Mass Incarceration: Follow The Money (Part 2)
America’s unconstitutional militarization of local and state law enforcement,
based on racial hatred and racial politics, and the training, munitions,
and financial incentives that support it, has created a new Police State.
Slavery ended, and reactionary Jim Crow laws replaced it, and now Mass Incarceration, called The New Jim Crow by scholars, is imprisoning people of color for minor offenses at a savage rate in reaction to the strides made through civil rights and voting rights legislation passed 50 years ago.
The U.S. Constitution bars the government from any militarization of local and state law enforcement (with few exceptions) for good reasons, but that all ended with the so-called War on Drugs (1971). This methodical (and nefarious) tactic of stripping disproportionately brown and black felons’ constitutional rights has succeeded and is succeeding today because it is imbedded in the Republican party, started by President Nixon with his racist “Southern Strategy,” and codified by President Reagan’s War on Drugs.
This war has utterly failed: prices have decreased while drug usage has increased, the exact opposite of its public mission. But the War on Drugs goes on and on in spite of its failure because it is filling the greater political imperative of disenfranchising as many people of color as the government possibly can. President Nixon designed the racist Southern Strategy specifically to exploit racial hatred and fear for political gain. It has worked masterfully to cement power for a select group of white people who are draining any hope of a free society that can live up to its own lofty constitution.
This is racial politics at its worst. The current spate of unnecessary and punitive voter rights restrictions and increased incarceration of immigrants come from this very same playbook.
Our enslavers have re-imagined America’s criminal justice and prison systems
to separate the races as surely as slavery and the era of Jim Crow ever did.
Like the Southern Strategy, the War on Drugs successfully capitalizes on undereducated and/or willfully uniformed white social hatred in order to anchor the right wing base, its core in the American south. Just as surely as the “Redemption” movement following the abolition of slavery brought forth this hatred through late 19th and early 20th century Jim Crow laws (voting restrictions, exclusion from sitting on juries, and segregation), the War on Drug’s Mass Incarceration is a colorblind Jim Crow that grew reactively to the racial equality gains obtained during the 1960s.
The more informed you become about the breadth and depth of this wicked conspiracy, how your money is being spent every day to uphold American’s new caste system, the more you may want to work at the grassroots to stop these racist lawmakers and judges who roam free in our seemingly colorblind society. A huge target of our activism is the corrupt, multi-billion dollar, corporate, for-profit prison industry that conspires with the government and banking industry to facilitate this systematic and permanent disenfranchisement of people of color in this country. The U.S. incarcerates more of its citizens than any country, 730 in the prison population per per 100,000 of its national population population compared to countries like Norway (75 per 100,000) or even Uganda (92 per 100,000).
Organizations such as The Prison Divestment Campaign and The Sentencing Project have been leading the way in disrupting this mean-spirited profiteering that is powered by the War on Drugs. The corporate gains derived from Mass Incarceration represent a conflict of interest that is so large it cannot be seen with an uneducated eye.
Consider that up to $200.oo of your hard-earned money paid as taxes is being spent today and everyday on each of the 99,000 individuals housed in a for-profit prison. And, while we pay and pay to put people in prisons for the most minor offenses, we allow these corporations free access to lobby lawmakers, judges, and police unions for longer and harsher sentences, as well as tax deductions to build more and larger for-profit prisons.
As long as our government continues to federalize local and state law enforcement, and offer financial rewards to local drug task forces for maximizing arrests and convictions, this multi-billion dollar industry prospers and grows.
Sadly some of these bankers (e.g. Wells Fargo) and lawmakers (e.g. Gov. Jan Brewer) become investors in these same corporations, that last year reaped $74 billion in profits. They have blood and suffering on their dirty hands.
We have DEA agents and the Pentagon involved in bringing this federal program to your neighborhood by encouraging local drug task forces with huge amounts of federal money, equipment, training, arms and munitions, totaling billions of dollars each year. This breaks legal limits on the federal government’s involvement in local law enforcement, and tremendous power is granted to these task forces. They even profit from the spoils of their arrests, including cash, cars, houses, etc., seized during these arrests, even when the victim is found ultimately to be not guilty. As long as they make arrests and show results, the lucrative gravy train continues to flow into local and state budgets.
Take one example: SWAT. The number of SWAT vehicles and teams, formerly only used in to assail violent criminals, has increased. Where there were once 2 or 3 SWATs there are now 20. SWAT is now routinely, and primarily, used by these drug task forces to break down people’s doors in the middle of the night based on suspicions of drug possession. We can only hope these militarized teams are never turned on the entire population with some other justification because they are in place to terrorize whole communities.
This wholesale militarization of local and state law enforcement is an unlawful usurpation of our rights under the U.S. Constitution, and should make us all get off our couches and do something about it.
Look for more on this subject, soon. Also, see Mass Incarceration: Follow the Money (Part 1).
Anastasia Person contributed to this post.
Image Source (SWAT enters CII RPI): Simon Sarris
Image Source (Nash SpecOps Equipment): SD Lewis