The United States has a new form of slavery. SWAT teams are conducting military “cleansings” of poor, minority and marijuana-growing neighbourhoods under the guise of drug raids that particularly target women, black people and members of the cannabis culture. Prisons are being privatized and converted into sweat-shops where, for example, pot puffers might find themselves in an ironic hell on earth? a dark cave were they are forced to answer unending calls for a travel agency, for the rest of their lives. The entire operation is being coordinated by multinational corporate interests that reach deep into the heart and pockets of the White House.
War against pot-people
They weren’t growing pot. They didn’t have pot in their possession. Not a single one of them even had a bong. But when they refused to let the DEA install cop cameras in their grow store, Southern Lights and Hydroponics, the Tucker family became targets in the US war on drugs, as did many other residents of Norcross, Georgia. The DEA watched the store’s customers and sent SWAT teams to terrorize them and clean out their grow operations. Some of those customers traded bogus testimony against the shop’s owners for shorter sentences. The Tuckers ? Gary, his wife Joanne, and his brother Steve ? each received 10 year prison sentences when they reached court in 1994.
The Norcross, Georgia sting was part of a larger DEA plot called “Operation Green Merchant” (OGM), which began as early as 1987, with roots in the heart of the Reagan drug war? a war that still continues today. The operation’s goal: to eradicate indoor marijuana grow-ops all across the United States through the surveillance and targeting of hydroponics stores. Literally hundreds of thousands of Americans have been investigated by agents working under the umbrella of OGM. And yet even OGM is only a small part of the larger picture of drug war oppression.
In the excellent book, Lost Rights ? The Destruction of American Liberty, James Bovard touches on how, early in the modern drug war, certain towns became DEA targets. Like Jerome, Arizona, where in 1986 a small hamlet of hippies was raided by over a hundred heavily armed police who “?dragg[ed]women and children out of bed, scaring them half to death, to get 9 or 10 pounds of marijuana.” Since Bovard’s 1994 book, military attacks on towns have become almost commonplace in the US government’s campaign to destroy cannabis. A campaign that continues today with the seizure of homes, property and bank accounts? and with the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of innocent plant lovers.
Soaring rates of imprisonment
Prisons aren’t being built to keep violent criminals off of the streets, they’re being built to create drug-war dungeons. Rapists, murderers and thieves don’t crowd US prisons. Rather, thanks in particular to President Ronald Reagan, it is harmless marijuana smokers who swell the cells to overflowing.
Before the Reagan drug war, prisons were becoming empty. From 1965 to 1975, the US prison population actually shrank at the rate of about 1% per year.1 The drug war ? especially against cannabis ? changed all that, and turned the failing prison industry into a booming business. US Bureau of Justice Statistics show that at the beginning of the Reagan era in 1980, there were 220 inmates for every 100,000 people in the US. But by the end of the Reagan era in 1989, prisons were stuffed to maximum capacity? bursting at a record 434 inmates per 100,000 US citizens. During the Reagan era, the number of inmates per 100,000 US citizens had risen by 214 over a 9 year period? when it had only risen 80 per 100,000 over the previous 52 years!
The trend continues today with over 690 inmates per 100,000 US citizens,2 or over 2 million behind bars in the year 2000.3 The rate of imprisonment in the US is more than 7 times higher than any other western country. Holland imprisons only 51 per 100,000 citizens; Germany, 80; France, 84; the UK, 86; and Italy, 89.4 If the freedom of a country’s citizens can be measured by how many of them are behind bars, then US citizens are the most enslaved people of the western world? largely because of the 80’s drug war and the social ills it nurtured.
During the 80’s, drug-frenzied cops sported a Reagan-inspired spring to their walk that looked suspiciously like a goose-step, while law makers were busy engineering new forms of oppression. In the mid-80’s, federal mandatory minimums were created to round up and jail the US drug culture. What this meant was that judges across the US were forced to sentence non-violent drug offenders for a minimum of five years if they had, for example, 100 marijuana plants, a gram of LSD, or 500 grams of cocaine. The penalties were increased to ten years for larger amounts.5 Some states also passed mandatory sentencing laws for drug offenders, the harshest of which were drafted in Michigan and New York.
