The Disproportional Punishments of American Incarceration

Madoff from an article entitled: Are white collar criminals the true villains?

We live in a reality in which there are two Americas; the criminalized and the wealthy. Due to the intimacy with which our status quo operates with white supremacy’s influence and savage pursuit of capital, it has created institutions that reinforce inequality and maintain establishment domination.

One of the most obvious representations of this has been in the justice system that we’ve built up. White collar criminals are overwhelmingly well, white, and include the likes of money launderers, Wall Street financiers, and other financial grifters who take advantage of people for individual profit. They face significantly reduced sentences and penalties for their crimes because the nature of white collar offenses entail more legal loopholes that one can exploit with wealth and resources.

Parole and probation restrictions are usually much lighter, wealthy people can afford the best legal defenses and ensure that certain judges or juries are set. Even though they may have made thousands of families destitute by stealing their investments or manipulating the market, their wealth is so “vital” to the economy and politician’s pockets that the government lets it slide. The other possibility, which is usually the case, is the government just doesn’t want to spend the time and resources going after these rich assholes because they put up a hell of a fight with all the money they too possess. Instead, police are directed to patrol low income communities and target those who have no chance of fighting back, ensuring that at least some kind of “criminal” is off the street, even if they were just selling individual cigarettes.

Additionally, because our law enforcement has such ingrained racism they use excessive brutality on the POC they target, and it isn’t rare that the man selling individual cigarettes to get killed because of it. (See, Eric Garner.) How is it a proportionate response to strangle a man to death for this, when we let the bankers who destroyed the global economy in 2008 walk away with billions in taxpayer money?

We also see significantly more favorable treatment for violent white criminals, if this wasn’t a satisfactory enough comparison. People love to cite the statistics of how many African Americans are convicted of violent crimes, yet there is so much more that goes into a conviction rate than race. Look at famous white rapists such as Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, or Ghislaine Maxwell and how they are able to either avoid the law altogether because of their status or get extremely cushy treatment if they do get arrested. The average American accused of rape or sexual assault has nowhere near the resources or wealth that those individuals do, therefore their convictions stick and they are forced to spend years in prison, enduring trauma and suffering.

When white guys do get caught and convicted, they receive far better sentences because of the status that their families have. Look at the embodiment of white privilege in shit gargler Brock Turner, and how the judge presiding said that it was a shame he raped a girl because he had such a “bright future” ahead of him. What the fuck? Nobody says that about the black kid dragged into court and accused of rape, rightfully suspected or not.

It is all too common for courts and the police to take pity on white criminals and try to justify their actions, a disparity in treatment that is obvious as many white mass shooters and murderers have been taken alive by law enforcement. This is in contrast to the harsh reality African Americans face, as hundreds of black folks killed by police have simply been trying to follow the convoluted commands being shouted at them by authoritative paramilitary forces, ten guns pointed in their face. Kyle Rittenhouse and other murderers with weapons in their hands have been treated with respect by the justice system, even let go in some cases after they have just massacred multiple people. If Kyle was an African American kid, I promise you he would have been dead before the smoke cleared his barrel.

Imagine a black kid taking up an AR right next to a police officer and then murdering people, walking past those same officers and going home to spend the night. You can’t, because that kid would have been surrounded and beaten by cops as soon as they saw him walking with a rifle.

White criminals generally have more resources and money to make sure they get lighter sentences for their crimes, even though they often impact many people beyond themselves. An African American guy smoking weed does exponentially less harm than a hedge fund that artificially shorts small businesses into oblivion.(This practice, naked shorting, has also been illegal since 2008.) The status quo of hierarchy sees those at the top with so much generational wealth and historical domination, we don’t even realize that white men are pretty much the only group that hasn’t been stereotyped to have fear of or some kind of prejudice towards.

We’ve seen a rise in the image of crackheads and super predators, illegal immigrants, and vilification of asian people through connecting them with communism and racist generalizations about CCP connections. We’ve even seen the historical subjugation of women of all colors, including white women, to a male controlled society. White men have avoided mainstream negative propaganda. Think about all the shootings, pedophealia, abuse and predatory behavior that white men fucking do. We have never had the stereotype that you should be afraid of a white dude with a bunch of guns or the investment banker gambling people’s lives away, because that’s just “normal” for them.

Recently we’ve seen some paranoia about kids who are loners and acting erratically at school due to shootings, but that is such a small subset of the population and usually viewed with pity versus troubled black teens who are criminalized. White kids with hoods up don’t make families cross the street or cops stop and strip search them. That privilege is embedded in every facet of our society and especially obvious in the criminal justice system.

If we hope to move towards thinking more collectively we will need to identify this as a mainstream recognition. It isn’t a negative thing, I think many white people have a fear that by calling these things out they will be hated by POC or give them power and have the situation flipped where people of color rise up and demand better rights than white people. This is fantasy. It is a paranoid delusion that rich white people have cooked up to protect their money. If we enact social programs to help poor people, that is going to not only help elevate POC out of historical oppression, but it will allow impoverished communities of white people to rise up and claim a better quality of life too.

We may feel some guilt as white people that this is our history, and a lot of older generations rage with foaming mouths about how we will corrupt the younger generation by educating them on the true history of our nation. Integrating things like critical race theory and education on LGBTQ into our classrooms isn’t a “liberal agenda,” it is simply teaching objective facts about our history as a society from different points of view. These propaganda campaigns are compensation for their own guilt, or racist agendas that got them in power they don’t want to confront.

