Tag Archive: Jim Crow

A (Brief) People’s History of Gun Control

RM_Williamsby Kevin Carson
Center for a Stateless Society

From its very beginning, gun control — the attempt to regulate the possession of means of self-defense by the ordinary populace — has been closely associated with class rule and the class state.

In early modern England, regulation of firearm ownership was closely intertwined with the struggle by the landed classes and capitalist agriculture to restrict the laboring classes’ access to independent subsistence from the land. This included enclosure of common woodland, fen and waste — in which landless and land-poor peasants had previously hunted small game — for sheep pasturage or arable land. It also included exclusion of the common people from forests via the Game Laws and restriction of hunting to the gentry. (more…)

Private Prison Company Used in Drug Raids at Public High School

Corrections Corporation of America used in drug sweeps of public school students in Arizona

by Beau Hodai

In Arizona an unsettling trend appears to be underway: the use of private prison employees in law enforcement operations.

“To invite for-profit prison guards to conduct law enforcement actions in a high school is perhaps the most direct expression of the ‘schools-to-prison pipeline’ I’ve ever seen,” —Caroline Isaacs, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

The state has graced national headlines in recent years as the result of its cozy relationship with the for-profit prison industry. Such controversies have included the role of private prison corporations in SB 1070 and similar anti-immigrant legislation disseminated in other states; a 2010 private prison escape that resulted in two murders and a nationwide manhunt; and a failed bid to privatize nearly the entire Arizona prison system.

And now, recent events in the central Arizona town of Casa Grande show the hand of private corrections corporations reaching into the classroom, assisting local law enforcement agencies in drug raids at public schools. (more…)

Parchman Farm and the Quelling of Black Protest

From Prison Culture

I write often on this blog about the intersections between the carceral state and the history of black protest. Today I want to continue that exploration by focusing on the history of the Mississippi State Penitentiary also known as Parchman Farm. The prison has been memorialized by the famous Bukka White song “Parchman Farm Blues.”

Parchman Penitentiary – Early 1900s

Mississippi Governor James Vardaman who was elected in 1903 was an avowed racist but also virulently against convict leasing. His critique was that the lease system enriched specific individuals at the expense of the state. He advanced a proposal to create a state-run penal farm which led to the establishment of Parchman Prison Farm in 1904. So Parchman Farm was conceived as a reform project. Instead, it became notorious as one of the most racist, violent, and brutal prisons in America.

I will focus another day on the actual history of Parchman. Today, I will underscore the prison’s role as a tool to quell the dissent and protests of the Civil Rights movement. David Oshinsky (1996) writes that: “In the 1960s, Mississippi officials used the Delta prison to house — and break down — those who challenged its racist customs and segregation laws (p.233).” (more…)

The State As “Collective Slavemaster:” Criminalizing Black People After Emancipation

From Prison Culture

As I begin to think about pulling together an exhibition about confinement and captivity in black life, I am re-reading several books and articles about slavery and emancipation.

In Alabama, even before the Civil War, prisoners were responsible for their own court and incarceration costs at the county level. After the Civil War, this continued with one day in prison costing thirty cents. If prisoners could not pay, they served extra time and labored to pay the fees. While Alabama state prisoners had always worked, the state had never made a profit off their labor. This changed in 1875 when the state began to lease out prisoners for their labor to coal mines and to railroad companies. This money was essential to Alabama as the state was broke in the 1870s and prisoner labor helped to fill its coffers.

Alabama like many other Southern states desperately needed laborers for the lease system to work and they used the criminal code as a tool of racial discrimination. One cannot understand the racial subordination of black people post Emancipation without also exploring its links to the need in the south for a cheap and stable labor supply. Adolph Reed (1996) has described the state post-Emancipation as a “collective slavemaster.” This is an important insight that underscores the link between slavery and the continued criminalization of black bodies. (more…)