criminal justice industry

We have to learn how to think and act and struggle against that which is ideologically constituted as “normal.” Prisons are constituted as “normal.” It takes a lot of work to persuade people to think beyond the bars, and to be able to imagine a world without prisons and to struggle for the abolition of imprisonment as the dominant mode of punishment.
—  Angela Davis, Feminism and Abolition: Theories and Practices for the Twenty-First Century

anonymous asked:

Hi. I was reading your posts about Hillary and prison slave labor. I was going over it in my head, and truly and honestly find nothing okay with that. But I know some people will find ways to excuse it, like "they're in prison to be punished." Is there anything, in your opinion that could be adjusted to the system to make prison labor ethical? For example, paying the inmates or reducing sentences (which is already done, no?) I'm curious as to your position is all. Prison is punishment enough.

You’re going to get a different answer based on who you ask, tbh. And this circles back to the question of what constitutes as a meaningful method of pursuing justice in a given society. It goes without saying (I would hope) that the current system of imprisonment and incarceration, in both America and elsewhere, is completely unethical, as a whole, from its very conception. The whole point, especially in the advent of the Civil War and after emancipation, is to provide a continued means of enslaving African Americans in “legal” ways by positing enslavement as punishment. And to be totally honest with you, I would say that it’s really not possible, especially within the current framework, to make prison labour “ethical.” Like, enforcing a rule that doing work should, in any way, be a punishment for someone’s transgression is like? 

I don’t know, maybe I’m just struggling to articulate it well, but that just seems wrong to me. Work is not punishment. It can’t and shouldn’t be a means of punishing people for having done something wrong. And taking that standpoint, especially in the light of capitalism…it just strikes me as wrong somehow, and I really wish I had the knowledge to explain why, but I don’t. If anyone has anything to add, or any resources that might be able to provide some better answers, please reblog because that’d be very helpful. But the short answer is that no, I don’t think prison labour can be made ethical in any way. The current prison system is in and of itself unethical, on a systematic level, and the issue would have to go a lot deeper than just addressing things like pay or hours or w/e else.

- Mod A
This Is What CeCe McDonald Thinks We Should Do To Keep All Queer People Safe

Activist and formerly incarcerated transgender woman CeCe McDonald has firsthand experience with the injustices of the criminal justice system – particularly when it comes to the lives and bodies of transgender individuals. 

Ron [Scott] has since become a leading figure in the Coalition against Police Brutality, which is devoted to the creation of Peace Zones for Life. After repeatedly mobilization demonstrations and filing lawsuits against authorities, the organization launched this project after finding that many instances of police violence occurred in response to calls regarding domestic conflicts. Thus, to get at the root cause of police abuse, the organization seeks to reduce and eliminate the need for citizens to call the police in the first place. It promotes ‘community-based conflict resolution and mediation initiatives,’ using 'methods that will allow the citizens options to submit their grievances for resolution by their neighbors or persons whom they trust; thereby, remaining outside the police / criminal justice system and eliminating conflict within our communities.’

Moreover, the organization seeks to involve neighborhood youth themselves, many of whom had once been sucked into gangs or drug dealing, into conflict resolution practices and community-oriented, small business development. Above all, Peace Zones for Life is a grassroots initiative driven by people who are taking responsibility for the social, economic, and physical health of their community. It does not assume that inner-city residents themselves are solely responsible for the deterioration of neighborhoods ravaged by decades of race, class, and gender oppression, but it does insist that they are the necessary change agents to remedy our crisis situation.  

The idea of Peace Zones is a transformative one that builds on the concept of restorative justice. In response to the cancerous growth of the prison industry and the now widely recognized problem of overcrowded prisons siphoning away scarce resources, the restorative justice movement offers methods to heal both ex-offenders and their communities. Our present criminal justice system is based on the concept of punitive or retributive justice. Punitive justice views antisocial behavior as an offense against the state, which therefore has the right and responsibility to punish offenders and which does so primarily by isolating them. But now that prisons clearly serve as warehouses for the millions whom capitalism has made expendable, now that our families and communities are being devastated by the incarceration (often for nonviolent offenses) of millions of brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers, our survival depends on our making a paradigm shift in our own approach to justice. We need to take it upon ourselves to practice a concept of justice that will empower offenders and the community to work together and build a healthy community.

—  Grace Lee Boggs, “”Let’s Talk About Malcolm and Martin,” The Next American Revolution (2012)

New Startup Connects Inmates to Their Families

It seems like the Internet is always buzzing about new startups, but Pigeonly, which connects prisoners to their families and loved ones in the outside world, sets itself apart from the others by serving a community that few have thought to include in the tech development mix. 

Founder Frederick Hutson started the company after spending four years in prison for drug-related charges where he saw that an inmate’s money does not go very far. While most companies operating in this space seem to be gouging prisoners with exorbitant prices, Pigeonly is trying to make life a little simpler.

“I noticed that there was this population of people that no one was paying attention to and they had very specific problems. That’s where the idea first formulated in my mind to build products to address various communication issues between inmates and their family members,” Hutson said.