If you find yourself generalizing about a population, saying that we can’t educate white people on the bad shit they’ve done because it will hurt them somehow, and believe that they are somehow entitled to more because of their “significance” in history, you are probably a racist and/or white nationalist. White men have such a fucking large historical role because they literally enslaved Black people and marginalized the shit out of POC communities in general. We slaughtered native populations with our germs and guns, appropriated land by force, built our generational wealth off the coerced labor of black and other people of color, and this is the reason that it looks like white men shaped history. They oppressed others enough that only they could control the narrative, building all of our institutions.

Circling back to that connection with the justice system, they built THAT, structured the rules to favor the rich and be harsher towards POC in maintaining a very clear hierarchy as the status quo. Think about the profiling laws and concentration camps that we have on the border and the communities devastated by crack that was planted by the government to justify arresting and incarcerating a population they themselves made addicts.

When you have been the only group able to hoard wealth because of your oppressive tendencies, of course you’re going to be able to afford to keep up with an increasingly expensive life and rapidly evolving society. Marginalized communities of color and poor white people can’t. The only ones able to live comfortably in our free for all system are those who have been able to build up generational wealth and connections, having the resources to navigate the oppressive justice and economic systems they’ve built to keep themselves in power.

We hold others down so that we may elevate our individual positions in this country, and that is the reality. We need to understand that, and realize that while white people may feel guilty about their history for a day or two, black children have grown up being judged, looked at distrustingly, and treated as though they are lesser. White kids don’t face that. We need to collectively do what is best for every community in the country and that includes giving a larger proportion of resources to POC communities because they need it. Of course white people will still benefit from social programs and aid, they just don’t need to rely as heavily on it because they have all the fucking wealth! I will go into this more in the third section of policy options, but we need to come to terms with the reality of our white privilege in America.

“All people make mistakes. All of us are sinners. All of us are criminals. All of us violate the law at some point in our lives. In fact, if the worst thing you have ever done is speed ten miles over the speed limit on the freeway, you have put yourself and others at more risk of harm than someone smoking marijuana in the privacy of his or her living room. Yet there are people in the United States serving life sentences for first-time drug offenses, something virtually unheard of anywhere else in the world.” – Michelle Alexander, of course. She is my queen and idol when it comes to prison reform.

The laws that are written by our politicians serve as reinforcers for the status quo to keep POC without resources and wealth that the rest of America has access to. Almost a quarter of the prison population in the U.S. is due to drug related charges spawned from the infamous Reagan Whitehouse. These policies disproportionately targeted POC communities with policies centered around “superpredators,” crack cocaine and other bullshit racial stereotypes. It cannot be overstated how damaging American law enforcement has been to these communities; tearing families apart, keeping men of multiple generations in prison, and crippling the ability of those families to get out of poverty.

This hasn’t even been due to a raging capitalist private prison system as a lot of liberals like to argue. The issue has been deflected away from the true root which is the deeply embedded racism within American institutions on all levels. Private prisons account for under 11 percent of all incarceration in this country; it was the passage of laws such as Clinton’s crime bill 30 years ago which created plausible cause for police to go after these communities that caused a spike in arrests. These laws were directly spawned from the crack craze and tough on crime Reagan era, and their popularity within rural America was influential enough to make the Democratic party take a hard stance on crime. It is also the poisoning of POC communities by Reagan and the CIA, the crippling of liberation movements labeled terrorists by Hoover’s FBI, and so many other catalysts by white supremacists in power that created an exponential increase in the amount of people of color arrested.

Senator Tom Cotton and the Heritage Foundation, a corporate backed conservative think tank, pushed a “back the blue” pledge following George Floyd’s murder that was aimed at fiercly keeping the status quo in law enforcement. 205 Legislators signed this. Cotton tweeted shortly after that in his opinion, America doesn’t have enough incarceration and implied that BLM protestors and other “antifa” groups fighting for racial justice should be locked away too. You can probably guess what the meaning behind Cotton’s tweet was, a virtue signal to his white supremacist party and their following that he was going to fight to make sure anyone outside the upper class continued getting oppressed.

Modern day systemic racism looks exactly like this; the government perpetuating and staunchly fighting for policies that will target POC and disenfranchised communities while letting the upper class reign free. Additionally, I am by no means implying that poor or even lower middle class white people are free from the oppression of the carceral system. For that matter, no group beyond rich white folks is. We keep people locked away from society in what are oftentimes inhumane conditions. It doesn’t matter how moldy or toxic the environment in prisons is. It doesn’t matter that two, three, maybe even more generations from the same family spend most of their lives incarcerated, taken away from their loved ones. It doesn’t matter what a criminal did or what conditions they are confined to because we have such strong binary thought ingrained that we just see the label.

We need to shift the focus of our society to be more collectivist and lift these communities up through restorative practices rather than sending in a (statistically likely) prejudiced bully on a power trip into a situation where they are told their life is always in danger, enforcing a law that shouldn’t even exist. Rather than writing someone off for committing a petty crime we need to ask why did they do this? Is it because they don’t have access to enough resources? Is there mental illness? Desperation? Many people are clouded by their binary thought and don’t consider the why behind an action. There has to be a humane approach to justice and consideration as to why we lock so many people up for crimes that statistically are done by all populations, not just those we have a desire to oppress. Accountability for the justice system and the law enforcement that feeds it is severely lacking within our current societal ethos.

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2 thoughts on “The Disproportional Punishments of American Incarceration

  1. Pingback: Recidivism and Misleading Statistics, The Traumatizing Reality of the Justice System | The New Federalist

  2. Pingback: Parole, Recidivism, and Extension of Trauma | The New Federalist

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