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In the News: The Justice that Jena Demands
Posted by: Xochitl Bervera , November 06, 2007
The injustice we witnessed in Jena, Louisiana, should wake us up to blatant racism throughout the criminal justice system --- and tell us it's time for radical change.
I want to tell you about some young men I know. These are young Black men who have encountered Louisiana’s criminal justice system who I know because their mothers have become proud members of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC), the organization I have worked for over the last 7 years. These stories are about young men who have experienced incredible injustice, not unlike the Jena 6, only the national spotlight has never shined on them.
First, there is Emmanuelle Narcisse. He was a tall, slim, handsome young man who was killed by a guard at the Bridge City Correctional Center for Youth – a Louisiana juvenile prison – in 2003. Apparently, he was “fussing” in line, talking back to a guard. The guard punched him in the face, one blow, and Emmanuelle went down backwards, slamming his head on the concrete. He took his last breath there behind the barbed wire of that state run facility. The guard was suspended with pay during the investigation. No indictment was ever filed against him.
There is also Tobias Kingsley, sentenced when he was 15 to two years in juvenile prison for sneaking into a hotel swimming pool (his first offense). Tobias endured physical and sexual abuse inside the prison. He said that guards traded sex with kids for drugs and cigarettes, and sometimes set kids up to fight one another, making cash bets on the winner. His mama said he was never the same after he came home. She said the nightmares, the violence, the paranoia persisted years after the private lawyers helped him come home early. His battles with addiction and depression are not yet over.
And there is Shareef Cousin, who was tried as an adult and sent to death row in the state of Louisiana for a murder that he didn’t commit. Shareef spent from age 16 to age 26 behind bars, the majority of those years isolated in Angola’s Death Row, because an over zealous prosecutor didn’t care that the evidence didn’t really add up. After all, it was only a young Black man’s life on the line.
There are hundreds more. Thousands. Every day in the state of Louisiana (and in most states in this nation), injustices of epic proportions are taking place in our criminal and juvenile justice systems. We, those of us who live here, fight here, and organize here, know hundreds of families and young people – often our own - who’ve endured almost inconceivable levels of violence, abuse, neglect. And despite efforts to get someone, anyone to care and to act, these young people most often end up statistics in somebody’s dismal report, or an anecdote in an article just like this. Because people don’t care. Because these young people are not just poor, they are not just Black, they are criminals.
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