Guest Commentary: Define Slavery

The California State Prison Solano in Vacaville. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

By John Mendoza

Nationwide we have been tearing down statue after statue of historical figures that represent inequality, slavery and oppression. In California, no matter how many statues we remove, we still have thirty-four monuments that represent this exact injustice; thirty-four California prisons! Just because we tear down the physical sites of statues (symbol of our entire “justice” system) the system itself still equates to the same eyesore prior to their removals. It’s time to focus on not only removing statues, but eliminating the actual foundation that holds the walls and statues of mass incarceration: greed, politics, corruption and injustice.

Greed is the base rock of the foundation for mass incarceration that utilizes human warehousing and slavery for the financial gains of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), California Corrections Peace Officer Association (CCPOA), Global Tel-Link (GTL), Keefe, Walkenhorsts, Prison Industry Authority (PIA,) etc. These establishments Thrive off of human beings peering through prison bars or lined shoulder-to-shoulder, one on top of the other, eerily similar to the hull of a slave ship.  Since 70% of the population consists of black and brown humans, it appears almost historically identical. CDCR takes full advantage of this situation with the Thirteenth Amendment giving authorization to PIA to conduct business inside their institutions and which utilizes CDCR’s slaves by threatening them with disciplinary action if they refuse to work.  These slaves get paid pennies-on-the-dollar while propelling a multi-million-dollar plantation forward all with kickbacks to the slave owners (CDCR).  A recent rocket these partners conjured up was to utilize the slave labor to produce hundreds of thousands of cloth face masks that cost under 10 cents each to make but sold to the government for over three dollars apiece, as taxpayers footed the bill.

CDCR Make sure these plantations remain fully stocked by extending inmate’s time by using a subjective parole hearing process, issuing frivolous rules violations, “confidential information,” and abusively using “CDCR discretion” when denying parole to non-violent offenders under newly voter-mandated laws.  Not only does this help keep the involuntary labor force stocked, but a maximum population means more phone calls home through GTO, more packages ordered through Walkenhorsts, Keefe, Vitamin Outlet, etc. Many prison security guards pay union dues to CCPOA, and in turn, more kickbacks from these companies to the owners of the consumers. Greed even prevailed during the most recent Health crisis that killed hundreds inside CDCR.  as California was ordered to operate business under 40% capacity and other countries were ostracized by the U.S. for humanitarian issues, CDCR made sure they were able to remain above 100% operating capacity and force their slaves to keep the plantations running.

The politics and corruption are the concrete that holds it all together as the CCPOA pursues lobbying for “tough-on-crime” laws that have proven to be failures, they line the pockets of corrupt politicians to do their bidding, they pay for fear-mongering advertisements to scare the public and shields their oath-breaking staff from discipline to ensure a maximum workforce is in place to pay union dues.  Every human body behind bars is the determining factor of how many staff are required so, of course, the CCPOA has a vested interest in mass incarceration. This means they have no actual interest in rehabilitation. In fact, prison staff are only required to have the lowest form of education to make $100,000 a year and are easily influenced by the academy and investigative service unit (ISU) to treat inmates less than humans and harass and antagonize them on a daily basis. Part of the training staff received involved ISU telling them that inmates “only want interactions to see if they can manipulate and corrupt staff” and “not to believe anything they say” and “they will try to catch you alone so they can knock you down and rape you.”

This mentality does nothing for the safety of the public. It creates more damaged humans, which is in fact what these organizations want so these people won’t heal and ultimately come back to fill a bunk that makes them more money. I’m sure many of the readers are familiar with the famous gladiator fights and dog fights that CDCR orchestrates or the “Green Wall” prison guard and gang. It’s a culture inside prison. Today they attempt to be less conspicuous but it still happens. Take the Special Need Yard (SNY) program CDCR created that birthed 25+ new prison gangs for example. Behind the scenes CDCR has made communities way more unsafe than ever before as these gangs struggle to find their identity on the streets once released and battle for territory and recruit new members that commit crimes to deepen their footprint in the community. Because of CDCR’s epic failure of the SNY program, they are now in the process of mixing the inmates back in with the general population and calling the yards “non-designated program facilities.” In other terms, inmates that feared for their safety and were removed from the general population are now being forced back together. It sounds absurd but it is creating new “dogfights” which means more violence, which means more discipline, which means longer sentences. In turn the CDCR plantations stay overflowing. It’s a complete orchestrated cycle.

This just barely scratches the surface of the corruption of unfairness that ensure the CDCR plantations are full. Is society really shocked that recidivism is at 55%? It’s what the elite want. If you keep dogs locked up and constantly tell them they’re “bad,” kick their cages, fight them and then release them to society, are we really expecting them not to bite anyone? Once we realize the system that constantly antagonizes the psyche of the animal is the actual problem and the people that profit off of the are there real “unreasonable risks to society” we can start to tear down the walls and put an end to the vicious corrupt cycle. I’m beginning to think that the “R” in CDCR stands for revolving door, not rehabilitation.

John Mendoza is incarcerated at CSP Solano in Vacaville

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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