In a 1998 report The US General Accounting Office (GAO) ? a government organization dedicated to reporting systemic corruption ? revealed that, “the growth in… prison populations since 1980 can be traced in part to changes in sentencing laws that are intended to get tough on crime, particularly drug offenders.”6 From ’85 to ’94, Drug offences were responsible for 36% of the increase in state prison populations and 71% of the increase in federal prison populations. Overall, the number of drug offenders in prison increased 510% from ’83 to ’93,7 and most of those offenders were in on marijuana charges.
Even before the Reagan era, marijuana users, growers and dealers were heavily targeted by the drug war. But the Reagan era made it worse. In 1980, out of nearly 581,000 drug arrests, 69% were for marijuana, and over 75% of all marijuana arrests were for simple possession. In 1999, out of 1.5 million drug arrests, 46% were for marijuana, and over 88% of all marijuana arrests were for simple possession alone.8
Today, non-violent drug offenders in the US serve more time in prison than rapists, murderers and thieves. The average sentence for a drug offence is 82.4 months; for sexual abuse, 66.9 months; for manslaughter, 26.8 months; and for theft, 24.6 months.5 A crook that would stab an elderly person for five bucks is likely to be back on the street before a harmless pot smoker.
While educational programs and grants to universities are cut, prisons soak up more and more federal funding. Prison construction costs the US $7 billion a year, and the cost of keeping prisoners behind bars is another $35 billion annually.9 The drug war has crippled America by taking funds away from programs that could heal and enhance the lives of US citizens and directing those funds toward an economy of razorwire, iron bars and enslavement.
Drug war against women
The drug war simplifies the disposal of undesirable people in a society were humanity has become a catch-word for “what we can get away with and still look clean.” Because a disproportionate number of American women are poor and disadvantaged, a disproportionate number of them ? many of them single parents10 ? go to prison for drug offences. In the worst US prisons, women are routinely raped and sold as prostitutes, as though they were nothing better than slaves waiting to be captured and used.
Anti-drug laws imprison women far more fervently than men. In 1999, one out of every three women in prison was sentenced for a non-violent drug offence, compared to one in five for men.11 From the beginning of the Reagan era until 1996, the number of women in prison for drug offences inflated every year at double the male rate, a shocking 888% in total during that period.10
While in prison, women can expect the vilest of treatment from guards. A 1998 GAO report, Women in Prison: Sexual Misconduct by Correctional Staff, found that between ’95 and ’98 there were 506 allegations of sexual assault against female prisoners in a small sample study of three unnamed prison jurisdictions. Because of difficulties verifying prisoners’ stories, and the unwillingness of other inmates to come forward, only 14 of these cases resulted in convictions against prison staff.
“In one of the cases settled, [the Federal Bureau of Prisons]agreed to pay three women $500,000 to end a lawsuit in which the women claimed they had been beaten, raped, and sold by guards for sex with male inmates [at the Federal Detention Center in Pleasanton, California],” wrote the authors of the report. The GAO report also mentions widespread sexual abuse of female prisoners in DC prisons.
According to Amnesty International’s (AI) 1999 report on the USA, the rape of women prisoners is even more widespread and commonplace than the GAO report let on. AI found a flood of allegations from prisons in California, Michigan and New York. In August of ’99, a UN Special Reporter on Violence against Women was sent to investigate inmate complaints of sexual abuse, and was denied entry to three Michigan prisons.
In 1997, the US Department of Justice began an ongoing lawsuit against state prisons in Michigan and Arizona for “failing to protect women from sexual misconduct, including sexual assaults and ‘prurient viewing during dressing, showering and use of toilet facilities.'”12 The lawsuit was filed the same year that Annette Romo, a pregnant prisoner in Arizona, was shackled by staff, began bleeding, begged for medical help, and was refused any assistance. She lost her baby while guards acted as though her screams were feigned.
Since the Reagan era, the US government has been putting an increasing number of women in jail for carrying a harmless medicinal herb, but then subjecting them to conditions that the SPCA would consider inhumane for animals. Just who are the criminals, anyway?
Drug war against blacks
Police cars and cops with military assault weaponry swept through the sleepy farming hamlet of Tulia, Texas on July 23, 1999. They were supposedly looking for drug offenders to fill the nearby prison. At the end of the day, 40 of the town’s 246 black residents ? mostly young men ? were behind bars.
