Yeah, you know me!
You down with O4P?
Yeah, you know me!
Who's down with O4P?
Everybody!! [Updated to include a link to a fabulous story over at Racism Review.]
Sorry, I got caught up. But Occupy Wall Street has gained my respect. It's not just Wall St they're occupying anymore. No, they're now occupying prisons and jails, too. And the reason I've decided to give them a second thumb's up? They've come to realize that:
Mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow. Between 1970 and 1995, the incarceration of African Americans increased 7 times. Currently African Americans make up 12 % of the population in the U.S. but 53% of the nation’s prison population. There are more African Americans 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 prison system is the most visible example of policies of punitive containment of the most marginalized and oppressed in our society. Prior to incarceration, 2/3 of all prisoners lived in conditions of economic hardship. While the perpetrators of white-collar crime largely go free.
And there's more to the story:
The U.S. has the world's highest documented incarceration rate. (Russia is second, Rwanda is third.) More blacks are under correctional control today than were enslaved in 1850. These unprecedented rates of incarceration have helped turn the two largest for-profit prison corporations, Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, into billion-dollar companies, according to Unholy Alliance, a report released in November 2011 by Public Campaign and PICO National Network.And as much as I distrust white people when it comes to race, when someone speaks the truth, I give them all the props they deserve. In this case, the white someone, in collaboration with Russell Simmons, is Dylan Ratigan. They make the case that:
Putting people in jail and keeping them there is good for business. So that's what these companies lobby for. According to the Justice Policy Institute, these companies "have contributed $835,514 to federal candidates and over $6 million to state politicians. They have also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on direct lobbying efforts." They are large donors to state-based think tanks like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), who market harsh immigration, drug laws, and prison privatization laws to state level politicians around the country. While the rationale is no longer outright bigotry, the net effect, in terms of stripping millions of blacks of political and economic rights, is the same.
This is the face of racism today. It isn't the racist sheriff in Alabama turning hoses and dogs onto protesters, or the all-white development or country club, but the smooth lobbyist and campaign contributor discussing the efficiency of private prison initiatives or the politician too cowardly to act on decriminalizing marijuana for fear of antagonizing a powerful lobby. It's racism, Greedy-Bastards-style.
What's the alternative? David Kennedy, the director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, has highlighted a very simple common sense approach known as hotspotting. He advocates for sitting down the gang members that perpetrate most of the violence, police, prosecutors, and community leaders to talk about their shared problems and the consequences of crime. Such an approach has dramatically reduced homicide rates in Boston and Chicago, and across the country. Yet these programs and programs like them with proven success in reducing crime are the first to go on the chopping block, because they don't provide the budgetary incentive that forfeiture laws do.Major props.
If you get the chance, you really need to check out the links.
Much love. Stay down!