Prisons are places where a bunch of good, disobedient people are taken to be preyed upon by people who are actually criminals. When we are talking about prisoners we are not talking about one collective group of people, but of many different groups of individuals who should be judged by their own actions and their own character.
In recent weeks there have been a series of different stories popping up in the alternative media about prisoners and their struggles. The most high profile of these struggles are the hunger strikes in Guantanamo Bay and California, which are both raising legitimate human rights questions about the conditions that prisoners are forced to endure.
Generally, the populations reaction to this topic has been disappointing, even among supposed freedom fighters who read and comment on alternative media websites. Unfortunately, the prevailing response has been one of indifference and false superiority. People seem to have a very propagandized view of the type of people who end up in prison, how they got there, and the legitimacy of the system that put them there. That is not to say that there aren’t a lot of really bad people in prison who actually do need to be quarantined from society, but many of the people who end of on the “wrong side of the law” are decent human beings who are thrown into a very dangerous, abusive and scary situation for no good reason.
In the case of Guantanamo Bay, most inmates have not even been officially charged with a crime, while others have actually been found innocent, but will not be released due to fear of retaliation.
Every day people are appalled by scenes of police brutality, they condemn the drug war and the millions of pages of laws that are passed by corrupt politicians. These people recognize that most of the laws on the books create criminals out of people who would otherwise be honest citizens. However, it seems that as soon as someone is thrown in the back of that police car, their peers automatically disregard their humanity and immediately collectivize them with the members of the prison population who actually are violent.
For some reason or another, whether they truly belong there or not, prisoners are looked down upon and feared by the establishment because they are the disobedient ones.
It is important to understand how fallible and corrupt the legal system is when reading stories about people in prison, because many innocent people end up behind bars. Even among those technically “guilty” of breaking some law, a vast majority (nearly 70% according to some statistics) are peaceful people, or so called nonviolent offenders who don’t belong in prison to begin with. These people are not guilty of any transgression, and they are in fact themselves victims of state violence.
In the past 3 decades the prison system has grown into a monstrous system of oppression that now houses over 2 and a half million people in the US. That is by far the largest prison population in the world, no country on earth has as many inmates as the “land of the free”. Ironic isn’t it? Since 1991 the violent crime rate in America has dropped at least 20%, while the amount of people in prison has increased by 50% in that time. These numbers show that the rapid increase in prisoners is largely due to over prosecution of nonviolent crimes. This has nothing to do with “cleaning up the streets” or making our society safer, this is about controlling society and turning human beings into a cash crop.
The way our prison system has been structured has actually outlawed more than half of the US population. Nonviolent offenders have no place behind bars, if anything the savage conditions of prison will turn most people into violent offenders once they get out. Which is exactly what the prison establishment wants, return customers.
Most of the people caught up in the prison system are from the working class and are doing time for petty nonviolent crimes. Usually if someone has enough money or influence they can avoid incarceration by cutting deals with the prosecution or paying off officials, this obviously isn’t an option for most Americans. It has always been rare for someone from the upper class to end up behind bars. In the middle ages peasants who were not able to pay high taxes or debts were thrown in dungeons called “debtors prisons“, sometimes for their entire lives. Since these times incarceration has traditionally been a struggle of the working poor and lower classes and a tool for the ruling class to maintain power. It is quite common for political dissenters and protestors to be locked away simply for refusing to comply with the government, and in our culture it even goes several steps further.
The growing police state and the constant influx of oppressive, complicated laws are responsible for the massive increase in the prison population that has taken place over the past decade. Every single day for hundreds of years new laws have been spit out of our legislative system, most of which have been designed to benefit the ruling class who work in finance and politics. The average citizen has very little time to spend contributing to the legislative process and even if they did their opinion would hold very little weight next to the powerful lobby groups that dominate Washington. The ruling class is guilty of the most horrifying crimes against humanity and is responsible for the exploitation, displacement and murder of millions of people. These are the biggest criminals on the face of the earth, but the prison system wasn’t built for them, it was actually built BY them. So the legal system doesn’t represent absolute moral authority like it claims to, but it is simply a tool that has been created by the elite to maintain dominance over the population.
The worst thing about this whole situation is that this system is doing nothing to keep anyone safe. The propaganda that the police are “the good guys” here to “serve and protect” is the big lie that cloaks the violence and corruption of the state in an air of legitimacy. The first step to removing this false legitimacy and revealing the truth is to simply stop sugarcoating this violence in newspeak and stop pretending that the state actually does anything to prevent violent crime.
There are a lot of ideas and concepts in that last sentence, so let’s delve deeper for a better understanding. As I alluded to earlier, a cold hard violent criminal is hard to come by in most holding cells and most county jails. This is because most people are naturally good and typically are not drawn to lives of violence until they are broken down and corrupted by years of moving through the system being treated like an animal. Another reason why there aren’t a whole lot of violent offenders in prison is because it’s a lot of hard work to catch them!! Cops get paid the same for locking up a pothead as they do for locking up a serial rapist, as long as there is a warm body in the cell then Dudley Do-Right makes his quota. So it really makes sense that most cops go into work hoping for a good “easy” day where they don’t get shot at. They are not benevolent saints that wake up in the morning and think about nothing else but trying to make the world a better place, although many of them may have convinced themselves of this much. Just like the rest of us, most cops take the easy way out in their day to day, which basically means letting thieves, murderers and rapists roam free while chasing around nonviolent offenders all day because they are easier to deal with and they pay the same.
Now onto the newspeak, which is one of the most fundamental propaganda tactics used to defend this growing police state. Luckily, this is one aspect that we do have a great deal of personal control over because instead of using the same deceptive language that police use to describe their actions, we can simply call it like we see it. Soft sounding words like “detainment”, “arrest” and “police officer” subtly change our perception of the actions taken out against us. Police are people who are paid money to go around with weapons and force people to submit to the arbitrary edicts of a central government, so rightfully we should call these people mercenaries, instead of police, because that’s what they are. Furthermore, when someone takes you from your home, or any other place that you want to be, they are kidnapping you and holding you hostage. Is this not exactly what happens when one of these mercenaries puts a nonviolent offender in a cage? Again, all these “legal fees” and “fines” are forms of extortion that are dressed up in pretty language to disguise the corrupt nature of what’s actually taking place.
There are millions of solutions to these social problems that don’t involve violence, unfortunately there just isn’t enough people out there trying to develop these solutions. Most of the population spends their time rationalizing the current system and learning how to cope with it instead of actually working to devise solutions that would improve our society. Luckily, more and more people are coming to the conclusion that it is time for our species to advance past this kind of brutal approach to dealing with crime.
So remember, prisons are places where a bunch of good, disobedient people are taken to be preyed upon by people who are actually criminals. When we are talking about prisoners we are not talking about one collective group of people, but of many different groups of individuals who should be judged by their own actions and their own character.
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J.G. Vibes is the author of an 87 chapter counter-culture textbook called Alchemy of the Modern Renaissance, a staff writer, reporter for Intellihub.com and Executive Producer of the Bob Tuskin Radio Show. You can keep up with his work, which includes free podcasts, free e-books & free audiobooks at his website www.aotmr.com