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The United States is a Police State, or The Penal State in an Age of Crisis

N.Beltov
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Joined: May 25 2003

 

Quote:
The United States accounts for 5 percent of the world's population, and almost a quarter of the world's prisoners. It is number one with the proverbial bullet when it comes to locking up its own people. No thug dictator, no psychopathic madman, anywhere in the world can touch the United States in this department.


Mostly victims of the so-called "War on Drugs", with over 50% of those imprisoned for drug possession, this police state specializes in imprisoning poor and working class people.

The writers over at Monthly Review have done an absolutely brilliant job here, and previously, in uncovering the ceiling of civilian spending that exists in the USA, much lower than for many other countries, and the huge bias towards militarized and "public safety" (i.e., police, prisons and tazers, etc.) spending of late. As they point out:

Quote:
Studies show that those nations with the highest rates of inequality also tend to have higher rates of incarceration, with the United States representing an extreme on both counts.

Overall, this is a good expose of neoliberal atrocities in the USA. Juveniles and immigrants, being the weakest constituencies, were the first to feel the horrors of completely privatized prisons, the thin end of the wedge for the future.

Quote:
Testing privatization on the most vulnerable and politically disenfranchised groups gave private companies the foothold necessary to become part of the conversation about what to do with the rising costs of imprisonment. The increasing costs, of course, were themselves predicated upon skyrocketing incarceration rates, translating into booming demand for the prison services industry.

Date on the "racial" breakdown of the prison population of the USA are astonishing and ugly. Capitalism is, indeed,  a boot in the face of humanity forever. What is the remedy?

As the Editors put it, "We need our own Bastille Day." Absolutely.

 


Comments

Sineed
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Joined: Dec 4 2005

Thanks for this - a couple of years ago, a survey from StatsCan in the form of a bar graph crossed my desk, regarding world incarceration rates.  So for Scandanavian countries, it's about 80-85 incarcerated persons per 100,000 population.  For UK, it's about 120-130/100,000.  Canada is about 125/100,000 (this was from, I think, '02).  You get the idea.

So I went looking down this bar graph, thinking, where the heck is the US?  

It was off to the side with an asterisk, explaining that the US couldn't be put on the bar graph because it didn't fit (guess StatsCan doesn't have the budget for special fold-out pages).  For the US the incarceration rate was 600-700 per 100,000.

The implications for Canada?  As long as the war on drugs continues to enrich private prisons and help inflate police budgets south of the border, our government's drug policies will be under the American thumb.  So the irrational pot prohibition isn't ending any time soon, even if Jack Layton become prime minister.


N.Beltov
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Joined: May 25 2003

Sineed wrote:
So the irrational pot prohibition isn't ending any time soon, even if Jack Layton become prime minister.

 

Yea, it's useful to point such things out. Plenty of people imagine that such things are simply a question of the will of this or that elected government. As if. The USA pollutes our country not just with acid rain and ultra-commercial culture but also with their police state practices and policies. What the public, outside of Parliamenty wrangling, is willing to do is the key to overcoming such practices and policies.


Fidel
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

Well, they've at least recognized that there is a problem with the private enterprise end of the system providing jobs. So part of the neocon's answer to that is a semi-privatized gulag system and soaking US taxpayers for billions every year from this new angle since the 1990s.

I've visited Alcatraz, and the literature there said it was a private hell for everyone who was ever imprisoned there. And I think prisoners are treated like human cattle still today. The prosperous cold war economy in the states has been offshored, downsized, and closing down since 1991. And there isnt much replacing it except for the industrial superprison complex. Far more superprisons have been built in the last 25 years in the US than new universities. A lot more.


Fleabitn2
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Joined: Nov 25 2008

This is the kind of Canada Harper dreams about, and is busily trying to enact legislation to ensure his vision becomes reality.

 

As Murika goes, so goes Canada, half a step behind.


lost in the red...
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Joined: Jun 16 2009

mandatory minimum has been passed in Canada. 0ne plant = 7 years.  seems like bad planning though since he just shut down a lot of prisons. the next crisis? our jails are over flowing...and privatized ones will come to the rescue.  millionaire drug lords soon coming to a  neighbourhood near you.

 

 


Lard Tunderin Jeezus
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Joined: Aug 27 2001

N.Beltov wrote:

Sineed wrote:
So the irrational pot prohibition isn't ending any time soon, even if Jack Layton become prime minister.

