On January 26, 2021, President Joe Biden ordered the Department of Justice to end its reliance on private prisons. In remarks before signing the orders, Biden said the U.S. government needs to change “its whole approach” on the issue of racial equity. “We must change now,” the president said. “I know it’s going to take time, but I know we can do it. And I firmly believe the nation is ready to change. But the government has to change as well.”
However, Biden’s private prison move is totally insignificant. I understand that after years of repeatedly answering to the same forms of violence by our criminal system, Biden’s move seems to be a step in the right direction. To the public, it has become clear that private prisons not only fail to defend our communities from violence but actually facilitate more. Major banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America have even decided to stop investing in private prisons. I believe that our demands must be bigger. Now there is a new administration, we cannot go back to “normal.” We must demand growth for our communities during this presidency. However, private prisons should not be our only focus. All prisons must be abolished. Why?
Companies still have a say in public prisons because of contracts with these companies for services such as healthcare, food, transportation, calls, monitoring, etc.
We must set our eyes on the prison industrial complex. According to Critical Resistance, the prison industrial complex (PIC) is a term used to describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social, and political problems. For example, according to Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment & the Prison Industrial Complex, they are our guard unions, politicians, government-private prison companies, developers, construction companies, law enforcement, prosecuting attorneys, etc. They then work hand in hand, to use prisons, police, criminalization, and surveillance to target vulnerable communities. It then produces broken families, lack of resources for our schools and our public health, and housing crises, etc. It can also be connected to the deportation of immigrant communities and the power ICE holds.
It means that the conversation around incarceration and prisons should not focus solely on the private sectors. I understand that this may be a step forward towards a better system. However, these carceral “solutions” are not actually helping us. It is actually working for the prison industrial complex. When this country delays the abolition of prisons and continues to pass laws that incarcerate the masses, we lose valuable resources. Our schools will continue to get their budget cuts while magically there is more funding for policing and prisons. Since people who read this are mostly students, we should be outraged. We are part of the generation that the country abandoned. The “public school experience” is seeing teachers fighting for a fair wage and basic necessities like pencils and paper. I do not have the patience to wait any longer. You should not celebrate when the state hands you crumbs.
Private prisons are just the surface of the iceberg. I recommend people to look into the campaign of 8 to Abolition.
- Defund police
- Demilitarize Communities
- Remove Police from Schools
- Free People from Jails and Prisons
- Repeal Laws that Criminalize Survival
- Invest in Community Self-Governance
- Provide Safe Housing for Everyone
- Invest in Care, Not Cops
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8 to Abolition are fighting for a new world for all of us. We should not just be satisfied with reforms; crumbs that our oppressors hand us. We must all be on board to protect our communities from the structural violence that white supremacy invokes. As young people, we have our precious hope and imagination to create a world without prisons and police, where we can all be safe and happy. Abolish, abolish, abolish!
Resources on prison abolition (I recommend shopping at Black-owned bookstores):