published Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Cook: The new Jim Crow

When they opened the prison gates and gave Cedric Conner back his freedom after four years in jail, the state penitentiary guards in Wartburg, Tenn., said something he remembers to this day.

We'll be waiting for you.

"They know the chances of you getting out there and making it are slim to none," Conner said.

Conner, 39, a Chattanooga native and father of four, is a convicted felon.

Despite graduating from multiple prison counseling classes and getting his GED and other academic credits, Conner -- once known as prisoner 455060 -- is now shunted for life into a second-tier America with other paroled felons.

His felony status affects his ability to find work, forbids him from voting, shuffles him into substandard housing and blocks much of his full return into society.

"Hundreds," Conner said, counting the number of job applications he filled out since he was released last spring. Job applications are a troubling crossroads for him: If he admits being a felon, no one calls him for an interview. If he doesn't, and his employers find out about his felony status, he's fired.

"It's a double standard," said Conner.

At the turn of the 20th century, W.E.B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells and other Americans founded the NAACP to combat the double-standard violence of American racism.

A century later, the NAACP is needed as much as ever.

The hot racism of old has been replaced by a new form of legalized discrimination. No longer are black Americans imprisoned through slavery or the fear of lynching and white hoods at midnight, but through a legalized form of discrimination of prisons, drug laws and felon-branding.

It's the new Jim Crow.

"Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color 'criminals' and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind," writes Michelle Alexander in her stunning "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness."

"As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow," she writes. "We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it."

More black American men were disenfranchised in 2004 than in 1870, Alexander said -- they had lost the right to vote because of felony status.

In 2010, more black Americans were under governmental control -- prison, parole, probation -- than were enslaved in 1850.

Black Americans accounted for one of every three drug arrests between 1980 and 2007, according to Human Rights Watch. Yet research shows whites and blacks use drugs at relatively equal rates.

Locally (as well as nationally), blacks are imprisoned at disproportionate levels. Officials at Silverdale Detention Facility report 397 black inmates compared with 393 white inmates (as of last week). At the Hamilton County Jail, black males outnumber white male inmates 265 to 196.

"The system is controlled by people who don't want it to go right," Conner said. "I'd like for somebody to stand up and say, 'This is wrong. What's going on is wrong.'"

Conner, who is eloquent and speaks with a seasoned intellect, went to jail in 2008 after shooting a man he claims was attacking him. He's done his time. Now he's looking, hard, for work. Trying to start a mentoring program for local teens.

But he still fears the wicked gravity that keeps pulling him back toward those prison guards and their prediction.

And why they were so confident when they made it.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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conservative said...

What a STORY!!!

Mr. Cook tells us that convicted felon Cedric Conner ( he claimed self defense, a STORY proved otherwise by the evidence and served only four years for shooting a man ) a father of four, ( notice he didn't say married or how many different mothers ) has filled out "hundreds" of job applications, ( I wonder when he slept ) in the past 9-10 months. According to Conner if he reveals on his application that he is a convicted felon no one will hire him and if he doesn't and they find out they will fire him. Since Mr. Cook chronicles no firings we must assume Conner was honest on those "hundreds" of applications. I guess the implication is that honesty didn't pay here.

Nice STORY!!!

January 6, 2013 at 5:45 p.m.
James3am said...

Good job on being a journalist, Mr. Cook, except for the whole forgetting to point out obvious falsity. For example:

"It's a double standard," said Conner. - No, it isn't a double standard. If you're a felon, life gets harder. Sorry, but "them's the breaks." Maybe next time don't carry a gun to an argument over a woman, or, hey, just let it go altogether.

"Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color 'criminals' and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind" - No, we have not! We label CRIMINALS, criminals. (I note, with some disappointment, that Cook makes zero effort to talk about the disenfranchised felons of other races.)

"Locally (as well as nationally), blacks are imprisoned at disproportionate levels." - 397 black inmates to 393 white inmates (or even 265 to 196.) is "disproportionate"?!?

