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Burning Spear News

COVID-19 spreads like wildfire in colonial prisons

May 19, 2020


“As many as 200,000 people could die from COVID-19 in the U.S.”⁠—double the current government estimate⁠—if there are no measures taken to stop the rampant COVID-19 pandemic sweeping through the colonial U.S. prison system, according to a recent study by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). 

The study calls on local, state and federal governments to quickly and dramatically reduce the U.S. prison population, which is the largest in the world.

The study reports that jails act as "veritable volcanoes for the spread of the virus," predicting that “23,000 U.S. prisoners will die behind bars and a further 76,000 in surrounding communities as the virus spreads from guards and released inmates,” according to an article on the World Socialist Web Site as of April 27.

One attorney representing a group of Louisiana inmates stated, “Some inmates are housed three to a cell, measuring 10 by 15 feet.” In these inhumane conditions of the colonial prison system, it is impossible to social distance.”

As of May 6, “at least 295 men and women in the U.S. have died after contracting the virus behind bars—a figure that is climbing by the day and remains ‘dramatically underreported,’ according to an article from the Intercept website.

“The official number of positive cases reveals little beyond how few incarcerated people are being tested: In the handful of facilities with higher test rates, most people were found to be positive. Eight of the 10 largest outbreaks in the country are in prisons and jails,” the Intercept article continues.

The number of COVID-19 cases are exploding nationally. Jails and prisons in Ohio, New York, Louisiana, Arkansas and Michigan have seen the virus spread by hundreds overnight in some cases. In Ohio, eighty percent of the prison population have tested positive and 17 inmates have died.

There are 276 inmates and 172 staff members who have tested positive at a county jail in Chicago. A total of 416 inmates have tested positive throughout the Michigan prison system, with 10 reported deaths. The Lakeland Correctional Facility in Branch County, MI tested all 1,403 inmates and found over fifty percent to be positive with 785 infections.

There is evidence of incomplete reporting of cases in prisons and jails in some states like Louisiana. The number is likely vastly undercounted because of lack of universal testing across the entire prison population.

One of every three African men will go to prison in his lifetime

The scope of the U.S. colonial prison system is enormous and is a result of the U.S. government’s counterinsurgency war against the African population, put in place to crush the Black Power Movement of the 1960s.

The U.S. government assassinated our leaders such as Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It destroyed our organizations and imprisoned our organizers, some of whom like Sundiata Acoli are still behind bars today.

The government also pumped deadly drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine into our impoverished communities and then built prisons and a billion dollar prison economy to lock us up by the millions to try to make sure we would never rise up again.

Today, there are 2.3 million people in 1,833 state prisons, 110 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,134 local jails, 218 immigration detention facilities and 80 so-called Indian reservation jails.

This does not include military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories, according to the March 24, 2020 report on the Prison Policy Initiative website.

The infamous mass incarceration carried out by the United States government locks up a fourth of all African men and an increasing number of African women in their lifetime.

While there are 2.3 million prisoners behind bars on any given day, each year over 10.6 million people go in and out of the prison system annually, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.

There are 6.8 million people under “correctional control” in this country—in prison, jail, on parole, probation, awaiting trial or confined without conviction.

African prisoners make up nearly 40 percent of the prison population, yet are only around 13 percent of the total U.S. population.

Because of the counterinsurgency war against us, the prison population grew by 700 percent from 1970 to 2005, a rate that has outpaced crime and population rates.

One in every fifteen African men and one in every 36 Indigenous men are incarcerated at any given time, in comparison to one in every 106 white men. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three African men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime, compared to one in six Indigenous men and one in 17 white men. 

These are so many statistics, but for African people this is real life every single day—with or without the colonialvirus pandemic. Every African person in the U.S. has a brother or sister, cousin or parent who has been in prison because the U.S. government is waging a war against us to keep us down and colonized!

U.S. economy: white people profit off Africans in prison!

African people were the start-up capital for the system of capitalism itself, including for European corporations and universities.

White people invaded and settled on stolen land in the Americas. Once slavery was abolished, arbitrary laws were enacted by the white ruling class to criminalize African people who were forced to come to the U.S. against their will.

On January 31, 1865 the 13th Amendment was passed, which only meant the transfer of ownership of African captives shifted from private to state ownership, hence making way for the largest prison population in the world. 

The amendment outlawed enslavement,  “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

The system of “convict leasing,” used throughout the South following the Civil War, leased out African people to our former slave masters, becoming the method of stealing our labor again.

From 1870 until 1910 in the state of Georgia, 88 percent of leased convicts were African. In Alabama, 93 percent of leased convicts were African.

The profits from convict leasing were so great, they rebuilt the wealth of the South after the Civil War a thousand times over.

Convict leasing was the foundation of the current U.S. prison system, founded on enslavement and genocide of African and Indigenous people. 

Prison labor continues to extract labor and resources from colonized people, creating well-paying jobs and businesses for white people.

African People’s Socialist Party fights for power for African working class

Point 6 of the African People’s Socialist Party’s (APSP) 14-Point Platform states, “We want the immediate and unconditional release of all black people who are presently locked down in U.S. prisons.”

The colonial prison system in this country proves that African people are oppressed by the system of colonialism, the political and economic domination of a whole people by an oppressor nation. Racism is not our problem.

As Chairman Omali Yeshitela has summed up in his book, “Vanguard, the Advanced Detachment of the African Revolution,” “Our struggle has always been for power, not against racism. To the extent that we win power, the ‘racism’ of others becomes irrelevant.”

This is why our Party has built the Black Power Blueprint and The People’s War Campaign. We are fighting for power over our lives, resources and destiny.

We are exercising our own government, the government of the African working class, to seize power and determine our own future!

Join the African People's Socialist Party by going to apspuhuru.org!

It’s time to seize power!

Join the People's War!

Victory to the African Nation!

 

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