Andre: A quick note for today's show, we had some technical glitches happening during the recording. So, you might hear some words either get very low quickly or cut off completely. We hope you'll be able to make sense of the full conversation around what was going on in context. Thank you so much for listening.
Andre: Hey friends, you're listening to the Hope and Hard Pills Podcast where we are exploring practical insight for social change and anti-racism. I'm one of your host, Andre Henry, and joining me as my co-host is my homie, Alicia T. Crosby. Alicia, how you doing?
Alicia: I'm pretty good, and I'm really excited to be with you today. When I say with you, I mean definitely with Dre, but with all of you listeners. Hi, you all.
Andre: But mostly me.
Alicia: Yeah, mostly Dre, mostly Dre. We're going to get into some really good conversation. Our conversation this week is going to be a really, really dope one. I mean, we're going to be speaking about incarceration. Dre, and as you know, I call him Dre, you all can't. You all don't know him like that, but Dre kind of clue as in. We did this incredible interview that we have come in later on in our podcast. I just want to know how did we get here, and we're going to be speaking about incarceration, but why are we speaking about incarceration this week?
Andre: So, we're talking with Dominique Gilliard today. My brother from another mother, Dominique Gilliard, who wrote the book Rethinking Incarceration and has been doing a lot of work around incarceration. But I actually didn't reach out to Dominique because of the book. I reached out to Dominique because I've been following, Gosh, the mass deportation system that what some people are calling our concentration camp system. And people have been talking about how there's a connection between the concentration camp system, the border situation, and our mass incarceration system in the US.
Andre: So much so that if we were to fight mass incarceration, we could actually also be doing something about the border situation at the same time. And so I had an earlier conversation with Dominique about how... to ask him the question, do ordinary Americans participate in the mass incarceration system? Because the way that we fight it through people power is to determine how we participate so we can withdraw our participation. And Dominique said, "Absolutely." And so I was like, "Oh, my gosh, we have to have this conversation on the podcast." So that's what we're talking with Dominique today.
Alicia: That's super awesome. I think incarceration means a lot of different things but I think it's really interesting how you've made the connections between that and this mass deportation crisis. I mean, I think it is a crisis, that what we're seeing at the US southern border, and not exclusively here in the US, but this is our social context. People are being held, people are being detained before being expelled. And so I mean those patterns and systems of detention, whether they happen within the criminal justice system, whether they happen in our immigration system, they're all interconnected. And so I'm really grateful that we're having this talk with Dominique in order to just highlight how these things are interwoven, but I have a question for you.
Alicia: So, everyone has different entry points into this conversation, right? The way you and I are speaking about this now or the way that you and Dominique speak about this are different because we've been having these conversations for a long time. But think back right when you first found out incarceration was the thing. When did you first become aware of the concept, the premise, the practice of incarceration? And then when did you start caring about it because those aren't always the same[inaudible 00:04:21] for people.
Andre: Oh, for sure. I mean, I think that we all know even as kids, there is such a thing as going to jail. And what you think, or what I thought as a kid, I bet most people thought, is that you go to jail because you did something bad. That's where the bad people go. And for the most part, I assumed that our criminal justice system did just that, they kept us safe by locking up murderers and folks who have committed violent crimes, but after the death of Philando Castile in 2016, which I know it's super late, everybody I know.
Andre: But after the death of Philando Castile, I committed myself to learning as much as I can about systemic racism. And I began with Bryan Stevenson's, Just Mercy and reading about Bryan Stevenson because he's a legal expert, and he's worked in the criminal justice system. He works with people on death row. Reading about how different the incarceration system is from what I had assumed for a long time. It wasn't like I had no idea by the time I read that book, but I had no idea just how different it was and the types of people that end up being locked up, how many innocent people are incarcerated. And the thing that was shocking to me was that I found out by reading that book, that oftentimes the criminal justice system knows that they have the wrong person locked up or the wrong person on death row, and they still go through the entire person, anyway. That was a shocking thing to me how often it happens, but it's just not reported. So, I think that was the beginning of understanding the way that our justice system actually works. What about you?
Alicia: I mean pass over to you[inaudible 00:06:15] system and crises like when we're kids, right because we learned about cops and jail and people play cops and robbers and sometimes that whole weird thing where you put somebody in a cardboard box? I know I've seen people when[inaudible 00:06:32], "Ah, you're in jail." So, I think for a lot of us, including myself, the awareness of what we later understand to be these cultural systems is it comes pretty early on in life. But I think I started caring when I saw just how badly folks were treated by it. So in my former life, I worked as an educational advocate. And I think about how my kids interacted with the police and what it meant for them to be put in detention for different things.
