Having been incarcerated in a dozen different federal prisons (BOP) over the past 20+yrs (1990-2010), I’ve had a good number of interesting experiences…and cellmates.
When I was first locked up, the federal prison population had some 56,000 souls. Be the end of that enforced sabbatical the number had quadrupled to over 200,000.
If one counts the entire gulag in the US homeland, the mass is currently over 2.4 million; a total of 7.5+ million under control of the criminal justice system.
When people examine the lifetime incarceration rate in America, they find that it’s 6% for white males and a staggering 32% for blacks, and still growing.
Another significant aspect of this sociological reality is that the American Gulag is a vast international melting pot. The BOP contains a non-US citizen population at 27%.
The US federal prison system is one of the most effective means that America uses—other than the military, middle-class tourism and business contractors–in teaching the rest of the world who and what we are. Is that what we really want to do?
And I’m not referring to the classic image of lumpen low-lifes. Most of the international “criminals” I met in federal prison were relatively respected members of their communities: Ship’s captains, airline pilots, political figures, military officers, businessmen (w/out official US portfolio), doctors, lawyers, students and others.
I was impressed with a list so significant and extensive that I foresee a growing international caste of figures that have been well-schooled in the real America. I suspect that the corporate empire will come to regret that factor.
F*** all their “ideal” propaganda bullshit. Personally, I doubt there’s a nation left on Earth that doesn’t have an exclusive club of American gulag graduates. Who do you think is going to rule those societies tomorrow, or at least be significant players?
Among many things I learned included the fact that the BOP brags to communities (where they wish to build new prisons) that its incarcerated population is comprised of only 3% violent offenders. Of course, that means that 97% of the prison populations are NOT violent offenders.
The reality is that the vast majority of inmates are consensual, moral and public order offenders, mostly violators of various drug prohibitions. Another time, another place, they would not even be considered “criminals” at all.
Naturally, when TV and Hollywood depicts prisoners, it suits their dramatic incentive to portray that group as violent predators (and that’s about all the public ever sees thru the corporate media…”if it bleeds, it leads“).
Unfortunately, even many former prisoners popularize that notion for their own “anti-heroic” self-serving purposes. “Look how f***ing bad I am!”
So long as the public has this view, prisoners will remain both as criminals and social victims, and the conservative corporatist elite will be able to use that criminalization as their central means to control the mass population by warehousing and employing surplus labor at low-wage slavery. This also serves to undermine municipal and union employment.
For the corporatist ruling class, it’s simply all about business and profit (“Hey, nothin’ personal!”). Of course the irony is that most of their wealth and the system that provides it is itself a criminal enterprise.
As of 2012 there were 1,226 $billionaires in the world with a total wealth of $4.6 trillion. It’s estimated that another $32 trillion sits in offshore banks creating and circulating nothing. This further undermines production.
No more than 5% of the world monetary system is employed in the creation of goods and services. The rest is basically debt that drives disparity. Over 1.4 billion people as a result live in extreme poverty on less than $1.25/day.
It takes a massive police, military and gulag system to maintain enforcement of this criminal distribution of the world’s wealth. I estimate that 97% of the systemic conflict in the world directly serves corporatist interests at creating and sustaining this reality.
Bringing it down to a more intimate level… Among the variety of cellmates I was honored to know (and a few who definitely should remain incapacitated from the public), included a German native whom I’ll call Hans. I knew a good number of bank robbers, but none as unique as Hans.
As an officer at an American branch of Deutsche Bank, Hans had been in a position to rip off more than $200 million from several major US banks. His failure to “cooperate” (snitch-out others and pay restitution) led to an unprecedented sentence of some 14 years in prison at the time.
(The banks were especially pissed that Hans wouldn’t simply cut a deal. I decline to use his real name because, I’m convinced, he still has most of the toys…and money. Hell, maybe one of these days, I might even take him up on that Caribbean vacation…)
Several of us were sunning at a table in the prison rec field one holiday weekend, including Old Joe, an ancient bank robber with some 30+ known robberies to his credit (privately, many more). As with other famoso figures, talk soon turned to various escapades.
A couple of guys were ribbing Old Joe for getting, at best, a few $thousand on any of his bank heists. (He looks like an ancient Willie Nelson and stands maybe 5’. He might as well notify the FBI when he’s in town to save everyone the trouble of picking him up.)
Joe intimated that his money came from the banks, not retirees and pensioners. Hans, who bears a striking resemblance to the German actor/director Til Schweiger, assured him that the $200 million he looted from Citicorp et al. definitely came from the banks, not persons, and he didn’t have to stick a gun in any poor teller’s face.
In fact, Hans added, that if those banks were honest trustees of public moneys, he would never have been able to loot them in the first place. Like street swindlers and carny cons, there is always the presence of larceny in the heart of the victims to make the scam work…they just didn’t expect it to work against them.
Great cons work in part because the victims believe they’re profiting from some theft. I came to define Hans as a class-conscious corporate hustler.
The American banks believed that they were going to profit significantly from the scam Hans was running. Instead, they got scammed. Of course, ultimately it ALL comes from labor…the actual producers of all wealth.
At one point, Hans showed me a letter he had received from his home bank in Germany advising him that, although negotiations for a routine treaty-transfer to German jurisdiction had broken down (on the American end), he was assured that his position at Deutsche Bank was still available upon release. No doubt…
After all, it’s only business, eh?