This is an archive of the former website of the Maoist Internationalist Movement, which was run by the now defunct Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika. The MIM now consists of many independent cells, many of which have their own indendendent organs both online and off. MIM(Prisons) serves these documents as a service to and reference for the anti-imperialist movement worldwide.
DC-RAIL ends prison transfer petition drive, turns to education

DC-RAIL ends prison transfer petition drive, turns to education
Private prison drive comes to D.C. in the name of "the family"

MIM Notes 171, October 1, 1998

With more than 600 signatures collected, DC-RAIL has concluded its petition drive to oppose the transfer of D.C. prisoners. Judging from the very positive response, we think most people agree that the policy of transferring prisoners to distant prisons is cruel and runs counter to the supposed goals of rehabilitation because it cuts people off from their families and other sources of community support on the outside.

The reason we are stopping the petition drive now is that the argument for keeping prisoners close to their families and communities, which DC-RAIL helped to popularize in the city, is now being used to justify building a big new private prison in Southeast D.C., to be run by the Corrections Corporation of Ameri[k]a, the same company that runs the Youngstown Ohio prison where several D.C. prisoners died, and where guards routinely use mace and electric shocks to control and torture prisoners.

Supporters of the CCA prison include City Council member Jack Evans, a white candidate for mayor, who got $7,000 in campaign contributions from CCA officials and their law firm this year. Evans has used the close-to-the-family argument to justify the private prison, which is probably going to get final approval this fall, as CCA beats out Wackenhut for the deal.(1)

A lot of politicians are on the close-to-the- family bandwagon. Mayor Marion Barry recently took credit for a deal to send more than a thousand prisoners further into Virginia on the argument that it was closer than Ohio, "so the families of these inmates will be able to visit them in a relatively short period of time," a three-hour drive.(2) The point of this deal is to help out Virginia, which went on a poorly-planned prison building binge for hundreds of millions of dollars, and now has empty cells because "crime" and arrest rates are lower. Shipping prisoners down to Sussex, Va. will also hasten the day when D.C.'s old Lorton prison can be closed and the prisoners moved into the new CCA prison to be built.

DC-RAIL doesn't regret the work we did to help build opposition to the prison transfers, because that was part of the task of building public opinion against the injustice system in general, and the D.C. machinations in particular. But we don't want to become advocates for the expansion of the private prison industry, and the ever-closer bonds between the repressive state and capital which are on the cutting edge of the growing fascist trend in Amerika. In fact, we struggled with some people on the street over this, when they responded to our petition by saying they wanted a new prison built in D.C.

Now instead, DC-RAIL is developing a new petition drive to build public opinion for free, voluntary, and complete access to all levels of education for prisoners in the Washington, D.C. area, including access to outside college and university programs and uncensored access to all reading materials inside prisons. We will also call on regional schools, colleges, and universities -- including teachers themselves -- to cooperate in providing educational support for prisoners.

With the number of prisoners in this country at more than 1.7 million and growing, governments are cutting back on education programs for prisoners, including prisoners in the Washington, D.C. area. The injustice system already unfairly imprisons those with less education, especially members of the Black, Latino, and First Nations. Now they are making it even harder on prisoners, and eliminating one of the last "rehabilitation" aspects of the system.

In a just society, all prisoners would be engaged in some sort of education and reform program � because the society would want to solve the problems that led people to commit crimes against other people. On the other hand, in a just society the prisoners would not be filled with people from oppressed nations and the relatively poor and uneducated groups in society, imprisoned for property and drug crimes � while the worst criminals, like the people who bomb medicine factories in Africa, wield state power and ride around in limos all the time. We can tell a lot about a society from looking at its prisons.

In 1995, just 23% of state and federal prisoners were enrolled in some type of education program, even though a majority of prisons say they offer some type of program.(4) Only about half of all prisoners in 1991 had ever gotten any academic education during their time in prison.(6)

But education programs are being cut across the country. From 1990 to 1995, while the number of all state and federal prison employees increased 31%, along with the number of prisoners, the number of education employees increased less than 1%. As a result, educational employees fell from just 4.2% of prison employees in 1990 to an even lower 3.2% in 1995. In 1995, there were 4 prisoners per guard in state prisons, but 93 prisoners for every educational employee. Federal prisons were a little better, with 8 prisoners per guard and 70 prisoners per educator. Now, we're not champions of any one group of prison employees, but in general we think a prison system is better with more educators and fewer guards, so this is just evidence that things are getting worse, not better.(4)

About 25% of the adult population in the country has completed college(5), compared to only 2% of state prisoners; 82% of all adults have finished high school, compared to 59% of state prisoners. (Federal prisoners have higher average education levels because the federal system pursues more white-collar types.) In the year before their arrest, one-third of state prisoners were not employed, and more than half had incomes less than $10,000 per year.(6)

It's not news that the relatively poor are over-represented in the injustice system. The point here is that the state takes people who have lower education and lower income, and then imprisons them in a way that reduces rather than increases their chances of success when they get out. This isn't just devastating for the prisoners. There are also about 900,000 children whose parents are in state and federal prisons, children more likely to end up in poverty and prison themselves as a result of the oppression of their parents. Further, in 1991, 750,000 prisoners had immediate family members in prison also.(6) The injustice system thus simply increases inequality and oppression, for prisoners, their families, and their whole communities and nations.

DC-RAIL's new education campaign supports MIM and RAIL's books-for-prisoners program, which is constantly being confronted with reactionary censorship policies that deny prisoners access to political reading material. We are doing all we can to build the books program, including sending any prisoner MIM Notes subscriptions for free, but we can't offer complete education to so many prisoners. If prisoners can have access to education programs on the outside, it will give them the chance to develop their political education, too. We don't expect prisons to provide revolutionary educational opportunities, but by building public opinion for expanded education access, we hope to increase the chances that prisoners can get ahold of more of the resources they need to build the revolutionary movement.

1. The Common Denominator, 10 Aug. 1998, p. 1.
2. Washington, August 27, 1998. p. D4.
4. Census of State and Federal Correctional Facilities, 1995. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), U.S. Department of Justice, NCJ#-164266. This and other reports can be had for free from the BJS Clearinghouse, 800-732-3277, or
5. U.S. Census Bureau, 29 June 1998.
6. Comparing State and Federal Inmates, 1991. Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. NCJ#-145864.

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