Scott Hechinger Profile picture
Civil rights attorney. Longtime public defender. Dad. Executive Director, Zealous: Fighting to topple the imbalance of power & voice in justice policy & media.
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2 Dec
THREAD: This is about Compton, CA. About the choices we make as taxpayers. Whether to invest in families, in community, in health & safety. Or continue to throw billions away at police & incarceration that only harms. This thread is also about what you can do right now. Read on:
Compton, CA is an American cultural capital. And a city where glaring social inequities overlap. 30% of residents are Black, 68% are Latino. And incredibly, 1 in 5 are below the poverty line. Not enough money for medication, groceries, school, transportation, housing. The basics.
As families, children, & elderly struggle to survive, Compton taxpayers pay more per resident per geographic area to the Sheriff than any city in LA County. $22 million. All despite the harm of Compton Executioners: 1 of the Sheriff's violent deputy gangs.knock-la.com/lasd-gangs-lit…
Read 12 tweets
1 Dec
Right now, in real time, the top cop in Los Angeles (@LACoSheriff) is live & lying about “crime” being “up” when it’s down, police being “defunded” when their outrageously high budget has increased, & truth not mattering at all even when data is right there to prove him a liar.
Here is the Los Angeles top cop *lying* that police are being “defunded.” Again: that’s a lie. “The budget has continued to increase.” Did I mention the top LA cop is brazenly lying? And every knows it? Why isn’t this national news?
Here is the top cop in LA (@LACoSheriff) admitting there are *two* upcoming academies for new cops despite minutes earlier claiming that he’s been forced into a hiring freeze & he’s also being defunded. The lies are so brazen. He doesn’t care. He’ll get away with them.
Read 5 tweets
30 Nov
Thread: More problematic “crime” reporting. This time from @NPR. The very premise—man charged in Wisconsin parade killings is “poster boy for backlash against bail reform”—is only bc outlets like NPR promote the lie. Nothing to do w/ “bail reform.” More:npr.org/2021/11/25/105…
I ache for the victims in Wisconsin. Committed to finding solutions to avoid future tragedies like this one. Thats why I want to set record straight: There is no “bail reform” in Wisconsin. No significant change to bail laws in Wisconsin in a decade. Bail was set in this case.
NPR (& other outlets) even mentioning “bail reform” in context of deaths in Wisconsin is enough to generate the fear & anger to incentivize judges & prosecutors to cage way more at expense of law/reason. Lawmakers to pass harsher laws. Real bail stories:
Read 19 tweets
27 Nov
This is a breathless, sensationalist lie from a NYT reporter. NYPD has never come close to “solving” 90% of anything. And violent crime didn’t “spike.” All major crimes, save for homicides (still at historic lows), continued their 30+ year decline. Why are you doing this, Ali?
More on the story in the NYT in this important thread.
Look at the “spike” in violent crime Ali claims—contrary to all evidence & a simple Google search—exists.
Read 6 tweets
21 Nov
As a public defender, I represented literally hundreds of Black men & women accused of doing this. Most literally couldn’t afford $2.75 subway fare. Difference between eating/not. Arrested, caged, forced to plea to the crime of “theft of services.” But when you’re white & proud:
This year, NYC hired *500 more subway cops.* There were already 4000 NYPD in subway. $245 million/yr. They mostly target Black people for jumping the turnstile & attack. Fail to prevent crime. Instead of investing in free/affordable public transportation. gothamist.com/news/500-more-…
This is what subway policing normally looks like. NYPD surround woman selling churros. Crying. Telling her she stops or get arrested. Trying to talk to them in Spanish. Rolling their eyes. Lead out in cuffs. Cart taken away. This is police violence.
Read 20 tweets
15 Nov
THREAD: I critique the NYT when they publish problematic reporting on crime & punishment. Allowing speculation on short-run stats. Sensationalizing. Failing to provide critical context. Today, I want to highlight what they did right in this story. More: nytimes.com/2021/11/15/us/…
Although the headline’s use of the word “surge” is sensational & can lead to gut-reaction misperceptions, the NYT’s subtitle clarifies the universal nature of the increase (“cities, towns, rural areas”) & stresses right away that “reasons are elusive.”
