Friday, August 21, 2015

America: A Land Where Justice Is Absent — Paul Craig Roberts

America: A Land Where Justice Is Absent
Paul Craig Roberts

America’s First Black President is a traitor to his race and also to justice.
Obama has permitted the corrupt US Department of Justice (sic), over which he wields authority, to overturn the ruling of a US Federal Court of Appeals that prisoners sentenced illegally to longer terms than the law permits must be released once the legal portion of their sentence is served. The DOJ, devoid of all integrity, compassion, and sense of justice, said that “finality” of conviction was more important than justice. Indeed, the US Justice (sic) Department’s motto is: “Justice? We don’t need no stinkin’ justice!”

Alec Karakatsanis, a civil rights attorney and co-founder of Equal Justice Under Law, tells the story here:

The concept of “finality” was an invention of a harebrained Republican conservative academic lionized by the Republican Federalist Society. In years past conservatives believed—indeed, still do—that the criminal justice system coddles criminals by allowing too many appeals against their unlawful convictions. The appeals were granted by judges who thought that the system was supposed to serve justice, but conservatives demonized justice as something that enabled criminals. A succession of Republican presidents turned the US Supreme Court into an organization that only serves the interests of private corporations. Justice is nowhere in the picture.

Appeals Court Judge, James Hill, a member of the court that ruled that prisoners did not have to serve the illegal portion of their sentences, when confronted with the Obama/DOJ deep-sixing of justice had this to say:

A judicial system that values finality over justice is morally bankrupt.

Obama’s DOJ says that there are too many black prisoners illegally sentenced to be released without upsetting the crime-fearful white population. According to Obama’s Justice (sic) Department, the fears of brainwashed whites take precedence over justice. Judge Hill said that the DOJ “calls itself, without a trace of irony, the Department of Justice.”

Judge Hill added: We used to call such systems as people sitting in prison serving sentences that were illegally imposed “gulags.” “Now we call them the United States.”

America is a gulag. We are ruled by a government that is devoid of all morality, all integrity, all compassion, all justice. The government of the United States stands for one thing and one thing only: Evil.

It is just as Chavez told the United Nations in 2006 referring to President George W. Bush’s address to the assembly the day before: “Yesterday, at this very podium, Satan himself stood speaking as if he owned the world. You can still smell the sulfur.”

If you are an American and you cannot smell the sulfur, you are tightly locked down in The Matrix. God help you. There is no Neo to rescue you. And you are too brainwashed and ignorant to be rescued by me.

You are part of the new Captive Nation.


CreditMichela Buttignol

WASHINGTON — LAST month,President Obama used his clemency power to reduce the sentences of 46 federal prisoners locked up on drug-related charges. But for the last six years, his administration has worked repeatedly behind the scenes to ensure that tens of thousands of poor people — disproportionately minorities — languish in federal prison on sentences declared by the courts, and even the president himself, to be illegal and unjustifiable.

The case of Ezell Gilbert is emblematic of this injustice. In March 1997, he was sentenced to 24 years and four months in federal prison for possession with the intent to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine. Because of mandatory sentencing laws, Mr. Gilbert was automatically sentenced to a quarter-century in prison, though even the judge who sentenced him admitted that this was too harsh.

At his sentencing, Mr. Gilbert noted a legal error that improperly increased his sentence by approximately a decade based on a misclassification of one of his prior offenses. In 1999, without a lawyer, he filed a petition seeking his release. A court ruled against him.

Nearly 10 years later, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in another prisoner’s case, confirming that Mr. Gilbert had been right. A public defender helped him file a new petition for immediate release in light of this new decision.

Mr. Obama’s Justice Department, however, convinced a Florida federal judge that even if Mr. Gilbert’s sentence was illegal, he had to remain in prison because prisoners should not be able to petition more than once for release. The “finality” of criminal cases was too important, the department argued, to allow prisoners more than one petition, even if a previous one was wrongly denied.

A federal appellate court disagreed, and in June 2010, three judges set Mr. Gilbert free. The judges rejected the administration’s argument as a departure from basic fairness and explained that it simply could not be the law in America that a person had to serve a prison sentence that everyone admitted was illegal. Mr. Gilbert returned home and stayed out of trouble.

Here’s where it gets interesting. There are many people like Mr. Gilbert in America’s federal prisons — people whose sentences are now obviously illegal. Instead of rushing to ensure that all those thousands of men and women illegally imprisoned at taxpayer expense were set free, the Justice Department said that it did not want a rule that allowed other prisoners like Mr. Gilbert to retroactively challenge their now illegal sentences. If the “floodgates” were opened, too many others — mostly poor, mostly black — would have to be released. The Obama administration’s fear of the political ramifications of thousands of poor minority prisoners being released at once around the country, what Justice William J. Brennan Jr. once called “a fear of too much justice,” is the real justification.

