Police State/Civil Liberties

The Making of the American Police State

This is a very good overview of how the present state of affairs came into being.

By Christian Parenti

The Jacobin

Three girls at a juvenile facility in Racine, Wisconsin. Richard Ross

Three girls at a juvenile facility in Racine, Wisconsin. Richard Ross

How did we get here? The numbers are chilling: 2.2 million people behind bars, another 4.7 million on parole or probation. Even small-town cops are armed like soldiers, with a thoroughly militarized southern border.

The common leftist explanation for this is “the prison-industrial complex,” suggesting that the buildup is largely privatized and has been driven by parasitic corporate lobbying. But the facts don’t support an economistic explanation. Private prisons only control 8 percent of prison beds. Nor do for-profit corporations use much prison labor. Nor even are guards’ unions, though strong in a few important states, driving the buildup.

The vast majority of the American police state remains firmly within the public sector. But this does not mean the criminal justice buildup has nothing to do with capitalism. At its heart, the new American repression is very much about the restoration and maintenance of ruling class power.


2 replies »

  1. This article from National Review makes for an interesting point/counterpoint to the Parenti article above. This article disagrees with virtually every aspect of the Parenti analysis and yet comes to the conclusion that incarceration rates are way too high. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/424059/truth-about-mass-incarceration-stephanos-bibas

    This is another National Review article that makes a similar point: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/418689/too-many-laws-means-too-many-criminals

    And another one: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/419110/criminal-justice-mess-orange-county-kevin-d-williamson

    It is interesting that even “conservative,” pro-law and order, pro-police publications like National Review are running articles of this type with a fair amount of frequency. This would seem to be indicative of the fact that the police state and related features have gotten so expansive that they are now impacting people of all races, classes, and social groups, and not just the poor, minorities, and marginal subcultures.

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