, 12 tweets, 5 min read
“It is inside some of the grandest buildings that our society does some of its worst deeds.”

Some wisdom from Alec Karakatsanis (@equalityAlec) in his forthcoming “Usual Cruelty.” 1/x
“One defining feature of America’s punishment system is that it inflicts cruelty on such a scale that it no longer feels cruel.”
Punishment bureaucrats (police/prosecutors/lawmakers) “lack the most basic data, evidence or rational explanations that one would expect from people before they cage millions of human beings in frightening conditions & separate tens of millions of families.”
Lawyers fighting against mass punishment “must change the way society talks & thinks.” To do so, we must “develop a new discourse” & “employ the language of life against the language of a bureaucracy—songs instead of shackles, poems instead of police reports.”
Punishment bureaucrats make choices. They criminalize wagering in “streets over dice.” While “wagering over int’l currencies, entire cities’ worth of mortgages, the global supply of wheat needed to avoid mass starvation or ownership over public corporations is accepted behavior.”
“Crimes arent chosen bc of some assessment of the amount of harm prevented & punishments are not selected bc of demonstrated penological success. Instead forces external to well-reasoned policy contribute to definitions of criminality & to decisions about appropriate punishment.”
“The brutality of separating tens of millions of families from loved ones—w/ no empirical evidence of benefit—wouldnt be tolerated if it happened to different people. Elites neednt worry about creating crimes w/ harsh punishments if they know laws wont be enforced against them.”
Selective enforcement: “Wage theft by employers costs workers an estimated $50 billion per year. All robberies, burglaries, larcenies & motor vehicle thefts combined cost $14 billion per year. Prosecutors almost never enforce criminal wage theft laws.”
“Each of the 3 presidents from 1992-2016, admitted to committing federal drug crimes when younger. Had prosecutors chosen to prosecute them for that conduct, it is possible that we would never have heard their names. It matters who gets investigated, caught, & prosecuted.”
Police choose to “ignore lawbreaking in entire neighborhoods or economic sectors. The “radical” future of prison & police abolition sought by some effectively already exists for wide swaths of our society: wealthy white people rarely interact w/ the police, except by choice.”
“People working in the system become dependent on its perpetuation for their livelihoods & even their identities. Jobs are created, local political power is consolidated, & “law enforcement” activities are normalized then rendered economically essential.”
An argument for reparations:

“Making individual survivors whole is an uncontroversial goal of standard criminal prosecutions, but making whole the many survivors of systemic government atrocities is entirely absent from broader ‘criminal justice reform’ discourse.”
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