Capitalism and Mass Incarceration
Excerpted from Are Prisons Obsolete? Angela Davis, 2003
…When the drive to produce more prisons and incarcerate ever larger numbers of people occurred in the 1980s during what is known as the Reagan era, politicians argued that tough on crime stances—including certain imprisonment and longer sentences—would keep communities free of crime. However, the practice of mass incarceration during that period had little or no effect on official crime rates. In fact, the most obvious pattern was that larger prison populations led not to safer communities, but rather, to even larger prison populations. Each new prison spawned yet another new prison. And as the U.S. Prison system expanded, so did corporate involvement in construction, provision of goods and services, and use of prison labor-from the construction industry to food and health care provision-in a way that recalled the emergence of the military industrial complex, we began to reger to a prison industrial complex.
…We live in an era of migrating corporations. In order to escape organized labor in this country-and thus higher wages, benefits, and so on-corporations roam the world in search of nations providing cheap labor pools. This corporate migration thus leaves entire communities in shambles. Huge numbers of people lose jobs and prospects for future jobs. Because the economic base of these communities is destroyed, education and other surviving social services are
profoundly affected. This process turns the men, women and children who live int these damaged communities into perfect candidates for prison.
In the meantime, corporations associated with the punishment industry reap profits form the system that manages prisoners and acquire a clear stake in the continued growth of prison populations…The prison has become a black hole into which the detritus of contemporary capitalism is deposited. Mass imprisonment generates profits as it devours social wealth, and thus it tends to reproduce the very conditions that lead people to prison…
…The most immediate question today is how to prevent the further expansion of prison populations and how to bring as many imprisoned women and men as possible back into what prisoners call he free world. How can we move to decriminalize drug use and the trade in sexual services? How can we take seriously strategies of restorative rather than exclusively punitive justice? Effective alternatives involve both transformation of the techniques for addressing
crime and of the social and economic conditions that track so many children from poor communities, and especially communities of color, into the juvenile system and then on to prison. The most difficult and urgent challenge today is that of creatively exploring new terrains of justice, where the prison no longer serves as our major anchor.
We are Occupy Oakland. Marcha Por La Dignidad: Immigrants Fight Back!
excerpted from http://www.lavozlit.com
The immigrant community has been one of the hardest hit by the anti-worker policies of the Obama administration. This has been demonstrated by the record number of deportations (396,906 last year alone), mandating of the E-Verify program, promoting Secure Communities, and the exclusion of the undocumented from the health care plan and the stimulus tax refunds. The attacks on undocumented labor have weakened the labor movement as a whole. Countless organizing campaigns have been destroyed by well-timed E-Verify raids and deportations of union activists. Significant sectors of the workforce – meatpacking, restaurants, hotels, custodial, construction – could face the threat of deportation just for seeking improved living and working conditions.
The workers at Pacific Steel, one of the biggest steel foundries in the nation, face some of the toughest and most unsafe conditions imaginable. When the company threatened cuts to benefits in 2011, the workers went on strike and showed the power that they as workers in numbers have. Like any big capitalist enterprise, Pacific Steel called their allies in the federal government and instigated an E-verify raid to squash the militant struggle of the largely Latino and undocumented work force.* ICE raids under similar conditions have happened in the past in LA, in the South Bay, and in the East Bay.
Last Friday, Occupy Oakland, Occupy Cal and the east bay community joined 200 workers fired in the 2011 E-Verify raid at Pacific Steel in a march for worker and immigrant rights. The strength of the coalitions forged around this action continue to grow as workers and activists build for the May 1st global general strike.
*Editorial note: although Pacific Steel claims to have had no hand in instigating the 2011 raids, workers have suggested it was direct
retribution for their militant labor organizing.
Which side of history? Two Important Lessons I learned from Occupy Oakland Move-In Day
From the perspective of a woman of color, Oakland resident, and public school teacher.
(reprinted from occupyoaklandpatriarchy.wordpress.com)
Many attempts have been made to dismiss the truth by citing that the Occupy Movement is a bunch of unemployed white people from out of town and I am none of those. This is my perspective:
One lesson I learned is that Occupy Oakland is a powerful movement and the financial elite are willing to crush the movement by any means necessary.
The march from Oscar Grant Plaza to Henry J. Kaiser Auditorium was festive and peaceful. It was a beautiful day and 2000 plus people took part in the march, all I was thinking as the sun kissed my face was that this was the ideal day for Oakland to rise up and claim a Social Center for the people.
Once we arrived to our destination it was clear that we were not going to be able to claim the building for the people. The closest anyone came to the actual building was about 75 yards away on the other side of a fence. Several individuals began to shake the fence and this caused the police to issue a warning and then they attacked. They launched smoke bombs and flash bang grenades into the crowd of families, strollers and elderly, causing the people
who could to scatter.
If rocking a fence causes the OPD to attack, then we must be doing something right. Why do they want to spend million of dollars to silence us? Why do they want to silence us using such violent force?
This made me think about the parallels between the Occupy Oakland and the Civil Rights Movement. The issues and the people involved may seem to be completely different, but they are not. Racial Equality is Economic Equality. Occupy Oakland has been a strong advocate for economic equality, social justice, and judicial equality all of which are desperately needed in Oakland. The Civil Rights Movement fought for the same. The police arrested and brutalized the
protestors during the Civil Rights Movements (used water hoses and dogs to attack protestors) and the OPD are doing the exact same thing (409 arrested and only 12 charges filed). During the Civil Rights they tried to disseminate lies about the movement and that is exactly what the Mayor, the police chief, and the media are doing to Occupy Oakland.
A friend of mine said, it is really hard for people to situate this (Occupy Oakland) politically and historically. This is a great point and when thinking about this moment I can help think about Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks, a militant civil rights activist and anti-rape activist for 25 years before she refused to move to the back of the bus, was prepared to take drastic measures to force change in the South.Many people at that time were on the wrong side of history, they thought she was foolish, and didn understand why she had issues with following the Jim Crow Laws.That is where we are in this movement, people need to decide if they are ok with the crumbs they are given or are they going to take a stand and fight for their fair share. People need to decide which side of history they want to be on.
Mayor Jean Quan, the police department, and the mainstream media, all run by the 1%, will stop at nothing to discredit, dismantle, and destroy our movement. We are too powerful. We are and we stand for those unable to stand for themselves. We are and we protest for the workers putting in long hours at low wage jobs. We are and we march for the teachers, social workers, counselors and city workers whose wages continue to decline to help pay for the state
deficit. We are and we organize for the college graduates without job opportunities available to them. We are and we fight for the rights of the elderly, homeless, and disenfranchised youth.
Another important lesson I learned from the Occupy Move-In Day is that Oakland Occupy Patriarchy is a group of powerful, intelligent, fearless people who held it down on the front lines despite of how violent OPD became. Members of our group did everything in their power to protect the marchers behind them. They deflected tear gas canisters, went out of their way to make sure the rest of us stayed together and were safe, and many were subject to arrest. After
witnessing the extraordinary bravery from these individuals, it has encouraged me to risk more for the movement, and it has empowered me to speak up and speak out.