The following statement was released April 3 by Seth Galinsky, Socialist Workers Party candidate for New York City Public Advocate.
The capitalist rulers’ so-called criminal justice system and its prisons have absolutely nothing to do with “rehabilitation.” They have everything to do with breaking the spirit of those caught up in it and sending a message to all working people to “stay in our place.”
But as the crisis of the capitalist system intensifies, the rulers more and more fear the working class, and the glimmers they see of labor and social explosions coming in the future. That’s why there are more prisoners in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world.
And that’s why you hear current and former prisoners say the authorities “treat us like animals.”
That is no exaggeration.
Working people are railroaded to prison, guilty or not. Some 90 percent of those behind bars never went to trial, but were pressured into signing plea bargains under the threat of longer sentences.
On average some 60,000 or more are in solitary confinement every year, sometimes for decades — like Albert Woodfox and his two fellow prisoners and Black Panthers known as the Angola 3.
Workers behind bars are given rotten food and woefully inadequate health care. They’re beaten by guards. There are constant attempts to censor what they read, including the Militant newspaper. They face lack of books and culture. And they face ridiculous fees and charges for anything they can get.
Here in New York hundreds protested during the coldest days this winter when word got out that prison authorities had done nothing to restore heat and lights at the federal jail in Brooklyn.
And when our brothers and sisters behind bars get out of prison, they face discrimination in hiring, housing, education and denial of their rights.
But the capitalist rulers and their prison bosses underestimate us. When Woodfox won his freedom after nearly 44 years of solitary confinement, he was proud, unbroken and determined to get out the truth. That’s what he’s doing, touring around the country and promoting his new book about prison conditions and the fight for dignity behind bars. I urge you to go hear him or read the book. I did and it was well worth it.
Prisons are a “grotesquely magnified reproduction of the social relations, values, and ‘business practices’ of the dog-eat-dog capitalist world that have spawned the US ‘justice’ system,” Socialist Workers Party leader Mary-Alice Waters explains in her introduction to “It’s the Poor Who Face the Savagery of the US ‘Justice’ System”: The Cuban Five Talk About Their Lives Within the US Working Class.
Growing numbers of working people are looking for ways to fight the exploitation and oppression of the capitalist rulers and show solidarity with each other today. Fellow workers behind bars are an important part of this battle and deserve our support.
That’s why my campaign speaks out against moves by the government in Florida to undermine implementation of Amendment 4 of the state Constitution, passed overwhelmingly last November, which restores voting rights to over a million former prisoners.
Voting rights for all former prisoners! End the barbaric use of solitary confinement!