Protests Against Congo's President Turn Deadly

A woman and children pass riot police during a protest against the president in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, on Monday. John Bompengo/AP hide caption

toggle caption John Bompengo/AP

Dozens of people died in the Democratic Republic of Congo after the country’s election commission announced it would postpone the presidential election, and protests turned violent Monday and Tuesday according to Human Rights Watch.

In Kinshasa, hundreds of people protested President Joseph Kabila, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. Kabila took over as president in 2001 after his father, Laurent Kabila, was assassinated, and his term officially ends this year.

Although the constitution requires Kabila to step down in December, NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports, so far nothing has been done to plan an election that is supposed to be held in November.

When the country’s election commission announced it would not set a date for the vote, some people took to the streets to demonstrate. Photos show police came out with water cannons and tear gas, and protesters armed themselves with rocks and blocked roads with burning tires. Businesses burned, windows shattered and the traffic through the sprawling city shut down. In the city of Goma, demonstrators were met with police in riot gear, wielding flares and tear gas.

Reuters reports at least 44 people have died, 37 protesters and six police officers.

A statement by a State Department spokesperson, John Kirby, said the U.S. is “disappointed” that elections have not been announced as planned.

Kirby’s statement continues:

“We are also deeply alarmed by reports of violence that occurred alongside civic protests today in Kinshasa, and which reportedly has already resulted in the deaths of protesters and police.

“Today’s events underscore the need for a truly inclusive dialogue process aimed at reaching consensus on holding presidential elections as soon as technically feasible and guaranteeing the country’s first democratic transition of power.”

It is not the first time the government of Joseph Kabila has been involved in violence against protesters. In 2015, Human Rights Watch reports security forces fired teargas and bullets at people protesting a proposed election law change that would have delayed voting to take a full census.

Police in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, launched flares during a demonstration on Monday. Mustafa Mulopwe/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Mustafa Mulopwe/AFP/Getty Images

In another 2015 attack on opposition members, government officials hired men to beat protesters with clubs, according to the Human Rights Watch report.

The report describes the attack this way:

“Senior security and ruling party officials hired thugs to assault peaceful protesters. Armed with clubs and wooden sticks, the assailants beat the demonstrators, spreading fear and chaos throughout the crowd of several thousand.

“Several recruits told Human Rights Watch that they had been called to a meeting with officials at a military camp in Kinshasa the night before, paid about $65 each, and given instructions on how to conduct the attack.”

Tom Perriello, the U.S. Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa, visited Congo earlier in September to discuss election plans with government officials and opposition leaders. As he was leaving he was “blocked and verbally threatened” in a part of Kinshasa’s airport that is “tightly secured by Congolese authorities,” according to a State Department statement condemning the harassment.

“We remain ready to impose additional targeted sanctions on individuals who have been involved in abuses or violence,” Perriello later told a news conference in New York, according to Reuters.

Since May, members of the U.S. Senate have been calling for sanctions against Congo over human rights violations and power-grabbing by Kabila. In June, a Senate subcommittee passed a resolution urging Kabila’s government to “comply with constitutional limits on presidential terms,” but so far no sanctions have been imposed.

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Regulating Self-Driving Cars For Safety Even Before They're Built

A group of self-driving Uber vehicles are lined up to take journalists on rides during a media preview at the company’s Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh earlier this month. Gene J. Puskar/AP hide caption

toggle caption Gene J. Puskar/AP

The U.S. government wants to help you take your hands off the wheel.

The Department of Transportation on Tuesday issued its Federal Automated Vehicle Policy, which outlines how manufacturers and developers can assure safe design of driverless vehicles, tells states what responsibilities they will have and points out potential new tools for ensuring safety.

Regulators say they want to prepare for the transition to self-driving vehicles, which they say will save money, time and lives. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx tells NPR’s Robert Siegel he hopes these guidelines will ensure that safety is a priority as the technology continues to be developed.

Asked to predict how soon self-driving vehicles will represent, say, 25 percent of the cars on the road, Foxx says, “I don’t know about percentages, but it’s very clear that there is a growing interest in the marketplace to bring these vehicles into the lives of Americans. And it’s incumbent upon us to get ahead of it and to make sure that safety is part of the thought process at the very beginning, and that’s part of what our policy will set forth.”


