The “Prison Reform” Bill

A Tiny Band-Aid to Conceal a Knife in the Gut

| Revolution Newspaper |


If you looked at a newspaper the morning after Trump signed his fraudulent “prison reform bill,” you might have seen Van Jones acting like a hood ornament on the fascist juggernaut, prominently standing in the scrum surrounding Trump’s desk.

The bill in fact gives a few relatively small concessions while concealing what may turn out to be a major attack. And we’ll get to both the concession and the attack in a minute.

But the larger significance of this bill—and the larger attack—lies in the collaboration with fascism being carried out by people like Jones, along with the self-deluding and disarming notions coming from people like the writer Michelle Goldberg.

First, to the bill. The bill itself, by the estimates of even its biggest supporters, would reduce the sentences of no more than 4,000 prisoners in the federal system. The sentence reduction is the main thing being touted. That reduction would apply to a little more than two percent of federal prisoners, and when you stack it up against 2.3 million people being held in all prisons, jails and “detention centers,” you are talking about less than one in 500 prisoners, most of whom will have already served long, long bids on bullshit “crimes,” like possession of drugs. And even this pitiful reform has two big catches: First, no immigrants whatsoever are to be allowed early release AND second, the so-called “neutral” algorithm which will determine exactly who among the eligible does get released has been exposed by ProPublica as hiding decidedly racist criteria in its supposedly neutral yardsticks.

In fact, concealed within this extremely minor concession is a major attack. And that shouldn’t be surprising. After all, when the Senate passes a bill 87-12, when significant proponents of prison reform oppose it, and when a long-time racist become fascist chieftain Donald Trump signs it, shouldn’t we be asking some questions about who benefits from all this and why?

First, please note that the two largest “private prison companies” have now “rebranded” themselves as “re-entry” companies. Corrections Corporation of America, for instance, changed its name to CoreCivic (my, how public-spirited the new name sounds!). They not only have plans for vastly expanded use of ankle-bracelets, but for other even more intrusive forms of surveillance as well. So, with the states now strapped for cash and wanting to at least slightly pare down their prison populations, but with the ruling class overall still wanting to heighten their surveillance and control of the Black, Latino and Native American peoples in this country, we could be looking at a whole new phase of mass incarceration and worse.

The second attack is in some ways even more insidious—providing Trump cover to carry out his fascist onslaught. Look, we know Trump and we know America and while he has made numerous threats he has still not yet unleashed the full onslaught against Black people that he has, for instance, against immigrants, we should understand that this is not a matter of if, but of when. Now, however, opportunists like Van Jones (as well as pitiful bootlickers like Kanye West) have provided Trump with invaluable political cover. Van Jones won his disgusting photo-op by doing a whole big CNN interview with Jared Kushner leading into this. Watch this ass-kissing interview here and ask yourself if there is one question that Kushner could not have scripted in advance. Jones has used whatever credibility he pickpocketed from being associated with the “radical” movement of the ’90s to legitimize a regime that is the deadly enemy of the masses, and he has told people that the way forward is NOT massive resistance but conciliation and outright collaboration.

To those like the New York Times designated “woke” columnist Michelle Goldberg, who wrote a column entitled “Donald Trump Is Doing Something...Good?” saying that this bill could be the first step in rolling back the tide of mass incarceration: Wake the fuck up, will you? This is mainly a way to delude and bamboozle people like you into dropping your guard and believing in fairy tales, and staying on the sidelines when the hammer does come down, as it surely will unless it is prevented by massive, in-the-streets struggle.

Look at reality. Ask yourself WHY this is happening. Then act accordingly, and commensurate to the threat we face.



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