Prison, Race and Police Brutality: Corporate Capitalism Is the Foundation of Police Brutality and the Prison State! The Relationship Between Economic Inequality, Poverty and Racism.

6 Jul

 

 

Our national conversation on race and crime is based on a fiction. It is the fiction that the organs of internal security, especially the judiciary and the police, can be adjusted, modernized or professionalized to make possible a post-racial America. We discuss issues of race while ignoring the economic, bureaucratic and political systems of exploitation—all of it legal and built into the ruling apparatus—that are the true engines of racism and white supremacy. No discussion of race is possible without a discussion of capitalism and class. And until that discussion takes place, despite all the proposed reforms to the criminal justice system, the state will continue to murder and imprison poor people of color with impunity.

More training, body cameras, community policing, the hiring of more minorities as police officers, a better probation service and more equitable fines will not blunt the indiscriminate use of lethal force or reduce the mass incarceration that destroys the lives of the poor. Our capitalist system callously discards surplus labor, especially poor people of color, employing lethal force and the largest prison system in the world to keep them under control. This is by design. And until this predatory system of capitalism is destroyed, the poor, especially people of color, will continue to be gunned down by police in the streets, as they have for decades, and disproportionately locked in prison cages.

“The strength of ‘The New Jim Crow’ by Michelle Alexander is that, by equating mass incarceration with Jim Crow, it makes it rhetorically impossible to defend it,” said Naomi Murakawa, author of “The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America,” when we met recently in Princeton, N.J. “But, on the other hand, there is no ‘new’ Jim Crow, there is just capitalist white supremacy in a state of constant self-preservation

 

 

A Bookstore at the Vanguard of the Revolution
A Bookstore at the Vanguard of the Revolution

 

 

“We should talk about what we are empowering police to do, not how they are doing it, not whether they are being nice when they carry out arrests,” she said. “Reforms are oriented to making violence appear respectable and courteous. But being arrested once can devastate someone’s life. This is the violence we are not talking about. It does not matter if you are arrested politely. Combating racism is not about combating bad ideas in the head or hateful feelings. This idea is the perfect formula to preserve material distributions in their exact configuration.”

Murakawa, who teaches at Princeton University, laid out in her book that liberals, in the name of pity, and conservatives, in the name of law and order—or as Richard Nixon expressed it, the right to be safe and free of fear—equally shared in the building of our carceral state. “Liberal racial pity mirrored conservative racial contempt,” she writes. These “competing constructions of black criminality, one callous, another with a tenor of sympathy and cowering paternalism,” ensured that by the time these forces were done, there was from 1968 to 2010 a septupling of people locked in the prison system. “Counting probation and parole with jails and prisons is even more astonishing still,” she writes. “This population grew from 780,000 in 1965 to seven million in 2010.”

Racism in America will not be solved, she writes, by “teaching tolerance and creating colorblind institutions.” The refusal to confront structural racism, which in the 1930s and ’40s among intellectuals “situated domestic racism and colonialism abroad in an integrated critique of global capitalism,” led to a vapid racial liberalism that, as Penny Von Eschen writes, conceived of racism as “an anachronistic prejudice and a personal and psychological problem, rather than as a systemic problem rooted in specific social practices and prevailing relations of political economy and culture.”

Police brutality will not be solved, Murakawa points out, by reforms that mandate an “acceptable use of force.” The state may have outlawed lynching and mob violence—largely because of international outcry and damage to the image of the United States abroad—but insisted that capital punishment “could be fair with adequate legal defense for the poor, proper jury instructions, and clear lists of mitigating and aggravating circumstances.” Racial violence was seen as an “administrative deficiency.”

 

 

 

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Murakawa goes on in the book:

Liberal lawmakers would come to evaluate fairness through finely honed, step-by-step questions: Did legislators enact a sufficiently clear criminal statute? Did police properly Mirandize? Did prosecutors follow protocol in offering a plea bargain or filing charges? Did parole officers follow administrative rules of revocation? And, in any single step, did a specific actor deviate from the protocol or intentionally discriminate? As a methodology for ‘finding racism’ in the criminal justice system, liberal law-and-order reinforced the common sense that racism is a ghost in the machine, some immaterial force detached from the institutional terrain of racialized wealth inequality and the possessive investment in whiteness. At the core of liberal law-and-order was the promise to move each individual qua individual through a system of clear rules that allow little room for individual bias. In effect, a lasting legacy of liberal law-and-order is this: we evaluate the rightness of criminal justice through the administrative quality by which each individual is searched, arrested, warehoused, or put to death.

