When Will The Weed Be Freed?

REEFER SADNESS

With the ongoing legalization of medical marijuana across the country, coupled with a continued effort to secure decriminalization, and even legalization, for recreational use in a handful of states, this year’s 4/20 celebration is widely anticipated to be the largest ever seen. Colorado and Washington successfully enacted laws to tax and regulate the burgeoning recreational application. Meanwhile Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia are enacting laws to make possession of small amounts legal. But the growing trend of recreational legalization by the states exists in a state of legal limbo, perched precariously between the issue of States’ Rights, and the US Constitution’s “Supremacy Clause.” The Supremacy clause states that federal law always takes precedence when state and federal statutes are in conflict, and this is exactly what states like Nebraska and Oklahoma are citing amid their attempts to quash Colorado’s growing recreational pot industry before the US Supreme Court.

The issue of whether individual states have the legal precedent to set their own drug policies as opposed to the apparent higher authority of federal restrictions becomes even more clouded in Washington DC, where voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative to allow the legal possession of up to two ounces within the city, and for residents to grow up to six plants in their homes. In an attempt to block the democratically approved measure, congress continues to work tirelessly to deny Americans their human right to alter their own consciousness and medicate responsibly. Attached within an unrelated Trillion-dollar federal appropriation bill, congress hastily attempted to prohibit the municipality of Washington DC from ever legalizing cannabis; the attached provision would not allow funding to be allocated from the budget to ‘enact’ the legalization referendum that voters passed. In fact, the future of DC’s pot legalization will be determined by the court’s interpretation of that very word: “enact.” However, since the DC pot legalization already took effect by the time this bill was passed, and since the legalization initiative did not set up any regulation or taxation programs, there is literally nothing to “enact.” Nevertheless, congressmen opposed to cannabis legalization are working hard to twist the loopholes within the legalese to retroactively squash the voice of the voters. But if anyone in DC government discuss the details of taxing or regulating the marijuana industry while they’re on the clock at work, they could actually face jail time since such discussions would technically violate the congressional marijuana order.

Adding fuel to the fire is an ongoing protest taking currently place around the clock in Washington DC, where a group of protesters have chained themselves to a 42-foot tall “liberty pole” on the capital mall. The protest, culminating at 4:20 PM on April 20th, was initiated at 4:20 AM on April 15th, tax day, explicitly to call attention to the fact that DC residents are being subjected to what they consider an instance of taxation without representation. That ancient rallying cry from the good old days of the American Revolution is such an important part of the Washington DC identity that the slogan “No Taxation Without Representation” actually appears on DC vehicle license plates. But the liberty pole protesters are eager to point out that despite their cooperation with federal taxes, they do not have voting representatives either in the House nor the Senate. Their heavy invocation of the 4/20 movement in their protest implies that congress’s attempts to snuff the DC pot law is an unfair and uninvited federal overreach into the lives of everyday citizens.

While Colorado and Washington state have introduced, taxed, and regulated cannabis for recreational purposes, Alaska and Oregon are the latest states to be found waiting in the wings. Both states are in the process of passing voter-referendums similar to that of Washington DC allowing citizens to possess and grow cannabis for personal use, but still forbidding its sale and public consumption.

Interestingly, since these laws explicitly allow donations of marijuana – not the sale of it – DC was host last month to the largest weed seed give-away in history. People lined up for blocks for a chance to receive free packets of their very own marijuana seeds given away at a local DC bar and restaurant. Since the sale or purchase of pot or seeds is still illegal in DC, it was the only chance most citizens had to obtain the seeds needed to start their own legal home-based gardens. Because of the immense turnout at the give-away, it is broadly believed that a great deal of the recipients were not actually DC residents, but had come from nearby Virginia and Maryland, where pot is still unequivocally illegal. As an unintended side-effect of congress’s attempted restrictions, DC police were legally forbidden from tracking or even monitoring the recipients of the free weed seed extravaganza in any way.

In a city where DEA and secret service agents are at the center of controversy for multiple drunk-driving and prostitution scandals, congress has unwittingly passed a law that provides a smoke-screen for a burgeoning gray-market of marijuana trade and barter in the greater DC area.


