Abolition key to new justice system


by Kiilu Nyasha

Written Dec. 9, 2010 – Everyone knows the U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, higher than China’s with four to five times our population, and it continues to spiral. One in 100 adults is locked up in this police state, now totaling 2.4 million, while one in 31 is under some other form of penal control – over 7 million.

Few people in America, especially the underfunded, don’t have a friend, relative, classmate or colleague in prison. We also know that most prisoners are there for non-violent, often drug related issues. Yet we keep silent.

“Your silence becomes approval,” wrote our brilliant journalist and revolutionary, Mumia Abu-Jamal, held under threat of death 29 years to this date for a crime he didn’t commit. [Mumia was finally released to general population this month.]

Just as chattel slavery produced abolitionists, this new form of slavery must generate prison abolitionists.

Studies have long proven that punishment – not to be confused with consequences – produces negative results more often than not, while rehabilitation and/or appropriate therapy and treatment usually works. “Cure the sickness to save the patient.”

Ancestral societies had no prisons. Offensive behavior brought social consequences, ostracizing, or banishment from the community. Often the offender was made to serve the people – the community – in a menial job.

Raj Patel recently investigated the justice system of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico, and learned they had devised a system much like the one described above.

Please bear in mind that the worst of the worst criminals in this nation are in the White House, Wall Street and the Pentagon. The solution to a corrupt, fascist government has to be revolution. The 1 percent replaced by the 99 percent.

Today’s news reported still more draconian sentencing for California prisoners has been proposed. Up to 15 years can be added to a person’s sentence between parole hearings that used to be annual before being raised to a maximum of five years. Now parole board hearings will in fact be resentencing courts in many cases. For example, Hugo Pinell (Yogi) has been in supermax solitary for most of 46 years. If he goes to the parole board next month, he could be told his next hearing for parole would be 2026 – at which time he’d be 80 years old. Sundiata Acoli was just denied parole for 10 years after 37 years in prison, and he’ll be 83 at his next hearing. Cruel and unusual?

U.S. prisons are grossly overcrowded with prisoners living in deplorable conditions suffering inadequate or no medical care, bad food, no access to education or skills training, endemic guard brutality, torture and provocation of prisoner conflicts for their sadistic amusement, sexual assaults, excessive use of lockup (solitary confinement) and generally inhumane treatment.

“The latest edition of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund’s ‘Death Row USA,’ shows that the number of people on death row in the United States is continuing to slowly decline, falling to 3,261 as of Jan. 1, 2010,” reports the Death Penalty Information Center. “California (697) continues to have the largest death row population, followed by Florida (398) and Texas (337). Pennsylvania (222) and Alabama (201) complete the list of the five largest death rows in the nation.”

The U.S. is the only Western nation that still imposes capital punishment that is blatantly racist in its execution.

Georgia Prison Strike

In protest of the inhumane living and working conditions [especially the total lack of pay for their work in or out of prison; when Georgia prisoners are farmed out to private employers, the prison takes their earnings] in Georgia’s prison system, the nation’s fourth largest, prisoners staged a one-day strike on Dec. 9, 2010.

Black Agenda Report managing editor Bruce Dixon reported on his blog, “In an action which is unprecedented on several levels, black, brown and white inmates of Georgia’s notorious state prison system are standing together for a historic one day peaceful strike today, during which they are remaining in their cells, refusing work and other assignments and activities. This is a groundbreaking event not only because inmates are standing up for themselves and their own human rights, but because prisoners are setting an example by reaching across racial boundaries which, in prisons, have historically been used to pit oppressed communities against each other.”

Pacific Radio just reported that Georgia’s prisons are under lockdown and guards are forcing prisoners out of their cells and beating them.

I salute the courage and international solidarity of the Georgia prison strikers. We should act promptly to prevent another Attica! [Retaliation was swift and severe. Several prisoners barely survived the guards’ attacks; one was beaten with hammers. But the groundwork was laid for prisoners across the country to stage strikes. Lucasville prisoners in Ohio staged a hunger strike in January 2011, and 12,000 California prisoners were on hunger strike at some time during several rounds of a hunger strike begun on July 1, 2011.]

The struggle continues! Long live the spirit of George and Jonathan Jackson!

Kiilu Nyasha, Black Panther veteran, revolutionary journalist and Bay View columnist, blogs at The Official Website of Kiilu Nyasha, where episodes of her TV talk show, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle, along with her essays are posted. She can be reached at Kiilu2@sbcglobal.net. Kiilu reposted this story, written Dec. 9, 2010, in honor of Occupy 4 Prisoners Day, Feb. 20, 2012.



  1. There were 14,748 murders in the United States in 2010 and 666,160 murders from 1960 to 1996. I don't even know how many child molest cases, armed robbery, residential burglary violent assualt with injury, domestic violence and rape. What exactly do you propose we do with these people? There are almost daily murders in Oakland and Bayview. These areas are crawling with gang members. Asians in particular have been targeted recently, an old man in his 70s was kicked to death, a woman in her 50s was thrown in front of a bus by some black teenagers for fun. It's on video. Society doesn't want to "cure" these people, society wants them gone.

    This newspaper devotes far too much time to prisoners. I have yet to see an article discussing how parents of a community have banded together to work with local teachers to improve a school. I have never seen an article discussing how a community will work together to reduce violence. There has never been an article about how the people of Bayview or Oakland will get together to reduce garbage or graffiti. Want to reduce the prison population? Do that.

    Do you know why China has a relatively low prison population? They execute.

  2. Kiilu Nyasha’s article here is right on target, and I and many others deeply appreciate it. Real crime with real victims is down, yet America seems hell-bent on imprisonment and punishment. Sure, its profitable for CCA and other for-profit prisons to railroad potheads and others involved with “drugs”

    And don’t forget the generous overtime and fat salaries police make also, out of the newly-discovered “sin” of pot smoking, and newly minted marijuana “crimes”.

    Yes, Kiilu Nyasha is completely correct when calling for abolition because the Bill of Rights loophole that allows slavery (yes, slavery!) for those “felons” duly “convicted” of “crimes” is one of the main driving forces behind this for-profit monstrously. Granted: the police state and camp followers like the yellow press want to retain their powers and money, so yes, trying to get people to look away from the torture and slavery, and instead focus on cherry-picked, police-approved “victims” which serve to justify police, is a great strategy. Transparent, but what else can police state apologists say? They have to say something.

    Here’s what the police-state and drug war camp-followers fear most:

    “[C]hanges with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.” (Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), Annual Report to the SEC, 2010)

  3. Curious … on android, and chrome browsers, only Mulligan’s comment appears … under “Comment (1)” (the wording on those browsers).

    However, on some Mozilla browsers, “2 Responses to ‘Abolition key to new justice system'” appears in place of “Comment (1)” (which appear on chrome and android). And both comments appear.

    Moreover, the posted date on Mulligan’s comment appears in two different formats.

    Why should my comment disappear for google chrome and google android? And disappear in such a peculiar manner! Weird!

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