All penal reform, from President Truman’s 1947 Committee on Civil Rights report to the Safe Streets Act of 1968 to the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 to contemporary calls for more professionalization, in effect only hand more power and resources to the police. It does nothing to blunt police abuse or reverse mass incarceration. It does nothing to address the bias of white supremacy. “Truman’s version of the civil rights agenda came through lynching,” Murakawa said. “It illuminates how the rule of law and white supremacy operate hand in hand. Lynching hurt U.S. credibility. It hurt its force projection abroad. The concern over lynching was not a concern for black lives. It was a concern that mob and state violence were too easily conflated. The objective became to make a sharp difference between white supremacist mob violence and white supremacist state violence. The difference is not that one is white supremacist and one is not. The difference is one [is] proceduralized, one is rights based, one is orderly, bound by rule of law with ever more elaborate procedures. That is the only thing that makes it different from the lynch mob.”

The real crime—poverty, institutional racism and capitalist exploitation—is rarely discussed. Therefore, the blame for crime is easily shifted to the “pathology” of black families. The Moynihan report, for example, argues that black criminality results from dominant black mothers and absent black fathers.

“You can perfect due process so it operates like a machine and have perfect quality control,” Murakawa said. “This is what the due-process-right revolution was. You can have full adherence to the panoply of rights. And yet you also have a machine that only grows. Everyone thought the Miranda decision would stop the rate at which police arrest people. They thought it would curtail the scale and scope of policing. Instead, Miranda rights are used to protect police officers in civil litigation. Police officers say they got the waiver. They say people were informed of their rights. Miranda is used mostly to deflect lawsuits against police departments. These little procedural interventions give the system a patina of legitimacy. If we are processing at the same scale and at the same racial concentration, then the machinery of death only gets bigger and bigger.”

The more that “carceral machinery was rights-based and rule-bound, the more racial disparity was isolatable to ‘real’ black criminality.” In other words, as liberals and conservatives became convinced that the machinery of the judiciary and the police was largely impartial and fair, the onus for punishment shifted to the victims. State-sponsored white violence remained entrenched. Institutionalized murder remained acceptable. In the minds of liberals and conservatives, those who were arrested, locked up or shot deserved to be arrested, locked up or shot. Federal mandatory minimum statutes tripled under President Bill Clinton, and this is one example Murakawa points out of how “with each administrative layer to protect African Americans from lawless racial violence, liberals propelled carceral development that, through perverse turns, expanded lawful racial violence.”

By 1993, she points out, “African Americans accounted for 88.3 percent of all federal crack cocaine distribution convictions.” And because the judicial system is stacked against poor people of color, it does not matter, she said, if the arresting officers are also people of color.

 

 

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“There is no evidence that having a minority police officer changes arrest or use of force,” she said. “The better evidence suggests that black police officers tend to arrest everyone at higher rates across races. I interpret this as black professionals having to over-perform in any number of professions to get to comparable ranking. Maybe interpersonally, people will find it a little less offensive. But it does not diminish the violence.”

By the Clinton administration, liberals and conservatives were competing with each other to be “tough” on crime. Murakawa notes that between 1968 and 1976, no one was executed in the United States. But this changed under Clinton. Democrats and Republicans proposed bill after bill until the number of crimes punishable by death leapt from one in 1974 to 66 in 1994. The two parties engaged in “a death penalty bidding war.” Then-Sen. Joe Biden was one of the most enthusiastic proponents of expanding the death penalty—he boasted that he had “added back to the Federal statutes over 50 death penalties”—and the Democrats effectively “neutralized soft-on-crime accusations with punitive outbidding.” But while this may have been politically advantageous to the Democrats, it was devastating to poor people of color and in particular blacks.

Change, Murakawa said, requires us to formulate a very different vision of society.

