Commentary by Gabriel I. Pittman
The following letter/commentary was written as a critique, and in response, to the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) and Eugene Puryear’s recent book, Shackled and Chained. This correspondence may offer an alternative perspective of the “real” rationale enlivening the federal government’s recent repudiation of mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. Also suggested is a unique, legal alternative to combat the system of mass incarceration.
Solidarity in PEACE and RIGHTEOUSNESS! My name is Gabriel and I’m writing to extend my sheer appreciation for the literary jewel you’ve blessed the masses with in Mr. Eugene Puryear’s Shackled and Chained: “Mass Incarceration in Capitalist America”. This work was shared with me by the ever-faithful REVOLUTIONARY lions, Brothas Phil and Delbert Africa of MOVE, both of whom I have had the privilege and honor to converse and build with virtually every day for the past eight years since being transferred to SCI-Dallas, PA. During this span of time I’ve gained more in/SIGHT into mySELF, my fellow-WO/MAN and this world we all share than in the previous thirty years of my prior life. While I dare not proclaim to be a political prisoner in the vein of the MOVE 9, Brotha Mumia and myriad brothas and sistas encaged for their vehement, unceasing struggle for true LIBERATION and FREEDOM for all people, Brothas Phil and Delbert have shown me how I am, in fact, a prisoner of politics and therefore the struggle is one-in-the-same. I sincerely embrace this CALL-TO¬ACTION in all I may be able to do for FREEDOM for all oppressed people as well as for my own personal FREEDOM and LIBERTY from the physical confines of this prison. In support of and on behalf of Delbert and Phil, MOVE and the MOVE 9 (May Sista Merle Africa’s LIGHT shine on!) we say ON-A-MOVE!
Now, to Mr. Puryear’s book. Please allow me to offer a succinct critique, as well as a detailed elaboration on points-¬to-ponder which were generated from my personal view from my reading and understanding of it.
1. DESTROY . . . Given the analogous topic of Shackled and Chained and The New Jim Crow (Mass Incarceration), what was the purpose in drawing a distinction between the underlying principles which animate both works, i.e., “capitalism” vs. “racism” respectively? I personally feel that pages 45-47 of Shackled were completely unnecessary and bordering on being deleterious to the entire work as one could instantly surmise an air of an “as opposed to” instead of an “in supplement to” comparison between the two books. Both propositions presented in both books are 99% right and 99% correct.
Given the steep-uphill battle we already face, must we make the fight harder by giving off even an “appearance” that we are utilizing the opposition’s deadliest weapon — D-I-V-I-D¬E and CONQUER — against our own selves? Or even more detrimental, give off an “appearance” that we strive to distinguish our like-works for the purpose of “maximum profit” just as capitalists do when peddling their products to the people, thereby potentially diminishing the credibility of the message presented by PSL and Mr. Puryear? TRUTH speaks for itself. Why refute it in any manner?
2. BUILD…Once I got past Critique #1 (and believe me, it was hard to do!) I continued turning the pages of Shackled and found Mr. Puryear’s facts irrefutable and undeniable. Just as with The New Jim Crow, Numbers Never Lie. And neither does history when it’s rightly and honestly divided. Continue to let TRUTH speak for itself and let us all use TRUTH to empower us and our cause so that history isn’t repeated and mass incarceration can be permanently dismantled.
