Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mike Ainsworth and The Criminalized Society

Many people have been commenting on the callous absurdity of the NOPD's policy of releasing murder victim's criminal records, especially in light of the recent killing of ex-criminal and good samaritan Mike Ainsworth.
Ex-con drug dealer and good samaritan Mike Ainsworth.
The NOPD has been trying to paint homicide victims as "criminals" to show that the city's high murder rate is a result of "criminals" feuding and not of random killings. But, the problem is that many people in New Orleans have arrest records due to the nature of the apartheid police state system in place.

The NOPD and the entire power structure should really be called out for their demonization of "criminals" as a category, which includes many people capable of the kind of selfless heroism Mike Ainsworth lost his life displaying. The real problem to be addressed is not that the city is demonizing the dead by calling them criminals, it's that the practice implicitly vilifies anyone with an arrest record in the first place as bad people!

The NOPD's policy is akin to saying "if you like the Saints, you might be more likely to be murdered." While true, it is a completely inconsequential correlation. The characteristics that are consequential to one's likelihood of becoming a murder statistic are, not coincidentally, also the same factors that lead to someone having arrest records in the first place.

So while it's true that you have a higher chance of becoming a murder victim if you have a criminal record, and that this fact should not be used to speak ill of the dead by the NOPD, it's also true that a person has a higher chance of being murdered if they are from the 'hood, are poor, are not white, are young, and are a man; these are the very same factors that also lead to a higher chance of having a criminal record.

In America, 40% of youth under 23 have been arrested. In New Orleans it's surely higher than that. With New Orleans racking up 74,455 arrests in 2010 alone -- in a city with a population of only 300,000 -- many people here have arrest records, with most, like Mike Ainsworth, having non-violent charges or arrests resulting from the apartheid-esque "War on Drugs" (~70% of all arrests at OPP are for such offenses).

So maybe instead of NOPD making murder victim's lives appear less valuable through demonization-by-criminalization the city should acknowledge that the very same people who often become victims on the streets are also the people being locked up by the police and prison system (and this means those institutions are failures both at preventing violence, and also as effective institutions at ending it). The city must then stop treating them like criminals, because they are victims, too, and begin to heal and repair the neglected communities that have created the conditions for becoming both a "criminal" as well as a potential murder victim in the first place. 

What if instead of making money off of "criminals" as the raw material justifying our criminal justice system, we valued the lives of criminalized human beings while they are still alive, instead of only after they show up as the murder statistics that make our tourist industry nervous? 

How about we ALWAYS refuse the demonization of those with criminal records by the very same cops who locked them up, and not only when they are murdered? And not only when they are murdered while being a good samaritan.

If nothing else, hopefully this lesson is clear from Mike Ainsworth's life and will not be overlooked: when the system is guilty, criminals may be the only ones with any integrity left. May his heroic act help bring an end to the criminalization of large parts of our city, a situation which only benefits the few rich and powerful who don't care if people keep dying because they profit immensely within the violent status quo.


  1. Caring for those who are pushed into the criminal class by our society before they become murder victims is the only way to stop this insane cycle of violence.

  2. Shitting on the poor while they are alive (criminalizing them), then using their deaths to justify shitting on the poor even more!

    gotta love NOPD....

  3. The policy of the the city is an attempt to blame 'criminals' for their own murders, instead of taking responsibility for failing to keep people safe, which they can never really acknowledge they will always fail at, because it would mean questioning the very core of what they do: enforcing poverty and inflicting institutionalized violence on others.

    They don't care about making people safe at all. Their policies have led to the violence on the streets, and they try and pass off the blame. Cowards.