Criminalization

Updated: Mar 29, 2019



This is America: A place where someone could be treated as less than human just for being here. A society that rejects or accepts the problems of others solely (yet soullessly) based on how those issues affect themselves. A mentality of pushing definitions on individuals as a means of benefiting from their suppression. A system of blatantly causing harm to others while ignoring the consequences of those actions. Private information that is manipulated to criminalize or mistreat people include race, financial status, immigration status, mental health stability, and gender identities.

Racial injustices

People’s Policy Project published a piece on advocating for racial equality in mass incarceration January 2018, “In 2010, white people were incarcerated at a rate of 450 per 100,000 while black people were incarcerated at a rate of 2,306 per 100,000.” Because The U.S. mainly imprisons the lower class, people of color are at an extremely unequal risk of being jailed. NPR highlighted results of racist policies continuing a history of white privilege in an article that questioned America's racial wealth gap April 2013. December 2017 Los Angeles Times disclosed how policy choices worsen inequality including tax cuts to benefit the wealthy by eliminating estate taxes and lowering taxes for "pass-through" businesses. Such constructs extend directly into our criminal justice system.

Income disparity For too many people “the difference between spending the night in jail or in their home comes down to what's in their wallet.” Saints players Demario Davis and Benjamin Watson published an article via Nola.com in September 2018 on how profiting off of other people’s misfortunes is being valued more than others' lives. Poverty is treated as a punishment in a world where rich people can buy their way out of serious crimes while the poor sit in jail for lack of bail money. The government’s use of twisting the law to dehumanize others is getting worse and worse among the current administration. People trying to get by are being dealt with like animals in a zoo.

ICE & sexual assault In November 2018 the ACLU reported on sexual assault against immigrants due to a situation at an ICE detention center which claimed it could not be held accountable for sexual violence by its workers to avoid responsibility. “A recent investigation into sexual abuse in immigration detention found that there were 1,448 allegations of sexual abuse filed with ICE between 2012 and March 2018. In 2017 alone, there were 237 allegations of sexual abuse in immigration detention facilities.” Families are at serious risk of violence when they are being detained. Locking people up is a cycle of intense physical and emotional stress.

People with mental illness Cornell University has a fact sheet published on alarming incarceration and mental healthcare information last updated May 2017. “The term ‘criminalization of the mentally ill’ was coined in 1972 to describe the increasing arrest and prosecution rate of individuals with mental disorders. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that between 25% and 40% of all mentally ill Americans will be jailed or incarcerated at some point in their lives. By contrast, about 6.6% of the general population is jailed or incarcerated at some point in their lives.” Discrimination against human conditions extends beyond basic mental health.

Transgender inmates & identity

Systemic patriarchal oppression of gender roles is being perpetuated through mass incarceration by taking away rights. During May 2018 LGBTQ Nation broke down a Trump issued guidance memo regarding transgender inmates. “Prisoners’ biological sex would be used when screening, housing, and offering programming services to transgender inmates. It also inserts the word ‘necessary’ in guidance on medical care and hormone therapy indicating officials will be allowed to decide whether or not inmates will receive medically appropriate services for gender transition.” As the vulnerability of being trans in jail shows, criminalizing human beings has resulted in a loophole making it legal to forcibly mess with someone’s brain chemistry based off of institutionalized sexism.

Turning people into criminals by making their activities criminal dismisses legal protections for human rights, especially bodily autonomy and consent. Crimes are punished the same whether minor or major, just in different durations depending on what the judges sentence. Prison Legal News on motivation to keep people incarcerated, March 2017: 1. “Sheriffs build prisons, and they make money off of those prisons by housing state prisoners, which is good, it can do more for its citizens, it creates jobs, but because those prisons need to make a profit, we have to put more people in there," stated Paul Carmouche, who served as a Caddo Parish District Attorney for 30 years before becoming a defense attorney. 2. “The amount of money that the state spends to keep people in jail is significant. The debate is, well, it’s worth it because it keeps us all safe," said career defense attorney Peter Flowers. "Well, I understand that, and I think to some, when it does keep us all safe, that’s a good thing. But what happened is there’s a lot of people being kept in jail that pose no danger to us and the reason for that, in my mind, it’s just easier that way.”

Links:

1. Mass Incarceration: New Jim Crow, Class War, or Both?

2. Policies Helping the Rich get Richer and the Poor get Poorer

3. What do we do About America’s Racial Wealth Gap?

4. Jailing People Because They Can’t Afford Bail Doesn’t Make Us Safer

5. ICE Detention Center Says It’s Not Responsible for Staff’s Sexual Abuse of Detainees

6. Trump Strips Transgender Prisoners of Protections Against Rape and Abuse

7. Free Your Art: Have a Heart, Help Fight Mass Incarceration

8. Fact Sheet: Incarceration and Mental Health

9. Jailing People with Mental Illness

10. Louisiana’s High Incarceration Rate Economically Motivated