Tag Archives: Crook County

Report: 11 April 2016 Trial of NATO3’s Jared Chase, Crook County Courthouse, 26th & California, Chicago, IL

Report from trial of Jared Chase, Crook County Courthouse, 26th and California, Chicago, IL
11 April 2016

The call was put out once again by the friends, comrades and supporters of the NATO3’s Jared “Jay” Chase to “pack the courtroom” for his trial for an alleged assault on a prison guard at Illinois’ Pontiac prison back on October 4th 2013. His friends and comrades put out this call on Facebook, Twitter and WordPress and it was re-Tweeted by ourselves and who knows how many others in Chicago and around the USA. This resulted in a grand total of about 15 people showing up for the trial. Once again the working class of Chicago – and the major “revolutionary socialist” parties were no-shows.

IWPCHI’s reporter (the writer of this article) showed up at about 8:30 for the trial and once again there was no demonstration outside the courtroom. We had brought a couple of protest signs but when a trio of anarchist comrades of Jay arrived bringing coffee and bananas, they had no signs or banners so our reporter was the only person who stood outside the courthouse with a protest sign that read “FREEDOM NOW for NATO3’s JARED CHASE! PRISON NOW for DEMOCRATS’ KILLER KOPS OF KAPITAL!” Our second sign read: “U.S. POLICE STATE TERROR: FROM GITMO to HOMAN SQ. – MADE IN CHICAGO by the DEMOCRATS”.

The Democratic Party criminals who run Cook County’s “justice system” – one of the most vicious and crooked racist legal systems in the world – have been playing games with the citizenry who must deal with their kangaroo court system by denying citizens the right to bring cell phones into the courthouse. In a criminal justice system in which the police routinely lie on the witness stand and the judges let them get away with it, and which historically has been the scene of rigged trials, judges getting payoffs from defense attorneys and all manner of corruption taking place it’s not hard to understand why these serial criminals would not want people possessing the means with which they could take photographs and make audio recordings of the corrupt practices common in this legal whorehouse.

About a week before Jay’s trial it was announced that Crook County Courthouse would no longer be providing lockers for cell phones so that people could attend their court hearings. Some bullshit reasons were given about the County not having the staff necessary to run the locker operation. The US capitalist class doesn’t want to spend the money necessary to run anything properly, even their for-profit injustice system. We were informed by a homeless man outside the courthouse that some enterprising “roach coach” vendors who park their catering trucks across the street from the Crooked Crook County judicial sewer had installed lockers in their trucks and were charging $2 a locker to store people’s phones while they were in court. Ah, sweet capitalism! What would we do without you?

This reporter and the three anarchist supporters of Jay Chase were outside the courthouse drinking coffee around 8:45. The courtrooms officially open for their sordid “business” at 9AM but usually things get started much later than that. Last time we were at Jay’s hearing Judge Thaddeus Wilson didn’t show up until 10:05. So we figured that we had plenty of time to burn.

As we sat around chatting, the line of unfortunate workers queuing up for their latest encounter with the Chicago Democratic Party’s idea of a “justice” system began to grow. It was a Monday, after all; and in spite of all the yammering the capitalist classes’ bought-and-paid-for politicians have been engaged in about reducing the world’s largest per-capita prison population (“USA(TM)! USA(TM)! USA(TM)! We’re Number One!(TM)”) the cops are so busy busting people over the weekends that the Crooked Crook County Jail is always kept overflowing on Mondays with people who will be forced to either fork over a wad of cash for bond or spend the next 2 months – or maybe years! – in the jail. So the hundreds of people – defendants and family and friends of those already jailed and awaiting their bond hearings and trials – all trying to get into the Crooked Crook County Courthouse at the same time cause a traffic jam that the imbecile Sheriffs cops who work the security detail can’t handle. In fifteen minutes the line was stretching all the way out to the street and it was moving at a snail’s pace. This of course meant that none of these hundreds of people would be able to get to their court hearings on time. Later on, a homeless acquaintance of mine told me that his friend got stuck in that line a while back and was late for his hearing and so an arrest warrant was issued for him because he “failed to appear in court”. This is just one of the many ways that the Democrats destroy people’s lives with their shitty, crooked justice system here in Obama’s phony “home town”.

I wanted to let Jay’s comrades know that I did not want to create a conflict with their decision whether or not to stand up together when Jay was led into the courtroom – as is a long-standing tradition of the US workers movement. The last time I came to Jay’s court appearance (the appearance before the last) I stood up when he entered the courtroom and again when he left, as per the long-standing international working class tradition; and I recieved criticism from his comrades for doing so.  On April 11 I let his comrades know that I was in favor of standing up and thereby upholding this honored and honorable tradition but that I would accept their decision on this question. Judge Thaddeus Wilson – who pretends that the Rev. Martin Luther King is his inspiration – had issued a threat to hold anyone who stood up in solidarity with Jay in contempt of court. Revolutionary Trotskyists do not cower in the face of this kind of provocation from a Kangaroo judge of the capitalist system; but the anarchists apparently do. They informed me that they believe that it is unwise to provoke the ire of the judge when Jay’s liberty is at stake. I replied that there is no justice to be expected from the capitalist system at all and especially not in political cases like Jay’s. Kissing the judge’s ass is not going to get us – or Jay – anywhere. Anyone who thinks that by acting like obedient wage-slaves we can elicit fairness from the worker-militant-hating judicial system of the capitalist class is delusional. But they had decided not to stand up when Jay came into the court, so I let them know that I would abide by their decision – although I disagreed with it.

One of the anarchists and I had  nice conversation in which that person told me  I should look up the Alexander Berkman/Emma Goldman book about the ABCs of anarchism.  (I have looked it up and have read it and it was outrageously counter-revolutionary).  I suggested to them that they should read the Communist Manifesto – which of course they had “read parts of” as so many college-educated youth will say (come on man; the Communist Manifesto is like 45 pages!).

The anarchists spotted some of their comrades in line and as these guys moved up to where we were sitting they cut into the line with their friends and went in. It was only about 9AM at that time and I thought I’d just wait a little while until the end of the line came up to where I sat on the plaza outside the front door of the “courthouse”.

The courthouse screws were out yelling at people to get into two parallel lines: one for women and one for men. There were three times as many men as women, so the men’s line continued to grow and grow until it reached the sidewalk and then stretched southwards down California. I couldn’t see the end of it from where I sat. Men who accompanied their female friends up to the front of the women’s line were summarily ordered to go to the end of the ridiculously long men’s line; this made for some amusing scenes as guys turned around and began their long, embarassed trek back to the sidewalk and down the street to the end of the queue.

Just for the hell of it I decided to wait and see how long it would actually take for the end of the line to reach me, sitting about 25 feet from the front door. It was a nice, sunny spring day and I don’t like to stand in long lines like a moron. I read the latest Chicago scandals in the Tribune (2nd brother shot by cop cleared in court”) and enjoyed the similarity between the front page story about airline passengers at O’Hare suffering long waits in boarding lines due to deliberate understaffing by the TSA who are trying to force people to pay $85 for expedited boarding. “Last month, 1,000 American Airlines passengers missed their flights at O’Hare due to ‘excessive’ TSA lines”. Oh, capitalism! There is no way we could possibly create a better system than you! “[One] flier, who asked not to be named [what is she afraid of? This is the “Land of the Free(TM)”!] said she wasn’t spending $85 to solve TSA’s problem. ‘It’s a scam,’ she said.” Right you are, dear sister! Please contact us! We need intelligent people like you to help us overthrow this rotten capitalist system!

Meanwhile back at the Crookedest Courthouse in the USA, the line was actually still getting longer and I began to wonder if I, by being such a stubborn ass about not getting in line, would miss the opening arguments in Jay’s trial! It was 9:30 and there was no end in sight for the line, which continued to grow. My homeless friend (who I met years ago when I lived in Wicker Park before it became so expensive that workers could no longer afford to live there) and I chatted a while and then he met some friends of his coming out of the courthouse and he left. It was now getting near 10 AM and still the line was running down along the sidewalk.

The women’s line, however, had only a few people in it. Why didn’t the Crooked Crook County Sheriffs’ screws start sending men through the women’s side of the security check? Who knows? You don’t have to have a lot of brains to be a Sheriffs’ cop in Crooked Crook County – or anywhere else. What would these jackasses do if the USA ever cut its prison population back down to the levels it had maintained from the 1920s until the Jimmy Carter era?

The end of the line finally came up to where I was sitting at about 10:20AM. I got into line and managed to get through security at about 10:30. I wondered: how many people had arrest warrants issued against them this morning thanks to the imbeciles running security in the Crookedest Courthouse in “The Greatest Country in the World(TM)”?

