tbyfield on Wed, 4 Dec 2019 20:29:17 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> A Dystopian New Initiative Will Charge Inmates by the

The good news: "States are passing laws abolishing private prisons and businesses are cutting ties with the facilities. And private prison companies are planning for a future in which their core service is illegal."

=> https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/12/1/20989336/private-prisons-states-bans-califonia-nevada-colorado

The bad news: There's a difference, which gets lost in the outrage of this Hyperallergic piece, between prisons and the services they rely on: construction, infrastructure maintenance, healthcare, food, etc. Huge swaths of those services are provided by for-profit contractors, of course; so even if privately run prisons go away, that immense apparatus of commercial services continues. That's why it's helpful to understand prisons, private and public, in terms of *state economic planning* — or "economic development," as we like to call it in the US. Many other prison systems (notably the Nazi death camps and Soviet gulags) have been structured around extracting labor from prisoners; the US system — which also extracts labor from prisoners — is more heavily oriented around prisoners as consumers.

=> See Andrea Pitzer's history of the concentration camp, _One Long Night_: https://andreapitzer.com/

As for this metered e-reader "initiative" is awful, but on a certain level all it's really doing is making reading like phone calls. Under Obama the FCC capped prisoners' long-distance charges at around $0.25/minute, but Trump's FCC made rescinding those caps a high priority, so charges may have risen back to what they were before, often in excess of $1/minute. Extortionate fees like that shock the conscience; but if you add up the countless ways "us" non-prisoners pay to read — mobile data charges, ubiquitous logins for paid or "free" (as in "you are the product") services, ridiculously overreaching DRM claims, and all the rest — it's pretty shocking as well.

	=> Just search something like {prison phone charges}

None of this is meant to defend or soften metering prisoners' use of e-readers. Just the opposite: the clarity of this example should remind us just how pervasive and normalized these abuses have become. That's why it's easy to imagine an activist push defeating this initiative but impossible to imagine anything other than metered reading being a nearly universal norm in some arbitrary near future — say, 10 or 20 years.


On 3 Dec 2019, at 17:49, nettime's avid reader wrote:

A Dystopian New Initiative Will Charge Inmates by the Minute to Read e-Books


If you’re not already on board with the ways in which for-profit prisons
are a moral and civic affront and the outrageous and racially-biased
incarceration rate in the United States amounts to a new form of
slavery, I’m not sure what might convince you, but try this on for size:
prisons in West Virginia are introducing a new e-literacy initiative
that will charge prisoners to read.

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