…this shit is only getting worse, and it’s going to continue until we start making a stand…
The recent elimination of college education from Indiana prisons is part of the same program of cutbacks in education that we face in our daily lives as students. Austerity, the systematic cutback of social services during economic downturns, which in Indiana employs a simplistic, fallacious rhetoric of efficiency and practicality, invariably attacks the most vulnerable and isolated groups in society first. As students, we are already experiencing endless tuition hikes, heavy student debt loads, and increased policing- the intense cuts and privation being implemented in Indiana prisons are simply extreme forms of the same logic of austerity that we see eroding our own opportunities and civil liberties.
Before June 2012, Indiana was considered a leader in prisoner education, and its prison college education programs had resulted in decreased recidivism rates among participating inmates. Since last June there have been across-the-board cuts that have eliminated the opportunity to obtain a college education in prison, and the G.E.D. is no longer available to many inmates[i]. Beyond losing access to education, inmates are being further dehumanized by cuts that have eliminated contact visitation with loved ones, restricted showering to 3 days a week, and cut off access to postage for many prisoners. Not only do these cuts remove the prospects for ex-prisoners to get a decent job, but they are intended to immediately isolate, humiliate, and dehumanize them.
Though of course a comparison of our living conditions as students to those of prisoners would be absurd, austerity is being imposed at Indiana University too. Between the endless lectures, stupefying slideshows, bureaucratic control, and unconscionably high tuition, the university is no longer a space for social creation or genuine inquiry. It has become an institution for the production of an obedient credentialed class. The rationale of austerity furthers this objective by providing an excuse for racist laws like H.B. 1402 and S.B. 590[ii], which are intended to provide for the maintenance of an undocumented workforce that is permanently desperate and powerless, so that bosses can always threaten us and know that there will be someone willing to work harder for less money than we are. Meanwhile, fully 30.2% of Americans have been arrested by the age of 23[iii], often for drinking violations or petty drug charges, which further strengthens bosses’ bargaining positions while unemployment is high. Austerity comes to IU, too, as cuts to programs which are intended to promote some equity in access to a university education, like the School of Continuing Studies[iv], the Hudson Holland Scholars[v], and the Office for Women’s Affairs[vi]. The tenuous gains of our history of social struggle are being rolled back before us. Educational opportunity, and with it the opportunity for self-determination, is withheld from too many, while the education we must accept in order to get a degree is increasingly sterile, doctrinaire, and empty. Let’s stop telling each other how bad things are as if the power to affect change is beyond us; history can be made every day by people who refuse to accept injustice.
As students who can choose now between being manipulated and being left to our own ends for survival and advancement, we identify with the situation of Indiana prisoners experiencing cutbacks to essential services. We recognize the logic of the austerity programs that inmates are being subjected to in Indiana prisons as the same logic which the people of Greece[vii] and Spain[viii], and the students of Chile[ix], are striking against. It is a logic of marketization and privatization which would have us all submit passively to competition for increasingly scarce resources, driving us toward a society of desperation and division. It is institutionalized Social Darwinism, presented in fiscal terms. We do not accept the future austerity prescribes for ourselves or anyone. The struggle of Indiana prisoners is our struggle.
[i] Stokes, Kyle. “What Indiana Will Miss With The State Prisons’ College Programs Gone.” StateImpact Indiana [Bloomington] 04 /6/ 2012, n. pag. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. http://stateimpact.npr.org/indiana/2012/07/04/what-indiana-will-miss-with-the-state-prisons-college-programs-gone/.
[ii] Morrison, Sean. “IU Latino Studies experts address legal, economic, social implications.” Indiana Daily Student [Bloomington] 12/ 5/2011, Campus. Web. 28 Oct. 2012.<http://www.idsnews.com/news/story.aspx?id=81579>.
[iii] Erica Goode, “Many in U.S. Are Arrested by Age 23, Study Finds,” New York Times (December 19, 2011), p. A15. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/19/us/nearly-a-third-of-americans-are-arrested-by-23-study-says.html?_r=0.
[iv] IU Media Relations, . “IU to close School of Continuing Studies.” IU News Room [Bloomington] 18 May 2011, n. pag. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/18641.html>.
[v] Glowicki, Mathew, and Michael Majchrowicz . “Hudson and Holland Scholars Program affected by staff vacancies, budget woes.” Indiana Daily Student [Bloomington] 12 /4/ 2012, Campus. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://www.idsnews.com/news/story.aspx?id=86740>.
[vi] Doctrow, Stephanie. “Office for Women’s Affairs might close.” Indiana Daily Student [Bloomington] 1/4/ 2012, Campus. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://www.idsnews.com/news/story.aspx?id=86484>.
[vii] Papachristou, Harry, and Lefteris Papadimas. “Clashes erupt at Greek anti-austerity protests.” Reuters [Athens] 18 /10/ 2012, n. pag. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://ca.news.yahoo.com/clashes-erupt-greek-anti-austerity-protests-032423852.html>.
[viii] Aranda, Samuel. In Spain, Austerity and Hunger. 2012. The New York Times, New York City. Web. 28 Oct 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2012/09/24/world/europe/20120925-SPAIN.html#1.
[viii]Walck, Aaron. “Chile’s student movement struggles to find footing in 2012 :Standoff between diversifying movement and unyielding government prompts growing criticism .” Santiago Times 14 /9/ 2012, Special Reports. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://www.santiagotimes.cl/opinion/special-reports/25177-chiles-student-movement-struggles-to-find-footing-in-2012>.