Tag Archives: prison industrial complex

The South and the Death Penalty

by KurtFF8

The recent execution of Troy Davis has caused many to again discuss the merits of the death penalty in the United States.  (It also sparked a mass march in New York City that was met with a heavy handed police response). According to the Daily Beast, the South has the highest execution rate in the country, as well as the highest murder rate.  On top of that, the incarceration capital of the world is a southern city: New Orleans.

These renewed debates not only bring into question broad topics like the death penalty itself, but they should also let us contextualize them in a regional sense.  We should begin asking why is the South the home to so many problems still (to throw yet another one in there: the South is “bearing the brunt” of the US’s raising poverty rate).  There are plenty of answers to the question of why the South faces these problems.  But one thing should be quite clear, it is something often repeated on this site: the South remains an important part of the country to organize progressive forces.

Amongst the many lessons we learned from the Troy Davis incident (to steal the ANSWER coalition’s article title), we should also add the lesson that the world pays attention to the South, not only to the injustices that happen there but to the folks that organize against those injustices.

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Filed under African Americans, ANSWER Coalition, Atlanta, Georgia, inmates, Leftists in the U.S. South, National Oppression, New Orleans, Prisoners, prisons, racism, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, United States

The American Prison System

by KurtFF8 (Mike C)

There have been various stories relating the the conditions of the prison system in the United States in the news recently.  From the under reported (yet perhaps most significant) recent Georgia Prisoner’s strike to the high profile solitary confinement of Bradley Manning who gained notoriety for his involvement in leaking a video to Wikileaks.  This attention should be seen as an opportunity to open up space for debate on the very structure of our prisons.

There is also the case of Cornelius Dupree, Jr.who was just freed in Texas after 30 years of being in prison when DNA evidence showed that he was actually innocent.  According to his attorney, Texas has had the most DNA exonerations of any state, and Dallas the most within Texas.  This is of course a disturbing trend that may certainly be seen as yet another case of institutional racism that has a strong tradition (especially in the South, but of course not limited to the South) and seems to be rather obvious in these cases as according to the Innocence Project, almost 60% of those exonerated post-conviction via DNA are African American.

Bradley Manning’s conditions have been highlighted in the international press recently, with an emphasis on his mental health as a result of being in solitary confinement for a long period of time.  The interesting thing about the Manning case is that it is being portrayed in the media as a sort of political imprisonment by the United States, while the majority of cases that activists consider to be clear cases of political imprisonment tend to be portrayed as seen that way only by a small fringe.  Thus the case offers yet another example for the Left to call into question this system.

The most bizarre incident is the Georgia Prisoner’s strike.  I say bizarre because of the relative silence (or at least not much emphasis) by the “mainstream media” on what has been labeled the largest prisoner’s strike in the history of the United States.  For example, if you compare two New York Times articles that came out within a day of each other, you’ll find one long article about the new “problem” of smart phones in prisons (and it does detail the strike).  The NAACP recently claimed that there was violent retaliation against striking prisoners which was certainly anticipated by prisoner rights activists, yet this story got one paragraph in the NYT.

Taking these various stories together, and how they were covered by the media makes for an interesting trend that reveals a small bit of ideology that dominates our conversations here.  The cases of Cornelius Dupree, Jr. and Bradley Manning received more attention than the Georgia prisoner’s strike.  Why is this the case?  One part of the answer can certainly be traced to ideology: when an individual is treated poorly by the system, this is a miscarriage of justice that simply needs to be corrected.  When prisoners from across an entire state come together and challenge the system itself, this calls into question the system itself.  The strike also defied stereotypes of prisons divided along racial lines, when all prisoners of different races worked together to demand better conditions.  This ideological reasoning can at least help us understand why events like the Georgia strike are not emphasized by the media.

There are many problems about the American prison system.  The United States has the largest prison population on Earth (in terms of raw numbers and as a percentage of our population); the United States has increasingly allow private corporations to run prisons for profit, which includes free labor from their inmates (which some people rightfully equate to modern day slavery); Racism continues to play an important roll .  And the biggest problem of all: There is not a national debate about this, these issues are not constantly being discussed on CNN every night, we’re not having town hall meetings about it.

This is an important issues, especially in the US South where prison populations seem to be particularly large (For example, New Orleans having the biggest incarceration rate in the World).  It’s time we start reframing these issues and start organizing.