Alicia: What their experiences were, how they were treated, the fear, the injustice around identity where some of them we get locked up or detained for different things. And they are more privileged counterparts. Sometimes it was economic privilege it was in play. Sometimes it was racial privileges in play. But those privileged people didn't suffer the same consequences. They weren't detained. They weren't held. They weren't having their rights bumped up against. I think that's when I started caring. So, I'm going to say maybe for me, that was in maybe 2013 2014, but I mean, that's still a fairly significant amount of life to have lived without being as invested in the conversation, considering how many millions of people are locked up, are putting cages, actual cages. But eventually, I got there.
Andre: Well, I think that it brings up a very interesting point. And that is that we are taught at an early age that putting people in cages is normal and that it is a valid response to what we call crime. And so we're given that story at such an early age, that it's no wonder that we don't think about it really until we're older and that we need to have a counter-narrative that causes us to question and deconstruct the story that we had to begin with, not to mention... and this is something I thought about as you were speaking is that when people are sent to prison, sent to jail, they are literally out of sight, out of mind. They are moved out of mainstream society. So, we really don't have any idea of what's going on there, or we didn't for a long time I feel, unless you were a part of the criminal justice system, but thanks to books like The New Jim Crow, and documentaries and stuff like that over years, we're starting to be able to understand more and more what we're actually doing to people.
Alicia: And not just people, but our people. And I think that that's the thing that maybe sticks with me the most when we start to have conversations about incarceration, and incarcerated or formerly incarcerated folks. It's, these are our people. You can take them away, you can put them in places away from us, but that doesn't mean that they're not a part of us still. I'm hoping that that's a conversation we can have more fully in society at large. It's, what does it mean for us to remember that these folks, the ones who you want to take these punitive measures against regardless of what crimes they're charged with are still ours. They still belong to us, but I'm really excited to hear what you and Dominique were able to get into by way of conversation. I'm really excited to hear what he has to say and what his perspectives are, as it relates to this conversation. So, let's get into that.
Andre: Hey, Dominique, how you doing today?
Dominique: Pretty good, bro. How are you?
Andre: I'm good, man. Thanks for being on the show.
Dominique: Yeah, man. Anytime fam ask me to do something, I'm here. So let's do it.
Andre: I appreciate it. Well, I feel like we're having a super timely conversation as we think about the use of concentration camps in the US again, another [inaudible 00:11:07]. And talking about the border crisis. And I've been hearing people say that the problem that we're seeing with detention is so endemically tied to mass incarceration that if we fought mass incarceration, we could also be doing something about the detention centers. What do you think about that idea?
Dominique: I think we have to be very intentional about being intersectional in our approach to the work, and I think one of the ways that's crystallized is through the inherent interconnection between mass incarceration and what I like to call the war on immigration. Because if you actually juxtapose this war with the war on drugs, then you see there are direct parallels from the earmark money that is funded to special task force. They're just supposed to enforce the law in regards to this. You see the astronomical rise of people who are being targeted and incarcerated. And you also see the rollout of special legislation that is extremely punitive. And its implementation particularly against certain people groups. And then you also see the same type of profiteering that is happening on the backend through the incarceration of vulnerable people. So, I always like to be intentional about drawing that connection and that parallel for people, because like you said, with concentration camps, this is not the first time we've seen these tactics rolled out and implemented.
Andre: It's been really striking to me to think about, what would it look like if we try to think about these kinds of issues in a more comprehensive way. So, it's not the Hydra, where you chop off one head and it's just another manifestation of the same problem. How do we get to the root of what we're talking about when we are basically talking about the abuses of human rights? What are your thoughts on that?
Dominique: So I think I mean, for me, a lot of it starts with being students of history. I think when know our history, then we can start to recognize the patterns. It's almost like in football, if you're playing cornerback, and you see you've studied the film and you know a quarterback's tendencies then when he tries to lift you off, you won't be thrown out because you know, that he's just looking you often go to the receiver that he wants to go to, so you can jump the route and get the interception. It's the same type way that I think that we as activists have to be students of history to be able to see when we talk about the way that private prisons are strategic located in this nation.
Dominique: If we look at this historically, we see that the same kind of strategic placements were used for Native American Reservations and rural sparsely populated communities where the injustice that happened in there will be out of sight out of mind for the average American, then we see that that was replicated again, through the placement of the Japanese internment camps, again, where the oppression that was happening would be out of sight, out of mind. And then we're seeing it manifest itself again, through the strategic location and placement of private prisons, then I think we know. We're more informed about what is it look like to combat this because we can look to historical resistance efforts and how they were able to raise awareness around this and actually problem and ties it in and create enough exposure for the broad majority of people to start to put a counterforce for justice and the affirmation of the human dignity and life.
