Prisons, repression & profits

 

The heroic struggle to save the life of death-row prisoner Troy Davis from a legal lynching in Georgia is not an isolated one. There are broader issues involved, like abolishing the death penalty, not just in the Davis case but in general. According to the Death Penalty Information Center website, as of Jan. 1 of this year, there are more than 3,250 death-row prisoners.

No millionaire or billionaire sits on death row. Death-row inmates are disproportionately Black and Latino, and the overwhelming majority are poor. These reasons alone are motivations to up the ante to abolish the death penalty. This penalty only serves to strength this terrorist arm of the repressive state apparatus under capitalism. To be proven innocent — as in the case of Davis, Mumia Abu-Jamal or Gary Graham aka Shaka Sankofa, who the state of Texas executed in 2000 — is never a guarantee of winning one’s freedom in the biased U.S. courts.

Overall, there are an estimated 2.3 million people incarcerated in U.S. jails and prisons — the largest such population in the world. An additional 5 million people are either on probation or parole. All totaled, there are more than 7 million people under the jurisdiction of the U.S. prison system. This number does not include tens of thousands of youth in juvenile detention. More young African-American men are in prison than in college.

Repression of the most brutal kind is one aspect of the U.S. prison system. Fighting repression is part and parcel of a much larger struggle against the entire prison-industrial complex. The PIC is tied to restructuring the capitalist system, which has accelerated since the mid-1980s. This has resulted in a booming prisons-for-profit industry that has generated super-profits for Wall Street corporations like the Correctional Corporations of America.

In describing its purpose, CCA states that it “designs, builds, manages and operates correctional facilities and detention centers on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Marshals Service, nearly half of all states and nearly a dozen counties across the country.” It goes on to say that it “owns and operates more than 60 facilities including 44 company-owned facilities, with a design capacity of more than 85,000 beds in 19 states and the District of Columbia.” (www.cca.com.)

CCA, which is based in Nashville, Tenn., is a multimillion-dollar corporation that has close ties to the U.S. government. Between 2003 and 2010, the CCA spent almost $15 million lobbying members in both Houses of Congress, ICE, the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Prisons and others in order to secure public monies for governmental contracts to expand its facilities around the U.S.

Commentator Bill Maher stated, “Prisons used to be a non-profit business. … The CCA and similar corporations actually lobby Congress for stiffer sentencing laws so they can lock more people up and make more money. That’s why [the U.S.] has the world’s largest prison population — because actually rehabilitating people would have a negative impact on the bottom line.” (Huffington Post, July 27, 2009)

The PIC has nothing to do with rehabilitation. The PIC is based on making profits at the expense of human needs under the most horrific conditions. It has this in common with most capitalist institutions.

Corporations like Victoria’s Secret, Best Western and Boeing outsource jobs to prisons so they can use prison labor to undercut unions. Corporations can increase profits by paying prisoners much less than the minimum wage.

Telephone companies get huge profits by charging exorbitant prices to prisoners forced to make collect calls to their families.

As the poverty rate soars and unemployment grows, so will the incarceration rate. Demanding the dismantlement of the PIC should be tied to the need for a massive jobs program along with eliminating the entire capitalist system. This struggle should be waged in the revolutionary spirit of martyred prisoners like the Attica brothers, Shaka Sankofa and Troy Davis, who is scheduled to be murdered Sept. 21 Source

 

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