For most targeted communities, the unequal justice of the North American legal system is nothing news worthy. Despite repeated cases proving that poor communities and communities of color are unfairly criminalized and more heavily prosecuted than rich white communities, the government continues to pass laws targeting already pathologized groups. Most recently, they reviewed a series of sus laws (laws based on the potential for guilt based on suspicion of criminality without cause used to racially profile the Irish and then Black British under Thatcher under the guise of preventing terrorism) that would once again legally sanction racial profiling of Middle Eastern and Muslims back in the U.S. (I know they already do it.)
Recent documentaries, as well as Angela Davis’ classic writing on prisons, also remind how this criminalization specifically impacts women. Research also provides gendered theories of understanding the “justice system” that criminalize men and women along specifically gendered lines.
Yet we continue to build more prisons. The new cottage industry of ICE holding cells, another word for prison, booms. Communities that once challenged the building sites of prisons now champion them as key sites of economic growth. As the economy downward spiral continues in N. America prisons offer the two-fold tools of deflection: 1. blame – its not the government’s policies its those criminals and immigrants and 2. single industry supported jobs – prison employment and the industries that grow around them. Communities become dependent on the latter and more in need of the former. Criminality becomes an ever more naturalized necessity.
Today’s trial in Dallas Texas reminds us what happens when a nation is invested in deflection and a justice system that often works along the lines of oppression.
38 year old Patrick Waller was released from prison today after DNA evidence proved he had no part in the kidnap,rape, and robbery of a white Texas couple for which he was convicted on the basis of “id” at 23. Like so many others, Waller went into prison barely an adult and will leave it nearing his 40s.
The men who actually committed the crime will serve NO jail time despite confessing because the statute of limitations has run out. This means that injustice was not only visited upon Waller b/c of the myth of the black rapist but also the white, female, rape survivor whose assailants will never be convicted. Both she and Waller’s mother represent the female faces of a system that criminalizes black men for being black.
Waller is also 1 of 19 men who have been set free from the Texas prison system based on DNA evidence proving their innocence since 2001. 4 other men, who wrongly served 100 years between them in prison, attended Waller’s exoneration and were cited as an inspiration to keep going in prison by Waller when interviewed. All 19 men were aided by The Innocence Project of Texas.
Please consider giving to or volunteering with the Innocence Project, which has chapters throughout the U.S., especially if you are a feminist to increase their focus toward more gender equity in the cases they take. Please also consider taking time out to learn more about the prison industrial complex in N. America and how it ultimately impacts all of us. (The rape victim in Waller’s case will never see her rapist behind bars b/c of the racism and injustice of the system we currently have just as much as Waller will never get those 15 years back.)
Here’s a list of places to start:
- Jane Atwood Too Much Time: Women in Prison
- Rose Braz “Kindler, Gentler, Gender Responsive Cages” (pdf file)
- Elaine Brown The Condemnation of Little B.
- Angela Davis Are Prisons Obsolete? (This book is short, accessible, and inexpensive
- Angela Davis “Politics and Prisons” and “Sexual Coercion, Prisons, and a Feminist Response” in Abolition Democracy
- Angela Davis “Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex” (online article)
- Juanit Diaz-Gotto Chicana Lives and Criminal Justice.
- Drug Policy Alliance Network “Women of Color and the Drug War” (online article)
- Ruth Gilmore Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California.
- Incite!’s “Statement on Gender Violence and The Prison Industrial Complex” (online article)
- Alex Jung “Children Behind Bars” (online article)
- Tara Herivel and Paul Wright, Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America’s Poor.
- Vanessa Huang “Beyond Bars” (online article)
- Real Cost of Prisons “Real Cost of Prisons on Women and Children” (pdf file)
- Andrea Smith Conquest
- Julia Sudbury Ed. Global Lockdown: Race, Gender, and The Prison Industrial Complex. (highly recommended)
- Kristian Williams Our Enemies in Blue.
- Vernetta Young & Rebecca Reviere Women Behind Bars
- Andrea Wolf “Reducing the Incarceration of Women: Community Based Alternatives” (pdf file)
- Additional Bib at The Real Cost of Prisons Project
- Anarchist Black Cross Network
- Audre Lorde Project Safe OUTside the System
- Critical Resistance
- Ella Baker Center: Books Not Bars
- Justice Now (program for law students/lawyers)
- National Alliance for Prison Reform
- Partnership for Safety and Justice
- Prison Moratorium Project
- Restorative Justice Centre
- Transgender Variant In Prison Committee
- cite for this post yahoo news