Free Prison And Social Justice Essay Example
The Neoliberal Movement has proved to be one of the moves against social justice. The prison industrial complex is one of the unfortunate developments of neoliberalism. The goal for the political and economic sectors to work in union as a means to improve the well-being of people was a dishonest representation of the truth behind neoliberalism. The prisons are the main focus of greed at the price of human lives that is displayed by the neoliberal movement. A disregard for those who are less fortunate in society is evident by the position taken to cause social insecurity for these groups. Options for the people live below the poverty line were limited by neoliberal views and ultimately these are the people who are filling the prisons in the 21st century. The enormous amount of deception for profit is found in the prison industrial complex. The government and corporations profiting from the imprisonment of the less fortunate is a malicious act by the people in power. The abuse of this power must be brought to the surface and publicized in order to see change toward real rehabilitation.
The Neoliberal Movement has taken the social justice movement backwards. Instead of benefitting society, the most vulnerable and poor members of the populace are left to suffer and face punishment from the changes of the neoliberal beliefs and practices. The rich and middle class may be benefitting from the new policies supported by the neoliberal politician, but the majority of citizens are looking at harsher conditions in their lives. The African American and Hispanic people are the most damaged by the greed driven plans of the neoliberal movement. The increasing rate of prisoners in America is directly correlated with the support of the neoliberals who are working to continue the privatization of prisons. The world has changed into a global economy, and the use of prisons for increase in economy and employment are an unjust social concern for the masses.
The philosophy of the neoliberals is that by building prisons in the rural open lands throughout America, the people of America will benefit. One of the obvious arguments the neoliberals make is that building prisons will result in a safer world for us all; another method to gain agreement on building more prisons is that it will bring jobs to the town that the prison is located in. The construction work that will be necessary could provide many jobs, the materials used for the building and inside materials will increase production in companies who manufacture the materials, and also the actual employees that will find employment to help run the prison.
The problem is that to justifying building these prisons, there becomes a need for bodies (criminals) to occupy the cells. States, such as California begin to introduce legislative policies like the Three Strikes rule to fulfill this need for prisons full of prisoners. The prison industrial complexes that began after the onset of the neoliberal movement has and continues to create sever social injustice in the nation and for its most helpless members of society.
It is crucial that the study on the issue of the prison industrial complex is accomplished so
the reality of the socially unjust practice can be publicized. The less fortunate members of the society who pay the largest price by the benefits of the movements that neoliberals are responsible for endorsing, are the ones who have no voice on the subject. It becomes the social responsibility of the individuals committed to social activism who must present a solid argument for judicious prison reformation.
The concept of neoliberalism began with the political and economic sectors of the country working together on practices that were intended to improve the wellbeing of the people (Harvey, 2005). “Liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade” (Harvey, 2005). That ideal sounded appealing and solid when it was proposed and make good sense at the time and under the context that is was suggested.
However, the problem of private corporations manipulating public policy through their association with politicians became an unfair reality. One might even blame neoliberalism for the rich who continue to get richer, while the rest of the population suffers with diminishing comforts and rights. The prejudiced reality of the prison industrial complex is clearly a result of the extreme misfortunes that citizens are facing from the questionable neoliberal relations between private corporations and the government.
The New Slaves of the 21st Century
People who read this essay may think that referring to the criminals who are locked in prison as comparable to slaves is rather dramatic. I can agree that it is dramatic as a blanket statement against the use of prison for punishment against crime. However, there is more to the idea behind the opinions voiced by many activists who would agree with the declaration of prison as the new practice of slavery. I say this because of the blatant disproportionate number of colored people, African Americans in particular, who face imprisonment, as well as the practices involved in treatment of inmates.
In the simplest comparison, regardless of race, is the complete denial individual rights, which was common for slaves, and seems to be the case now for prisoners. Then, there is the condition the prisoners lives in that position them in a subordinate role with a lower quality life that was normal for the slave. The small cells in which they are locked up, the lack of privacy, the clothes they are forced to wear, their meals that are decided for them, and their complete lack in freedom of choice.
Further evidence for my viewpoint in comparing prisoners to slaves, would be the tremendous imbalance in the prison population as far as race is concerned. Here are some numbers to consider, for every 100,000 white men in the United States, 990 end up in prison; however, for every 100,000 black men in the U.S., 4,919 of them end up prisoners (Alfred & Chlup, 2009; Sturr, 2006). That statistic is even more appalling when you compare that during the height of apartheid in South Africa, only 851 out of 100,000 black men were incarcerated (Alfred & Chlup, 2009; Soreing, 2006). Then, there is the cheap or free labor that is required by prisoners as part of their rehabilitation duties while serving their sentences. The prison work programs (as they are harmlessly called) created by the neoliberals, have made a revival by the government to help reduce the cost associated with incarcerating the prisoners, because they help pay for their own expenses by working (LeBaron, 2008). In my opinion, the similar characteristics in the handling of slaves are evident in the treatment and purpose of the imprisoned individual. It is disheartening and sickening to think that the selfish motivation of gaining from another’s suffering is widely practices by the powerful business people and politicians of our nation.
