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The Prison Strike Is an Overdue Opportunity to End the Slavery of Incarcerated People

The Prison Strike Is an Overdue Opportunity to End the Slavery of Incarcerated People

Chandra Bozelko

In prison, days are filled with activities dedicated to getting your immediate needs met and, outside of an occasional fantasy, planning for any collective future in prison is rare. You must focus on the now, to get to the next now.

Besides, it’s hard to maintain a long-range or expansive worldview when you live in a box.

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Thank you. We cannot be ignorant of prisoner needs. We also cannot ignore, as you point out, the racism in restricting voting via felony charges.

Hate to be repetitive here, but we need to acknowledge the systematic attack on voting rights. Since Nixon was so instrumental in the War on Drugs, we need to ask why? Voting rights, and that is it.

As John Ehrlichman stated in detail, the War on Drugs was racially inspired (long before Nixon) and meant to restrict voting.

“You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Although he does not mention voting, the motivation is clear. “disrupt those communities” is the understatement of the century.

As Dan Baum relates:
Nixon’s invention of the war on drugs as a political tool was cynical, but every president since — Democrat and Republican alike — has found it equally useful for one reason or another. Meanwhile, the growing cost of the drug war is now impossible to ignore: billions of dollars wasted, bloodshed in Latin America and on the streets of our own cities, and millions of lives destroyed by draconian punishment that doesn’t end at the prison gate; one of every eight black men has been disenfranchised because of a felony conviction."

This shows the voting rights of felons, by state.


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MSM not reporting on it. CD? The marches of yesterday, the ongoing prison strike? How are they going?

To my knowledge, prison labor remains voluntary. Most of what a prisoner earns from a job goes toward restitution and/or the costs of keeping them in prison, and the rest goes into an account from which they can purchase items at the prison canteen. At least in theory, prison jobs teach prisoners good work habits, with the possibility of learning marketable job skills. I remain mystified at the reasoning of those who never objected to mandatory workfare labor (which pays min. wage or less), yet firmly object to prison labor as “slavery.”

How is the restriction of voting rights on prisoners “racist?” This same law applies to all prisoners. The majority of US prisoners (58%) are white. 37.8% are black, with the rest classified as Asian, American Indian, etc.

It is racist because the entire prison system is racist.
You do not give a source for your figures, but I will assume they are correct.
Compare those to the USA demographics: (US Census of 2016)
61% are white
12.6% are black or African American

So how do we explain that 12.6% of the population is black, but 37.8% of our prison population is black?

"Punishment for a drug law violation is not only meted out by the criminal justice system, but is also perpetuated by policies denying child custody, voting rights, employment, business loans, licensing, student aid, public housing and other public assistance to people with criminal convictions.

These exclusions create a permanent second-class status for millions of Americans. Like drug war enforcement itself, they fall disproportionately on people of color.

  • One in 13 black people of voting age are denied the right to vote because of laws that disenfranchise people with felony convictions.

  • One in nine black children has an incarcerated parent, compared to one in 28 Latino children and one in 57 white children."

  • People of color experience discrimination at every stage of the criminal justice system and are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, convicted, harshly sentenced and saddled with a lifelong criminal record. This is particularly the case for drug law violations.

  • Nearly 80% of people in federal prison and almost 60% of people in state prison for drug offenses are black or Latino.

  • Research shows that prosecutors are twice as likely to pursue a mandatory minimum sentence for black people as for white people charged with the same offense. Among people who received a mandatory minimum sentence in 2011, 38% were Latino and 31% were black.

  • Black people and Native Americans are more likely to be killed by law enforcement than other racial or ethnic groups. They are often stereotyped as being violent or addicted to alcohol and other drugs. Experts believe that stigma and racism may play a major role in police-community interactions.

If the system is racist, then the resulting punishments themselves are racist in the sense that they disproportionately punish based upon race. It is really that simple.