NYT is careful to couch more recent increase in homicides within important context: (1) homicides are still at historic lows & far lower than in 90s, (2) homicides make up a tiny fraction of all crime, (3) overall major crimes continued their decline, (4) homicides slowing again.
Read 9 tweets
15 Nov
Kyle Rittenhouse had his gun possession charge dismissed. In Illinois, a Black gun owner--licensed in another state-put his bag through metal detector at an Air & Water show. Prosecuted for possession. Jailed. Lost job. Faced housing instability. 2 systems.thenation.com/article/politi…
Kyle Rittenhouse had his gun possession charge dismissed. In Chicago, a father of 4 & professional driver, who purchased a firearm after being caught in the crossfire of a shooting was arrested & is now charged w/ a felony for not having the right license.thenation.com/article/politi…
Kyle Rittenhouse had his gun possession charge dismissed. In Illinois, 75% of firearm possession convictions occur in Cook County, in a few Chicago neighborhoods. "100s of young Black men arrested & facing years in prison for simple possession of a gun."thenation.com/article/politi…
Read 7 tweets
15 Nov
A cop slapped a handcuffed man dying of a drug overdose. Called him a “bitch.” Shoved a baton in his mouth. That cop got suspended 6 days. But the cop who revealed the cruelty was expelled from the cop union. Now faces 20 years prison for whistleblowing. usatoday.com/story/news/inv…
Sgt. Javier Esqueda shared w/ reporter footage showing how colleagues slapped a Black man in medical distress, restricted his airway, & shoved a baton in his mouth hours before his death. *Esqueda* now faces up to 20 years prison for releasing footage. usatoday.com/story/news/inv…
Members of the Joliet Illinois Police Union voted 35-1 to expel Javier Esqueda for exposing footage of police abuse. “In a letter informing him of the vote, union leaders described his conduct as “reprehensible.” Not the cops though who shoved a baton down a dying man’s throat.
Read 23 tweets
13 Nov
The judge, smiling, describes how he screenshots his funny text message conversations w/ friends then emails them to himself. But when he tries to zoom in: “it’s all a blur.” Which is why he won’t allow prosecutors to zoom in on CCTV footage of the incident for the jury to see.
This judge did this knowing the entire country was watching. Imagine what goes on every day in empty courtrooms.
Seeing a lot of people who *know* — mostly public defenders — how horrifying the state of the judiciary is. It’s not just cruelty. It’s arrogance, stupidity, laziness, & a dangerous combination of ignorance of & disdain for the law. Cases are determined on feelings. Not reason.
Read 18 tweets
12 Nov
NEWS: Chief Defender of Chicago calls on Supreme Court to end NY's racist gun laws: "While I support policies to stem flow of guns, prevent violence & heal harm, Black men aren't protected by criminalization. We're arrested, prosecuted, & imprisoned." More:thenation.com/article/politi…
First hand: "Ive been close to gun violence my entire life. Growing up on South Side of Chicago, I’ve seen classmates carry firearms to keep themselves & families safe. I later represented those same individuals in court—for possession—when I started work as a public defender."
"The people I knew growing up, & now the people I fight for in court, are also victims of gun violence themselves. I see those same people get arrested, prosecuted, & caged for the simple act of possessing a firearm—something protected & even exalted elsewhere in our country."
Read 17 tweets
11 Nov
On this Veteran’s Day, I’m thinking of this disabled Iraq war veteran, who cared for homeless & ailing vets at a VA hospital. Forgot his twin babies in his car & they died. Bronx DA charged him w/ manslaughter. Later allowed plea to misdemeanor. But why? nypost.com/2019/07/27/dad…
On this Veteran’s Day, thinking of 21-year-old army veteran Romantic Bradford Jr. Shot by cops at a mall on Thanksgiving night while trying to save people during an active shooting. It is unconscionable that in America today you can’t even be a hero while black.
This Veterans Day I’m thinking of Bobby Sneed. 74 year old veteran. Caged in Angola Prison 47 years. Unanimously granted parole. Then hospitalized. Prison claims a drug overdose. Now 6 months after his scheduled release date. They still won't let him go. thelensnola.org/2021/05/04/a-m…
Read 4 tweets
6 Nov
When you think of a state w/ most racist, cruel, & outrageous system of criminalization & incarceration, you probably don't think of Maryland.

