We Can Say Screw Daniel Holtzclaw and Still Advocate Abolishing Prison: To End the Police State We Must #AbolishPrison
The Peaceful Streets Project had long ago given up on trying to appeal to or appease the sensibilities of the average tough-on-crime, law and order, police-loving American. We toyed with the idea of appealing to the average person so that we didn’t offend or turn off large segments of society in our attempts to bring an end to institutional violence. But over the past several years it has become more than apparent that the average American is irrelevant to our efforts. Not because we would not appreciate their support, but because their support cannot efficiently be won, and because it is adds little to nothing to our efforts.
We live in a society that appreciates order, even if that order is oppressive and destroys the lives of millions. Our society is no different than any society that has preceded it. While there have been tiny flashes of revolution and progress over the centuries or millennia, even in those limited remarkable moments in time, the general populace has most often wanted to moderate the efforts of the tiny number of revolutionaries to limit the change so that daily life would not be disrupted too much.
Today, we see the pathetic racists and classists who support the police. These people claim that there is a “war on police” and that “Blue Lives Matter.” They reflexively defend cops who are caught murdering or raping people, while slandering their victims. And when we point out or mimic their hypocrisy, they whine and cry about how cold-hearted we are. These people are the obvious enemy of a freer society wherein terrorists could no longer pose as peace officers. However, another enemy of bringing an end to the police state are the many who believe they are advocates of progress and change. These are the “reformists.” The people who believe that we can alter the current system of tyranny and oppression that has destroyed or significantly harmed the lives of scores of millions of Americans by simply changing the incentives or policies of police, prosecutors, and politicians. They think they are helping, and many have wonderful intentions, but in reality, they are impediments to change.
The current system of policing was built to oppress and marginalize the marginalized and oppressed. It was built to murder indigenous peoples, to enslave and kill black people, and to crush labor movements. Trying to turn this system of policing into something that is socially beneficial is akin to what would have happened if the Nazis won World War II and people tried to argue that they later needed to simply alter the mission of the Schutzstaffel or SS so that they could promote peace in a more progressive society. Systems of oppression should be abolished, not reformed. This is why we advocate for the abolition of prison.
Prisons perpetuate injustice and they create more victims than they help. The overwhelming majority of people in prisons are there despite not having harmed anyone, or they have previously been victims themselves. When they are taken away from their friends, families, and communities, they are further traumatized and become more likely to harm others in the future (either inside or outside of prison). And when they are incarcerated, the friends, families, and communities they leave behind are being punished despite not being responsible for the alleged crimes that the incarcerated were imprisoned over.
And aside from a sense of vengeance from a hateful populace who wants to see people they typically do not know punished for going against the social order, prisons do not benefit society in any appreciable way. The victims of crime rarely receive “justice” by having their perpetrators thrown in a cage. Prisons do not help make the victims whole. They do not reimburse the victims for their ordeals. They also do not provide the victims with trauma counseling. Prisons do not undo assaults, burglaries, rapes, or murders. All they do is take an alleged victimizer (or law breaker) off the streets and create more victims out of the people who care about the victimizer.
This past Thursday, January 21, 2016, serial rapist and Oklahoma City Officer Daniel Holtzclaw was sentenced to 263 years in prison for raping 13 black women in 2013 and 2014. We celebrated this rare conviction because hundreds of thousands of American police have beaten, framed, raped, and/or murdered people without consequence. We mocked him for crying like a little baby when he was convicted in part as a reaction to seeing far too many innocent people convicted for simply standing up to a cop, or for being black, or for being homeless, or for being mentally ill. And if prisons exist, we sure as hell want criminal cops to see the insides of them.
But we still demand an end to prisons. We still envision a future where prisons do not exist. We envision a future where society prioritizes helping the victims and their families via restitution, therapy, and compassion. We envision a future where offenders are treated, as well. Even rapists and murderers need help. They need treatment to deal with the factors that drove them to harm others. They do not need to merely be thrown in a cage to rot away for years or decades. We need to move beyond the focus on punishment and retribution, we need to move toward rehabilitation, restitution, and healing.
Many reform-minded people have attacked us recently for demanding an end to prisons even though Daniel Holtzclaw was convicted. They claim that this is a proper use of prisons. That finally, the system worked, and that that is somehow a reason to support prisons moving forward. But we can appreciate that the system has finally treated a cop like the system treats poor people or people of color, for a change, while still being offended at the notion of prisons.
Is one terrorist cop being thrown in a cage for the rest of his life sufficient to argue that prisons have some value? The answer is a resounding no. Daniel Holtzclaw is a scumbag of the highest order. He is the logical extension of the violence and corruption that is inherent in American policing. There should be severe consequences for these individuals who have the greatest power to use violence in our society, and who use it in the most horrific ways. However, arguing that this scum bag is an argument for prisons completely glosses over his many victims. How many of his victims were coerced precisely because of the power he had to send them to prison? And how many people has scum bag Holtzclaw sent to prison? Does sending one scum bag to prison for life make up for scores of millions of lives destroyed or damaged? Of course not.
Prisons simply do not belong in a civilized society. On death row alone, where (if you believe in the barbaric notion of state executions) the standard for a death penalty conviction should be nothing less 100% proof of guilt, the state exonerates one death row inmate for every ten it executes. Think about that for a moment. That is an error rate of 9% (assuming that trend continues for all the people still on death row). An error rate of 9% where the consequence of a mistake is an innocent person being murdered. If our society screws up to such a high degree on the most violent criminal cases with the most severe consequences, imagine how many more of the 2.2 million people in prison or jails are innocent? Is sending one filthy scum bag cop to prison for life worth so many innocent people behind bars? Is it even worth so many “guilty” people in prison or jail?
We as a society must evolve. We must seek to become a civilized society. Societies with prisons and jails are the opposite of civilized. We must seek nothing less than the abolition of police, jails, and prisons.
However, until that moment we are willing to compromise with the state and with the reformists. Empty the prisons and fill them with police.