The Weekly Abolitionist: Prison State Roundup

There’s a lot of news and information related to prisons, policing, borders, and other facets of the prison state. In previous editions of the Weekly Abolitionist, I have tried to fit multiple stories into one theme or analytic frame. This week, however, I’ve encountered a diverse enough range of articles relating to these issues that I’ll be compiling them into a roundup.

  • Over at the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy blog, Ilya Somin has an excellent reply to the argument that undocumented immigrants have acted immorally by violating the law. As an anarchist I reject the idea that one has a moral obligation to obey the state’s laws. But Somin persuasively argues that even with a presumption in favor of obedience to laws, there are good reasons to believe that other factors make it moral to cross borders without legal permission.
  • In other news related to the criminalization of migrants, protests continue across the nation to oppose the ongoing harms of mass deportations. April 5th marked a National Day of Action Against Deportations. Over at PanAm Post, Fergus Hodgson has a good article on the protests.
  • Deportations continue to destroy lives and break up families in my home state of Utah. Ana Cañenguez, who I have mentioned previously at this blog, was just told by ICE that her application for humanitarian exemption was denied. This means she will be deported back to El Salvador and her family will be split apart by state coercion. As Ana told reporters,  “I don’t understand why this President can tear families apart.”  We must fight for a world where no presidents or other state actors have that horrible power. As Anthony Gregory puts it, “End deportations now. This is beyond cruel, and such horrors occur hundreds of times a day in the name of immigration control. Obama’s presidency has topped all others on deportations in absolute terms, at least in modern history.”
  • Another horror inflicted by the prison state is rape by state actors like police and prison guards. These rapists act with virtual impunity thanks to the state’s institutional power, ideological euphemisms, and the state’s monopoly on law. One of these rapists, Kansas City police officer Jeffrey Holmes, was actually convicted of a crime on Friday. Holmes raped two women, both of whom he accused of prostitution. While prosecutors alleged that he used his position as an officer to coerce the women into sex, prosecutors charged him not with rape or assault but with “corruption.” He was convicted of these charges and sentenced to “15 days in jail and a fine.” This is incredibly lenient compared to typical sentences for rape and sexual assault, and it is yet another example of euphemism being used to shield a state actor from accountability for rape.
  • To  understand more about how the prison state enables rape, I highly recommend The Shame of Our Prisons: New Evidence, an article by David Kaiser and Lovisa Stannow from last October’s New York Review of Books. The article summarizes lots of recent research on prison rape from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and I find it immensely useful for understanding the specifics of the problem.
  • As I write this, I’m listening to a talk by Jonathan Nitzan titled No Way Out: Crime, Punishment & the Capitalization of Power. Nitzan is one of the authors of Capital as Power, and this talk analyzes mass incarceration and punishment through the lens of his analysis of capitalism. This provides an explanation for the seemingly unusual phenomenon of liberal capitalist states incarcerating on a mass scale.
  • For another economic perspective on prisons, I also recommend Daniel D’Amico’s talk The American Prison State. D’Amico looks at incarceration and punishment through the lens of free market economics, specifically the Austrian school.

I hope you find these links interesting and informative. I’ll leave you with something you can do to help those imprisoned by the American state. Writing to prisoners can make their life inside the prison slightly less monotonous and more livable. For a good way to start writing letters to prisoners, I recommend writing to prisoners on their birthdays. You can find some information on political prisoner birthdays for April here.

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory