I would like to hear your thoughts, Thoughtful Readers, on the idea of Project Do Better as what Professor Ruth Wilson Gilmore said of some striking teachers, that “this is also abolition work.” I’ve been thinking of her partly because I think that our goals are nearly identical, but fear being identified as a radical. The other reason I’ve been thinking of prisons is that someone recently thanked me for my service, at the US Naval Academy (though I served more usefully imho, as a cadet in the CAP and Jr. ROTC, by rendering first aid after a Metro bus accident!!). That reminded me of an overheard conversation in my senior year of high school. As I was nearing graduation, contemplating Annapolis, two guys in my class were also discussing their options. One said “three hots and a cot.” The other said “hospital, prison, military.” Then they both agreed -they had to enlist. So, when someone thanks me for my service, I think of the many reasons, especially health care benefits, that Americans “volunteer” to serve in the military. And then I think, can’t we do any better? So, between a Soylent Green world, and where we are today, is there any third way? I think there is, and I think that Prof. Gilmore is on to something. It’s not so different, in it’s end goal, as that of Project Do Better.
I’m quite drawn to her assertions that society must become just, equitable, and sustainable for all of us, which requires support for social and caring infrastructure. That is the basis of my backward engineering from a vision of a secure world for all of us, to where we are now via 4 phases. She, on the other hand, starts with a world in which there is no need for prisons. Come to think of it, a world where no child lacks food, shelter, etc, would pretty much be, it seems, a world where there is no need for prisons, right? In fact, I actually suggest a similar idea, as part of Phase IV, in chapter 5, P. 105/6…
I was reading a NYT (which I am apparently able to access only one time) article in which Prof. Gilmore is interviewed about her activism to abolish the prison system:
“The path that abolitionists called for to achieve these goals seemed strikingly similar to the original (if ultimately failed) goals of the Great Society and “war on crime” laid out by Lyndon B. Johnson in the mid to late 1960s: to generate millions of new jobs, combat employment discrimination, desegregate schools, broaden the social safety net and build new housing.”
Instead, we got “new and harsh forms of criminalization” and even worse:
“… prisons can access funds that traditionally went elsewhere — for example, money goes to county jails and state prisons for “mental health services” rather than into public health generally. “If you follow the money, you don’t have to find the company that’s profiting,” Gilmore explained to me later. “You can find all the people who are dependent on wages paid out by the Department of Corrections. The most powerful lobby group in California are the guards. It’s a single trade, with one employer, and it couldn’t be easier for them to organize. They can elect everyone from D.A.s up to the governor. They gave Gray Davis a couple million dollars, and he gave them a prison.””
These are issues directly touching the work of Project Do Better, and for the same reasons: to build a world in which all of us have all of our basic needs met, which by extension means that there is little to no need for prisons, we need to trace the flows of money and find out who benefits from various types of expenditures. Those resources could be going to Head Start, health services, etc, where a huge difference would be made well before the age most are sent to prison. And again, avoiding unneeded suffering for all of us.
“Her fundamental point is that prison was not inevitable — not for individuals and not for California. But the more prisons the state built, the better the state became at filling them, even despite falling crime rates.”
And in spite of falling crime rates. While the numbers may be in dispute, the fact that this:
“Project Head Start, one of the most effective long-term, anticrime programs in history.”
could be stated by a rather conservative person like John E. Douglas is impressive.
Here’s my review:
Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit
“I truly believe that along with more money.. what we most need more of is love. This is not being simplistic, it’s at the very heart of the issue.”
He is absolutely right. This is a world, particularly American society, that has put down true connection as secondary to a lot of things. And it’s costing us our lives. The lack of open emotional connection, the lack of friendship, the lack of love in society, and especially the lack of early childhood education and high quality child care, is creating a nightmare for people of all ages in this country that won’t be solved until we have a few generations of kids who’ve grown up being cared for by every single adult. Nothing more true was ever said than to point out as he did, or as one of his colleagues did , that the Head Start program is the most effective anti-crime program invented.
Secondly, a pox upon people who write in library books. Especially when they scratch out words so that you don’t know what the author said about someone. Back to our review:
We need to put our money where our mouths are and begin investing in those Early child Care programs for everything from childcare itself and paying our babysitters not only a living wage but to make sure that they’re giving even the very youngest of children educational and loving experiences, and of course early childhood education. These are the most important things that any society can do and we have neglected it to our detriment. It’s only now taking the toll on society that will take another 40 years to reverse.
We’d better get started.
5.58%“Interesting. It took quite a while before the dots left by Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were finally connected and institutionalized by the FBI.”
6.92%“Oh, so that’s why he didn’t come after me (in a short narrative nonfiction piece I wrote called Standing in the Gap) … Actually, I really was a bit crazy in that moment, and less concerned about my own safety. Ok, so that is what worried the bully? The fact that I was willing to get hurt defending someone else. Ah.”
16.74%“There’s even more paranoid self importance today…”
26.56%“A prostituted 16-year-old or 15-year-old actually, does not have lovers. She cannot pawn off her child nor is the child illegitimate, because the child was a product of rape so illegitimacy or legitimacy is not involved here: she is a victim, not a criminal.”
35.04%“It just takes a wide enough experience and enough reading of other cases with that experience and the needed details to get to the “How could you know that Holmes? 100 years ago they had burned you for a witch!” moment.”
44.87% “Why did someone scribble out the adjective on both pages:
P. 200: “situation with this …girl and realized…
P. 201: “… where some other…girl would be in danger.””
86.83% “Exactly: early childhood education
“Project Head Start, one of the most effective long-term, anticrime programs in history.””
So, there are a couple of points of intersection here: resources can go into early-age social services and we reap a seven-fold benefit, dollar for dollar, and then also the fact that even an FBI official can admit that prison is not inevitable, as Prof. Gilmore said. So, in other words, we really can change the way we do things, with not terribly radical methods.
We can definitely Do Better.
1.) Share your thoughts on how we might start to build a world where all have at least enough.
2.) What is your favorite hobby, and how could you see it fitting in with building empathy, or creating new tools for teaching adaptable thinking?
Thoughtful Readers, do you have any ideas on learning, especially multiple #LanguageLearning, on-going education and empathy-building, to #EndPoverty, #EndHomelessness, #EndMoneyBail & achieve freedom for All HumanKind?
Support our key #PublicDomainInfrastructure & #StopSmoking for COVID-19:
2. #ProBono legal aid and Education,
3. #UniversalHealthCare, and
4. good #publictransport
-we can learn from the past via Stayed on Freedom’s Call ,
by Teaching and Learning (Lesson Plan list) in the present, to
help build a kinder future: Project Do Better
Shira Destinie A. Jones, MPhil, MAT, BSCS
the year, 2022 CE = year 12022 HE
Stayed on Freedom’s Call
includes two ‘imagination-rich’ walking tours, with songs, of Washington, DC. New interviews and research are woven into stories of old struggles shared by both the Jewish and African-American communities in the capital city.
Shared histories are explored from a new perspective of cultural parallels and parallel institution-building which brought the two communities together culturally and historically.
Please let us know, if you have a moment, how you liked it.
Shira Destinie Jones’ work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.