So I head up to Courtroom 303 – the lair of Judge Thaddeus Wilson, he of the prominently displayed Martin Luther King, Jr. portrait hanging on the door behind his bench. I enter and – surprise! There is another case being heard and it isn’t Jay Chase’s. Good! I sit down on one of the open spaces on the wooden bench to the left of the door to the courtroom, where I can see all the way back into the vestibule where the prisoners are briefly held after they are led from their cells and just before they enter into the courtroom proper.

This case in concluded and another is called. We all sit and listen quietly to the proceedings. This last case is concluded and the defendant and his lawyer leave the courtroom.

Two large Sheriffs’ cops enter the courtroom; then four more; all seem a bit agitated and I wonder what’s going on. Are they here to handle the “dangerous arch-criminal” Jay Chase?

Suddenly – an announcement from the bench by the (cough!) “honorable” Judge Thaddeus Wilson:
“Due to security concerns I am ordering the gallery to be cleared. Everyone must go out into the hall to be searched.”

Thaddeus thinks he’s being so clever! What an amazing act of jurisimpudence! Wouldn’t Dr. Martin Luther King be proud of him! Dr. King would be disgusted with this criminal in black robes and his dirty little ploy to make Jay Chase’s comrades – who were all sitting peacefully and politely watching the proceedings, not even making the slightest sound or gesture or any conversation at all! – appear to be posing a threat to Kangaroo Judge Thaddeus Wilson’s Kangaroo Court! But Martin Luther King had witnessed scenes like this many times before when he was dragged in front of judges who hated him and anyone else who attempted to fight for civil rights. Judge Thaddeus Wilson has far more in common than he could possibly imagine in his small mind with the bandits in black robes who persecuted Dr. King!

The group of thuggish Sheriff’s cops summoned by Kangaroo Judge Thaddeus Wilson under the false pretense that a “security threat” existed in his courtroom ushered us all out into the hallway to be searched. Male cops searched men and there were a pair of female cops to search the women. I was the fourth in line to be searched so I was back in the courtroom within 4 minutes. When I went in I saw that Jay Chase had already been rushed into the courtroom and his Kangaroo “Trial” was underway!

Jay and his lawyer had already informed the judge that he intended to plead guilty to a single charge of assault in a plea bargain deal. Judge Wilson rushed through the protocol of making sure that Jay understood what he was consenting to. Jay stood tall and firm and answered the Judge’s questions in a strong and clear voice, with his “lawyer” Peter Benesh standing by his side silently. He was pleading guilty; he was waiving his right to a jury trial; he understood the implications; he had not been coerced into making his plea.

By this time Kangaroo Judge Wilson had so rushed through the plea deal that only about half of Jay’s comrades had re-entered the courtroom. As they came back and were informed of what had transpired their faces expressed shock and dismay.

Wilson zipped through the plea deal so quickly that I was unable to get it all down. Jay was pleading guilty to an aggravated assault – a class 4 felony – punishable by 1-6 years in prison. Of couse if Jay hadn’t been framed up on the bogus terrorism charges concocted by the Chicago Police and their undercover agent-provocateurs, the “assault” on the guard would never have taken place! (Jay pled guilty to having sprayed a piss/shit combo on a guard’s leg if I understood the rushed proceedings correctly).

Jay waived his right to a pre-sentencing investigation; he was immediately sentenced to one year in jail and one year of mandatory supervised release.

And that was it. Jay was ushered out of the courtroom to be hauled back to rejoin his 1.8 million working class brothers and sisters languishing in the prison hellholes of the “Land of the Free(TM)”.

Jay’s comrades immediately got up and left the courtroom. I waited to see if I could get any explanation of the outcome of the trial from Jay’s ineffectual “lawyer” Peter Benesh.

Attorney Benesh was polite if brusque; he and another attorney working with him on the case – who handled the NATO3 terrorism side of the deal – went out into the hallway and tersely answered my confused questions.

I read my notes on the sentence to Benesh who corrected a couple of things. Then I asked him how much longer Jay would be in jail. “I have no idea” he said. “It’s up to IDOC [Illinois Department of Corrections] to calculate the length of the time Jay will have to serve.” I was confused. “Well when you agreed to the plea deal didn’t you work out in advance how long that would be? How could you agree to a plea deal without knowing what his sentence would be?” Benesh said that the idea was to plead guilty so that Jay could get a reduced sentence and get out of prison as soon as possible which was important due to his serious health issues. I asked Benesh how Jay’s treatment was being taken care of while he was in prison. He said “I don’t know. Obviously not very well” or words to that effect.
I said “Can you make an educated guess as to how long you think Jay’s sentence will be?” Benesh replied: “I have no idea. I’ve never worked with IDOC before, and no one in my office has ever worked with them before. It’s up to them.”

Benesh told me that in the next few weeks or months – basically, at IDOC’s leisure – Jay would be handed what is called a “yellow sheet” from IDOC informing him of their decision regarding the amount of additional prison time he would be forced to serve. “Will you be receiving a copy of that form as well? Could I get a copy of it?” I asked. Benesh replied: “I won’t get anything. Jay will get the yellow sheet”. Astounded, I said: “you won’t get anything?” and Benesh replied: “No.”

So I stood there for a few seconds trying to process this information and trying to think o other questions but couldn’t come up with anything. Benesh and his colleague seemed – as they did the last time I spoke with them – to be in a hurry and in no mood to volunteer any information beyond terse replies to my questions. So I thanked them and Benesh went back into the courtroom and his colleague and I headed towards the elevators. She was walking ahead of me by a few steps. “This is a strange situation; wasn’t that security search something?” I said to Benesh’s lawyer-colleague’s back.

“Weird things happen in this building” she replied without turning to face me as she walked off.

* * * * * * *

Jay’s friends and comrades were standing in a circle listening to one of their number as he explained something to them which I could not hear. The expressions on everyone’s faces was a mixture of shock and deep dismay. I let him finish what he was saying and then I told them what the lawyers had told me… which they already seemed to understand. Brent Betterly was there and his experience being run through the grinding gears of the Illinois “criminal justice system” enabled him to explain to his comrades what it all meant. No one looked pleased. I introduced myself to the guy who had addressed the group because I had overheard him talking to the lawyers earlier and thought he was involved in the fundraising for Jay. But I was wrong. Everyone around this group treats those who they do not know personally with some degree of suspicion, varying from mild suspicion to mild hostility. I’m not used to working with political groups who haven’t assigned someone to be a spokesperson for the group who can handle simple inquiries from concerned working-class citizens and organizations as well as the news media. So it’s very irritating to be treated with suspicion because I’m a “stranger”. “Stranger! DANGER!” is not the typical attitude of professional revolutionary organizations. All of the political organizations I’ve been either a member or sympathiser of – the Worker’s World Party, the Spartacist League and the Partisan Defense Committee – were open and friendly to people who came out to support them at demonstrations and public events of all kinds. Not so with these “anarchists”. Some were almost friendly – I had a sort of conversation with a young woman before the trial – but most of these folks just don’t seem comfortable at all talking with anyone who they don’t know.

As we left the Crook County Courthouse I tried to start a conversation with a couple of people in the hopes that I could establish some kind on ongoing working relationship with these guys. “So what party or groups are you in?” I asked one couple of people. “We’re not in a group” they replied. “Well are you guys anarchists or socialists…?” “No we’re not anything”. Total brush-off. This is no way to do political work, my friends. You have to be capable of establishing contacts with other members of political groups. You either grow or die.

It appears to me that the police entrapment scheme played out upon these young activists had the precise effect the cops wished it to have: it completely deranged them politically and socially. They are now so paranoid against anyone who approaches them on a political level that they have been rendered useless politically. This is the kind of damage that a police infiltration operation is designed to create.
The communist organizations are strong enough to withstand these kinds of attacks; these loose-knit pseudo-anarchoid collective whatevers are just demolished the minute they encounter such a common and predictable police provocation. We warn youth who are interested in joining a socialist or anarchist organization that only the revolutionary socialists have the organizational experience that will make it almost impossible for you to be set up the way the NATO3 were. Youth members of Trotskyist organizations like the Spartacist League or our party are educated right off the bat as to what our party program is and what it isn’t; youth who seek to join our parties agree to study our revolutionary program and must be capable of explaining it to others before they can become members. So you would KNOW that we do not condone or advocate terrorism as a revolutionary method of struggle – we oppose it. So when a couple of Police Explorers like the ones who framed the NATO3 come around trying to get OUR youth members to engage in stupid-ass shit like “throwing molotov cocktails at a bank” OUR youth members IMMEDIATELY recognize the signs of an agent-provocateur and are required to immediately notify the party leadership about this provocation. I simply can’t imagine a youth member of an organization like the Sparts getting set up like these naïve anarchist youth of the NATO 3 were. I’ve never heard of this happening to the Sparts or Workers World or The SWP or even the reformists of the Stalinist Communist Party! It must be said as plainly as this for your own good, dear NATO3 and their supporters: revolutionary communists are just not that stupid! I’m not trying to insult you; I’m trying to educate you as to the vast gulf that exists between the amateurishness of the anarchist grouplets and the Occupy activists and the professional Marxist/Leninist/Trotskyist revolutionaries! Very, very few of you would even be considered for youth membership in any professional socialist revolutionary organization.

