The U.S. prison system must be completely dismantled

This statement originally appeared on the website of the Gloria La Riva for President campaign.

Our campaign stands wholeheartedly against the monstrous system of mass incarceration in the United States. The U.S. has the largest population of people behind bars in the world by far. With only about four and a half percent of the world’s population, the United States has almost one quarter of the entire world’s imprisoned population. Shockingly, there are more than 2.2 million people behind bars and some 5 million still navigating throughout the law enforcement and parole system, unable to easily find and obtain jobs. These facts are hardly known because the corporate media does not like to shine a light at the skeletons in good ol’ Uncle Sam’s closet.

Mass incarceration is a despicably racist system, and thoroughly anti-worker. It’s the modern incarnation of the systematic disenfranchisement of Black, Latino and Native people. A recent study released from the D.C. based Sentencing Project outlined just how racially disparate the prison system really is. It showed for example, that nationally Black people are five times as likely to be in prison than a white person, with some states having a higher likelihood, like New Jersey where there is a twelve times likelihood. African Americans make up only about 12 percent of the national population, yet they are the biggest nationality imprisoned because of the racist policies of the police and courts that target Black people and dole out harsher punishments.

We condemn all aspects of the system that perpetuate this racist prison-industrial complex. We charge the corporate media and prison lobbyists who create the propaganda that justifies the racist incarceration of people of color. We charge all the politicians who sign bills that increase U.S. prisons, including the leading candidate for president in the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, whose own role in proposing mass incarceration has been exposed. It was Hillary Clinton who called Black youth “Super predators” and stood with her husband’s signing of the 1994 Crime Omnibus law. It greatly expanded the prison system. Hillary Clinton is now saying the resulting mass incarceration was a “mistake,” but an apology is not enough. It is a sham.

We demand that she advocate the reversal of those policies immediately, and the freeing of hundreds of thousands who otherwise would not be in prison.

An apology is not enough for the years of torture and cruel punishment that so many prisoners have endured, for the suffering of their families and children because of the forced separation from their loved ones. An apology is not enough for the thousands of prisoners on death row. An apology is not enough for the more than 80,000 people being tortured by solitary confinement, 22-24 hours a day in complete isolation. We demand an immediate end to the death penalty and an end to the practice of isolation and solitary confinement which is torture and a violation of international law.

We demand that all political prisoners be freed at once. Prisoners like Leonard Peltier, who has been serving two life sentences for a crime he did not commit, but who has served 40 years in prison because he and the American Indian Movement were helping Native people under siege. Prisoners like Oscar Lopez Rivera, Puerto Rican freedom fighter, Mutulu Shakur, who has been denied his rightful parole, Jaili Muntaqim, Sundiata Acoli, Chelsea Manning, and so many others.

We call for immediate freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal, the “voice of the voiceless” who has used his international recognition to fight for others. Mumia continues to fight the racist system from behind bars despite the current efforts of the prison to execute him through the denial of medical treatment. This intentional lack of medical care is criminal and we demand that all prisoners have the right to premium health care, including the up-to-date 100% effective treatment for Hepatitis C, AIDS, and mental health care (mentally ill prisoners do not belong in prison!)

The U.S. prison system must be completely dismantled and in its place a humane system be employed. Besides drastically reducing the number of prisoners, those who are in prison should be humanely treated, with right to real rehabilitation, education, the right to conjugal and family visits, to a decent wage for their employment so they can save for a future and help their families. Stop the imprisonment of undocumented immigrants just because they have no papers. End the school-to-prison pipeline. Stop trying youth as adult offenders. End all solitary confinement and the so-called Special Housing Units (SHUs). Stop the divide-and-conquer tactics of the guard system that pits prisoners against each other. In short, prisoners should be entitled to basic human and civil rights. As the prison industrial complex has grown to gigantic proportions across the country, so too has the use of private, for-profit prisons. We call for an immediate end to the use of for-profit prisons and immigration detention centers.

We do not ignore by any means the devastation for families who have lost loved ones by individual, violent crime. There are certainly cases that must be brought to justice in order to prevent crime. But mass incarceration is the greater crime because it is systematic strategy of an economic system that does nothing to provide for the people’s needs. If you can’t get a job, you can’t live without money. Economic crimes are a result of the system.

Mass incarceration in the United States is the most insidious form of state-sponsored brutality in the world. It is the product of modern capitalism which utilizes prisons to incarcerate the people it has rendered jobless and unproductive. Instead of fostering the potential of every human being with healthcare, housing, education, culture and meaningful employment or income, capitalism is driving millions of people, especially young people of color, into permanent destitution, while the 62 richest individuals in the world owns more wealth than the poorest 3.6 billion people worldwide!

Our socialist campaign calls for the end of capitalism for the radical reorganization of society and the implementation of a truly just society based on full equality and meeting human needs. Socialism is a system where political and economic power is in the hands of the working class and the oppressed people. We must gain complete control over the destinies of our lives to ensure that justice prevails for all people over the ever increasing chains and bars of capitalist imprisonment. We join the call for a united revolutionary mass movement of people in the streets as the only force powerful enough to uproot this system.

We are in solidarity with our brothers and sisters behind bars, and call for working-class unity to fight for socialism!

Gloria La Riva, the presidential candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, endorses the De-carcerate New Jersey campaign and its actions to be held on the 30th of June against racist mass incarceration. She, along with Vice-presidential candidates Eugene Puryear — and Dennis Banks in California — both longtime anti-racist fighters, salute these actions as essential in the struggle for justice against the long legacy of racism manifested in the prison system today.

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