Thursday, June 24, 2010

Unmasking the Prison Industrial Complex Part 2: Social Engineering & Strict Prison Sentences

If you missed the first installment of the Prison Industrial Complex, we discussed the huge profits that corporations are raking in, with the use of prison labor. We were able to delve into the corporate structure and the Capitalist mentality that has led to the mass incarceration of blacks and latinos and we were able to see how corporate America relies on prison labor as much as many companies rely on overseas sweatshops. We concluded that prison is the new slavery.


This next installment of our three part investigative series focuses on the social engineering and the conditions that have bred a widespread mentality which has not only perpetuated, but drastically worsened the generational trends of self-defeating behavior. The story begins in California, sometime during the mid to late 1970's, during an era where black folks were competing with each other about who had the best vocabulary and who had read the most prominent black authors. An era when black was beautiful. Throughout the nation the black power structure, led by positive movements such as the Black Panther Party, were garnering in a new era of social change. These movements had drawn in thousands of faithful supporters from many different socio-economic backgrounds. From an entity birthed out of the greatest attributes of Malcolm X and Dr. King, began the era of Black Power. With echoes of James Brown's "I'm black and I'm proud" being chanted in every black neighborhood in the country, the black power movement was about education, self-reliance and sustainability. Finally it seemed that the clutches of Willie Lynch were beginning to fade and black people were finally realizing their full potential.

The Black Panther Party founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, were teaching self-empowerment. They had setup free breakfast for children programs in urban neighborhoods, acted as human traffic lights when the city repeatedly refused to put lights where they were needed and patrolled black neighborhoods, where police brutality and murders were prevalent. By the early 1970's the Panthers had chapters all over the country. Even in cities where there was no Black Panther Party, there was some sort of similar movement taking place. The unification of the black community as a whole had begun to frighten the white power structure and measures were taken to neutralize the black power base. J. Edgar Hoover, the top FBI guy at the time, was the overseer of this task. At his behest, there became what was known as Cointelpro. Using similar tactics that one might use in a war against another country, Hoover set out to not only destroy the movement as an entity, but also it's supporters. Hoover used tactics like spy infiltration and sabotage.  Hoover began ordering the murders of prominent black revolutionary's such as Fred Hampton, leader of the Chicago Chapter of the Black Panther Party. Mr. Hampton was murdered in a hail of gunfire by local police officers, while asleep in his home in the middle of the night. Many others were arrested on trumped up charges and others became political prisoners. Finally, not satisfied with his results so far, Hoover initiated the last installment of his Cointelpro program, which included the installation of a new drug into the black power base.  It did not take long for crack cocaine to spread like a forest fire, through every urban neighborhood in California.  All of a sudden you saw wives/mothers prostituting themselves in the street for crack money, blocks of homeless drug addicts on a level that had not yet been seen, and fathers no longer concerned with taking care of their family because of the constant desire to get high. Drug dealers who were raking in enormous profits began the turf competition, which turned into blood on the streets and black on black crime in America in it's current form was born.

In 1970, Congress voted decisively to eliminate almost all federal mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders. Leading members of both political parties applauded the move. Mainstream opinion considered drug addiction to be largely a public health problem, not an issue for the criminal courts. The Federal Bureau of Prisons was preparing to close large penitentiaries in Georgia, Kansas, and Washington. From 1963 to 1972 the number of inmates in California had declined by more than a fourth, despite the state's growing population. The number of inmates in New York had fallen to its lowest level since at least 1950. Prisons were widely viewed as a barbaric and ineffective means of controlling deviant behavior. Then, on January 3, 1973, Nelson Rockefeller, the governor of New York, gave a State of the State address demanding that every illegal drug dealer be punished with a mandatory prison sentence of life without parole.

The Rockefeller drug laws, enacted a few months later by the state legislature, were somewhat less draconian: the penalty for possessing four ounces of an illegal drug, or for selling two ounces, was a mandatory prison term of fifteen years to life. The legislation also included a provision that established a mandatory prison sentence for many second felony convictions, regardless of the crime or its circumstances. Rockefeller proudly declared that his state had enacted "the toughest anti drug program in the country." Other states eventually followed New York's example, enacting strict mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. A liberal Democrat, Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, led the campaign to revive federal mandatory minimums, which were incorporated in the 1986 Anti Drug Abuse Act. Nelson Rockefeller had set in motion a profound shift in American sentencing policy, but he never had to deal with the consequences. Nineteen months after the passage of his drug laws Rockefeller became Vice President of the United States. Nelson Rockefeller is the father of the prison industrial complex. His now infamous Rockefeller Drug Laws have been the cause for debate for the last 30 years.

The War On Drugs

The Reagan Administration continued down the very same path that he had started before becoming President. As Governor of California, he had helped to flood the state's black neighborhoods with crack cocaine. As President he would take it to the next level by flooding the nation. This plan was carried out under the false pretenses of what he labeled "The war on drugs." This war was a complete farce and only served to cover up the governments involvement in the drug trade.

