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Your path to the prison-industrial complex [Candide's Notebooks photo © 2008]

Chain-Gang Suburbia
The Sign You Love To See in Your Neighborhood

The sign, orange and black like the prison jump suits it represents, is down the street a couple of blocks, down by the entrance to the amphitheater, along the path joggers and bikers and hip-replaced geezers use mornings and evenings when it’s cooler, down by the last bus stop before the subdivision gives way to the larger access road: “STATE PRISONERS WORKING.” It’s not the prisoners I begrudge. Judging from official numbers, about half of them—drug users, mentally ill patients, petty criminals—shouldn’t be in prison to start with. But the state needs fodder for its domestic version of the military-industrial complex.

 

Prisons must be filled so more prisons can be built and more prisons filled, so legislators can claim every two or four years that they’re tough on crime, so people who live in little quiet subdivisions like the one where this picture was taken can go about pursuing their happiness on the self-assurance that others are kept in chains. It isn’t enough to keep them in prison. They must be turned out for labor that the state can no longer afford through regular labor, because this was for eight years a Bush state, a tax-cutting state, a state where the treasury was turned out as a subsidy to the business class.

Cut taxes, end the state’s ability to provide vital services, and when the services are needed, use the modern-day version of slave labor: prison labor, which, conveniently, is more black than not, especially in states like Florida, where some Southern comforts (the kind of whitish comforts that ensure racist elections in places like Kentucky and West Virginia) remain.

The sign brings it all home. Literally.

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