A Critique of Prison Abolition

News: Campaign 2020Commentary
by James Baresel  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 21, 2020   

The real agenda: destroying law and order

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No matter how bizarre are the ideas of one leftist, there is almost sure to be another even worse. Abolish the police? Why stop there? Let's chuck prisons too. It's as though they goad each other with the challenge Michael Keaton's Batman leveled at Jack Nicholson's Joker: "You wanna get nuts? Let's get nuts!"

I only wish this were satire — or even a reference to a blog read by eight members of Antifa. But no. The New York Times, Huffington Post, The Atlantic and the MIT Press-affiliated Boston Review have all published anti-prison diatribes. The authors make clear that racism is no more than of secondary concern to them, even if it was as common among police officers as some allege, and that their real agenda is destroying law and order, property rights and the market economy.

Professor Garrett Felber of the University of Mississippi

Central to the anti-prison argument is the idea that the criminal justice system does not exist to prevent and punish wrongdoing but to oppress "innocent" convicts for financial benefit.

Educrat, Lawyer: 'Oppression'

According to Professor Garrett Felber of the University of Mississippi: "Without police, there would be no one to fill prisons and jails. Without prison and jails, the police could not serve their current purpose."

Derecka Purnell, a "human rights lawyer" and leading anti-prison theorist, concurs, arguing that police departments and prisons are taxpayer-scamming rackets, repeatedly referring to "the prison-industrial complex" and claiming policemen "arrest for profit and sell vulnerable people to jails and prisons to fill beds." And that is merely the tip of the iceberg.

Embracing the doctrine of class warfare, these writers, and others like them, attack as unjust the economic inequality consequent upon unequal achievement and property rights, then slander police and prisons as tools used by "owners" to oppress "the dispossessed." Racism is used as a mere framing device for the presentation of this charge.

[They] attack as unjust the economic inequality consequent upon unequal achievement and property rights, then slander police and prisons as tools used by 'owners' to oppress 'the dispossessed.'

Purnell, for example, asserts that "Police officers are prison–industrial complex foot soldiers ... [and] poor people are its targets." Not black people. Poor people.

And the evidence she proffers that prisons and police exist to mistreat the poor? It's that a woman who defrauded a school district was sentenced to a mere 10 days in jail and two years probation; the possibility that if George Floyd lived he might have been "arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned" for buying cigarettes with counterfeit money; the bald assertion that police departments "pepper-sprayed Occupy Wall Street protesters without provocation" when in reality departments used it on those illegally occupying public property or disobeying orders to disperse (while individuals officers who use it without justification were disciplined).

Not that Purnell would be much interested in the distinction. To minds such as hers, the illegal occupation of public property and refusal to obey the police don't constitute "provocation" but "heroic" resistance in pursuit of "justice."

Felber's attempts to tie his agenda to racial issues are just as feeble. As if asserting that "[s]truggles for black freedom have always had to contend with prisons and police as the enforcement arm of the racial capitalist state" didn't give the game away, he adds that such institutions exist "to serve capital and protect themselves."

Struggles for black freedom have always had to contend with prisons and police as the enforcement arm of the racial capitalist state.

Rather than recognize that prisons are filled with people who have committed theft, assault and murder, he caricatures them as society's "escape from its own responsibilities of correcting the social and economic failures that make crime possible" and asserts that human proclivity to evil can be eliminated through creation of "an entirely different social and economic order."

How is this utopia to be achieved? Purnell has an answer: "Congress may have to pass laws around ... voting rights, gun ownership and campaign finance."

In other words, restore voting rights to those stripped of them in punishment for felonies, pass massive gun control legislation and have the government take charge of financing political campaigns so that private individuals will be obstructed from funding candidates committed to property rights while those devoted to the dictatorship of the proletariat are bankrolled at taxpayer expense. The good news? If police departments and prisons cease to exist such laws won't be worth the paper they're written on.

Niddrie Mains, a failed 'utopia'

Niddrie Mains: Failed 'Utopia'

One must wonder whether those advocating such fantasies are either ignorant of or indifferent to stories such as that Russell Kirk liked to tell about Niddrie Mains, a Scottish neighborhood created to reduce crime by giving spacious housing with modern conveniences to people from slums — who retained their criminal habits and promptly made their new home the most dangerous parts of Edinburgh.

This merely exemplified the fact that the more Britain's post-World War II socialist regime implemented its agenda, the higher the crime rate rose. This proved, in Kirk's words, "that people are decent, when they are decent, chiefly out of habit" and that when "food, shelter and even comforts are guaranteed by the state, no matter what one's conduct may be" then those of criminal instincts will indulge them unless restrained by the force radical ideologues find repugnant.

Anti-prison arguments leave no room for doubting what has been rather obvious all along. The real issue isn't whether decent and law-abiding black people in safe neighborhoods composed of similar people are more likely to be given speeding tickets than their white counterparts. It isn't about whether leftist allegations of racism are part of an attempt to blame the victim (society) for the actions of the criminals who attack it. The real issue is who do leftists wish to present as innocents to be coddled.

--- Campaign 31877 ---


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