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Old 09-01-2003, 10:27 PM
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Default Militarism and Prisons: Drugs to Iraq Involvement


In 1961, Dwight Eisenhower warned against the “unwarranted influence” waged by the “military industrial complex” - a powerful partnership between the military establishment and the arms industry. Since then, the U.S. has been home to the biggest prison building boom in history. The War on Drugs has targeted poor communities, especially African Americans and Latinos, with aggressive policing and punitive prison terms. Today over two million people are behind bars, around 2/3 of them people of color. 1 in 3 young black men are under criminal justice supervision. Billions of tax dollars have been diverted from schools, welfare and healthcare in order to pay for the new prisons.

Today we are witnessing the consolidation of a powerful military-security-prison industrial complex that is driving an agenda of policing and aggression at home and abroad.

In the wake of September 11, 2001, fear of terrorism has been exploited to advance Bush’s social and economic agenda. Prisons have become the primary tool of the domestic War on Terrorism, just as the Military is being used to promote U.S. oil and political interests overseas. Prisons and the Military are deeply connected. If we are to undo the U.S. culture of militarism, we must also attack our politicians’ profitable relationship with prisons.

The Connections:

Prisons and jails have historically been used to undermine peace activism. During times of war, peace activists and conscientious objectors have been labeled criminals and imprisoned.

During peacetime, “tough-on-crime” political rhetoric and the death penalty fuel a culture of retribution and violence. This reinforces public support for the use of military force as a response to perceived foreign threats.

Both tough-on-crime and pro-war rhetoric are used by politicians to win elections. As a result, few politicians are brave enough to take a principled stand against military spending or prison expansion.

Prisons and the Military both drain billions of tax dollars that could be used to fund education, hospitals, welfare and social services. Lobbying and campaign donations by private prison and arms corporations ensure political allies for the arms/ prison build-up.

Prisons and the Military both target poor communities of color – African Americans make up 12% of the population, but around 50% of prisoners and 30% of Army enlistees.

At the end of the Cold War, the arms industry redirected its marketing strategies to appeal to the growing prison industry. Today military equipment, such as surveillance technology and stun guns, is regularly used in U.S. prisons, consolidating the military-security-prison industrial complex.

Both arms and prisons are viewed as “recession-proof” industries. During the 1990s, rural communities that had depended on the Cold War arms industry saw prisons as an alternative form of economic development, giving land and financial incentives to private corporations to attract prison construction.

The metaphor of war has become commonplace in the politics of crime control, from the War on Crime to the War on Drugs. Law enforcement agencies are influenced by this rhetoric. CCPOA, the California prison guards union, refers to prisoners and opponents of prison construction as “enemies”.

Retired military personnel are encouraged to go into the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which provides credit for military training and experience. This leads to a rigid, hierarchical and aggressive prison culture in which prisoners are dehumanized and human rights violations are commonplace.

Low-intensity warfare, a method developed by the Pentagon for military intervention in Latin America, is increasingly being used by police and border patrol agents to target and control immigrants and urban communities of color.

While the LGBT movement has made gains in other areas, Prisons and the Military retain homophobia as an official policy. Military personnel are dismissed for being lesbian or gay, and prisoners can be disciplined, and even put in “the hole” for “homosecting” – engaging in same sex intimacy.

Prisons and War both promote a culture of misogyny and violence against women. Rape is used as a weapon against the “enemy” by military personnel, and as a tool of social control and domination by prison guards. Amnesty International documented widespread sexual abuse in U.S. women’s prisons.

Since the start of the War on Terrorism, hundreds of Arab Americans and immigrants have been rounded up and “disappeared” into the prison system, often with no access to legal advice. The INS is pursuing thousands of legal immigrants who have a prior conviction for a “deportable offense” including minor, nonviolent offenses. If apprehended, they will be jailed and deported.

Critical Resistance
1904 Franklin St., Ste. 504 - Oakland, CA 94612
crnational@criticalresistance.org - www.criticalresistance.org

Flyer by The Education Not Incarceration campaign, a project of the Arizona Prison Moratorium Coalition, a group of community members, students and faculty working to change the state's budget priorities and halt the prison building boom.
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