Sad Clichés

Sep 22, 2011 by

If you can tell a lot about a society from how it treats its weakest members, well, let’s see how we’re doing:

People argue in the comments to this Bloomberg article on the treatment of special education needs students in New Orleans’ “system of schools” that the ones who are ultimately to blame are the lawyers, along with the assertion that “Fair does not mean equal.” Sure, the article’s a tad obsessed with name-dropping the donors such as Oprah, Bill Gates, and Drew Brees who have contributed to the schools that are under scrutiny, but this is a problem that goes beyond the donors, having been brought to everyone’s attention last year when Brentin Mock’s amazing disappearing/reappearing article on the special education discrimination lawsuit brought against the Louisiana Department of Education was published on Newsweek‘s website. There have always been problems with equitable treatment of those with physical, mental, and/or earning disabilities in public education, but with less money going to traditional public schools, combined with charters whose very existence depends on the performance of their student populations, the problems seem to be getting worse.

When the local population gets a little older and down on their luck…well, let’s see how they get treated when they get into trouble:

Community members told the Department of Justice of their concerns about jail conditions under Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman (on Tuesday Sept. 20th) at a Central City forum  organized by the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition.

The coalition, whose 30 member organizations include the ACLU of Louisiana, the National Lawyers Guild, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, is pushing the Justice Department to follow through on a two-year-old threat to sue Gusman if he did not improve conditions at the jail.

“There have been 13 deaths at the jail since then,” said coalition member Norris Henderson, who runs the nonprofit Voice Of The Ex-Offender. “And conditions have not improved.”

Justice Department attorney Regina Jansen insisted that her agency will pursue a federal court-ordered and supervised agreement with Gusman, called a consent decree.

“I’m here to tell you that it’s an open and ongoing investigation,” Jansen said, highlighting recent allegations made about prisoner rape, abuse by guards and violence inside the jail. “It’s these types of meetings and events that give us more insight into what you want to see in our consent decree.”

Listening to the stories is a harrowing experience, indeed. A second meeting is slated for October 1st. Details are at the bottom of Matt Davis’ post at The Lens.

And then we get to Troy Davis’ passing. To a population that seems to value life only when it is unborn or in a vegetable state. To greater numbers of us who think that the death penalty is a good idea. Perhaps it goes hand-in-hand with hopelessness and fear too many of us seem to be feeling in these trying times, when our progeny are having more trouble finding jobs than we did – turn on each other when we can’t do the things we want? Keep the wheels turning on a decision made based on circumstantial evidence because that’s how the death penalty rolls, citizens? Even the rabbis struggled with this after the destruction of the Second Temple, struggles made all the more theoretical by the fact that the Romans didn’t even grant the Sanhedrin the authority to put anybody to death in the first place.

I still hold to what I thought last night when I saw the single sentence decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case: we are still a lost people. We need to keep searching. Questioning ourselves is not a sign of weakness. When will we really get that?


Related Posts


Share This