So the lesson for the youth is: be careful what organizations you join. We should point out the fact that anarchism has been an utterly useless political philosophy since the Bolsheviks proved in 1917 the absolute necessity of organizing a workers STATE in order to defend a workers revolution from the inevitable counterrevolutionary attacks. Anarchists have NEVER led a successful workers revolution anywhere in the world and they probably never will because of their childish and counter-revolutionary aversion to the concept of a “workers state”. Only Marxist/Leninist vanguard parties have ever led successful workers revolutions. EVERY revolution has been led by a vanguard party of some kind – including the American and French Revolutions. If you want to join a revolutionary workers organization go with the pros, not with the amateurs. Your life could be put at risk if you join a half-assed political activist group. The NATO3 case is a case-study on how untrained non-communist political activists can just walk right into a cop frame-up that would be obvious to a 15-year-old communist youth. And believe me: I’ve met 15-year old communist youth who are head-and-shoulders more politically conscious than the wisest anarchist I’ve ever met. Including Noam Chomsky!

As I left the courthouse I tried again to start a conversation with another pair of NATO3 supporters. I told them about my previous work with the Sparts and Partisan Defense Committee as they seemingly tried to walk away from me as if I was carrying the plague. “The thing about this case is that it shows the complete lack of organizational competence of the anarchist groups” I said. “Half of the commies in Chicago are cops” was the reply! “That’s not true!” I replied. These people are simply running scared now that they’ve had their fingers burned on what was probably their very first attempt to engage in political activism. They are useless as political activists. At this stage of development they are even incapable of talking about their own political ideas to workers on the street. Everyone who expresses a level of consciousness greater than that of a naïve teenage anarchist is looked upon with deepest suspicion! “Obviously he must be a cop! It’s impossible that he could be a socialist!” seems to be their reaction to me at least. I do not like being treated like this at all. It pisses me off! Lol! How can you possibly do effective political work with an attitude like this? Perhaps this is why none of the major socialist political parties are involved with the last remaining NATO3 defense case?

When I worked with the Sparts, we didn’t AVOID “strangers” at a demonstration or who had come to participate in a legal defense campaign at a courthouse: WE SOUGHT THEM OUT and introduced ourselves and talked to them! We wanted to know who they were and find out if they would be interested in joining our organization! We sold them Workers Vanguard and tried to get their phone numbers so we could call them after they had a chance to read the paper so we could see how they liked it! You know – LIKE NORMAL HUMAN BEINGS! What has this sorry-ass country come to that “political activists” are afraid to converse with people who come out to support said “political activists”?

I mentioned to one of the NATO3 supporters that I had been trying to send money to the anarchists who had fought the Nazis in Anaheim, California a couple months ago. I couldn’t send the money because the guy who was collecting it was supposedly a “friend” of one of the guys who had been stabbed by a Nazi.
“You have to know people” he replied! That is fucking pathetic! We don’t live in Nazi Germany where political activist organizations have to operate from “the underground”! It’s a worthless type of organization that can’t even raise money from the public for their comrades’ medical care because they can’t get it together to create a trustworthy official organization to collect the funds! This kind of “organization” is engaged in amateurish practices that were completely abandoned by the workers movement 200 years ago! The philosophical bankruptcy of anarchist philosophy is exposed by this kind of third-rate dysfunction exhibited time and time again by anarchist grouplets.

“Many are called; but few are chosen” goes the saying. Revolutionary working class political activism is not a video game; and it’s not a playground for children or amateurs. To have your political group destroyed by the most common police frame-up which a revolutionary communist organization would repel like water off a duck’s back is a disgrace. If you think that what happened to the NATO3 is a savage attack by the capitalist state you should open your eyes and look at the massacre of leftist youth that took place in Mexico; look at the attacks on Communist Party political candidates in India; look at what FARC went through in Colombia the last time they tried to trade guerrilla warfare for legal political work! What happened to the NATO3 was a mere scratch! 3 years in jail is nothing compared to what communists have suffered at the hands of the class enemy from Tsarist Russia to Kuomintang China to Japanese-occupied Korea to Hitler’s Germany, Pinochet’s Chile and D’Aubuisson’s El Salvador – or the ACTUAL ANARCHIST Haymarket Martyrs! If your “organization/collective/reading circle” can’t recover from a pathetic attack like what was thrown at NATO3 then your organization isn’t worth a damn.

—- IWPCHI

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Report on NATO 3 Defendant Jared Chase’s Court Appearance 18 February 2016

DROP ALL CHARGES AGAINST JARED CHASE AND FREE HIM NOW!

At a pre-trial hearing held today (18 February, 2016), former NATO 3 defendant Jared Chase’s Cook County Public Defender Peter Benesh made an ineffectual attempt to obtain a court injunction prohibiting the shackling of Chase using a “black box” device, which causes physical injury to Chase, who suffers from Huntington’s Disease.  Chase was in court to answer to charges of “aggravated battery to a corrections officer” – a Class I offense, punishable by between 4 and 15 years in the penitentiary.  Yet Chase’s lawyer was repeatedly rebuffed by Cook County Court Judge Thaddeus Wilson for lack of preparation in not asking for this protective court order in the proper fashion.

We were informed about the hearing via the Twitter and WordPress accounts of   “Free the NATO 3”.

In our experience attending hearings like this one (since circa 1979), defendants have almost always had a legal defense campaign orchestrated by one or another revolutionary socialist party. Having had more than a century of experience defending class-war prisoners, the communists know how to run an effective defense campaign in a politically-charged case like this.  Understanding that, in political cases, legal precedent and rule of law have a tendency to fly out the window, the communists do not act as if it’s just “business as usual” defending a political activist:  they organize media campaigns to get out their side of the story in defense of the accused, make sure that their physical presence is asserted before every court hearing with a protest outside the “temple of justice” and make sure that the lawyers in the case understand the nature of how the capitalist frame-up system works in cases involving anti-capitalist political activists.  Effective tactics are employed to let the powers that be understand that the defendant does not stand alone in facing the charges; the revolutionary working class principle that “an injury to one is an injury to all” means that every worker in the USA – in fact, the revolutionary workers movement itself – is on trial, not just the defendant.  Inside the courtroom they stand in solidarity with the accused when the defendant’s name or names are called.  This always pisses off the judges – but the communists don’t mount defense campaigns for their comrades in order to have the opportunity to kiss a judge’s ass.  Communists understand that it is imperative to make it clear to both the accused person(s) and the court and spectators that THIS defendant is not fighting his or her case by themselves – he or she has a strong and militant base of supporters closely watching every development in the case.  Often times major court victories have been won only after huge national and international defense campaigns have made it politically extremely expensive for the bourgeoisie to railroad the defendant.  These class-struggle methods have worked time and time again to expose the injustice of the capitalist system to the world; they alert the working class to the vital necessity of NOT acting as if these cases are just “business as usual”.  The outrageous US government frame-up of the NATO 3  is an attempt by the capitalist state to intimidate the working class and crush political dissent.  Workers must be awakened to this fact and taught not to cower in the face of such criminal conspiracies that the capitalist class and its justice system continuously launch against worker-militants.

For activist groups who are not part of the revolutionary socialist movement, like the NATO 3 folks, these historical lessons have not been incorporated into their defense tactics.  Not having the revolutionary Marxist understanding that there is no justice for workers – especially communist or anarchist workers or trade union militants – in the capitalist courts, they tend to try to “play by the rules” of the court, allowing defense attorneys to kowtow to the judge’s every whim; they advise supporters to “keep a low profile” in and around the courtroom, often even going so far as to assert that the defense attorneys “know” this judge and know how best to “get on the good side of the judge” for a favorable ruling.  More often than not, these class-collaborationist tactics result in complete disaster, with the defendants getting the book thrown at them.  The defense attorneys then express “shock” at the “uncharacteristically severe” sentence handed out by their “friend” the judge.  Revolutionary Marxists don’t fall for this bullshit.

Having been informed by Jared Chase’s supporters’ websites that the hearing today would occur at 9AM, I made certain to arrive early so I could participate in the demonstration that would undoubtedly occur before the hearing.  But when I arrived at 8:45 AM, this is what I saw:

... not a goddamned thing! So excuse me for being disappointed.