Interview Highlights

On why self-driving cars need federal regulation in the early stages

Well I would say that there’s not really a conflict between innovation and safety. That you can actually have innovation, you can have safety, and you can innovate in the safety arena if you take the right approach.

Secretary Of Transportation: ‘I See The Future’ When I’m In A Self-Driving Car

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We did not have the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration back when the Model T was put on the assembly line, and if we had, we probably would have saved untold numbers of lives by having that kind of vigilance at the beginning. We have that opportunity today. This is a once-in-a-hundred-year moment to capture a technology while it’s in its early stages and build a culture of safety within it, and that’s what we intend to do.

On whether the guidelines require manufacturers to share research

We’ve had good experience with data sharing among highly competitive cohort of industry. I would say the Federal Aviation Administration is our best example of this, where data is shared anonymously, but it has helped us in many ways predict safety challenges and avert safety challenges within the industry.

We think this model could be used in the auto industry, particularly with a driverless environment where there is going to be so much more data available than we currently have today. We certainly want to encourage collaboration within the industry.

On the issue of liability with self-driving cars

I think that’s a question that’s going to need further conversation, and in the guidance we’ve laid out we expect the states to be engaged in that discussion as well. …

The policy recognizes there are areas that we have deep knowledge today and can develop policy around, and there are areas that need to be discussed over a longer time frame and that’s one of them.

On whether U.S. infrastructure is ready for self-driving vehicles

Well, I have questions about whether our streets are in a condition for human drivers today. That’s why I went and argued so strenuously for a long-term surface bill. Obviously, our infrastructure needs to be kept at a good state of repair.

I also believe that over the next decade or so we’re going to start integrating more technological capability into the infrastructure itself — much more sophisticated street signal alignment. The street lights networks that we have today actually communicating with cars, and turning off when there are no cars on the road, and turning on when there are. I think you’re going to see a lot of that technology take root, and you’re going to see it at the municipal level, at the state level.

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City issues subpoena over sinking San Francisco luxury high-rise

By Curtis Skinner
| SAN FRANCISCO

San Francisco’s city attorney on Tuesday issued a subpoena to the developers of a luxury condominium high-rise that is tilting and has sunk more than a foot (30 cm), to determine if structural issues were appropriately conveyed to purchasers.

Some 400 residential units of the Millennium Tower, which opened in the heart of downtown in 2009, have been purchased, and City Attorney Dennis Herrera said he is worried the building’s settling was not properly disclosed.

“I have serious concerns that the disclosures required by state law … did not contain information about the settling of the Property,” Herrera wrote in a letter to the developers, Millennium Partners.

P.J. Johnston, a spokesman for Millennium Partners, said by phone: “We would have made this information available to him irrespective of a subpoena, all he had to do was call.”

The Millennium Tower is among the highest-profile buildings constructed amid San Francisco’s real estate boom, though its sinking raises concerns about development on the city’s seismically vulnerable downtown.

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority, created under state law to oversee the creation of the Transbay Transit Center nearby, said last month the building has sunk 16 inches (41 cm) – or 10 more inches than expected during its lifespan – and also that it was tilting.

The authority said the 58-story building is set upon a concrete platform with piles driven 80 feet (24 m) deep instead of reaching all the way to bedrock another 120 feet down.

Two residents filed a proposed class action last month against the developer as well as the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, which excavated near the tower for the transit center.

The lawsuit says the building is still sinking at a rate of 1 inch per year and would likely settle another 15 inches. It also alleged tilting at the building’s base translates to a 15-inch tilt at the top.

The lawsuit said developers first disclosed the potential foundational problems in June 2015.

The authority has blamed the settlement on the developers for failing to anchor the building to bedrock, while Millennium has blamed the authority’s excavation.

Johnston said many buildings in the area were built like the Millennium Tower and the building passed a seismic and structural safety study after settling was discovered in 2014. He said the homeowner’s association was notified of the study at the time.

Johnston said preliminary results of a recently commissioned study showed the building is still safe.

(Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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'Atlas Obscura' Tour Of Manhattan Finds Hidden Wonders In A Well-Trodden Place

Atlas Obscura

Sometimes the world can feel a bit uniform: the same department stores in every shopping mall, the same fast food chains on every corner. The website Atlas Obscura will make you reconsider that sense of monotony.

“The world is still this huge, bizarre, vast place filled with astounding stuff,” says co-founder Dylan Thuras. “And if you sort of tilt your view a little bit and start looking for it, you start finding it everywhere.”

Thuras’ new book, also called Atlas Obscura, is a guide to the world’s hidden wonders — like a ventriloquist dummy museum in Kentucky or a 230-foot-wide hole in Turkmenistan that’s been on fire for 40 years.

“That’s an amazing place,” Thuras says. “And it’s kind of one of these places that when you find out it exists, you’re a little bit surprised you didn’t know it existed before.”

But you don’t have go all the way to Turkmenistan to see these places; Thuras says there’s plenty of wonder in your own backyard. To prove it, he took NPR on a tour of the wonders in his backyard: Manhattan.

Thuras starts his tour on the 6 train. “Basically, you stay on the 6 train after its last stop [Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall],” he says. “You’re able to look out the subway car windows and see the City Hall station, which is one of the most beautiful subway stations ever created. It’s been shuttered since 1945, but it is this immaculate space. It’s this little piece of lost New York grandeur.”

The station has hanging chandeliers and arched ceilings that are covered in green and white tiles. (For the best view, Atlas Obscura recommends sitting in the 7th, 8th or 9th car.)

Manhattan’s long-shuttered City Hall subway station has hanging chandeliers and arched ceilings that are covered in green and white tiles. Julian Dunn/Flickr hide caption

toggle caption Julian Dunn/Flickr

The next stop is an artwork by Walter De Maria. It’s called the Earth Room, “which is what it sounds like,” Thuras says: “It is 280,000 pounds of dirt that has been sitting in a room in a SoHo loft.”

A little sign outside instructs visitors to buzz in and walk up to the second floor. There, they’ll find a loft in which the entire floor is covered in “rich, nicely groomed-looking dirt,” as Thuras describes it. Somebody has raked and misted the dirt every week since De Maria created the work in 1977. “It’s got the real smell of a forest floor,” Thuras says.

American artist Walter De Maria created the Earth Room in a second-floor SoHo loft in 1977. Katie Hargrave/Flickr hide caption

toggle caption Katie Hargrave/Flickr

Spanish tourist Juan Carlos Fernandez’s visit coincided with NPR’s. He says he’s wanted to visit the Earth Room since 1986, “but for different reasons every time we were here in the city, we couldn’t.” Was it worth the 30-year wait? Fernandez says yes. “I am so thrilled right now.”

After the Earth Room, it’s time for lunch at the kind of restaurant Atlas Obscura loves. “We are going to El Sabroso, which is a small South American lunch counter in a freight elevator entrance,” Thuras says.

The restaurant is in Midtown in a sort of loading dock. Behind the counter, a cook tends to eight pots bubbling on a small stove. Seating consists of a long folding table with plastic chairs.

Thuras says, “In a way, there’s a history here because Midtown has always been home to garment workers and people, you know, who were kind of working on a tighter budget, and that’s still true today. So there’s a few remaining … old school lunch counters where you can get a great meal for like $6. … And it’s killer. It’s like super killer.” (He’s not kidding. It was the best $6 lunch this reporter has had in a long time.)

Thuras is the kind of traveler who will pack every minute of a day with experiences. After lunch, he leads NPR to mysterious tiles embedded in the roadway, a shuttered art deco skywalk that is completely sealed off to the world and the Conjuring Arts Research Center, one of the world’s largest collections of books about magic.

The last stop on his tour is an easily overlooked wonder in the middle of Times Square. It’s called the Times Square Hum and it comes from under a metal grate on a pedestrian island. (You can hear it for yourself in the audio story above.) An artist named Max Neuhaus created it almost 40 years ago.

“It’s this kind of sonic secret, just tucked away,” Thuras says. “Almost nobody stops and says, ‘What is that strange noise?’ ” Because, of course, the Hum is surrounded by noise: car horns, street performers, crowds, squeaking brakes.