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BRINGING IT HOME

So now that we’re aware of the situation in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia, we turn our attention inward. Where does Montana stand on legal cannabis reform? In Montana, possession a single joint can still land you in jail for six months; possession of two ounces can result in a sentence of up to five years. Montana voters, however, successfully pushed the legalization of medical marijuana in 2004. Despite our intrepid legislators meeting five times since 2004 to discuss this issue, they have continuously failed to enact a workable regulatory system. Then in 2011 the legislature attempted to such down all cannabis businesses with their “repeal in disguise,” alongside coordinated paramilitary raids on marijuana facilities in 13 cities across the state in March of the same year.

Cannabis persecution presents an easy answer for law enforcement officers seeking to make themselves look good to their superiors. Montana chalked up more than 1,500 arrests and citations for marijuana-related offenses in 2012, 95% of which were for possession. At the same time, our law enforcement agencies were unable to solve 91% of all burglaries, including home invasions. Also at the same time, our law enforcement agencies failed to solve more than 85% of all motor vehicle thefts.

Our law enforcement agencies could choose to focus on actual crimes – that is, cases that involve an injured party – but instead arrest thousands of adults for possession of a substance unanimously recognized as being safer than alcohol. They couldn’t close the books on most burglaries, but somehow endeavour to protect us from ourselves, denying our human right to alter our own consciousness – to imbibe a medicine as prolific as it is beautiful – a medicine that is older than human civilization.

Meanwhile, our marijuana DUI law remains in effect. According to the Marijuana Policy Project:

“Montana’s unscientific DUI law remains in effect, which makes it a crime for a driver to have five or more nanograms per milliliter of THC (ng/mL) in his or her bloodstream, whether or not the person is actually impaired. Without a doubt, people should not drive while impaired. However, medical marijuana patients may have that level of THC in their blood long after any impairment has worn off. This law is bad for medical marijuana patients because it does not reflect on their ability to drive safely.”

Why is this collective cultural psychosis allowed to continue? Why do we tell ourselves there’s nothing we can do about this aside from electing the right representative? Why do most Americans continue following stupid orders and unjust laws in the lunacy of the modern American police state? How does America conserve her whimsical assumption that it’s not a drug if it was prescribed by a doctor? How have we allowed the madness of the Nixon administration to reverberate into the present moment? Why do we fear what will happen if our children – God forbid – experience beautiful adventures in consciousness, or live their own lives responsibly? Why must we feel so obligated to protect our children from exhilaration? Why must we protect our children from euphoria? -from growing up? -from being capable of living their lives when they grow up? How does the crazy myth of the gateway theory continue perpetuate? Why do we forever maintain the folly that misery and suffering are not only normal, but desirable? Why must we continue to demonize anything that feels good, embracing all that makes us feel miserable? Why must we prevent our neighbours from benefiting from a world that expresses love and empathy instead of fear and malice? Why does America preserve the mentality that euphoria is, in fact, a negative side effect? How is what you do with your mind any of my business? How is what I do with my mind any of your business? Why do we prolong invasive probation and parole racketeering schemes for the sake of state profits? How can law enforcement possibly justify throwing innocent souls into corrals in the name of protecting communities that they, the enforcers, are completely disconnected from? Why have we begun to label drug offenders as terrorists? Why does it seem that many politicians simply won’t rest until all of our sons and daughters thoroughly understand the hammer blows of totalitarianism? Why can’t so many citizens acknowledge that breaking stupid laws is why we revere revolutionaries of yesteryear? Why do we collectively exalt those who enforce these stupid laws as benevolent heroes? Why is America building up her police forces into domestic para-military Gestapo armies? What does a police force need a tank for? Why must the accused prove their innocence without any assets to pay for their defense in rigged court rooms? Why does the government commemorate itself as the victim in these victim-less cases that bear no injured party whatsoever? And above all else, why does America seem so hell-bent on preventing the common people from thinking, pondering, or ever even questioning this insanity that we have codified as the established tradition of the ‘sane society?’
PrisonDrugProfitsWe know these policies are absurd. We know these laws are ridiculous. The police know it too. So why is it allowed to continue? Because every year thousands of medical doctors alongside members of the Anti-Smoking Inquisition spend billions of dollars perpetuating what has unquestionably become the most misleading though successful social engineering scam in history. With the encouragement of most western governments, corporate lobbyists pursue smokers with a fanatical zeal that completely overshadows America’s ridiculous alcohol prohibition. 
And much of the mainstream media toes that corporate line, spewing fear-mongering and sensationalism. Not long ago our media was boldly claiming that cannabis use permanently lowered IQ, a finding that marijuana prohibitionists and anti-drug bureaucrats were happy to repeat ad nauseam.