… not a goddamned thing! So excuse me for being disappointed.

This was not good.  When I expressed my disappointment later to a handful of his supporters in the court gallery at not having seen the slightest hint of public protest outside the courthouse, I was chastised for being so arrogant in criticising them since  they had been attending all these hearings for all these years and I had not.  As if that matters in terms of the simple expression of disappointment at seeing NO evidence of support outside the courthouse TODAY!  These poor defense tactics usually don’t obtain much sympathy from the judges, who have been instructed by the political powers in the Cook County Democratic machine to “make an example” of the defendants.

While it is entirely understandable that Chase’s supporters are depressed and dismayed at the prospect of their friend spending up to 15 years in prison if he gets the maximum sentence possible in this case, that is no excuse for failing to organize an effective defense campaign and then expressing hostility towards supporters who express their dismay when they show up at court in response to an appeal for support and find no organized support at all!

Progress cannot be achieved by the workers movement if historical lessons go unlearned and if every generation just keeps making the same avoidable mistakes over and over and over again.  Our capitalist class opponents have centuries of experience buttressing their class rule; they learn from their failures and don’t repeat the same stupidity twice!  Likewise, the communist movement has nearly 200 years of experience fighting frame-ups in the courts of the capitalist classes all over the world.  To fail to take advantage of the hard-won experience of the revolutionary communist movement is a major error on the part of any activist group that finds its comrades in a situation like Jared Chase is in.

It was no surprise in this era of mass apathy among US workers that – in Chicago, a city of 4 million – a grand total of 9 supporters of Chase (including this reporter) made the trek to the Cook County Courthouse for the hearing.  It was held in a bizarre glassed-in courtroom in which spectators are entirely sealed off from the actual courtroom, which sits behind a semicircular glass-and-metal barrier that looks like something out of the original Star Wars movie.  No photos could be taken of the courtroom because in the “free and open” court system of Crooked Crook County, the Chief Justice has banned all cell phones from the premises.  Members of the public who wish to observe the proceedings in Cook County Courthouse at 26th St. and California Avenue in Chicago must not only pass a metal detector screening before entering the courthouse, but they must also place their cell phones, chargers and any other electronic recording devices in secure lockers (provided for free by the county) before they are allowed to enter the building.  The criminals running the farcical “justice” system  in Crook County Courthouse – widely acknowledged to be one of the most corrupt in the United States of America – must keep video and audio evidence of their many blatant miscarriages of justice hidden from the eyes of the working class at all costs.

The court hearing in room 303 (which was set for 9:00 AM according to the “Free the NATO 3” website ) never actually got underway until 10:05 when the “Honorable” Judge Thaddeus L. Wilson finally graced us with his presence.  Wilson, who is black, has hung a large framed color photograph of the Rev. Martin Luther King on the door behind the bench in order to give the appearance (to the uninitiated) that in his courtroom, the respected principles of Dr. King are upheld.  King would undoubtedly not be amused to know that his portrait is being utilized in this manner in a courtroom in Cook County, where brutal racist injustice is meted out daily to hundreds of primarily black and Hispanic defendants.  Hundreds of people of color are daily shipped to this County Courthouse for “kangaroo court”-style bond hearings at which it’s “your money or the next two months of your life” while you wait in jail for your trial.   Judge Wilson’s courtroom sits directly above a filthy, overcrowded basement prison dungeon where hundreds of people are crammed into holding cells awaiting trial; this is a place completely at odds with everything Dr. Martin Luther King stood for.

On the dark, smoked glass barrier that stands between the public and the “bar of justice” are affixed a number of printed and crudely hand-lettered signs threatening the citizenry – who are supposed to be those from whom Judge Wilson derives whatever limited power he actually possesses – not to do a multiplicity of things.  “Absolutely No Food or Drinks Allowed in this Courtroom” one declares.  “DO NOT ENTER UNLESS YOUR NAME IS CALLED” screams another.  If a citizen dares to enter the courtroom he or she has paid for many times over with their taxes – what would happen?  Would the altar of justice be rendered unclean by an unindicted citizen’s presence?  Would it have to be then reconsecrated to the gods of justice, Crook County-style?   No children are allowed to cry or call out to a parent, sister or brother they see being brought into the courtroom in handcuffs and prison rags: “Children must be kept quiet or you will be asked to leave!”  Surely Martin Luther King would endorse all this! A child crying out at seeing her father for perhaps the first time in months or even years would be cast out of the room by the “honorable” Judge Wilson!  Such is justice in Crooked Crook County, USA, run for the past 100 years by the “lesser evil” Democratic Party!  Everything is crooked about this place: the huge cockroaches at the jail skitter crookedly across the floors and the walls; even the birds flying over this place seem to fly sideways.  Let’s not even mention the crooked guards!

While we waited for Jared’s case to be called an attorney emerged from the courtroom into the spectators’ seating area to converse with his client, who was seated among us.  They openly discussed their strategy right there where it could be heard by all the court employees and the judge via the intercom system connecting both rooms.  There is no private place in this courthouse for attorneys and their clients to discuss their cases!  The image of Martin Luther King gazes pensively down from the wall of Judge Wilson’s courtroom upon this farce.  If only that portrait could come to life to tell Judge Wilson what it thinks about the monstrous scenes that have played out in that courtroom under its eyes day after day after brutal day!

Finally, at around 10:32 AM, Jared Chase is led into the courtroom.  As he enters, I stand up in solidarity.  “SIT DOWN!” bellows the “Honorable” Judge Thaddeus Wilson.

Chase is a big guy; 6 feet tall, perhaps a bit more.  Thinnish but well-muscled in his brownish v-necked prison shirt and matching brown pants, he looks as healthy as can be expected – given the circumstances of his confinement in a hellhole Illinois state prison in Pontiac – to me, who has never seen him before.  But to his friends he “looks very thin and gaunt, and his health is visibly not well.”

Chase stands erect, calm and collected; his hands are not manacled but I can’t see his feet.

There is some preliminary chatter between the judge, prosecutor and Jared’s Public Defender Benesh.  Then Benesh asks the judge for a court order to prevent Chase’s being manacled with what is called a “black box”.

"Black Box" restraint. Used to attach chains from leg irons to wrist cuffs and chain waist belt.

“Black Box” restraint. Used to attach chains from leg irons to wrist cuffs and chain waist belt.

This high-security restraint is usually only used for the most dangerous inmates: murderers and terrorists.  In spite of the fact that all of the “terrorism charges” that the government had brought against the NATO 3 were repudiated by the jury in the original trial, Chase is still being periodically subjected to this abuse by the prison screws when they transfer him to court for trial.

Benesh is asking the judge for a “court order” prohibiting the use of the “black box” on Chase.  He states that there is an existing doctors’ order that these restraints not be used on Chase due to his suffering from Huntington’s Disease, which causes sufferers to shake uncontrollably.  This shaking, combined with the harsh restraints, has been found to be causing injury to Chase, Benesh explains.  The use of harsh restraints “cuts off circulation” of blood in Chase’s hands.

Who do you want me to order to stop using the restraints?” asks Judge Wilson?

Benesh appears to be somewhat taken aback by the question.

“Who do you want the court order to be issued to?  Eye-Doc?” asks the judge again, indicating the acronym for the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), as if to prompt Benesh… who appears to fumble for an answer.

“In terms of transport…” Benesh begins to reply.  “We are asking that the least restrictive means possible should be used.”  He describes a less physically punishing type of restraint known to be used by IDOC.

Judge Wilson advises Benesh to “talk to IDOC… I am not in a position to order such a thing.  You can file a Federal lawsuit against IDOC if they are not following doctors’ recommendations.  If it’s within my authority I’ll do it.  I don’t know of any need for extra security.  But just based on oral statements  I’m not going to do anything.”

It appeared that Benesh was unprepared to properly ask Judge Wilson for a court order, having not submitted to the court any legal document for the judge to review and sign!  Not only that, but Benesh seemed uncertain who it was that he wanted the judge to order to stop using the “black box” restraint!  Unbelievably poor preparation for the hearing by Benesh – not at all atypical for the Public Defenders here in the “Land of the Free(TM)”.

It’s pretty outrageous that the Public Defender’s Office had their client dragged in chains all the way to Cook County Jail from the dungeon at Pontiac Correctional Center – a distance of 100 miles – so they could challenge the state’s use of cruel restraints used when he is transported from jail to court and back, causing physical harm to him – and then the PD wasn’t even prepared to properly ask for and obtain the court order necessary to get the chains removed!  Sadly, this kind of third-rate legal defense for the poor is common, not only in Crooked Crook County but all over the USA – and in all the “advanced” countries of the capitalist world.