Andre: As you mentioned that, I think. I wonder. A question emerges from me where I'm thinking, how is it that so many Americans don't see these things as a problem? This is... I mean, with the historical things I think more Americans can look at and be like, "Hey, we probably shouldn't have force native people to walk [inaudible 00:15:25] and we probably shouldn't have-"
Dominique: Locked up 120,000 people just because of their ethnic identity, we probably shouldn't have done that.
Andre: Exactly, a lot of people will say that about slavery too. But when it comes to how we are locking up our own, now, in the present through mass incarceration and how immigrants are being treated. There doesn't seem to be that kind of consensus in our common sense. So, what do you think are the barriers there? Or the stories that people have subscribed to that strengthen and support the system.[crosstalk 00:16:09]
Dominique: Well, I think the critical thing to realize is that people never see how blatantly and just something is in their lifetime. It's only with hindsight that were able to recognize, call out and denounce oppression with such vigor. And I think one of the classic ways we saw this is that during the 1964, when they were polling Americans around the civil rights movement, 63% said that the civil rights movement was pushing too fast. 58% said that most people in the civil rights movement were violent. 58% said that they were hurting their own cause by not taking more gradualistic approach to pushing towards. So, we can all in hindsight almost 60 some odd years later say that's ridiculous. But in the midst of what was going on this was what people were feeling and part of the reason why they were feeling that way is because of the way that the media manipulates stories in ways that makes people who are pushing for their human dignity and their freedom and their liberty.
Dominique: They cast them in the sinister light to make them seem as if they're problematic people who are disturbing the peace. And if they were only more complacent or more, to use the where's our brother Cornel West, more well adjusted to injustice, and then our society continue to manifest in a way that it should uninterruptedly. And there is a truth to that though in the fact that the resistance is birthed out of people who understand that there are people dying in the streets. That the blood that is flowing from our brothers and sisters is something that we are implicated in as people who are contemporaries in society right now. We are all implicated in the fact that we're allowing little children to be stripped from their parents. And we are re-perpetuating, or at least being complicit with something that is going to create intergenerational trauma for Latino brothers and sisters for generations to come. And when we don't understand the urgency of what is unfolding under our watch, then we can become well adjusted to injustice.
Dominique: And so I think it's really important to understand that there in Germany, during the Nazi regime, most people were complicit, most people were able to turn a blind eye. Because in some way, shape or form, the status quo was benefiting them. Same thing with the civil rights movement, same thing with slavery. And even to take this back to a scripture for me, we see this most explicitly talked about in the book of Exodus, and particularly with the story of Moses being born into the world. And we see that Pharaoh out of his fear that one day that Egyptians would realize how numerous where they were and how they could go be powerful allies with someone else and come back and overthrow Egypt. He decided to intensify their oppression as a way of keeping them subordinate. And what's really telling in that entire passage is that you don't see not one Egyptian stand up with the moral conscious and say that this is not right.
Dominique: The fact that our prosperity is rooted in the dehumanization and financial exploitation of another people group is not fine even when he passes [crosstalk 00:19:57] inside that said that all Hebrew boys must be killed just because of their ethnic identity. There's not one Egyptian that raises their moral voice. And so I think that's a very telling passage that tells us how prone we are as the people in the majority to be able to turn a blind eye to oppression when it's not directly implicating us and those that we see ourselves as connected to. There was this powerful interview that a lot of people were sharing from Professor Eddie Glaude earlier this week or last week, where he was basically saying that we can get so enamored with demonizing our President Trump and just casting all of the responsibility for oppression and what's going on the border on the president. But the reality is that the President only has the power to implement the legislation that we give to him through our allegiance, even in the midst of what we know is unjust.
Dominique: So, it's so easy to look at the pharaohs and the Nebuchadnezzars and the harlots of the world. And to say they are the reason why oppression reins, but as citizens, their power is only what we give to them through our allegiance, and our complicity to turn a blind eye to things that we know are unjust. So, I want to put it back on us because it's so easy to scapegoat somewhere else and just decide, "Well, we were just following the law. We were just doing what we were told." The chain of command old line. But I want to put the responsibility back on us as citizens because we have ethical and moral choices to make and when we are complicit with people, we are making a choice. And we have to take that seriously.
Andre: I love that you're putting the responsibility back on us as the people and what you said about how people say, "Well, I was just following orders." It betrays how much power we actually have because you're admitting that if you haven't carried out the order if you hadn't obeyed, then the order wouldn't have been carried out, that it would have been executed, the plan would have failed without your obedience. And it reminds me of what Gene Sharp says that, "Obedience is at the heart of political power." So, leaders can't do anything without our help. And so I feel like what you're saying is that we actually as ordinary citizens participate in the business of mass incarceration and for those who are concerned about what's happening with the border crisis and immigration right now and who understand this as a concentration against ourselves that we participate in that system in some ways. Is that what you're saying?
