Let me radically aver: No one is in prison because of what they did, rather they are there because of who they are. Fundamentally re-visioning contemporary juridical and disciplinary practices will elucidate the moral, ethical and social hypocrisy of state power. Structural power based on complex, historical-material techniques of control augment acts of criminality into acceptable, laudable and punishable. The extreme sentencing powers given to judges, often compelling them via mandatory minimum sentences, in the US and UK, needs explicating in order to examine racist, classist and sociohistorically living mythologies which enable these oppressive practices. These living, or real, mythologies (nearly all created within the last 200 years) involve deep, often unconscious, bourgeois and petit bourgeois suspicions of the poor, people of colour, and immigrants. Developing conceptually offensive criminalities through the dialectic of Benthamite utilitarianism and Judaeo-Christian redemption/penance, the penitentiary is the hidden nexus of care/punishment. Medicalisation of prisoners, tracking them via ‘suicide watches,’ and other ‘caring’ mechanisms couple with enforced segregation, mark the prisoner homo nihilis. The prisoner looses his body. Advanced biopolitical practices create, mark, contour and manipulate prisoner subjectivities.
My number was A0915DV. I am marked. I write as a marked subject, a post-prison philosopher, ready to humbly mark out. Aiming to abolish the prison-industrial complex, I am compelled by the numerous men I met ‘inside’ to bring their anguish outside. Anguish can crush when turned inward (all too common on the inside); ergo, my journey is, at its core, political. Returning to the premise at the beginning, some will be argue that I am excusing acts of violence, fraud, etc. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am attempting to demonstrate the hypocrisy of a sociojuridical system that imprisons Black men for over a decade in the US for drug charges (without evidence and based on hearsay — see: conspiracy to supply, etc.) whilst allowing Christine LaGuard of the International Monetary Fund to escape with a one-year suspended sentence for “financial negligence” involving fraud to the sum of €400 million (Source). Whilst burglars are given 4 to 7 year sentences in the UK, others longer, Global Research reports “Bank of America and Wells Fargo will pay zero, yes ZERO in federal taxes for 2009. Bank of America will net a $3.6 BILLION benefit from the federal government in 2009. Wells Fargo, after $8 BILLION in earnings for 2009, will net $4 BILLION from the federal government … John Stumpf’s company is paying ZERO in taxes so that he can personally swipe another $21.3 million of tax payer funds. Al Capone is a dime store thief compared to this guy!“
Criminality is contingent, contextual, conditional and determined by who you are within the economic and political structure. War creating death and destruction on a genocidal level (as with US intervention in Iraq, Libya, Sudan [bombing the only pharmacy manufacturer in the nation], etc.) is often rewarded under the aegis of patriotism, internationalism and other rationalisations the elite relay on. Tony Blair, George Bush (I and II), Reagan, Clinton (See Chomsky, A New Generation Draws the Line — Indonesia, Turkey, Colombia) have killed en masse, pillaged entire nations to enrich their friends, all under the rubric the highly dubious notion of ‘international stability.’ Yet they will never see a day in prison. Prison is not about what you do, it is about who you are.
Michel Foucault, a key theorist in this work, analysed this class based necessity of juridical power in his seminal book Discipline and Punish, additionally he examined the intended effects of all-seeing state monitoring in generating the (new) soul of the repentant ‘offender.’ Julia Kristeva, another central figure in my work, avers the abject as both the ‘excess’ which is feared by the subject and also connected to the same matrices as the sublime, compelling a desire for it. Let me aver that the figure of the prisoner on the ground of hegemonic statist capitalism is the abject sublime. Feared and envied, consciously or otherwise, the prisoner is an ongoing obsession of Utilitarian Utopia; a post-mechanised, digitalised dataveillance congregates around the prison-as-nucleus; the way that excess/effluent ‘criminals’ are then held (retained) has far-reaching psychoanalytical possibilities. Foucault’s research revealed a spiritual, medical, psychological, genetic and sociological obsession inherent in the fields of criminology, psychiatry, penology and what I would call post-pedagogical instrumentalisation. This includes current tropes revolving around ‘skilling up’ prisoners for employment. Employment is bandied around administrative and educational nodes of the prison system as a means to end recidivism, yet globally the fundamentals of large-scale economic expropriation carried out by corporate barons remains unaddressed. As long as massive amounts of wealth, resource and power are concentrated, ’employment’ will remain an insufficient balm. Furthermore, through post-pedagogical instrumentalisation the prisoner is taught, in daily interaction, to obediently submit to the will of the guard-figure, to fit into the Symbolic register of the ‘Name/No of the Father’ (Jacques Lacan). All are a clear attempt to induce hypersensitivity to discipline, a much needed attribute in the low-wage employment sectors many prisoners face after release. Critical reasoning is not, of course, encouraged, and during my time inside a British prison, my attempt to teach critical thinking resulted in accusations of radicalisation and strike-organising; these comments were made not by guards but rather within the so-called education department and by a representative of the Prisoner Education Trust. Ultimately, the prison-industrial complex and those in its employ, even the most ‘liberal’, cannot truly desire its abolition, let alone advocate for the overthrow of the very hypocritical micro and macro practices which act as its social rubric. Therefore, I ask nothing from it or them, I cannot countenance ‘reform’ within a structure so inherently unethical. Slavery required abolition, and so does mass global incarceration. Prisoners of the world unite, you have only your cells to lose.