Benesh then asked for a status hearing to be set for March 23rd.  He appeared not to have submitted any requests for discovery of evidence such as videos of the alleged physical altercations between Chase and prison guards that led to the present assault on a prison officer charges against Chase.

The judge agrees to set a status hearing for March 23rd at 9AM and for the trial to begin on April 11th of 2016.  Chase is dismissed and I stand up again in solidarity as he leaves; and I and all Chase’s friends and supporters leave the courtroom.

Moments later Public Defender Benesh comes out into the hallway and I introduce myself and ask him for his business card.  He says “no problem” and goes back into the courtroom to take care of some other legal business.  After a few minutes he comes back out again, accompanied by a female colleague, and I ask him a few questions.

I had heard from one of Chase’s supporters that there might be video evidence available in this case.  Is Benesh aware of any?  “Not that I’m aware of; and I don’t know if it would be helpful or not if there was” he replied.  Surprised at his answer I ask “really?  No videos at all?”  (There are cameras all over the jails).  “No I don’t know of any”.  “Have you asked if there was any such evidence through the discovery process?” “No.” he replied.

“The next hearing on March 23rd; will Jared have to appear in court again for that?” I ask.  “Yes, he’ll be appearing at all of the hearings”.  This is a real ordeal for Chase, who has to come, shackled, all the way from Pontiac to Chicago, especially considering his health.

“What is the specific offense Chase is charged with and what are the potential penalties?” I inquire.

“He is charged with ‘aggravated battery to a corrections officer’, which is a ‘Class I’ offense, punishable by 4-15 years in prison” Benesh replies.  Very serious, indeed.  (For a description of the incident as related in a letter from Chase to a supporter, click here).

I ask Benesh if he has been on the case from the beginning of the NATO 3 trial; he says: “I just got this case two weeks ago from my colleague in the Public Defender’s Office.  I had nothing to do with the earlier case; this case has nothing to do with the original one”.  But of course, this is not true at all!  This case has EVERYTHING to do with the earlier case; Chase is a political prisoner who was framed up by undercover cops in the first place!  If that frame-up hadn’t been successful, this assault case would never have occurred!

This is what we meant earlier in this article when we spoke of the danger of having inexperienced defense attorneys who do not understand the difference between a typical criminal case and one involving a political frame-up.  This lawyer appears to be unaware of the very political nature of the charges his client is facing.  “Business as usual”; just another assault case in the hideously overloaded docket of the vastly understaffed and underfunded Public Defender’s office.

It’s too bad that the crew of “Free the NATO 3” supporters didn’t bother to talk to this new defense attorney for their comrade!  They had all just walked away from the courtroom without even bothering to talk to their comrade’s new lawyer!

It was not a very impressive performance by the “Free the NATO 3” defense campaign.

Later on that evening, I checked the “Free the NATO 3” WordPress site to obtain more background information about the case and to see if they had written a report about the hearing; commendably, as we stated above, they had. Their article criticises that I stood up in solidarity with Chase as he was led into the courtroom: “While prisoner supporters have employed the tactic often to stand up when the defendant’s name is called in various cases, Judge Thadeus [sic – IWPCHI] Wilson issued an injunction in the NATO 3 case preventing supporters from doing so, and does not respond kindly to this. So please remain seated when Jay’s name is called, as protest tactics or standing up only backfires on Jay.”

This expresses quite clearly the touching faith that these so-called “anarchists” have in the “impartiality” of the US capitalist “justice” system!

The “Free the NATO 3” website operated by these folks appears to offer a decent amount of information about the case – including copies of Judge Wilson’s outrageous piece-of-shit injunction against displays of class solidarity for political prisoners who appear in “his” courtroom.  Unfortunately, the amateurishness of the anarcho-reformists reared its ugly head again when we tried to download a copy of this fine example of legal treachery; we received a “404- File Not Found” error.  We left a message on that page so the website admins could fix the problem; checking it again today a week later, we found that it has still not been corrected.  We left another message, for what it’s worth.

***

This should serve as a warning to young activists trying to decide between joining a revolutionary socialist organization or a more loosely organized “anarchist” or other activist group.  It a choice between joining a party of organized, disciplined revolutionaries who will know how to avoid a cheap police entrapment scheme and defend you if you get framed up on bogus charges or joining a group that will fall right into a trap set by a pair of half-assed Police Explorers who infiltrate their organization on the first try.  In a revolutionary socialist party, youth members are taught about the history of police entrapment schemes; internal party discipline requires them to report provocations like the one launched against the NATO 3 defendants to party leaders, who know how to deal with these things properly.  It would be almost impossible for this kind of entrapment scam to ensnare a youth member of a revolutionary Trotskyist party; for amateur “activist” and “anarchist” organizations, this is not the case.  So choose wisely when you choose the revolutionary political organization you want to join.

***

One last glimpse of the “justice” that takes place in the “Honorable” Judge Thaddeus L. Wilson’s judicial chamber of horrors:

A tall, well-groomed black man in a new winter jacket stands calmly before the dais upon which Judge Wilson sits.  A few feet to his  right, a middle-aged, stooped blonde white female Assistant District Attorney is trying to make this man look like Capone times ten.  She rattles off a seemingly endless number of arrests and convictions for petty offenses this man has suffered all his life for the “crime” of being a black man living in Democratic Party-run Crooked Crook County.  She chatters on: case after case, from the 1990s to the present.  Only after she has made it up to June of 2008 does the “Honorable” Judge Wilson stop her, saying tiredly: “That’s enough.  I get the picture”.

Perhaps it was a trick of the light, refracted through the smoked glass barrier of the courtroom… but we swear we saw the left hand of Dr. King move in front of his eyes; his shoulders seemed to heave spasmodically.  He appeared to be crying.

Thanks to the poor defense work today by Atty. Peter Benesh of the Crook County Public Defender’s Office, Jared Chase will once again most likely by dragged in chains – including the “black box” apparatus that is causing him physical harm – from Pontiac “Correctional” Center to Crook County Courthouse for his next status hearing on March 23; his trial is scheduled to begin on April 11.

— IWPCHI

 

 

 

 

 

Prosecutors Get Indictments from Grand Juries 95% of Time – Unless They Are Pretending to Attempt to Indict a Cop

In Ferguson, MO, the citizens are nervously and angrily awaiting the decision of a Missouri Grand Jury regarding whether or not the cop who wantonly murdered Michael Brown will be indicted for murder or not.

In Gretna, Florida a similar situation exists: there, members of yet another black family mourning the cop murder of one of their kids await the “verdict” of a Grand Jury decision as to whether or not a local cop will be indicted for the murder of a mentally ill unarmed youth – shot to death in his own home after his mother called the cops to help her handle her son’s refusal to go with her to a local hospital for treatment.

The likely outcome in both cases?  The cops will be acquitted by the Grand Jury and the respective towns will quite justifiably erupt in anger against the grave injustice that has been committed by the police and a justice system in which there is no justice for workers – especially if they “happen to be black”.  It is a fact of the U.S. Criminal Injustice System that even though prosecutors can get Grand Juries to indict 95% of the time, “somehow” they almost always fail to do so when the accused is a cop. “The fix is in” every time when it’s a cop facing a potential murder charge. We fully expect that the Mike Brown case in Ferguson, MO will not be an exception to this rule.

Grand Juries in the United States are notoriously unfair.

There is a famous legal saying that Grand Juries are so biased in favor of the prosecution that they could be expected “to indict a ham sandwich”.  The Wikipedia article on “Grand Juries in the United States” quotes from “Eliminate the Grand Jury” a much-cited 1973 essay by the late William J. Campbell –  a US Attorney and at one time the longest serving Chief Judge in the Northern District Federal Court in Chicago – in which he calls for the complete elimination of the corrupt Federal Grand Jury system: ” “[T]oday, the grand jury is the total captive of the prosecutor who, if he is candid, will concede that he can indict anybody, at any time, for almost anything, before any grand jury.” Campbell cites a famous study of the Grand Jury system by

A couple of months ago, a friend of ours was present at a local “temple” of notoriously racist justice here in Chicago’s Crooked C[r]ook County: the infamous Skokie Courthouse (where the conviction rate is an astoundingly Saddam-Hussein-regime-like 90 percent plus). There, he overheard two cops babbling to each other in the inimitable, timeless manner of all pigs throughout human history.  When they started stupidly yapping about one of their recent experiences as a member of a Grand Jury in Chicago, he opened up his ears real wide and grabbed a notebook and started jotting down their priceless nuggets of pig-wisdom.