The frightening trend of female incarceration is reaching increasing in numbers with the adoption of the neoliberal movement policies. After the welfare reform that neoliberals initiated, women facing poverty were desperate in their attempts to survive and began to turn to crime as a means to get by (Alfred & Chlup, 2009).
Prisons for Profit
Prison, a place that the troubled members of society who commit crime are sent for rehabilitation is how we have justified this method of punishing a portion of society who cannot follow the rules set forth by the law. Courtesy of the neoliberal movement, prisons are a method of profiting for many of the elite members of the world. Corporations and investors actually invest and benefit from the prisons. An idea that I think is an inhumane choice that the government and corporations should be ashamed of. Even the United States government has openly partaken in the unacceptable practice of using the cheap labor of prisoner to market for the inmate work programs (LeBaron, 2008). An example of the disrespect of these human beings can be seen by the advertisements the government has created; 'Virginia's Prisons Are Wide Open to Business', and 'Inmate Labor: The Best Kept secret in Outsourcing' (Virginia Department of Corrections, 2003; LeBaron, 2008).
The cheap labor of prisoners is only one part to the profitability that is created by the prison system. There is also the claim of stimulating economy as a reason for using rural land to build new prisons on. Many towns in America support the option of allowing both private and public prisons to be built because of the extreme financial difficulty many residents are experiencing. The prisons are used for economic growth because of the increased employment opportunities, job growth, and increases in the tax revenue for the town (Bond, n.d.). When unemployed citizens of a town are given the opportunity to find work, there is naturally a decision to support the business venture that is going to provide them with employment, even if it is a prison. The loss of agricultural business to places throughout the world has led to more prisoners than there are farmers in the United States, and the prison ‘business’ is considered a recession-proof strategy for these rural communities (Bond, n.d.). The problems experienced by the residents and the economy in the United States are largely to be blamed on the globalization that is happening since the onset of the neoliberal movement. The social injustice that is discussed regarding prisons and even the job opportunities in the United States are to directly be blamed on neoliberalism.
Lack of Social Justice
If the system would stop neglecting the social injustice that is caused by the neoliberal ideas including globalization, the neoliberal movement might not be condemned. Unfortunately for the underprivileged people, African Americans and Hispanics in particular, the perpetuation of poor conditions will persist with the neoliberal practices influencing the law. The manipulative method of controlling the poor through labeling them as undeserving and deviant helps increase the social insecurity that is generated by the division of wage labor, reinforcement of class divisions, and the attrition of the well-known ethno racial superiority that guarantees that the power remains in the hands of whites in the United States (Wacquant, 2010). The racial implications of this way of life are troubling for the mass of minorities who choose to call America home. It is hard to remove skepticism from the neoliberal’s motivation in the creation of the policies that are responsible for the globalization of the world and the imbalance of wealth and power that seems to land in the possession of white people.
The unethical changes in laws that encourage the increase in criminals that end up in prison are evident by the policies regulating criminal law. A complete overhaul on the justice system is necessary if the country is serious about social justice through honest rehabilitation of the troubled citizens of society. Evidence of situations displaying a valid argument disputing the neoliberal sincerity toward a commitment for the well-being of humans is seen in multiple areas of society.
For example, I want to bring up the Three Strikes law that was adopted by the California legal system that funnels a large number of repeat felons into the prison system. The following is the information from the California Courts website (2015).
California's Three Strikes sentencing law was originally enacted in 1994. The essence of the Three Strikes law was to require a defendant convicted of any new felony, having suffered one prior conviction of a serious felony to be sentenced to state prison for twice the term otherwise provided for the crime. If the defendant was convicted of any felony with two or more prior strikes, the law mandated a state prison term of at least 25 years to life.
On November 6, 2012 the voters approved Proposition 36 which substantially amended the law with two primary provisions:
the requirements for sentencing a defendant as a third strike offender were changed to 25 years to life by requiring the new felony to be a serious or violent felony with two or more prior strikes to qualify for the 25 year-to-life sentence as a third strike offender; and
the addition of a means by which designated defendants currently serving a third strike sentence may petition the court for reduction of their term to a second strike sentence, if they would have been eligible for second strike sentencing under the new law. (California Courts: The Judicial Branch of California, 2015).
The purpose of passing a law like this was to support the justification for the numerous new prisons that the northern rural parts of California were developing. The aggravating element of this law is that the majority of crimes resulting in twenty-five years to life in prison tend to be burglaries and drug possession charges. The idea that any individual would be forced to give up their freedom and life for a petty crime is a massive social injustice to the citizens of the country. The concept of these decisions made to reform and rehabilitate the unruly members of society seems absurd.
