Law and Order & the Disenfranchising of the Poor
The Party has manufactured unreasonable crime-fears leading to the internment of our poorest citizens, for the goal of further disenfranchising those who would naturally vote against the tyranny of greed. This relentless “Law and Order” and “minimum sentencing” campaign of the Republican Party has needlessly filled our jails by degrading our criminal judicial system from one administered by judges to one administered by powerless referees that must rubber stamp capricious laws. This decade’s long reign of incarceration has fallen disproportionally on our non-white citizens; our much respected African American communities to whom we owe much for their moral non-violent strength and artistic creativeness, and to our Latino communities who are literally our American brothers and sisters. (14)
In this section we make the very serious charge that thousands of citizens have been incarcerated for many decades by the Republican Party for no other reason than to assure political control of the country. First a few facts.
From the 1920s up until the late 1970s the US incarceration rates hovering around 100 prisoners per 100,000 of population was similar to the incarceration rates today of democratic countries like ours; Canada 114, Mexico 164, England 140, France 104, Germany 75 and Japan 41. But concurrent with the rise of the Republican Party in the last four decades has been the, in step, increase of incarceration rates to over 650 prisoners per 100,000, the highest in the world today and quite possibly the highest number of prisoners in all of human history (2.3 million). Today, the countries with the closest rate of incarceration to ours are; El Salvador 604, Thailand 526, Russia at 402 and Iran 284.
In spite of this synchronized growth in both the Republican Party and the US incarceration rates all the studies of US crime and punishment say little about this relationship and instead treat it as a social mistake - that it just happened. For example the National Research Council study in 2014 “the Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences” they use phrases like “changed political climate” or “a consensus that viewed incarceration” to sidestep the source or posable sinister objective of this “consensus. ” They provide a concise picture of the history of the growth of incarceration and so we cite it below:
By the time incarceration rates began to grow in the early 1970s, U.S. society had passed through a tumultuous period of social and political change. Decades of rising crime accompanied a period of intense political conflict and a profound transformation of U.S. race relations. The problem of crime gained a prominent place in national policy debates. Crime and race were sometimes conflated in political conversation.
In the 1960s and 1970s, a changed political climate provided the context for a series of policy choices. Across all branches and levels of government, criminal processing and sentencing expanded the use of incarceration in a number of ways: prison time was increasingly required for lesser offenses; time served was significantly increased for violent crimes and for repeat offenders; and drug crimes, particularly street dealing in urban areas, became more severely policed and punished. These changes in punishment policy were the main and proximate drivers of the growth in incarceration. In the 1970s, the numbers of arrests and court caseloads increased, and prosecutors and judges became harsher in their charging and sentencing. In the 1980s, convicted defendants became more likely to serve prison time. More than half of the growth in state imprisonment during this period was driven by the increased likelihood of incarceration given an arrest. Arrest rates for drug offenses climbed in the 1970s, and mandatory prison time for these offenses became more common in the 1980s.
During the 1980s, the U.S. Congress and most state legislatures enacted laws mandating lengthy prison sentences—often of 5, 10, and 20 years or longer—for drug offenses, violent offenses, and “career criminals.” In the 1990s, Congress and more than one-half of the states enacted “three strikes and you’re out” laws that mandated minimum sentences of 25 years or longer for affected offenders. A majority of states enacted “truth-in-sentencing” laws requiring affected offenders to serve at least 85 percent of their nominal prison sentences. The Congress enacted such a law in 1984.
These changes in sentencing reflected a consensus that viewed incarceration as a key instrument for crime control. Yet over the four decades when incarceration rates steadily rose, U.S. crime rates showed no clear trend: the rate of violent crime rose, then fell, rose again, then declined sharply. The best single proximate explanation of the rise in incarceration is not rising crime rates, but the policy choices made by legislators to greatly increase the use of imprisonment as a response to crime. Mandatory prison sentences, intensified enforcement of drug laws, and long sentences contributed not only to overall high rates of incarceration, but also especially to extraordinary rates of incarceration in black and Latino communities. Intensified enforcement of drug laws subjected blacks, more than whites, to new mandatory minimum sentences—despite lower levels of drug use and no higher demonstrated levels of trafficking among the black than the white population. Blacks had long been more likely than whites to be arrested for violence. But three strikes, truth-in-sentencing, and related laws have likely increased sentences and time served for blacks more than whites. As a consequence, the absolute disparities in incarceration increased, and imprisonment became common for young minority men, particularly those with little schooling
But what we find, when we look closer, is that in the US, where political imprisonment is unconstitutional, there is the passing of laws by the Republican Party that will disproportionately affect the poor and those opposed to the political corporate culture of the Party. The most prevalent and most effectively disastrous of these laws have been the federal minimum sentencing mandates for drug use. By making a felony out of nonviolent crimes and requiring, without exception to the circumstances of the infraction, long term prison sentences, you can destroy both the men and in many cases the family of your natural opponents. To the prisoner, you have removed a voter forever and, with his release, inherited a low paid worker without rights. To the prisoners’ family and friends, these incarceration formulas mean a poorer life, both socially and economically, and a dogged fear of law enforcement requiring a loss of liberty. Let examine this Republican Party history of this infamy.