Because drug offenders become labourers in our prisons. Because marijuana reform threatens the monolith of the pharmaceutical industry. Because cannabis legalization threatens the job security of police unions. Because the drug war justifies the inhuman violence that takes place each day in this country. Because the drug war provides the perfect opportunity to rationalize state-sponsored terror.

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GET REAL

As larger and larger waves of Americans awaken from the lies of the D.A.R.E. program, Nancy Regan’s “just say no” campaign, and vociferous slough of absurdest public service announcements intended to justify the continued persecution of individuals who imbibe cannabis, an increasing number of public figures are beginning to realize they’re getting left behind.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the mainstream media’s go-to medical correspondent, was himself ardently opposed to marijuana use until he actually got around to researching it and then changed his tune dramatically, hosting three hour-long documentaries and calling for a “weed revolution.” It’s unclear whether his 180 is a result of actually conducting the research, or if he simply realized that if he didn’t admit to what the rest of the country already knows, no one would take him seriously ever again.

But it is nevertheless profound what happens when we base our decisions on facts and information as apportioned from research, instead of blindly acquiescing to scare tactics, propaganda and lies. Such endeavours seem to have a tendency of leading us toward the truth.

CannablissThis post was composed by Outer Limits gumshoe Myron Gagarin and producer Gabrielle Lafayette
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The Fastest Growing Industry In America

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MANUFACTURING GUILT

The price we all pay when we ignore our truth tellers while often too great to bear, is difficult to measure until it’s too late to matter. But as with many truths, denial is the path of least resistance many of us choose to walk, especially if we internalize the myth of separation that whispers sweet apathetic nothings of complacency in our ears. And what could be easier to deny than a problem we rarely if ever see? Its too easy not to care about our prison population because we have no proximity to them. Unless we ourselves are in prison, we will never be directly confronted with the 2.4 million Americans serving sentences in penitentiaries. America leads the world in few categories, but per capital incarcerated citizens is one of them. There are many reasons for our obsessive incarceration, but the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was able to see the underlying causes nearly five decades ago.

Martin warned us of a triple threat so insidious that it jeopardizes the very fabric of our precious republic. That triple threat was the three-legged monster of racism, poverty and militarism. This triple threat results today in the imprisonment of more black men than were enslaved in 1850 – and it isn’t merely a relative increase with respect to population growth, because the population of our prison population has increased disproportionately to the population of the country. Since 1970, America’s overall population has increased by 55.48%, but America’s prison population has increased by 700% over the same period of time according to the ACLU. America imprisons more people than Communist China!

Most of us are unaware that the rapid Privatization of prisons by companies like the GEO Group or Corrections Corporation of America results in that taxpayers only pay for the cells that don’t have prisoners in them. That’s right – if there are empty beds, taxpayers pay the price, thus turning empty cells into a financial disincentive. But most shockingly, we are grossly unaware of the degree of involuntary servitude our 2.4 million prisoners are subjected to, and even less aware of which corporations benefit from prison slave labor vicariously through subcontractors.

As Chris Hedges wrote in Truthdig:

“Prisons employ and exploit the ideal worker. Prisoners do not receive benefits or pensions. They are not paid overtime. They are forbidden to organize and strike. They must show up on time. They are not paid for sick days or granted vacations. They cannot formally complain about working conditions or safety hazards. If they are disobedient, or attempt to protest their pitiful wages, they lose their jobs and can be sent to isolation cells. The roughly 1 million prisoners who work for corporations and government industries in the American prison system are models for what the corporate state expects us all to become. And corporations have no intention of permitting prison reforms that would reduce the size of their bonded workforce. In fact, they are seeking to replicate these conditions throughout the society.

“But corporate profit is not limited to building and administering prisons. Whole industries now rely almost exclusively on prison labor. Federal prisoners, who are among the highest paid in the U.S. system, making as much as $1.25 an hour, produce the military’s helmets, uniforms, pants, shirts, ammunition belts, ID tags and tents. Prisoners work, often through subcontractors, for major corporations such as Chevron, Bank of America, IBM, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Starbucks, Nintendo, Victoria’s Secret, J.C. Penney, Sears, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Eddie Bauer, Wendy’s, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Fruit of the Loom, Motorola, Caterpillar, Sara Lee, Quaker Oats, Mary Kay, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, Dell, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin and Target.”

