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Stone Walls and Steel Bars: America's War on its Own Keeps Raging
First published in Empire Burlesque earlier today, 5 November 2009
The size and the harshness of the America's domestic gulag have very little to do with the actual level of dangerous crime; they are instead tied far more closely to the agenda of money and power than any reality.
The cruel and unusual punitiveness of American society is a frequent topic on these page. (The most recent piece is here.) No nation on earth puts as many of its people in jail -- both in real numbers and as a percentage of the population. And few if any have "justice" systems so savagely targeted at racial minorities. For the past 30 years -- concurrent with the organized effort by the monied, militarized elite to destroy any and all restraints on their predatory appetites -- the United States has waged an unrelenting war on its black population, and on other minority and marginalized groups as well.
Punitive incarceration has been turned into a lucrative resource for private profit (and public corruption), and a political tool by which ambitious poltroons in both major parties establish their "toughness," their fitness for power in an aggressive empire. The size and the harshness of the America's domestic gulag have very little to do with the actual level of dangerous crime; they are instead tied far more closely to the agenda of money and power than any reality.
David Cole lays out the details at the New York Review of Books, looking at three new books on the subject:
Cole also outlines some of the fitful steps being taken at reforming this monstrous system -- most of them being driven by the financial crisis, as states find they can no longer maintain vast hordes of their own citizens behind bars. And a few officials are dimly beginning to ponder the broader social (and economic -- always economic!) consequences of consigning generation after generation of American citizens to lives of incarceration, poverty, hopelessness and injustice. But as Cole concludes:
Chris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This column is republished here with the permission of the author.
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This story was published in the Baltimore Chronicle on November 5, 2009.
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