“For me, it sort of serves as this wonderful reminder that in the middle of all this madness — in what I think most people would find the most commercial, least sort of whimsical or magical place in Manhattan — is this kind of little gem waiting for you if you’re willing to sort of slow down, look around, listen and kind of start asking questions.”

Does he ever worry about Atlas Obscura running out of wonders to write about?

“We asked ourselves this question at the start,” Thuras says, “and so far the answer seems to be: It is infinite.”

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Wells Fargo CEO Testifies Before Senate In Secret-Accounts Scandal

Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf appeared before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday to answer questions about the bank’s sales tactics. Bank employees opened as many as 2 million unauthorized accounts in order to meet sales goals and collect bonuses. Wells Fargo agreed to pay a $185 million fine to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but did not acknowledge any wrongdoing. Now the Justice Department is reportedly conducting its own investigation.

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Take Care Of Your Shelf: NPR At The National Book Festival

National Book Festival stock photo.

Colena Turner/National Book Festival

Does the smell of a new book make you happy? Grab your favorite public radio tote bag and join NPR journalists, voices and staffers at the 16th annual Library of Congress National Book Festival on Saturday, September 24, 2016. Our hosts, journalists and even our Vice President of News will lead book chats with writers in a wide range of genres.

September 24, 2016

Washington Convention Center (DC)

8:30AM to 10PM

Attend: The event is free and open to the public.

Now in its 16th year, the Library of Congress National Book Festival celebrates page-turning literature through author talks, panel discussions, book signings and more. To learn more about the Festival and view the complete schedule, click here.

Find details about these events in the schedule below.

NPR at the National Book Festival

Category: Fiction

Winston Groom and Colson Whitehead with NPR’s Audie Cornish

11:40AM

Audie Cornish sits down with Colson Whitehead and Winston Groom. Whitehead’s latest novel is The Underground Railroad. With his latest book, El Paso, Groom returns to writing fiction for the first time in over a decade.

Richard Russo with NPR’s Lynn Neary

1:50PM

Lynn Neary interviews Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, short story writer, screenwriter and teacher. The sequel to Nobody’s Fool, his new novel, Everybody’s Fool, returns to North Bath, New York and Sully, whose cardiologist has just estimated that he only has a year or two left.

Charlie Jane Anders with NPR’s Barrie Hardymon

4:20PM

Listen to Barrie Hardymon speak with Charlie Jane Anders, novelist and former founding editor of io9.com. Anders’ novels include award-winning Six Months, Three Days and her latest, All the Birds in the Sky, about two childhood friends—one with magical powers and the other a genius inventor—working to save the world.

Category: Teens

Edwidge Danticat with NPR’s Michael Oreskes

11:40AM

Michael Oreskes chats with Edwidge Chanticat. She was nominated for a National Book Award, and won a Pushcart Short Story Prize as well as many fiction awards from The Caribbean Writer, Seventeen and Essence magazines. Her most recent book is the young adult novel Untwine.

Category: Science

James Gleick with NPR’s Joe Palca

2PM

See Joe Palca talk with James Gleick, best-selling author and historian of science. Gleick’s latest book, Time Travel, explores the subversive origins of time travel, its evolution in literature and science, and its influence on our understanding of time itself.

Category: Children

Sharon Robinson with NPR’s Susan Stamberg

10AM

NPR founding mother Susan Stamberg interviews Sharon Robinson. In Robinson’s new book, The Hero Two Doors Down: Based on the True Story of Friendship Between a Boy and a Baseball Legend, eight-year-old Steve discovers that his new next door neighbor is his baseball hero Jackie Robinson.

Category: International

Roberto Canessa with NPR’s Ted Robbins

2:15PM

Ted Robbins chats with Robert Canessa, one of the 16 survivors of the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, which crashed in the Andes on October 13, 1972, when he was a 19-year-old medical student. His recent biography, I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in the Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives, tells the story of his struggle to survive and overcome adversity to become a pediatric cardiologist.

