The Tragedy We Know Obama’s Gun Control Moves Will Accomplish

child_prisoner_510The 18th Executive Order signed by President Obama is to provide incentives (and funding) for schools to have police oversee the children.  This will create results.  Of all the other items concerning background checks and manufacturing specifics for future guns, there is no clear indication that there will be any tangible differences.  Gun violence will continue with the 300 million guns in America, and millions more throughout the world.  Some people who legally bought guns and have no criminal record or mental health issues will lose their mind and commit a crime.  Whether we consider this an acceptable number or not depends as much on the media frenzy as on actual statistics.

School police, known as “Resource Officers” (perhaps for easier digestion) have been key builders of the School to Prison Pipeline.  The fistfights and the joint in the bathroom do not result in detention or suspension anymore: now they are imprisonment, expulsion, and an often insurmountable mountain to climb towards any “normal” adult lifestyle.  A 2011 report by Justice Police Institute, Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police In Our Schools,  would lead one to believe that the overall damage to a community is not justified by the vague possibility that the school is safer.  In fact, there are indications that the police actually lead to increased violence in schools.

Fortunately, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Advancement Project, and others are mounting a campaign to let the President know what he is doing.

President Obama would like to spend $4 billion to put 150,000 more cops on the street, further transferring public safety from the traditional role of states to the federal government.  These cops are not likely to be deployed in Newtown, Aurora, Littleton, Blacksburg, Red Lake, Killeen, San Ysidoro, or any locations similar to past massacres.  Nor will they be deployed in such white collar businesses and institutions that have been the site of these tragedies.  Instead, they will likely be patrolling the public housing areas of urban centers, looking for drugs among mostly Black and Latino boys.  Just as in NYC, where an officer’s job is justified by how many Stops, Questions, and Frisks they conduct, any new officers will be under the same pressures to “produce.”

Prison Expenditures will Rise

Children have been the fastest growing segment in the industry of prisoners.  They are a commodity justifying the building of a prison and hiring those who will guard them- even those who would try to teach them in these environments so non-conducive to learning.  Industries do not deal well with stagnation or reduction.  Thus, an ever growing number of children and young adults are needed to continue fueling an industry that has yet to be reduced in all the history of American prisons.

More cops requires more prosecutors to process the cases, along with more public defenders, judges, sheriffs, stenographers, interpreters, clerks, and everything else that happens after an arrest.  All on the taxpayer dime at a time when most “American” corporations are multinational and manage to avoid taxes around the globe.  These budgets are already bursting.

Putting police in our schools, and 150,000 police in low income communities of color, will certainly increase the front end of this industry during an era when states have been struggling to make reductions.  Spurred by the Bush Administration’s Second Chance Act, a secondary industry of “Rehabilitation” has expanded to attempt a reduction of prisoners on the back end.  One roadblock to this latter attempt is public perception, and media frenzy, (at times instigated by prison guards themselves) against “coddling criminals” or the perceived dangers of releasing someone who committed a violent crime decades ago.

The Future Economy

President Obama certainly knows that we currently have an economy of excess labor.  Several decades after outsourcing and technology eliminated our manufacturing base, people in Obama’s shoes are tasked with the dilemma of what to do with tens of millions of unnecessary people in our economy.  There is no indication that this trend will be reversed (not to say that it cannot be, but I have yet to hear any proposal that involves a massive new sector requiring human labor at Living Wages).  In the short term, the Prison Solution provides a small consolation, albeit with considerable human cost.

Once labeled as “Criminal,” there can be no moral demand for living wage jobs, education, and affordable housing- at least not in our current culture, where those making such demands represent an increasingly vocal minority.  Those who are labeled are often shut down with the phrase, “You should have thought about that before you became a criminal.”  Yet we are labeling them before they are even old enough to drive a car, vote, serve in the military, or sign a valid contract.  Furthermore, our society cannot even respond to similar demands by non-labeled people.

Non-labeled people from the lower classes can join the ranks of half-a-million prison guards, and twice that in the overall Prison industry.  As the labeled are released from prison, they are expected to have lower expectations, to be happy with a GED and a job that pays $8 per hour.  If we can create a nation where 10 million people are satisfied earning that pay, another 10 million are incarcerated, and another 10 million are watching over them… we may create some stability in our economy.  It will require a relentless Drug War and a massive tolerance for racially imbalanced outcomes.  Such a dystopia will likely require a repeal of the Civil Rights Act.

As a chess player it is important to think many moves ahead for yourself and your opponent.  Naturally, a chess player expects their opponent to think several moves ahead, perhaps five or six, at least.  Sometimes even if you think 20 moves ahead correctly, you still cannot see the victory; you may only see that all the pieces are dead except for the King… but you still must make a move.

About Bruce Reilly

Bruce Reilly is the Deputy Director of Voice of the Ex-Offender in New Orleans, LA. He is a graduate of Tulane Law School and author of NewJack's Guide to the Big House. Much of his writing can be found on
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