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(en) Freedom 6405 8 Mar, 2003 - What we say ...

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 12 Apr 2003 10:44:08 +0200 (CEST)


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It's official. Britain imprisons more people than any
other state in western Europe. Overcrowding is so
bad that an extra 200 million has reportedly been
earmarked for building new prisons, and this will only
alleviate a tiny part of the problem. Home Office
figures released last week show that 139 people in
every 100,000 are in jail at any one time. This
compares unfavourably with countries like Burma,
where the proportion is 118 per 100,000 and Malaysia,
where it's 121. In neither of these places, of course,
does the government go out of its way to parade its
liberal credentials or its humanitarian concerns.
Nor can jail be said to 'work' in the sense politicians
normally claim to mean. 44% of people reoffend after
completing a 'community' (i.e. non-jail) sentence,
while the number of reoffenders amongst people
who've done time is much higher at 56%. And
keeping someone in the slammer costs, on average,
ten times more. Neo-Labour politicians like to be
seen as parsimonious. Their feelings for targets and
performance criteria are near-indecent. So why does
prison - which clearly doesn't achieve the miracle it
tries to claim, the power to stop crime in a property
society - still get the dough?

The first reason is simple. Jailing people tickles the
fancy of the capitalist scumbags who own the
mainstream media. They don't mind paying to keep
the rabble kept in line, particularly when they don't
have to pay most of the necessary taxes themselves
(how much income tax do media barons like Conrad
Black and Rupert Murdoch actually pay?). The
second reason is a deeper, political reason. It
depends on what politicians really mean when they
say that 'prison works'. This isn't to be judged
according to how far we're protected from harm.
Prison does work, but not in the way the politicians
pretend.

In its strategy of imprisonment and criminalisation,
the British government is only doing what Blair has
always promised. It's providing a bridge between
Europe and America, a place which jails a far higher
number than even Britain can manage. It's no
coincidence that prison numbers have ballooned in
Britain in the two decades during which the minimal
security of a post-war 'welfare' state was taking a
pasting. Imprisonment has gradually replaced
benefits as the mechanism for keeping the
unemployed working class in check. It's social
security, Blairite-stylee, which is why Neo-Labour
has had to jail so many more people than
governments on the continent, where social
democratic models of 'welfare' provision still
predominate (for the time being at least).
British politicians are pointing the way for the rest of
Europe. They're offering a road map for capitalism
after social democracy. Because the United States
never had social democracy in the first place, it's the
obvious place for Blair and Blunkett to look for
inspiration. Look at America and you're looking at
the future.

What's a prison? Alongside the police, it's the most
obvious instrument by which the state upholds class
rule, the maintenance of which is its reason to exist.
Jails punish those who break the state's decrees,
which are known as law. They inspire fear and they
break the spirit. They limit the people who aren't
intimidated enough, by locking them away.
Anarchists oppose the law because it serves the
interests of the ruling class and sits in opposition to
ours. We oppose prisons because they're the places
where this opposition is most forcefully expressed.
Any good they do the working class is accidental, and
not worth the sacrifice we make by assenting to the
state's 'right' to 'protect' us.

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