The Truth Behind the Push for Criminal Justice Reform

Demonstrators block traffic as they march through the intersection of Prospect and E. 9th St. on December 29, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Angelo Merendino/Getty Images

The current political push for “criminal justice” reform is picking up bipartisan support in Congress, but the history of the “prison reform” shows movement shows the leftists driving the effort have a dangerous agenda rooted in revolutionary communism.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew McCarthy recently described the sentencing reform bill currently working its way through Congress as “the worst combination of bad elements coming together.” McCarthy, currently a Senior Fellow at National Review, told SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Daily host Stephen K. Bannon that the bill was sponsored by an alliance of groups including the Black Lives Matter movement.

However, as bad as the bill is on its face, it’s really just a step in a wider plan that the American radical left has been working on for five decades: the release of all prisoners. As bizarre as that sounds, the truth is that it wants to release as many prisoners as possible because for the left, opening the the prison doors door is the key to set the Revolution in motion.

If you want to understand the revolutionary left’s zeal for prison reform, a man named George Jackson is the place you need to start.

George Jackson

Although he’s virtually unknown to the general public today, in his time George Jackson was a best-selling author, a well-known and influential leader in the black liberation movement and a dangerous thug.

The left-wing website The Black Agenda Report tells its readers that if they don’t know George Jackson, “you have had a very incomplete education on the Black Liberation Movement.” It describes Jackson in glowing terms:

Jackson was an African convict who became an activist, Marxist, author, a member of the Black Panther Party, and co-founder of the Black Guerrilla Family prison organization. He achieved global fame as one of the Soledad Brothers before his execution by prison guards in San Quentin Prison. George and his younger brother Jonathan Jackson and Khatari Gaulden are central to understanding Black August.

Jackson was an African born in America who became a Field Marshal of the Black Panther Party while in prison, where he spent the last 12 years of his life. His book of published letters, Soledad Brother, became an instant classic.

That’s a good summary of how the left see George Jackson, but the truth is far uglier.

By the time he turned 18 years old in the year 1961, Jackson had spent years in California’s Youth Authority Corrections Facility for a series of burglaries, assaults, and robberies.

As Bryan Burrough writes in his richly detailed history of leftist radical groups Days of Rage:

George Jackson would spend his entire adult life behind the walls of California prisons, initially in a juvenile facility, then San Quentin, and later Soledad, a hulking fortress outside the farm town of Salinas, an hour south of San Francisco. He was an extraordinarily violent prisoner, earning forty-seven disciplinary actions in just under ten years, an average of one every ten weeks.

In custody, Burrough writes that Jackson “worked as muscle for Mexican gangs, then branched out into loan-sharking and homosexual pimping.”

Days of Rage also describes George Jackson as “angry, sullen, irascible and legendarily mean-spirited,” pointing out that “no doubt part of Jackson’s anger arose from his 1965 parole review, where his own father testified that his son was better off in prison.”

How did violent criminal George Jackson become an author and famous black leader whose book would get critical raves from the New York Times?

Simple. Jackson took the shortcut to media respectability: he became a communist.

Jackson said that in prison he “met Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Engels, and Mao (…) and they redeemed me.”

After getting ghostwriting helping from his attorney, George Jackson was festooned with the trappings of an intellectual for the release of his book Soledad Brother. Jackson was given a set of horn-rimmed glasses and then introduction to the book written by French philosopher Jean Genet.

It worked. Burroughs writes:

Published in October 1970, Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson was an immediate best seller, a critical and commercial sensation. The New York Times called it “one of the most significant and important documents since the first black was pushed off the ship at Jamestown colony.”

Here’s an example of Jackson’s prose, where he admires the VietCong for the guerrilla tactics they used killing U.S. troops and suggests that black in the streets do the same.

Jackson writes:

Everything, I mean every trick gadget in the manual of Western arms, has been thrown at the VC and they have thrown them back, twisted and ruined; they have written books and pamphlets telling us how we could do the same. It’s obvious that fighting ultimately depends upon men, not gadgets. So I must conclude that those who stand between us and the pics, who protect the marketplace, are either coward or traitors. Probably both.

To communist revolutionaries, George Jackson is admired not despite his thuggery, but because of it. The Left ate up George Jackson’s self-portrayal as a furious black killing machine, ripe to be out in the streets doing the front line dirty work of fighting the revolution.

George Jackson died in a hail of gunfire during a 1971 prison escape attempt but his legacy also lives on in one of the key policy goals of the Black Lives Matter: “mass incarceration”, which is their code for freeing all prisoners in the United States.

Days of Rage describes the aftermath of Jackson’s death:

In a split second George Jackson went from messiah to martyr. Two thousand attended his funeral at a church in Oakland; during the services the Weather Underground detonated bombs in protest, one in San Francisco (…) and a second in Sacramento.

Burroughs points out:

…although he was quickly forgotten by mainstream America, the memory of George Jackson (…) would inspire several underground groups in the next few years, the last of which would not be broken up until thirteen years later, in 1984. There are Bay Area radicals who hang George Jackson’s picture in honor to this day.

The contemporary Black Lives Matter movement that’s treated with respect by politicians from President Obama to Hillary Clinton to Marco Rubio also reveres George Jackson.

For example, the Malcolm X Grassroots movement that taught seminars at last year’s Black Lives Matter convention in Cleveland, called the Movement for Black Lives Convening referred to George Jackson “a great organizer of fellow inmates which made him a threat to the status quo.”

That “organizing” Jackson did remains one of his most enduring legacies. He helped form a prison gang based on the communist teachings called The Black Guerrilla Family that still exists today as a major prison gang.

Part One of a series. In Part Two, we’ll look at the Black Guerrilla Family, Jackson’s connection to radical communist Angela Davis and how those links created today’s “criminal justice reform” movement.


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