The babblers were a METRA cop who was just about to enter a courtroom and casually commit perjury in an extremely minor trespassing case (with the likely cooperation and approval of the crooked Crook County prosecutors seeking to maintain their scandalous .900-plus batting average); his interlocutor was a Crook County Sheriffs cop – the bailiff.  Here is the edited conversation – they were already talking about service on a Grand Jury:

Crook County Bailiff (CCB): “It’s like a reunion – you know everyone there – ‘hey, how’s it going?’ ”

METRA cop (MC):  “We heard 899 cases [over 5 weeks – June 2nd to July 3rd]. Not a bad gig.  I had to testify before the Grand Jury 3 weeks before.”

CCB: [I’ve never been on one but my dad was a Chicago cop and he was on several. He said] it was real good money.”

MC: “Oh, yeah!”

Our friend could not resist asking the METRA cop: “Did you indict any ham sandwiches while you were there?”  The bailiff looked at him and said “what?”

He apparently had never heard that one before.  So our friend repeated the question.  Both cops looked at him uncomprehendingly.  Our friend, not wanting to miss the opportunity to pursue the question rephrased it: “Were there any cases that you did not indict?”

MC: “We can’t discuss anything about what goes on there.”

Our friend replied: “That’s OK: I already know the answer.”

[The cops resumed their conversation on other topics.  This doesn’t relate to the Grand Jury but it’s interesting to see what motivates cops – it ain’t “serving the public”. – IWPCHI]

MC: “One of the drawbacks working as a cop for Chicago is you got to live in the city.”

CCB (agreeing): “Uh huh. You guys [meaning METRA cops] get to live anywhere you want.”

MC: “Yeah we’ve got guys living everywhere.  We’ve got a guy who lives in Indiana, a K9 cop: [he’s got a] take-home car…”

CCB: “Cooool”.

MC: “Union Pacific [Railroad] cops get to take home an unmarked car… they’re considered management so they make in the 80’s to 90’s… [thousands of dollars a year – IWPCHI]. […] Lot of guys getting overtime tonight – Jay-Z/Beyonce concert.  They work for SPI.”  [most likely Security Professionals of Illinois]

Screenshot from SPI Incorporated video: SPI Level 2 Taser Training Final Cut

Screenshot from SPI Incorporated video: SPI Level 2 Taser Training Final Cut

[This is another good example of how nearly every story we research leads right into another seedy scandal that would bear investigating.  Thanks to our limited resources, this one’s going to get a pass for the time being…]

IWPCHI

 

 

 

 

 

What Is It Like To Be Incarcerated In Cook County Jail? – An Ex-Prisoner’s Account

[NOTE TO OUR READERS (8 Feb 2017):  This post is very popular and surprisingly it is read by many people from outside the US who apparently have friends or relatives locked up in “Crooked Crook County” Jail.  So we want you all to know:  It is very important that if bail has been set for your friend or relative and you have the money, bail your friend/family member out of jail as soon as possible!  No one is allowed to bail themselves out of jail!  The sooner you can bail them out the better it will be for them: it is very difficult to defend yourself from inside a jail or prison in the USA.  Also, the longer your friend or family member is stuck in jail the more likely it is that they will lose their job.  Last but not least: though for non-violent defendants the jail is not all that dangerous ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN WHEN YOU ARE IN JAIL!  The biggest threat comes not from the other inmates but from the sadistic, violent and often racist guards!  Also: bail money is only used to guarantee that your friend or family member will show up in court; it will be returned to you in full when your friend or family member makes his or her scheduled appearances in court for their hearing dates and trial.  SO LONG AS YOUR FRIEND/FAMILY MEMBER ATTENDS EVERY COURT HEARING AND THE TRIAL AS SCHEDULED YOU WILL GET YOUR MONEY BACK!  So don’t be cheap: pay the bail and get your friend/family member the hell out of that jail so they can get back to work and defend themselves from OUTSIDE the prison! – IWPCHI]

TO VERIFY THAT YOUR FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER IS ACTUALLY IMPRISONED IN COOK COUNTY JAIL, CHICAGO, IL go to this website:  COOK COUNTY JAIL – INMATE LOCATOR

It may take a few hours or up to a day before your friend/family member will be listed on the inmate locator.

BOND PAYMENTS:  Inmates must go to bond court before their bond is set and that may not happen until the day after their arrest.  IN CROOKED CROOK COUNTY, ALL BOND PAYMENTS MUST BE MADE IN PERSON.  If you do not have anyone in Illinois who can pay the bond in person, contact us at iwpchi.gmx.com and for a small donation we can make arrangements to have you send the money to us and we will be happy to make the payment in person for you.  FOR MORE INFORMATION GO TO THIS LINK:  COOK COUNTY JAIL – HOW TO PAY BOND FOR AN INMATE

If your friend/relative has had a public defender appointed to defend him/her you can contact the Public Defender’s Office directly. For more info go here:

OFFICE OF THE COOK COUNTY PUBLIC DEFENDER

If there is no way to bail out your friend or relative and you want to send them money so they can purchase food, clothing and other personal toilet articles:

HOW TO SEND MONEY TO AN INMATE AT COOK COUNTY JAIL

If your friend or relative is imprisoned by the State of  Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC):

STATE PRISON SYSTEM: ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS INMATE LOCATOR

— IWPCHI]

 

[A friend of ours wrote a friend of ours an email asking what it was like to go to the infamous, overcrowded Cook County Jail in Democratic Party-controlled Chicago, IL. The following is from an eyewitness account combining two separate experiences of being incarcerated in what we like to call “Crook County Jail” – once in late 2011 and again from early March to  mid-April 2012.   This person was originally arrested during an Occupy Chicago general assembly meeting in December of 2011 and sent to jail upon the demand of one of their leaders.  The pretext for this man’s arrest was an utterly phony “assault” charge brought by this leader of the Occupy movement.  Her assault case against this person was dropped on April 6, 2012.   The details of the circumstances that led to Occupy Chicago’s allowing this politically motivated frame-up to occur will be fully covered in a future article in the series “My Trip Through the Looking-Glass with Occupy Chicago”.  – IWP Editors]

[“So how was jail?  Did you have a roommate?  What did you do all day?”]

I’ve been meaning to write up a memoir of my experience in Cook County Jail – so thanks for giving me a reason to do it right now.

********************************

The worst part of going to Cook County Jail is in the going to and from jail – the processing.  You usually first go to a local police station and are held overnight.  Then, unless you were arrested before, say, 5PM, the next day they take you to the County Jail.  If you were arrested on a weekday or a Sunday night you get to go to a bond hearing first, where bond is set at a ridiculously high figure for many people – the idea is obviously for Crook County to make as much money as possible from those who can afford to pay.

Bond Court in the United States is a classic “kangaroo court”.  It is not a hearing to determine the merits of the case against a citizen; it is merely a formality during which, so long as the arresting officer is present in the courtroom – and she or he usually is – the case, regardless of its obvious glaring defects, such as a badly beaten prisoner or a police report that is clearly self-contradictory, will be going to trial.  The decision that is made during the bond hearing is a simple one: will the accused citizen “choose” to “admit” his guilt, or not?  Plead guilty and your Public Defender can work out a deal with the State’s Attorney that allows you to go home, usually.  Plead innocent and you either pay the bail right away – immediately – or you get sent to the County Jail – and that’s all there is to it.

This is the modern version of “showing the implements of torture” to a medieval prisoner.  The propaganda widely disseminated throughout the nation by the bourgeois press is of prison rape being the first thing that happens to all inmates.  They even make hideous jokes about being locked up with “Bubba the Booty Bandit” or some such bullshit.  The result of all this brainwashing is that most people – innocent or guilty – will pay as much money as they, their families and their friends can manage to scrape together in order to avoid going to the county jail.  This completely unconstitutional frame-up system by which the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” is stood on its head results in two things of value to the criminals who run the US judicial system: One: the money they are able to extort from arrestees goes to offset, slightly, the costs of incarcerating millions of petty criminals and scofflaws, and; Two: it provides the criminals in judicial robes – who must oftentimes stand for re-election occasionally – with ridiculously high conviction rates.  In the Skokie Courthouse in Cook County, Illinois, for example, some judges boast of obtaining an astonishing, seemingly impossible “98.5%” conviction rate!