But the scope this exploitation isn’t merely limited to individuals serving sentences in the Prison-Industrial-Complex. According to there are twice as many individuals currently serving correctional supervision such as parole and probation, paying for urinalysis testing and probation fees. And the 5 million Americans on state supervision are among a sector of the population that is growing even faster than the population of our citizens incarcerated within ‘correctional’ institutions.

Of course there is a tendency in this country to simplify these issues. So often we’ve heard, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time,” as though the corruption of our public institutions and the militarization of our police forces will go unnoticed to you if you simply follow the rules. But there are many punishable offenses which are not, strictly speaking, crimes.

New laws are being passed all the time to funnel larger numbers of American citizens into these corporate work camps. We’re legislating our way into hell, and we’re doing it one law at a time. America’s fetishism for new statutory regulations has created such an atmosphere of totalitarianism, that even the elites are finding it difficult to ignore. Writing in Politico Magazine, Charles Koch (of all people) recognizes this problem:

“Congress creates, on average, more than 50 new criminal laws each year. Over  time, this has translated into more than 4,500 federal criminal laws spread across 27,000 pages of the United States federal code. (This number does not include the thousands of criminal penalties in federal regulations.) As a result, the United States is the world’s largest jailer.”

it isn’t difficult to see how we got here. Many politicians depend on the perception of being “tough on crime” to get elected, which all-too-often translates to vapid attempts to legislate morality, and correct societal ills by means of criminalization rather than compassionate reason. Heroin addiction is not a crime -it’s an illness, and a public health problem. Homelessness is not a crime – it’s a symptom of poverty amid an economic atmosphere so desperate that 47 million Americans depend on food stamps, 40 million Americans are below the poverty line, and 600,000 homeless Americans sleep out of doors on any given night. Nevertheless, it is in the establishment’s interest to perpetuate “tough on crime” slogans by means of exaggerating crime rates in the media. Crime rates in America are as low as they’ve ever been, but the reporting of crime in the mainstream media is more fanatical than ever before. When combined with cop dramas like CSI, Criminal Minds, and Law & Order that depict pathetically cartoonish portrayals of the world outside, the media’s overreaction to the reporting of crime perverts the collective psyche of America to the point that fascism seems normal.

Mark Warr, criminologist and professor of sociology, studies social reactions to crime and author of Companions in Crime: The Social Aspects of Criminal Conduct confirms that public perception of crime is radically out of sync with reality:

“People are bombarded with information about crime from the media, which makes them believe the world is a much more dangerous place than it really is. This creates a climate of fear that can negatively affect the way we live, the way we go to work, the times we shop and the precautions we take for our families and children.”

To cite just one statistical gem collected by Columbia Journalism School’s Dart Center, we’re provided a small glimpse into the extent of our media’s increasingly egregious fear mongering:

“Approximately half of crime news in New Orleans focused on homicide in 1981, while only 0.4% of the total crimes committed were actually homicides (Sheley & Ashkins, 1981).”

So if violent crime is so low, then why are more people than ever entering the prison population in America?

In terms of what is considered legal and what is illegal in this country, we would be wise to heed the words of Martin Luther King when he reminded us that, “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal,’ and it was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.” If that seems like an extreme example, I invite you examine a small sample of some of Ameica’s more ridiculous statutes, which have created a climate where it is illegal to collect rainwater in Colorado, Utah and Washington, it is illegal to consume raw milk in 17 states, and federally it is not only still illegal to possess the ancient medicine we know of as Cannabis despite overwhelming public outcry, but 15 million Americans have been arrested for Cannabis possession since 1970. This is just a tip of the iceberg when we consider all of the additional fines and citations accumulated by millions of Americans every day for inconsequential and often petty, technical offenses, such as traveling 5 miles over the speed limit or failing to come to a “complete stop” at a signal. And now the paranoid atmosphere of the Terror War further ensures that the divide between the crowbar hotel and the so-called free world is often only one honest mistake away.

But the height of America’s legal absurdity comes into view vis-a-vis the hypocrisy of Nixon’s War on Drugs, which rages on to this very day.