Oh, with many ways, a multitude of ways. Some ways which are happening we are conscious of and other ways in which we are unbeknownst to us. And so a big part of what I feel called to do is to reveal to the masses all the ways that we are implicated, be it theologically, be it financially, be it through our civic engagement and political voting records. And so we are thoroughly implicated. And if we really want to get free, we can't just wait for the right political candidate to emerge. But we have to take down this on ourselves and actually be about the work through voting with our dollars, voting at the ballot box, and voting with our ethics and our morals.
Andre: I wonder if we could get a bit granular there too. Because basically what we're saying is when the ordinary citizen is a participant in a larger system of injustice, that means that if we want to do something about it, we have to change our participation. We can withdraw our participation. So, how can we withdraw our participation from these systems?
Dominique: Oh, man, there's a multitude of ways. One of the ways that many people are implicated unbeknownst to them is through their retirement funds and where they hold the IRAs. A lot of people don't realize that the companies that they are parking their money in are turning around and investing in things that are going to garner more wealth. And one of the primary ways that, that has been happening is through these companies holding stock in private prisons. And so I have a document that you can make public because you have access to it that kind of walks you through all of the companies who hold stock in private prisons. And many times is just not insignificant stock, but these are one of the top 10 stockholders in these corporations, particularly CivicCore NGO group, and so what we've seen is that there have been a couple of entities. There was a school district in a state that did a deep research into this and they decided that they were going to divest all of their pensions from this IRA because it was holding stock within a private prison.
Dominique: We've seen similar things where there have been schools because of Aramark, which is a food preparation corporation that is oftentimes contracted through private prisons because of the unethical standards of food that are provided to incarcerated people. There have been two lawsuits where Aramark is been found to have maggots in the food that were given to incarcerated people. There have been a couple of schools who've actually called their administration to actually divest from their contracts with Aramark, who also provide food for cafeteria lunches and things like that.
Dominique: And so there are those kind of ways to divest. But then another way that that can be divested is through our banking institutions. So many of the institutions that we banking, also have been investing in private prisons. And what that looks like, just to make it clear, is that when we put our money into a bank they hold our money, and then we gain interest. And part of the way that we gain interest from the money that they hold from us is that, again, they are making contracts out on the side with the money that they're holding for us to generate more income. And one of the primary ways that they've been doing that, again, has been through the use of private prisons. So, they give private prisons these loans to expand their enterprise and then, therefore, they get interest on the loan that they lend out. And then that interest comes back to us as consumers.
Dominique: So, we're essentially financing the expansion of private prisons through holding our money at certain banking institutions. And so what's really important about that though is that this is one of the ways that we can tangibly see the power that we have as consumers with voting with our dollars, and then going up and raising our moral and ethical voice. So within the last year, there have been a lot of people in part, hopefully, because of the work that I've done to try to highlight this, but the work that many people have been doing to make these connections, who've been going to their banking institutions, and demanding more transparency about where and how their money is being used. As they've been demanding that transparency, they've seen that it's been being used to expand the private prison industry, and they have said that if you do not stop doing this, we're going to remove our dollars and go find a more ethical banking and institution that we can place our money in.
Dominique: Because of that, we've seen three major banking institutions within the last years actually make the decision to stop investing in private prisons. So, we saw Chase, and we saw Bank of America. And then we just saw just this past week. TNC Bank come to the same decision. And so there is possibilities for us to actually raise our moral and ethical voice and hold people accountable through our dollars. It's a very tangible way.
Andre: Wow, that is amazing. I'm going to be interviewing, actually, [Harry McBay 00:28:39], and he has a really interesting perspective on how the two parties work together in the sense of, you have the Republican Party right now that kind of pushes for legislation and policies that some of us would say are problematic at least. And then we voted Democratic but the Democrats are actually always undo those policies. They just keep anything from developing further. I mean, that's his perspective, so it's really interesting to think of we keep pushing regardless the folks that we are electing often are working for the benefit of corporations more than they offer people[crosstalk 00:29:26]
Dominique: And I'm going to push back against that a little bit just in this conversation and say Democrats have actually created some of the most punitive legislation that has exacerbated our criminal justice system. Bill Clinton was one of the most detrimental presidents we've ever had to the conversation about mass incarceration. And on top of that, one of the conversation we were trying to have at the beginning, where we were connecting mass incarceration to the war on immigration. In 2010, there is a Democrat from West Virginia by the name of Robert Byrd. And he introduced the congressional directive that said every single night ICE must maintain on average 34,000 people in their custody. And that's a congressional directive that's been on the book since 2010, introduced by a Democrat. And it is a direct reason why 73% of people who are detained in our nation for immigration offenses are held within private prisons because you see that there is this direct correlation between punitive legislation and the amount of people who are being incarcerated on these particular issues that we're raising right now.