Given the parallel between the economic crisis of the 70’s (which, as explained in the Economic and Ideological Restructuring section at page 78, provided the “material basis” for policies of mass incarceration) and today’s economic crisis, is it possible that capitalists:
1. Know they have perfected the model of mass incarceration to boost their profits;
2. Know the model of mass incarceration has the same boom/bust cycle inherent to all economic models–
3. Know that, boom or bust, they can un-righteously turn only so many poor people into human chattel before poor people have had enough (Civil Rights Movement, “Occupy”, Egypt, Syria, etc…);
4. Know that given the undeniable TRUTHS revealed by the likes of Mrs. Alexander, Mr. Puryear and others, poor people in and/or outside of these prisons are being awakened to their true plight as human chattel in the capitalists’ model of mass incarceration;
5. Know that it’s time to release some of this building pressure and resistance, and have given politicians the green light to offer “carrots” such as relaxing mandatory minimum sentencing schemes under President Obama’s administration, thereby sending the same “victims of the phenomena” which support policies of mass incarceration back to the same oppressive environments from whence we come and;
6. Know that, as recently reported on CNN, the costs of drugs are at their lowest levels, and the purity of drugs are at their highest levels in years. Coupled with the fact that the masses are at their most depressed emotional state in generations and, as history shows, the masses will seek an “escape” from this depression through the use of drugs, could capitalists have already projected into the future and stealthily divined that the temptation for “maximum profit” in the underground economy of the illicit drug trade will be irresistible to those who wish to find economic stability by any means necessary and/or once again chase street-dreams, and;
7. Know that the beneficiaries of today’s supposed “leniency” will inevitably be the benefactors (once again as human chattel) to tomorrow’s redesigned and repackaged “Alternatives to Mass Incarceration,” as expounded upon on pages 121-29 of Shackled?
It appears either way, whether through physical or virtual mass incarceration, the capitalists will win. Having perfected the fear of “the other” ideologies which support the system of mass incarceration, their cognizance of history’s ever-repeating patterns always advances them ten steps ahead of the “game”. The crisis of today is no different from that of the 60’s-80’s, and as soon as the economic forecast improves they know it’s guaranteed that the gullibility and/or naiveté of the masses, who continue to pit themselves one against “the other” and blame “the other” for any problems suffered in any context or aspect of life, will cause the masses to once again cry out for the reinstituting of unfair policies such as mandatory minimums, three strikes, etc. And as history shows, the black bourgeois-class will be the first to fall right in line with — if not tow the line for — the white-ruling/upper/bourgeois/lower-classes, crying out even louder for the reinstituting of said policies. Ironically, regardless of the fact that the current relaxing of unfair laws is only being done to protect capitalists’ future interests, black and brown people (Obama/Holder) will get the blame for relaxing these unfair laws and black and brown people will be the first ones re-encaged,-‘re-Shackled and re-Chained by the NEW New Jim Crow. All that glitters isn’t gold, so buyer beware!
This is not said with intentions to sow seeds of division. It’s said to state the facts. It’s said to sow SEEDS OF WISDOM because until we accept the fact that mass incarceration is originally premised upon racial lines, a tried-and-true potential antidote to this disease will continue to evade us even though it lies right before our eyes from the not-so distant past.
Just as the western-world coalesced to rebuild Europe after the second world war utilizing the Marshall Plan, we too, need to come together to formulate our own “Marshall Plan” in the likes of Mr. Nathan Gold, Charles Houston and, ultimately, Thurgood Marshall and attack mass incarceration as a Civil Rights violation. We have the facts, numbers and data (all from the government’s own statistics!)to support a claim of deprivation of “equal protection” and the arbitrary deprivation of our life, liberty and property-interests without DUE PROCESS OF LAW now that the government admits that these policies are inherently unequal, i.e., un-CONSTITUTIONAL on local, state and federal levels. We have the civil rights lawyers, activists, sociologists, psychologists and plaintiffs (prisoners and their families directly suffering from policies of mass incarceration) at our disposal. As in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Mr. Marshall would be chomping at the bit to challenge this current injustice. Instead of researching statistics, writing books and preaching to the choir, why have we not yet focused, with laser-like precision, our intellectual, academic, social, cultural, economic, political and REVOLUTIONARY energies upon this tried-and-true solution?