Learned some brutal facts today. Let's start w/ this:

Maryland incarcerates more Black people than any other state in country. More:
70% of people in Maryland prisons are Black.

That's the highest percentage in the nation.

Double the national average.

More than 25% higher than MD's nearest competitor - Mississippi.
Maryland charges more children as adults per capita than any other state besides Alabama. And Alabama recently changed their law, so Maryland is now likely the worst.

Maryland charges children *automatically* as adults for more than 33 offenses, including misdemeanors.
Read 11 tweets
4 Nov
Teen Vogue has become the most unexpected yet indispensable journalistic voice for exposing the horrors of mass incarceration. Such important and impressive work. Grateful.
This powerful commentary by Iveliz Orellano about prosecutions of protestors, is just the latest in a Teen Vogue series written by Chicago public defenders about media sensationalism and crime policy. teenvogue.com/story/black-li…
In July, public defender Takenya Nixon Brail took on violence & fearmongering about a "surge" in a crime. "A tragic death was once again being weaponized by the media, police, leaders, & lawmakers to scare the public into thinking more police is the answer.teenvogue.com/story/rising-c…
Read 4 tweets
4 Nov
THREAD: For stealing dish soap: 7 years prison! Prosecutors call it "looting." Not one Chicago cop charged in violent crackdown. Yet nearly 200 protestors still face 100s years for similar things. Their public defender explains why we allow this to happen: teenvogue.com/story/black-li…
"During court hearings, people I & other public defenders in Chicago & suburbs are now fighting for are reduced by prosecutors & judges to words like “looter,” “rioter,” “mob,” and “criminal,” racially coded terms that politicians have long used to refer to Black & brown people."
A familiar cycle: "Outside of court: Police & prosecutors share their version; then the media, prints black-and-white stories devoid of context using words like "looting"; the public then equates protest w/ violence & calls for justice w/ “criminality.” teenvogue.com/story/black-li…
Read 14 tweets
4 Nov
Just 1 Black juror. 11 white. To decide killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Simply jogging. Pursued & shot by a group of white men in a pickup truck last year. Judge found “intentional discrimination” in jury selection. But hands tied by law. This is not okay. More:cnn.com/2021/11/03/us/…
Even though judge in Ahmaud Arbery’s case found intentional discrimination in jury selection, in Georgia “all the defense needs to do is provide that legitimate, nondiscriminatory, clear, reasonably specific & related reason," for why they struck a juror. usatoday.com/story/news/nat…
Ahmaud Arbery’s killer’s attorney: “We are very pleased that we have been able to select now 16 members of this community.” In Glynn County, GA, more than 26% of the 85,000 residents are Black. Only one Black juror was picked. “Community.” cnn.com/2021/11/03/us/…
Read 7 tweets
3 Nov
THIS IS IMPORTANT: I want all my SF friends to read this. The people scaremongering you into recalling Chesa Boudin are far right wing donors & the dangerous, racist Police Officers Association of SF. "A singularly destructive and reactionary force." More: sfexaminer.com/news/the-dange…
The same Police Officers Association (POA) loudly calling for Boudin’s recall has been a singularly destructive and reactionary force in San Francisco politics for decades.
The Police Officers Association of San Francisco, the primary force behind the recall effort of Chesa Boudin, fought "efforts to racially integrate the police in the 1960s and 1970s."
Read 9 tweets
3 Nov
The Supreme Court argument today about NY’s racist gun laws underscores how fearmongering & police lies have infected the Court. Here Justice Alito uses the police-created, racially-coded myth of “high-crime area” & fear about nighttime danger to drive point home. There’s more:
Here, Justice Robert’s invokes the police-created fear over “muggings,” and the presumption that armed robberies are rampant in NYC. They aren’t. Meanwhile, in his mind, crime just doesn’t happen with guns upstate.
Here, in open court, on the record, for country to hear, Justice Alito scaremongers over “these people w/ illegal guns — on the subway…walking around the streets” & distinguishes them from “ordinary hardworking people.” Read: He means Black & brown people versus white people.
Read 5 tweets
2 Nov
THREAD: This story is important. Clarifies the failure of the criminal legal system. A man w/o a home. Trauma. Substance use. Mental health. 50+ arrests/convictions didn't "help" him. Right now: Caged over 800 days for stealing cold medicine. Faces 4 years.theappeal.org/rikers-nyquil-…
As a public defender, I met people like Reginald Randolph frequently. RAP sheet was literally heavy w/ crimes of desperation. To police, prosecutors & judges he was a "menace." To defenders: He long needed helped, but was failed time & again. "Homeless, sick, & trapped."
In San Francisco, NYC, & other cities, more & more people are expressing disgust over "shoplifters" & homelessness. Think it's a choice. The truth: "Shoplifting was to support my addiction & to deal with my homelessness, deal w/ my poverty." You can't deter desperation w/ cages.
Read 26 tweets
31 Oct
Steve! Author of unbelievably strange, unscientific, anthropological studies of homeless people. It’s really telling the only reply youre able to muster in response to reasoned critique of the circus you’re a part of is this silliness about being a couple hours away. Boring, bro.
Here is some gag-inducing, dystopian flavor from Steve’s special project called “Eyes on San Francisco.” Where he concludes people w/o homes should be given two choices: “The Good Place” (utopia that doesn’t exist where jobs & opportunity are aplenty) & “Bad Place” (prison). ImageImageImageImage
Steve!! Bro!! You did it again. Incredibly unimaginative. It’s just the same act over and over. I live in LA. Try engaging in the substance. It might make your brain feel better to actually ***think. And I don’t know — likely not but who knows — make you see differently?
Read 4 tweets
31 Oct
It’s incredible to me how many of those I’ve spoken to, who want to attack homelessness, substance use, & mental health with more cops, prosecutions, & cages, can also fully acknowledge that those responses will only hurt people more & make society less safe & healthy.
I think for some yes. They just want blunt force punishment. For others I think it’s just an inability to imagine a society that could actually solve problems without police, prosecutors, & prisons. Mass criminalization is a deeply engrained, American inertia.
It’s also I think impatience. Wanting things “fixed” & “cleaned up” right now. The problem w/ alternatives to policing for those who’re disgusted over how “their cities” look & feel, is that visible change won’t happen over night. Takes time to undo centuries of terrible policy.
Read 4 tweets
30 Oct
🚨Bill de Blasio--the worst NYC mayor in history, the gutless defender of Eric Garner's killer, the cruel cager of thousands on Rikers Island, the brazen liar that helped repeal modest bail reform, the supporter of NYPD's violent crackdown on protests--is running for Governor.
At some point I'll tie all my various threads on how awful Bill de Blasio is together. But for now, I still can't get over the fact while a humanitarian crisis was raging in Rikers & he had power to release people, he had the gall to show up at the Met Gala & smile.
Read 4 tweets