In Part 1 of this series, we talked about teaming up with the Academy of American Poets and the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University to create a tool called Emerge. Emerge allows a user to pick a source text and erase words or phrases to create a poem, called an erasure.
Our ten source texts are representative examples of legislation and policies that have directly affected incarceration rates in the United States. Many disproportionately affect people of color. In Part 1, we discussed two Arizona laws that we included and why. Today, we'll be discussing four more.
The final Arizona-specific law we've included in our list is S.B. 1070, which made headlines in 2010 and beyond as it was challenged. S.B. 1070 requires law enforcement to determine immigration status of a person who is detained or arrested based on "reasonable suspicion" that person is undocumented. The aspects of this law that activists say encourage racial profiling are still in effect, and the law was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Moving beyond Arizona but staying in the Southwest, we've included laws from California and Texas. California's Three Strikes Law has since been amended to specify "serious or violent felonies," but its original intent was to extend sentences for all second and third felony convictions. A third felony conviction could result in 25 years to life in prison. It became the inspiration for other "three strikes" laws across the country. Texas's Code of Criminal Procedure refers to jury instructions on capital punishment cases. Texas is one of three states that asks jurors to speculate on the defendant's likelihood to commit future crimes, and by doing so, it increases capital punishment convicitons.
Not all of the texts we've included are laws, but their effects were far-reaching regardless. Executive Order 9066 was written by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942 and led to human rights violations on a massive scale by interning more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent in the United States. This Executive Order set a precedent that also led to their imprisonment in other countries, such as Canada and Mexico.
As part of the Art for Justice project, we invite you to create your own erasure of these texts using Emerge and view the community poems others have created in response.
Arizona S.B. 1070 (2010)
Allows law enforcement officials to inquire about immigration status during any “lawful stop, detention or arrest,” when there is “reasonable suspicion” that the individual is undocumented. Challenges to the law reached the United States Supreme Court, where it was upheld 5-3.
California’s Three Strikes Law (1994)
It's since been amended, but the original law was the most far-reaching legislation in the United States aimed at habitual offenders. Eighty-five percent of the offenders sentenced under the law were sentenced for nonviolent offenses, and the application of the law raised claims that it increased racial disparities.
Texas Code of Criminal Procedure (Present Day)
In Texas, jurors on capital punishment cases are asked to speculate "whether there is a probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society." This kind of speculation can lead to increased death penalty convictions.
Executive Order 9066 (1942)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued this executive order, which authorized the internment and imprisonment of more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.