Andre: I'm so appreciative of you making that point. And another thing that it raises for me is thinking about that... To me, it sounds like we're talking about a bakery. You have to create a certain amount of product so that you can have a certain amount of revenue and stuff like that. It's so crazy to think about because the way that I think the average person is thinking about prisons and criminal justice is you would only have as many people in a building or in a prison that have committed crime. Why would you have a quota for bails to fill.
Dominique: And so just to clarify, just because I think we might have skipped that for a couple of listeners. Private prisons, when they come into the community, they come into the community and they usually sign a 10-year contract to be in that community. Usually the communities that come into are rural, sparsely populated communities that are economically deprived. They're starving for jobs, and this prison is coming and promising employment opportunities. When they come in with the 10-year contract within the actual wording of the contract. There are bad quotas that are written into the contract, and those big quotas usually range between 100% occupancy rates to 70% occupancy rates. And so it says that every single night at least whatever the number, and the quota is that many percentage of the facility must be filled. And if it's not filled, then the private prison has the opportunity to sue the community that it came into as being in violation of contract. And yes, there are private prisons that have 100% occupancy rates, the State of Arizona has three of them.
Dominique: So, literally says every single night 100% of the facility must be filled. And if it's not, if we come into a check, and it's not, and we could sue you as being in violation contract. That's crazy and that's the thing that really distinguishes private prisons from state and federal facilities. Private prisons are for-profit entities. Their whole purpose is to make money. And so that's really important. And when you talk about pre-trial detention, which I mentioned a little bit earlier, there is this belief in this nation like what you're just talking about, that people who are incarcerated are there because they've been convicted of a crime. There is this belief that we are a nation where you are innocent until proven guilty. But the reality is the 75% of people in the US jails today are not there because they've been convicted of a crime. They're there because they're too poor to afford their bail.
Andre: Oh, wow.
Dominique: Which means that we spend $14 billion every year holding people in jail cells who have not been convicted of crime. That's $40 million a day. Now, that's not to say that all of these people once they ultimately do go before a judge will be found innocent, but that is the say that a number of them will. Classic example that we all should know about is Kalief Browder. Kalief Browder, who was accused of stealing a book by coming home from a party with a friend was told that he's going to be taken downtown to be interviewed by the police. And he was going to be released after they ask him a few questions. Well, they didn't release him. And they ultimately ended up incarcerating him for three years before he got a chance to go before a judge. And in the midst of that three years, he ended up being put into solitary confinement for six times and ultimately tried to take his life a number of different times.
Dominique: And so when we hear this we hear, "Oh, well, yeah, pre-trial detention, somebody gets locked up for a couple of days. It's not that big of a deal." Well, first, it is that big deal because they've actually done research that said that the average person, particularly the working-class American, cannot financially afford to be away from work more than three days because they will put their job in jeopardy. If they get fired, then that ultimately leads to housing insecurity, mental health impairment, and homelessness and the food insecurity. And that's not even just for them, but you start to talk about for children, and it starts to have this huge ripple effect. But this is one of the ways in which we keep our criminal justice system functioning the way that it does through the profiteering that happens through pre-trial detention, or through the pressure that's put on people to waive their legal rights and actually agree to plea bargains.
Dominique: So, everybody who's interested in this should turn on Netflix and watch the Docu-Series, When They See Us about the case that happened in Central Park in New York, another prime example of pre-trial detention. These little boys were detained before they had a chance to actually go before a judge. And then because they were minors, and they were coerced into confession that they didn't even do. It led to many of them being incarcerated for a decade. It's crazy the way in which this system is all interconnected. But again, the root of it is profiteering. And for me as a pastor, scripture is explicit about this. It says that for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And what we're seeing right now is that our criminal justice system is a byproduct of the love of money.
Andre: And so like I was saying, we talked about kind of the economic and the political. And I'm wondering a part of this, there's a social struggle, it seems. And what comes to mind is what a scholar named Jonathan Smucker talks about is how they're kind of two parts to this contest for power. A part of it is the institutional and economic and the political fit in there is the, we're talking about policies and money and all that kind of stuff. But another part of that is symbolic, and we've touched on that some because we're talking about narratives that people believe in all the time. But how do we combat those narratives? We know that the media and others are kind of bolstering these ideas. How do we counter them, do you think? What do you think that struggle needs to look like?
