By Black Hammer
It wouldn’t exactly be breaking news to say that the prison industrial complex is a system fraught with inherent corruption as well as countless, major human rights violations–which is why many would describe it as slavery under a different name.
As an extension of one of the most genocidal displays in human history, it is not surprising that the inhumane treatment of the most exploited amongst us would transfer over as well.
In her book ‘The New Jim Crow’, Michelle Alexander says, “The world is about to witness a human rights nightmare she never conceived of at that time, but that prisoners have been speaking of for many years.”
She said this 10 years ago and it is becoming increasingly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a time where there is a need for extreme sanitary measures as well as social distancing practices, jails and prisons continue to maintain their practice of doing the exact opposite.
Though it’s laughable to think that any type of successful social distancing can take place in facilities where people are inhumanely packed together like sardines, the CDC has released guidelines for correctional facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
These guidelines recommend social distancing practices as well as intense cleaning and disinfecting measures.
There does not, however, seem to be any requirement for them to follow these measures.
So, they don’t.
In a hand-written letter to the u.s. district court judge Jocelyn Silver, an anonymous incarcerated person details just how seriously the guards of Lewis State Prison in Arizona are taking the job of preventing the spread within the facility.
“Cos (Correctional Officers) think it’s funny. They have, on numerous occasions, coughed as a joke, at us, on our trays, etc.…”
With violently irresponsible acts like this, the incarcerated face no chance in the fight against COVID-19.
They go on to express in the letter how terrified they and their fellow incarcerated people are of not being able to sterilize places like the showers, rec rooms and phones.
Incarcerated people at the former slave plantation turned maximum-security prison by the same heartlessly ironic name, Angola, have detailed how the pandemic has altered their conditions.
In several letters to journalist C.J. LeBlanc, prisoners express the bleakness of their situation.
One person described it as, “… a matter of who is strong enough to fight it off.”
The people expose several performative attempts at social distancing, such as painted lines on the ground six feet apart and breaking the size of meal groups in half.
‘Performative’ in that people still don’t maintain six feet of space despite the lines and that no one in the facility has masks—including the guards.
Their words only continue to get bleaker as they piece together reasons they live in constant fear of the virus.
One of the guards, who many of the incarcerated find to be almost as or just as terrified as themselves, revealed that 1,700 body bags had been moved to prison storage.
It seems that prison officials and other higher-ups–not just at Angola and Lewis, but facilities across the United States–have decided to just let things play out, see what happens.
Colonial exploitation intensifies
This aversion to valuing the lives of incarcerated colonized people is not only unsurprising but is expected in a system stemming directly from chattel slavery.
‘Directly’ is no exaggeration seeing as many state penitentiaries such as Angola double as state-run farms, exploiting the labor power of incarcerated individuals for next to nothing in order to create revenue for the state–revenue that continues to fuel the oppressive, imperialist machine that is the united states.
The same prisoners at Angola have explained how no one wants to go work in the fields anymore in fear of the virus and how the COs have now started forcing the incarcerated to work–all while beating those who dare to refuse.
Stopping a pandemic of this magnitude from spreading in facilities created to strip people of their humanity and basic rights is a near impossible feat–impossible without the immediate release of all incarcerated peoples and the embargo of importing fresh bodies into the prison industrial complex.
Keeping colonized people imprisoned within a death trap, a virtual breeding-ground for this virus like a prison is, in essence, a genocidal act.
Through this violent display of nonaction, the state does no more than serve a death sentence to those who have already been convicted, only magnifying the importance of struggling with, as well as being a megaphone for, the most exploited among us -the incarcerated worker.
Join Black Hammer in our campaign to free all Colonized prisoners by going to BlackHammer.Org
Free Them All!