It is enough to look at the prison statistics and the penal legislation of the USA to realize that this phenomenon is still evident. While the white population of the country makes up 60% of the total, whites-only represent 30% of the prison population, while blacks make up 33% of it, being only 12% of the total; being only a third of the white population, there are six times more black prisoners than white2. This is explained by structural economic inequalities between blacks and whites: the black population is statistically twice as likely to live in poverty as the white population, while the average wealth of a white family is approximately ten times that of a black family, which necessarily generates higher levels of violence and crime among the black population. Yankee capitalism criminalizes and condemns the African-American community for the crime that capitalism itself, as a creator of inequality, engenders.

At the same time, American criminal law is designed not to reduce the prison population but to grow as much as possible by incarcerating poor people. Misdemeanors, such as the use or possession of small amounts of drugs, as well as “vagrancy,” can carry sentences of several years. Today, nearly 500,000 people are incarcerated in the US (about a quarter of the total prison population) on a preventive basis (without conviction) and on charges that allow release on bail.

Many social activists have set ground in fighting for the rights of incarcerated persons, including women who are pregnant and face persecution by the federal prison personnel, leading to complications to their maternal health. A strong example is Pamela Winn,

She is the V.P. Board member of the Association of Justice-Involved Female and Organizations (AJFO), National Religious Movement Against Torture (NRCAT) National Advisory Board member and a renowned member of the Board of the Motherhood Beyond Bars. Pamela is also a member of the Women's Consultive team led by formerly imprisoned women and public health practitioners who research the social causes of criminalization.

Pamela has succeeded in leading the dialogue for the Standardization of Care and Best Practices under a “Bill of Rights” for Imprisoned Pregnant Women with her network and support.

Most poor and black people in the country do not have thousands of dollars to buy their freedom, so the white and well-off defendants can leave. In contrast, the black and the poor are sentenced to years of imprisonment, sometimes for the mere fact of being poor and living on the streets. There are even different penalties created for essentially the same crimes. Cocaine consumption, for example, carries different penalties depending on whether it is consumed in its aspirational form (as many wealthy whites do) or by smoking it, a much cheaper version and corrosive to health, which has been a known disparity since the end of the last century.

In confinement, incarcerated people continuously face the danger of seeing their sentences increased by several years. Not long ago, during a fire, several inmates in a Maui jail had to choose between going out into a courtyard to breathe or staying in their smoke-filled cells until they suffocated (as prison officials demanded) under threat of having their sentences extended. To top it all off, those who manage to finish their sentence or post bail and get out of jail must deal with the stigma of criminalization for the rest of their lives. It is common for job interviews in the US to ask for the applicant's criminal record, and having a record almost always implies losing the job, despite that there are around 70 million people with criminal records,

However, the element that qualitatively changed the problem of the USA's penitentiary system may be the privatization of prisons. Unlike what happens in most of the world, in the United States, most prisons are managed for the State by private companies, a kind of outsourcing of the repression in the hands of companies that bill billions with the business of the confinement.

Suppose privatization is added to the repressive function inherent in the penitentiary system under capitalism. In that case, the tendency to increase the prison population and the criminalization of the poor and black sectors increases exponentially. With the prisons being managed with a profit criterion (more prisoners mean more funds available, and the more inhumane the conditions of confinement, the lower the expenses and the higher the profits of the companies), the generation of crime by the State is not its only problem, but it is desirable for the bourgeoisie since now the imprisonment of workers has not only a political - repressive function but also an economic function to enrich the entrepreneurs of the sector.

If this problem of the US's prison system has only gotten worse for decades (not even Obama, the supposed progressive black president, made more than symbolic gestures about it), with the presidency of a fascist beast like Trump comes to get worse. Since his presidential campaign in 2016, it is already accustomed to hear statements by the Yankee president exacerbating the criminalization of black and Latino sectors (the latter have come to be classified as "rapists"). It is a round business and even a necessity for Yankee racist capitalism as we know it, especially in times of crisis (2008 to now, more acutely after the rise in unemployment during the pandemic).

While generating new poor people and higher levels of crime that will later be made a profit, racist and xenophobic speeches like Trump's serve to stoke the most reactionary prejudices in the backward sections of the Yankee working class by persecuting and incarcerating black and Latino workers, and filling the heads of white workers with garbage (many of whom have seen their living standards decline with the crisis and the destruction of higher-paying jobs), the Trumps are betting on increasingly dividing the working class and the different exploited as well as oppressed sectors of the country and prevent the establishment of relations of solidarity among the working class as a whole.

However, when collective processes of struggle such as the ongoing rebellion begin with the most dynamic and combative sectors of society are set in motion, the possibility of breaking the most stagnant obstacles in the consciousness of the exploited and oppressed of the world is opened. The anti-racist rebellion opens the possibility of putting a stop to the killings of a black youth at the hands of the police and shaking the entire repressive Yankee state system, including the prison system.

Author's Bio: 

Bianca Leon Rodriguez is a freelance writer and author. A self-confessed foodie, her mission is to help new and aspiring bloggers overcome their doubts, gain confidence, and take the first steps towards their writing dream. You can always follow her @BiancaLRodr on Twitter & @bianca-rodr on Linkedin.