Many of those arrested couldn’t afford legal help, but they knew that what had happened was wrong. In a small, predominantly white town of 5,000 with no significant drug problems, the arrest of 40 black residents ? along with only one white and one Hispanic ? was a clear message of racial intolerance. Especially when the undercover officer conducting the investigation, a man named Tom Coleman, couldn’t even remember if he had bought drugs from some of those on trial.13
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Texas American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) became involved immediately. Both filed complaints with the US Department of Justice and hired lawyers to defend the accused and uncover the racial bias of Tulia’s officials.
On September 29, 2000, the Texas ACLU brought a lawsuit against Coleman, Sheriff Larry Stewart and local DA Terry McEachern. According to the Texas ACLU, local sheriff Larry Stewart had drawn up a list of “undesirables” ? specifically targeting the African-American community ? Officer Coleman had gone out and arrested them, and DA Terry McEachern had rammed the cases through the legal system.14
Tulia, Texas is but a single pock-mark on a nation that is rotting with drug-war disease. From the very beginning, the combination of easy arrests and imprisonment was meant to purge white towns of blacks who would be forced to work on chain gangs, and to strip black people of their right to vote.
Stealing the black vote
After the Civil War, white politicians in Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia, Louisiana, and South Carolina led the way in a backlash against freeing their slaves by passing bills that stole the right to vote from black people. These bills created what are called “disenfranchisement” laws. Disenfranchisement laws meant that if people were charged with certain offences, they could no longer participate in elections.
In his ground breaking article, Challenging Criminal Disenfranchisement Under the Voting Rights Act: A New Strategy, lawyer and researcher Andrew Shapiro tells how the scam worked.
“Legislators in these states thought that blacks were more likely to commit ‘furtive offenses’ such as petty theft than ‘robust crimes’ such as murder,” writes Shapiro. These were the crimes that legislators punished with disenfranchisement. It is likely that such “furtive offences” were particularly suited to black people only because blacks could be charged for them without proof that the crime had taken place.
The end result was enormously successful from the perspective of racists everywhere. While nearly 70% of blacks in Mississippi were registered voters in 1867, shortly after disenfranchisement laws had passed in 1892, only 6% of blacks in Mississippi could vote. It was the same in every state that passed such laws. In 11 previously confederate states, which had elected 324 blacks to congress and state legislatures in 1872, there were only 5 black politicians elected by 1900.
Today’s black-targeting ‘furtive’ crimes are non-violent drug offences. Black people are 13% of the US population, and 13% of those who use drugs regularly, which means they use at the same rate as non-blacks. But they are arrested and imprisoned far more regularly than whites. Blacks make up 35% of those arrested, 55% of those convicted, and 74% of those imprisoned for simple possession.11
A truly non-biased police sweep of Tulia would have picked up the same percentage of white people as black. If there were 40 black drug users to arrest (about 16% of the black population), there should have also been 800 white people behind bars that same day (16% of the 5,000 white residents).
With an extremely high percentage of blacks behind bars, US prisons are beginning to look a little like death camps. Almost one in three black men aged 20-29 are either in prison, jail, parole or probation. While the overall number of people in US jails today is a whopping 690 per 100,000 US citizens, the number of black people in US jails was an astronomical 6,926 per 100,000 as early as 1995.15 Not since WWII has any nation imprisoned such a massive percentage of any racial minority.
47 of America’s 50 states still have disenfranchisement laws, which have been broadened to include drug offences and these laws still steal the vote from black men. Although only 2% of all those incarcerated in US prisons are disenfranchised, the rate for imprisoned black men is 13.1%, almost seven times the national average. Three of the five states that led the way in black disenfranchisement after the Civil War still have some of the highest rates today: Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia, with 31.5%, 28.6%, 25% black disenfranchisement rates respectively.3 Across the US, there are a growing number of predominantly black communities where a white minority decides who will govern.
“European colonization was based on the drug trade,” said Dedon Kemanthi, a former Black Panther and college lecturer, during an anti-CIA conference in Eugene, Oregon last year. During his passionate talk, Kemanthi described how the recolonization of black American neighbourhoods continues through the drug trade today.
Kemanthi spoke with the tone and conviction of famous black orators like Martin Luther King, but also with the rhythm and rhyme of a rapster. “When you think crack, don’t think black!” shouted Kemanthi. “Think CIA!”
