“At about 12.40pm on 2 January 1996, Timothy Jackson took a jacket from the Maison Blanche department store in New Orleans, draped it over his arm, and walked out of the store without paying for it. When he was accosted by a security guard, Jackson said: “I just needed another jacket, man.” A few months later Jackson was convicted of shoplifting and sent to Angola prison in Louisiana. That was 16 years ago. Today he is still incarcerated in Angola, and will stay there for the rest of his natural life having been condemned to die in jail. All for the theft of a jacket, worth $159……The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 2.3 million people now in custody, with the war on drugs acting as the overriding push-factor. Of the prisoners serving life without parole for non-violent offences nationwide, the ACLU estimates that almost 80% were for drug-related crimes.Again, the offences involved can be startlingly petty. Drug cases itemised in the report include a man sentenced to die in prison for having been found in possession of a crack pipe; an offender with a bottle cap that contained a trace of heroin that was too small to measure; a prisoner arrested with a trace amount of cocaine in their pocket too tiny to see with the naked eye; a man who acted as a go-between in a sale to an undercover police officer of marijuana – street value $10. Read the full story…
From “Strange Fruit,” chapter 25, dealing with the consequences of blending the coercive state with private enterprise.
“One of the most frightening strange fruits to come from the mating of coercion with free enterprise is the increased reliance on privatization of the prison industry. Here we have the state creating a private industry that relies upon the state’s coercive power to supply it with a stream of new customers (inmates). This industry has become a strong lobby in support of maintaining and increasing those laws carrying prison sentences. As the Correctional Corporation of America warned in its 2010 annual report: “Any changes [in the laws] with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.”Private prisons have enjoyed many years as a “hot” investment stock in America since their introduction in the 1980s. In the three decades that followed we saw the American prison population increase five-fold, from one-half million to two and one-half million, during a time in which crimes, with or without victims, have remained relatively constant.”
…Of course these resources should be spent to stop real crime and its causes, but as long as the state is running things, it will be in the long-term interest of the prison industry to have more prisons and of the police service to have more crime.”
Award-winning journalist John Pilger pulls no punches in this riveting and clear analysis of how Western interests have fostered terrorism in the Middle East, directly and indirectly supplying their enemy Daesh/ISIL with military hardware. Our governments bear clear responsibility for the conflict in Syria, which has roots in Libya and Iraq. Pilger suggests that if the media had done its job and questioned propaganda three disastrous wars may have been prevented. This interview is from RT, not from British or US channels, which self-censor anything that counters official propaganda.
The military industrial complex that held the keys to American power after World War 2 was in trouble when the Cold War ended (as I mention in my book). The global War on Drugs never quite filled this conflict gap, though it did well for the prison industry. So the rise in terrorism brought these conflict-loving people the enemy of their dreams; an enemy that delivers the prospect of endless war and justification to take away our privacy and freedom.
“From prisons to rail franchises and even London’s Boris bikes, Serco is a giant global corporation that has hoovered up outsourced government contracts. Now the NHS is firmly in its sights. But it stands accused of mismanagement, lying and even charging for non-existent work.” click for full Guardian article
(in the article we discover that, as well as prisons, Serco handles prisoner tagging, runs immigrant removal centres, operates speed cameras, issues and collects fines for local council traffic departments, manages the ballistic missile early warning system and a great deal more in the UK, with many and diverse global interests)
“One of the most frightening strange fruits to come from the mating of coercion with free enterprise is the increased reliance on privatization of the prison industry. Here we have the state creating a private industry that relies upon the state’s coercive power to supply it with a stream of new customers (inmates). This industry has become a strong lobby in support of maintaining and increasing those laws carrying prison sentences. As the Correctional Corporation of America warned in their 2010 annual report: ‘Any changes [in the laws] with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.‘”
The US is running out of prison space and having to take measures. Since most of the pressure is caused by mandatory sentencing for people found altering their mental states with unapproved substances, they may be a lightening up on incarceration of harmless citizens. But it’s an inadequate measure, as this article observes. I wonder what will happen when the private prison industry catches up in its building program.
The Drugs Problem, chapter 27
“Backflow occurred too, in the War on Drugs, when in the early 1980s the CIA are believed to have helped distribute crack cocaine to America’s inner cities in order to covertly fund the Nicaraguan contras. History will undoubtedly judge that the War on Drugs was itself the largest causative factor of America’s downhill slide into dangerous drug abuse. This would not be the first time that coercive state programs have produced opposite results to those intended. This war has clogged courts and jails worldwide with drug cases, creating far more problems than drugs ever posed on their own.”
America is fighting wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, sending drones to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and striving to revive the Cold War with Russia. These conflicts are good for no one but the military industrial complex that has had its hands on the throat of American government for decades. This institution is a cultural cancer that spreads across the world, threatening civilisation and our species. If there are future generations, they will look back with the same degree of horror at manufactured war as we do at the history of slavery or Nazi death-camps.
