They Cannot Wait
This isn’t the preeminent crisis at the moment, but I wrote a response on the urgency of carceral state reform and thought it worthy to post directly on my blog.
The full conversation is here.
You are right that we need to work on getting buy in from the rank and file. But even if you’re correct and the system only fails 20% of the time, that’s thousands of innocent people suffering. They shouldn’t have to wait for justice because it’s hard to get the rank and file on board.
Also, there will be times when it is simply not possible to convince them. If we reduce the incarceration rate to triple the European average, the majority of prison guards will lose their jobs. They are going to fight hard as hell to keep their livelihood.
Or an example from Pennsylvania: if a former prosecutor turned Republican State Senator, multiple rigorous studies, and participating in a five year commission couldn’t convince the DAs to accept reform, the hill is a pretty steep climb. How many people suffered unjustly while we were trying to persuade them?
So, at the same time we work within the system, we must also, as Dr. King said, bring the tensions to the surface. We need to convince a mass movement to put pressure on government to accelerate change. To forcibly alter the perverse incentives.
The Civil Rights movement didn’t spend time convincing White America to support inter-racial marriage; they pushed Loving vs. Virginia through the courts. It wasn’t until 1994 that more than half of America supported that decision.
The Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis spent over a decade trying to convince society that LGBT+ folk should be accepted. They barely made any progress. Police still regularly persecuted them. Change only began accelerating when they stopped trying to convince the police and rioted.
You may find these provocative comparisons, but I really do believe even a 20% failure rate is a serious crisis, worthy of aggressive tactics. The system’s victims cannot wait.