THE FOUR-FOLD RACKET

While the War On Drugs is frequently referred to as a “failure,” this appraisal assumes that the goal of the drug war is to make America a drug-free zone. The truth is that the Drug War is an elaborate profit scheme whereby the established regime can quadruple-dip their profit margin. The initial profit comes into view with state-sanctioned cultivation and importation for large shipments of highly profitable substances, such as cocaine and heroine. It wasn’t just savvy businessmen like Frank Lucas who figured out how to use connections within the US military to smuggle heroin into America inside the coffins of dead servicemen. The government themselves, and the corporations who buy politicians through campaign contributions, have been caught with their pants down on numerous occasions conducting state-sponsored drug trafficking. This kind of state run gangsterism might have remained merely a rumor were it not for the brave journalism of Gary Webb. Marc Levin wrote in October 2014:

“Webb’s reporting uncovered the story of how tons of cocaine were shipped into San Francisco by supporters of the CIA-backed Contras and then distributed down to LA to a Nicaraguan named Danilo Blandon, who sold it to a street dealer from South Central, Freeway Rick Ross.”

The next profit margin is enjoyed almost exclusively by police unions and other law enforcement agencies who bust the users and distributors on drug crimes, imposing fines and seizing property. In fact, the American racket of seizing property without convicting anyone of a crime known as Civil Asset Forfeiture accounts for nearly $2 Billion in police revenue annually.

The third profit margin occurs when police take the newly seized drugs and turn around to sell them. Because so much of these kinds of sales happen in the shadows by the untouchable enforcers of law, this problem is more rampant than we know. But occasionally such operations become uncovered, as it was in Chicago in 2013 by New York Daily News:

“Three Chicago-area cops robbed drug dealers of their stash while executing search warrants, then turned around and sold the heroin, cocaine and marijuana, pocketing the cash.”

There is one more kind of profit in this business, and it involves the largest financial institutions in the world. In March of 2013 Senator Elizabeth Warren grilled officials from the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on the subject of HSBC’s $1.9 Billion settlement on charges of laundering money on behalf of Mexican and Columbian drug cartels. No members of HSBC were charged with a crime despite the admission by HSBC that they were responsible for laundering $881 Million in drug money, as well as violating America’s sanctions with Iran, Libya, Cuba, Burma, and the Sudan. Warren concluded her questions with the following statement:

“If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re gonna go to jail. If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life. But evidently if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your bed at night — every single individual associated with this. And I think that’s fundamentally wrong.”

This is especially alarming when we consider that more than half of the people in prison are in there for drug-related reasons. Today’s drug war is not only a conglomeration of the three legged monster of Racism, Poverty and Militarism that Martin Luther King warned us about, but is a war that has been perpetuated to lay the groundwork for today’s American Gulag Archipelago. A vast network of prisons that rivals any concentration camp complex ever known before.

Though they’re only caught occasionally, these kinds of operations are business as usual for American institutions, and documentation for these kinds of cases exists as far back in the historical record as you care to go.

The line between legal and illegal seems to be more of a matter of one’s bank balance than of evidence-based assertions in the name of justice. And it follows that in the pervading ideology of gangster capitalism, the ownership class are not fond of anyone who spills the beans on their schemes, nor of individuals capable of rallying the public toward rejecting the tyrannical despotism crawling all around us. The establishment has repeatedly taken decisive action to silence figures like Martin Luther King and Malcom X, the Black Panther leaders and any other powerful orator capable of drawing a crowd and fanning the flames of righteous indignation. Popular leaders and effective journalists were, and continue to be, systematically exterminated to prevent any uprising capable of opposing the status quo in a meaningful way. Leaders whose popularity and notoriety protected them from assassination were imprisoned instead. One such leader was, and is, Mumia Abu Jamal.

Mumia’s incredible story chronicles an ineffable journey from gifted broadcast journalist working the streets of Philadelphia, to death-row author whose books have made him perhaps the most famous prison inmate of modern times. Assessing the reason for Mumia’s incarceration, a thorough examination of the historical record demonstrates not only that the evidence for Mumia’s guilt simply does not exist, but that the state framed him in 1981 explicitly to shut him up. Accepting life in prison as an opportunity to write seven bestselling books, today his very existence challenges our beliefs about freedom of expression. But in order to properly understand this brilliant writer, we must come to grips with the modern American Gulag, which brings me back to the fastest growing industry in the American Empire. The truth is that Mumia’s story is not exceptional. Leonard Peltier’s story shares an eerie parallel. Both men were imprisoned for crimes they did not commit, but because they were well spoken and socially adept, it was politically advantageous to imprison them and make examples of them.