Let’s face it. Those running our governments knew damn well that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They do not give a damn about the people of Libya or Afghanistan, or whether they enjoy democracy. They support the jihadist rebels intent upon turning a formerly stable and secular Syria into an unholy mess ripe to be made holy in the mold of Islamic State. Iran is next in their sights, already under attack by severe economic sanction. Western nations are allied to far worse characters than those whose regimes they so righteously strive to change.
The rulers of today’s America need war. From their angle, as long as weapons are expended and fear generated it matters not whether they win or lose their wars. Nobody is going to invade the USA and neither soldiers nor generals will end up in prisoner of war camps. Military careers are made in war, not in peace. If their violent actions create more conflict or even bring it to Western shores that’s just more business for the security, killing and fear management industries.
This is an industry that seeks to create conflicts that will result in the death of hundreds of thousands and the dislocation of millions. I can assure you that these dead and dislocated are people very like you and me. They have, or had, children they raised and love, parents and grandparents they revere, businesses they built, homes they made home, gardens and farms they treasure.
You and I, with our taxes, fund the military industrial complex. It is a cancer that is metastasising and devouring us. Far from ‘defense’ industries protecting global citizens from danger they pose a more real and present risk to our life and liberty than global warming or a coronal mass ejection from the Sun. There is nobody out there from whom America needs defending, yet its ‘defense’ expenditure surpasses that of the next seven nations combined.
We do not want to believe that those who rule us, or those who quietly rule them, could be so cruel and heartless. They tell us they have nothing but our best interests in mind. Yet history is riddled with rulers who thought nothing of human life, rulers who slaughtered and raped all manner of innocents for all manner of reasons, including the pleasure of it.
There is no reason to assume that because we have some new-fangled way of determining who our next set of rulers will be that we thereby exclude the likes of a Nero, Genghis Khan, Hitler or Stalin from assuming power. One has only to look at the current American election to realize that we cannot rely upon the so-called democratic process to prevent dangerous criminals and demagogues from running a militaristic empire on a par with that of the Romans.
As long as we buy into the notion that top-down rulers are the best way to maintain order in our community we accept a system that disconnects the feedback loops needed to direct its evolution. With feedback loops our communications evolved from undersea telegraph cables going dot-dash to the smartphone connecting us all; our transport went from canals and bicycles to jet planes. Without feedback loops our security services have evolved from police, judges and prisons to more powerful and expensive police, judges and prisons, all of them thriving on crime. If crime rates were to halve they’d be out of work, or need to criminalise a raft of victimless crimes to compensate. The vast majority of US prison inmates today have been incarcerated for victimless crimes, and are used as virtual slave labour on production lines.
Instead of giving war-faring states the credit for our positive progress as humanity, we should applaud our own heroic ability to evolve despite their history of destructive and obstructive influence. In the freedom of the Internet major online retailers develop and improve low-cost means to control and compensate for crime without handcuffs, courtrooms and prisoners. This should give us cause for optimism. Perhaps it is possible for humanity to live together in peace without having to slaughter each other in its pursuit.
When we have top-down government determining policies with coercively enforced rules it follows that those making and applying the rules are the rulers. How those rulers arrive at their positions is not, ultimately, the point. The system arose long ago as a means for the few to live off the labours of the many, self-financing themselves with taxes demanded by force. There have been many variations on this theme in the past 4500 years or so, but wherever you have a state with the power to make and enforce rules, there is likely to be a despotic elite striving to get their hands on the controls. Sometimes they succeed.
We must recognize that just such an elite has succeeded in the US. Uncle Sam has been incarcerating his own subjects at unprecedented levels while exporting war and armed conflict across the world. This is a shocking unthinkable thought to most, but one that both presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy warned Americans of in the 1960’s. They were not paranoid conspiracy theorists and their fears have become reality.
What can we possibly do about this? The first step, undoubtedly, is to stop being in denial and to open our eyes to the truth. Stop swallowing the propaganda. Let go of the fear and recognize there is no existential need for this so-called “necessary evil.” We are stronger and more powerful than we know. Our collective belief is at the foundation of state power, more important than all its trappings and uniformed inforcers. Whoever moves into the White House next will make little difference. We can.
I write this in a world awash with nuclear weapons as two frightening characters fight over the reins of the most militarised nation in history. So-called democracy has come down to letting Americans pick which of two candidates they don’t want least. Amusing, to someone from another planet. The book that I wrote goes well beyond the “who did what to whom” approach, looking at the power of freedom and the perils of suppressing it by governmental decree. It is titled The State Is Out Of Date – We Can Do It Better. It will give you hope for the future.