Kemanthi’s presentation revealed how the CIA smuggled crack into black neighbourhoods in the US during the infamous 80’s “drugs-for-arms” scandal, an operation that used money from cocaine sales to buy arms for US-backed rebels in Central America. Kemanthi also produced evidence that the operation may have been coordinated with US trade organizations.
“Two major employers of black youths, Firestone and Goodyear, moved to Indonesia and Asia, lured by US tax breaks. In ’83 and ’84 there were 250,000 lost jobs. At the same time crack-cocaine was introduced to LA and black communities were suddenly given the opportunity to make money from crack.”
While marijuana was the excuse to raid, imprison and disenfranchise blacks since at least the 20’s, crack became the drug-war excuse of choice in the 80’s and 90’s.
“There is a major attempt to pin drug problems on the black man instead of the major players,” Kemanthi asserted. “Class and ethnic position determines the punishment for crimes. If courts see black, they think criminal.” Without forgetting for an instant the historical influences of racism and sexism on American society, Kemanthi sees class as a common determining factor in drug-war oppression.
“Capitalism and profit does not discriminate based on color,” Kemanthi asserted. “Private prison contractors receive $145,000 for every inmate incarcerated, in one-time profit, to build the cell, etc. The prison industrial complex is an extension of the drug war, super-profits for the rich.”
The lower classes, says Kemanthi, are worth more to private corporations when they are in prison than when they are free.
Dept of Urban Cleansing
Like Dedon Kemanthi, Catherine Austin Fitts ? former Deputy Assistant Secretary for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ? believes that the drug war is a vehicle for SWAT teams to cleanse the ghettos and convert the poor into a financial resource for private prison contractors.
Fitts is a rare commodity? a bureaucrat saddled with a social conscience, a financial genius who refuses to sell out, who understands the system so completely that it sometimes seems difficult for her to explain it in plain terms. When Fitts began with the HUD in ’89, she believed that she could use HUD resources to revitalize poor neighbourhoods. The HUD distributes over $100 billion in mortgage insurance and $20 billion in subsidies for housing each year. As one of the largest financing agencies in the US, it could catalyze substantial change? if its managers wanted.
Oddly, despite the HUD’s financial clout, Fitts found that the agency was $300 million in debt. No accounting had ever been done to explain why. When she tracked the losses and found the majority of them in Texas and Colorado, she was fired and her audit halted. Later, she mapped defaults on HUD-provided loans across a map of LA, and found that they clustered around areas of high gang-drug activity. From her experience with the HUD, she did not believe that it was a coincidence.
“In the 50’s, drugs came into the community at about the same time federal subsidies came in,” said Fitts. “Much of the development was left unfinished. Every home owner within view of those buildings lost money on their homes. Small businesses in those communities were devastated. In a few short years, 50,000 homes were empty and boarded up.”
Residents in some of those communities began selling illegal substances when the neighbourhood economies failed, said Fitts. Many communities became ghettos. Today, SWAT teams move in to clean out the crowded poor and snatch up the land.
“I am increasingly persuaded that much of what is happening at HUD relates to a conversion of the agency to an enforcement operation that ensures broad access to neighborhoods throughout America to SWAT operations by federal enforcement teams,” she wrote in a 1998 memo to the Solari Action Network, a pro-neighbourhood economy group founded by Fitts.
From a brief look at the HUD web site, it becomes immediately apparent that HUD loans have provided the excuse for repeated SWAT raids to purge undesirable citizens from the ghettos. The police raids are coordinated directly with the HUD through Operation Safe Home, an HUD partnership with local, state and federal law-enforcement officials, including, most notably, the US Drug Enforcement Agency. Between 1994 ? when it started ? and 1998, Operation Safe Home seized “drugs valued at more than $25 million and drug-related cash of more than $3.5 million” from HUD-funded housing projects. HUD officials have even lobbied the government for independent powers of seizure, so that the HUD can profit directly from stealing poor people’s homes.
“Drug dealers and other criminals are entitled to only one kind of government housing ? a prison cell,” HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo told the press in 1997. “The sooner we can get them out of public and assisted housing, the better.”
But not all of the tenants evicted have contact with marijuana or drugs. In 1999, the HUD won a US Federal Appeals Court case allowing them to evict all tenants from any home where one member has been caught with marijuana or drugs. Now, if a child is caught with a gram of pot in an HUD-subsidized housing project, his whole family can be chased from their homes by SWAT squads.
