February 8, 2012 in Event
Occupy Denver has endorsed the National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners that is being sponsored by Occupy Oakland. Occupy Denver, along with DABC, is calling for a night of action in Denver on February 20th.
Monday, February 20th, 6:30pm
Meet at 30th and Peoria, outside the GEO ICE Detention Center
Bring noisemakers, drums, banners, signs, candles, your friends and family
The United States of America incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in The World. Out of every 100,000 US citizens, we incarcerate 743. We house 25% of the world’s prison population. 60% of our prisons are privately owned, and are operated for profit. The idea of “for profit” prisons is an appauling reality. How can a system that is meant to “re-habilitate criminals” do so, for profit? How can our prison system, which should be part of our federal judiciary be mostly run by private corporations? What will be the next stage of American Capitalism, for profit courts, fire departments and police forces?
The companies that run these for profit prisons; GEO and CCA are major contributors and sponsors of ALEC, a.k.a. the American Legislative Exchange Council. The prison that we are targeting on 2/20 is owned by GEO, the largest operator of privately run prisons in the nation. Under their Criminal Justice Task Force, ALEC has developed and helped to successfully implement in many states “tough on crime” initiatives including “Truth in Sentencing” and “Three Strikes” laws. ALEC also plays a huge role in criminalizing undocumented immigration. This relationship between corporate run prisons, its influence on the very laws that govern our democracy, and its implications for our citizens should not exist, yet it does.
There is major financial incentive to overcrowd and under serve the needs of prisoners. Prisons owned by private corporations do everything they can to cut costs and warehouse as many people as possible. In privately owned prisons the rate of assaults on guards and other prisoners is 50% greater then state run prisons. Elderly prisoners, and detainees with mental health issues are severely underserved in these environments. It should come as no surprise, that the capitalist myth of free markets can not, and should not be applied to our so called “rehabilitation process.”
Although the incarceration rates in the USA have quadrupled over the past 30 years, the rate of violent crime has gone down significantly. Since Ronald Reagan declared a “War On Drugs” in the 1980s, federal budgets have flowed into local police forces to round up non-violent offenders. Unlike other western nations, what should be treated as an issue of mental health or drug abuse, often becomes a felony in the USA. Once you are labeled a felon, you become a second class citizen. Felons are stripped of their right to vote and employment opportunities become dire.
When we talk about the 99%, many people assume it means we are here to protect the middle class. The sad fact is that many members of the so called 99% have never, and will never be middle class. This reality becomes even more brutal when we look at how the prison industrial complex affects people from low income neighborhoods, and breaks down along racial lines. Nationwide 1 out of 3 black males is in a stage of the incarceration process. In our nations capital, Washington DC, 3 out of 4 black males are in some stage of the incarceration process as well.
In a nation that prides itself as a beacon of human rights and democracy, we should be disgusted with this blatant abuse of corporate power. They say that slavery is illegal for all but the convicted felon. These prisoners provide a massive unpaid labor force for the owners of prisons, who sell this labor at a profit. In Michelle Alexander’s opus, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Era Of Color Blindness” she traces a direct line from Slavery to the prison industrial complex. Alexander points out that more black men under correctional control today, then were slaves in the 1850s. This is an uncomfortable fact for many, but it was an even more uncomfortable reality for the former slaves who were jailed and forced back to work on the very plantations they were liberated from after the civil war.
In the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan began defunding Mental Hospitals, many people who needed help were sent out into the streets. According to Human Rights Watch the U.S. prison system has become the #1 provider of mental health care in the United States. It is 3 times more expensive to treat the mentally ill in a prison environment. Many of these people who need special care are subject to harsh punishment, humiliation, and abuse. Should privately run prisons be earning a profit for under serving the needs of the mentally disabled?
So when we talk about the 99%, we must acknowledge the least among us, those who have been raised with the cold foot of capitalism on their neck… Those who have watched that very boot turn to shackles and bars. Stand with us and the DABC on 2/20.
Find out more about the national day of occupation in support of prisoners by reading the Occupy Oakland General Assembly Proposal.