Golden Gulag by Ruth Gilmore

Essay by geo5 August 2008

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The overcrowding in state prison and federal prison systems continues to pose a serious problem today. Because the number of Americans that are jailed is spitefully lofty, the federal prison system had accommodated offenders in its full capacity. Dire budget deficits further aggravate the present correctional systems. Other pressing problems within the prison system includes the rise of drug addiction among inmates, the perpetuating vicious crimes, the proliferation of gang and other notorious groups and the tensions among inmates brought about by racial conflicts and discrimination.

While the wretched state of the US penal system is alarming, Ruth Gilmore presented a more disturbing issue about the continued rise of US prison as a result of economic and political forces that shape the decline of western morality and civilization. She attributed the increase in incarceration as “a central feature in the development of the secular states’ participatory democracy, individual rights and contemporary notions of freedom” (Gilmore, p11).

At its core is the creation of a conducive environment in a “society of strangers” for the boundless promotion of economic capitalism. This entailed the government to thwart oppositional forces that were negatively affected to an extent of taking prison to a different level, from rehabilitation to a punishment in the form of incapacitation (Gilmore, p95).

In the second chapter entitled, “The California Political Economy’ Gilmore used California as the model for her thesis to demonstrate how the government prevented civilized resistance e.g. against racism, undermined the voice of workers and maintained indifference in regulating the money of the rich that led to the economic catastrophe in California that forced the aggrieved i.e. mainly the working class to engage in unconventional means to cope. This in turn resulted to the increase in incarcerations.

Gilmore extensively discussed the structured racism that have extended and manifested...