In an exclusive interview with Cannabis Culture, Catherine Austin Fitts gave an example of how HUD/SWAT cooperation works through the HUD’s Operation Safe Home.
“In 1998, the HUD’s Operation Safe Home dropped a SWAT team into a Washington, DC community with 200 agents, police and 50 to 100 reporters,” explained Fitts. “The reason for the operation was to arrest three people that they had been investigating for two years, and that could have been picked up by local police. Their real goal was to create headlines. They swept another 17 people in a housing project that night, and the next morning it was headline news.”
Fitts sees the combination of HUD loans and the drug war as an attack on local prosperity for the benefit of Wall Street investors. The 1998 DC drug raid, Fitts points out, came only shortly after the neighbourhood opposed a development project to build a convention centre that wasn’t good for anyone except wealthy developers. “The spin on the raid was that people in the community were bad, and that the people building the convention centre were good. After the raid, the convention centre vote passed.”
The drug-war victims of HUD raids are destined for corporate assembly lines in private prisons. “Operation Safe-Home was designed and started at the same time  as federal and state governments increasingly turned to private contractors to buy government prisons, or build new ones,” said Fitts. “It was a plan.”
A look at history confirms Fitts’ suspicions. Clinton’s 1994 Crime Bill, supported and co-developed by Gore, created the nation’s federal three-strikes laws, meaning longer prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders, and also established a federal commission to study the “drug problem.” The two planned to offset the increased cost of imprisoning drug offenders by widespread prison privatization, which became one of their platforms in the 1995 US election, after private prison lobbyists dolled out $150,000 in campaign funding to both Democrats and Republicans. In 1997, Vice President Al Gore gave the HUD $217.3 million for its anti-drug battles, to step up drug-war oppression against poor communities.
“It is critical that black people, minorities, and even women are considered hopeless in terms of being able to provide productive products and services, let alone manage other people’s money,” said Fitts. “This is how we have welfare reform, but tremendous opposition to learning centers and business incubation. We need the welfare population to go to jail and the children of farmers to guard them. The welfare population provides a low cost work force and distribution locations for the drug business. Then they are put in prison and produce the necessary headlines to prove that politicians are doing something about drugs.”
Indeed, Fitts’ own plan to provide data servicing jobs for low-income families was turned down by HUD secretary Cuomo and ridiculed by high-ranking HUD staff who, according to Fitts, called the plan “Computers for Niggers.” Soon afterward UNICORP, a Department of Justice-owned business that markets prison labour to private companies, used her plan to create yet more prison jobs.
Private prisons for profit
Even before 1900, there was staunch opposition to private prisons from labour groups, business and reform advocates. The horrific conditions on chain gangs, the negative effects of prison labour competing with industries and jobs outside of prisons, the feast of bribes fed to politicians for prison labour contracts ? these were the reasons that private prisons and prison labour were originally made illegal, through a series of acts passed by federal and state governments between 1935 and 1950.16
But in 1979, one year before Reagan’s expansion of the drug war, the US government passed the Percy Amendment, legalizing private prisons and prison labour. Since then, a landslide of federal and state amendments have guaranteed increased profits for private prison contractors.
Legislative changes are bought and paid for by large “campaign donations.” During the 1997 election alone, private prison contractors like the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Wackenhut provided well over a half-million dollars to political campaigns, according to figures supplied by the Sentencing Project, a prison reform group.
In the early and mid 90’s, CCA provided a model to which prison corporations aspired, a kind of business success possible only through a combination of pay-off schemes, nepotism and empty political posturing. CCA, with the largest market share of any private prison contractor, exuded a constant flow of campaign funding to politicians who were happy to lap it up. CCA Chairman Emeritus Thomas Beasley gave $61,250 to politicians between 1993 and ’97. During the same period CCA Board Member of Trust Ray Bell contributed $26,050, and CCA Chairman Doctor R Crants donated $27,250.17 In 1997, CCA hired the DC lobbying firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips (MPP). Working with former long-time DC Councilman John Ray (who began with the firm while he was still in office), MPP lobbied the state legislature and secured Washington DC’s first private prison contract for CCA in 1997.3
Often, politicians and high-level bureaucrats are hired by private prison contractors to become full-time lobbyists. Just a few examples from CCA include David Myers, CCA president, who was employed with the Texas Department of Corrections from 1968 to 1985; Charles Blanchette, vice president of operations, who worked with the Texas Department of Corrections for 16 years; and Michael Quinlan, trustee and chief executive officer of the CCA Prison Realty Trust, who was acting director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons for five years. Dozens and dozens more examples abound.
