Thursday, May 19, 2011

O.P.P. Expands: Which Cell is for You?

That bloated belly of the beast, the spare tire hanging well below our collective waistline, belying our ill health, that ruinous organ digesting the young black generation that our city consumes for sustenance, the perennially hungry Orleans Parish Prison, is expanding in it's girth at this very moment.

Social justice activists tried to fight it, but there is no fighting City Hall, as the saying goes. The cranes stand tall above the Mid-City skyline, seeming to sway in the breeze to the tune of Bille Holiday's Strange Fruit as they slowly do their work.

There were hearings, articles, and email petitions. There were ads taken out in the newspaper, there were facts and good cases made against the prison's expansion, and still Sheriff Gusman could possibly build more jail cells.

While he builds the city's future on the slavery of it's youth, he is currently operating the notorious HOD, a condemned structure that feels more like a jail in Calcutta than in America. As a matter of fact, the jails in Calcutta are probably nicer because one's family can bring care packages to a prisoner there, unlike in HOD, where the material conditions of a third world prison meet the restrictive regulations of a first world control system. HOD, and OPP in general, are where you get the worst of all possible worlds. And, within Gusman's prison camp, there are women arrested for sex work facing felony charges and sex offender designation. Many prostitutes arrested in Orleans Parish are charged with "Crimes Against Nature" and humiliated by this sick patriarchal system that blames women for making money doing sex work for men with the money they need to survive.
 Why did a coalition made up of many prison abolitionists ask merely to stop OPP's expansion? Why did asking for the smallest shred of what you want, which some label "being realistic," fail yet again?

We are not afraid to demand OPP close entirely, and that the entire prison industrial complex be dismantled. In fact, this is what we must demand. Anarchists have no interest in living in a world with smaller jails. We want a world without human beings locked in cages like animals.We want a world where wealth is not stolen from people's labor using systems of law and taxation, only to see that very same wealth used to lock their own children behind bars. This is what must be demanded. We must always speak clearly, boldly, and proudly about what it is we actually want. If we do this, perhaps we may get closer to realizing our dreams, instead of being reduced to haggling over details of proper public meeting procedures for hearings held regarding the issue of OPP's expansion. Or negotiating to define exactly how many beds is a "right sized" OPP. Degradingly attempting to negotiate with a system that, in exactly the way a casino functions, always comes out on top when you play by the house's rules.

As the cold steel of the construction cranes silhouette in the evening sky, anarchists dream of a world where well-meaning activists are no longer duped into playing the many rigged games this system offers us. There are many strong, generous and radical people in this city playing the system's games right now. Whenever they are done, we are waiting in the shadows with pitchforks, ready to play by our own rules, where a shot at winning what we actually desire, the riotous destruction of OPP from both sides of the prison walls, is at least on the table.

A serious movement against the construction of more cages at OPP would look like one that openly calls for the abolition of prison entirely as it's goal. It must be ready to employ direct action tactics, grassroots organizing through prison walls, and be willing to sever it's ties to the Non-Profit Industrial Complex that hamstrings radicals constantly. So far such a movement has not been seen against OPP, and, like the dull sadness of watching a video poker player at your local bar, watching the games reformists play with this system have lost our interest!

Recommended reading on anti-prison struggle: A Crime Called Freedom, Assata, Proposals


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    This link has a great video made by Critical Resistance New Orleans about the expansion and prisons in New Orleans.