AOH :: BADBR-02.TXT|
BAD BROADSIDE no. 2: Anarchist call to abolish all prisons ("BAD B
ABOLISH ALL PRISONS!
BAD Broadside #2
The federal, state, and local governments in the U.S.A. are in the business
of locking up huge numbers of people. There are over 48,000 persons in
federal prisons, twice the number in 1980, and 577,000 in state prisons.
There are 235 prisoners for every 100,000 U.S. citizens, with the prison
population growing 15 times faster than the general population. Authorities
all over the country are building more prisons and planning to lock up more
and more people, with a projection of a federal prison population of 147,000
within 12 years. Despite this, violent crime, especially murders of young
black and Hispanic men in large cities, is increasing daily, with an
accompanying increase in police harassment and violence. Additionally,
large numbers of prisoners (49% in Massachusetts) end up back in jail after
they serve their time because they return to their prior activities.
Locking people up does not prevent or deter crime, and does not keep those
locked up from repeating their offenses.
Punishment, not rehabilitation, is clearly the mission of prisons. In
prison, besides being deprived of their freedom to move about as they
please, people are abused and harassed by both guards and other prisoners.
They are treated as children are usually treated in outside society, and
then expected to behave like responsible adults at the end of their
sentences. Prisoners are forced to work for no or minimal pay and are often
coerced into working in especially dangerous, and sometimes fatal, work,
like fighting fires and cleaning up oil spills. Beating, raping,
intimidating, enslaving, and infantilizing people produces not caring,
non-violent people, but angry, hostile, often violence-prone ones. Besides
being ineffective in preventing crime, abusing people who commit crimes is
unjust. When escaped prisoners are found years later living crime-free
lives under new names, demonstrating that they have reformed, they are
usually returned to prison to finish their sentences, and even have years
added on as punishment for escaping. This is nothing but vengefulness on
the part of cops and courts, not an attempt to protect others from
criminals. Whatever offenses people have committed, it is inhuman and
vicious to turn around and abuse them in turn. There are other, more just
and less cruel ways to deal with people who are now locked up.
Most people in prison are there for committing offenses not involving
violence, and many of these are there for activities that harm no one, or at
least no one other than themselves, in any way, and should not be of any
concern to the government or anyone else. Many people are in jail for
selling, using, or transporting illegal drugs, engaging in or soliciting for
sex in exchange for money, or having consensual sex with people younger than
themselves, of the same sex as themselves, or in ways of which the state
disapproves. These activities are non-coercive and non-violent and should
not be the business of anyone but the participants. Violence is sometimes
associated with some of these activities, but that is because the government
has illegalized them and driven them underground. Decriminalizing these
voluntary activities would solve that problem. As for those offenses
involving harm to a person, but not violence, like robbery, some sort of
restitution makes more sense than imprisonment.
Even for those who have committed violence against other people, prison
is clearly not the solution. It does not deter murder, rape, battery, etc,
and may in fact promote their repetition. The only way to prevent violent
crime is to enable people to defend themselves against it. One way to
accomplish this is to eliminate anti-gun laws so that people can defend
themselves against others who may attack them. Relying on police has been
shown to be ineffective in preventing violence against people, and the
existence of these police forces has been used as a justification for
disarming individuals, especially poor and/or black people. Besides this,
police themselves are responsible for much of the violence against people
that occurs. Handgun possession, especially by women, has been shown to be
an effective deterrent to violent crime. When Orlando, Florida conducted a
program where 6000 women learned to use and carried handguns and the program
was widely publicized, the incidence of rape there dropped 90% at a time
when rape was dramatically increasing elsewhere.
Like most statist institutions, prisons are both ineffective and
unjust. The only humane way to deal with the problem of prisons is to
abolish them, and allow people, as individuals or in groups, according to
their own preference, to organize their own self-defense against violence
Please send two copies of any review or reprint
of all or part of this to:
Boston Anarchist Drinking Brigade
PO Box 1323
Cambridge, MA 02238
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