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DO. WE. NEED. POLICE. AND. PRISONS?

June 5, 2022

THE TWO seemingly young white female police officers seated in a car parked in front of Cardiff Library had to wind down the blackened window of the intimidating squat marked armed response vehicle when I stood alongside the front door hoping to engage with the occupants.

Why, I wondered, is a car with guns the officers could deploy parked menacingly in the middle of a pedestrian plaza in the centre of a Welsh city in broad daylight on a pleasantly warm and sunny Thursday morning when I and everyone else appeared to be ambling along peacefully minding our own business, there was absolutely no scent of a disturbance and nobody had been seen rampaging the streets armed with guns and spraying bullets for the past, oh…… hundred years?

Why were they not patrolling the streets on foot as eyes and ears on the ground and would they come out of their vehicle to assist me, I also wondered, if I was to report to them desperately that I had been mugged by thieves who had made off with my wallet, especially if I was able to point the offenders out as they ran off?

There’s nothing like passing the time of day with a pleasant chat in the open air with one of our boys, girls, non-gendered or non-binaries in blue as they go about their business building up intelligence with the crucial help and support of the public, who give them consent to police and, of course, help to pay their wages.

But this was nothing like a pleasant chat in the open air (the driver called me “mate” after electronically winding down the screen. Never a good start.) and I seriously doubt if they would have assisted me to catch any muggers making off with my wallet. Engagement with the public appears, to me, to be nowhere on their list of priorities currently unless it is at gay Pride or at Mardi Gras in a procession led by Jeff Cuthbert and Adam Price decked out in pink sombreros, silver sashes and carrying truncheon-like black plastic sex toys.

Quite the opposite, in fact, the disturbing scenes of French police pepper spraying Liverpool fans aggressively outside the Stade de France at the Champions League final is becoming more and more common as an appropriate vision of modern policing.

Later efforts to access CCTV footage to help track the thieves down might also come up against barriers and I might find that they were switched off or that bizarre rules and regulations prevented public bodies from releasing them to me.

General Data Protection rules might later be wielded against me in a routine shutdown of transparency and openness to ensure that none of my questions are answered. GDPR is too often an evil curse mistakenly brandished by those who want to destroy and deny access to data – often for sinister political motives – we should be able to access as a matter of course and now increasingly it threatens to ban us from even asking for that information.

Officers I might engage with about the mugging back at the station in one of those fiercely frightening oppressive small rectangular rooms may adopt that ever-so-familiar passive aggressive defensive tone suspecting me of being a racist, sexist, white supremacist bigot and, perversely, warning me not to physically challenge the perpetrators of the crime myself at any time if I spotted them on the street, perhaps using my credit cards to splash out on luxuries I cannot afford, because of the potential physical danger to me. They will give me a crime number and I will get a text message from Victim Support but will never hear again from the police because huge numbers of crimes are now not being investigated and our police officers are too rarely Dixon of Dock Green-style approachable and amenable friendly allies.

So, if an increasingly politicised and paramilitarised increasingly armed police answerable more to political commissioners with an organisational agenda to control disproportionately magnified heightened fears of terrorism and civil disorder and actively punishing us for associating freely and travelling during a pandemic far more than they are answerable to us mere mortals, who might more reasonably fear silly little things like being mugged at knifepoint or having our house burgled while we sleep peacefully at dead of night, is not engaging with us and not really helping us, do we really need them any more?

We definitely don’t need them and we don’t need the carceral state they legitimise and feed – one which expands the fast-growing state-sanctioned and subsidised surveillance, penalise and punish sector with inevitable bigger and bigger prison populations worsened considerably by education classes in crime and terrorism in captive feral networks, goes the central message in Abolition. Feminism. Now. (their full stops, not mine, I’ll explain later) written by Angela Y. Davis, Gina Dent, Erica R. Meiners and Beth E. Richie (Hamish Hamilton, 2022).

In order to change the world, we must first change the oppressively imperialistic and colonialist language and the way we use it, Michel Foucault and the French philosophers who challenged conservative values perhaps best in the 1960s recommended in texts on white supremacist colonialist oppression that most modern radical feminist approaches are firmly built on and which our entire education system appears, now, to be firmly founded in, whether we like it or not.

Hence the full stops after every word in this book and a “both/and” world-view to replace a limiting “either/or” according to a radical feminist “women of colour” (white, of course, is not a colour in their limited lexicon) approach which appears to rely on the instances of rogue police officers like the killer of Sarah Everard on Clapham Common to depict all as male rapists and the George Floyd murder in America as an instance of racist aggression by a white policeman (which I don’t think it was) to deliberately ramp up the potential danger to us posed by mainly white male police officers.

“Could we discretely mark what was ‘feminist’ about ‘abolition’ or ‘abolitionist’ about ‘feminism’? How does abolitionist feminism take up the political questions that are germane but often obscured in the rendering of both concepts, considering racial capitalism, heteropatriarchy, internationalism, and transphobia as examples? Because these and other questions continue to play generative roles without demanding reductionist responses, we punctuate each word in the title with a full stop to signify that each of these concepts, with their own singular histories, frames this project,” they write.

