Activists Host Panel on “Georgia Gulag”
In Georgia, there are eighty prisons, 22 youth detention facilities, five immigrant detention facilities, and 193 jails, plus probation centers.
“Mass incarceration is out of control,” Dougie “the Abolitionist” Hanson, an organizer of the event, said.
Panel members exposed the State of Georgia for having one in every thirteen people under correctional supervision, which means they are in jail, detention, prison, probation, or parole. That is the highest number in the country.
“They will tell you probation is a second chance in life, but it’s a set up, a trap for us. I’ve been on probation so many times in my life. If you don’t have a job or nowhere to go, they will put you in jail. How can you get a job, if you don’t have no identification? They are supposed to help you, not lock you up, but that is what probation does,” Haroon Walik, with Street Groomers, told Atlanta Progressive News.
Street Groomers are former and current gang members who unite to stop the violence, clean up neighborhoods, and feed the poor.
“White, Latino, and Blacks all use weed at the same rate, but the police are arresting Black and Brown people at a higher rate,” Hanson said.
Poverty and racism plays a big role in why so many Black men are in prison. Blacks are thirteen percent of the population, but seventy percent of jail population.
Sharon Ravert, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) cites statistics that one in three kids will be arrested before they turn 23 for a nonviolent drug offense.
Cannabis, or marijuana, is the number one reason so many young people are being arrested.
“Drugs are not the problem, it’s prohibition. We need protection from the Drug War,” Ravert said.
Matt Fogg, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition ( LEAP), explained that if law enforcement officers enforce drug laws the same in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood, as in the Bankhead neighborhood, those officers will get in trouble.
Police go after the low-level offenders, the ones who cannot afford a lawyer and will take whatever deal is offered to them. It makes their arrest numbers look good, he said.
“The War on Drugs is a big profit-making industry. People, including cops, make money off the war,” Fogg said.
The United States spends 51 billion dollars a year on the War on Drugs.
That is what grows the prison industry, with 2.3 million people in prison and 80 percent are drug arrests, according to Fogg.
La’Die Mansfield, of Hello Racism, talked about the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
As previously reported by APN, ALEC drafts legislation for Republican legislators. The model legislation is often enacted in Republican-led state legislatures, often with little or no changes.
Some of these repressive bills benefit corporations, like the Corrections Corporation of America, the second largest for-profit prison in the United States.
Larry Pellegrini, of Lobby Watch, told the group that ALEC is why more people need to talk with their representatives. Legislators do not read all the bills, nor do they understand a lot of the issues, he said.
Many on the panel agree the root causes of racial profiling and mass incarceration are colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, with white supremacy and systematic racism as a byproduct of that.
Joseph “Jazz” Hayden from Harlem, New York, has been documenting police abuse, violence, and murder with his cell phone for years. He encourages others to film the police and put it on the Internet for the whole world to see the human rights abuses by police in the U.S.
“Black people are having genocide committed against them in the U.S., and Latinos are being store-housed and abused inside this country… This is about corporatism and rising fascism… We have to make ourselves ungovernable and fight for our own freedom and self-determination, while gaining the support of the world,” Dr. Makungu Akinyela, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, said.
Some solutions offered by panelists to stop Mass Incarceration are: Demilitarize the police; legalize cannabis; film police abuse; provide help for addicts, mentally ill, and homeless people; include people who are impacted by incarceration in shaping policy; not arresting children for playground fights; jury nullification; not remaining silent; and not being afraid to stand up for one’s rights.