Further reading:

U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations

YouTube Clip – Angela Davis discusses Prison Industrial Complex

YouTube Clip – Prison Industrial Complex (clip from documentary)

 

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Filed under African Americans, class struggle, Georgia, Gulf States, Human Rights, inmates, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoners, prisons, Race, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, strike, Texas, United States, Wikileaks

Georgia prisoners strike for end to cruel and unusual punishment

[Originally posted to pslweb.org on Wednesday, December 15, 2010]

By: Eugene Puryear

 

Black, white, Latino: united for justice!

On Dec. 9, prisoners in Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair state prisons in Georgia went on strike. Prisoners are demanding to be paid for the work they do, to receive adequate healthcare and nutritious food and to have access to educational opportunities. They are calling for and end to “cruel and unusual” punishment.

In a move almost unprecedented inside prisons, convicts have reached across the often violent divide between nationalities. Based on contact with the striking prisoners a supporter and press spokesperson told Liberation: “Blacks, whites, Mexicans, Rastafarians, Muslims, Christians, you name it, they are united.”

Additionally, the prisoners have overcome oppressive communication restrictions, using various means including texting via contraband cell phones in order to continue to keep facilities connected.

According to a press release issued by strike supporters, prisoners refused to work, stopped all other activities and remained in their cells. What originally began as a one day protest has continued. As of Dec. 14 prisoners continue to fight for their rights, and have turned their strike into an open ended action. The spokesperson related a message from one prisoner: “We’re not going to break.”

Despite attempts by the Georgia Department of Corrections to create a media blockade, reports have leaked out describing retaliatory treatment in some of the prisons. In Telfair state prison it was reported that guards and prison officials beat inmates, destroyed their personal effects and turned off the heat in 30-degree weather.

In Macon State Prison, authorities are said to have cut off hot water for inmates. Inmates have told their contacts on the outside of threats to use dogs as well.

Despite the violence and repression at other prisons, inmates at Rogers State Prison have now also joined the strike.

Georgia state inmates are subject to inhumane treatment, with cruel punishments and sub-standard medical care. They are not able to pursue any meaningful educational opportunities, and if released are equipped only to become part of the low wage work force if they can get any job at all. Prison families also face additional hardship when they try to support their loved ones which charge exorbitant rates for their “services.” Prisoners in the Georgia prison system do not receive any pay for the work they do.

High rates of incarceration are a fact of life in Black communities around the country. De-industrialization and skyrocketing unemployment hit the Black working class harder than any other sector. Combined with the over 30-year assault on working-class living standards in general, poverty and destitution also skyrocketed.

As a result, millions of members of the “reserve army of the unemployed” have been thrown in prison on non-violent drug charges, and those incarcerated are treated like unredeemable monsters, forced to work for free or for a pittance, and denied educational opportunities almost universally.

Dealing with the root cause of this “prison population explosion,” would reveal that it is of the capitalists’ own making. Their anti-working class policies created the social context for crime, and their racist drug laws have created a demonized “criminal” population of millions of working class, Black and Latino youth to whom they have already denied any option for a decent standard of living.

The Georgia prisoners have issued a set of demands to improve the onerous and oppressive living conditions in which they are forced to exist, demands that speak to all thoses trapped in the so-called criminal justice system. According to the press release issued by supporters, Georgia prisoners are demanding:

“A LIVING WAGE FOR WORK: In violation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, the DOC demands prisoners work for free.

“EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: For the great majority of prisoners, the DOC denies all opportunities for education beyond the GED, despite the benefit to both prisoners and society.

“DECENT HEALTH CARE: In violation of the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, the DOC denies adequate medical care to prisoners, charges excessive fees for the most minimal care and is responsible for extraordinary pain and suffering.

“AN END TO CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS: In further violation of the 8th Amendment, the DOC is responsible for cruel prisoner punishments for minor infractions of rules.

“DECENT LIVING CONDITIONS: Georgia prisoners are confined in over-crowded, substandard conditions, with little heat in winter and oppressive heat in summer.

“NUTRITIONAL MEALS: Vegetables and fruit are in short supply in DOC facilities while starches and fatty foods are plentiful.

“VOCATIONAL AND SELF-IMPROVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES: The DOC has stripped its facilities of all opportunities for skills training, self-improvement and proper exercise.