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IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE?

While we were distracted with Game of Thrones and Call of Duty, our country has transformed into a the dystopia that American’s have repeatedly denied would ever happen here due to the delusion of American Exceptionalism that refuses to acknowledge that seeds of corruption could ever germinate in the U.S. For those who say “it can’t happen here,” we need but simply recall the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942 to recognize that it has happened here already, and is happening on a daily basis courtesy of a $75 Billion per year industry that garners profits for shareholders based on how many people are in jail. And now with the advent of “Guaranteed Occupancy Agreements,” if prisons fail to fill the beds, the taxpayers bear the burden. “It can’t happen here” is a sentence uttered in ignorance of the American Government’s bombing of Philadelphia neighborhoods on 13 May 1985. “It can’t happen here” is a perspective of wishful thinking that ignores the Waco siege in Texas of April 1993. “It can’t happen here” is a fantasy that outright ignores the writing on the wall provided to us by the likes of Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Karen Hudes, Sherry Peel Jackson, and countless other whistleblowers. We can no longer afford the luxury of apathy that drives us to blindly accept this as “just the way things are” by perpetuating the lie that “it can’t happen here.” The more we ignore it, the worse it will become. Until we realize that the militarization of police nationwide is nothing short of the inception of an American Gestapo that sees the citizen as the enemy, increasing numbers of our children will attend Con Colleges and Gladiator Schools, or worse.

Even if we embrace the immature thinking that the people in prisons deserve to be there, someday most of them are going to get out and rejoin society, conceivably. When they get out, if they haven’t dealt with the internal strife that led them into prison in the first place, they’re more likely to return to prison, end up homeless, or commit suicide than effectively reintegrate into society. Jobs are already difficult to find, but try finding a job if you’re a convicted felon. The state refers to the Gulag euphemistically as the “Department of Corrections” but nothing remotely corrective happens behind bars, because there is no profit in seeking solutions. It is not in the monetary interests of this machine to allow inmates the social mobility to leave the prison system once they’ve ventured inside it. This problem is exacerbated intensely by America’s modern paradigm that sees Prisons as a Business, which is a major reason why the number of incarcerated Americans has multiplied by several orders of magnitude and rates of recidivism have soared over the past few decades. Its all on track to follow the Capitalist “Infinite Growth” paradigm until and unless something significant finally stands in its way.

In 2010 I spoke with a young man named Daniel who worked for the organization Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). Despite the escalating drug war, Daniel was confident that the future looked hopeful. His positive outlook centered on how Baby Boomers would react to their children going to prison; that when they inevitably witness what is happening to their progeny, it would be inconceivable to allow this to continue. Daniel’s analysis couldn’t have been more lucid, and illustrates perhaps the only way to turn this around before it’s too late to reverse the Southward trend down tyranny’s slippery slope. The voting public are by and large comprised of elderly citizens, who were sold today’s America on the promise that they needed to be kept safe, which meant being tough on crime, and being tough on crime meant expanding the Prison Industrial Complex. Now that our parents can no longer ignore how the jagged teeth of this system tears their children apart, the dinner table conversations couldn’t be more necessary. There has never been a time when it was more important to turn the television off, put the cell phone down, and engage. We stand at the edge of oblivion, and whether they’ve been hypnotized by the media or not, whatever the mass of people deem as acceptable is what will prevail. We can no longer afford to maintain a mentality of apathy, complacency or indifference when it comes to America’s Prison Industrial Complex.

us-incarceration-rate-cartoon1SLAVE-ON-SLAVE EXPLOITATION

America’s mainstream opinions are anchored in the facade of carefully prepared sound-bytes designed to prevent discussions by fueling bigotry concerning those who question or condemn the status quo.

If, for example, you dare to question the intention behind the reality of modern warfare, droves of unconscious masses declare that you’re demeaning the brave soldiers that have fought and died for your freedom. If you dare to propose that river waters are more important to the health of unquantifiable life forms than a pipeline that threatens to pollute it, hoards of consumers condemn you as radical, leftist, environmentalist scum obviously trying to destroy our economy. In exactly the same way, if you dare to question the practices at work inside our Prisons, you’re denounced by the mob for putting all of our communities at risk by letting evil off the hook or taking sides with the ‘evil doers.’ Such obtuse opinions fail to acknowledge how evil it is to exploit the world to obtain a few fleeting crumbs from the sands of impermanence.

