OPINION: Toxic Prisons are the Reality of the Injustice System

by Villainus

We live in a dangerous world. People leave the house in fear, in fear of the world outside. The crime, the robberies, the rape, the murder. In these grim streets with piss stained alleys, they see danger around every corner. Those fears are what make the world dangerous; in the name of protection many children have been slain. All in the name of the injustice system, all in the name of public safety, but is the public safe?

If you’re black in America, if you’re native in America, if you’re a Muslim in America, if you’re migrant in America, or if you’re a woman in America none of these things has made this nation, this society safe.

What it has done is bolster an industry based on slavery. An industry that makes its profit from traumatizing those who are stuck behind those rusted bars. This is the prison industrial complex that we speak of. Millions — no billions — are made off prison labor. This is a humongous industry. An industry that is the backbone of American capitalism, even the schools are made of prison labor. For example the furniture in Washington State. Public schools and universities get their furniture from the prison industrial complex. So why would the prison industry want to rehabilitate people? Do they rehabilitate people?

As anybody who understands the reality of our incarceration system knows, it doesn’t rehabilitate. We know that recidivism is always high even at its best. A Bureau of Justice Statistic study found that inmates released from state prisons have a five-year recidivism rate of 76.6 percent

Does it ever cross our minds that its intentional? Does it cross our minds that its profit-driven?  Prison stocks are traded on the New York Stock Exchange, prison labor is contracted out, sometimes even bidded on. Prisoners, no people, are used as commodities in a corporation. And a corporation is legally and ethically required to look out for its shareholders.

Let that sink in with you for a minute. I’ll wait.

I’m assuming that the ramifications have hit you, but unfortunately that only scratches the surface. With the advent of weed and seed policies, we see marginalized communities being incarcerated in mass numbers for other economic purposes as well as those of the prison system. We have seen this happen to communities in the South End.

These facilities are toxic, not just based off the fact that the way they treat humans is inhumane and a form of torture. But also it is literally toxic for example. Many federal prisons are located on or near superfund sites.

The state prisons are often just as toxic, the medical care is subpar at best but in reality outright negligent. There’s also programs like UNICOR, which is when prisoners are used for manual labor on things like weapon components for the military, which of course goes to waging war. Knowing that the US military is one of the worst perpetrators in climate change and that prisons are the backbone of their production also adds to their toxicity.

We haven’t even touched on the impacts on the communities that incarcerated folks are from. They rip fathers and mothers away from their children and then blame the parent who is left for not having enough time to fully raise the children as they try to make ends meet. Often as a school system fails them we watch those children go down that same path. It’s not really any fault of their own or the parents but societal pressures and pressures of survival as well as being a target of the corporation that are prisons. Maybe now folks can see truly why prisons are toxic and how many levels of toxicity they really carry.

So what do we do?

Well we resist in any way possible, for example Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP), of which I am a member.

We hold a yearly convergence so we can nationally strategize and support other abolitionists across the nation. We also just won a major victory against the most expensive federal prison in U.S. history. That case was a war of attrition that brought victory.

It’s also important that we think about disaster response specifically to support prisoners and challenge the prisons. Prisons will often leave prisoners in lockdown to die in disaster situations such as hurricanes. Through phone taps and political pressure we forced a few evacuations.

Those are some examples of things we need to push forward to change where we’re at. Another component, one of the most important components, is supporting communities affected by police targeting. To support ex-convicts who are trying to stay out of prison and to support those who are fighting for their freedom from the inside. Because you must remember that is our family, that is a loved ones, that is our community.

In peace, love, and resistance.