† Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.
Dismantling the PIC
by nancy a heitzeg
The results of Election 2012 provide some glimpse of hope that the War on Drugs, aka The New Jim Crow, may be waning in popularity, the costs at last possibly outweighing the benefits perceived by the public. Both Washington and Colorado passed ballot measures that legalized marijuana. And while a proposition to abolish the death penalty failed, California, that epicenter of the PIC, finally finally finally revised it’s draconian Three Strikes legislation. It now applies to violent felonies only.
The three strikes measure, which passed 69 percent to 31 percent, sought only to bring California’s law more into line with the 24 other states with similar laws rather than repeal it.
Now, an offender’s “third strike” must be a serious or violent felony to garner a prison sentence of 25-years-to-life in prison. Previously, any third felony conviction — regardless of severity — triggered the sentence. Proposition 36 will cut costs through fewer parole hearings and shorter sentences for many and some 2,800 prisoners serving life sentences can now apply for sentence reductions.
Still. despite such glimmerings, undoing the tangled web of profit, punishment and collusion that is the PIC remains a daunting task. As we prepare to move forward, just take another look
Same story — in words:
“The prison industrial complex is a self-perpetuating machine where the vast profits (e.g. cheap labor, private and public supply and construction contracts, job creation, continued media profits from exaggerated crime reporting and crime/punishment as entertainment) and perceived political benefits (e.g. reduced unemployment rates, “get tough on crime” and public safety rhetoric, funding increases for police, and criminal justice system agencies and professionals) lead to policies that are additionally designed to insure an endless supply of “clients” for the criminal justice system (e.g. enhanced police presence in poor neighborhoods and communities of color; racial profiling; decreased funding for public education combined with zero-tolerance policies and increased rates of expulsion for students of color; increased rates of adult certification for juvenile offenders; mandatory minimum and “three-strikes” sentencing; draconian conditions of incarceration and a reduction of prison services that contribute to the likelihood of “recidivism”; “collateral consequences”-such as felony disenfranchisement, prohibitions on welfare receipt, public housing, gun ownership, voting and political participation, employment- that nearly guarantee continued participation in “crime” and return to the prison industrial complex following initial release.) ( Brewer and Heitzeg 2008)
In the weeks and months ahead, CI and CMP will say more on concrete actions that we all can take to began to dismantle this mess. Surely that will need to address both the political and economic under-pinnings of the PIC.
Take a look at interactive graphics linked above.. Tell us your thoughts regarding future actions, potential pieces here and possible partnerships.
Then let’s do it..