Global Lockdown: Race, Gender, and the Prison-Industrial Complex

>> Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sudbury, Julia. Global Lockdown: Race, Gender, and the Prison-Industrial Complex. London: Routledge, 2005. Print.

This is the book that I have been reading this week. I finished the last few chapters today... thank goodness. I am in a miserable enough mood without it. This book just made me more and more angry - or perhaps, furious would be a better word. Hell, no perhaps about it.

The book is a collection of essays and chapters written by academics and activists from around the world and edited by Julia Sudbury. And did I mention it is infuriating? Not the book itself... it is far more accessible on the whole than many other books on my reading list... but it details the incredible (and not in a good way) growth of the prison industry around the world, and highlights the impacts of that on so many people.

I tend to be a ~bit~ of a bleeding heart at the best of times...I feel for the people I read about and sometimes, that just out and out hurts. It seems easy - for some, and certainly for politicians and many in the media - to talk about statistics, without giving a moment's thought to the fact that every one of the people that make up those numbers are PEOPLE.

People, not numbers.

People with hopes, dreams, wants, needs, families, relationships.... or without those things, which is, in many cases, even sadder.
People who, in far, far too many cases, hurt no-one.

It is so damn easy to say that he or she chose to do something illegal and therefore, they deserve what they get. That is what we are supposed to believe in this neoliberal - capitalist - global - harsh society.

Every last one of the men women children in prisons around the world deserves to be there. Every last one of them is guilty, and none of those of us who chose better needs to spare an iota of concern about any of them.

It sickens me.

There are innocents in prisons - in your country and mine and in the others too.

There are people in prison for having the wrong colour skin and/or for being poor and/or for having/lacking a penis and/or for refusing to allow themselves or their children to be abused or even killed and/or for having a mental illness or other disability and/or for needing to eat. Hell, in Nepal, as of 2005, women were still in prison for the 'crime' of having had the misfortune to have miscarriages. The nerve of them!

There are, in fact, an inordinate number of people in prison for these 'crimes'.

And there are altogether too many people who are not in prisons for these crimes because they are dead as a result of their incarceration.

But hey - those people must have chosen to be not white, to be mentally ill, to.... bah! BULLSHIT even.

Why is the prison-industrial complex growing at such a drastic rate? There are several contributing factors - but neoliberal globalization is at the root of most of them. I'll skip the big long explanation of neoliberalism - Wikipedia has it pretty much covered - but the (very) short definition is, in my mind, it's all about the money.

People don't matter any more.... what matters is money... the economy... the bottom line. Less government, more private enterprise (although the less government thing hasn't actually worked out so well in practice; in reality they mean less governmental responsibility, not any actual reductions in government size or spending). In neoliberal ideology, everyone is responsible for their own choices and especially for their own welfare. We're all equal, we all have equal opportunities, blah blah blah ... more pure and utter bullshit, that.

Prisons are not about rehabilitation - and in a neoliberal world, they're not about keeping communities safe either, although that's the line they use to justify them. They are about power and money....with a great big helping of racism thrown in for good measure.

I knew that already - I have done a lot of reading and learning and thinking about the issue since Ashley Smith died.... most of my research to date, though, has been focused on Canadian women in Canadian prisons... with a bit of US ~stuff~ thrown in.

Global Lockdown: Race, Gender, and the Prison-Industrial Complex pushed me towards thinking on a much larger scale ....which is good, I guess... but oh so discouraging, also. And oh yeah - infuriating!


  • Stephanie Barr

    I believe we lead the "free" world in incarcerations per capita here in the US. I'm not sure we don't just lead the world in general.

    It amazes me that no one sees this as a very unhealthy sign.

  • flit

    oh, you are world leaders, alright - and according to many of the authors in this collection of articles, the U.S. is pushing higher incarceration rates around the world.

  • flit

    Oh ...and the US is a world leader in encouraging recidivism , too, seems like... once one gets out of prison, in many states, they no longer qualify for welfare, student loans, or a whole bunch of jobs.

    No income, no education, no work... now go forth and sin no more. It's a ~brilliant~ plan ... if you happen to be one of the people making a killing by offering prison ~services~

    Not only are they being paid - by the taxpayer - for warehousing and punishing (non white) people - they are selling their prisoners labour, too. Hell of a racket.

  • Bob Sloan

    For more on just how neo-liberalism impacts upon all of us - civilian and inmate alike - visit In my corporatocracy and Insourcing series' I lay out those corporations making huge profits from incarcerating others, and th American PAC most heavily involved in spreading their diseases to other countries in search of more inmates and more money.

    Bob Sloan
    Prison Industry Consultant

  • Jeff King

    It is a problem...

Post a Comment

Blog Makeover by LadyJava Creations