I’m Uptown Serg, and this is “Police, Prisons, and Community Policing.” I’m grateful that society is beginning to acknowledge some of the consequences of overpolicing, but there needs to be a focus on the most direct consequences of overpolicing, which is mass incarceration. I want us all to be able to put the pieces of this puzzle together, one section at a time, so we can understand the process in its entirety.
Policing and incarceration are inherently bonded through the ideology of control and suppression, and neither one is any good for our community. People laugh when they hear others claim that we don’t need to police. How will we prevent crime? they ask. But police and prison has never been about preventing crime.
Let me be clear about this. Despite what you may think, police and prisons haven’t always existed. But crime has. So how was crime dealt with before policing and prisons came into play? Crime is a public health issue. In fact, show me any crime and I show you how police and prisons aren’t the solution for dealing with it.
Demanding that police departments be defunded is a critical and necessary first step in our journey, but it isn’t enough. We must also demand that prisons be defunded as well.
What we’ve been seeing on cell phone footage pales in comparison to what we see in prison videos were made available to the public. Nowadays, prison torture applied in clever ways. Yes, prisoners are still beat and starved and denied medical treatment, but there are newer, more subtle ways to abuse prisoners.
Sadly, since prisoners are almost always misrepresented as being thugs and criminals, most people feel that we’re getting what we deserve. “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime” is what they say. Even if George Floyd used counterfeit money- did that justify as murder? What if Eric Garner was selling loose cigarettes- did he deserve to be killed? Did Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice deserve to be hunted down and slaughtered like wild animals?
Why is America so mad at black people that you find any reason to justify treating us unjustly? The reason why many folks scoff at the assertion that we don’t need police and prisons is because too many people can’t imagine a world without police and prisons. And it’s sad that with all the brilliant minds in existence today, society still chooses to take the easy way out.
We throw away human beings as if they were trash. We lock them away and act as if the problem never existed. I even hear some of our so-called leaders claiming that we need prisons. Police don’t prevent crime any more than prisons protect society. Police have a singular skill set, which is to terrorize, and a singular function, which is to serve as proxies for the rich and powerful. That’s their history.
And regardless of what you think, the police haven’t been around for long, neither have prisons. In fact, when the Europeans first created prison, It was solely for the purpose of strengthening monarchies by silencing political dissenters. Today, the rich and powerful use police and prisons in much the same way. We don’t need to simply defund the police: we need to dismantle them. And the same goes for prisons.
Community policing is the only solution to this problem, but community policing, despite what so-called experts say, doesn’t mean that police officers become warm and cozy with the communities that they’re policing. Instead, community policing means that we don’t need a foreign occupying police force inside of our communities. If given the means, we can police ourselves, because only we know what justice looks like for us.
And we don’t need prisons because our focus will be on restoration rather than retribution. The common sense behind reinvesting into black communities seems so painfully obvious that it sometimes causes me to wonder if our leaders, even our black leaders truly ever want us to be free.
My name is Sergio Hyland, and you can follow me on Instagram @uptownserg.
These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.