“A slow genocide that could easily become a fast one”

December 23, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


“More than 2.4 million people are warehoused in prisons across the country. In 2009, more than 55 percent of those in prison were Black or Latino. Most of the prisoners are men, but there are more than 200,000 women in prison. And the rate of increase for women in prison has been almost double that of men since 1985. In these prisons, people are subjected to conditions that amount to torture. In California alone, there are tens of thousands of prisoners held in segregation units called special housing units or SHUs. People get put in these units arbitrarily, often just at the whim of a guard or an administrator. There is no way for a prisoner to challenge being put into one of these units. Once you end up in one of these units, just about the only way you can get out is by snitching on some other prisoner. When you are in there you are denied visitors. I mean, at times, they don’t even let your lawyer come to see you or give you a call. And they deny people human contact for weeks or months at a time. And this is something that international law calls torture, holding people in that kind of condition.

“These conditions were so bad that this is why 6,600 prisoners in California went on hunger strike in July 2011, followed by a second wave of hunger strikes with 12,000 prisoners participating in September 2011. I mean, people were willing to starve themselves, putting their lives on the line to demonstrate their refusal to continue to put up with these horrendous conditions. And as I said earlier, one of them recently died.

“Then you’ve got the millions and millions more people who are on parole and probation. They’ve already served their sentences, yet they remain under the control of the criminal injustice system. They aren’t allowed to vote; they’re discriminated against when looking for a job; they’re barred from public housing; they’re denied access to government loans.

“All of this, the 2.4 million people in prison, the youth for whom going in and out of prison has become a rite of passage, the former prisoners who are forced to wear badges of shame and dishonor after they’ve already been punished by the authorities, the loved ones and friends of all these people whose hearts are incarcerated with them. This amounts to millions and millions of people living their lives enmeshed in the criminal injustice system in this country. And it comes down to a slow genocide that could easily become a fast one targeting Black people.”

—Carl Dix, speaking at Riverside Church,
February 18, 2012

The slow genocide Carl Dix talks about continues to grind on, breaking the bodies and crushing the spirits of many of the tens of millions of people whose lives are enmeshed in the web of the criminal injustice system. The horrors this means for so many in this society provides potential to unleash millions to stand up and resist.

To tap into this potential, the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) is dedicating February, which is Black History Month, to bearing witness to the injustice of mass incarceration and all its consequences. The month will begin with a week of Bearing Witness and Manifesting Resistance to mass incarceration, and SMIN plans to use the Call to Bear Witness to transform the resistance to these injustices into more of a nationwide movement.

SMIN will continue the fight to see to it that none of the STOP “Stop & Frisk” freedom fighters do any jail time, and it will turn the system’s legal attacks on the people who stood up against stop-and-frisk into opportunities to put that racist illegitimate policy on trial. In particular, SMIN will rally people to beat back the government’s prejudicial prosecutions of Noche Diaz.

An important call for unity among different groups of prisoners (“California Prisoners Call for Peace Between Different Nationalities in Prisons and Jails,” Revolution, October 7, 2012) has been issued by prisoners in California. The call is spreading across the country behind the walls and even reaching outside the prisons. It needs to be spread even further.


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