Just Say No.

Right.. So, I’ve been more or less “collecting” various posts from sundry sources the last month and change all more or less loosely centered on crime and the criminal justice system. I keep thinking I’m going to write some wonderful post tying them all together, but with the academic year officially starting next week, and things already picking up noticeably in my office (U.S. News results will be released to the public tomorrow, which is always the more or less official start to the craziness that is fall term), combined with plans to do some more involved stuff around the house the next few weeks, I have finally admitted that’s not going to happen. So, what follows are the links I’ve been gathering with as many of my thoughts about them that I can remember and have time to put down in text while waiting for data to compile today.

About a month ago, a post on trends in imprisonment from (where else) Sociological Images picked up on some of the thoughts I’ve had about the ways in which our CJ system is broken for years. There are lots of ways I think the system is horribly broken, but those really aren’t what I wanted to go into (really.. lots of ways.. ). Instead, I wanted to take a moment to think about Nancy Reagan’s War on Drugs and it’s continued impact on our economy. In a nutshell, the War on Drugs made felons of a lot of non-violent people (yes, and quite a few violent ones, but not the majority), clogged the courts and jails with a huge influx of cases and inmates, and effectively removed the vast majority of those people from contributing to the economy. We overcrowded our prisons, requiring increasing tax dollars to be funneled toward them, thereby decreasing the pool of funds available for things like, just to pick on that’s a little near and dear to me, public education. We stamped “felon” on a huge number of people who are now increasingly prohibited from accessing jobs with living wages and opportunities for advancement, simultaneously cutting our own work-force (and ability to compete in an increasingly global market) drastically and reducing the ability of our economy to weather cycles of recession. Don’t they say wars are s’posed to be “good” for the economy..?

More recently, and mostly unrelated to the above, M LeBlanc at Bitch Ph.D. recently wrote about a new law allowing judges in Illinois to require violators of orders of protection to wear GPS tracking devices so that police could better track them. Like M LeBlanc, I’m conflicted by this law – on the one hand, it seems to be a step in the right direction in protecting victims of potentially violent perpetrators, but on the other hand it does so at the expense of those potentially violent perpetrators’ civil liberties – potential is a key word in all that; these are people who have not been convicted who are now allowed to be under near constant police surveillance. M LeBlanc comes to a conclusion that is both heartening in that it’s not the over-the-top rhetoric that sometimes seems pervasive in our society and at the same time utterly sobering and depressing in the enormity of what it means:

The criminal justice system does nothing but create more criminals. We need it, like we need a tourniquet to staunch the bleeding of human dignity from every woman on the planet, but it can not, and will not, solve our problems. These GPS devices will not stop women from being hurt and killed, and they will be another chink in the wall that we put between citizens and the state. The lock and the key, the bracelet and the computer, will not stop or even slow the violence.

For that, we need a revolution.

I was recently chided by a few friends and acquaintances for getting upset about a spoof Guinness ad that I found demeaning and objectifying of women; they found the ad clever and/or amusing and felt that I was making too much of it – reading too much importance into what was clearly intended to be a joke. I wish I could explain to them why their response was exactly the problem, or that M LeBlanc had written this earlier so I could quote it then:

Our society is sick—it is a patriarchy where men are promised power and dominion over women and they are taught that violence is noble, that using force is masculine. It is a pornocracy where children are sexualized, where women’s dismembered bodies are used to sell soap, blue jeans, and hamburgers. It is a market economy where the right to have a young woman rub her naked body on you can be legally purchased in any town or city, but where those same young women are arrested for accepting money for giving a blowjob. It is a world where all things deemed within the fake construct of masculinity are positive attributes, and all those within the construct of femininity are deprecated. Where women make less money, hold far fewer political offices and judgeships, where motherhood is “the most important job in the world,” a privilege for which mothers are treated like utter shit.

Abusers aren’t just bad apples. They are normal dudes. They are the guys you work with, the guys you went to college with, the guys you see in a bar on a Friday night or the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon.

They bear the blame for what they do. But the rest of us do, too. Every guy who stands by and heh-hehs when sexist jokes are made, who views their co-workers or classmates not as colleagues, but as eye-candy, who refuses to acknowledge the misogyny inherent in pornography, is a part of this sick society. Every woman who tut-tuts her friends or neighbors for trying too hard to look sexy, or not trying hard enough, who criticizes other women for being too assertive, who criticizes other men for not being manly enough or showing too much emotion, is a part of this putrid virus.

It’s the pervasiveness of the power structure that is so utterly terrifying – whether it’s patriarchy, or  institutionalized racisim, or our criminal “justice” system, or any of half a million other things.  It’s when we can see it and choose to ignore it without realizing how that just works to reinforce it, when we write off those who rail against the injustice as zealots who are over-reacting.. when we acquiesce to the status quo, or tell ourselves it’s not our problem to solve, or that there’s nothing we can do, or worse that there’s nothing wrong.. those are the things that frustrate me most. Because in truth, to twist another Reagan-era campaign, ignoring these injustices is part of the problem, not the solution.

Right then.. one more jump.. still on the idea of crime, but this one’s going to have to speak mostly for itself, with the warning that it may be triggery for some folks – a video of a purported “news agency” asking abortion protesters who believe abortion should be illegal what punishment women who have abortions should face. Yeah.. not thinking about the consequences of our laws seems to be “as American as apple pie”..


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