Prisons, too, serve no practical purpose other than to consolidate and build upon already acquired criminal tendencies and anti-social mindsets with an experienced older group naturally educating and leading younger new-entrants in captivity into ever more sophisticated future criminal and anti-social behaviour.

This band of four academic American sisters (though they would assuredly criticise me for making insulting assumptions about them on gender) believe that mass incarceration is driven by racism and are ideologically knitted to a worldwide INCITE! movement led mainly by “women of colour” rather than (as I would call them) “black women” dedicated to abolishing police and prisons and replacing it with a brave new world free of gender and sexual violence by replacing our punitive justice system with a completely and radically different social justice system relying on better educated, better invested citizens with a better stake in the neighbourhoods they inhabit taking restorative or community-centred responsible action and re-defining crime and criminal behaviour with the decriminalisation of a wide array of offences to rid us of more and more crime and the necessity to call people criminals.

In essence, people police their own streets and enforce their own justice without weapons and threats of jails in a utopian dream future where “mothering” and “sistering” – building on our most precious fertile female life-giving and life-nourishing capacities and powers to naturally protect and preserve – is set against and opposed to “fathering” and “brothering” – smashing our most naturally dysfunctionally aggressive and destructive sexually predatory and lust for conquest male behaviour and approaches once and for all.

Crucially for me, as a white middle-aged male with a history of stereotypically predatory behaviour which I saw as normal and which was naturally reinforced by my peers, there is little to no positive life-affirming depictions of or opinions of white male contributions, values and qualities in this utopian dream future where artificial insemination introduces the concept of routine and normal fatherlessness, destroying the nuclear family and leaving men – the possessors of the dreaded genitalia now considered so threatening to peace and harmony – redundant and powerless pathetic people without roles or responsibilities reporting to “women of colour” leading to many of them taking their own lives in huge numbers, particularly young white males, easily, now, the most naturally disadvantaged with so many lagging behind in schools.

Indeed, heteropatriarchy (a ruling fatherhood of masculine mainly white men with penises capable of emitting life-giving sperm) and transphobia (the refusal to reject the biological and biblical fundamental certainty that gender is assigned at birth with a penis or a vagina and can only be altered cosmetically but not biologically) is THE real reason for sexual and gender violence, contributing massively to overcrowding in our prisons, assert the four sisters, all professors of subjects ranging from History of Consciousness and feminist studies to Criminology, law and justice and black studies, sociology, gender and women’s studies at the Universities of California, Northeastern Illinois and the University of Illinois.

I assume, for instance, that had my wallet actually been stolen at knifepoint in Cardiff city centre then these sisters would have recommended a justice system by perhaps comparing my wealth to that of the person or persons who deprived me of some of it and may have concluded that in that very act, they may have exacted some form of social justice by redistributing wealth more equitably along neo-Marxist lines. I may then be challenged by them to play an active part in the rehabilitation of the mugger(s) by helping to educate and “empower” them, possibly even taking them in to my property if they are homeless and arranging for them to visit food banks and arranging health care.

This, rightly, introduces the concept that crime is a collective not an individual responsibility and concentrates not on individual rights, freedoms and liberties but collective responsibility for each other, spiritual and faith-based forgiveness and altruism and a service-based “giving” rather than a “taking” disposition which HM The Queen is presently trying to promote for better interconnectedness and community cohesion.

I must report to the sisters of colour that community cohesion and mutual trust took a downward dive during COVID-19 – which for the first time legitimised the view that it may be more appropriate to fear than to love your neighbour as they may be contagious carriers of a killer virus – and has never recovered with suspicion and remoteness now normalised and even sanctioned (I see this every day in the way people now constantly avoid and evade engaging with each other in surgeries, shops and streets).

And where it goes wrong, hopelessly and harmfully, is if the mugger(s) introduced into my home by me then turn it into a cannabis factory for personal use and deal drugs for money from it against my wishes, stock some of my rooms with knives and guns and try to radicalise me into doing the same because a heteropatriarchal and transphobic state is against me and the only way to deal with it is to remove the justice system, police and prisons. That is when I need an enforcing state either inside or outside an ARV parked outside Cardiff library. That is when I need force and legal legitimacy to evict from my home people who do not have my best interests at heart and pose a danger to me.

“Abolition demands that we answer to communities that want meaningful, affirming, and accessible services, including health care and housing, but not when these are annexed to punishment,” they write.

Much too often in our Welsh NHS community mental health teams decisions about the prioritising of rationed care and treatment (which, of course, could include incarceration in a mental hospital) to citizens is inextricably linked to their history of or their likelihood of engaging in violence, ant-social behaviour and crime. Personal assessments carried out with service users by health professionals are naturally biased to advantage most those who are perceived as the most threatening and damaging to others and to civil peace and order, meaning that those whose needs are complex and demanding but who have little or no history of or likelihood of violence, antisocial behaviour and crime are always disadvantaged and neglected.

The way to get good therapy is to either get very rich so you can afford to pay for it privately or commit crime so the state is then obligated to provide it for you.