“ACCESS TO FAMILIES: The DOC has disconnected thousands of prisoners from their families by imposing excessive telephone charges and innumerable barriers to visitation.

“JUST PAROLE DECISIONS: The Parole Board capriciously and regularly denies parole to the majority of prisoners despite evidence of eligibility. Prisoner leaders issued the following call: ‘No more slavery. Injustice in one place is injustice to all. Inform your family to support our cause. Lock down for liberty!’”

All revolutionary and progressive people should support the Georgia prisoners’ demands for just treatment.

Victory to the Georgia prisoners’ strike!

Down with the racist, anti-worker prison system!

Please call the prison authorities and demand no reprisals or punishments for striking prisoners!

Macon State Prison is 978-472-3900.

Telfair State Prison is 229-868-7721

Valdosta State Prison is 229-333-7900

Hays State Prison is at (706) 857-0400

Baldwin State Prison is at (478) 445- 5218

Smith State Prison is at (912) 654-5000

 

 

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Filed under African Americans, class struggle, Georgia, Human Rights, inmates, National Oppression, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoners, prisons, Race, Solidarity, Southern United States, strike, Uncategorized, United States

GA Prisoner Strike Continues a Second Day, Corporate Media Mostly Ignores Them, Corrections Officials Decline Comment

[Originally posted to blackagendareport.com, Saturday, September 11, 2010]

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

The peaceful strike begun by inmates of several Georgia state prisons continued for a second day on Friday, according to family members of some of the participants. Copyrighted news stories by AP, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and local TV stations in Macon and Atlanta quote state corrections who say several institutions were placed on lockdown beginning Thursday in anticipation of the inmate protest, on the initiative of wardens of those prisons.

GA Prisoner Strike Continues a Second Day, Corporate Media Mostly Ignores Them, Corrections Officials Decline Comment

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Offices of the wardens at Hay’s, Macon State, Telfair, and Augusta state all referred our inquiries to the Department of Corrections public affairs officer, who so far has declined to return our repeated calls.

The prisoner strike in Georgia is unique, sources among inmates and their families say, because it includes not just black prisoners, but Latinos and whites too, a departure from the usual sharp racial divisions that exist behind prison walls. Inmate families and other sources claim that when thousands of prisoners remained in their cells Thursday, authorities responded with violence and intimidation. Tactical officers rampaged through Telfair State Prison destroying inmate personal effects and severely beating at least six prisoners. Inmates in Macon State Prison say authorities cut the prisoners’ hot water, and at Telfair the administration shut off heat Thursday when daytime temperatures were in the 30s. Prisoners responded by screening their cells with blankets, keeping prison authorities from performing an accurate count, a crucial aspect of prison operations.

As of Friday, inmates at several prisons say they are committed to continuing the strike. “We are going to ride it,” the inmate press release quotes one, “till the wheels fall off. We want our human rights.”

The peaceful inmate strike is being led from within the prison. Some of those thought to be its leaders have been placed under close confinement.

The nine specific demands made by Georgia’s striking prisoners in two press releases pointedly reflect many of the systemic failures of the U.S. regime of mass incarceration, and the utter disconnection of U.S. prisons from any notions of protecting or serving the public interest. Prisoners are demanding, in their own words, decent living conditions, adequate medical care and nutrition, educational and self-improvement opportunities, just parole decisions, just parole decisions, an end to cruel and unusual punishments, and better access to their families.

It’s a fact that Georgia prisons skimp on medical care and nutrition behind the walls, and that in Georgia’s prisons recreational facilities are non-existent, and there are no educational programs available beyond GED, with the exception of a single program that trains inmates to be Baptist ministers. Inmates know that upon their release they will have no more education than they did when they went in, and will be legally excluded from Pell Grants and most kinds of educational assistance, they and their families potentially locked into a disadvantaged economic status for life.

Despite the single biggest predictor of successful reintegration into society being sustained contact with family and community, Georgia’s prison

authorities make visits and family contact needlessly difficult and expensive. Georgia no longer allows families to send funds via US postal money orders to inmates. It requires families to send money through J-Pay, a private company that rakes off nearly ten percent of all transfers. Telephone conversations between Georgia prisoners and their families are also a profit centers for another prison contractor, Global Tel-Link which extracts about $55 a month for a weekly 15 minute phone call from cash-strapped families. It’s hard to imagine why the state cannot operate reliable payment and phone systems for inmates and their families with public employees at lower cost, except that this would put contractors, who probably make hefty contributions to local politicians out of business.

