Monday, June 04, 2012

Land of the Free or Jim Crow Incarceration Nation?

The number of Americans in prison has risen eight-fold since 1970, despite the fact that crime rates have decreased.  How can that be?  Well,  today, over 2.3 million American citizens, mostly non-violent, are behind bars. Our nation has the largest prison population in the world - with only 5% of the global population, one-quarter of the entire world’s inmates are in the U.S. It is not the land of the free, if it ever was.  And now that the middle class is eroding, people who were once considered reasonably secure in their gated communities, are being thrown to the wolves, so to speak, ripe for picking.  According to FBI statistics, 35,948 Americans are arrested in the US, on a daily basis, most of them African American, and to be sure, the great majority, poor.

"More than two million people found themselves behind bars at the turn of the twenty-first century, and millions more were relegated to the margins...where discrimination in employment, housing, and access to education were perfectly legal, and where they could be denied the right to vote....Ninety percent of those admitted to prison for drug offenses in many states were black or Latino, yet the mass incarceration of communities of color was explained in race-neutral terms....The New Jim Crow was born" - Michelle Alexander in "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" (p. 58).
By criminalizing addiction, and militarizing state and local police forces, the "war on drugs" more than quadrupled our prison population in less than three decades. According to the Cato Institute, in 1997 alone, the Pentagon handed over more than 1.2 million pieces of military equipment to local police departments. The agency also "handled 3.4 million orders of Pentagon equipment from over eleven thousand domestic police agencies in all fifty states." The Cato report also stated, "paramilitary units/SWAT teams were quickly formed in virtually every major city to fight the war on drugs."

So, with the advent of for profit prisons, there is a lobbying arm in state houses across the country and in DC  demanding harsher punishments for "crimes" that hardly constitute any great wickedness; iniquity; and or wrong.

Make no mistake. Not only is this about oppression of an ever-increasing sector of society, this is about creating huge profits for our corporation nation by funneling an ever-increasing number of human beings into slavery.  Private prisons keep only the low cost prisoners - forty cents an hour - because they use them as slave labor and send the harder to control prisoners back to the state prisons where the tax payers pay for it. All prisoners are assigned a CUSIP number, which earns even more profit for the corporation nation.
The private corporate court earns a percentage of the amount of money it collects in fines, and also receives kickbacks by placing citizens in prison or on probation. All prisoners are assigned a CUSIP number based on that prisoner’s STRAWMAN trust. This CUSIP # is then bundled up with other CUSIP numbers and sold as bundled securities on the securities markets. These are bundled persons. Prisoners are commodities for which the fruit of their labor is traded. This is why jails are overflowing, and why so many people get unsupervised probation for so many months. Probationary status is still a form of incarceration, and community service is often assigned. People on probation receive the CUSIP number as well, and are bundled just like the in-house prisoners.
In the book "The New Jim Crow: : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" author, Michelle Alexander cites slavery, Jim Crown, and Mass Incarceration as "the three major racialized systems of control adapted in the United States to date." She makes the connection between the prison-industrial complex and the "war on drugs", and the disproportionately high number of African American incarcerated in state and federal prisoners. She argues that this system of mass incarceration "operates as a tightly networked system of laws, policies, customs, and institutions that operate collectively to ensure the subordinate status of a group defined largely by race." The War on Drugs, the book contends, has created "a lower caste of individuals who are permanently barred by law and custom from mainstream society."

In addition to decades of broad U.S. public and political support for getting tough on criminals through longer, harsher prison terms and to the Bush administration's anti-drug and strict-sentencing policies, Alexander points out how the Clinton administration legislated "Three Strikes and Your Out," and the five-year mandatory sentencing for drug offenses due to the use of Crack, which disproportionately targets blacks. Of course, these laws are discriminatory due to the fact that cocaine use in the white community is usually treated as a misdemeanor, which is ridiculous since you need cocaine to produce crack.

There is no doubt that the "War on Drugs", when created, was targeted toward African Americans in an effort to break up families, creating a new racial caste system that renders black males, especially, into non-citizens. They lose the right to vote, and are unable to get a job.  They're ineligible for public assistance such as housing and food stamps, unable to qualify for loans and/or grants for education, and, finally, unable to obtain licenses due to their felony status. Not to mention, the extremely narrow margin of hope when released. This creates a viscous circle that perpetuates itself by increasing homelessness and joblessness, forcing these men and women back into "crime" in order to survive, where the cycle starts all over again.

Moreover, children are left without fathers and mothers without husbands. Alexander writes,
"The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2002 that there are nearly 3 million more black adult women than men in black communities across the United States, a gender gap of 26 percent. In many areas, the gap is far worse, rising to more than 37 percent in places like New York City. The comparable disparity for whites in the United States is 8 percent. Although a million black men can be found in prisons and jails, public acknowledgment of the role of the criminal justice system in `disappearing' black men is surprisingly rare. Even in the black media-which is generally more willing to raise and tackle issues related to criminal justice-an eerie silence can often be found."

Furthermore, Alexander writes,
"More African American adults are under correctional control today- in prison or jail, on probation or parole- than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. The mass incarceration of people of color is a big part of the reason that a black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The absence of black fathers from families across America is not simply a function of laziness, immaturity, or too much time watching Sports Center. Thousands of black men have disappeared into prisons and jails, locked away for drug crimes that are largely ignored when committed by whites. The clock has been turned back on racial progress in America." She also states, "African American (youth) were more than six times as likely as whites to be sentenced to prison for identical crimes," because of "unconscious and conscious racial biases infecting decision making."
The bottom line is that, although this was initially designed for the Mass Incarceration of the non-white population, it has now morphed into a war on the entire poor population, growing larger everyday. Total exploitation of the down trodden.

Another excellent book on the subject is "Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire " by Robert Perkinson, which goes into great detail concerning the pernicious rise of America's "for-profit" prison system.
"...is a history of imprisonment, race, and politics from slavery to the present, with an emphasis on Texas, the most locked-down state in the nation. Sweeping in scope and exhaustively researched, it tries to answer some of the most vexing questions of our time: Why has the United States built the largest prison system in the world, unlike anything in the history of democratic governance, and why have racial disparities in criminal justice worsened over the past two generations, despite the landmark victories of the civil rights movement? Drawing on a decade of archival, legal, and legislative research, combined with scores of interviews, this book argues that the history of American criminal justice is a more southern story than most have acknowledged (the prison boom began and has remained most pervasive in the South) and that the politics of race and reaction have played a more prominent role in the expansion of incarceration than elevated crime rates. By drawing parallels between the development of segregation and convict leasing in the aftermath of Reconstruction and the rise of mass imprisonment in the wake of integration, Texas Tough contends that America’s imprisonment crisis has taken shape as the latest chapter in America’s tragic racial history and that a concerted nationwide effort will be required to move the country toward a more equitable and genuinely democratic future."

"America needs fewer laws, not more prisons." -- James Bovard
"Criminal: a person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation." -- Howard Scott

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