The profits to be made from the private prison industry are so enormous it isn’t difficult to see why corrupt politicians salivate at the thought of licking some of it up. While CCA profit is down for the year 2000 due to poor management, they still generate tens of millions of dollars in annual income. Wackenhut, another of the largest private prison contractors in the US, recently surpassing even CCA in its financial growth, generated a record $2.1 billion in revenue in 1999, an increase of 22.6% over the year before, resulting in $37.9 million in operating profit for that year alone.18 More than enough to buy off politicians for the next few decades of drug war oppression and feed prisons with cheap labour.
Prison labour camps
While in a private slammer, drug war prisoners should expect to work long and exhausting days making circuit boards, valves and fittings, eyeglasses, water beds and blue jeans. In Ohio, prisoners do data processing, and in Southern California they answer phones to book vacation flights for TWA.19 Typically, prisoners are paid for their work, but most of the money they make is taken from them by the prison for rent, food, taxes, and a host of other exagerrated costs. Most inmates actually earn only pennies an hour.20
The drug war equals profits as marijuana smokers fill private prisons with cheap labour. Between 1980 and 1994 the number of inmates working for big businesses climbed 358%, generating profits of $1.31 billion.21
As in the early 1900’s, businesses in regular society are hit hard by prison labour. When LTI, a circuit board manufacturer, relocated to a Wackenhut prison in the early 90’s, they closed their plant in Austin Texas, and layed off 150 employees. Although, by law, corporations that contract prison labour are supposed to consult with local unions and businesses, in reality there were no such meetings when LTI moved shop. Similarly, Honda hired prisoners to assemble car parts for $2.05/hour (of which inmates got to keep 35 cents) without soliciting outside opinion.19
Private prison supporters claim that the revenue generated by inmate labour converts to lower operating costs. But a 1996 GAO investigation found that the government pays about the same in subsidies to the private prison industry as it does to run its own institutions. Private clinks are no less expensive than public ones, and provide worse services as they cut corners in a race to increase profits.
The private prison labour system feeds on itself like a snake eating its own tail. Less jobs in the public sector means more unemployment, which equals more poverty, more replacement of local economies with marijuana and drug economies, swelling ghettos, increased drug war enforcement, more drug-war prisoners, and eventually more private prisons to hold them all.
Dark ironies abound in the emerging corporate feudalism. The CIA imports cocaine? but small-scale dealers are the ones put behind bars. A private prison is proposed to hold Washington DC’s predominantly black inmates on a former slave plantation in North Carolina? where they will toil in corporate sweat shops as their ancestors toiled in the fields.22 America is being converted into a two-class society, with the labouring masses enslaved in work camps, and business owners and managers ensconced in newly redeveloped and cleansed ghetto areas, fortified “gated communities” similar to medieval castles with walled villages.
Appalling prison conditions
While slaving for the police-state, many US drug war prisoners face the harshest of living conditions. Patrick Swiney is an inmate of Holman Prison in Alabama, a state infamous for having the worst prisons in the US. He describes the conditions there as “the perfect environment for breeding deadly diseases.” According to Swiney, the toilets and showers are unvented, filling the tiny cells with noxious vapours and humidity. Slime and mildew cover the walls, outbreaks of TB are common, and medical care is nearly nonexistent.
That’s because, says Swiney, the deputy warden’s wife works with Correctional Medical Services, which is supposed to provide medical care to the inmates. “Every dollar she does not spend on our medical care,” wrote Swiney, “is profit in her company’s pocket.”
Kick-backs are big in both the private and public prison business, and they can affect prison living conditions. Telephone companies, for example, will bid big bucks for prison contracts, kick-back up to 35% to the prison for the privilege of doing business, and pass the costs on to the inmate.19 In private prisons it’s even worse, as employees are given stock options in the company as a part of their benefits, meaning that they are motivated to cut corners on costs by using, for example, less cleaning products.21
Conflicts of interest are rife as everyone scrambles for their piece of prison pie. The American Correction Association, an organization which is responsible for checking prison conditions and giving them a “stamp of approval,” also facilitates what prison-reform groups call “Prisonfest,” a yearly meeting attended by drug-war politicians like Janet Reno, at which private companies hock their wares and services to both public and private prisons.