Dominique: So, I think in regards to mass incarceration, one of the primary ways that you counter the narrative is through commissioning people into proximity. I think mass incarceration is... and even the Warren immigration, they're fueled by fear and political fear-mongering and dehumanizing rhetoric that make us think that the person behind bars or that person who is seeking to cross the border is so different than me that we have no points of connection. That this person is so unethical, so immoral that I shouldn't even look at them as someone who is my neighbor. They are so other than, and it creates slowly but surely this kind of sliding scale of humanity and it's really rooted in this notion of meritocracy. And I really go after this aggressively in the book and I talk about meritocracy as this belief that we really do get what we deserve. And so if that person didn't commit that criminal offense, and they wouldn't be behind bars. That person didn't illegally cross the border, then they wouldn't be in the cage down there. They wouldn't have their children separated from them.
Dominique: And it creates this moral high ground that we always get to stand on and look down upon others and make assessments of people's lives without ever having to walk in their shoes. And I think the thing that proximity does is that is slowly but surely starts to re-humanize people when we start to get close to them and touch them and hear their experience. And we see how much more in common we have with them than we would ever imagined. And so for me, I believe the key to this really is how do we get proximate to those people that the world is taught us to avoid?
Dominique: Those places and spaces that this world has taught us to do everything we can to actually go around. Those are the places I believe that we're actually called to be most intentional about going to, because when we go to those places, we actually get to see beyond the rhetoric, and we get to start to see that this is our brother and sister, this is our neighbor, this is someone else again, to go to the ecclesial. Someone else made an image of God who I have an inherent connection to, and there is some rhyme and reason to why they are here. Maybe that they just really fell on a really hard circumstance or maybe or they were a product of their environment in the way that they were just so captivated by their local context and what they saw around them that they couldn't imagine another possibility for how they could live their life.
Dominique: So, it doesn't mean that we need to explain a way the offense, or the harm that they've done, but it at least brings us back to a square level of we are all human beings, and we are all trying to do the best we can with the cards that were dealt. And I wasn't dealt the same kind of cards as this person, so I didn't have to make the same kind of choices this person made. But if I had enough compassion and empathy that potentially put myself in this person's shoes for a second, could I possibly make sense of what they tried to do? I might say I ultimately would have made a different decision, but could I at least have a little bit of sympathy and empathy that could re-humanize this person in a way that makes them not be a person that I have to do everything I can within my power to avoid them, shun them, and treat them as a second class citizen for the rest of their life.
Dominique: So, I think a lot of it really is about proximity. And I think a lot of it is understanding how our system works and who is locked up within our criminal justice system. And again, it's not who most people believe it is, is not mass murderers, pedophiles. There are people who have committed those offenses and even those people, I think it's really important for us to not forever define a person by the worst thing they've ever done. If a person just committed a murder, they're not a murderer. They are still a person, they are person who made a very grievous offense, and they actually need to take some time to consider why they did that and actually deal with the root causes, and then come back into society and be advocates against that choice that they made initially, but we can't forever brand people hung by the worst thing that they ever done.
Dominique: Again, I think we have the privilege of doing that because of meritocracy because people don't know the skeletons in our closet, but if they did, and we were forever labeled by the worst thing that we've ever done, just think how different the world would be, and how different people would perceive us and all the options and opportunities we have for social-economic advancement, or thriving lives, how that would be stripped from us, because our deepest, darkest moment was exposed for the world to see.
Andre: Oh, that makes a lot of sense. And one thing I love about the way that you're doing going about this work is not just talking about why reform is the right thing to do. But it's the sensible thing to do. speaking about why... It actually makes sense for us to rethink this whole thing and to do it differently. Could you comment on that?
Dominique: I mean, I think not only is, I often like to say, that the system not only is it immoral and unethical, but it's also fiscally irresponsible too. And I think one of the ways we get to see this is why... I already told you how much money we spend locking up people who haven't been convicted of a crime, but when you just type the two largest private prison companies in our nation, CivicCore and the GEO Group, collectively they've made $4 billion off of incarceration in 2017. We have a criminal justice system, that since 1971 when the war on drugs was launched to 2012. We saw a 565% investment increase in our criminal justice system. So, when we talk about we don't have money for Social Security or education, all these different things. We're telling you the truth, but only partially telling the truth because we don't have money for those things because we're over investing in a broken system.
Dominique: And one of the ways that we saw this most clearly was that there was a study done here in Chicago in my city where they wanted to see who exactly was being incarcerated. And it's a story called Million Dollar Blocks. And what they found was that in single city blocks, you could find that we were making over a million dollars worth of investment in the criminal justice system by just detaining people from that one single city block.
