Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Deviance and Social Class in Chicago

In the United States, do poor minorities have less rights than those with power? Why or why not?




At every step of the criminal justice system, the poor and minorities are more likely to remain in the system than get freed.

One example is a story that broke in February of 2015 about Chicago's secret detention facility in Homan Square on the west side.
The Homan Detention Center


From the Guardian via Gawker:
In February, the Guardian published a deep investigation into Homan Square, a shadowy facility where the Chicago Police Department takes suspects without booking them, entering them into any official database, or giving them access to a telephone or their lawyer. A new Guardian report claims that more than twice as many people have been “disappeared” into Homan as officials initially disclosed...The paper obtained documents showing that more than 7,000 people were detained at Homan between 2004 and 2015—about 6,000 of whom were black. Less than one percent of those detainees were allowed to see their lawyers during interrogations. Attorneys described a system that seems deliberately engineered to make it difficult to find their clients; others said that they were turned around at the door. “Try finding a phone number for Homan to see if anyone’s there. You can’t, ever,” an attorney named David Gaeger told the Guardian. “If you’re laboring under the assumption that your client’s at Homan, there really isn’t much you can do as a lawyer. You’re shut out. It’s guarded like a military installation.”
And from an August 2015 Guardian report:
Of the thousands held in the facility known as Homan Square over a decade, 82% were black. Only three received documented visits from an attorney, according to a cache of documents obtained when the Guardian sued the police.  Documents indicate the detainees are a group of disproportionately minority citizens, many accused of low-level drug crimes, faced with incriminating themselves before their arrests appeared in a booking system by which their families and attorneys might find them.
One of my former students was detained there:





From the Guardian,

Marc Freeman is the 11th person to come forward to the Guardian detailing detention inside Homan Square – and the first whose police record details how long he was stuck inside. ‘At no point was I ever processed, I was never asked for my information, they did not take any fingerprints,’ he said.

Here is the John Oliver bit on Civil Forfeiture that Mr. Freeman mentioned:




Another more disturbing example is former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge who tortured suspects for decades to get them to confess.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Coin Flip metaphor for Deviance and social class; Heads I win, tails you lose

Today we wagered on flipping pennies in class. The exercise was a metaphor for deviance and social class. The exercise resembles real life in a number of ways:
It had the appearance of being fair and equal - everyone had a 50% chance of winning. However, the way the rules are written, the money will flow to the top with just a few having most coins and most people having very little.  The more money you have the more opportunities you have.

Most U.S. citizens do not like the idea of social class. They will not acknowledge the rules that create the distribution of wealth that we see in the exercise. But the reality is that our wealth and even our income in the U.S. resembles that of the coin flip metaphor; a few individuals at the top with enormous wealth and income and most people at the bottom making very little (comparatively).
Here is a graph of the real distribution of income in the US.  Notice how closely it resembles the coin flipping metaphor:

And the "rules" of our society help to create that dynamic. By "rules" I mean the opportunities and obstacles that we face based on our social class.


These rules can also be applied to what we have been talking about regarding deviance. One example is William Chambliss's study of The Saints and Roughnecks.  Those with money are able to stay clear of the criminal justice system while the majority of those who are locked up in prisons are citizens with low income.(see this study from the Chicago Urban League for more on that) As I mentioned in an earlier post:

Wealthy crimes are generally "white collar" crime, esp. corporate crime. Instead of white collar crime, our society tends to focus on street crime such as robberies, murders, rapes. The media contributes to this b/c it is action-packed, full of emotion (fear), and personalized (it tells a good story). On the other hand, white collar crime is boring (numbers & statistics). But the reality is that it is more costly ($400bil). One example is Sears which defrauded poor customers of over $100 million. They pled guilty and avoided a trial; other companies settled out of court for similar practices. Firestone executives let faulty tires remain on U.S. vehicles even though they had been recalled in other countries. About 200 people killed. Under federal law, causing the death of a worker by willfully violating safety rules is a misdemeanor and punishable by up to six months in prison. Powerful people bypass the courts and are usually fined – no jail.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Women's Ads

Each person in your group should find an ad in these categories:

Women's jeans
Women's fragrance/cologne
A movie targeting women