Black August is a month of commemoration uplifting Black political prisoners and Black revolutionary struggle. Generally during this month we honor our revolutionary political prisoners such as George Jackson, Assata Shakur, Mutulu Shakur, Mumbai Abu Jamal, and various other political prisoners associated with the Black Panther/Black Liberation army and the overall revolutionary era of the late 60s and 70s. It is important to uplift the individuals and organizations associated with this era because this was a crucial period where the State made a persistent effort to eliminate leaders, disassemble our organizations and thereby sever us from our revolutionary history.
Prison Industrial Complex
Newark, NJ - We know the story. The absent father who leaves when his son is five-years-old and moves back to Puerto Rico. The single mother, rarely at home because she works long hours to keep her three children fed and pay the rent. The poverty. The crime. The instability. Later, the stepfather who drinks, uses drugs and beats his stepchildren. The child acting up. Dropping out of school. Joining a gang. The robberies. The one that went wrong and left a man dead. Prison. The students I teach in prison have variations of the same story. They are funneled into the maw of the prison-industrial-complex, the largest in the world, and spat out decades later, even more lost and traumatized, to wander the streets like ghosts until most, unequipped to survive on the outside and without support, find themselves back in the old familiar cages.
“As a result of being on or near wastelands, prisons constantly expose those inside to serious environmental hazards, from tainted water to harmful air pollutants,” Leah Wang recently wrote for the Prison Policy Initiative. “These conditions manifest in health conditions and deaths that are unmistakably linked to those hazards.” In this edition of Rattling the Bars, Mansa Musa speaks with Paul Wright about the scope and scale of the drastic environmental hazards the prison-industrial complex poses to incarcerated people, prison staff, and surrounding communities. Paul Wright is the founder and executive director of the Human Rights Defense Center. He is also editor of Prison Legal News (PLN), the longest-running independent prisoner rights publication in US history.
Washington – America’s largest arms companies are increasingly finding lucrative new ways of profiting from the prison industrial complex; in many cases, weapons of war are directly manufactured using coerced prison labor. A new MintPress News study of the 100 largest private Defense Department contractors found that 37% of them were also profiting from incarcerated Americans, either in prisons and jails, or in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) camps. This proportion rose to 16 of the top 25 largest arms manufacturers, including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman. The complete list of top corporations profiting from mass incarceration, displayed in order of value of Department of Defense contracts received, is as follows...
In part one of a two-part interview, journalist Hugh Hamilton discusses the saga of trauma and transformation in an American prison as chronicled in journalist Chris Hedges’ new book, ‘Our Class: Trauma and Transformation in an American Prison’. The US imprisons more of its people than any other country in the world. According to the non-profit Prison Policy Initiative, the American prison-industrial complex currently holds captive nearly 2.3 million people in more than 6,000 prisons, penitentiaries, jails, detention centers, and correctional facilities across the country. In his newest and positively riveting page-turner, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges takes us behind the forbidding bars of steel at East Jersey State Prison, into a world where prisoners are people.
A few weeks ago I covered the mind-blowing facts about American prisons that should make anyone and everyone rethink/detest/abhor the entire institution. Now, I want to examine the reasons people find themselves locked up in the largest prison state in the world (the Land of the Free) and see if we can’t decrease the number of inmates to something more reasonable …like, zero. Or one. …One guy who’s a real grade-A asshole. I’m well aware that many of you are already yelling, “But what about murderers and rapists?!” We’ll get to them in a minute. Keep your pantaloons fastened. Besides, “What about murderers and rapists?!” is a really abnormal thing to yell at something you’re reading. Come to think of it, maybe you’re not fit for society. Maybe we should lock you up.
We can and must collectively build a world without policing, prisons, surveillance, punishment, and capitalism––a world in which all are equipped with the tools to prevent and transform harm, one in which everyone has what they need to thrive in community with others. This is the through line of Mariame Kaba’s powerful new book, an expansive and instructive collection of essays and interviews drawn from Kaba’s decades of work building toward abolition — work that has focused particularly on the experiences of Black women and girls and criminalized survivors of sexual violence. We Do This ‘Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice is seamlessly accessible yet deeply demanding.
Rahway, New Jersey - When Lawrence Bell, an orphan living in an abandoned house in Camden, New Jersey, went to prison, he was 14-years-old. Barely literate and weighing no more than 90 pounds, he had been pressured by three Camden police detectives into signing a confession for a murder and rape he insisted at his trial he did not commit, although admitted he was in the car of the man who dragged a young mother into the bushes where she was sexually assaulted and strangled to death. It made no difference. The confession condemned him, although there was no scientific evidence or any independent witnesses tying him to the crime. He would not be eligible to go before a parole board for 56 years. It was a de facto life sentence.