Dominique: And in Chicago, one of the most racially segregated cities in the nation. The way that that played out was that those million-dollar blocks were all on the south and the west side of city where black and brown people lived. There was not one single million-dollar black within the in the loop in Chicago, where the more affluent population lives are on the north side, which is more Caucasian population lives. But in Chicago there were $851 million blocks. In one city, 851 blocks where there was over a million dollars worth of investment to incarcerate people from a single city block, and they were all on the black and brown parts of the city. And so if people are interested in that they can just google Million Dollar Blocks and there's a whole in-depth study that breaks this down and shows you maps and all these things that talks about how we can more justly reinvest our money that has been going into a broken system to create communal flourishing and thriving.
Andre: Oh my goodness. This is a lot.[inaudible 00:46:12] What keeps you going in this work? What makes you hopeful that this can happen?
Dominique: I like a lot of other social issues. There's actually a lot of momentum around criminal justice reform right now where there's actually a lot of victories that have been happening within criminal justice reform. And so I think what keeps me going in this particular fight is the fact that we have finally reached a point where there's bipartisan support for criminal justice reform, both Republicans and Democrats to acknowledge that we have a fundamentally broken system. There is an acknowledgment that the war on drugs for most people was an utter failure and that you can't incarcerate yourself out of addiction. There is also... While there has been this groundswell from the everyday people from citizens that have moved and gives capital punishment and said that ultimately this belief that certain people are beyond redemption and all we can do is kill them. That's not something that we want to be about as US citizens.
Dominique: So, we saw within the last two years, 10 states moved towards abolishing the death penalty. Now, unfortunately, our federal administration decided to overstep that and reinstituted on the federal level, but we see a resistance rising, and we see people saying that we don't want to be complicit with the system. That is how marking America as a nation that has more people locked up in our country right now than any country in the history of the world. People are saying not on our watch. We have a nation that represents 5% of the world's population with 25% of his incarcerated population. But what we don't fully grasp is the fact that right now in our nation, there are more prisons, jails and detention centers than there are degree-granting institution. So, let me say that another way, there are literally more places in the US today where you can get locked up than you can get a college-educated.
Andre: That is crazy.
Dominique: And as people are coming into an awareness of that we are seeing people raise their ethical moral voice and say, "I don't want to be complicit with this type of system. This is inherently broken, and we can do better." And I think a big part of what keeps me going is helping people come to that revelation and helping them mobilize in a way that tangibly makes a difference for the lives of the incarcerated because all too often, those are impoverished people, the least of these who are there because of forces that have preyed upon them and they need advocates. They need people who are concerned with human dignity and flourishing and the belief that people who have made mistakes can come out and actually be productive members of the society to help make our communities better places, rather than people that we must marginalize and subordinate a second class citizens for the rest of their lives.
Andre: Well, Dominique, this has been really amazing. Thanks so much for coming on the show.
Dominique: Yeah, man, thanks for having me. I always want to be in spaces with other people who are trying to move for needed social change and it's always an extra benefit when it's one of my homeboys from my home city of Atlanta. Any anytime, anyplace I rock with your bro.
Andre: I appreciate it.
Andre: So Alicia, what stood out to you from listening to Dominique talk about the incarceration and deportation system?
Alicia: I think a number of things stood out for me but the thing that definitely stood out the most was Dominique's pushing this premise of, "Sliding scale of humanity." That was just a really interesting thing for me to hold and to think about, how do we create these sliding scales? How do we value the actions of one person of... and they're just acting for choices of some people over others, and then criminalize some things while for other people to engage in those same things is permissive. It's just a really... That, I think, that's maybe what stuck with me the most. How are our humanity tier? And out of that tier, how do we prefer violence?
Andre: You see that in the examples that he mentioned of the boarding schools that we put natives in, and in the internment camps that Japanese people were putting in and all of these are dehumanizing context for people. And we see it in the Trump administration's rhetoric about immigrants now, calling them an invasion, an infestation, and all this kind of stuff.
Alicia: I mean, in terminology that is particularly concerning. I mean, that there's all this theory around it, but when we start moving in places where not only we tear humanity but start utilizing language that actively dehumanizes people, we get that much closer to the place of extermination. We get that much closer to having active genocide, and this is a thing that concerns me about incarceration in all of its forms, whether it's internment, whether it's taking people away, and having them elsewhere after they've committed what we perceive to be crime.
Alicia: These things undermine communities, they break people down. And that's the point of genocide of these projects where social groups, whether they be grouped around national identity, ethnicity, race, economic standing. The point of those projects is to break people down, and people are really broken down by the systems. And so it's a thing of concern for me. I think it's the thing that should be concerning to all of us.