“We should follow Angela Davis’ call to ask the question: What is it we have to imagine if we abolish the social functions of police and prisons?” she said. “What is it we have to build if we can no longer jail people who are mentally ill or suffering from long-term addiction or homeless? We are going to have to build a lot.” <!– BEGIN JS TAG – TruthDig.com Article Page 300×250 ATF But few people, and perhaps no one in the political establishment, are asking these questions.

“These bipartisan coalitions are conjoined in the rhetoric of cost cutting,” Murakawa said, referencing Marie Gottschalk’s book “Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics.” “They may say there is bias, that it is not racially fair. They may attack prisons as big government, as inefficient or as a bad investment. But once you follow the logic of austerity, you push the cost of punishment on those who are punished. You are not committed to building anything. The reason Portugal has been so successful with drug legalization is because of the Portuguese National Health Service. Fighting addiction requires pharmacological and medical intervention, along with psychological and financial support.

“I worry that we are once again moving toward more professionalized police who have had more training but still have the scope to arrest and issue citations and summonses the same way they do now,” Murakawa said. “Indeed, there will probably be an increase in arrests, citations and summonses if the police forces get bigger. Even with scaling back the war on drugs, I worry that we will still have a massive number of people embroiled in the criminal justice system. It will be death by a thousand cuts rather than the 20-year mandatory minimums for drug conspiracy. Bipartisan coalitions that are about cutting costs justify pushing the cost of punishment on punished populations. I worry we are moving toward a population, mostly black and poor, that is cycling through jail and effectively serving 20-year sentences but in stints of about 90 days at a time. With each jail stay they accumulate more debt for room and board. A municipality in Missouri is billing people for the Tasers used against them—$26 per Taser discharge. Roughly half of all states are now charging people for the services of indigent criminal defense. A 2013 Supreme Court decision said that extended families could be held responsible for the debts of those incarcerated.

“There are 10 to 12 million arrests every year; about half will never be processed because these arrests are for charges so trivial they are not worth pursuing or there is no evidence,” she said. “Maybe 5 percent of these arrests are for charges of violent crime and 15 percent for property crimes.

“There is no reason why police on patrols should be armed,” she went on. “If we were serious about stopping executions without trials, we would be committed to the idea that all police have to call in special forces. What we now see as regular police units would be SWAT patrols that have to be specially called in to use lethal force. We have to diminish the scale of everything. We have to wipe clean penal codes. Most arrests are for misdemeanors, petty offenses like public drunkenness or loitering. These are things no state agent with a gun should be addressing. The only way to reduce the scale of police brutality is to reduce the scale of policing. People should not be arrested for not mowing their lawn or for selling loosies.

“The idea we can put police officers through training to address their implicit bias and then give them guns—the idea that two days of intensive training will diminish the probability of shoot to kill—is absurd,” Murakawa said. “I have zero faith in this.” Posted on Jul 5, 2015 By Chris Hedges

 

 

George Jackson, as pictured in The Black Panther newsletter, 1971

 

The Struggle Inside…War behind the Walls! The American for Profit Prison system. Profiting From Human Misery; Private Prisons maximizing their profit received nearly $3 billion in revenue from imprisonment of undocumented immigrants, deportation, exploitation, Mass Incarceration, draconian drug laws

 

Greater and greater numbers of human beings and citizens will be consumed. The poor, the vulnerable, the undocumented, the weak, the elderly, the sick, the young. combined with moves by congress such as “the critical battle over our civil liberties that were being waged at the NY US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Foley Square. NDAA will essentially allow military law to supersede civil law. It gives dictatorial authority to the President of the US, not seen since before the signing of the Magna Carta. It allows for the abduction of American Citizens, it allows our government to hold citizens under military law indefinitely, with no right to due process, no right to an attorney or access to evidence.  NDAA was written and backed by bipartisan support from the US Congress, Under these new regulations every American and legal US resident who independently publishes articles or blogs that in any way criticize America’s actions at home or abroad; like peace activists and those who speak up for the rights of Americans and those who Occupy Wall Street, can be named terrorists”. Corporate Fascism is real and it is here today, Now! Your health-care, banking, food production, media, justice system, state and local police are all being operated and controlled by giant corporate entities you as citizens allowed to be called PEOPLE!