In May 2011, the same court, led by a different group of judges, sided with the original judge, saying that the “finality” of sentences was too important a principle to allow prisoners to be released on a second rather than first petition, even if the prison sentence was illegal. A contrary rule would force the courts to hear the complaints of too many other prisoners. Mr. Gilbert was rearrested and sent back to prison to serve out his illegal sentence.

Judge James Hill, then an 87-year-old senior judge on the appellate court in Atlanta, wrote a passionate dissent. Judge Hill, a conservative who served in World War II and was appointed by Richard M. Nixon, called the decision “shocking” and declared that a “judicial system that values finality over justice is morally bankrupt.” Judge Hill wrote that the result was “urged by a department of the United States that calls itself, without a trace of irony, the Department of Justice.”

Judge Hill concluded: “The government hints that there are many others in Gilbert’s position — sitting in prison serving sentences that were illegally imposed. We used to call such systems ‘gulags.’ Now, apparently, we call them the United States.”

Two years later, the Justice Department used a similar tactic to overturn an entirely different federal appellate court decision that could have freed thousands of prisoners convicted of nonviolent crack cocaine offenses — again, mostly impoverished and mostly black — on the grounds that their sentences were discriminatory and unjustifiable. The administration again did its work without fanfare in esoteric legal briefs, even as the president publicly called the crack-cocaine sentencing system “unfair.”

In 2013, several years after sending him back to prison, Mr. Obama granted Mr. Gilbert clemency, and the president has recently won praise for doing the same for several dozen other prisoners of the war on drugs. Mr. Obama even visited a federal prison last month, staring into the cells — emptied for his visit — of some of the men whom his own administration has needlessly kept there.

But Mr. Obama must take steps to further undo the damage that he has done. He should use his clemency power to release all those currently held in a federal prison on an illegal sentence. And he should appoint a permanent special counsel whose job would be to review new laws and federal court cases on a continuing basis to identify and release other prisoners whose sentences retroactively become clearly unlawful. That the Department of Justice and Bureau of Prisons have never created such a position is an outrage. If we fail to demand change now, this moment for justice may be lost.

Alec Karakatsanis is a civil rights lawyer and co-founder of Equal Justice Under Law, which litigates on behalf of indigent clients.

By Rob Kall (about the author)
Headlined to H1 8/20/15

From Prison cells
Prison cells
(image by 

Alec Karakatsanis is a civil rights lawyer and co-founder of Equal Justice Under Law, mostly serving indigent people. His recent article in the NY Times, President Obama's Department of Injustice , which discusses how tens of thousands of prisoners, mostly black, are being forced to serve longer sentences than they should, inspired this interview.

Rob Kall: You just had an article published in the
NY Times
focusing on injustice perpetrated by the Obama Department of Justice. Can you describe the main issues, please.

Alec Karakatsanis: The article focused on just one of the many egregious injustices that we inflict every day in the system that we call the "criminal justice" system. The crux of the issue is that the United States puts more human beings in cages than any society in the recorded history of the world. We put black people in cages at a rate six times that of South Africa during the height of Apartheid. The real story of that system is the story of how enormous amounts of human suffering are normalized--of how the system not only normalizes that suffering, but tolerates, rationalizes, justifies, and then reproduces it.

The particular disaster that I wrote about in the NY Times involves the federal courts admitting that, for decades, they had been misinterpreting the law and allowing tens of thousands of illegal sentences (the vast majority given to impoverished people and disproportionately to people of color). Those sentences were years, and sometimes decades, too long. You might think that a system calling itself the "justice" system would immediately rush to figure out who remained in prison on an illegal sentence so that it could immediately release them. Indeed, a couple of courts in various contexts ruled that the prisoners could petition for their release. Unfortunately, the Obama "Department of Justice" decided that it would be a terrible thing for so many unjustly imprisoned people to be released because it would disturb what it called "the finality" of criminal cases. As a result, the Obama DOJ successfully convinced some very willing federal judges to adopt rules that basically forbid people with illegal sentences from challenging those sentences in court, even if everyone agrees that they are now illegal.

Rob Kall: Your NY Times article, President Obama's Department of Injustice, says,

"...for the last six years, his (Obama's) administration has worked repeatedly behind the scenes to ensure that tens of thousands of poor people -- disproportionately minorities -- languish in federal prison on sentences declared by the courts, and even the president himself, to be illegal and unjustifiable."

And you say, in the article,

"The Obama administration's fear of the political ramifications of thousands of poor minority prisoners being released at once around the country, what Justice William J. Brennan Jr. once called "a fear of too much justice," is the real justification."