But by and large many have enjoyed the luxury of remaining blissfully unaware of the state of the country, until we arrive at the point where we are now. There have been so many arrests, and now so many people are in prison, and the police corruption has reached such fever pitch, that these issues have become all but impossible to ignore. But many American’s continue to struggle with the great difficulty of juxtaposing ‘American Exceptionalism’ with the state of America as it is today. It’s perfectly natural in such a situation to wonder how this is possible in the freest and most prosperous country in the world? Unfortunately, despite what we’re routinely fed through the media, not only is America not the freest or most prosperous country in the world, there is a growing consciousness which recognizes the warning signs that we may be goosestepping our way into yet another repetition of history.

When we look at the Prison-class, and what it is further becoming with the privatization of prisons, what we see emerging is a permanent slave population harvested from already impoverished communities. We see an atmosphere of jailing society’s undesirables, starting with the homeless because people can universally condemn the homeless population. And that’s usually how fascism gets going. This isn’t a mere possibility that we may be headed toward – we’re already there now. You’d think the overwhelming militarization of our domestic police forces would illustrate this straightaway. According to The Guardian:

“Since 2006, state and local law enforcement have acquired at least 435 armored vehicles, 533 military aircraft and 93,763 machine guns, according to an investigation by the New York Times published in June. This was made possible under a department of defense program that allows the agency to transfer excess military property to US law enforcement agencies. More than $4.3bn worth of gear has been transferred since the program was created in 1997, according to the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO)”

Militarism is one of the chief factors in the triple threat to American liberty that Martin Luther King warned us about. And it continues to march through our society claiming the lives of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Rumain Brisbon, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Kajieme Powell, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, John Crawford III, Tyree Woodson, Eric Garner, Victor White III, and Yvette Smith just to name a few of the black men executed by law enforcement officers within the last 12 months. The atmosphere of police murders today is such that Americans are 8 times more likely to be killed by a cop than by a terrorist.

 

FreedomWatch_prisonDON’T DO THE CRIME IF YOU CAN’T DO THE TIME?

There are very good reasons for sending people to prison, and they include war-crimes and money laundering. Unfortunately no war criminal guilty of genocide and no banker guilty of embezzling the world’s economy faces so much as a shred of justice. Meanwhile our institutions habitually send millions of people into the hell of prison because they changed the state of their consciousness – an act that harms no one but potentially themselves. The masses go along with this scheme because it is easier in the short term to punish people than to take the steps necessary to heal them in a responsible way that will last.

Perpetuating the pain of people that most often grew up in very painful circumstances is only going to maintain this new slave-class – which is, of course, the goal of the ownership-class. Providing meaningful programs to heal deep psychological wounds and guide personal responsibility, education and self-progression would provide new-found strength that could ripple out into our communities and culture.

A transformation is possible, but requires our participation and dedication to a radical paradigm shift that embraces compassion-based solutions instead of profit-focused punishment. As long as monetary incentives to lock people up persist, the ownership-class have no reason to change course from their present trajectory, though they may use words on occasion to admit they are aware of the depravity of the situation, as Charles Koch has. This industry is too profitable to abandon, and private prison industries have spent tens of millions of dollars sending their lobbyist armies to Washington to secure their bottom line.

We must also recognize how the deliberate use of legalese to distort language and thereby coerce the population into consenting to unjust statutes makes us as liable for the present situation as those who have recognized how to exploit it.

If we are honest with ourselves about the present income inequality that has now reached fever pitch, it is simply a continuation of exploitation on behalf of the ownership class who reap the benefits from people of modest means who, for whatever reason, willingly consent to their own enslavement because they mistakenly believe they are free. The true success of this system lies in America’s routine acceptance of it. It is accepted because, “if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Romans 8:25). Americans see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires, and in dreaming for carrots they will never grasp, have rendered themselves docile for the duration of their lives.

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Gabrielle Lafayette is a journalist, writer, and executive producer for the Outer Limits Radio Show.
Alexandria “Rain” Smith is a poet, artist, and host of the Outer Limits.
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