Besides being big business, prisons are public policy. The U.S. has less than five percent of the world’s population, but accounts for almost a quarter of its prisoners. African Americans are one eighth this nation’s population, but make up almost half the locked down. The nation’s prison population increased more than 450% in a generation beginning about 1981. It wasn’t about crime rates, because those went up, and then back down. It wasn’t about rates of drug use, since African Americans have the same rates of drug use as whites and Latinos. Since the 1980s, the nation has undertaken a well-documented policy of mass incarceration, focused primarily though not exclusively on African Americans. The good news is that public policies are ultimately the responsibility of the public to alter, to change or do do away with. America’s policy of mass incarceration is overdue for real and sustained public scrutiny. A movement has to be built on both sides of the walls that will demand an end to the prison industry and to the American policy of mass incarceration. That movement will have to be outside the Republican and Democratic parties. Both are responsible for building this system, and both rely on it to sustain their careers. The best Democrats could do on the 100 to 1 crack to powder cocaine disparity this year, with a black president in the White House and thumping majorities in the House and Senate was to reduce it to 18 to 1, and then only by lengthening the sentences for powder cocaine. On this issue, Democrats and Republicans are part of the problem, not the solution.

As this article goes to print Saturday morning, it’s not known whether the strike will continue a third day. With prison officials not talking, and corporate media ignoring prisoners not just this week but every day, outlets like Black Agenda Report and the web site upon which you’re reading this are among the chief means inmates and their families have of communicating with the public. The prisoners are asking the public to continue to call the Georgia Department of Corrections, and the individual prisons listed below to express concern for the welfare of the prisoners.

Prison is about corruption, power and isolation. You can help break the isolation by calling the wardens’ offices at the following prisons. Prisons, naturally , are open Saturdays and Sundays too.

Macon State Prison is 478-472-3900.   Hays State Prison is at (706) 857-0400
Telfair State prison is 229-868-7721 Baldwin State Prison is at (478) 445- 5218
Valdosta State Prison is 229-333-7900 Smith State Prison is at (912) 654-5000
The Georgia Department of Corrections is at http://www.dcor.state.ga.us and their phone number is 478-992-5246

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Filed under African Americans, class struggle, Georgia, Gulf States, Human Rights, National Oppression, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoners, prisons, Race, Solidarity, Southern United States, strike, Uncategorized, United States

The Incarceration Capital of the US

By Jordan Flaherty

 [Originally posted to the Huffington Post November 9, 2010]

 

A struggle over the size of New Orleans’ jail could define the city’s future

New Orleans’ criminal justice system is at a crossroads. A new mayor and police chief say they want to make major changes, and the police department is facing lawsuits and federal investigations that may profoundly change the department. But a simultaneous, and less publicized, struggle is being waged and the results will likely define the city’s justice system for a generation: the city’s jail, damaged in Katrina, needs to be replaced. City leaders must now decide how big the new institution will be.

At first, it seemed like an expansion of OPP was inevitable. This is a city with one of the highest rates of violent crime in the US, and politicians rarely lose votes by calling for more jail cells. But in a city that has led the nation in incarceration, residents across race and class lines are questioning fundamental assumptions about what works in criminal justice.

With 3,500 beds in a city of about 350,000 residents, Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) is already the largest per capita county jail of any major US city. Sheriff Marlin Gusman, the elected official with oversight over the jail, has submitted plans for an even larger complex. A broad coalition is seeking to take the city in a different direction. They want a smaller facility, and they are demanding that the money that would be spent on a larger jail be diverted to alternatives to incarceration, like drug treatment programs and mental health facilities. With two public hearings on the issue scheduled for this week, the battle is heating up.

Criminal justice experts and community leaders are speaking in support of a smaller jail. This is an issue that has allowed the religious foundation Baptist Community Ministries and prison abolition organizers from Critical Resistance to find common ground. The online activist group ColorOfChange.org also recently joined in the conversation, with an appeal that has generated hundreds of emails to the mayor and city council. “In all the work we’ve been doing on criminal justice reform, this is definitely a pivotal moment,” says Rosana Cruz, the associate director of VOTE, an organization that seeks to build power and civic engagement for formerly incarcerated people. “We’re finally getting local and state government to think about public safety from a perspective of real safety, not an incarceration perspective.”