 

Profiting From Human Misery By Chris Hedges  OpEdNews Op Eds 2/18/2013 at 01:53:21

 Marela, an undocumented immigrant in her 40s, stood outside the Elizabeth Detention Center in Elizabeth, N.J., on a chilly afternoon last week. She was there with a group of protesters who appear at the facility’s gates every year on Ash Wednesday to decry the nation’s immigration policy and conditions inside the center. She was there, she said, because of her friend Evelyn Obey. Obey, 40, a Guatemalan and the single mother of a 12-year-old and a 6-year-old, was picked up in an immigration raid as she and nine other undocumented workers walked out of an office building they cleaned in Newark, N.J. Her two children instantly lost their only parent. She languished in detention. Another family took in the children, who never saw their mother again. Obey died in jail in 2010 from, according to the sign Villar had hung on her neck, “pulmonary thromboembolism, chronic bronchiolitis and emphysema and remote cardiac Ischemic Damage.” “She called me two days after she was seized,” Marela told me in Spanish. “She was hysterical. She was crying. She was worried about her children. We could not visit her because we do not have legal documents. We helped her get a lawyer. Then we heard she was sick. Then we heard she died. She was buried in an unmarked grave. We did not go to her burial. We were too scared of being seized and detained.” The rally — about four dozen people, most from immigrant rights groups and local churches — was a flicker of consciousness in a nation that has yet to fully confront the totalitarian corporate forces arrayed against it. Several protesters in orange jumpsuits like those worn by inmates held signs reading: “I Want My Family Together,” “No Human Being is Illegal,” and “Education not Deportation.” “The people who run that prison make money off of human misery,” said Diana Mejia, 47, an immigrant from Colombia who now has legal status, gesturing toward the old warehouse that now serves as the detention facility. As she spoke, a Catholic Worker band called the Filthy Rotten System belted out a protest song. A low-flying passenger jet, its red, green and white underbelly lights blinking in the night sky, rumbled overhead. Clergy walking amid the crowd marked the foreheads of participants with ashes to commemorate Ash Wednesday. “Repentance is more than merely being sorry,” the Rev. Joyce Antila Phipps, the executive director of Casa de Esperanza, a community organization working with immigrants, told the gathering. “It is an act of turning around and then moving forward to make change.”
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The majority of those we incarcerate in this country — and we incarcerate a quarter of the world’s prison population — have never committed a violent crime. Eleven million undocumented immigrants face the possibility of imprisonment and deportation. President Barack Obama, outpacing George W. Bush, has deported more than 400,000 people since he took office. Families, once someone is seized, detained and deported, are thrown into crisis. Children come home from school and find they have lost their mothers or fathers. The small incomes that once sustained them are snuffed out. Those who remain behind often become destitute. But human beings matter little in the corporate state. We myopically serve the rapacious appetites of those dedicated to exploitation and maximizing profit. And our corporate masters view prisons — as they do education, health care and war — as a business. The 320-bed Elizabeth Detention Center, which houses only men, is run by one of the largest operators and owners of for-profit prisons in the country, Corrections Corporation of America. CCA, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, has annual revenues in excess of $1.7 billion. An average of 81,384 inmates are in its facilities on any one day. This is a greater number, the American Civil Liberties Union points out in a 2011 report, “Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration,” than that held by the states of New York and New Jersey combined. The for-profit prisons and their lobbyists in Washington and state capitals have successfully blocked immigration reform, have prevented a challenge to our draconian drug laws and are pushing through tougher detention policies. Locking up more and more human beings is the bedrock of the industry’s profits. These corporations are the engines behind the explosion of our prison system. They are the reason we have spent $300 billion on new prisons since 1980. They are also the reason serious reform is impossible. The United States, from 1970 to 2005, increased its prison population by about 700 percent, according to statistics gathered by the ACLU. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the ACLU report notes, says that for-profit companies presently control about 18 percent of federal prisoners and 6.7 percent of all state prisoners. Private prisons account for nearly all of the new prisons built between 2000 and 2005. And nearly half of all immigrants detained by the federal government are shipped to for-profit prisons, according to Detention Watch Network. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which imprisons about 400,000 undocumented people a year, has an annual budget of more than $5 billion. ICE is planning to expand its operations by establishing several mega-detention centers, most run by private corporations, in states such as New Jersey, Texas, Florida, California and Illinois. Many of these private contractors are, not surprisingly, large campaign donors to “law and order” politicians including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

