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#537#538#539#540 Episode #541 - Outing Prison 1
(Mass Incarceration Is The New Jim Crow)



Sat 5 March 2011  Sasha Abramsky, Viviane Saleh-Hanna, Michelle Alexander, Martin Luther King
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Download Hour1 Download Hour2This week we hear author Sasha Abramsky and professors Viviane Saleh-Hanna and Michelle Alexander on the US incarceration industry, or as they call it, the "Prison Industrial Complex". How can a country which used to style itself the "land of the free" lock up far more of its own population than any other country? Why has the US prison population exploded? And what is the connection with racial segregation and Jim Crow?
Following on from last week's show, we look at the adult version of US forced schooling - the prison industry. We start the week's show with Sasha Abramsky, author of American Furies: Crime, Punishment, and Vengeance in the Age of Mass Imprisonment. He makes a number of historical parallels with modern US history, such as the panic of Tudor England, a 40 year period during which time over 1% of the population were hanged.

Abramsky highlights the importance of the and the huge economic incentives for prison creation. Behind the rhetoric of correction and rehabilitation, he notes a 'WallMart-isation' of prisoners, increasing volume and decreasing quality of provision as pathways to private profit. The legal system with measures such as the '3 strikes' policy and its mandatory minimums is effectively manufacturing criminals while prisons aggravate problematic behaviour. Whilst warning that mass incarceration is coming to define USA just as repression came to define USSR, he frames the US mania for incarceration as a pendulum which will swing back eventually, but like prohibition, it "a lot of very powerful players in a lot of countries would be very uncomfortable".

We start our second hour, with a short speech from Assistant Professor Viviane Saleh-Hanna, on how 'Black History' is not the history of acts done by blacks, but a history of what was done to them by white Europeans, not only providing a 'dumping ground' for misdeeds of white supremacists, but taking the space of the history of what was done by blacks. She recounts some of her research into alternative events which might merit inclusion in 'black history', and links contemporary mass incarceration to a long-standing ideology of separation and traces its roots to the centuries long white-supremacist confinement and genocide of Africans.

Next we hear a 2010 speech by Associate Professor and Civil rights lawyer, Michelle Alexander, on her book "The New Jim Crow - Mass Incarceration In The Age of Colorblindness" who starts her talk with some stark facts of racial minority life in US in 2010. More African Americans are incarcerated, on probation or on parole in 2010 than were enslaved in 1850. More black men are denied the right to vote than in 1870, because they're felons. In some American cities, the majority of black men are felons for life. Felons can be discriminated against in housing and jobs. Alexander argues the mass incarceration of African Americans — under cover of the "War on Drugs" — has created a new racial caste system in America. She says that the system of second–class citizens has been re-branded rather than abolished - the explicit racial language of Jim Crow has been replaced by the sanitized and seemingly impartial term, "criminal".

We close with some words from a speech by Martin Luther King on the importance of challenging injustice wherever we see it.
Thanks to KOUW for the Michelle Alexander talk, and to Pirate TV Seattle for the Sasha Abramsky talk.
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