What makes the sentences illegal and unjust? Tell us about prisoner Ezell Gilbert and Judge James Hill, and about your take on Obama's words and actions. How much does it cost to keep these tens of thousands imprisoned?

Alec Karakatsanis: Basically, criminal defendants in the federal system can have their sentences increased if they have prior offenses that qualify for certain enhancements. The Supreme Court said that lower courts, in their zeal to participate in the cultural zeitgeist American mass incarceration, were improperly applying many enhancements in cases that they shouldn't have been, i.e. where a person's prior offenses should not have qualified for those enhancements.

Ezell Gilbert was one such human being. He tried at every turn to point out that the enhancement should not apply to him, and his sentence was increased by about 11 years because of the error. Judge Hill, a senior judge and WWII veteran ordered Mr. Gilbert released because, I think, he believed that the American legal system that he fought for does not allow a person to be kept in jail when everyone agrees his sentence is illegal. Mr. Gilbert was released and was doing well with his family for nearly a year. Then, at Obama's request, Judge Hill was overruled by other judges, who accepted Obama's argument that, if they released Mr. Gilbert, they would have to release many thousands of other prisoners, and that would create a risk that too many prisoners would try to disturb what the DOJ called the "finality" of their convictions. The DOJ re-arrested Mr. Gilbert and sent him back to his cage.

So, in public, Obama criticized unfair and irrational sentences at the same time as his lawyers worked to ensure that thousands of people would still have to serve those sentences. And he did almost the exact same thing after courts tried to release prisoners with illegal sentences for crack cocaine offenses.

The human costs are staggering: destroyed lives, broken families, sexual assault in prison, children without parents, the torture of solitary confinement, etc.. The financial costs are also significant--because the DOJ and the Bureau of Prisons have not even undertaken to estimate how many tens of thousands of people are serving illegal sentences, we don't know how many tens of millions of dollars this decision cost taxpayers.

Rob Kall:  Is the new US AG Loretta Lynch following in Eric Holder's footsteps, maintaining these injustices?

Alec Karakatsanis:It's too early to tell whether she will try to correct some of the injustices inflicted by her predecessors. I hope she becomes a strong voice against the normalization of tremendous brutality that has characterized the DOJ bureaucracy in recent decades. I'm not optimistic, though, because her career prior to becoming Attorney General was as a US Attorney essentially contributing to these problems by vigorously pursuing the failed "war on drugs."

Rob Kall:
What are you and your organization doing to right these wrongs? What can readers do?

Alec Karakatsanis: Our organization has actually been working mostly on a different set of issues: the rise of modern American debtors' prisons and the outrageous American money bail system. There are, for example, 500,000 human beings every night in American cages who are there solely because they cannot pay a monetary payment for their release. You can read about our projects at In general, we represent impoverished people all over the country in systemic civil rights challenges that try to end all of the ways that impoverished people are abused in our criminal legal system. We are trying to create a criminal system in which there is no longer an intolerable gap between our values and our realities--between our words and slogans and our everyday actions.

These injustices and the others that we work on are connected to the issues in Mr. Gilbert's case because they are all manifestations of a legal system and a culture, more broadly, that has become desensitized to the brutal treatment that we inflict on marginalized people.

Readers can get involved in these issues in their local communities by helping to organize for a more just and accountable legal system. Everyone should find out how these problems are manifesting themselves in their own cities and find the people who are working on these issues. Organizing and making sure these marginalized voices are being heard is difficult, tiring work, but it is essential. Nothing will change unless each of our communities builds this knowledge and this power organically.

Rob Kall: Are there any members of congress amenable to the changes you are seeking, working with you? Have you brought these issues to the DNC and or to any of the presidential primary candidates?

Alec Karakatsanis: I'm not involved in any kind of political activity. My work is almost exclusively representing clients living in poverty who are the victims of the way that our legal system is organized, and I occasionally try to write about their stories. I would hope that all members of Congress are amenable to demanding concrete changes immediately.

Rob Kall:  What can readers of this interview do to help? And any final thoughts you'd like to add?

Alec Karakatsanis: These injustices exist only because we tolerate them. Every reader and every person in our society, at least in my view, has an obligation to fight for a society in which this everyday brutality does not exist, and in which our values are not just phrases that we say but also things that we do. These things (like thousands of people languishing in jail on illegal sentences) are happening because ordinary people are not informed about them and because ordinary people have not been moved to demand something different be done in their name. Every reader should read about these issues, visit a jail, talk to marginalized people in their community about their experiences with the legal system, and find the other people near them who are willing to come together and demand a better, more equal and just society.

Rob Kall:
Thanks so much.

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 
Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also (more..

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts' latest books areThe Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West and How America Was Lost.

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