Alex Blaze

Thoughts on Prison, Hatred, and Disorganization

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 14, 2011 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: LGBT, prison, revolution, Tea Party, worker

It seems every time I talk about the criminal justice system with Americans, the "Well, if they did something wrong, they should expect to be punished!" argument comes up to justify pretty much whatever. Criminals are the scum of the Earth and cause everything bad to happen, I get it, but let's stop and think about how we define the real criminals who get sent to prison in the US. We clearly don't send every single person who breaks a law to prison. Like everything, it's all about the money:

It's this sort of thing that explains why hate crimes legislation got through in several months with a Democratic House, Senate, and White House, while ENDA languished - one was about making sure the riff-raff got sent to prison, while the other gives workers the right to sue their employers.

I'm reading a history book right now about the American Revolution and it's actually surprising to me, as someone in 2011, how many rebellions freed everyone from prison. A group of farmers rises up against the British - they free everyone from prison. A group of soldiers rises up against the continental government - they free everyone from prison. Shays and his compatriots rise up against the nascent government of Massachusetts - they free everyone from prison.

There's plenty of revolution rhetoric nowadays, mostly coming from the far-right. But if they ever did anything organized and violent against the government, I doubt they'd free everyone from prison. Could you imagine the Tea Party types following through with their revolution rhetoric and busting into a state penitentiary and just assuming that everyone in there would join them?

There are lots of complicated reasons for the change, not the least of which is racism, both personal and institutional. But I think a related problem, one reason racism is able to flourish, is a lack of clarity about who's to blame, about who's really causing the pain in people's lives and how they're doing it. My father-in-law is visiting, a man who never got to high school and worked in factories his whole life, and he was just telling me that the attacks on the French pension system (like attempts to raise the retirement age) are just the rich trying to steal money from workers. The first conversation I had with my mother-in-law a couple years ago, a woman who never made it past the third grade, was about how businesses leave the first world move just to exploit more disorganized workers elsewhere.

Does the average worker interested in politics in the US have the language to discuss these issues without talking about Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives? Does the average French worker who's 30 have that sort of clarity? One of the smartest things the elites ever did was get the middle classes to hate the lower classes, and all of us to hate the person of the other political persuasion. It provides a decent buffer for them and keeps the rest of us unclear, fighting amongst ourselves for limited resources.

And we all hate the people in prison - obviously it's their fault we experience any pain at all.

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Regan DuCasse | May 14, 2011 12:15 PM

Alex, I'm not quite tracking your point. Our nation, since the Revolution has had it's most radical changes in the middle of the last century. I'm still frustrated that the word 'traditional' is buzz for 'old hetero Christian white guys who still feel entitled to run everyone else's life under the banner of patriotism or God'

But let's be clear also about the difference between say a prison that was filled with Civil Rights activists, as opposed to a prison that's filled with child abusers, thieves and murderers.
Which IS more the case now. Even if you wanted to point to the federal detention centers that house illegal immigrants, I can tell you of several cases where thousands of people in America would have been better off if those illegal immigrants HAD been detained.

The issue of immigration, legal or illegal is more a matter of numbers in the end. And the moral difference between the ethical behavior of entering the NECESSARY process of immigrating, or ignoring that process and expecting the same benefits.
Identity and accountability is required of us ALL, whether citizen or immigrant.
And so is being able to account for how many and when this country can accommodate what immigrants are here. No one wants to be honest about that, and I'm as frustrated too about people who behave as if this is a nation with bottomless resources to take in EVERYONE who wants to be here.

Complaining of how major corporations, or the prison industrial complex, doesn't get at the heart of the matter.

The choice to immigrate in the first place. The choice to participate in what obligations being in America carries, regardless of where you were born.

No one will accept those who don't want to fully participate in that responsibility, any more than it would be right to discriminate against those who can and do. THAT is the difference between an issue of racial or orientation bias in the laws, and a matter of choosing to immigrate here.
We expect the rich and powerful to be accountable, but the poor should be too.
When NO ONE takes responsibility for what they do, and instead complain when the account is due, is equally bad.
Whether you're a rich captain of industry or a poor worker seeking his better life. Cheating isn't right, no matter WHO does it.
Neither should get away with it. And it doesn't help the credibility of the poorer man to keep pointing at the fault of the other, while trying to deny his own.
So, what's your POINT in comparing what happened over 200 years ago, to NOW?

Alex I am against private prisons but I'm also for sending back to wherever they came every illegal alien.I think we should be holding them in tent cities ran by the military there is no justification for paying up to 200 a day to house illegals.I just for the life of me can't understand why we aren't billing Mexico for the cost incured by their support of their citizens illegally entering America. Why as US Taxpayers should we have to pay for Mexico's ignorance? I can think of no other country that actively participates in the illegal activities of its citizens in breaking immigration laws.There are Mexican consulates all over the place within the US that are providing assistance to their illegal aliens why do we allow them to exist?

"Why as US Taxpayers should we have to pay for Mexico's ignorance?"

Since NAFTA was implemented in 1994, over 1.8 million Mexicans have lost their jobs in rural areas.

Who do you think would want to leave their home to live in Lawrence, Ma.? Do you know how many people were killed and terrorized in Central America During the Reagan years.

Some people definitely belong in prison. In Rhode Island we're having trouble keeping a child killer in prison. He was finally found with his victims bones. He had varnished and kept in his bedroom because he was rushed through his conviction process and only convicted of second degree murder. Another guy who beat a young kid's head in with a baseball and involved in a lot of murders he was never convicted of was just rounded up in a mob sting. He had been out on parole for a long time. A good way to understand how abusive the system is is to look into the case of Jason Ng, a computer engineer, who was tortured by the prison personnel at the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls, a privately run prison. I don't know how anyone could argue that there isn't a problem in this country with a straight face. The statistics are absolutely obscene.

Yeah and since 1994 probably over 10 million came here.Then on top of that how many US jobs did we lose to NAFTA and the illegals that came here? I don't have a bleeding heart for illegals or Mexico.
I agree there is a problem with private prisons but there is also a problem with illegals and those who work them. Employers should be heavily fined and if it can be proven they were accomplices in identity theft they should get a lengthy jail stay.
Considering the poverty I've seen in the LGBT community I can't even begin to fathom why it is that the LGBT thinks its a wise idea to support those who have contributed to the lowering of wages. Then add up how hard it is for an unskilled LGBT person to find a job. Just seems pretty ignorant to me.

Brad Bailey | May 15, 2011 8:21 PM

It's not just immigrants and the poor who sustain private prisons. Non-violent drug offenders are housed by the tens of thousands in these institutions as part of the get-tough-on-crime and get-tough-on-drugs attitudes of the Reagan era.