historical prison

russianspacegeckosexparty  asked:

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: 

The 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. 

With regards 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.) 

This 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. 

The military is not necessary for a society to thrive. There are 22 countries that do not have a standing army. Not all are examples to follow, but there are ideas for further consideration and things that can be improved.

I am more knowledgeable about the prison-industrial complex, so I’m going to move on to that…

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).

Since the 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.

As I 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).

 – @space-crabs

 Some resources:

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?’
—  The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano

Boston Post, Massachusetts, June 5, 1921

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. 

‘The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning’
The murder of three men and six women at a church in Charleston is a national tragedy, but in America, the killing of black people is an unending spectacle.
By Claudia Rankine

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?