Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Prisons Are Ethical Nightmares And Now They're Petri Dishes For Coronavirus

There are a lot of things I'm grateful for lately, especially all of the sudden shifts toward leftist ideas among the larger public when they unthinkable just a couple months ago. On one level, it's irritating, but mostly I am shocked and highly pleased to see something close to universal basic income happening in the U.S., with people demanding more.

However, there's one thing we really need to shift public opinion on because it really is an ethical clusterfuck, even outside of a deadly pandemic, and it's the prison system. We've spent centuries shoving the most vulnerable, desperate people of our society into horrible conditions, and the state has to convince us that they deserve to be there in order to justify those conditions. Then they get exploited, conditions become even worse, and the only way to maintain the system (which the state wants to do because it's a ton of free labor, and I'm not even talking about private prisons yet) is to dehumanize the incarcerated.

The parallels to the old U.S. chattel slavery system are disturbingly numerous.

And seriously, I'm not just talking about private prisons. Those are a whole new level of fucked up, but we need to get rid of the entire prison system as it is and replace it with something actually dedicated to rehabilitation.

We need to change the public view on incarcerated people. They are not bad people, they are not vermin, they are not evil. They are people who have been failed by our society so badly that they ended up harming fellow human beings, or they're people that the state finds threatening. And the former even applies to so-called "white collar" criminals. You don't embezzle millions of dollars because you're a healthy person in a healthy society, even if I do have less sympathy for them.

I am encouraged by the fact that some people have been released from prisons due to the pandemic, but it's not nearly enough. Models by the ACLU predict that an additional 100,000 human beings could die from COVID-19 because of U.S. mass incarceration.

And if you still can't muster up enough empathy for prisoners, most of those people will be those outside of prisons who catch it from those who are released on schedule during the pandemic.

As many as 99,000 more people could die in the US as a result of the virus being contracted behind jail walls, the study predicts. Of those, 23,000 are projected to succumb behind bars and 76,000 in surrounding communities as a result of inmates spreading the virus upon release. 
The projection would almost double last month’s White House modeling of Covid-19’s grim legacy in terms of lives lost.

The stories coming out of affected prisons right now are horrifying. I can almost guarantee it's much worse than any prisons will ever willingly admit. Leaving tens of thousands of human beings or more to die because they had the misfortune of being born into poverty in a society that hates the poor is mass murder, plain and simple.

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