Saturday, July 02, 2016

Who Are The Real Criminals In The Criminal Injustice System?

In a country that was founded on the principles of capitalism, we are not confused that the bottom line is invariably going to be short term profit. At the end of the day, the question will always be: how much money can be made as quickly as possible? People who trust capitalism as an abstract concept are usually those who are far enough up the food chain that they benefit economically from the arrangement. But that's not what they say.

What they say is, "Well, anybody can get a piece of the pie if they just work hard enough, if they just give it their all, if they'll just quit whining and pull themselves up by their bootstraps." What they ignore is that it doesn't work as well for most of us as it does for the ones at the top -- and it never did.

Historians tell us that before the United States existed, when we were a rag-taggle collection of colonies, approximately 500 White property-holding businessmen in five cities controlled virtually all the economic enterprise (banking, transportation, land, manufacturing, you name it). And that's why they came here. They were tired of having to buck the royalty, the military, and the Church in Europe. They wanted to have the power and to be the power. And they were.

Two hundred years later, it's fascinating to learn -- as we've been forced to do -- that an even smaller percentage of the U.S. population has a lock on the economic well-being now than it did then. Whole books have been written about it. Entire movements have been energized into existence over it. And for those who have doubts, I would recommend reading Rigging the Game: How Inequality is Reproduced in Everyday Life by Michael Schwalbe or watching Park Avenue: Money, Power, and the American Dream, at least to start with.

The criminal injustice system, of course, with all its various aspects, has found its niche in the capitalist arena, as well. In 2010, for example, the American Civil Liberties Union brought out a scathing report on the return of "debtor's prisons." The for-profit bail system and the for-profit pre-trial release system are both shot through with racial disparity, particularly since poverty is so much more likely to hound communities of color.

But the piece de resistance is the private prison industry that is now the most profitable investment on Wall Street. Which is why I'm featuring a video about that particular topic at the head of this post. Enjoy. Or not. Depending on how you feel about it.

And for more on private prisons, up close and undercover, go over to Democracy Now! for Amy Goodman's report on journalist Shane Bauer's four months as a private prison guard.

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