The OPP Reform Coalition, a pre-Katrina alliance that has recently been revitalized, has led the campaign. In September, when it seemed like the prison expansion was proceeding without public debate, they took out a full-page ad in the city’s daily paper listing other things that the money spent on OPP could be spent on. The ad featured an assortment of New Orleanians – including musicians, local politicians, community leaders, and members of the cast and crew of the HBO show Treme. The diverse assembly of public figures not only signed the ad, but also helped pay for it, donating $22.39 each, the amount that the jail currently charges the city for every prisoner. In the aftermath of the ad, attention turned to a working group formed by the mayor to address the issue. That body is expected to make its recommendations this month.

Incarceration Industry

Orleans Parish Prison is a giant complex in Midcity New Orleans, made up of several buildings spread across a dozen blocks employing nearly a thousand nonunion workers. The city jail is a small empire under the absolute control of the city Sheriff, who can use jail employees for election campaigns, and send out prisoners to work for local businesses. The majority of the metropolitan area’s mental health facilities are also located within the jail, meaning that for many who have mental health issues, the jail is their only option for treatment.

Louisiana’s incarceration rate is by far the highest in the world – more than ten times higher than most European countries, and twenty times higher than Japan. Pre-Katrina, OPP had 7,200 beds. In a city with a population of about 465,000, this came to about one bed for every sixty-five city residents. Neighboring Jefferson Parish has 100,000 more people than Orleans Parish, and has only 900 beds. Caddo Parish – in the northeast of the state – has more violent crime, but still imprisons far less people. If OPP had the same number of beds as the national average of one for every 388 residents, the jail’s capacity would shrink to about 850.

Aside from its size, OPP is unique in other ways. Under the terms of a lawsuit over prison conditions filed in 1969, the jail’s budget is based on a per-diem paid by the city for every inmate in prison. The more people locked in OPP, the higher the funding Sheriff Gusman has at his disposal. “Our current funding structure is creating a perverse incentive to lock more people up,” explains Dana Kaplan, the director of Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, a criminal justice advocacy organization and member of the OPP Reform Coalition.

The institution of OPP is also exceptional in that it is a county jail and a state prison combined into one entity. About 2,700 people in the jail are mostly pre-trial detainees – the majority being held for drug possession, traffic violations, public drunkenness, or other nonviolent offenses – and are legally innocent. An additional eight hundred people are state prisoners who have been convicted in court, who may spend years or even decades at OPP.

Almost 60,000 people passed through OPP in the last twelve months, a staggering figure for a city of this size. The average length of stay was 20 days. The largest portion of pre-trial prisoners in the jail are there for nonviolent, municipal offenses that even under conservative standards should not warrant jail time, including 20,000 arrests this year for traffic violations. “New Orleans is basically the incarceration capital of the world,” says Kaplan. “You’re hard-pressed to find a resident of New Orleans – especially in poor communities – that hasn’t had their lives disrupted in some way by this institution.”

An article by journalist Ethan Brown in one of the city’s weekly papers noted, “thanks to the profound misallocation of law enforcement resources in New Orleans, you’re more likely to end up in Orleans Parish Prison for a traffic offense than for armed robbery or murder.” Ultimately, this struggle over the size of the jail is also about the city’s incarceration priorities. If the city builds a larger jail, it will have to keep filling it with tens of thousands of people. If a smaller facility is built, it will change who is arrested in the city, and how long they spend behind bars.

Because much of the jail was underwater during Katrina, many of the buildings have either been closed or need massive renovation. By one estimate, the new jail that the sheriff seeks would cost 250 million dollars, much of that to come in reimbursements from FEMA. The sheriff has yet to reveal how much of the construction costs would come from federal dollars, although the state affiliate of the ACLU has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the information. Even if most of the construction were paid for by FEMA, as the Sheriff has indicated, the continued upkeep would fall to the city.

Sheriff Gusman did not respond to requests for comment, but he has said, at a meeting of mayor’s task force on the jail, “I’ve always advocated for a smaller facility,” and spoke of being satisfied with 4,200 beds. The plans he has submitted to various planning bodies, however, indicate otherwise.

