Rising incarceration rates of women and the destruction of family and community in Amerika

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[Gender] [Michigan] [ULK Issue 6]
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Rising incarceration rates of women and the destruction of family and community in Amerika

In the midst of Amerika's soaring prison and jail population, quite possibly the country's only real growth industry, what is often overlooked is the destruction it is wreaking on family and community. For all their polemics about "family values," no Republican or Democratic presidential candidate bothered to address, or even "spin" the subject on any level. This alone should be enough to alert any person of good conscience to the fact that something is afoot and to the distinct probability that these acts of omissions add up to a purposed agenda of the state and the powers it represents.

As of June 30, 2006, there were 2,245,189 persons incarcerated in the united $tates. That is 1 out of every 133 Amerikans and the highest per capita incarceration rates in history. This is a 2.8% increase over the previous year, and this rising incarceration rate has been rapidly accelerating since the 1960s. This trend is accompanied by an increasing racial disparity, with 4.8% of all Black men, 1.8% of all Hispanic men, and .7% of all white men in the united $tates incarcerated. Most alarming, however, is the 4.8% increase in the incarceration rate of women, as compared to 2.7% for men, for a total of 111,403 in prison as of June 30, 2006, with Black women incarcerated at nearly 4 times the rate of white women and more than twice the rate of Hispanic women. (See Bureau of Justice Statistics, [ul]Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2006[/ul], NCJ217675 (June 2007)).

Moreover, the Washington DC-based Public Safety Performance Project (PSPP) statistically analyzed prison population trends in all 50 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons and projected the total prison population, not including jail, will increase by 192,023 to 1.7 million between 2007 and 2011. That's three times the growth of the u$ population and an overall increase of 13%, comprised of 12% for men and 16% for women. (See PSPP, [ul]Public Safety, Public Spending, Forecasting Amerika's Prison Population 2007-2011[/ul]).

As shown by these statistics and projections, '07 through '11 are going to be lucky years for the prison industry but not for the persons included in and affected by them, particularly, women and their families. To argue that these numbers point to some accidental anomaly would strain the bonds of credulity past the breaking point, as they represent nothing less than the achieved goal of state repression of so-called minority communities in Amerika, with said goal encompassing the destruction of family as well. "Minorities" first, then everyone else.

These statistics serve to reveal and confirm the long-term pattern of intentional destruction of community and family in the ghettos and barrios of Amerika that already struggle for existence under a virtual police siege and occupation. The state has come to recognize that, with most of the men incarcerated, the women, our mothers and daughters, are still carrying on - the glue holding family and community together - so it has set about to eliminate them via incarceration. The final stage in the planned destruction of women's continued ability to resist the state's destruction of their families and communities.

This plan includes redlining by insurance companies and a direct attack on home ownership by refusing to offer reasonable mortgages in "minority" communities and, instead, offering subprime and adjustable rate mortgages, with women much more likely to be saddled with a bad mortgage than men, a good credit rating not withstanding. Further, with only starvation-wage employment available to them, many of these women are forced to subsist on welfare. The December 1, 2007, New York Times reported that almost half the states refuse to pass on the money collected for child support to the families on welfare, with most of the remaining states only passing along $50 per month, in spite of studies done of a Wisconsin experiment that showed "when support payments were fully passed along to mothers, more fathers came forward and paid...and were more likely to establish lasting patterns of payment and connection with their children." Of course, incarcerated parents are usually unable to pay any child support.

Families have little chance to survive intact with the men locked-up and the women financially hamstrung. However, chance has been removed from the equation by the state-administered death blow of locking up women wholesale for minor drug and property crimes. Imagine, if you can, that you are an oppressed nation woman trying to survive and hold a family together in the face of this flagrant state repression. Pretty scary, yes? And even scarier if you are one of the 12 million immigrants trying to do so. Patriarchy and white privilege uber alles! The state keeps its foot on our necks by using the age-old tactic of divide and conquer. Divide the community, then divide the family and all that is left are isolated individuals whose existence is completely state-mediated.

With family and community in the advanced stages of disintegration, all that remains are the children - alienated and utterly deprived of meaningful family and community upbringing. Children with fathers, and now mothers, in jail or prison. Children driven into foster "homes," juvenile detention facilities and even adult jails and prisons. Children rendered functionally illiterate by an educational system that is steadily being pried from the hands of our communities and handed over to state control. Children born and bred in a world where the driving premise is everyone for themselves and devil take the hindmost. Children artfully molded to "be all they can be," which sadly amounts to the brainwashed cannon-fodder of the Amerikan imperialist dream-death machine.

MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is right that imprisonment of men is a direct blow to families, particularly oppressed nation families, and that the incarceration of increasing numbers of wimmin means increasing devastation to families. It is true that the imprisonment rate of wimmin is rising faster than that for men, but in absolute numbers there are still far more men locked up every year and prisons are still primarily used to target oppressed nation men within U.$. borders. Also of note, for the first time since the penitentiary replaced the poor houses over a century ago, we are seeing whole families locked up in detention centers along the border with Mexico. Migrant men, wimmin and even children are probably the fastest growing group in u$ prisons.

There are issues specifically relevant to wimmin prisoners, most obvious is placement of children in foster systems because wimmin are typically the primary caregivers for children. While men may be able to rely on their wives to care for their children when they are locked up, and single men are unlikely to have custody of children, the reverse is not true for wimmin. But the loss of connection to their families and particular children has devastating effects on men and their children as well.

Groups and individuals who claim to value family and community should be working with us to stop the growth of prisons in Amerika and set up programs for family contact where they do exist. These attacks on families are some of the reasons we can still talk about oppressed nations existing within u$ borders. As long as these conditions exist there will be groups of people whose existence demands the end to imperialism and white power in this country.

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