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Monday, March 5, 2007

America's Prison Industrial Complex

Intrepid Liberal Journal has a post about a very important and pressing issue - the incentivization of incarceration brought about by, among other things, the privatization of prisons.

I wanted to highlight this not only because it is an important problem in and of itself, but also because it reflects many other themes of our collective psychology which concern me. As liberal journal man comments:

"Reform has to come from the grassroots, because the public at large in bombarded with images of crime and violence and politicians only play to those fears. If they don't then they are "soft" on crime and want to help "bad" people."

This speaks to my concerns with the media, specifically the loss of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 under the Reagan administration, and the fast-and-loose media mergers which are so tolerated today by our government. Now, I cannot completely blame this fear-mongering on these issues - violence and mayhem naturally (sigh) catch more eyeballs on the evening news, and redressing these problems will not do away with this. However, I submit that the fact that narratives of an unsafe society serve corporate interests well, in the prison industry as well as others who benefit from a stricken public. As such, we would do well to starve these natural tendencies towards this content of the oxygen of corporate influence.

Also, I have long advocated the elimination of the black market by the decriminalization of drugs (and anything else which feeds an economy with no legal redress for grievances) primarily because of the deleterious effect of introducing otherwise non-violent members of our society to the criminal justice system. The fact that this dovetails nicely with the goals of personal liberty in our life choices is not an unhappy one.

And finally, this quote from the post, from Critical Resistance, which was formed (among other things) to:
“build an international movement to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe. We believe that basic necessities such as food, shelter, and freedom are what really make our communities secure.”

The absurd and insidiously corrosive notion that security is ever served by oppression is the same which drives our "war on terror" or war on anything. That we cannot see how we are feeding the beast with this sort of approach just staggers me.

But perhaps I am being naive again, and they know exactly what they are doing. Well, just stop it.


  1. Thanks for the shout and giving attention to this important issue.

  2. Absolutey, rob, and thank you for your important work.

  3. Petro,

    Very interesting topic but I have an issue with your comment about the fairness doctrine. I do some work with the national association of broadcasters and I wanted to point out this editorial. It's basically about how some laws, although well intended, do more harm than good...

    Prominent defender of freedom of speech, Supreme Court Justice Douglas thundered: "The Fairness Doctrine has no place in our First Amendment regime. It puts the head of the camel inside the tent and enables administration after administration to toy with TV or radio in order to serve its sordid or its benevolent ends."

  4. Prestin -

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I have attempted a reply in a new post.


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