The Sheriff has issued several conflicting statements and reports about the size of the jail he is seeking, as well as where the funding will come from. A Justice Facilities Master Plan, prepared in collaboration with the Sheriff’s office, called for 8,000 beds, which would give the jail capacity to imprison nearly one of every 40 people currently in the city. A planning document recently prepared by the Sheriff called for 5,800 beds. No plans or public documents issued by his office have called for building a jail smaller than the current facility.

Spotlight on Abuse

With seven reported deaths this year, OPP is under the spotlight for violent and abusive treatment of prisoners. A September 2009 report from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) found, “conditions at OPP violate the constitutional rights of inmates.” The DOJ went on to document “a pattern and practice of unnecessary and inappropriate use of force by OPP correctional officers,” including “several examples where OPP officers openly engaged in abusive and retaliatory conduct, which resulted in serious injuries to prisoners. In some instances, the investigation found, the officers’ conduct was so flagrant it clearly constituted calculated abuse.”

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of people who had not been convicted of any crime were lost in the city’s prison system. Last month a jury awarded two men from Ohio a $650,000 judgment for their treatment after the storm. The men were on a road trip and stopped in New Orleans for a drink on Bourbon Street. They were arrested for public drunkenness and spent a month disappeared in the system, without being allowed even one phone call to their families.

In a city under fiscal crisis, advocates have focused not only on the decades of evidence that mass incarceration has only made people in the city feel less safe, but also on the financial costs of this massive jail. In addition to calling for reforms that would cause less people to be locked up, the reform coalition demands that, “funds dedicated to building a bigger jail must be reallocated to building the infrastructure of a caring community, including recreational, educational, mental health, and affordable housing facilities.” Andrea Slocum, an organizer with Critical Resistance, says that when she talks to city residents, the idea of redirecting money from the prison has wide support. “Parents are crying out, saying where’s the recreation for our children?”

“It’s an exciting time for the city in a lot of ways,” says Michael Jacobson of the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit organization that has been advising the City, including the Sheriff. Jacobson, who served as correction commissioner for New York City in the mid-90s, managed to reduce the population of New York City’s jail system even in the midst of the mass arrests of the Giuliani administration. He believes similar change is possible in New Orleans. “You can’t create or innovate unless you’re willing to step out and change what you’re doing,” he says. The Vera Institute has received funding from the US Department of Justice for a pre-trial services program that has reduced incarceration in other cities, and they project New Orleans will also be able to see a reduction.

But the drive to build more jail cells is hard to stop, and many barriers remain. Sheriffs in Louisiana have no term limits, and there are few leverages on their influence. Sheriff Gusman was first elected in 2004 and has faced little opposition since then. The previous Criminal Sheriff held the position for 30 years, only leaving when he ran for state Attorney General.

As the debate continues, the Sheriff’s department has already begun construction on a building to hold 400 additional beds. He initially told reporters that he would close other facilities and the new construction would not add up to additional capacity. However, in a letter to the State Bond Commission, he predicted increased revenue from holding additional inmates in the new building.

Advocates believe that the tide is beginning to turn, but the new construction already underway indicates that there is still a lot of work to be done and not much time. “We really need to keep the pressure on and the momentum consistent,” says Rosana Cruz of VOTE. “They’ll shake our hands and make these promises but meanwhile these deals are being made behind closed doors.”

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Filed under African Americans, class struggle, Gulf States, Human Rights, Louisiana, National Oppression, New Orleans, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoners, Southern United States, Uncategorized, United States

Higher Education Rally, Louisiana

By hasten_await

Students from across the state of Louisiana (including high school students) are protesting against devastating budget cuts to education. They are gathering at the state capitol on November 10 to voice their outrage. A broad united front of students and those who stand in solidarity with them has formed across the state, inclusive of groups as ideologically diverse as liberals, anarchists and communists. (Though certainly the radical leftists are a minority, albeit a highly-active and vocal one.)

 The latest round of cuts to higher education totals $35 million, while Republican governor Bobby Jindal is attempting to borrow $25 million to build a new juvenile prison facility.  Two-hundred eighty million have already been cut since 2008. The new cuts would eliminate 109 full-time jobs in the state university system, while entire academic programs are being liquidated; for example, at Southeastern Louisiana University, the degrees in French and French education are being cancelled, despite the fact that the French language is an important aspect of Louisiana’s cultural heritage.