Alberto Ruy Sánchez with NPR’s Luis Clemens

7:15PM

Listen to Luis Clemens interview Alberto Ruy Sánchez, writer of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and essays from Mexico City. The majority of his fiction works including his latest, Poetics of Wonder: Passage to Mogador, are set in Mogador, the ancient Arabic city now known as Essaouira and located on the Atlantic coast of Morocco.

Category: Contemporary Life

Anne-Marie Slaughter with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly

1:15PM

Mary Louise Kelly chats with Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of New America. She has written or edited seven books, including her latest, Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family.

Susan Jacoby with NPR’s Tom Gjelten

2:15PM

Tom Gjelten talks with Susan Jacoby. Her new book, Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion challenges the conventional narrative of conversion as a purely spiritual journey and explores the cultural, economic and political forces driving religious conversion in the Western world.

Category: History & Biography

Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf with NPR’s Melissa Block

7PM

Melissa Block talks with Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf. Gordon-Reed is a professor of law and history at Harvard University and she received the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in history for her book The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. Onuf is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation professor emeritus at the University of Virginia. His recent book, written in collaboration with Annette Gordon-Reed, Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination, uses careful analysis, painstaking research and vivid prose to develop a revealing character study which dispels many clichés and creates a portrait of Jefferson as he might have painted himself.

Category: Teens, Graphic Novels

Gene Luen Yang with NPR’s Petra Mayer

2:30PM

Petra Mayer interviews National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang, writer of both graphic novels and comics. His most recent work is the second in his Secret Coders series, Secret Coders: Paths and Portals, and combines adventure and mystery with logic puzzles and basic programming instruction.

More than 120 authors, illustrators and poets will be gathered at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center this weekend for a full day of Q&A sessions, special programs and family friendly activities. Additional details are available in the National Book Festival App (available in iOS and Android), where you can build your own custom, public radio-infused itinerary.

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Imagining A World Without Prisons For Communities Defined By Them

The hulking, shuttered Eastern State Penitentiary, a short walking distance from Philadelphia’s downtown, was in many ways the first modern American prison. Almost from its opening in the early 19th century, there were people calling for it, and prisons like it, to be shut down because they felt they were inhumane. Shinya Suzuki/Flickr hide caption

toggle caption Shinya Suzuki/Flickr

“If the system was fair, would I be okay with prison? I’m saying that if the system was fair, there would be no prison.”

— Morehouse College Professor Marc Lamont Hill

When Marc Lamont Hill, a professor and activist who wants to abolish prisons, said that to me recently, I understood, where he was coming from. Intellectually, at least. America’s criminal justice system, with its machine-like orientation to conviction and incarceration, has grown so many tentacles that it tends to touch the lives of the people in communities of color who are not themselves up to anything shady. The sprawl of that system, and the economy based on it, means that anyone in those communities can be treated like a suspected lawbreaker. It means that the immediate family members of a felon, for example, can be penalized by their proximity to them. And it means that calling the cops invites a whole lot of contact with the state that can quickly spiral in unintended ways.

It’s that paradox that makes Hill, the author of Nobody: Casualties of America‘s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond, want to abolish prisons altogether. I understand what he means, especially when you consider America’s grim history of incarceration. Almost as soon as slavery ended in the United States, local and state governments found ways to funnel thousands of newly freed black folks into prisons. The period after Reconstruction saw the creation of a host of new crimes — changing employers without permission, vagrancy, not reporting to work on a weekend — that were ostensibly race-neutral but actually meant to ensnare black citizens. Most of us know that the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, but importantly, it leaves an exemption for servitude as “punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” Entire local economies in the post-slavery years — and some extant major American corporations — were built on this kind of convict labor.

By the 1890 census, the first in which there was an opportunity to count a generation of black folks born post-slavery, they were already over-represented in America’s prisons. Harvard historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a past guest on the Code Switch podcast, said that scholars interpreted the census data as evidence of a uniquely black criminality and not simply as evidence that officials were trying to control their newly emancipated countrymen. The idea that black crime was pathological became entrenched in the criminal justice system, Muhammad wrote in his book The Condemnation of Blackness, and it helped provide the broad basis for police to antagonize black folks at the behest, tacit and overt, of the broader white public.

