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Class Differences in Crime Control

By Ed Mead

The other day a prisoner at a women's prison wrote and asked me how we, as revolutionaries, would handle crime problems differently than the existing government is now doing. The biggest difference would be both a social and an economic one, as the problem itself is both social and economic. First of all, there would be no unemployment, and things like jobs, education and decent health care would be human rights. By eliminating the existing gap between rich and poor, much of the social roots of crime would be eliminated (particularly for economic crimes, like robbery, burglary and so on). Even then we would, of course, still have ideology-based social offenses, such as sex crimes. It will be possible to reduce these when the means of education and information are in the hands of a party representing the interests of the working class. Then women won't be portrayed as little more than sex objects for male pleasure. Some of these changes will of course require a generation or two to alter the thinking and consciousness of a whole society. There is no shortcut or easy solution to this problem, yet it can be solved.

What about those already in prison? There are two ways to approach the science of social control. One is from above and the other from below. Take littering, for example. You can impose large fines and other penalties against those who litter. This process can continue until it becomes a capital offense. That is the bourgeois approach; it is also the approach of most citizens and many prisoners too. They say "kill the child molester!" They don't understand that they will quite likely be next on the government's list of those to be murdered by the state. The top-down way of thinking relies on the application of more and more force, up to, and including, death. As revolutionaries our approach would be different. If people litter it is because their consciousness is at fault. They do not believe that the earth belongs to them, so they litter. They are alienated not only from the process of production, but from the planet as well. We, on the other hand, would make the earth theirs. Today most of the planet belongs to multi-national corporations or governments. They pollute everything they touch, yet expect us to be different. Similarly, child molesters and other sex offenders suffer an identical lack of conciousness. Reeducation would teach them that women and children are not mere objects placed here for them to masturbate into. They learn this by not only becoming conscious of the nature and manifestations of sexism, but also by actively combating sexism in their day to day life. In other words, they must become active participants in the ongoing fight against the oppression of women and children.

Television, movies, magazines, newspapers, schools, and so on all put out the message that white males run the world and that everyone else is there to serve them (of course it is rich white males who do this the most). The ruling class puts forward the notion that all we need is more of what has not worked in the past: more prisons, more time behind bars, more death penalty, etc. And the hapless dupes of that conciousness pass it on as a legitimate solution to pressing social ills.

There can be no criminal justice without social justice. That truth should be self-evident. It should be equally clear that social justice is not achieved through a government's increasing use of repression and violence against it's own people. As revolutionaries we would approach the problem of crime from the bottom up, not from the top down.

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