For the 1.5% of arrested citizens in Crook County who adamantly refuse to plead guilty – due to their astoundingly pigheaded belief that they are actually innocent of the crime they are accused of – and for those who simply can’t afford to pay their bond – there is now no option but to pass through the purgatory of their being “processed” into the Crook County Jail system.  This is no fun at all, and is deliberately made to be extremely unpleasant by the scum who run the Crook County Jail into an ordeal that no one who must suffer through it is likely to forget.  Handcuffed right wrist to a fellow prisoner’s left wrist, you are herded into a Cook County Sheriff’s jail bus and oftentimes driven from police station or courthouse to police station and courthouse to pick up more prisoners until the bus is either full or has completed its route.  Then you are taken to the Crook County Jail at 26th and California on Chicago’s south side.  Here you are forced through a series of petty humiliations that add up to a major humiliation – it’s not utterly unbearable – hundreds of men and women go through it and survive the ordeal every day – but it is inhuman.  And though it would be needlessly cruel even if it was being done to a self-confessed and convicted baby killer, the fact that it is being done every single day of the year to people who have not yet  been to a single actual court hearing, and who haven’t been convicted of anything except their poverty and/or their firm belief in their actual innocence – should be shocking to any person who believes in the concept that a person is “innocent until proven guilty”.  This entire “processing” experience routinely takes 8-10 HOURS, starting around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and lasting until 11PM to 1 AM the next morning, give or take.

First, you are driven through the city in a bus that has expanded-metal mesh fitted over all the windows so that you can not see out of, and no one can see in to the bus.  The bus is painted in the colors of the Crook County Sheriff’s Department, and clearly labeled as a prison bus.  This is a modern-day equivalent of a tumbrel, in which prisoners were publicly humiliated while on their way to and from jail, either to court, or to a place of execution.  The fact that a prisoner can not be seen clearly enough to make out his or her identity isn’t of much consolation to anyone unfortunate enough to be riding inside one of these buses.  It is indeed a humiliating experience for most people.

When you arrive at Crook County Jail, you are driven past several lines of razor-wire topped chain-link fences, with more coils of razor wire stretched out lengthwise between the fences; up to the razor-wire-topped gates that stand next to the guard tower at the entrance.  Once the driver and additional guard riding inside the bus go into the guard shack and surrender their weapons, they re-board the bus, the gates are opened and the bus drives into the jail complex, past prison buildings old and new, housing prisoners dangerous in some buildings and relatively harmless in others.

The bus winds its way through the prison “campus” until it arrives behind a seemingly windowless brick building 3 stories tall directly across the narrow road from another, much taller building that is under construction and that will house hundreds more prisoners some day in the not very distant future… because this entire jail complex is hugely overcrowded, and the Cook County Sheriff has been under a federal court order for more than a decade to stop cramming the facility with more human beings than it can legally, “humanely” hold.  These court orders have been ignored for decades while the United States, largely due to its senseless persecution of millions of people in the “War on Drugs”, has seen its prison population explode over the past quarter century until it the US has “achieved” the dubious distinction among industrialized nations of having the largest number of citizens, per capita, “living” in jails and prisons.

The prisoners are now made to get off the bus, and are herded, in twos, across the decrepit sidewalk along the decrepit wall and into what now becomes more apparent as you go inside it, a very decrepit building.  There are lawnmowers and snow removal machines inside the garage area you enter first; birds have, most incongruously, built nests inside this place! – and you head down the stairs, led by the driver and guard from the bus, to the first of many locked, heavy steel doors you will pass through.

[For reasons of space and time, I will omit the rest of this processing info.  You get to meet your first guards, who try to impress upon you the fact that they are guards and that they will not tolerate any disobeying of orders.  You are first once again body-searched – even though this was done already before you boarded the prison bus – for weapons, drugs or other contraband herded through: a metal detector; then taken to a bullpen – a jail cell maybe as big as a 20′ x 20′ storage space, with a filthy toilet and sink – and crammed in there until there is no room to sit and perhaps more than half the room is full of men forced to stand for up to several hours, shoulder to shoulder.  You may or may not get some food at this point, consisting of what you will be eating twice a day for as long as you stay there: a plastic 8 oz. bottle of some fake “juice”, and two bologna or salami sandwiches with mustard, on white bread. Eventually, your name is called, and you are taken to another bullpen – and crammed in there for another couple of hours with 60 or 75 men, again shoulder-to-shoulder.  Then your name is called again and you are led to a place where your photo and fingerprints are taken; you then enter another large room where you have a brief medical evaluation and you are crammed into another bullpen for a couple of hours where you wait to be “voice printed” – ostensibly in order for you to be able to use the prison telephone system whereby your friends and family will get ripped off to the tune of $10.00 per collect phone call made from the prison to them.  Then, it’s back to the overcrowded bullpen until your name is once again called and you are brought before the guards who oversee the “prisoner property” department of the jail, where you surrender your jacket, any other “contraband” items of clothing such as shoelaces and belts, and all your cash, all of which you are then given a receipt for.  Next, you get separated into another bullpen where you are segregated into medium or minimum security prisoners.
From here, your name is once again called and you are again handcuffed and herded, in twos, back through the building the way you came in, up the stairs and out through the garage into the open air.  Now you are ordered to walk across the campus of the jail until you arrive in another large room on the first floor of an old, three-story housing unit, where your handcuffs are once again removed and you are forced to go through yet another metal detector.  Yet again, you are placed into a large bullpen and made to wait, again, until your name is called, at which time you are made to go behind a flimsy room divider like you see in a doctor’s office to remove your clothing and you are handed a prison uniform and your towels, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste.  You change into your new clothing while your “civilian” clothing is placed into a garment bag which you have labeled with your own name and taken away by the inmates who work for the prison.  Your clothing will be held in these bags until you are released.

You may or may not be given some bologna sandwiches at this time, depending on how long you have been in the jail.  You are then placed in yet another room and made to wait until your name is called again, when, again, you will be handcuffed and led across the “campus” to your final destination, the dormitory where you will be spending the next few days, weeks, months, or in some very unfortunate cases, years.  Once you arrive at your dorm, you are (usually) given two flat sheets and a blanket and told of your bunk assignment.  Oftentimes, it is so late at night (or early in the morning) that everyone in the dorm is asleep when you arrive.  One of the overnight inmate-workers takes you to your bunk, where you make your bed and by now, goddamnit you are most likely so exhausted from your ordeal that you are eagerly looking forward to your arrival at this bed, no matter its condition or location.

Doesn’t that sound like fun?  If you enjoyed it, then good for you, because you can now look forward to going through this same procedure – minus the fingerprinting, photo-taking, voice-printing and property-surrendering – TWICE EVERY TIME YOU GO TO COURT!  And once again when you are finally released!  And every single time you are made to go through this ordeal, throughout the entire process, the guards will make sure to take as long as they possibly can to perform each and every one of their “duties”, wasting time joking with their fellow guards, exchanging gossip or flirting with each other, and simply wandering around aimlessly – and they will scrupulously observe every coffee and meal break and every shift change regardless of how many hundreds of prisoners are being forced to remain stuffed shoulder-to-shoulder inside every one of those stinking, overcrowded, toilet-paperless and filthy bullpens until the guards return or are relieved!]
You asked if I had any roommates?  Uh… yes, I did.  I had 300 roommates, crammed into a room approximately 100 feet long by 75 feet wide. The Cook County jail is world-famous for its continuously overcrowded condition.  It’s so overcrowded that they are using “condemned” areas of the jail to temporarily house new inmates – in spite of the fact that – thanks to a successful class-action lawsuit against the Crook County Sheriff’s Department – every inmate housed in a “condemned” section of the jail is paid $80.00 for every day they spend in those areas.  Whenever a prisoner is released – either because his friends or family have paid his bail,  he has served his time or (rarely) won his case – and is allowed to go home, within a few hours – and often within 15 minutes – another man is taking his place.

We were allowed to sleep about 5 hours a day; had access to 2 televisions – one which was for Spanish-language programs, the other for English… so mostly we watched either stupid-ass daytime TV or stupid-ass sitcoms.  Since the population of American jails is over 75% black (and it was just before and during the NBA playoffs) we watched a lot of basketball.  We had no access at all to daily newspapers, so except for our ability to watch the local evening news (and an occasional national news broadcast) we had no ability to keep up with current events.  There is no access to the prison library – in fact, the guards claim – even though  “Public Library” is listed on the request forms handed out to every prisoner who asks for one – that “there is no prison library”.  All reading material is sent in from friends and family, and passed around from prisoner to prisoner – and every article of printed matter guarded rather jealously.  And, of course, we had no access to normal telephones or the Internet.  The telephones are not allowed to use directory assistance, so unless you have memorized all your friends’ numbers, you are “up shit’s creek” when it comes to contacting the outside world.  And the phone system is designed to rob everyone who uses it, as well as to make phone calls coming in from incarcerated friends and family members unwelcome to everyone who receives a call from jail: they calls are all “collect” calls; the recipient has to set up a payment plan with the swindling company that runs the phone service; and the calls cost $10.00 each for 15 minutes, no matter how long you actually stay on the line.  The company routinely overbills people for the phone calls, and if the phone call is cut off before the 15 minutes is up, too bad – it still costs the full $10.00.

