|POLITICAL PRISONERS; THE INTERSECTION OF CLASS AND RACE
AND ON THE CUTTING EDGE OF THE STRUGGLE AGAINST EXPLOITATION, OPPRESSION
AND U.S. IMPERIALISM
Social Forum, January 11th, 2003 CUNY Graduate Center New
Sisters, Brothers, Comrades,
Friends and Some Liberals,
My two central theses are that a) the freedom of U.S. political prisoners
is on the cutting edge of the of the struggle against racist oppression
class exploitation and b) that the American empire and domestic mass
incarceration are both strongly tied to the U.S. policy of corporate
globalization. Like the victims of America’s incarceration regime,
targets and victims of U.S. foreign policy are very disproportionately
people of color, i.e. non-whites. Mass domestic incarceration
is part of a
vicious policy circle that feeds on itself for a self fulfilling prophecy.
Thus we see that the vehicles of imperial militarism and corporate
globalization producing instability, poverty and violence around the
which provides endless pretexts for preemptive strikes and regime change.
The Justice Policy Institute reports that from 1980-1997 that while
number of violent offenders committed to state prisons doubled, the
of non-violent offenders tripled. Further, nearly 10% of non-Latino
25-29 years of age were in prison in the year 2000, compared to 1.1
whites for the same age group. Institutionalized racism at work.
felony disenfranchisement laws in the U.S. and to racial disparities
criminal justice system, a remarkable one and a half million
African-Americans, or 13% of black men do not have the right to vote,
is approximately seven times the national average. The connection
resurgent U.S. imperialism and the prison craze is that the figurehead
imperial expansion George W. Bush, as governor of Texas came to oversee
Molly Ivins noted “the largest prison system on planet earth.”
The prison industrial complex (PIC) is a vast system that uses prisons
solution to social, political and economic problems. The PIC
the oppressive system of racism, classism and sexism. The U.S.
the largest per capita population of any developed country, approaching
million people and some 6.5 million people who are presently under
of supervision within the criminal justice system. Since 1980
the number of
women incarcerated in the past 20 years has risen by 400%.
It is not “human nature” to commit wrongdoing we call crime. What
considered a crime is determined by the societies we live in.
up people in cages does not reduce crime, we must examine the power
relationships that lead society to lock up certain people.
incapable of stopping problems like poverty, racism or drug addiction
cannot expect them to stop crime. Let’s take a closer look at
Like the military industrial complex the Prison Industrial Complex
business. Just as communists were demonized not long ago as a
justifying gargantuan military budgets, now the fear of crime and the
demonization of criminals serve a similar ideological purpose to justify
use of tax dollars for the repression and incarceration of a growing
percentage of our population. A huge and controlled cheap convict
force is used in a variety of manufacturing and service jobs.
used to book flights for some airlines, Microsoft uses convicts to
Windows software and Honda pays a dollar an hour to prison labor in
that UAW members get $20 dollars for. In Austin, Texas U.S. Technologies
sold its electronic plant, laying off 150 workers so they could reopen
nearby prison paying 1/20th of the salaries paid to former workers.
University of Iowa, for instance, purchases furniture from Iowa Prison
Industries produced at slave labor rates.
AT&T, Sprint and MCI are getting into the act, gouging prisoners
exorbitant phone call rates. In addition smaller firms such as
Correctional Communications Corp. dedicated solely to the prison phone
business provide computerized systems equipped with systematic surveillance.
They win government contracts by offering to “kick back” some of the
to the government agency awarding the contract. One of the fastest
sectors of the PIC is private correction companies. The investment
Smith Barney is a part owner of a prison in Florida, while American
and General Electric are heavily invested in private prison construction
Oklahoma and Tennessee. While one of the largest private prison
Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) already operates internationally
with more than 48 facilities in 11 states, Puerto Rico, the United
and Australia. CCA now controls over 100,000 prison beds nationwide.
As Christian Parenti notes in PIC: Crisis and Control, the supermax
at Pelican Bay provides 1500 jobs, an annual payroll of $50 million
the prison has created work in everything from construction to domestic
violence counseling. Also cashing in on the action is the huge
Hardware, a private hospital and a 90,000 square foot K-Mart.
According to the California Prison Focus (CPF) that visited over 300
during eight investigative visits in 2001-2002 found conclusive patters
abuse of prisoners in the following areas:
A. Staff and Guard Misconduct
B. Violent Cell Extraction
C. Medical Neglect
D. Inadequate diet and food tampering
E. Preventable Deaths
F. Violations of Health and Safety Regulations
G. Lack of Mental Health Care
H. Lack of Yard Access
I. Poor Treatment of disabled Prisoners
J. Denial of Due Process
K. Loss and Destruction of Legal Property
L. Mail Tampering
M. Ignoring Prisoners’ Advisory
While the struggle to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier may be
familiar there are other Black Freedom Fighters, Puerto Rican Prisoners
War and white anti-imperialists that require increased solidarity to
their freedom. I’d like to bring to your attention the
struggle of the
Coalition to Free the Angola3 and the Cuban Five.
The Coalition to Free The Angola3 has succeeded in freeing Robert Wilkerson
after 29 years of incarceration. Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox
helped form the first Black Panther Party in 1971 behind the walls
framed in 1972 for the killing of a guard. They are now in their
30 th year
in isolation from the general population and have been put into the
cruel, racist and punishing Camp J. We ask your solidarity in
freedom. I’d like also to mention the case of the Cuban Five.
Cuban men who are in the U.S. for simply defending their country against
terrorists and Cuban Mafia in Miami. They were here to gather
in order to prevent further terrorist attacks on their country.
harmed no one. They were here to monitor the counter revolutionary
terrorists in groups such as Alpha 66 and Brothers to the Rescue.
Bosch, the architect of the blowing up of a Cuban commercial jet liner
the loss of hundreds of lives roams free in Miami, protected by the
Evil in Washington.
Sisters and Brothers; The struggle to free all political prisoners and
against the root causes of social crimes produced primarily by poverty
racism is the flip side of the struggle against U.S. imperialist domination
and robbery of resources for capital accumulation abroad. We
must forge an
independent political movement that unites in one fist against the
corporate enemy-transnationals and banks- that unite all of the crucial