It’s telling that the Jindal administration is so eager to cut funding to public higer education, in effect further gentrifying it and adding more bodies to the reserve army of the unemployed,* and is at the same time eager to expand the prison industrial complex in this state. Louisiana already ranks near the bottom among U.S. states in terms of education, and is the leading incarcerater in the world. This shows where the Baton Rouge government’s sympathies lie – certainly not with the broad masses of the people. Jindal and his cronies in Baton Rouge have been open about the fact that they would like to see education completely privatized.

*I will use the example of SELU again to demonstrate the effect that these cuts will have on working class students. SELU has been historically one of the most affordable universities in the region. Relatively low tuition allowed many working class students to attend this university. In order to compensate for the budget cuts, SELU raised tuition 10% this Fall, as authorized by the GRAD Act, and will continue raising tuition until it reaches the southern regional average; this could take up to six years.  

Paul Rainwater, the Commissioner of Administration and the main budget architect for governor Jindal, perversely said, according to the Times-Picayune, that “the actual cuts to colleges aren’t as severe as the administration’s detractors have said. When increased tuition and fees are factored in, the cuts amount to $88 million since 2008.” (This appears to be a paraphrase.)

I love this BS capitalist logic. Actually, it’s not BS if we understand that “capitalist logic” means logic that is favorable to capitalists (i.e., the actual rich people who own everything). He’s saying that the cuts aren’t that bad because increased fees and tuition make up for a portion of the cuts. They in fact do that. But who benefits from increased fees and tuition? Certainly not the vast majority of students who attend schools in the state university and technical college systems. 

 These cuts negatively impact the working class. More fees and higher tuition are not something that should be welcomed by a generation of students who are already burdened with historically-unprecedented levels of debt, who are working one or more low-wage (typically service industry) jobs, and who will possibly never pay off their student loans. That higher fees and tuition are helping to offset slightly the severity of the cuts should not offer much comfort to such students. What we are seeing in the midst of the worst structural crisis of world capitalism since WWII (among many other horrendous effects) is the further gentrification of education. Public education was originally created to open up education to people who are not wealthy (at least that intention was part of the picture). Now that our public universities and technical colleges are being slashed, education is becoming more and more the privilege of elites. The capitalist class will not stop until they steal every last thing from the people, or are overthrown by a revolutionary workers’ movement.

For more information, visit Occupy Louisiana and Stand Up for LA.

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Filed under class struggle, Demonstration Announcements, Event Announcement, Gulf States, Louisiana, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoners, Southern United States, Students, Uncategorized, United States, Upcoming Events

ANSWER: Sat, July 31: Protests across Florida stand in solidarity with Arizona and demand “No SB 1070 in Florida!”

by KurtFF8

The ANSWER Coalition  is calling a demonstration on July 31st to protest the racist Arizona law, and mobilize members and allies to help prevent efforts to bring a similar law to Florida.

Demonstrations in Florida are:

West Palm Beach, FL
Sat, July 31, 5pm
Florida Attorney General’s Office
1515 N. Flagler Drive
(Map)
Contact: 305-710-3189 or info@answerfl.org
View and print English/Spanish flyer
RSVP on Facebook!
Orlando, FL
Sat, July 31, 5pm
Florida Attorney General’s Office
137 W. Central Blvd.
(Map)
Contact: 321-437-4785 or
info@answerfl.org
View and print English/Spanish flyer
RSVP on Facebook!

Tallahassee, FL
Sat, July 31, 5:00pm
State Capitol
400 South Monroe Street
(Map)
Contact: 850-567-8743
fsucpe@gmail.com
View and print English/Spanish flyer
RSVP on Facebook!

Flyer for event in Tallahassee

Miami, FL
Sat, July 31, 6pm
Losner Park
104 N. Krome Ave., Homestead
(Map)
Contact: 305-247-2202
RSVP on Facebook!