But when I talked to Hill for a recent podcast, I resisted his call for prison abolition on a baser, less-thoughtful level. My reaction was related to what he called the “But What About My Cousin?” argument. That is: I hear what you’re saying about how messed up the justice system is, but have you met my cousin? That dude is crazy and needs to be locked up!

None of my cousins made me feel that way, but I knew the sentiment he was underlining — the feeling that your neighborhood is at the mercy of certifiably dangerous people who need to be behind bars. I still remember when our old row house was burglarized just before I started the fourth grade, crack vials sprinkled all over our dreary, tan carpet. I remember the dude I grew up with, whose well-known penchant for violence ended when he was gunned down after kidnapping the child of some other shady dude.

I had the sense that these things just happened where we lived and that there was nothing anyone could do – nothing legal, anyway – to stop it. There are personal costs to living in a place like that, but there are broader social ones, too. These are neighborhoods that are deeply tied together by residential segregation, which means that folks often know the victims and perpetrators of those crimes. (One of the great, frustrating ironies of tough-on-crime rhetoric is that it so often seems to focus on white folks’ out-sized fear of violent street crime while ignoring the fact that black folks are much more likely to be its targets.)

It’s in this vise that so many black communities have long found themselves – at once aggressively over-policed and disastrously under-protected. The Department of Justice’s scathing report on Baltimore in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death, for example, found both routine, widespread abuse of black citizens by the police and a casual indifference from law enforcement when it came to investigating serious crimes like rape in black neighborhoods. It’s those intertwined realities that gave birth to both “F*** Tha Police” and911 Is A Joke.”

So I was surprised — and a little unnerved — by my reaction to Hill’s declaration that we move away from locking people up. Had I unknowingly ingested the rhetoric of people the sociologist Michael Javen Fortner describes in “Black Silent Majority” — black folks who for decades clamored for tougher crime laws and more aggressive law enforcement in their communities?

Fortner found a quote from an old black newspaper in New York calling for tough-on-crime measures. “Clean out this scum — and put them away as long as the law will allow,” one of the editors wrote. A lot of us in black neighborhoods grew up hearing stuff like that.

Hill gets all this, certainly. He’s no soft touch. He’s a proud gun owner. Like me, he’s a Philly dude. We went to the same high school in a tough, neglected neighborhood in North Philadelphia, and we both came up on the back end of the crack era, when inner cities across the country were being ravaged by violent crime.

And in some ways our hometown is the birthplace of the fight over the prison system. Eastern State Penitentiary, not far from downtown, was the first modern penitentiary in the world when it opened in the early 19th century. It pioneered the practice of solitary confinement, which its administrators believed would provide space for reflection on one’s misdeeds — hence the penitents were sent to the penitentiary. We’ve continued the tradition of using the language of moral rehabilitation when we lock people up. (“Department of Corrections.”) Almost immediately after Eastern State’s founding, though, local Quakers began arguing that the prisoners were being treated inhumanely, and they called for an end not just to that prison, but the prison system overall. Though they would be drowned out in their argument, the movement to end prisons never fully petered out.

Like other critiques of the justice system, the idea that we should do away with prisons has gotten more oxygen in recent years. That might be because the steady declines in violent crime to near-record lows have made the draconian, bury-them-under-the-jail impulses of the previous decades harder to justify in fiscal or moral terms. There are now people of all ideological stripes who favor resisting those impulses by, say, decriminalizing nonviolent drug offenses or pushing against mandatory minimum sentencing. But many prison abolitionists feel such reforms don’t go far enough; that “reform” implies a broken prison system and not one functioning exactly as it was meant to, as a mechanism of social control. Hill’s one of them. That’s why he reacted to me the way he did.

To do what Hill proposes would require rethinking a lot of our received wisdom about human nature. It would require that we acknowledge the historically conditional humanity America has afforded black folks, which allowed prisons and race to become so fused. But on a more basic, personal level, Hill is asking us to forego a desire for officially sanctioned recompense against predators — for revenge, really — that others have long taken for granted. That is a tall ask. But there might be an opening in this moment, with inner cities safer than they’ve ever been, for people like me to consider doing away with prisons, even while that system represents a kind of justice that’s always been denied us.

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