REAGAN’S HEART OF DARKNESS–A Legacy Of Pain South Central Los Angeles. The PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX (the PIC) is the interaction of all the interests who help expand the prison system, some intentionally, some coincidentally, but all for reasons other than our safety and justice. Most of them influence prison growth for reasons of their own profit: some profit in terms of cash – $ $, others in terms of political power, control of resources & property, or good TV rating. Some profit from the business of imprisonment, others from having people out of their way, “criminalized ” and locked up. It ’s a system where profit is more important than people; where people are split along the lines of race, gender & culture so their resources, labor, wealth & power can be exploited & monopolized, and prisons make invisible the damage done along the way. Is it a conspiracy? It doesn’t have to be—each group’s own interests are set up to grow the system…
THINK TA N K S…are “idea people” for the system. Their job is to invent new ideas and, like speechwriters for politicians, ‘spin’ them into policies the public will like, even if they’ll actually be harmful. They make undemocratic policy look like democracy, racism look like justice, destroying the environment look like progress, weapons & abuses of our Rights look like our “ protection. ” “ Zero Tolerance,” “Welfare Reform,” “Urban Revitalization” &others were invented by think tanks like the Manhattan Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council & the Reason Public Policy Institute. Owned by weapons builders, prison builders, privatizers & real estate developers, they lead the way in mass imprisonment, the War on Drugs &the War on Terrorism; militarizing borders & criminalizing immigrants; gentrifying cities & driving out the poor; destroying welfare & privatizing everything—health care to prisons & schools. They push for corporate welfare, de– regulation & anything to help big business monopolize our resources, labor & political system.
BIG AGRI – BUSINESS …is ‘corporate’ farming. It has taken over most of the farming and agriculture in the U.S. & abroad, putting small farmers out of business & replacing workers with high-powered machinery. The resulting loss of jobs and resources has forced many poor, rural towns into wanting a prison, to bring jobs in guarding the similarly poor from urban areas.
RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPERS …are in charge of bringing jobs & industry to rural areas. Farms have closed, factories & plants have left the country, and many are left behind, unemployed & desperate. While the state used to offer such communities public projects, building roads, parks or dams, it now offers prisons for “economic development.” Communities who try to profit from a prison help the PIC to grow, but are really victims of the PIC, since prisons inevitably under–develop communities rather than develop, weakening local economies & increasing their dependence on the state & the imprisonment of others…
PRISON CONSTRUCTION C O M PA N I E S make between $10 million & $500 Million to build a prison; the more prisons they build, the more money they make. They contribute money through PACs for “tougher” laws that increase the demand for new prisons, and pay $$ to the politicians who will promise to build them.
P R I S O N I N D U S T R I E S…are like any other industry: they need to ‘grow.’ They sell the products that go into the building, maintaining & servicing of prisons. Everything that feeds, clothes, houses, cares for & educates prisoners is sold for profit. But profits require growth, and in prisons, that means more prisoners. So they give campaign $$$ to politicians & PA C s, to pass new “tough” laws and lock more people up for longer
URBAN DEVELOPERS ( g e n t r i f i c a t i o n ).…make their money by “developing” cities for commercial business & new wealthy residents, and that means driving out & locking up “the poor.” Whether it’s public housing, parks &community gardens, or homeless, unemployed & retired residents, whether it’s locally owned stores or anything in the way of big money making, they buy it up, arrest it, destroy or imprison it. They work with banks & the city, which also profit from more wealthy residents, tourists & shoppers coming in. Together, they undermine community relations & economies, pull out resources & drive down property values (‘red–lining’), and provoke violence through “aggressive policing”: harassment, brutality & profiling.
INVESTMENT BANKS…lend money to the state for building new prisons: MILLIONS OF $$$! Since the 1980s, we taxpayers have refused to pay for building more prisons, so now the state goes around, us by getting bank loans, which we pay back later, plus interest! The banks profit millions from this interest, and the state grows its prison system without our approval.
THE MEDIA …profit from getting high ratings. Crime brings good ratings since it’s sensational, and people like to watch it (“COPS,” high speed car chases). In the past ten years, crime has decreased, but the media has covered crime 6 times as much, making it appear that crime has increased. To be more sensational, the media exploits racial fears & the fear of poor people, feeding the racism & poverty of the criminal justice system itself, and lessening our objections to aggressive policing & mass imprisonment.
C O U RT S …are extremely overcrowded. Judges rarely face the realities that they ‘judge’ each day, nor do they know the realities of the prisons they send people to. People without resources spend months & years just waiting for trial, and most never get any real defense. In order to speed through cases, the courts push defendants to “plea–bargain,” where, if they wave their right to trial, they’ll get a shorter sentence. This manipulation floods prisons with people who lack resources & don’t know their rights; People of Color are 3 times as likely to get harsher sentences than Whites for the same crime.
