Thursday, May 30, 2013

Where's the outrage over Kirk's 'jail-'em-all' plan?

Sens. Durbin & Kirk proposing the jailing of 18,000 more black men. (Sun-Times) 
Thanks to Congressman Bobby Rush for using plain talk to discredit Sen. Mark Kirk's latest plan to imprison 18,000 more young black men in Chicago. Rush called it "Kirk’s ‘white boy’ gang plan."  As usual, the Sun-Times comments section is filled with racist remarks and obscenities aimed at our heroic congressman. No one, it seems, is outraged over the Kirk plan.

I call the plan racist, bordering on genocidal. Aside from Bobby, there's been a deafening silence from local pols and from the Obama administration or from the media, in response to this "bipartisan" jail-em-all plan. Well, then again, there is Tribune's Eric Zorn:
"This idea doesn't seem, um, fully formed to me. "
On Wednesday, Republican Kirk and his liberal senator sidekick, Democrat Dick Durbin, approached Zachary Fardon, the nominee for U.S. Attorney in Chicago, and urged Fardon to begin rounding up every member of the Gangster Disciples street gang. Kirk wants the Senate Appropriations Committee to give him $30 million “to go after gangs like the GDs . . . and pick the biggest and baddest for a federal effort.”

From his language, you can tell that North Shore suburbanite Kirk is really a street guy, the biggest and baddest dude in the 10th Congressional District, who has a real handle on solving the gang problem. That plus his award-winning role as a Naval Intelligence Officer... Oh wait, he lied about that. Never mind.
Rush lit into the Kirk-Durbin plan, calling it  “ a sensational, headline-grabbing, empty, simplistic, unworkable approach.” If there is $30 million for Congress to spend, better most of it be allocated for “job creation and job training,” to address the gang problem, Rush said. Rush said an arrest sweep “is not going to work. . . . It is not a law and order, lock ‘em up solution.”
Thank you, Bobby.

Incoming arrestees arrive at the incoming area of Cook County Jail on Wednesday. The jail is at a current 98 percent of maximum capacity. Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times
Where do Kirk and Durbin plan to put the 18,000 alleged gang members? Cook County Jail is already stuffed to overflowing, mainly with young black and Latino men. The court system is so backed up, some prisoners have been held for up to 10 years without  trial. Chicago's Guantanamo?

I've got it. Maybe they can use the 50 schools Rahm is closing this fall to accommodate the ever expanding prison population. With only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. has 25% of the world’s prison population – that makes us the world’s largest jailer. We incarcerate young African American men at a rate of 1 in 9 – higher than any other group of Americans.

See Michelle Alexander's excellent book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, for the real story behind the Kirk plan.


  1. The quote comes from a quick blog post I did inviting reader conversation on the statement. I fleshed that out later with a column -- that's more critical (but that you won't fully agree with, I'm sure, though by now I'm used to be at odds with Klonskys)

    1. Thanks Eric, for letting me know that you had more to say about the Kirk plan to jail 18,000 black men in Chicago besides, "This idea doesn't seem, um, fully formed to me."

      See Eric's column: "There's a core of substance in Mark Kirk's `empty, simplistic' crime-fighting proposal" ( While I find much to agree with in your critique of Kirk's crime-fighting approach, I still find it saying pretty much the same thing as you did in your blog post -- only now a little longer and with a few more specifics about what it is that Sen Kirk needs to "fully form his idea."

      You do call Kirk's ideas, "whacky" and ill-thought out. But I still don't see much substance to your critique. You still don't seem to have any moral or ethical problem with the racist nature of the plan even while recognizing it as something antithetical to our democratic ideals. It sounds like you'd be okay with the mass round-up, once there was some meat on the bones, ie. a place to hold all these prisoners.

      You're right about me. I don't agree that there's even "a core of substance" to Kirk's ideas. His plan has nothing to do with fighting crime. IT IS A CRIME and Sen Durbin sounds like a co-conspirator.

      In fact, today I heard that Democrats accepted a Republican proposal to deny food stamps to any thousands of convicted felons. Durbin voted to accept the proposal which will put even more impoverished families and children in jeopardy.

      Michelle Alexander calls the mass incarceration of black and Latino men and women, "the new Jim Crow". I think she is right.

  2. Love the jail plan. Gives new meaning to the phrase, school-to-prison pipeline.

    Of course, if we wanted to try another tack, there's an excellent letter in the Trib today which suggests we use all those empty buildings for casinos. That doesn't solve the problem of where to house the gang members though.....unless...wait...they could be the unpaid, live-in staff at the casinos.

  3. The best solutions are sometimes the simplest:
    1. Hire more police officers.
    2. Provide quality early childhood preschool education for all of Chicago's disadvantaged children.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.