De Facto State Policy: Put African American Males into Concentration Camps, by Dr. Steven Nur Ahmed

African American males are now de-facto enemies of the state. The de-facto California State parole policy for Oakland and all major cities throughout the nation is to put African American males in inner city concentration camps under the guise of ‘reentry’ into the community by parole and probation. The facts compel this conclusion. The distribution of parolees in Alameda County is incontrovertible proof of that conclusion.  It is a policy long in the undertaking. This is how millions of African American males were set up to be legally denied the exercise of their rights under the United States Constitution.  The justification for that policy rests upon the construction of violent crime within the city.

It is February 2013 and Oakland has already recorded 9 homicides. No doubt by the time this is published it will be higher. For over 37 years, Oakland has had a minimum of  sixty-six homicides in 1970 and a maximum of 165 in 1992. So, there has been no progress made in the reduction of the homicide rate in over thirty years despite an increase in the number of police, candle light vigils, and ‘get tough on crime’ policies out of Sacramento.

The felony assault figures in the city of Oakland are even more descriptive of what ails the city. The average annual number of felony assaults is 3,219 for a thirty-eight year period. Many of those assaults are for attempted murder. That figure should be taken as seriously as the murder rate.

It is no denigration to say that Oakland is a violent city. It has been a violent city for a long time. The ripple effect of such a violent environment spreads far and wide. I know that personally because six of my friends and relatives including my brother and a sister in law have been murdered in Oakland. So, aside from the immediate death of the victims of murder, over four thousand since 1969 through 2007, there are tens of thousands of traumatized family members living in the same geographical location where the murders have occurred and who are nagged by the constant memory of tragedy. The city of Oakland by the gravity of their aggregate sadness is cast with a visage of constant mourning.

The highest incidences of murder during the past 30 years are concentrated along a narrow strip of the city. It stretches from the border of Emeryville through North and West Oakland Acorn community down through 105th   avenue between the 580 and 880 freeways. It overlays the old blue collar industrial sectors of Oakland; it is a corridor wherein for most of the 20th century thousands of Oakland residents and their decedents found employment in the city’s many factories.

Oakland’s industrial base started to decline after World War II; that corridor where industries were once situated is today concentrated with people having the highest poverty rate, lowest education levels, respiratory health problems, and highest  unemployment rate in the city. It also has an ex-felon to non-ex-felon ratio of one to three for African American males aged 25 to 34. Like any concentrate, those socio-economic characteristics in combination with the parolee characteristics (2,493 on any given day according to the Urban Strategies Council) are conducive to greater sociopathic solidarity across all age categories, especially over decades of time.  What makes such sociopathic solidarity inevitable is the fact that it is a high population density area into which the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation releases most of its parolees. It thus follows that violence has become to that narrow corridor what salt is to sea water.  It is almost a given.

The best example of increased sociopathic solidarity is gang membership and affiliation.  Though gangs have always plagued inner cities, rarely have they had power beyond the power of local peer pressure.  However, in Oakland and cities like it, there is a growing disproportionate amount of power welded by gangs in local nieghborhoods. Their power is measured against a decline in the influence of local institutions that had historically been able to maintain social solidarity as opposed to the increase in intimidation against local citizens. The influence once maintained by a faith based culture is now overshadowed by the growing influence of gang intimidation and sociopathic solidarity.

Nature abhors a vacuum of any kind. The local economic infrastructure has been collapsed for thirty-years because of the exodus of capital and thus it has no significant influence on the perpetuation of economic hope by people in the community. The 2008 banking scandal and the consequent skyrocketing home foreclosure rate acerbated an already existing crisis.  Therefore, the economic carrying capacity of Oakland cannot meet the demands upon it by the high number of unskilled unemployed persons in the city because manufacturing jobs which have been relocated to Asia are never coming back to the east bay or the United States.

The church and the family are in decline as well.  Their decline is evidenced by the high number of single parent never married households particularly in the African American nieghborhoods; secondly, because there has been a 9% to 20% decrease in number of children aged 5 to 17 in the city of Oakland, and thirdly, because such decline is evidenced by the increased church dependence on federal and state government money grants to prop them up.  That monetary dependence underscores the severity of economic depression in African American nieghborhoods and the need of governments to control poor people through pacification programs.

Much has been said about the historic benchmark when there were more African American males in prison, jail, on parole or probation than in college. The same, however, can be said about church attendance. The church is less influential than gangs in most local inner city neighborhoods today because gangs don’t tithe they take; taking is a forceful and assertive act. Gang activity doesn’t inspire but it does make for an intense adrenaline rush. Forty percent of African American males will spend more time in jail, prison, and on parole than they will spend time in a church in a life-time. The loss of economic hope and a faith based culture insuring the legal status of marriage has made way for gangs and ever weakening family structure to fill the vacuum.