I know this is an "opinion" piece, but, Mr. Cook is doing nothing here but attempting to advance an obvious "progressive" type agenda, and he's doing it by attempting to twist heartstrings instead of relaying sobering facts. Bad form, sir.

January 7, 2013 at 1:02 a.m.
Easy123 said...

Copious amounts of ignorance and racism from the 3 amigos above me!

Unbelievable!

January 7, 2013 at 3:22 a.m.
conservative said...

Then according to Mr. Cook Mr. Conner tells him that the state penitentiary guards said to him "We'll be waiting for you."

Then Mr. Cook quotes Mr. Conner - ""They know the chances of you getting out there and making it are slim to none,"

So, by Mr. Conner's own admission Mr. Conner is going back to jail. Now, why do people go to jail? The answer is they commit a crime or crimes. Mr. Conner admits that he is going to commit a crime or crimes!

January 7, 2013 at 7:14 a.m.
James3am said...

TIME OUT!

I know this isn't necessarily a "discussion" forum, but, Easy123, you don't get to pull the "racism" card, just because you disagree with something. I concede that I used a little sarcasm toward Cook in my post, but, outside of that, there was no ad hominem style attack as you are engaged in (Oh, I disagree with hem, therefore I will attack them personally). Moreover, JonRoss simply spoke about what he perceives as the declining tendency in this country to take personal responsibility for actions committed. Literally, if you can't do the time, don't do the crime. And, as I pointed out, part of "the time" is what you have to deal with AFTER prison. Consequences have a far reach. If my children do something they are not supposed to do, yes there is immediate correction and discipline, but there is also the damage to our relationship. Can I trust them to not do it (whatever it was) again? So it is with criminals. I sympathise with Mr. Conner's predicament. The past four years or so have been hard on everyone, and I am sure he is no exception. The CHA "No Trespassing" issue is another lamentable fact, but the simple fact of the matter is that the situation in which he finds himself is a product of his own handiwork. And Mr. Cook does no favors for Mr. Conner (or any other convicted felon) with the piece he wrote. He casts Mr. Conner in the role of the misunderstood ex-con with a heart of gold and grand intentions, and points the finger at society as the sole bearer of responsibility for the tough times in which Mr. Conner finds himself. That kind of circumstance might work in novels by Victor Hugo, but, in the real world, "it just ain't so."

January 7, 2013 at 9:40 a.m.
conservative said...

Now Mr. Cook goes to bat for Mr. Conner with this:

"Despite graduating from multiple prison counseling classes and getting his GED and other academic credits, Conner -- once known as prisoner 455060 -- is now shunted for life into a second-tier America with other paroled felons.

Yes, it seems if you want to get a parole you have to take some classes (maybe anger management, he shot a man), but notice how Mr. Cook embellishes it by using "graduating" and "other academic credits" whatever that means. He got his GED, good for him better late than never.

But Mr. Cook uses the word "despite" as if counseling, a GED, and "other academic credits" should erase the fact that he is now a paroled felon. News flash, your personal history remains with you whether good or bad.

January 7, 2013 at 9:49 a.m.
conservative said...

It gets worse:

"The hot racism of old has been replaced by a new form of legalized discrimination. No longer are black Americans imprisoned through slavery or the fear of lynching and white hoods at midnight, but through a legalized form of discrimination of prisons, drug laws and felon-branding."

This is mind boggling. This is beyond Liberal nonsense and Liberal gibberish.

He goes from the imprisonment of fear that was due to discrimination of black Americans in the past to real imprisonment today and calls it "legalized discrimination"

Mr. Cook, black Americans, just like white Americans are put in prison for crimes, not their race. You even mentioned "drug laws." News flash, breaking drug laws can land you in prison no matter what your race. Unbelievable!

January 7, 2013 at 11:23 a.m.
Easy123 said...

Copious amounts of ignorance and racism from the 3 amigos above me! In fact, they have even taken the time to double-down on that ignorance and racism.