The drug-war fueled corporate feudalism of the US is a reflection of the drug war now being waged in Colombia. In Colombia, death squads destroy villages that lie on oil and mineral-rich lands, call the local minority populations “narcoguerillas,” and drive them into cities where they toil in corporate sweat shops for pennies an hour. In the US, SWAT teams destroy ghettos and convert the land into a resource by selling it to redevelopers, call the local minority populations “drug abusers,” and jail them in factories where they slave in corporate sweat shops for pennies an hour.
In both cases drug-war tyranny wipes out local economies, replaces it with global ones, and produces massive profits for multinational corporations, like Wackenhut and CCA, who have a combined presence in over fifty-six countries. Around the world, the drug war is the rotten core of a profit-driven agenda to enslave every nation’s peoples.
You can do something. Buy locally instead of from multinational corporations. Write letters to the media and speak out against drug war oppression when you have the opportunity. Attend demonstrations against the prison/industrial complex, and shout a message of freedom from drug-prison oppression!
? The Sentencing Project: 514 – 10th St NW, Suite 1000, WA DC, 20004; tel (202) 628-0871; fax (202) 628-1091; email firstname.lastname@example.org; website www.sentencingproject.org
? Families Against Mandatory Minimums:1612 K St NW, Suite 1400, WA DC, 20006; tel (202) 822-6700; email email@example.com; website www.famm.org
? Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE National): PO Box2310, WA DC, 20013-2310; tel (202) 789-2126; website www.curenational.org
? US Department of Housing and Urban Development: 451 7th St SW, WA DC, 20410; tel (202) 708-1112; website www.hud.gov
? The General Accounting Office: 441 G St NW, WA DC, 20548; tel (202) 512-4800; email firstname.lastname@example.org; website www.gao.gov
? Amnesty International: 322 8th Ave, New York, NY, 10001; tel (212) 807-8400; email email@example.com; website www.amnesty.org
1. Wacquant, Loic. From Welfare State to Prison State, Imprisoning the American Poor, in Le Monde Diplomatique. Translator: Julie Stoker. July, 1998.
2. Statistics from the US Bureau of Justice.
3. Figures and information provided by the Sentencing Project, a prison reform group. www.sentencingproject.org
4. Penological Information Bulletin No 19-20. Council of Europe. December, 1995.
5. Statistics from Families against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a sentencing reform group. www.famm.org
6. Women in Prison: Issues and Challenges Confronting US Correctional Systems. US General Accounting Office.
7. Mauer, Marc. Americans Behind Bars: US and International Use of Incarceration. The Sentencing Project. 1995.
8. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reports for the United States 1980, 1990, 1995, 1998 & 1999.
9. Campbell, Duncan. Anger Grows as US Jails its Two Millionth Inmate. The UK Guardian. February 15, 2000.
10. Buckley, Frank. CNN. January 29, 2000.
11. Wideman, John E. Doing Time, Marking Race. The Nation 261:14. 1995.
12. Amnesty International 1999 Report on the USA.
13. Gott, Natalie. Drug Sweep Called ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ Of Texas Town’s. Arizona Daily Star. October 14, 2000.
14. ACLU of Texas Charges Racial Discrimination in Notorious Small-Town Drug Bust Scandal. American Civil Liberties Union web site. September 29, 2000. www.aclu.org
15. Currie, E. Crime and Punishment in America. p 15. 1998. And Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics. p 510. Bureau of Justice Statistics. 1996.
16. Phil Smith. Private Prisons: Profits of Crime. Covert Action Quarterly. And Predergast, Alan. Prisons-R-Us. Dayton Voice. September 20, 1995.
17. From a research memorandum supplied by the Florida Police Benevolent Association.
18. 1999 Wackenhut Annual Report
19. Erlich, Reese. Prison Labor: Workin’ For The Man.
20. Prison Labour in Privatizing the Prison System. National Center for Policy Analysis.
21. Kicenski, Karl K. The Production Of Crime and The Sale of Discipline. George Mason University.
22. Information provided by Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE).