The Hurricane and the Prisoners’ Dilemma

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As Hurricane Florence wades across the Carolinas with stoner-like efficiency, we were left with an indelible image that sums up our world today.  North Carolina and Virginia decided to evacuate correctional facilities that were at risk due to the storm, yet South Carolina, characteristically, did not.  Why?

It was too inconvenient and expensive, state authorities said, and one of them dang varmints might get loose and rape a white girl.  Prisoners using bootleg cell phones conveyed to reporters that they had already experienced water up to their ankles when their cells flooded in the past. They live in terror of literally being drowned in a watery cage, because, to Gov. McMaster (yes, really) and much of the citizenry, they are non-people.  Non-citizens, non-voters, non-neighbors.

This heartbreaking image is piquant for two reasons: who better symbolizes the billions of vulnerable people all over the world whose lives and livelihoods will be wrecked by climate change, who are seemingly powerless to stop the decisions of those in power that will soon drown them, than these prisoners?

On a more concrete level, though, it resonates because the vast national prison strike of 2018 arose, in part, in response to the atrocious conditions at South Carolina’s Lee Correctional Facility, which resulted in a bloody riot earlier this year.  Although the story of thousands of people, organizing in chains, typically rendered invisible and mute by both the carceral state and the media, has gotten nowhere near the attention it deserves, people are clanging on the bars.  They hopefully will be heard.

Find about the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.  (Chapo has a good, brief discussion of the organization’s demands here.)  Support their work.  Do what you can to fuck up the system.  Because soon we will all be prisoners, with the overrun shit of a hog lagoon lapping at our shins.

This week’s Farm-to-Table Aneurysms have a lot to do with political economy — prison labor, student debt, the hamster-wheel life of the working poor.  There are a few fun things too…

A Prison Strike Reading List (Boston Review)

Prison Abolition Syllabus 2.0 (Black Perspectives)

In Amazon’s ‘hellscape’, workers face insecurity and crushing targets (Sydney Morning Herald)

Even progressive academics can be racist. I’ve experienced it firsthand. (WaPo)

Transgender woman’s bank account frozen because she ‘sounds like a man’ (Nottingham Post)

Matthew Desmond killing it as usual: Americans Want to Believe Jobs Are the Solution to Poverty. They’re Not. (NYT)

Student Borrowers And Advocates Win Court Case Against DeVos (NPR)

Chapo launches a ridiculous new meme…  Junk Explained: What Exactly Is A ‘Hot Couch Guy’? (Junkee)

Much to the delight of some in the ToM writers’ room, and to the chagrin of everyone else, Lana is back (Pitchfork)

This photographer captured shots of New Yorkers on their way to work for 10 years — and it shows how repetitive a commute can be (Business Insider)

RIP Beetle: VW’s icon officially dies in 2019 (CNET)

“It was the first thing on the syllabus…”

Author: Alex Sayf Cummings

Alex Sayf Cummings is an associate professor of history at Georgia State University, whose work deals with technology, law, public policy, and the political culture of the modern United States. Alex's writing has appeared in Salon, the Brooklyn Rail, the Journal of American History, the Journal of Urban History, Al Jazeera, and Southern Cultures, among other publications, and the book Democracy of Sound was published by Oxford University Press in 2013 (paperback, 2017). Alex can be followed on Twitter at @akbarjenkins.

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