Thursday December 18th, 2014, 4:41 pm (EST)

Incarceration

Silencing the Cells: Mass Incarceration and Legal Repression in U.S. Prisons

People without a voice are not people in any meaningful sense of the word. Silenced people cannot express their ideas; they can neither consent nor protest. They are reduced to being pawns in the schemes of the powerful, mendicants who must accept whatever is imposed upon them. In order to keep people in a state of subjugation, silencing their voices is essential. Nowhere is this clearer than in U.S. prisons… | more |

Poverty and Inequality in the Global Economy

Capitalism is hundreds of years old and today dominates nearly every part of the globe. Its champions claim that it is the greatest engine of production growth the world has ever seen. They also argue that it is unique in its ability to raise the standard of living of every person on earth. Because of capitalism, we are all “slouching toward utopia,”—the phrase coined by University of California at Berkeley economist J. Bradford DeLong—slowly but surely heading toward a world in which everyone will have achieved a U.S.-style middle-class life… | more |

The U.S. Prison State

Tara Herivel and Paul Wright, editors Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America’s Poor (New York: Routledge, 2003), 256 pages, cloth $80.00, paper $19.95.

I sit in the day room/lobby waiting to be released for lunch. I read a novel in which one character, a Pole, comments to another that the Germans consider Poles to be untermenschen, subhuman. I look at the women around me: Latinas arguing among themselves in Spanish; a black woman making signals to someone I don’t see; two white women—one of whom is stringing beads—are murmuring together. Two of these women are here because they are undocumented workers; three are incarcerated for economic offenses; the other is falsely convicted; all of us are caught inside the nightmare of an oppressive state and an expanding empire. Instead of storm trooper boots and brown shirts, those who command wear Tony Lamas cowboy boots, expensive suits, and ties—men who see in the U.S. prison establishment ways to both intensify control of the population and squeeze more profits out of late-stage capitalism… | more |

Capitalism and Incarceration Revisited

“Capitalism and Incarceration,” written by the author and published in Monthly Review twenty years ago (March 1983), analyzed the relationship between the capitalist economy and the prison system in America and came to an indisputable conclusion: “The overall trends and year-by-year correspondence between economic conditions and imprisonment establish quite clearly the relationship between capitalism and incarceration—prisons under capitalism are, as Marx pointed out long ago, dumping grounds of the industrial reserve army.”… | more |

Homeland Imperialism: Fear and Resistance

The creation and cultivation of fear is one of the pillars of empire both abroad and within the imperial “homeland.” And that fear is always accompanied by the threat of discipline, punishment, and violence. Every state uses violence to enforce its power against its enemies, but we must recognize that a major change has occurred. September 11, 2001 gave a green light for a full blown, and bipartisan, agenda of repression at home, as well as for the expanded imperial project abroad… | more |

October 2001 (Volume 53, Number 5)

October 2001 (Volume 53, Number 5)

The fact that the vested interests in the United States are able to rely on a well-oiled propaganda system, in which the media dutifully play their appointed role, is perhaps nowhere clearer today than in the case of Social Security privatization. From the standpoint of the establishment the truth simply will not do. If the truth were presented on Social Security, that is, if there were a responsible and independent press hammering away at the truth, against the obscene manipulation of the facts by the establishment, there would be no Social Security “crisis” and no substantial public support for even partial privatization. The idea of the failure of Social Security is a classic case of propaganda by the elite aimed at manipulating the minds of the people. … | more |

Prisons and Executions—the U.S. Model

A Historical Introduction

The prison is so prominent an institution in present-day society that it is difficult to remember that the prison as a place of punishment is only a little more than two hundred years old. It emerged first in the United States and soon after in Europe, and its early phase of development was that of 1789-1848, conforming to what historian Eric Hobsbawm has termed The Age of Revolution. It was thus a product of the dual revolution that formed the basis for modern capitalism: the industrial revolution centered in Britain and the political revolution that took place in the United States and France… | more |

Lawyers, Jails, and the Law’s Fake Bargains

Assume that Canada and the Western European countries have about the right number of people in jail. Assume that the social problem of crime is not terribly different in those countries than in the United States. Understand that our incarceration rate is five to eight times that of those other countries. If these assumptions, and this understanding, are even nearly valid, 80 percent of the people in American jails should not be there… | more |

Cruel but Not Unusual

The Punishment of Women in U.S. Prisons: An Interview with Marilyn Buck and Laura Whitehorn

After years of neglect, the issue of women in prison has begun to receive attention in this country. Media accounts of overcrowding, lengthening sentences, and horrendous medical care in women’s prisons appear regularly. Amnesty International—long known for ignoring human rights abuses inside United States prisons and jails—issued a report, two days shy of International Women’s Day 2001, documenting over 1,000 cases of sexual abuse of U.S. women prisoners by their jailers. However, we seldom hear from these women themselves. And we never hear from women incarcerated for their political actions… | more |