Andre: Well, of course, and that's exactly why I wanted to have this conversation with Dominique, and we actually moved this episode up on the schedule-
Andre: We had a bunch of other scheduled. And once we did... Because we have enough we have enough content to last till next year. But-
Alicia: We really do.
Andre: We said, we need to have this conversation because this problem is urgent because we are way further down the line to genocide than a lot of people seem to realize or want to admit, especially in this culture where it's almost like, you're not supposed to say anything that says, we as the American people are participating in a system of injustice in that way. It bucks against our American exceptionalism. And so we live in a society where even making these comparisons to these previous atrocities is so offensive to people that they can't actually look at what's in front of them. And so the thing that really stood out to me, and why I wanted to have this conversation is that Dominique is telling us that first off, this issue that we're seeing, the border crisis, is connected to our larger tradition of incarceration of being a culture state. If we thought incarceration, we could do something about all of these forms of incarceration and all of these forms of literally attacking people's human's rights or these forms of taking people's human's rights away.
Andre: And he's identified these different ways for us to do it like looking at where are you banking? Is your bank, doing business with the mass incarceration system? Where are your retirement funds being held? And where are your stocks of investments? Because at the base of this entire project of doing Hope and Heart Pills, it doesn't have to be this way. All this stuff is the idea that we write history together through our cooperation with the government or with systems of injustice, or through us deciding that we together are going to create a new normal and so if we can identify the ways that we are participating in these systems, then we can change them through refusing to cooperate anymore. And by building a new normal together.
Alicia: Absolutely. [inaudible 00:55:10] And I really appreciate it, both he and you bringing us back to the place where we consider our involvement, what we can do. Because I mean, what you're saying about banking, the bank that I use has been found to be so in support of a private prisons, which means they support these systems that take our people away from us. And so I have ethical questions, and I have to ask myself around whether or not I'm going to bank with them and what do alternatives look like? And that's what I've been trying to figure out. I mean, I've recently moved. And so I have different options available to me, but I've been in deep thought about this for some time. It's knowing my bank's role and upholding the system. What does it mean for me to take my little bit of money?
Alicia: It's not much but if a number of us take our little bits, that's how we make a difference. The same is true for calling attention to companies that they supply these places with technologies? Amazon if we want to get into it is one of the biggest, biggest, biggest offenders here through its web services as well through of extended different technologies. They specifically have helped some of these immigration systems as well as, I think, it's the Department of Homeland Security they've worked with and in a number of these private prisons. What are we doing in our best from my getting our little prime package in two days? We don't have to give them our money. It's not to say that things won't be difficult, but we have to figure out alternatives. But it's worth it, I think. That's where we start processing through what we could do.
Andre: Yes, of course. And I think that this leads us into this new segment that we've been talking about is trying to leave our listeners with questions. And I think that one of the obvious questions is one that you've already raised, that you're asking yourself, where can I bank instead since my bank has implicated? I had that same question, I need to look at where my... I did the interview, and I still haven't looked at, is my bank participating? Which I'm sure that it probably is, because I... Wait, wait, I think Chase pulled out, didn't Chase pull out?
Alicia: Perhaps maybe. I don't know if my bank is still there. I need to continue research, but we can ask these questions. And I think perhaps we're turning this question on you all. What can you do? Think about your banking, think about where your retirement is held, think about where you shop and what products you buy. Do these organizations, do these institutions, do these corporations uphold these systems? Do they actively lend support to the mass deportation and incarceration and detention? And then perhaps also spend some time thinking about what are you going to do if these places that you've done business with if they're going to continue in their commitment to uphold the system? What are you going to do? What are you going to do?
Andre: Exactly, no, I think that, that's the most important question right now.
Andre: Thank you for listening today. If you liked what you heard, and you haven't already, please subscribe on your favorite podcatcher. Leaving a rating or review on Apple podcast also helps us get into more ears in mind. This podcast is made possible by our Fantastic patrons. Thank you for being a part of our work at Heart and Hope pills. As usual, you'll get the uncut extended version of this episode on Patreon if you want to join in on the work on our Patreon community just look us up at patreon.com/andrehenry. To go deeper get subscribe to our email newsletter, head over to andrerhenry.com and click Join the movement where you'll get practical insight on anti-racism and social change every week and you'll never miss a new article song or podcast episode. You can also follow Andre Henry on Facebook and Instagram at the Andre Henry connect with Alicia on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at Alicia T Crosby and her website alociatcrosby.com. That's all for this episode of the Hope and Hard Pills podcast. See you next time. Peace
Andre: A quick note for today's show, we had some technical glitches happening during the recording. So, you might hear some words either get very low quickly or cut off completely. We hope you'll be able to make sense of the full conversation around what was going on in context. Thank you so much for listening.