 

Yea, it's useful to point such things out. Plenty of people imagine that such things are simply a question of the will of this or that elected government. As if. The USA pollutes our country not just with acid rain and ultra-commercial culture but also with their police state practices and policies. What the public, outside of Parliamenty wrangling, is willing to do is the key to overcoming such practices and policies.

It might well be too risky to consider the legalization of marijuana given the paranoid attitudes held towards it by our southern neighbours, but I think Jack and the NDP could gain a lot of attention and respect by vowing to repeal Harper's various concessions of our sovereignty in regards to policing and the military.

Strip the DEA of any right to operate here. Remove American border patrol guards from Canadian Coast Guard operations. Repeal the cross-border 'emergency' invitation to enter Canada with the U.S. military. I guarantee you'll pick up some youth vote. Hell, I'd bet a lot of right-wing Canadian nationalists who otherwise lean toward Harper would consider voting for the NDP with that platform.


N.Beltov
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Joined: May 25 2003

I don't believe any Canadian government has the will to really rein in the USians ... even when it comes to the extra-territorial application of their laws in our country, etc. Such a change would have to be PRECEDED by a powerful public campaign, perhaps part of an election campaign but probably not, with a really, really, really, really egregious anti-Canadian atrocity by the Americans acting as a catalyst. But they have such a free hand here already, why would they get caught doing such a thing?

Mind you, I wouldn't preach defeatism ... and a lousy compromise beats a straight flush or an obsequious surrender anytime.


Catchfire
Online
Joined: Apr 16 2003

 

California Man’s ‘Drug Holiday’ Becomes Four-Day Nightmare in Holding Cell

Quote:
By his own admission, Daniel Chong planned to spend April 20 like so many other college students: smokingmarijuana with friends to celebrate an unofficial holiday devoted to the drug.

But for Mr. Chong, the celebration ended in a Kafkaesque nightmare inside a San Diego Drug Enforcement Administration holding cell, where he said he was forgotten for four days, without food or water.

To survive, Mr. Chong said he drank his own urine, hallucinated and, at one point, considered how to take his own life. By the time agents found him on the fifth day and called paramedics, he said he thought he could be dead within five minutes.

“By that time, I’d accepted that I would probably die there,” Mr. Chong, a 23-year-old student at the University of California, San Diego, said Wednesday, three days after his release from the hospital.

A spokeswoman for the D.E.A. said the case was under investigation, but confirmed that Mr. Chong had been “accidentally left in one of the cells” from April 21 until April 25, and that he had not been charged with a crime.

In a written statement on Wednesday, William R. Sherman, the acting special agent in charge of the D.E.A. in San Diego, said he was deeply troubled by what happened.

“I extend my deepest apologies to the young man,” he said.

 


kropotkin1951
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Joined: Jun 6 2002

I thought maybe this is the place for this shocking article I read. 

What I don't understand is how anyone can look closely at the US and not see a totalitarian police state. 

Quote:

Just ask the three nine-year-old girls and an eight-year-old boy who got into a fight at their Baltimore elementary school — then got arrested by real police.  Or Salecia Johnson, age six, cuffed and arrested for throwing a tantrum at her elementary school in Milledgeville, Georgia.  Or Wilson Reyes, a seven-year-old at a Bronx, New York, elementary school who last December 4th was cuffed, hauled away, and interrogated under suspicion of taking $5 from a classmate.  (Another kid later confessed.)

The last of these incidents made the cover of the New York Post, but the New York City Police Department still doesn’t understand what they did wrong — sure, the first-grader spent about 4 hours handcuffed in a detention room, but that’s “standard for juvenile arrest.”

Which is precisely the problem: standard juvenile misbehavior (a five-year-old pitching a fit, a 12-year-old doodling on a desk, a 13-year-old farting in class, a class clown running around the football field at halftime in a banana suit) is increasingly being treated like serious crime, resulting in handcuffs and arrest.  If you can’t understand why such “consistency” is crazy, please desist from reading the rest of this article.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/02/28/the-axis-of-tiny-handcuffs/

 


Slumberjack
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Joined: Aug 8 2005

The police are out of control everywhere, but this has always been their normal operating procedure. It might be surprising that there haven't been more Dorniers and Roszkos created as a result, but then many people who live in police states learn to doff the cap where necessary and perform the yes sir, no sir routine as a matter of instinct. Every now and then, with more frequency these days it seems, rude reminders will surface to inform us that the police are incapable of keeping everyone down all the time, a result due to no lack of effort on their part to be sure.


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