Seemingly unbelievable but not very surprising anymore.

January 7, 2013 at 1:40 p.m.
mkelly54 said...

The prison statistics in the US are revealing: we have more people in prison than China.

Former prosecutors from throughout the country admit that the current system is terribly flawed.

Some how, some way, our country needs to develop a system where the number of crimes are reduced and sentences actually fit the crime.

Yes, personal accountability is a must; however, the number of people stuck in jails is a national disgrace and a severe burden on community, state and federal budgets!

January 7, 2013 at 5:05 p.m.
conservative said...

Mr. Cook who charges America with Jim Crow, racism and discrimination because black Americans who commit crimes are labeled criminals cites another Liberal kook who feels the same way:

"Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color 'criminals' and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind," writes Michelle Alexander in her stunning "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness."

Mr. Cook and Ms. Alexander share the same outrage over black people being labeled criminals after they are locked up for committing crimes. Oh, the injustice! Why aren't you ashamed America?

January 7, 2013 at 5:45 p.m.
Easy123 said...

Copious amounts of ignorance and racism from the 3 amigos above me! In fact, they have even taken the time to double-down on that ignorance and racism. Even worse, Conservative has now gone "all-in" on ignorance!

Seemingly unbelievable but not very surprising anymore.

January 7, 2013 at 5:57 p.m.
conservative said...

Then Mr. Cook plays the numbers game in an effort to prove racism and discrimination. I don't dispute the numbers in general but the numbers alone do not prove discrimination or racism as Mr. Cook would have you to believe.

Black Americans seem to mess with the more dangerous form of coke, crack cocaine, with its use tied to violence. There is also a larger number of black males raised without a father because of unwed mothers.

The fact is that those who are jailed were charged, tried and convicted of a crime or crimes not because of their race or color. This is an ongoing effort by the extreme Liberals to bamboozle the frail of mind. One could simply look at the mug shots that appear online and you will find what they are charged with. I have yet to see even one where the charge was "being black."

January 7, 2013 at 6:23 p.m.
conservative said...

Then Mr. Cook unconsciously turns to humor.

He quotes Conner:

"The system is controlled by people who don't want it to go right," Conner said. "I'd like for somebody to stand up and say, 'This is wrong. What's going on is wrong.'"

And then Mr. Cook immediately claims:

"Conner, who is eloquent and speaks with a seasoned intellect, went to jail in 2008 after shooting a man he claims was attacking him."

I wonder if Conner who is so "eloquent" took the witness stand at his trial.

January 7, 2013 at 7:40 p.m.
Easy123 said...

Copious amounts of ignorance and racism from the 3 amigos above me! In fact, they have even taken the time to double-down on that ignorance and racism. Even worse, Conservative has now gone "all-in" on ignorance AND racism!

Seemingly unbelievable but not very surprising anymore.

Congrats, conservative! You're the most ignorant, bigoted piece of excrement on this site!

January 7, 2013 at 8:15 p.m.
conservative said...

Then Mr. Cook, who has a way with Liberal gibberish seems to invent a phrase:

"But he still fears the wicked gravity that keeps pulling him back toward those prison guards and their prediction."

"Wicked gravity", how do you ascribe immorality to gravity? If Conner goes back to prison it will be because of his wickedness and not the fault of gravity.

You see, in the Liberal mind your wicked behavior is the fault of someone or in Conner's case something else. Gravity? That's just nuts.

January 7, 2013 at 8:47 p.m.
Easy123 said...

Copious amounts of ignorance and racism from the 3 amigos above me! In fact, they have even taken the time to double-down on that ignorance and racism. Even worse, Conservative has now gone "all-in" on ignorance AND racism!

Seemingly unbelievable but not very surprising anymore.

Congrats, conservative! You're the most ignorant, bigoted piece of excrement on this site! LMFAO! You're a freaking moron!

January 7, 2013 at 8:51 p.m.
Easy123 said...

And we have a winner!

January 8, 2013 at 4 a.m.
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