PRISONS & JAILS profit from warehousing people. They warehouse the people society has no place for & discriminates against, while disappearing the neglect and abuses they suffer. Prisons are warehouses for: racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, addiction, homelessness, public & mental health crises, environmental destruction, government & corporate corruption, and other things that make people powerless. A prison’s funding is based on the number of prisoners it holds & the “security level” it provides, so “profit” comes by getting more prisoners, building more cells & u n i t s, and re- classifying prisoners as “ more dangerous.” Instead of eliminating injustice, this makes more room for injustice to be waged on the outside. Prisons are violence & confront problems with violence. They teach us that violence is how we solve our conflicts, send violence back into our communities, cripple our families and drain our political power…
PRISON GUARD UNIONS …depend on the number of members in their unions: more members = more power. They push for harsher laws because that means more prisoners; more prisoners mean more prisons, more jobs, and their unions GROW. Guards are politically powerful & push for laws that make new things ‘a crime,’ that keep more people locked up for longer & make life harder on prisoners. They push to make themselves less accountable for brutalizing prisoners, attack prisoners’ rights and access to their families, libraries & rehab programs, thinking that will also keep prisoners locked up longer. They support victims’ rights groups and use them as a front to get public sympathy & consent.
…Profit from growing, and in order to grow, they need us to think that they (and only they) can guarantee our “safety.” In the face of inequality & poverty, their role is to maintain social control and the appearance of “order,” often at the cost of the public’s real safety. They hold great influence over politicians, and have big public relations departments to gain influence over us. They create propaganda like the TV show ‘COPS’ & release their own news stories to the media, sensationalizing crime & justifying their desire for more power, bigger budgets & technology.
RURAL ECONOMIC D E V E L O P E R S…are in charge of bringing jobs & industry to rural areas. Farms have closed, factories & plants have left the country, and many are left behind, unemployed & desperate. While the state used to offer such communities public projects, building roads, parks or dams, it now offers prisons for “economic development.” Communities who try to profit from a prison help the PIC to grow, but are really victims of the PIC, since prisons inevitably under–develop communities rather than develop, weakening local economies & increasing their dependence on the state & the imprisonment of others…
BIG INDUSTRY & CORPORATIONS …want more control over resources & political power, and with $$ (lobbying & payoffs) they influence government policy to get it. They compete by paying less for workers, and use unemployment & insecurity to bring down our wages. Then they demand our tax–$$ for corporate welfare, but refuse to give to social welfare. Instead, they invest in building new prisons, making the problems they cause “ disappear ” by blaming & criminalizing the poor instead of blaming the policies that make them poor.
P O L I T I CAL AC T I O N COMMITTEES…(PACs) are for political lobbying by ‘special interest groups.’ While there are limits to how much money a group can contribute to a politician directly, they can contribute more $$ indirectly through a PAC. PACs usually represent a particular issue, industry or interest: prison guards and police both have their own PACs; private prison corporations, prison builders & the industry also give big $$ through PACs to influence politicians and push new “tough” laws, to build new prisons and end parole, education & rehab programs. PACs are another way the PIC monopolizes our political system & profits off crime.
V I C T I M S ’ RIGHTS GRO U P S
…came out in the last 15 years. They say, “why do ‘criminals’ have all the rights? What about the rights of victims?” They often include people who’ve suffered tragedy, lost loved ones & property, and are frustrated by the unaccountabilty of the justice system. But they are usually organized & paid for by law enforcement groups & ‘tough–on–crime’ pushers, who organize their pain into a voice for vengeance & political gain. Both prison guards & police exploit their tragedies to extend their influence over politicians, pushing harsher sentences, dehumanization, & distraction from the true problems on the outside—the injustices of the larger system.
S E G R E G ATION, EXCLUSION FROM POLITICS, RESOURCES & POWER; D A I LY VIOL E NC E AGAINST P EOPLE OF COLOR, WOMEN, POOR COMMUNITIES, IMMIGRANT & QUEER COMMUNITIES, MARGINALIZED GROUPS INFLUENCES ON PRISON GROWTH:
PRIMARY INFLUENCES:The police & prison system itself; those who profit directly from building new prisons & getting more jobs by locking up more people.
SECONDARY INFLUENCES:One step removed from prisons, supplying them with prisoners, services & goods. They profit indirectly by locking up more people.
IDEOLOGICAL INFLUENCES: Influence how we think about different groups of people, crime, poverty & prisons; they use “crime” as a tool to divide, to blame, & to justify inequality.
ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCES: Create the environment of inequality & violence that push people toward prison; they exploit, destroy and rob communities of progress and development.
PROBLEMS C A U S E D BY INEQUALITY: The results of powerlessness, social control & the
ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCES on communities; ‘prisons on the outside’, problems that go untreated or get criminalized & fed into prisons
- EXCLUSION FROM POLITICS,
- D I S E N F R A N C H I S E M E N T
- EXCLUSION FROM POLITICS,
- LIMITED ACCESS TO RESOURCES POLLUTION &
- ENVIRONMENTAL H A Z A R D S
- M A L N U T R I T I O N
- HOUSING CRISIS
- POLICE BRUTA L I T Y
- R ACIAL PRO F I L I N G
- FEAR & HATRED OF IMMIGRANTS:
- X E N O P H O B I A
- D I S C O N T E N T & RESISTA N C E
- NO HEALT H CA R E MEDICINE COSTS TOO MUCH!
- MEDICINE COSTS TOO MUCH!
- NO MENTAL
- H E A LTH T R E AT M E N T