If the reason for prisons has and is for the sole purpose of rehabilitation, then a bit of examination is required to ensure that the claims that have been made against the prison systems are accurate. Numerous sources inside and outside the prison system, most importantly the prisoners have shown almost no signs of improvements after their prison terms. Death Row inmate, Mumia Abu-Jamal, author of Live from Death Row, provides a riveting and difficult account of the truth of life in prison. Reading his story about what life is like for those death row inmates is a grim reality with no hope. The emotional, psychological, and physical aspect of life in prison is founded on punishment, not rehabilitation. The humiliation and isolation of life in prison only harms the individuals who are forced to endure the cruelty of prison. A particular part in the beginning of Abu-Jamal’s book mentions the noncontact visitation process. First of all, the prisoners are forced to tolerate a body cavity strip search prior to the visit with the loved one, and the strict rule of no physical contact making the strip search a senseless practice (Abu-Jamal, 1995). The late psychiatrist Dr. Menninger described the noncontact visitation policy as one of the most unpleasant and disturbing experiences he witnessed in prison, in addition to the a practice that violates the basic principles of humanity (Abu-Jamal, 1995). To think that this basic human connection is removed as a form of rehabilitation makes me think that unethical behavior and practices by the law enforcement and prison administration is encouraged to intentionally hurt the prisoners.
Instead of making claims of prison as a reformative option to correct unstable criminals, it may be more respectable to honestly declare that the focus of prison is on punishment, not rehabilitation. If punishment is what prison entails for the inmates, understanding the logic of this method is important. One can assume that the fear of punishment is what will detract individuals from breaking the law or repeating the offense, but that does not seem to be the outcome of people who have spent time behind bars. The actual result of the incarceration only causes further dysfunction through increased tendency to commit crime (Dorpat, 2007). “Numerous scholars and professionals agree that prisons cause more crime than they prevent” (Dorpat, 2007). A large part of the treatment of the prisoners cause a strong sense of degradation, shaming the individual in a manner that was similar to the feeling they had for committing the crimes (Dorpat, 2007). The dehumanization of individuals in prison does not rehabilitate, it damages the criminal who is likely to come out of prison worse than when he or she went in. The emotional and psychological detachment that they force on their selves to protect the vulnerable and scared individual makes the person less caring, having a ‘I have nothing to lose’ type theory about his or her life.
The newer prison structures of the extreme security prison are gaining popularity in the prison complex. The supermax prisons have an even more brutal method of removing the individual from contact; it is stricter than ever before is even more damaging to the psyche of the inmates. The lack of humanity surrounding the prison system continues to grow as the number of prisons and prisoners as well. It is unfortunate that rehabilitation is the priority for the criminal justice system.
In addition to the traumatic experience of prison is the loss of the possibilities that were available to the individual before he or she became a felon. Many of the benefits of life before prison no longer are possible for them, such as the right to vote or pursue obtaining grants or loans for higher education. Then there are the problems of the numerous jobs that the person will no longer qualify for because of their status as a felon who spent time in prison. The person who was already experiencing hardships in life, that may have been the reason leading to the crime they end up committing, is then expected to head back into the world functioning like the rest of middle class America. However, this is not an option for the former-prisoner when every part of their life is falling apart after the damage that prison does for their respectability in society. Employers are not interested in hiring the people who have had a history of criminal behavior because the level of trust is always compromised once they mark ‘yes’ in the checkbox asking if they have ever been convicted of a felony. Between the emotional, psychological, relationship-oriented, and profession options in life having been destroyed by prison, one can assume that the members in society who are in this position end up in a vicious cycle that does not end. Needless to say that neither punishment nor rehabilitation is a strong enough argument in favor of the excessive trend of putting criminals behind bars.
After reviewing the multiple articles and texts, as well as class discussion, I must state that the neoliberal movement was one of the worst large scale decisions that were made against social justice. If ever there was motivation to benefit the people through the prison system, it is impossible to see with the current condition on the treatment of inmates throughout the United States. I almost think that they attitude of hopelessness for these individuals on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum are purposely encouraged to break rules so they can end up in prison. In prison the government and corporations can take advantage of the cheap labor that is provided, along with the slave like treatment that continues for the large number of African Americans who ends up in prison.
The increase in privatization of prisoner is only going to bring forth a dire condition for the inner city groups most susceptible to a life of crime. Society should honestly be ashamed to be watching such undeserved treatment of so many of the people living in the United States below the poverty line. It is these individuals who pay the highest price because unlike white collar criminals, they cannot afford to pay their way out of serving a sentence. The blue collar crimes are often ones do not even cause as much damage as white collar crimes; however, it is the blue collar criminal who often ends up in prison serving years of his or her life behind bars. The lack of social justice in the prison industrial complex after the neoliberal movement has me thinking of how the passionate activists like myself can work toward change.
Abu-Jamal, M. (1995). Live from death row. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co
Alexander, M. (2011). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness.
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Black Women's Incarceration. Western Journal Of Black Studies, 33(4), 240-249.
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Bonds, A. (n.d). Profit from Punishment? The politics of prisons, poverty and neoliberal
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