Furthermore, in utilizing the judicial/civil/criminal system against itself, we could target specific geographical areas with the most egregious and blatant violations of our civil rights and attack with the criminal equivalent of a civil rights action, 18 U.S.C. § 242, which states:
“Whoever, under the color of any, law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any inhabitant of any State, Territory, or District to the deprivations of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties on account of such inhabitant being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than one year or both; and if death results shall be subject to imprisonment for any term of years or for life. (Emphasis added).
Given the empirical statistics and evidence readily available, this means every:
1. local, state and-federal legislator who promulgates discriminatory legislation, on a racial basis, under the “dis”-guise of “law-and-order”;
2. police/law enforcement officer who discriminates, based upon race, when deciding who will or will not be initiated into the criminal process;
3. prosecutor who discriminates, based upon race, when deciding who will and will not be subjected to criminal prosecution;
4. trial lawyer who is complicit and conspires with the prosecutor to coerce a defendant, who has already been thrice-discriminated against, to accept the terms of a plea bargain, as is done in 95% of criminal cases and;
5. judge who has, and continues to sentence four-times¬-discriminated-against-defendants to mandatory schemes, whether 100:1 or 18:1 for drug offenses that differ only in physical composition (cocaine v. crack/powder v. rock), or sentence black and brown defendants to 20% more time of incarceration than their white counter-parts for similar crimes, and who hold such discriminatory laws and statutes as constitutional should be held criminally liable. As the Constitution still holds First Nation, black and brown people to be three-fifths of a person, under the color of law and statute we are willfully subjected to deprivations of rights (EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW, PROCEDURAL DUE PROCESS, ETC.) and privileges (HABEAS CORPUS) secured by the Constitution. Clearly, we suffer different punishments, pains, and penalties as “aliens”, black, brown, African and First Nation People as opposed to the white citizenry of America. If TRUTH hurts, one should find solace in the fact that TRUTH also heals.
Strategically targeted, just as the NRA and Tea Party factions do, we can use the system to cure the sickness endemic in the system without having to take on the entire nation. Given the potential fines and/or imprisonment (and we’re looking at decades of wrongful actions which have caused suffering and death), the system could possibly begin to self-correct and contribute to the quickening of mass incarceration’s demise.
One last battlefront which cannot be excluded is to wage a direct civil and criminal action against President Clinton and Congress for promulgating the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) which, in effect, has done nothing but effectively suspended the Great Writ of Habeas Corpus and implicitly labeled us all as terrorists worthy of death without any effective remedy or procedural due process to overcome the now-admitted arbitrary, capricious, unfair and unconstitutional criminal proceedings which have entrapped us. Many of us have had our “One Bite At The Apple”. Now it’s time to take the rotten “fruit of the poisonous tree” and shove it down their throats and let them experience what it tastes like and feel its effect.
I will conclude by saying Shackled and Chained is the perfect complement and supplement to The New Jim Crow, and vice-versa. Any philosophical differences and ideological tensions inherent to the fields of intelligentsia, academia and politics must be sacrificed for the greater cause which is the death of the New Jim Crow, the permanent disintegration of both physical and mental Shackles and Chains and the LIBERATION of all people from this diabolical system of mass incarceration. Lest we choose to snipe each other to death with friendly-fire in what Mr. Jacob Carruthers termed “Intellectual Warfare” and history continues to repeat itself, it’s time that the writing of books ceases and concrete actions which can be implemented immediately commence before the strengthening flow of acknowledgment of the inherently unlawful and un-RIGHTEOUS nature of this system of mass incarceration becomes a weakening ebb. There are REAL men, women and children — not mere statistics — literally and figuratively, physically and mentally dying every day in these modern-day torture chambers. Excuse my ignorance if the foregoing proposed solutions are already being pondered and put into action. My access to information is severely limited, but I noticed these potential solutions were not considered in either book nor in any literature on this pressing subject. Hence, the missing 1% which would make both works 100% correct as stated in Critique #1. For the enhancement of my personal knowledge, wisdom and understanding from reading your book, I say THANK YOU and close this correspondence as I opened . . . .