The parole policy of the CDCR is directly antagonistic to traditional cultures in the above described urban area. It is an antagonistic parole policy because during the past thirty-seven years that parole policy has caused significant cultural dysfunction that has brought about: 1) a shift in local power distribution, 2) a demographic concentration of marginalized ex-felons, and 3) it has concentrated and perpetuated a prison yard ethos in neighborhoods.

Neither the County of Alameda nor the City of Oakland shares jurisdiction over parolees with the CDCR.  What that translates to is an indirect conversion of city and county resources to do CDCR work investigating crimes by people under the jurisdiction of the CDCR. Hiring more police officers and sheriffs to round up parolees who commit crimes is a direct monetary drain for the city of Oakland and the county of Alameda. Furthermore, it means that the CDCR has superlative life quality determination for the citizens of Oakland over and above the city council, the county board of supervisors, and voters.  It makes the city a de-facto appendage of the state prison corporate-enterprise complex.

That superlative CDCR power is exercised when it paroles persons where there is either a high probability of parolees to do a successful parole or conversely where there exists a low probability of doing a successful parole, but not both. Given the facts, the CDCR has obviously chosen the latter alternative.  That is exactly what the construction of violent crime means. That is why there is a higher than lesser rate of violence in Oakland. The same pattern is discernable in other large cities in California. If the CDCR developed a new parole strategy which de-concentrated parolees in high volatility areas, there would be a substantial drop in homicide within one to two years in Oakland and other cities. That is solution number one. But the CDCR will not opt for that solution because of institutionalized racism.

The fact that the CDCR has continued to concentrate parolees in high population density areas is evidenced in that narrowly described corridor of Oakland.  It is bad policy to continue to do so.  It is illogical to release more parolees into such areas because after thirty-seven years the arithmetic just does not support it. State wide there is a positive correlation between crime rates of all kinds and high population density. For example, in Oakland there are approximately 7,476 persons per square mile in a 76 mile area; analogously in the city Stockton there are 5,273 persons per square mile living in a 60 square mile area. The total number of felony arrests for the year 2007 was 2,238 in Stockton.  In Oakland it was 6,672.  Though Stockton is only 33% of Oakland’s arrest rate for the same year, Oakland’s population is nearly twice that of Stockton. The fact is that population density coupled with an increasing parolee population is predictive of an increase in felony arrests.  Therefore, a strategic parole policy which factors population density in cities into inmate parole plans can cause a reduction in all crimes and parole violations committed by parolees.

There is no CDCR condition of parole which denies parole to locations with characteristics like the one I’ve described here. Parolees merely must tell their agents were they live or before they move to a new location or pursuant to California Penal Code Section 3003(b) parolees can be paroled to a community that is in the best interest of the parolee and the community. But given the average parolees’ socio-economic status they are of necessity weighted to the very urban situations where they have a long history of social dysfunction and virtually no family support. Therefore, high incidences of violence are symptomatic of a dysfunctional CDCR parole policy in conjunction with dysfunctional social environments. Thus, the CDCR policy should be altered because if it is not altered the violence in Oakland will only worsen with an increased ex-felon population. That is solution number 2.  Here’s why.

There are approximately 480 cities and towns in California.  If under the Federal court order, the CDCR is compelled to release 40,000 inmates on parole within two years, then wouldn’t it be more rational to distribute them evenly across the state?  Given those figures, that would amount to 83 inmates per city.  That would put less strain on large cities while at the same time preventing an increase in the concentration in cities with high rates of violent crimes.

Can we tell prison inmates that they cannot parole to high population density areas?  Absolutely and categorically, ‘yes we can’.  The CDCR must balance its interests in meeting judicial sentencing requirements and Federal court orders against the interests that inner-city communities have in preserving their traditional integrity.

I have argued that such a pattern of parole has effected a massive cultural transplantation in the city of Oakland. It is impossible for cities like Oakland to avoid taking on the characteristics of a prison yard culture over time given the illogical policies of the CDCR. Fault for such a cultural transplantation cannot be found with mayor Quan nor any other mayor, for this has been a persistent pattern for over thirty-seven years and has grown under the tenure of every mayor during that period.

My criticism is that there is fault to be shared with criminals. The CDCR lacks rational creativity; its administrators continue to roll the same old parole policy ball down the court even though that ball is flat. But why continue a policy that is so destructive to local communities? I posit that most of the administrators of the CDCR graduate from the lower ranks of the correctional officers and so they inherit the same policy ball and do not question the direction in which they are rolling it. However, if we assume that some do see the illogic of CDCR policies yet persist in the application of them then the real motive is to make the African America neighborhoods de-facto concentration camps under the guise of  ‘reentry’ back into the community.