Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Prison Abolitionists and Decarcerators: Beware the Wrath of the Clintons

A guest column by Yohanan Eli Yah of

While many will be tripping over each other to tell us how important it is for Hillary Clinton to be elected in 2016 – a little reminder on the role of Bill Clinton in ramping up United States as the world’s pre-eminent incarcerator is in order.  Wherever you stand on the election – hold no illusion that Hillary Clinton’s election might do anything at all to advance our struggle for Decarceration.  While whoever the republicans field will do no better – do not expect an ally in Hillary Clinton.   

The following is commentary from Yohanan Eli Yah of the New Abolitionists Radio on the matter – we best heed his perspective:

Both houses of the United States Congress passed President Clinton's $30 billion Omnibus Crime Bill in August 1994 by wide margins. The President signed 'the largest, most expensive crime bill in history' into law.

Bill Clinton worked overtime to ensure the legislation's passage. The core of his proposal included:

1. $10.8 billion in federal matching funds to local governments to hire 100,000 new police officers (slave catchers).
2. $10 billion for the construction of new federal prisons(plantations).
3. An expansion of the number of federal crimes to which the death penalty applied from two to fifty-eight (the bill also eliminated an existing statute that prohibited the execution of mentally incapacitated defendants).
4. A three strikes proposal that mandated life sentences for anyone convicted of three “violent” felonies.(or even 'attempts' to commit such felonies) or of two 'violent' offences and one 'serious' drug felony.
5. A section that allowed children as young as thirteen to be tried as adults.
6. The creation of special courts able to deport noncitizens alleged to be “engaged in terrorist activity” on the basis of secret evidence.

Add to this, Bill Clinton reduced the already modest funding of preventative measures and social spending which was originally contained in the bill. He threw out a provision supported by the Congressional Black Caucus which would have permitted statistical evidence of racial bias to be used by defendants appealing against death penalty sentences.

Bottom line, he served up custom tailored legislation for those people who argue that crime in the streets is not a consequence of poverty, inequality, bad housing, disintegrating schools, high unemployment and other social causes. He pandered to the crowd which dismissively says, "they just shouldn't have done crime". The kind of people in our society who believe that 2.5 Million people in this country are unexplainably anti-social, and they must be punished severely in order to deter others and protect the public. Lock 'em up and throw away the keys.

Now that we know how private prisons, Federal prisons and corporations have been exploiting the 13th Amendment clause, which says, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted..", and we know that 37 states have laws allowing for corporations to exploit prison labor, and we know that this costs private sector jobs, we know this is slavery- as these people are paid an average of $0.93 per day (remember, pre-Civil War era slaves were paid also- as we know many "purchased" their freedom), we know that states are locked into 10, 15 and 20 year contracts with private prison companies like The GEO Group and the Corrections Corporation of America- and if those states do not keep the prisons FULL at 80%, 90%- or even 100% capacity, the states are actually being sued by corporations- that means WE are being sued by corporations- now that we know all of this, shouldn't we be moved to action to stop it?

If you follow our broadcast New Abolitionists Radio, then you hear about all of this in-depth, week after week. The point here though should be obvious- tear down these idols. Take these laws seriously, and develop some compassion.

Until we repeal these laws and remove the exception from the Constitution, slavery is going to continue- and the numbers of incarcerated people will only continue to grow- with no end in sight.

These laws were passed on our watch. The suffering, inhumane treatment, trafficking of human bodies from one plantation to the next, the whole sick enterprise of warehousing humans for profit is all happening on our watch- and it will never end, until WE get involved and demand changes.

Start giving a damn.

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