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Margo Okazawa-Rey and Gwyn Kirk

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Maximum Security

Okazawa-Rey and Kirk argue that the term “maximum security,” used in the context of the prison system, is an oxymoron. Jails, prisons, and other “correctional” facilities provide no real security for communities, guards and other prison officials, or inmates. Imprisoning two million people, building more prisons, identifying poor and working-class youth of color as “gang members,” and criminalizing poor Black and Latina women does not increase security. Rather, the idea of security must be redefined in sharp contrast to everyday notions of personal security that are based on the protection of material possessions by locks and physical force, as well as prevailing definitions of national and international security based on a militarization that includes the police, border patrols, and armed forces such as the Navy, Army, Marines, and Air Force. To achieve genuine security, we must address the major sources of insecurity: economic, social, and political inequalities among and within nations and communities. The continual objectification of “others” is a central mechanism underlying systems of oppression — and insecurity — based on class, race, gender, nation, and other significant lines of difference.

global issues, prisons; insecurity; equality — inequality; community organization

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 27, No. 3 (2000): 120-132