It is true that the first “minimum sentences” laws came from the Democratic Truman administration by way of the Boggs Act of 1952. It set a first offence for marijuana possession at 2 to 10 years and a fine of up to $20,000. The act got its name from Hale Boggs, a Louisiana Democrat. It was a time when little was known about marijuana there was bipartisan agreement that this was the best way to manage this assumed danger. The act was generally considered a failure because it was found to do more harm to the offending person and society at large, than the effects of the crime itself. (indeed most of the marijuana that was being consumed and promoted at that time was by the “Jazz Culture” which today is recognized worldwide as one of the most important artistic movements of our country) Lessons from this failure should have warned future legislators of its disastrous outcome.
Nixon first figured out how helpful a “Law and Order” message could be with his successful run for the presidency in the late 60s. He ignored most “experts” who felt the Boggs act to be a disaster; that it ignored to causes of “counter culture” and that the harsh penalties ruined rather than reformed young “baby Boomers” coming of age. Even after election, Nixon launched his war on drugs claiming those who experimented with drugs were criminals who were attacking the moral fiber of our country. He called upon the “silent majority” to recognize the drug user as a dangerous and anarchic threat to American civilization. Lumping marijuana users into the same category of addicted drug users and portraying drug users, not as alienated youths whose addiction was caused by an inequitable society, but as base criminals, people who deserved only incarceration and punishment. But no, at this point anyway, Nixon’s actions were not the concerted long-term effort by the Republican Party to disenfranchise the poor; it was just a small demigod calling on his followers to feel good about themselves by being mean to others.
It was with the Reagan presidency that “Law and Order” becomes a war against the poor and the liberal. Fresh from a Governorship in California where he did constant battle with students in the State College and University systems as he slashed spending across the board to all social programs, he knew how to rid the country of poor and “counter culture” types: drug laws. It started with the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 which admittedly contained much needed revisions to the U. S. criminal code, but which also needlessly, under the new Federal Sentencing Guidelines increased federal penalties for cultivation, possession, or transfer of marijuana. This was quickly followed by his Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. The law mandates a five year sentence without parole for 1 gram of LSD, 100 kilos of marijuana, 500 grams of powder cocaine and only 5 grams of crack cocaine. It also mandates a 10 year sentence without parole for 10 grams of LSD, 1000 kilos of marijuana, 5 kilograms of powder cocaine and only 50 grams of crack cocaine. The result is best described by Wikipedia under “Growth” under “US incarceration rates”.
“In the last forty years, incarceration has increased with rates upwards of 500% despite crime rates decreasing nationally. Between the years 2001 and 2012, crime rates (both property and violent crimes) have consistently declined at a rate of 22% after already falling an additional 30% in years prior between 1991 and 2001. As of 2012, there are 710 people per every 100,000 U.S. residents in the United States that are imprisoned in either local jails, state prisons, federal prisons, and privately operated facilities. This correlates to incarcerating a number close to almost a quarter of the prison population in the entire world. Mass incarceration is an intervening variable to more incarceration.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released a study which finds that, … In the twenty-five years since the passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, the United States penal population rose from around 300,000 to more than two million. Between 1986 and 1991, African-American women's incarceration in state prisons for drug offenses increased by 828 percent.
The Standardized justice of minimum sentencing by the Republican Party is no justice at all. It allows a poor person with 3 minor infractions life in prison while million-dollar white collar crimes, which have a much broader effect on our livelihoods, go unpunished. Adherence to minimum sentencing laws, sending untold thousands of young men and women into incarceration for adolescent infractions is undeniably a crime against humanity.
In the last election, candidate Trump proudly proclaimed, in the ashamed tradition of the Republican Party, “I am the Law and Order candidate”. Now, president Trump, when visited by applauding movie stars has made great news about his presidential pardons and exonerations, but has made no move to end the poor people incarceration of the Republican Parties making. And even while the so-called Libertarian wing of the Party has campaigned against these wrongs; they remain silent after election.
One thing is a fact; as the political power the Republican Party in the US congress and in state houses across the country has increased the poorer people, in increasing numbers, will find themselves in jail. We do not claim that the Republican Party wishes us harm; they jail the poor because they want to insure only friendly votes to keep them in power so as to provide their paying clients, international corporate interests, the unabated extraction of the wealth from our country. That this extraction of wealth might require the imprisonment of the poor is just of no concern to them.
Because of this brutal blindness the Party needs to be erased from all but the history pages where it should remain as an example to the Democratic Party and any future parties of what becomes of those who put Party over country; who imprisons the poor, thereby causing ruin to their families, thereby causing ruin to our American family, for the control over our vote and the more insidious crime of wealth extraction which is the root cause of the poverty in the first place.
We do not have to storm the prisons to set ourselves free; there is, thanks to those who have fought and died in the past for our freedom, a more civil solution. The Republican party must be voted out of existence. There is no other alternative. True conservatives can, and should, find another party. A Political Party that lawyers only for pirating corporations, whose policies have robbed us of our homes, denies us citizenship and has lessened our vote, stacked our judges, and for decades imprisoned our youth has no redeemable value. All America should on any election day rise up and vote for anyone but those, in any way are associated with the Treasonous Republican Party.