson and murder.”

Surely, having two standards is better than having one. Surely that suggests wealth, just as having two cars or two houses. The U.S. has two standards not because it is racist or any other supposedly bad thing. It’s wealthy and can afford them. Everyone else is just jealous, that’s all.

Want to hear about three standards? There’s a standard for prisoners, a standard for women of color, and a standard for mothers: “Last November, Venita’s baby was getting ready to enter the world, but Venita couldn’t move. While she was going into contractions, her ankles were shackled, her hands cuffed, and her waist tied. For extra assurance, her hands were further restrained with a black box. Just following procedure, the officer said as he escorted her to the birthing room. The pain and joy of child birth may be the most intense experience a woman will ever have. For incarcerated pregnant women in New York, however, they’re prisoners first and mothers second”. Not quite. Prisoners first, women of color second, mothers third. America, a marketplace of standards.

Across the United States, juvenile justice programs, cultural programs, educational programs, caring programs, are being cut. Special transitional houses for girls, for example. Most of the girls are African American, Latina, and Native American. The programs work, the reforms work. And so they shall be cut. How many standards does that make. America, a shopping mall, a mega-mall, of standards.

Want more standards? How about prisoner and disabled? Howard Hyde, for example. “Terrified shrieks and the harsh crackle of electrical current filled a courtroom on Friday as surveillance video of the tasering of a paranoid schizophrenic was shown at an inquiry into his death. The video shows Howard Hyde regaining his feet, clad only in the shorts in which he was arrested. Momentarily at bay, facing three officers in the booking room of Halifax police headquarters, he throws himself over a waist-high counter and vanishes into a hallway. The audio recording continues and captures what sounds like another application of the taser. The Dartmouth man stopped breathing in that hallway and had to be revived. He died 30 hours later after a struggle with guards at a local jail.” Disabled prisoners generally have a hard time. If the disability is mental health … well, that’s a whole other standard. At least it’s Canada, and not the U.S. That’s a relief.

Maybe it’s not wealthy countries that can afford the extravagances of multiple, infinite and proliferating standards of detention. Maybe it’s countries with greater and growing wealth gaps, greater and growing chasms and higher and harder barricades between the wealthy and the poor. And each new standard? A gift, and especially a gift to women and girls of color across the land. You really can’t put a price on that now, can you?

(Photo Credit: Librado Romero / The New York Times)