The following is based on a talk given by Kym Smith, a leading member of PSL in Columbia, South Carolina, on a national PSL webinar on June 18.
I would love to scream Happy Juneteenth, but slavery isn’t over, it has only been reformed into what is now the prison system. Every president, every member of Congress, whether they be Republican or Democrat, has had a hand in this system of slavery. Prisons are not here to rehabilitate, or keep the public safe; they are here to isolate, intimidate and to place fear in the hearts of Black people, to divide the working class even further and, of course, to make the 1% richer.
The United States spends $80 billion per year to keep over 2.3 million people incarcerated. That number does not include the 60,000+ juveniles that are locked away in cages as well. In South Carolina, Black people are only 29 percent of the population, but make up 53% of the jail population and 62 percent of the prison population.
Simply put, our tax money is paying to incarcerate one-in-every-15 Black men. So while we fight for the liberation of Black men on the outside, let’s not forget about the Black men who are not being fed enough and are sometimes placed in solitary confinement for months on end for simply reading a book.
While we protect the youth in our neighborhoods let us also protect the one-in-8 who are sexually abused while in detention center. As recently as February 2020, South Carolina Juvenile Justice has been under investigation for human rights abuses against children: solitary confinement of 23 hours a day, no visitation, COs refused to get help when children were threatening to harm themselves.
Not only are incarcerated women and men subjected to inhumane living conditions, they are forced to sell their labor for merely 63 cents an hour. In the midst of a pandemic incarcerated people are still being thrown into solitary confinement, not being given regular health screenings, and living in unsanitary conditions where a virus can flourish. There is no physical distancing when you are forced to be 2-3 per cell.
The ruling class has criminalized poverty. Even more disgusting, they hoard the resources that the poor and dispossessed need to survive. For mass incarceration to end we must make healthcare free and accessible as well as food and housing! These are basic human rights. The fact that denying these are not considered human rights violation in America shows us the little regard the system has for the poor, especially the Black poor.
Meet people’s needs! This can only happen under socialism because capitalism requires a police state to intimidate and suppress the people who have the most to gain by revolting! Capitalism requires us to sell our labor to the highest bidder then locks us in cages for trying to survive!
We must come together, stand in solidarity and continue to rebel against capitalism! Together we can create a world where our labor isn’t sold to the highest bidder, a world where Black people aren’t being lynched and locked in cages. We must build socialism.