Tag Archives: slavery

How to end the epidemic of incarceration

There are historical reasons for why we lock up so many people, some going back a century or more, and some starting in 1980 and 2001. Knowing what they are (and what they are not) lets us see what we can do to end the epidemic of incarceration that is damaging education and agriculture in Georgia.

Adam Gopnik wrote for the New Yorker dated 30 January 2012, The Caging of America: Why do we lock up so many people?

More than half of all black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery then.
In Georgia, 1 in 13 of all adults is in jail, prison, probation, or parole: highest in the country (1 in 31 nationwide). Georgia is only number 4 in adults in prison, but we’re continuing to lock more people up, so we may get to number 1 on that, too.
Over all, there are now more people under “correctional supervision” in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States.

The accelerating rate of incarceration over the past few decades is just as startling as the number of people jailed: in 1980, there were about two hundred and twenty people incarcerated for every hundred thousand Americans; by 2010, the number had more than tripled, to seven hundred and thirty-one. No other country even approaches that. In the past two decades, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education.

And we can’t afford that, especially not when we’re cutting school budgets. That graph of education vs. incarceration spending is for California. Somebody should do a similar graph for Georgia.

The article does get into why we lock up so many people: Continue reading

Prison slave labor infects beef with rat feces

In case you thought prison slave labor didn’t affect you, watch Mike Elk on Democracy Now today, New ExposĂ© Tracks ALEC-Private Prison Industry Effort to Replace Unionized Workers with Prison Labor:
“more than 14 million pounds of beef infected with rat feces processed by inmates were not recalled, in order to avoid drawing attention to how many products are made by prison labor.”
Is this what you want for yourself and your children? If not, it’s time to stop ALEC crafting state laws to lock people up and then exploit them as slave labor.

We can start by not accepting a private prison in Lowndes County, Georgia. Spend those tax dollars on rehabilitation and education instead.

Update 9:35 AM 6 Aug 2011: Fixed the links to the Democracy Now story. Thanks for catching that, Barbara!
Here’s a bonus link to the story in The Nation.


PS: This post owed to Cheryl Ann Fillekes.

Prison slave labor

You, too, can end up as a 21st century slave in the U.S.A.! For drugs, or debt, or especially for being black.

Rania Khalek wrote for AlterNet 21 July 2011, 21st-Century Slaves: How Corporations Exploit Prison Labor: In the eyes of the corporation, inmate labor is a brilliant strategy in the eternal quest to maximize profit.

There is one group of American workers so disenfranchised that corporations are able to get away with paying them wages that rival those of third-world sweatshops. These laborers have been legally stripped of their political, economic and social rights and ultimately relegated to second-class citizens. They are banned from unionizing, violently silenced from speaking out and forced to work for little to no wages. This marginalization renders them practically invisible, as they are kept hidden from society with no available recourse to improve their circumstances or change their plight.

They are the 2.3 million American prisoners locked behind bars where we cannot see or hear them. And they are modern-day slaves of the 21st century.

And who are these prison slaves? Continue reading

Coalition against private prisons in Shelby County, Tennessee

In at least one southern county, church groups are working together with other groups to prevent private prisons. Why not here, too?

The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center is organizing a broad coalition against private prisons in Shelby County, Tennessee:

No Private Prisons
The Shelby County Commission is in the process of trying to privatize our criminal justice system. Private prisons have a well-documented history of inefficient security, poorly trained and underpaid workers, high turnover rates, scant benefits and unprofessional and unsupervised treatment of inmates.

The Coalition Against Private Prisons has been created to fight this privatization plan. So far this coalition involves Grassroots Leadership, the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, the AFSCME local 1733, Shelby County Corrections Officers, Women’s Action Coalition, Mid-South Interfaith Network, educators, faith leaders, artists, and activists.

To address this we are working with our coalition partners and other community organizations to educate Memphians about the dangers of privatization, and to mobilize Memphians around the issue.

They’ve got a report, Progress or Profit? Positive Alternatives To Privatization and Incarceration in Shelby County, Tennessee. Continue reading

“More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began” –Michelle Alexander

Dick Price writes that More Black Men Now in Prison System than Were Enslaved,
“More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began,” Michelle Alexander told a standing room only house at the Pasadena Main Library this past Wednesday, the first of many jarring points she made in a riveting presentation.
She’s written a best-selling book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness, and she discusses the problem: Continue reading