The overriding experience of life at the Crook County Jail is one of utter boredom.  The TV is always tuned to something worthless; there is no radio available, usually (although the TVs can play a few radio stations); no newspapers are available; there is no reading material at all unless you have something sent to you or you cajole a book from a fellow prisoner… many guys just choose to sleep all day and only arise from their bunks for meals.
Many, many times I heard men say – men who knew that they were definitely going to be convicted and sent to an actual state or federal prison – that they couldn’t wait to get there, because almost everything is better in prison – the food, access to TV and radio, relative privacy of cells, access to educational opportunities – than it is in Crook County’s jails.  They’d rather deal with the increased violence they routinely face in prison than have to vegetate in that crappy Cook County Jail!

It is important to keep in mind that in all cases, although many of these guys had arrest records going back years, none of them were currently convicted of anything.  Many had “violated parole” by missing a court date or by having failed a drug test, or by having been arrested for some trivial misdemeanor.  We were all awaiting trial, and so, “innocent until proven guilty”, right?

Exercise  was not available to us at all.  Cook County Jail has a huge gym and basketball courts everywhere but they go unused except for the gym, which is used for mainly Christian religious indoctrination.  This is one of the most significant human rights violations at this jail; some men had been held in the minimum-security wings of this jail awaiting the final disposition of their cases for as much as 3 years without ever having a chance to get any kind of significant physical exercise.  As a result, men and women who are detained here for extended periods of time suffer severe deterioration of their physical health.

Contrary to bourgeois propaganda, and the fact that I was in medium-to-minimum-security wings of the Cook County Jail, there was very little fighting (2 minor fights over the 8 weeks in total that I was in jail) and as far as I was aware, not a single incidence of sexual harassment, never mind rape.  In fact, it was quite amazing how well these guys behaved towards each other given the very difficult conditions we were all forced to live under.

The food is garbage, and there was plenty of it served to us.  Breakfast was the only halfway decent meal of the day.  We got a bowl of sugary cereal (frosted flakes, cocoa puffs or fruit loops), a box of “juice” and some bread (under cooked onion bagel, sometimes a couple slices of bread with bologna or a slice of yellow American cheese.). Occasionally we’d get a hard-boiled egg or a tube of peanut butter or jelly. For lunch it was always the same: two bologna or salami sandwiches with one packet of either mustard or mayonnaise.  This came with a packet of powdered artificially-flavored fruit drink, and a bag of chips.  Dinner was some kind of dog food served wet or made up into meatballs, served with a tablespoon of salad greens and a heaping helping of some kind of starchy crap – undercooked potatoes or rice; a scoop of vegetable (green beans or carrots) and a couple of oreo-type cookies.

As a result of this shitty diet, practically everyone was severely constipated.  Guys went a week at a time without taking a shit, even though they definitely felt the need to go.  On several occasions, I had such a difficult time taking a shit that after waiting a week to finally seriously feel that this time it would be a real shit and not another futile attempt to expel a turd, after 20 minutes of straining to take a dump I finally had to reach down and actually pull the shit out of my ass with my hand.  After that, I stopped eating all the bread, bologna sandwiches, undercooked potatoes and rice and undercooked bagels and traded that junk for salad and veggies.  That worked to stop the severest constipation symptoms for me, although I was far from my usual healthy digestive system.  Putting up with this for a couple of weeks is barely tolerable; having to deal with this for a year or three would be very bad for one’s health.

The only avenue for anyone to get some decent food was to buy it from the commissary, which we could do once a week.  Another private company was hired to provide these commissary services – at inflated prices.  The way that worked is that when you get arrested, they seize all your cash and use it to open up an account from which your commissary purchases are deducted.  You can also have your family and friends add money to your account from “outside”.  You can buy foil packets of tuna fish, mackerel, salmon; packets of mustard, mayo and hot sauce; squeezable “cheese”; peanut butter and jelly packets; and toiletries like “Magic Shave” (no razors – the shittiest razors in the world are given out, and re-collected very sparingly, by the guards every weeknight) and toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and soap, as well as t-shirts, underwear, socks and “shower shoes”.  All kinds of junk food: cookies, candy, chips and super-sugary ‘baked goods’ are available (which is what most people load up on every week).  You can also buy crappy ballpoint pens with the hard plastic tube removed (possible weapon!), stamps, envelopes and allegedly, paper – although in the entire 6 weeks I was there, I tried to buy paper 5 times and was never able to get any, though I did buy stamped envelopes and a couple pens.

The guards – some of them treated people like as if we were convicts not worthy of contempt, and never missed an opportunity to bellow out idiotic “orders” as if we were dumb animals.  These unarmed cretins could easily have been attacked and beaten to death by the prisoners (who outnumbered them 10-1) except for the fact that the prisoners ignored them and held them in utter contempt, not even worth talking back to.  There were a few guards who tried to act tough, and I saw and heard of a couple of prisoners who were beaten up badly by guards for very minor disciplinary infractions.  About a third of the guards tried to treat us decently, seemingly unaware that the vast majority of us hated their guts anyway.

The demeanor of the guards, universally, was as if they were stars of a reality TV show based on the “Police Academy” movies.  They were laughing and joking all the time; at night, they’d fall asleep in a room full of 300 prisoners; they would bark out orders and call us “asshole”, “stupid” or other epithets intended to be demeaning, they’d watch movies all shift, only grudgingly performing the services they were supposed to provide us.  Ask them for a grievance form and they would always say they were out of them.  Ask them anything and 9 times out of ten they either didn’t know or they lied and gave you some bullshit answer.  The only section of the jail I was in where the guards treated the prisoners like they were human was in the section – medium security – housing mostly gang members.  Here, the guards gave the prisoners a lot of leeway to run things as they saw fit.  The gangs had taken sheets and made curtains around one or two toilets so you could have privacy when you took a dump; they also set up a couple of sheets in the shower area so you could have privacy when showering; only one person was back there at a time.  (The showers in this section were in an open room next to the row of toilets, which had no partitions between them).

Most of us were given a bath towel, a facecloth, a tube of toothpaste and a crappy short toothbrush and a small bar of soap for our “toilet”; I didn’t get this complete set when I was there last – no facecloth and dirty bath towel.  Apparently the jail was so overcrowded they didn’t have enough of these to go around.

The beds were steel twin-size bunk beds placed about two feet apart.  You had a plastic mattress, two sheets and a thin blanket per bed – although I only got 2 sheets and no blanket.  Often times the guards left the air conditioning on all day and night, dropping the temperature at one time to the mid-50s.  Everyone was forced to wear their blankets all day to stay warm, which is a violation of jail rules.  The guards all pretended that they had no control over the heating system.  This kind of low-level harassment was de rigeur at this jail.  All kinds of petty insults were constantly being tossed our way by the majority of the staff and supervisors.

The prisoners – even in the gang section I was in for a couple of weeks – largely treated each other with a great deal of respect.  They tested you when you first came in, especially if you were white, to see if you were a chickenshit – or a racist.  Once you passed the “test”, although you certainly weren’t placed on the same level of respect accorded a fellow gang member, you were basically OK as a “neutron” – an unaffiliated fellow prisoner.  Once I proved that I didn’t think I was in any way superior to black people and that I could hang out with everyone as an equal I was fine.  Immediately, guys offered to share what they had with me; shower shoes, extra toilet paper, even some food.  We hung out watching TV and talking about our cases, some of us strategizing as to how we were going to win our cases after having researched the relevant legal precedents we discovered during our rarely-granted and brief visits to the law library. All in all, I’d have to say that some of the most decent human beings I’ve ever met in Chicago in more than 20 years I met while I was in Cook County Jail.

That pretty much covers it.  Enforced boredom punctuated by meals not fit to eat, then more boredom, sleep, boredom, shower, sleep, boredom, the ordeal of going to and returning from court (which routinely takes 16 hours!) and the occasional book or magazine between periods of boredom, sleep, boredom and dog food.  Oh yes, and the periodic mandatory assembly of all the prisoners in each dormitory to sit through a religious indoctrination presented by a fundamentalist Christian group under the guise of some type of “social work program” or other.
In my case, after going through all that shit – twice – the charges against me in two of the three separate cases against me were dropped, which enabled me to once again qualify for a personal recognizance bond on the third case (called an I-bond in Crook County), at which time I was deemed no longer a danger to the public and allowed to be released from jail… but only after going through the “processing” ordeal two more times on my way from court and then out of the jail…!

Copyright 2012 – Independent Workers Party – Chicago, IL

Spelling corrected, slight improvements made 26 January 2014