May 25, 2013
How Students Landed on the Front Lines of Class War
Posted on Nov 22, 2011
By Juan Cole
Stiffer penalties have been set even for victimless, nonviolent, drug-related crimes. California is also one of those states with a “three strikes and you’re out” law, which fills prisons with petty shoplifters while setting more lenient penalties for massive white-collar embezzlement. The Legislature has removed judges’ discretion in releasing prisoners early for good behavior. The clout of the California Correctional Peace Officers’ Union and what has been called the “prison-industrial complex” has played a big role in pushing irrational legislation that has swollen the prison population.
Nationally, the emphasis on supposed law-and-order issues and the epochal mistake of a “war on drugs” that has criminalized a largely inoffensive and medically useful substance like marijuana have gone hand in hand with a militarization of law enforcement. That is, the defunding of higher education in favor of an enormous gulag dovetails with a rise in the paramilitary repression of the population as one of America’s premier industries.
Not only are UC Davis students being hit with massive tuition increases to pay for the penitentiaries and their policing, they are also being treated like unruly inmates by a militarizing police force. In the meantime, the country is taking giant strides toward the future Jefferson feared, of poorly educated citizens at risk of being manipulated by rising oligarchs.
Juan Cole’s column appears every other Tuesday on Truthdig. He is a celebrated Mideast scholar and the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan.
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