HOUSING/SHELTER/PIC (PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX) BLUES: 33,000+ PRISONERS GOTS 2 B FREE...OR IN CITY/COUNTY JAILS...AND WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF US?


Redbeardedguy - Posted on 07 July 2011

"In addition to the allegations of police misconduct that is affecting criminal cases, the D.A.'s office is facing overwhelming caseloads, and the city is preparing for the forthcoming influx of potentially thousands of prisoners after a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision ordered the state {of California} to release or transfer more than 33,000 inmates because of overcrowding."
--from "It's experience versus change in DA's race", by Heather Cassell, in the June 30-July 6th Bay Area Reporter

As POOR Magazine and others have said repeatedly, the PIC--Prison Industrial Complex--which can also be called Poor People Housing or The "New" Slave Plantation System--is an interlocking set of corporate economic interests and the logical end result of a lot of labor and union-busting activities going back to (maybe much further back-in-the-day...) Ronald Reagan's confrontation with and ruination of PATCO, the air-traffic controllers' union.  Believe me, if the airline and airport industries could use cheap prison labor to manage air traffic in Amerikkka's skies...they would.

Slave-wage prisoners fight fires in California and other Western states when the fire seasons get to goin'.  Outside of getting to be Outside, I don't get what prisoners get for doing it.  The state and rich people who have their zillion dollar homes and vacation lodges saved get a lot for nearly nuthin'.  State and Federal prisoners make license plates and other things for less money (by corporations with sweetheart deals with the states) than other companies can afford to.  Unfair competition?  You bet.

Corporations like Wells Fargo Bank invest megabucks in corps like GEO that build prisons and lobby for more to be built while education and other needs go begging for money.  The victims of starved education systems, low-paying jobs or no jobs, Sit-Lie Laws, etc., go to jail/prison or face massive risky struggles not to go there.  Can you say "Sex Worker"?  Can you say "Employed and living in the car"?  I knew you could!

Thirty-three thousand-plus prisoners equals about 570 people per county, though the B.A.R. quote, while at least a little bit fear-mongerish, is accurate if you take into account they might really mean the Bay Area--San Francisco County, San Mateo County, Alameda County, Marin County, etc--though it is possible for San Francisco to actually see four digits-worth coming to a street (or 850 Bryant) near "you".

If they don't go to jail, where do they go?  A new ordnance on the ballot in San Francisco aims to reform ex-Mayor Gavin Newsom's CARE NOT CASH (CNC) program because it created gridlock in the homeless shelter system.  People on General Assistance were sent to shelters, but then the shelter system classified shelters as "full" of CNC clients whether they are there or not.  The Phantom of the Full Shelters has been playing this mad tune in the Care Not Cash Cafe basement for years.

Whether or not the ordnance passes, whether or not it creates a better result or wreaks more havok on a system that has always been a Twilight Zone with Rod Serling firmly at the helm (Dead or Alive), there's not much breathing room in those shelters, nor is there much in SRO hotels.  There are at least two fewer SRO's this summer.  Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Robles wrote about a recent SRO fire and she, I, and others were on Facebook shortly after that freaking out over a SOMA (South of Market Street) SRO hotel that burned a few weeks later.

There's so much unmet need for housing: elders, families, singles of all sexes and transgender, youth.  There's an Elephant in the middle of the room.  Organizations that have great mission statements but fail to deliver on them.  POOR Magazine has its Homefulness Project, a radical/revolutionary co-housing set-up not requiring its future tenants to opt-in with money they don't have.  Co-housing and other DIY (Do It Yourself) collective housing arrangements aren't generally Poor People Friendly.

That must change.  We hope readers see what we're doing and get inspired.  You should!

The courts are a useful tool for forcing what isn't happening to happen--if you win.  They are also a blunt instrument with not much flexibility.  The U.S. Supreme Court decision's impact on California and its "criminal justice" system is one honking huge example.

Still, I would love to see Housing Rights lawyers go to the U.S. Supreme Court with cases focusing on things like the failure of San Francisco government to force developers to make at least 50% of housing units in new apartment buildings be for poor tenants.  The Booker T. Washington community center at Sutter and Presidio Streets has been trying to create a youth transitional housing facility next door to it; the project began as a 10-story structure, then the neighborhood demanded fewer floors.  NIMBY:  NOT IN MY BACK YARD!!!

The new San Francisco Supervisor for that part of San Francisco back-stabbed Booker T. Washington after more complaints were made, and the project has been forced to shrink still more.  Young people aged out of foster care at age 18 without anywhere else to go will go where you would expect them too--the streets, shelters, jail, prison.  That's another lawsuit that needs to go all the way!

Let's decriminalize squatting.  Let's get foreclosed houses out of the grubby paws of the banks and put them to the good use of organizations working to get people housed.  C'mon Lawyers!  Lawyer up!  If our various levels of government can't or won't do it, you're just about all we've got...other than ourselves.

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