 

 

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In CCA’s annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission for 2011, cited by the ACLU, the prison company bluntly states its opposition to prison reform. “The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws,” it declares. CCA goes on to warn that “any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration” could “potentially [reduce] demand for correctional facilities,” as would “mak[ing] more inmates eligible for early release based on good behavior,” the adoption of “sentencing alternatives [that] … could put some offenders on probation” and “reductions in crime rates.” CCA in 2011 gave $710,300 in political contributions to candidates for federal or state office, political parties and 527 groups (PACs and super PACs), the ACLU reported. The corporation also spent $1.07 million lobbying federal officials along with undisclosed funds to lobby state officials, according to the ACLU. CCA, through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), lobbies legislators to impose harsher detention laws at the state and federal levels. The ALEC helped draft Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law SB 1070. A March 2012 CCA investor presentation prospectus, quoted by the ACLU, tells potential investors that incarceration “creates predictable revenue streams.” The document cites demographic trends that the company says will continue to expand profits. These positive investment trends include, the prospectus reads, “high recidivism” — “about 45 percent of individuals released from prison in 1999 and more than 43 percent released from prison in 2004 were returned to prison within three years.” The prospectus invites investments by noting that one in every 100 U.S. adults is currently in prison or jail. And because the U.S. population is projected to grow by approximately 18.6 million from 2012 to 2017, “prison populations would grow by about 80,400 between 2012 and 2017, or by more than 13,000 additional per year, on average,” the CCA document says. The two largest private prison companies in 2010 received nearly $3 billion in revenue. The senior executives, according to the ACLU report, each received annual compensation packages worth well over $3 million. The for-profit prisons can charge the government up to $200 a day to house an inmate; they pay detention officers as little as $10 an hour.

 

 

 

 

“Within 30 miles of this place, there are at least four other facilities where immigrants are detained: Essex, Monmouth, Delaney Hall and Hudson, which has the distinction of being named one of the 10 worst detention facilities in the country,” Phipps, who is an immigration attorney as well as a minister, told the gathering in front of the Elizabeth Detention Center. “The terrible secret is that immigration detention has become a very profitable business for companies and county governments.” “More than two-thirds of immigrants are detained in so-called contract facilities owned by private companies, such as this one and Delaney Hall,” she went on. “The rise of the prison industrial complex has gone hand in hand with the aggrandizing forces of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, which, by the way, has filed suit against the very government it is supposed to be working for because they were told to exercise prosecutorial discretion in their detention practices.” [Click here to see more about the lawsuit, in which 10 ICE agents attack the administration’s easing of government policy on those who illegally entered the United States as children.] There is an immigration court inside the Elizabeth facility, although the roar of the planes lifting off from the nearby Newark Airport forces those in the court to remain silent every three or four minutes until the sound subsides. Most of those brought before the court have no legal representation and are railroaded through the system and deported. Detainees, although most have no criminal record beyond illegal entry into the United States, wear orange jumpsuits and frequently are handcuffed. They do not have adequate health care. There are now some 5,000 children in foster care because their parents have been detained or deported, according to the Applied Research Center’s report, “Shattered Families.” The report estimates that this number will rise to 15,000 within five years. “I am in family court once every six to eight weeks representing some mother who is surrendering custody of her child to somebody else because she does not want to take that child back to the poverty of Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador,” Phipps said when we spoke after the rally. “She has no option. She does not want her child to live in the same poverty she grew up in. It is heartbreaking.” We have abandoned the common good. We have been stripped of our rights and voice. Corporations write our laws and determine how we structure our society. We have all become victims. There are no politicians or institutions, no political parties or courts, that are independent enough or strong enough to resist the corporate onslaught. Greater and greater numbers of human beings will be consumed. The poor, the vulnerable, the undocumented, the weak, the elderly, the sick, the children will go first. And those of us watching helplessly outside the gates will go next.

 

 

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