If racists were ever looking for a strategy to enslave black people again, they need only look to Louisiana.
According to the Times-Picayune, the Bayou State now imprisons more of its people – one in 86 adults – than anywhere else in the world. Among black men from New Orleans, 1 in 14 is incarcerated, while one in seven is either in prison or on probation or parole.
This is happening because a long time ago, the state learned that it could make money by sending inmates to privatized prisons. It learned that by giving people who commit minor crimes, like bouncing checks, 10 years instead of 10 months, it could keep those prison beds filled and rural redneck sheriffs, who tend the run the facilities, flush with cash.
It decided there was no money in investing in education and in jobs, or in people’s success, but rather, in their failures.
And the fact that it can get away with this ought to be a screeching wakeup call to black men who can’t shake the idea of incarceration being an inevitability in their lives – because Louisiana, while certainly the worse, isn’t the only place where lawmakers and other assorted exploiters have figured out that they can build new plantations largely off black men screwing up.
This has been in the works for some time now.
I saw this taking shape in Folkston, Ga., back in 1998, when town officials held a resplendent, ribbon-cutting ceremony for a private prison that was to be built there. They saw it as an opportunity to create jobs; I saw it as an opportunity for them to capitalize on the troubles of black people who likely had little to no opportunities in their lives.
I saw it a couple of years ago when Corrections Corporation of America – the nation’s largest for-profit prison chain – lobbied the Arizona legislature to pass a law allowing police to stop Latinos and question them about their citizenship. That was so they could build a private prison to house women and children of illegal immigrants.
I’ve seen it through stock offerings for private prisons, all of which means that Louisiana was bound to happen and other states are bound to follow – and black incarceration is bound to worsen.
And we still have two enemies to fight.
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