Friday, February 25, 2005

There's no argument that inmates are entitled to all the civil rights a free society can accord them. But there's a big difference between civil rights among law-abiding citizens on the outside and law-breakers on the inside. Inmates and convicted felons can't vote, for instance. And they can't claim the Second Ammendment right to bear arms.

This week's ruling by the Supreme Court that California prisons can't for the most part, segregate inmates according to race is a clear indication that laws often blindly support the ideal rather than reflect the reality.

Segregation in schools, the military or any place in outside world is pure evil. Forced desegregation in prisons, on the other hand can lead to a bloodbath.

Prison is a tribal society. The Supreme Court and law enforcement isn't about to abolish the animosity between prison racial groups by forcing them to share cells and finger paints.

In the past, even the "progressive" and radical prison reformers sued the state to force the CDC to segregate prisoners in the exercise yards, meals and shower time. According to the lawyers of the Prison Law Project, the shooting of inmate W.C. Nolen some thirty years ago was laid at the feet of prison officials for allowing blacks to exercise at the same time and in the same yard as white inmates. While it's almost unheard for liberals and progressives to demand segregation, there's a sound reason for it in the prison environment.

If you recall, Nolen's death was what fueled George Jackson's rage and triggered him to kill CO John Mills. That event was a wake-up call to POs. While there have been sporadic abuses of COs purposely putting enemies in the same yard just to watch the fights, for the most part, the CDC has done the tough work of keeping feuding groups apart.

For the sake of keeping the bloodshed down, let's hope the CDC can find a way of following the spirit of this desegregation ruling without violating the letter of it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The SAC BEE reports that a shooting war has essentially broken out between HMONG neighborhoods in NORCAL. A rash of recent shootings culminated on Sunday in a daylight driveby shooting that left one HMONG soldier DOA. The shooting happened at a busy intersection witnessed by a busload of people who were in the line of fire. There was so many witnesses that LE were able to get a good plate number on the shooter's car.

While the existence of Hmong neighborhoods isn't all that new, LE up north and in the Central Valley have seen a recent spike in criminal activity. Apparently they're forming up into organized groups and are big into weed. Hmong immigrants survive on a combination of government benefits and agriculture. A NORCAL drug agent told me that "farmers" lease land and ostensibly grow legitimate crops at the perimeter. What can't be seen from the outside, however are plots of marijuana growing in the middle. The pot is the actual cash crop. As a result, legit Hmong farmers have been unfairly stigmatized as pot growers.

The story of how thousands of Hmong families have come to live in the Central Valley is long and complicated but it has its roots in the Viet Nam war. US Special Forces armed and paid Hmong tribesmen to fight the VC and the Communists in Laos and Cambodia. American soldiers and brass came to respect the Hmong as fierce warriors who stood their ground and fought to the death even in the face of overwhelming odds. When the war ended and the US pulled out, the Communists went on a rampage of revenge against the Hmong. Out of good conscience, the US government made it easy for Hmong to migrate to America.

Thanks to their intense tribal culture and distrust of outsiders, the Hmong have had a hard time assimilating in the Central Valley and everywhere else they've settled. All these factors have contributed to criminal or near criminal activity ranging from simple game poaching on private and public land all the way up to drug trafficking and set warfare.

Chances are, the Hmong will never achieve the critical mass needed to become a major criminal organization. But one copper told me that what they lack in numbers they make up for in brazen violence like Sunday's daytime driveby.