January 5, 2012
"GOVERNING THROUGH CRIME"
Tom Barry, Border Wars (A Boston Review Book) (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England: MIT Press, 2011) ("Beyond the false hopes and corporate greed that build immigrant prisons, their expansion, like that of other prisons that have mushroomed across the rural United States, seems fueled by something both sinister and uniquely American. The growing divide between citizens and immigrants is only partially responsible for what has befallen this new class of inmates. A wider sensibility about prisoners is also at work. The men and women held behind the perimeter fences are never seen, never discussed. The prison is treated as a waste dump, similarly placed on the community's edge, where property values are low and there are no neighbors. The prisoners themselves are society's refuse, its discards, outcasts, and outsiders who have lost their membership rights in the human community." Id. at 47. "Since the 1970s crime control has become a central theme in U.S. politics and society. In the words of Berkeley law professor Jonathan Simon, we are 'governing through crime': isolation and exclusion in an expansive penal system is the dominant response to tough social problems. Although the immigrant crackdown raises its own special concerns, it largely mirrors and merges with the broader wars on drugs and crime in terms of increasing the costs expanding law enforcement, high incarceration rates and dismal cost-benefit ratios. Immigration, a contentious social issue lacking an easy solution, has similarly been addressed though increased enforcement and incarceration." "Given that get-tough models are the basis for our current approach to immigration, it comes as little surprise that, like the war on crime, the immigrant crackdown has flooded the federal courts with nonviolent offenders besieged poor communities, and dramatically increased the U.S. prison population, while doing little to solve the problem itself." Id at 48-49. Have really gotten 'tough on crime,' or have we merely gotten mean? Food for thought.).