Monday, August 17, 2015


In the 1990s, the US was shaken into full-blown hysteria about crime, so much so that a heinous, villainous word had to be created to categorize our racialized fear of sinister, lurking amoral youth.  Hence, superpredators.  Something only the imagination of a culture deeply in denial about the kind of house it keeps could dream up.

Concurrently, Bill Clinton, eager to not have a repeat of Dukakis's Willie Horton moment, proposed sweeping crime legislation that came to the fore in the form of the 1994 crime bill (HR 4092- Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994), which was basically the genesis of the modern state of mass incarceration.  This all came to a vote before the Republican Revolution had swept the GOP back in power, and was handled with the complicity of the democratic leadership.  The bill pushed hard on building new prisons and putting more police on the streets, who were then pressured to make more arrests.   It also reduced the age that a minor could be charged as an adult and loosened limits on imposing the death penalty for minors, while opening up the possibility of the death penalty for nonviolent offenses such as drug trafficking.  It was also the origin of the notoriously abused three-strikes policy.

There were some decent provisions too, like the Violence Against Women Act and the sadly sunsetted Federal Assault Weapons Ban, but most of these provisions have notably had specific impacts on communities of color resulting in entire populations that are now "missing" from society.

In 1994, then Congressman Bernie Sanders made an impassioned speech against the Crime Bill...

...and then, bafflingly, proceeded to vote for it.

All the while, the superpredators are still out there, building prisons instead of rotting in them, demonizing/indicting victims and lionizing their murderers, and asking the starving, terrorized masses to foot the bill.

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