The historic prison cemetery in Hunstville, Texas, Joe Byrd Cemetery, is the burial place of approximately 3,000 prisoners. Serial killers, Kenneth McDuff and Henry Lee Lucas are buried here due to the fact that nobody wanted to claim their bodies.
What would happen to the military and police force in a solarpunk society? What about jails/prisons? How might a solarpunk society defend itself?
I have a rough answer to this, but my friend Chelsea has a lot of experience in direct prison abolition activism, so I’ve asked her to take a look at this ask and respond. Here’s what she wrote:
underlying assumption here is that military and police are necessary for
society to function. But that’s not really the case. The military-industrial
complex and prison-industrial
complex uphold the intertwined structures of white supremacy,
hetero-patriarchy, and capitalism. As I understand it, solarpunk is an attempt
to create alternatives to these systems of violence.
to the military, its role in the US is to defend the nation from real or
potential threats, both internal and external. It enacts unspeakable violence
on any perceived threats. For the last 100+ years of US history, the military
has been the muscle of US imperialism. (And this is the case for other past and
present empires/ colonizers.)
Jacobin article summarizes the violence enacted by the US military, and why
it should be abolished: (1) US imperialism breeds racism; (2) the military is
anti-feminist; (3) US militarism is bad for American workers and for the
planet; (4) the US military is global capitalism’s police; and (5) the military
is no humanitarian force, although US military interventions are often
explained away with language about humanitarian efforts.
I am more
knowledgeable about the prison-industrial complex, so I’m going to move on to
In the US,
we use prisons and jails to hide away, punish, and obliterate people we have
labeled as “criminals.” Crime and criminality are socially constructed and
historically variable (so it is different in different times and places; I am a
US historian, so this is where my experience is coming from).
19th century, the system of jails/prisons in the US has served to identify and
“reform” non-normative bodies and behaviors. Today, it has become system of
punishment that targets and destroys people who experience intersecting
oppressions based on race, gender, disability, and class—on a massive scale.
We may be
able to find an approach that encompasses harm reduction and restorative justice,
which are increasingly used today to eliminate the perceived need for state
violence. Activists that I worked with in western MA have been fighting against
the construction of new jails. The Massachusetts Statewide Harm Reduction
Coalition (SHaRC) emphasizes the need to “deconstruct” the ideology of prisons,
and to “reconstruct” viable community alternatives.
We need to
rethink the role of jails/prisons, and realize that our communities are best
served by harm prevention/reduction and restorative justice alternatives,
including equitable access to affordable housing, food, job opportunities,
childcare, quality education, and healthcare.
understand solarpunk, restorative justice would have to be a core part of
solarpunk society. This would be part of wide-ranging efforts to decriminalize
criminalized communities, to end environmental racism, and to dismantle white
supremacist violence (institutional and otherwise).
States of Incarceration: www.statesofincarceration.org
(this is a national public memory project that I worked on; it features a
website and national traveling exhibit about lots of histories of incarceration
in the US)
- Why are you doing this to me? - My dream is to be a female warden of the Police Bureau. So I want to learn martial arts from you. You are a spy. - Why do you want to be a warden of the Police Bureau?
After a few months, the raging frustration at his position, the constant nightmares began to subside and Luciano came to accept as inevitable the fact that release would not come soon, that the appeals process would be a long one. He began to come somewhat to terms with his situation, particularly in the library. ‘There I was, surrounded by all them books and I started to think about Lansky—how Meyer was always walkin’ around with a book stuck in his back pocket and his nose buried in another one. The son of a bitch was always readin’, always learnin’ somethin’, mostly havin’ to do with numbers. That’s when I started reading.’ … 'I was reading so much that one day, when Frank Costello came up to see me and I started tellin’ him about all the books I’m reading, Frank says to me, “Charlie, you’re becoming a goddamn Sicilian Meyer Lansky.” Whadda you think of that?’
In 1921 Bebe Daniels was cruising in her Marmon Roadster with current beau boxer Jack Dempsey (and her mother, chaperone for proprieties sake). When they crossed the into Orange County she was pulled over for speeding - she was going 56 ½ MPH. The judge in the case was notorious for giving steep fines to anyone going above the speed limit, as well as jail time for anyone going over 50 - and Bebe was no exception. She told the motorcycle officers at the scene that she’d been speeding because her radiator had sprung a leak, she wanted to get it fixed before more trouble ensued, but they didn’t buy it.. neither did the jury.
She was sentenced to 10 days in jail, although some critics were unimpressed when she was gifted a full bedroom set (including a rug and a phonograph) from a local furniture store for her Santa Ana cell, claiming that it looked like a boudoir scene from a movie. They also ridiculed the fact that her mother stayed with her for the majority of the term, and weren’t impressed when she bragged about her guest book which she claimed had racked up 721 signatures from visitors while in the clink. On her first day in jail the judge who sentenced her welcomed her with a bouquet of roses. She was pretty upbeat about the whole thing though, telling the sheriff that “This is a comfy little place, anyhow. It will be sort of a quiet vacation.”
Judge Cox later fined former Secretary of the Treasury and future California Senator Williams Gibbs McAdoo and his son, William Jr, separately for speeding in his jurisdiction within a week of each other.
We live in a country where Americans assimilate corpses in their daily comings and goings. Dead blacks are a part of normal life here. Dying in ship hulls, tossed into the Atlantic, hanging from trees, beaten, shot in churches, gunned down by the police or warehoused in prisons: Historically, there is no quotidian without the enslaved, chained or dead black body to gaze upon or to hear about or to position a self against. When blacks become overwhelmed by our culture’s disorder and protest (ultimately to our own detriment, because protest gives the police justification to militarize, as they did in Ferguson), the wrongheaded question that is asked is, What kind of savages are we? Rather than, What kind of country do we live in?