There are also demonstrations in other cities around the country:

Protests across the country to stop anti-immigrant racism:

Phoenix, AZ
Wednesday, July 28m 5pm
Arizona State Capitol
Corner of Adams & 17th
Sponsored by ANSWER Phoenix
Contact: 480-414-6553 or
phoenix@answercoalition.org

Los Angeles, CA
Wed, July 28, 9am
rizona (please contact us first)
Fri, July 30, 10am
Federal Building
300 N. Los Angeles, LA
Sponsored by the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition

ANSWER LA: 213-251-1025,
answerla@answerla.org

San Francisco, CA
Thurs, July 29, 4-7pm
24th and Mission Sts.
Sponsored by various organizations
ANSWER SF: 415-821-6545,
answer@answersf.org

New Haven, CT
Wed, July 28, 6pm
141 Church Street
Sponsored by ANSWER CT and Unidad Latina en Acción
ANSWER CT: 203-606-0319,
connecticut@answercoalition.org,

Chicago, IL
Thur, July 29, 4pm
Cook County Jail: 26th & California
Initiated by the Moratorium on Deportations Campaign. Dozens of pro-immigrant groups will be joining the protest. ANSWER Chicago calls on all progressives to take a stand against the attacks on immigrants.
ANSWER Chicago:  773-463-0311,
answer@chicagoanswer.net

Boston, MA
Thur, July 29, 5:30pm
Gather at Park St. T station
March to the Fox News headquarters on Boston Common, near the State House
Sponsored and endorsed by the Boston May Day Coalition, Student Immigrant Movement (SIM), ANSWER Coalition, Latinos for Social Change, Mass Global Action, Socialist Alternative, Socialist Party and many others

ANSWER Boston: 857-334-5084,
boston@answercoalition.org

Albuquerque, NM
Wed, July 28, 7am
Transportation to Phoenix
Car pooling from 202 Harvard Drive SE
ANSWER Albuquerque: 505-268-2488,
abq@answercoalition.org

New York City, NY
Thur, July 29, 9:30am
Gather at Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn
ss the Brooklyn Bridge
Sponsored by Churches United to Save and Heal, Families for Freedom, American Friends Service Committee-NJ, New York New Sanctuary Coalition, Immigrant Defense Project, Wind of the Spirit, The Black Institute, & Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights

ANSWER NYC: 212-694-8720,
nyc@answercoalition.org

Syracuse, NY
Thur, July 29, 12noon
Federal Building: S. Clinton and Washington
Initiated by: Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse
Endorsed by: the Syracuse ANSWER Coalition and many others
ANSWER Syracuse: 315-491-6987,
syracuse@answercoalition.org

Philadelphia, PA
Tue, July 27, 6pm
Outside 3rd base entrance of Phillies Stadium, 11th St. and Pattison Ave. during Phillies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks game
Thur, July 29, 11am-1pm
Welcome Park: 2nd & Sansome, march to ICE building
Organized by the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia
ANSWER Philly: 267-275-8008,
philly@answercoalition.org

The statement by ANSWER:

This Thursday, July 29th, Arizona’s racist, anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, goes into effect. SB 1070 enshrines racial profiling and immigrant bashing into law.

A wave of protest has greeted SB 1070 since it was passed in April. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Arizona and across the country.

Protests this week are happening in Arizona and around the country. The ANSWER Coalition is mobilizing its member organizations and allies across the nation to stand up and fight back against racism.In Florida, ANSWER is working with its allies to organize a day of actions on Saturday, July 31st to stand in solidarity with the people of Arizona as they fight back against SB 1070.

The July 31st actions will also send a strong message of opposition to the racist politicians in Florida who are currently seeking to introduce an SB 1070 type law in our state.

Community protests will target the Attorney General of Florida, Bill McCullum, who is currently a candidate in the Republican gubernatorial primaries.


Over the past several weeks, McCollum has used the offices of the Attorney General as a vehicle to further his political campaign by unilaterally adding Florida to a legal brief supporting Arizona’s SB 1070 and denouncing the lawsuits filed by the Department of Justice and civil rights organizations.Together, we are working to build a united movement to stop racism and for full rights and equality. An injury to one is an injury to all!

Join us to demand:

-No to SB 1070 in Florida!
-Repeal Arizona’s SB 1070 and HB 2281!
-End “Secure Communities” and 287(g) programs!
-No human being is illegal-Full rights for all!
-Stop the raids and deportations now!
-Stop the budget cuts! Jobs, healthcare, education and housing-not war!


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Filed under ANSWER Coalition, class struggle, Demonstration Announcements, Florida, Human Rights, labor movement, Leftists in the U.S. South, Prison Industrial Complex, Race, Southern United States, United States, workers