Disablement, Prison, and Historical Segregation

The story of disablement and the prison industrial complex must begin with a trail of telling numbers: a disproportionate number of persons incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails are disabled. Though Census Bureau data suggest that disabled persons represent roughly one-fifth of the total population, prevalence of disability among prisoners is startlingly higher, for reasons we will examine later. While no reliable cross- disability demographics have been compiled nationwide, numerous studies now enable us to make educated estimates regarding the incidence of various disability categories among incarcerated persons. Hearing loss, for example, is estimated to occur in 30 percent of the prison population, while estimates of the prevalence of mental retardation among prisoners range from 3 to 9.5 percent… | more |

Teaching in Prison

If prisons were places people who have committed serious crimes were sent to pay a debt to society, and to be rehabilitated to return to society as healthy members of it, then at least the following things would be true. First, people who had not committed serious crimes would not be in prison at all. Drug users and persons with mental illnesses would receive treatment and would live in their communities, either at home or in safe and hospitable facilities run as public entities. Those who had committed minor criminal offences, such as shoplifting, would be given non-prison sentences involving counseling and community service. As much as possible, communities would be involved in both setting the penalties and organizing and participating in the treatment. Ironically, this was typically the case in American Indian communities, now so ravaged by the U.S. criminal injustice system… | more |

Capitalism and Crisis

Creating a Jailhouse Nation

Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in The Age of Crisis by Christian Parenti.

By the time I was captured in 1981, the prologue to a life sentence, I had twenty years of movement experience—both above and underground—under my belt. So I thought I had a good understanding of the race and class basis of prisons. But once actually inside that reality, I was stunned by just how thoroughly racist the criminal justice system is and also by the incessant petty hassles of humiliation and degradation. As political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal aptly noted in Live From Death Row, there is a “profound horror…in the day-to-day banal occurrences…[the] second-by-second assault on the soul.” The 1980s became the intense midpoint of an unprecedented explosion of imprisonment. Since 1972, the number of inmates in this country, on any given day, has multiplied six-fold to the two million human beings behind bars today. Another four million are being supervised on parole or probation. The U.S. is the world leader in both death sentences and incarcerations. With just 5 percent of the world’s population, we hold 25 percent of the prisoners.… | more |

Freedom Schooling

At the June meeting of the Black Radical Congress in Detroit, conference delegates decided to launch a campaign for “Education, not Incarceration ”… | more |

Journalism, Democracy, … and Class Struggle

Socialists since the time of Marx have been proponents of democracy, but they have argued that democracy in capitalist societies is fundamentally flawed. In capitalist societies, the wealthy have tremendous social and economic advantages over the working class that undermine political equality, a presupposition for viable democracy. In addition, under capitalism the most important economic issues—investment and control over production—are not the province of democratic politics but, rather, the domain of a small number of wealthy firms and individuals seeking to maximize their profit in competition with each other. This means that political affairs can only indirectly influence economics, and that any party or individual in power has to be careful not to antagonize wealthy investors so as to instigate an investment strike and an economic collapse that would generally mean political disaster … | more |

Capital Crimes

The Political Economy of Crime in America

American politicians have been declaring victory in the war against crime at least since Richard Nixon said in 1972 that “[c]rime…[is] finally beginning to go back down…[because] we have a remarkable record on the law-and-order issues, with crime legislation…and narcotics bills.” In other words, crime declines because the government passes laws and spends money; larger prisons, more police, fewer civil liberties, and tougher punishments are winning the war on crime … | more |

A Poetics of Anticolonialism

Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism might be best described as a declaration of war. I would almost call it a “third world manifesto,” but hesitate because it is primarily a polemic against the old order bereft of the kind of propositions and proposals that generally accompany manifestos. Yet, Discourse speaks in revolutionary cadences, capturing the spirit of its age just as Marx and Engels did 102 years earlier in their little manifesto. First published in 1950 as Discours sur le colonialisme, it appeared just as the old empires were on the verge of collapse, thanks in part to a world war against fascism that left Europe in material, spiritual, and philosophical shambles. It was the age of decolonization and revolt in Africa, Asia, and Latin America… | more |

Prison Sentences

Doing Time: 25 Years of Prison Writing (New York: Arcade, 1999), 349 pp., $27.95, cloth.

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s old adage, about measuring a civilization by reviewing its prisons, if followed in the U.S. context, is a condemnation of this nation’s own version of the gulag archipelago. A cross-section of prisoner’s writings submitted to the PEN writing contest for the past quarter-century reveals the cold, dark underside of the American dream. Men and women, denizens of both state and federal prisons, write brilliantly about trying to stay human in the midst of places of marked inhumanity, and indeed, places that only succeed if they dehumanize … | more |

Booming, Borrowing, and Consuming

The U.S. Economy in 1999

As we take our first steps across what Bill Clinton likes to call the bridge to the twenty-first century, we’re hearing a lot of praise for the state of the U.S. economy. The word “boom” is frequently used, as is the phrase “the best economy in a generation.” Wall Street economist Larry Kudlow, one of the most exuberant of his breed, calls it “the only adult economy in the world.” The United States, we’re told, is a natural to succeed in this post-industrial era—fast, flexible, polyglot, and decentered … | more |

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