Making a getaway in a three-piece suit

You may have read the article in the New York times today about the man who escaped his holding cell by simply walking out of the 100 Centre Street criminal courthouse wearing a three-piece suit.  robert tackman, image taken from: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/01/nyregion/01escape.html?_r=1&ref=nyregionRonald Tackman, who has been in and out of prison most of his life and has had numerous brushes with the law, was in New York Supreme Court from Riker’s Island on a felony robbery charge.  He was dressed in a three-piece suit while in his holding cell and a correction officer mistakenly let him out of his cell, believing that Ronald Tackman was an attorney.  More specifically, the corrections officer saw Tackman, assumed he was an attorney, and asked Taskman, in sum and substance, “What are you doing in the cell, counselor?”

Interestingly, according to the above-described New York Times article, “[t]he escape [ ] left correction officials scratching their heads for answers as to how a man who had been listed in the department’s files as an escape risk was essentially able to walk out the door to freedom.”

The answer is pretty simple:  Ronald Tackman was white. 

If Mr. Tackman was anything other than white, the likelihood of this event happening would certainly be next to nil.

For anyone who hasn’t been to 100 Centre Street in New York City, I suggest you go and see the dynamic going on.  Go to AR-3, which is the felony arraignment part, Part N or Part F, which are Criminal Court parts before a case heads to Supreme Court, or any of the Supreme Court Parts, like Part 22 or Part 23.  You’ll immediately notice that the majority, if not all, of the defendants are minorities.  Further, you will also immediately notice that the majority, if not all, of the attorneys representing these defendants are white.  And, add to that, the majority, if not all of the Corrections Officers, are white as well.  And, one final thing if it already isn’t obvious:  the majority if not all of the judges are white.

Is it any wonder, then, that a hapless Department of Corrections Officer “mistakenly” believed that an older white gentleman in a three-piece suit standing alone in a holding cell was actually an attorney?

The Department of Corrections will undoubtedly claim, after a “thorough investigation,” that the Officer actions were outside of “protocol” — suggesting that the error by the officer was merely an aberrant act, as opposed to the product of a deep rooted institutional racism.