Without pause I answered, "Well, I'm still standing. Still takin' punches. I guess that's something."
That's what being a prisoner involved in The Struggle feels like these days. Like Rocky Balboa in the original Rocky movie. Standing in the ring absorbing punch after staggering punch. When will it be our turn? When will things turn around?
I don't have the answer. All I know is that I'm not gonna give up. I'm not gonna lay down and say, "That's it. I'm beat. You guys win." I'm gonna keep standing here. And I'm gonna keep taking punches. And I'm gonna do what I do, which is to chronicle The Struggle, to do my duty as a journalist, to deliver information.
And I know I'm not standing here alone. Every one of you out there who stand beside me prisoners and non-prisoners alike, you know who you are I thank you. We're still standing. Still taking punches. And little by little things do change.
Last fall the Critical Resistance conference in Berkeley, California, drew more than 3,000 people. The phrase "Prison-Industrial Complex" was the theme of the conference. A lot of people thought the phrase was too much of a stretch, looney-tune-fringe. "It'll never go 'mainstream,"' critics pronounced.
Yet three months later the eminently mainstream magazine Atlantic Monthly publishes a feature length article by Eric Schlosser titled, "The Prison-Industrial Complex"
"It's not a conspiracy," Schlosser writes, "it is a confluence of special interests ... politicians, both liberal and conservative, who have used the fear of crime to gain votes; impoverished rural areas where prisons have become a cornerstone of economic development; private companies that regard the roughly $35 billion spent each year on corrections not as a burden on American taxpayers but as a lucrative market; and government officials whose fiefdoms have expanded along with the inmate population.
"The prison-industrial complex includes some of the nation's largest architectural and construction firms, Wall Street investment banks and companies that sell everything from security cameras to padded cells...."
And suddenly "Prison-Industrial Complex" is a valid construct, floating smack dab down the middle of the U.S. Media Mainstream. Schlosser's Atlantic Monthly article has been heralded (and quoted extensively from) by syndicated columnists from Molly Ivins (Fort Worth Star-Telegram to Neal R. Peirce ( Washington Post ).
And so the "Prison-Industrial Complex" has officially arrived. It is now an accepted feature on the political and public policy landscape. That's something.
So what's next? I don't know. Stick around. Keep reading PLN . Evidently Eric Schlosser did (though I don't believe he is a subscriber). I recognized sections of Schlosser's article that closely mirrored PLN 's coverage. Not that he plagiarized us -far from it. But it's nice to think that in some small way we (we who produce, edit, write for PLN , and who subscribe, support, and donate to PLN ) are making a difference.
One person who made a difference was Holbrook Teter. Sadly, Holbrook died of heart failure on Jan. 2. He was nearly 70 years old. He worked with California Prison Focus and struggled tirelessly for prisoners rights. I consider Holbrook a hero, a friend, and mourn his passing.
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