by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Dr. Niaz Kasvari, Director of the NAACP Criminal Justice Program recently wrote a very compelling article about the serious dangers of private prisons. Dr. Kasvari mentions specifically the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) as the primary culprit, and the company that is truly happy to see you and your loved ones behind bars. I know the prison system well: I’ve had several close relatives to go prison, all of them men. I also know that none of them were better men because of it, and that it was a life of post-felony marginalization that left the man I considered to be my older brother destitute and homeless until he died last summer. These institutions are as poisonous to our society as drone strikes are to young children in countries around the world.
Another interesting article at Techyville.com goes into detail about how the private prison industry is structured, and who benefits. According to Dr. Kasvari, the CCA sent a letter to 48 governors offering to purchase their prisons in exchange for a guaranteed occupancy rate of 90 percent. This dangerous statement implies that the CCA is actively seeking to persuade legislators to modify and enforce laws in such a way that more American citizens will end up in prison. While law-abiding Americans reading this article may not see the dangers in such a proposal, I encourage you to remember that everyone breaks the law at some point, and it is only the strictness with which the law is enforced that makes the difference between whether we are free or incarcerated.
The CCA earns $1.7 billion per year by putting people in prison, mostly African Americans. Part of the reason that I am gathering for a public forum with Min. Louis Farrakhan in Chicago on March 30 (5 pm, UIC forum) is because mass incarceration has served to destroy the black family in America. The rapid increase in single parent homes and the pervasive spread of prison culture in the black community is largely driven by the growth in incarceration rates all across America. Black people are being fed like cattle into the prison industrial complex, and the lives of our children have little value to this system.
Dr. Kasvari also notes that the CCA considers modifications to even the most Draconian drug laws to be a threat that could “affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.”
As a Finance Professor, I am well-aware of the dangers of hardcore capitalism. If it is not properly regulated, capitalism can be as harmful to our society as crack cocaine is to the mind of an addict. Similar to crack, the drug of capitalism can cause you to make decisions that are in direct contradiction to the values you claim to embrace as a human being. It can create a pharmaceutical industry that lets human beings die because they can’t afford medication, and it can create a prison industry that actually wants to see people behind bars, even if our society is being ruined because of it.
When we incarcerate so many millions of Americans, our world becomes less safe and more unstable. Today, the streets are filled with young, misguided teenagers, many of whom grew up without parents who were given long sentences for non-violent, drug-related offenses. Black women have fewer men to marry because prison culture has come to play a role in shaping how too many black men think and live. Even worse, many of our men grew up with a steady dose of brainwashing via commercialized hip-hop on the radio that teaches them that every black man is supposed to be a blunt-blowing, gun totting thug who wastes his money and takes pleasure in killing black men while disrespecting black women. These systems create a type of mental illness that causes us to become something other than what we were truly meant to be, and that is why our families are falling apart.
This is the society that is being created around us, and this is the battle we are in. All of us should support those like Dr. Kasvari who are fighting against the dangers of the prison industrial complex. The goal is not to get rid of punishment and rehabilitation as a logical response to crime. Instead, it is to embrace productive rehabilitation that makes communities stronger and not weaker.
We are in the fight of our lives.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and author of the book, “Black American Money: How Black Power Can Thrive in a Capitalist Society.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.