For decades it has been the primary mission of the United States government's foreign policy (and the military industrial complex) to fight communism and protect corporate interests abroad. Much of the success of this mission can be attributed to the strategic alliances that the US goverments has formed with drug dealers throughout the world. At the conclusion of World War II, the OSS (precursor to the CIA) allied itself with heroin traders on the docks of Marseille in an effort to wrest power away from communist dock workers. During the Vietnam war, the CIA aided the heroin producing Hmong tribesmen in the Golden Triangle area. In return for cooperation with the U.S. government's war against the Vietcong and other national liberation forces, the CIA flew local heroin out of Southeast Asia and into America. It's no accident that heroin addiction in the U.S. rose exponentially in the 1960s. Nor is it an accident that cocaine began to proliferate in the United States during the 1980s. Central America is the strategic halfway point for air travel between Colombia and the United States. The Contra War against Sandinista Nicaragua, as well as the war against the national liberation forces in El Salvador, was largely about control of this critical area. When Congress cut off support for the Contras, Oliver North and friends found other ways to fund the Contra re-supply operations â€" in part through drug dealing. Planes loaded with arms for the Contras took-off from the southern United States, offloaded their weapons on private landing strips in Honduras, then loaded up with cocaine for the return trip. A 1996 exposé by the San Jose Mercury News documented CIA involvement in a Nicaraguan drug ring which poured thousands of kilos of cocaine into Los Angeles' African-American neighborhoods in the 1980s. Drug boss, Danilo Blandon, now an informant for the DEA, acknowledged under oath the drugs- for-weapons deals with the CIA-sponsored Contras.

The war on drugs has been a war on poor people. Particularly poor, urban, black men, and women. Police enforcement of the new, harsh drug laws have been focused on low- level dealers in communities of color, as states across the country adopted the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Arrests of blacks have been about five times higher than arrests of whites, although whites and blacks use drugs at about the same rate. And, black people have been imprisoned in numbers even more disproportionate than their relative arrest rates. It is estimated that in 1994, on any given day, one out of every 128 U.S. adults was incarcerated, while one out of every 17 African-American adult males was incarcerated.

The differences in sentencing for powder and crack cocaine is one example of institutionalized racism. About 90% of crack arrests are of black folks, while 75% of powder cocaine arrests are of whites. Under federal law, it takes only five grams of crack cocaine to trigger a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. But it takes 500 grams of powder cocaine 100 times as much to trigger this same sentence. This flagrant injustice was highlighted by a 1996 nationwide federal prison rebellion when Congress refused to enact changes in sentencing laws that would equalize penalties. The crack down on drugs has not stopped drug use, it has however created a stable and growing prison population.

Gangsta Rap & Social Engineering

The question was once asked to me that if a young teenager from "the hood" say around 14 years of age, spends his entire teenage years listening continuously to music, which refers to black women as B's, explains in graphic details random acts of violence and describes the drug game as a viable means of employment, all amplified by music videos, which shows party life as a 24/7 lifestyle, distorts the mans perception of true love, by feeding them the fantasy of endless beautiful, model type women and warps the woman's perception of what to look for in a man, by painting a picture of fast, illegal money, and power by intimidation, add in a childhood without a father, teachers who did not teach and a neighborhood where crack is the GNP, what kind of adult will this teenager? Well based on the number of prisons being built in America, this teenager will most likely end up incarcerated.

As a 30 something black male who grew up as a hip-hop head, I consider myself an individual qualified and justified to criticize this art form and expose parts of it for what it really is. A brainwashing tool. Has anyone ever wondered why organic hip-hop artists such as Dialated Peoples, Camp Lo, or Lupe Fiasco, don't get as much airplay as say a 50 Cent or Lil Wayne? By creating a culture where an individuals news, information, world view and overall perception of life is drawn in by one source, gangsta rap music, you are able to create a generation of zombies who do not have there own ideas. A generation of people who's primary concern is the party lifestyle and making as much money as quickly as possible, usually by drug dealing.

In 1989 the Rap Group Public Enemy released a song entitled "Fight the Power." This song, often labeled as one of the greatest hip-hop videos of all time, showed the true power of hip-hop music and the direction that it could potentially take to uplift the people. This song discussed disparities in the urban communities, dissed racist American heroes such as John Wayne, and brought back the fire of the Black Power movement that had been put out by the crack epidemic. "Fight the Power" was a song that displayed how effectively black people could be rallied together to initiate positive change in the community through this fairly new art form that is hip-hop. Prior to 1989, hip-hop had been a music form that discussed less stringent matters such as partying, relationships and the wonders of growing up in "the hood." Rarely was social commentary or politics delved into and the gangsta rap label had not yet been adopted. Although you had groups like NWA, which bordered what would be later known as "gangsta rap," who had songs which exposed police brutality and the horrible drug problem that had plagued it is no coincidence that in the same year, Dr. Dre dropped his now classic album, "The Chronic," which changed the face of hip-hop music and will probably be remembered as the beginning of "gangsta rap." Hip-Hop music today has become a huge minstrel show. There is no need for black paint, because most of these performers are black. The premise behind the music has been lost and it has instead become a catalyst for social engineering.

To see the shift in progress from what our communities were to what they are now because of drugs, crime and low values, how do black people as a whole get back on the right track in an "Obama run" America?

How do we hold record companies, artists and other media outlets accountable for the messages they are relaying to our children and what measures do we take to raise the consciousness of our children to counter the influences of these entities?

How do we put pressure on our government and our so called black leaders, who don't have the testicular fortitude to say and do what is necessary to force them to HELP change our conditions?I emphasize help because ultimately we are the only ones that can help us, however while we should not rely on these entities for help, we should hold them accountable

Special thanks to for providing some of the hard facts for this piece.
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