If someone in your neighborhood is going on a rampage killing a bunch of neighbors and burying them in his backyard to the point that he's running out of room – do you say, well geez Bob, this is really a problem of mass grave space? What this metaphor has to do with pipelines, media literacy and creative resistance. Next up: ICE raids and the vital intersections between workers rights, migrant rights and the prison industrial complex. Finally, Ana Tiffany Devez sits down to talk about the past, present and future of fighting and building in El Paso.
ADELANTO, CALIFORNIA – A group of refugees from Central America, who faced beatings and abuse while detained at a California detention center last year, are pursuing legal action in hopes of drawing attention to the systematic abuse of migrants who are being confined in a growing network of concentration camp-style facilities across the United States. The civil rights lawsuit alleges that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bureau, for-profit prison operator GEO Group, and the City of Adelanto are responsible for “considerable damages” inflicted on the group of eight asylum-seekers, one of whom remains imprisoned. The notorious GEO Group — a multinational for-profit prison operator with nearly 150 prisons across the globe, and one of the largest contractors for ICE — has long been accused by human rights monitors of utterly neglecting the well-being of their detainees as they rake in billions in revenue.
Robert Jackson was four days into a 120-day sentence in an Alameda County, California, jail when his wife passed away unexpectedly, leaving their three young children without a parent in the home. He was compassionately released with the caveat that he submit to electronic monitoring by the for-profit Leaders in Community Alternatives (LCA) company. Though his weekly paycheck was $400-$500, his weekly monitoring fees to LCA came to $250 per week — 50-65 percent of his total income. He ultimately paid around $4,500 for 113 days of monitoring, while being repeatedly threatened with violation and jail if he didn’t pay — something that would have left his children without a parent and at the mercy of the state. Jackson was forced to sell his car and eventually had to give up his apartment — leaving him homeless — just so he could pay off LCA.
What’s the best way to push profit-seeking corporations out of the public sphere? Don’t let them take over in the first place. Residents of Lancaster County, Penn. were thrilled to learn this lesson with their recent victory against Geo Group, a giant of the private prison industry. Geo Group has gained notoriety for its shady practices, with a rap sheet as varied as the so-called services it provides. Geo has turned into a household name in recent weeks for profiting off the youth and family detention centers that have become hallmarks of President Donald Trump’s inhumane immigration policies. But the company’s heinous practices predate Trump — though their highly suspect lobbying relationship with the current administration is well-documented.
Today’s immigration policies won’t necessarily keep detention centers in your community tomorrow. Over 200 privately-owned or privately-managed correctional facilities - jails, prisons, and immigrant detention centers - currently operate in the United States. They’re the sites of an ongoing argument between capitalist-backed “practicality” and public principles opposed to “prison for profit,” and they’re tethered to their government employers through a series of contracts of varying terms and frequent reconsideration. According to GEO Group’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in the year 2018, 51 of their facilities are scheduled to hit the end of their current contracts...
Last week, the nation witnessed an abrupt reversal from the White House. After claiming for days that he did not have the authority to address the family separation crisis at the border, President Donald Trump appeared to do just that with the stroke of a pen. Trump has purportedly put an end to the family separation policy, but he has also created a host of new issues to resolve. How and when will nearly 2,500 migrant children be reunited with their parents? How and where will families be detained together going forward? Even as these legal questions are being resolved, there is a persistent sense of outrage among most Americans. How could there not be? In 2018, in a time of tremendous economic prosperity, the United States is keeping migrant children in cages, claiming that a policy of family separation deters future illegal immigration. The images of what this policy entails are horrific: terrified, confused children watching as agents search their mothers...
One more time, with emphasis: A city near the Mexican border in a state that's home to some of the country's harshest sentencing guidelines and the fourth-highest rate of incarceration in the US -- with privately-run prisons and immigrant detention centers from one corner of the state to the other -- is telling companies like GEO Group and CoreCivic that they're not welcome around here. "Profit should never be motivation for our justice system," said Tucson City Councilmember Regina Romero, who spearheaded passage of the resolution. Our little corner of Arizona has been so traumatized by mass incarceration -- with per capita jail admissions almost 50 percent higher than our neighbors in Phoenix -- that the Tucson City Council isn't the first municipal body in these parts to pass such a resolution.