Political activists and fighters for justice are criminalized by the courts and the media. The media functions as a propaganda organ of the state, coloring the political prisoners as criminals, rather than revolutionaries who are fighting on behalf of oppressed minorities and against unjust State policies. The State has a vested interest in painting these people as criminals and terrorists because they are incredibly dangerous: they have the power to tell the truth, and expose this system.
The State needs to silence political prisoners to prevent the public from listening and understanding their actions against the oppressive State (Warren). Women political prisoners face even greater oppression as prisoners as well as women. Women Political Prisoners Not only are you detained; not only do torture, blows, humiliation, disdain, isolation, and prison await you as they do your male counterparts. You are also a woman in this man’s world. You will soon realize what this means…
A system of moral values so strictly defined through shame, sexual repression, and gender difference, allows a double repression: fascist and male chauvinist. Angela Davis In recognizing the existence of women political prisoners, the fundamental myths of American democracy are disrupted, and the gendered, racialized, and individualized notions of revolutionary struggle are subverted. In looking at the relationship between women political prisoners and the state, emphasis is placed on the state’s reliance on coercion as a means of political and social control.Coercion is easily disguised as rendering it “normal,” and thus invisible. It is imperative that this coercion be made visible within the system itself and by all citizens who live in a society where this coercion exists, for coercion is often masked by disciplinary technologies or becomes routinized or normalized, often masked by disciplinary technologies, rendering it effectively invisible.
To resist power’s force the coercion must be made visible. By acknowledging the coercive power of the state, power becomes visible and verifiable offering sites of resistance and contestation (Mazzone).Critical feminist analyses of women and prison argue that, historically, women have been incarcerated not only for breaking the law, but also for noncompliance with societal norms and expectations (Carleen). The social control of women leads to further state control via the criminalization and incarceration processes.
The social control of women takes various forms, with some women, particularly women of color, suffering from the coercion and oppression of institutionalized racism with in the US criminal justice system.As incarcerated women, political prisoners face the same gendered forms of discipline and coercion as do all incarcerated women. As political women, they are subjected to particular forms of social control specific to their identity as women political prisoners (Howe). Acts ; Laws Historically In 1950, Senator Paul McCarran (D-Nevada) sponsored a bill that became known as the McCarran Internal Security Act. It is considered one of the most controversial and least understood laws in the history of the republic (Quinney).
It is of great importance that it is understood as it concerns Americans national safety and individual liberties, and was among the first laws put in place that openly infringed upon American’s freedom of speech rights. The Act, unofficially referred to as the anticommunist law, required all members of the American Communist Party, among others, to register with the Attorney General, regardless if these individuals had ever engaged in violent acts or had ever advocated the use of violence – their association with certain suspect groups was deemed sufficient to place them under suspicion and surveillance (Imready).World communism was regarded as a compelling enough reason to engage in otherwise unconstitutional political intimidation. The fear of communism has now been replaced with the fear of terrorism. The Act had a provision that set the stage to authorize the creation of concentration camps for “emergency situations,” using the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II as a legal precedent. The intention was to set the stage for rounding up suspected political dissenters and subversives and place them all in large camps, should the government ever feel the need.The particular provision was not repealed until the 1970s, after a great deal of protest and work by civil rights groups. President Truman vetoed the bill stating: The basic error of this bill is that it moves in the direction of suppressing opinion and belief.
This would be a very dangerous course to take, not because we have sympathy for Communist opinions, because any governmental stifling the free expression of opinion, is a long step toward totalitarianism… The course proposed by this bill would delight the Communists, for it would make a mockery of the Bill of Rights and of our claims to stand for freedom in the world.Congress voted 89% in favor to pass the bill over his veto.
McCarran’s Senate Internal Security Subcommittee worked closely with the FBI conducting hearings on political subversives for the next twenty-seven years. In 1952, McCarran joined Congressman Francis Walter (D-PA), an advocate against world communism, in creating and passing the McCarran-Walter Act. This was also passed over Truman’s veto. Essentially, it was an immigration bill, assigning strict quotas to the immigration of anyone wishing to enter the US from undesirable parts of the world – namely not European (Imready).A provision of the bill stated that anyone accused of voicing the wrong political opinions, could be denied entry into the US. If they were presently in the US working, visiting, or seeking citizenship, they could be immediately deported (Nash). These provisions proved extremely useful for the political aims of whatever administration was in power.
The McCarran-Walter Act was abolished in 1994, but additional Acts were passed further opening the Pandora’s Box of civil rights infringements begun by the McCarran-Walter Act.Under the Bail Reform Act of 1984, politically motivated offenders may be held in preventative detention, which is in violation of international law by designating “dangerous to the community,” those persons who most actively struggle for self-determination. These offenders may be charged with violation of broad conspiracy laws which rely on evidence of political associations and beliefs to prove “criminal” agreements. The Seditious Conspiracy law and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) allow for criminalization of membership in political organizations and national liberation movements.These statutes have been used to incarcerate political activists with lengthy sentences. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), signed by Clinton in 1996 in response to the Oklahoma City Bombings, and in the US Patriot Act, in response to September 11 further impinge upon individual’s civil liberties and right to dissent.
Now the provisions are aimed against the ambiguously defined concept of “terrorism” and “supporters of terrorism,” political activists and prisoners.