“The disability rights movement has had to challenge the stigma of pathologization and likewise demonstrate that disability rights are essential to human rights, and thus occupy a central place on social justice agendas,” they write.

“In 2019, a Los Angeles coalition of organisations including Dignity and Power Now and Critical Resistance defeated, for now, the proposed four-thousand-bed jail-like ‘treatment centre’ that clearly was not, as advertised, a ‘care-first’ facility. L.A. had proposed this new ‘mental health facility’ as a replacement for the crumbling Men’s Central Jail and awarded a $2.2 billion contract to a for-profit corporation with a track record of building jails.”

The radical feminist sisters of colour are just self-aware enough to realise that their mission is a desperately difficult one to sell to a centuries old worldwide sceptical establishment naturally in fear of crime and disorder, mainly perpetrated by “people of colour”.

“A political misalignment that had been simmering just below the surface was, once again, on display. Carceral policy makers, law enforcement organizations, conservative funders, mainstream service providers, and many academic researchers were, for the most part, unwilling to acknowledge that programs targeting gender violence should be concerned with advancing racial justice and were reluctant to consider that survivors of gender violence might be harmed , rather than helped, by police.”

They go on to instance negative press coverage in the USA which criticised abolitionist demands and claimed that “survivors do not support defunding the police”.

“The report’s broad claims about the role of policing in creating safety for those who experience gender violence blatantly ignores what many women and nonbinary people of colour have been asserting for years: because systemic racism drives the criminal legal system, it is not only not protective for those survivors who are not part of the mainstream, it also endangers them.”

There is a cruelly contorted artificial feel to the weaponised language in this book (reading it feels like being slapped mildly about the face by a group of women) and, crucially, the way it is brandished unilaterally like a hammer over your head without regard to or for others (frequently offending against grammatical rules designed for perfectly valid reasons) which hints at a paramilitaristic, menacingly, maniacally militant radical feminist, racial justice freedom force which could, in time, prove to be even worse than our police.

But the direction of travel, most assuredly, is very firmly in the sisters’ direction, from the British Library, which hectors and harangues us for our colonialist, imperialist past so that you leave the building feeling deflated and depressed about historical victories and flourishes which should engender pride after they re-engineer and re-position literature to reflect the disapproval and disgust of people like these four academics rather than to accurately convey the meaning of the original writer to less imposing places like clubs and pubs, where everyday speech is now much, much more unnaturally self-censored, self-policed and self-aware almost apologetically and in automatic avoidance of conflict and confrontation (horror of horrors!), now positioned as mere meek meagre “micro-aggressions”, superficial slights and tepid trespasses suddenly depicted for political motives as offensive hate.

Not far away from Cardiff library proudly standing guard outside the swish new Blatantly Biased Corporation headquarters is a statue of Betty Campbell, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Campbell a black teacher from what used to be called Tiger Bay currently being hailed for just doing her job but in a neighbourhood which attracted disadvantaged “people of colour” like her directly emigrating from Africa for a new life or the descendants of others, many of whom suffered massively from routine institutionalised racism by South Wales Police, led, inevitably, in the disgraceful and deeply distressing investigation into the murder of prostitute Lynette White – when five black men were wrongly jailed on fabricated and furiously fictional evidence – by rogue white men in a miscarriage of justice which the city has and possibly never will recover from.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-58490038

The details of the investigation – the men were not in the wrong place at the wrong time but were actively put there by police who conscripted “witnesses” who agreed to say so in front of a jury – make for grim and deeply disturbing reading and still serve as the best possible evidence that life without police and prisons might be better and fairer.

Money spent on paying bent cops and keeping them in rich retirement would be better spent on “free and subsidised services like safe permanent housing, education, accessible health and mental health care, high-quality childcare and job training and employment placement in addition to collective and environmental assets such as neighbourhood services that promote health and well-being, safe parks, healthy food options cultural and arts activism and mutual projects.

“We must be reminded right now of how rape, battering, stalking, criminalized sex work, targeted violence towards trans people, removal of children from their families is ruining lives. Rather than offering the now as the end point – as in “at last” – we offer it as a critical and joyful starting point.

“We are particularly energized by the proliferation of an expanding virtual world as we wrote this book – Zoom calls with people in prison, virtual convenings and webinars, Snapchat threads, FaceTime calls in cars and along public transit, this surge of connectivity continues to create and strengthen rebellious inter and intra-movement abolition feminist modalities.

“Networks are rapidly producing tools and workshops in response to the FAQs abolitionists frequently engage. Revolution is not a one-time event, as Audre Lorde reminds, and these networks are making the world we need, now.”

The problem lies in establishing just how covertly ingrained and embedded this political philosophy is now in Welsh politics because mainstream political parties like Labour and Plaid Cymru – in an Overton Window moving ever farther to the left and, crucially, with the collapse of Abolish the Welsh Assembly and UKIP and a crippled Conservative Party, with no apparent future alternative – are still unlikely to align themselves overtly with radical feminist people of colour who want to abolish police and prisons because it never wins votes.

But for how much longer?

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