Read more.

Image: Flickr/[AndreasS]

This is a structural problem, meaning that you can replace the people who represent the system and the system will remain the same, until and unless we organize to change it. And so when we say that Black lives matter, that is a political demand. It is a declaration.

Charlene Carruthers (@CharleneCac)

Quote is from a recent video of her speaking out as the National Coordinator for Black Youth Project (@BYP_100).

New Koch

David and Charles Koch, the polarizing owners of Koch Industries, appear to be undergoing the best image overhaul that their money can buy. Jane Mayer investigates their possible ulterior motives, in this week’s issue.

Illustration by Matt Dorfman; Source: Andrew Toth/Filmmagic/Getty (top); Patrick T. Fallon/The Washington Post/Getty (bottom)

Criminal Justice 2016: VAWA and Mass Incarceration

The 2016 Election Season has been an important one for addressing mass incarceration, state violence, racial profiling, and police killings. Thanks to many amazing activists, organizers, writers, and educators we have national attention on the problems of the criminal justice system.

The state of that system finds many of its roots in 1994, when the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, also known as the Crime Bill, passed. This was the largest piece of anti-crime legislation in United States history, directly paving the way for the disastrous War on Drugs, the strengthening of a racist Prison Industrial Complex, and the continued militarization of the police force. We are now privy to the fact that a carceral state, and the criminalization of drug use and poverty, doesn’t alleviate social ills; it further unfairly punishes people and breaks up communities.

On a national scale, what has been mostly absent during the campaigns thus far is the realization that the Crime Bill is as much a gender issue as it is a racial one, especially at the intersection of race and gender: in fact, a key provision of this anti-crime law was the introduction of the Violence Against Women Act, hailed as one of the most important pieces of federal legislation to address violence against women. And what is left out in our mainstream discussions of mass incarceration is that the policies which have bolstered more policing, prisons, detention centers, and harsher sentences, have largely backfired on women. Women of color have become the fastest growing prison population to the tune of a 800% increase since these severe anti-crime/poverty/drug strategies took effect.

Introduced under the pretext of “protecting women,” mandatory and dual arrest, failure to protect, and mandatory minimum sentences have all negatively affected battered women and threatened women’s ability to self-defend. By making arrest, criminal charges, separation of the family, and loss of home and income the consequences of calling self defense – or even calling for help – we put victims of domestic violence at further risk of harm and even death. Meanwhile, the introduced (and continually reinforced) anti-sex and human trafficking portions of the Crime Bill have disproportionately harmed voluntary sex workers, while doing little to solve the issues facing actually sex-trafficked women and young girls. And we now have more women, especially women of color, in the prison population than ever before.

The discussion on the legal system needs to be focused on these strategies if we are to achieve any justice. We call on the candidates and voters in our concerns about mass incarceration and that we need to also see and center how it has specifically harmed women.

Decolonizing the Anti-Violence Movement: VAWA and How Anti-Violence Has Backfired

Decolonizing the Anti-Violence Movement: Overview


The first and most identifiable image of the 18th century abolitionist movement was a kneeling African man with a banner stating “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?” below.  (Left.)

It was an image commissioned by abolitionist Quakers, playing on religious symbolism to tug on the heartstrings of white folks. The kneeling black man looking feeble and in need of the graciousness of white people, underscoring the perception of black inferiority that’s continued in art and culture until even now.

I get the intent. It’s just bullshit. So I changed the slogan to something more appropriate for any shackled person of any age, broke the chains, and added a sidearm.

We live in a time where more black men are controlled by the criminal justice industrial complex than lived as slaves before the Civil War. From the drug war to a seemingly endless laundry list of laws aimed at social control, America has become a police state with the most incarcerated human beings in the world.  The simple act of allegedly selling a few cigarettes on the streets of New York to fellow citizens got Eric Garner dead.

Even clear video evidence of the homicide viewed by everyone with a smart phone over the last year  wasn’t enough to get justice.

People should be angry.  People should stand up.

My argument has been that it wasn’t until the irreverent spread of hip hop in popular culture that the public perception of black inferiority was really challenged. That challenge took the form of a gritty, angry, beautiful, and often funny reflection of black life in our society. Through art, music, fashion, and language, our culture changed. 

But not enough. My favorite quote by Mark Twain, which sits in front of me in the form or a 5 foot tall portrait in my studio, and gave me strength when I’ve fought my battles with authority states, “Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only defense.”

To change things I think you have to ruffle feathers.  You have to take what’s accepted, tear it apart, ridicule what is stupid, and recreate.

The peoples’ power is being challenged by the institutions in society that rely on violence to exist. Not just black people, but all people. The state and those that give it authority have exhibited a pattern of abuses on our liberty. The result being effective slavery.

The state is a fiction.  Without our belief in it, it does not exist - it has no real authority without our consent. In that way we’re all in some way responsible for what has happened. We give the institutions the power that gives the state the means to push us around.

I’m sick of it, and I think it’s past time we say “I’m not your slave motherfucker” through art, humor, music, language, and action.