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Clinton for Prisoners: More Bad News

With Clinton's election many prisoners are optimistic that there will be some changes for the better after 12 years of jackboot politics by the Republicans. In past issues of PLN I've mentioned Clinton's despicable record on the death penalty. That record includes 4 executions, dozens of death warrants signed, never commuting a death sentence and executing a brain damaged black man in the middle of his campaign and using the execution to brag to the media about how "tough on crime" he is. During his tenure as governor of Arkansas that state has had the distinction of spending less money on its prisoners than any other state, and being notorious for the harsh conditions of its prisons.

But maybe Clinton is going to turn a new leaf now that he's President, right? During his campaign Clinton made the following promises of what he would do when he was elected, all of which affect prisoners.

One of the centerpieces of his national service plan is to put 100,000 new police on the streets. The U.S. currently has about 500,000 law enforcement people. A 20 percent increase is quite significant. What no one has mentioned is that more cops will likely mean more arrests requiring more prosecutors, more judges and more prisons. So the ripple effect will mean the continued expansion of the prison system. It also means a bigger police presence and occupation of the poor neighborhoods in the U.S.

Speaking of police occupation of our communities, Clinton wants to make "high crime communities eligible for federal aid for proven anti-crime measures." I bet that "proven anti-crime measures" means more cops and more repression. "High Crime" is the codeword for minority and poor neighborhoods. Until there are jobs that pay decent wages, affordable housing, health care and good schools the "crime problem" will persist.

But Clinton is also thinking of the schools. He wants to make schools eligible for federal aid to buy metal detectors and security staff. He also wants to encourage states to give schools greater authority to conduct locker and vehicle searches. So much for the fourth amendment's ban on searches and seizures. Blanket searches without individualized suspicion were the reason the fourth amendment was created. But it'll only affect kids, who can't vote, so who cares. This will help schools look and feel more like prisons. A lot of schools already have the razor wire, high walls and armed guards that a lot of prisons don't even have.

For first time, non-violent offenders Clinton wants community "boot camps." Right now first time non-violent offenders are likely to get probation or a little jail time as a sanction. Boot camp is an increase in punishment. There is also no evidence that these "boot camps" do any better at rehabilitation than probation, where the offender stays in the community and can keep job and family relations intact. Having gone through the real boot camp run by the army I don't see what connection there is between rehabilitation and being shouted at, abused, and forced to do menial labor. If there were maybe there wouldn't be so many veterans in prison.

Next Clinton has promised to "require criminals to serve jail sentences in `real prisons' not `high tech summer camps'." He hasn't said how he proposes to do this. There is also the matter of perceptions. So, how many of you PLN readers on the inside are in a "high tech summer camp?" I bet guys at Marion will want to know if they're in a "real prison" or not.

Just as a matter of curiosity, Clinton's brother Roger is a convicted cocaine trafficker who did a few years in prison in the '80's. Where did he do time at? Was it Leavanworth, Lompoc or one of the other "real prisons" or was it a "summer camp?" I'm willing to hazard a guess which one it was.

Remember the longer and longer sentences of the Reagan/Bush years? Well, Clinton has promised to enact "tougher sentences for criminals who use guns." Yeah, criminals were getting off way too lightly with the Armed Career Criminal Act which imposes 25 years without parole for possession (not use, mind you) of a firearm by a felon. The 20 year mandatory for carrying a gun during a drug felony and the 20 and 30 year mandatories for possession of a full auto or a silencer are far too lenient, especially with that 56 days a year good time. So Big Bill is going to get tough on the sentencing. Why stop there, may as well give out 10 years for jaywalking and the death penalty for burglary, show people you're really tough.

As a sop to the gun control lobby, Clinton has promised to sign the Brady bill which mandates a 5 day waiting period for handgun purchases and to limit access to multiple round clips. As we know, when guns are outlawed only the police will have guns, and that's a scary thought. I'm sure that places like New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., with almost total bans on firearms sales, are examples of what Clinton thinks this will accomplish.

Well, those, according to the Seattle Times, are the highlights of Clinton's "crime program." The only difference I see between this and anything Reagan/Bush and the rest of the Hitler Youth would have given us is that Clinton is openly for gun control.

The dynamics of capitalism don't rely on individuals. The policies of the ruling class to safeguard their economic and political interests will go ahead regardless of who the figurehead in the White House is. In a year or two I'll write another article to see how Clinton has fared in making good on his campaign promises. I expect to say "I told you so" to those who still think there's going to be any kind of meaningful change with Clinton in the Whitehouse. As the capitalist system sinks into greater economic crisis we're going to see more repression at home and abroad. Of course, PLN will be here to give a running account of battle damage to prisoners as this process unfolds.

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