New Zine on Mass Incarceration in the Rustbelt

April 23, 2017

New Zine on Mass Incarceration in the Rustbelt

Michigan Abolition and Prisoner Solidarity (MAPS) has produced an excellent new zine titled “Containing the Crisis: A History of Mass Incarceration and Rebellion in the Rustbelt” that provides important background information on the Kinross rebellion that took place in 2016 in Michigan. The zine situates the rebellion in the context of regional changes across the Rustbelt that emphasized mass incarceration as a strategy to deal with decades of crisis.

From the introduction:

How are we to make sense of the crisis of mass incarceration? This zine lays out a material analysis of the rise of mass incarceration in the state of Michigan. According to the most recent data from 2016, about 1 in 46 people in the United States are subjected to some form of State supervision. This number includes those on probation, those released on parole, and those locked up behind bars in both prisons and jails. In Michigan, this rate is about 1 in 42, which is higher than the national average. Michigan also has the highest incarceration rate of the Midwest. Of course, not everyone faces the violence of the State in the same way. Although black folks are just 14% of Michigan’s overall population, they make up 49% of its prison population. Most incarcerated folks in the state come from the lower end of the national income distribution. And while the vast majority of prisoners are men, black women are the fastest growing prison population nationwide.

How we frame a problem shapes our response to that problem. Given that mass incarceration affects not only folks who are locked up in jails and prisons but also those who have gotten out on probation or parole, it’s clear that this crisis has to do not only with prisons (and much less with only private prisons) but with State power more generally. And beyond this, it has to do with a particular kind of State power, one that serves to maintain and reproduce a society characterized by both racial domination and capitalist exploitation. We call this kind of society racial capitalism. As the geographer and activist Ruth Wilson Gilmore tells us, “capitalism requires inequality and racism enshrines it.”

By tracing the history of mass incarceration in Michigan, we show that the crisis of mass incarceration is a crisis of racial capitalism. When we talk about mass incarceration we are talking not only about the number of prisons and prisoners but also about the organization of life and death under racial capitalism. Our response must go beyond reducing the number of prisons, or prisoners. Instead we must consider seriously the proposition of abolishing the very society that makes those prisons possible and necessary. We hope that these pages may serve as a space to imagine how we want to live, what a society without walls and cages, without domination and exploitation, might look like…

New Zine on Mass Incarceration in the Rustbelt was published on April 23, 2017

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