October is the Month of Resistance. Resistance against police brutality, mass incarceration, and discrimination.
Two days ago, on Bruin Walk I saw someone sitting in this cell. I went over and listened to one of the men tell his story of what it was like being in prison and being in solitary confinement. His story was horrific. He was excessively pepper sprayed, had a chain around his waists with his hands cuffed to them, was not allowed to shower or brush his teeth for three days, was under constant surveillance, and had to use the bathroom and defecate three times in front of the guards, all because they suspected, for no real reason, that he might have swallowed a weapon, a note, or something he should not have. If he needed water but one of the guards was having a bad day, he wouldn’t get water. When he was drenched in pepper spray, burning up asking to be able to wash it off, he wasn’t allowed to. This is unacceptable.
Yesterday, when they needed someone to take one of the demonstration shifts and asked me, I completely agreed.
I sat in the cell for an hour in silence, staring at the ground. This experience did not in any way show me how it might feel in solitary confinement. It didn’t make understand anything about what it’s like. I sat in a cell knowing I would get out in an hour and that if for some reason it was necessary, I could leave anytime before then. The reason I sat in this cell for an hour was not to try to claim some deeper understanding or enlightenment, it was to attract more attention to the cause. This demonstration was to get people listening to what is occurring in our prisons. This demonstration was to get people angry with our current unjust systems. This demonstration was to get others involved and show them how they can make their voices heard.
The brutality and inhumane treatment that occurs in our prisons cannot be ignored. Some prisoners are sent to solitary confinement for 6+ years. They are in a cell about the size of the cell I’m sitting in, only about a foot or two wider. They do not have contact with any other people. Two of the men stated that they saw the sun about 5 times in the 6 or 7 years they were in solitary confinement. And the cell that people are forced into have no bars. This was just used as part of the demonstration so people could look inside. The actual cells are completely sealed with one very small window. This is torture.
The California prison system is so corrupt that in 2011 the Supreme Court found it guilty of violating the Eighth Amendment: cruel and unusual punishment. Not much has changed since that ruling. Furthermore, the United States accounts for 5% of the worlds population yet holds 25% of the worlds prison population.
Now lets look at more percentages. As of 2008, 58% of the prison population was African American or Latin@ even though we constitute about one fourth of the population in the US. Latin@ youth are four times more likely than white youth to receive an adult prison sentence. African-American youth are nine times more likely. Blacks and whites smoke pot at around the same rate, yet blacks are four times more likely to be arrested.
As we known from history class, in general, the southern states were the ones to cling on to slavery. Based off of this, which states do you think have the highest rates of incarceration in the US?
So I guess the southern states are still clinging on to slavery (which is not to say that all the other states are not as well. Just not at quite the rate of most of the southern states).
And now you’re probably thinking, “are you comparing the US prisons to slavery?” Yes I am. And the 13th Amendment is further proof of this. It explicitly states that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Well there you have it. Right in our constitution. Currently, our prisons are not rehabilitating as they claim to do. No. Currently, our prisons are just a legal form of slavery.
So I’m throwing all this information at you and hopefully you’re wondering what you can do or how you can get involved. Well to begin with we need to make our voices heard. We need to make a statement. We need to be on the streets October 22 for the National Day of Resistance. In Los Angeles it will be at Olympic and Broadway starting at 2pm. Hopefully all of you can come out and let it be known that you will NOT tolerate mass incarceration. You will NOT tolerate discrimination. And you will NOT tolerate police brutality.
If you have any comments, questions, or concerns just send me a message.