Teresinha Flagrant Center, PI

* Pedro Ambra

Debating mass incarceration may, at first glance, seem like a sociologically secondary discussion. After all, our ideas about the prison seem almost always to orbit around individual or moral issues, given the type of media narrative created around the prisons of the operation. Car wash. Furthermore, the solution of social problems—such as violence and the war on drugs—would find its redemption in more effective and extensive incarceration policies.

Regardless of the discussions and or pragmatic investments to resolve the prison issue in Brazil, this has been a lost war. Today our prison population is considered the third in the world.

In this context, pointing out the unsustainability of a bankrupt ideological discourse, Juliana Borges, graduated in Letters at the University of São Paulo and researcher, develops an analysis of the purposes of prison policy in Brazil in her recently launched What is mass incarceration? (Editoras Letramento & Justificando, 2018).

In the introductory work, the author demonstrates how, with the third largest prison population in the world, the country shows its punitive rationality not exactly in relation to the infractions committed, but as a brutal form of social and body control. . So, she asksHow is crime and criminal established? How and under what interests is defined what should be made illegal and criminalized?” (p. 21) and does not cling to answers given in advance, either by the militancy or by the academy.

Its first chapter presents the ideological components that support incarceration, and the bases of the historical process of construction of the prison system. If the content of this brief analysis is the explanation of the naturalization with which common sense views prison logic, its form begins to present interesting and central components for the methodological purpose of the book: it mixes statistical and historical data, analyzes by authors classics, such as Foucault and Althusser, as well as that of strong black intellectuals, such as Carneiro and Akotirene. From the beginning of the work, the author proposes to make an analysis intersectional, that is, that articulates the dimensions of gender, race and class in a dialectical way, without prioritizing them. Nonetheless -  unlike some current discussions that take intersectionality as an object — the author proposes something remarkable, which is to elevate it to the category of method. In other words, Borges done intersectionality and does so from an object that at first would be alien to him, incarceration in Brazil. It should not be surprising, therefore, that the book is included in the Plural Feminisms, coordinated by Djamila Ribeiro: we will follow, throughout its chapters, the construction of the specificity of its fundamental problem, the incarceration of black women, and all the consequences of such an analytical stance.

The second chapter points out some of the particularities of slavery in Brazil, the basic components of the myth of racial democracy and, mainly, the modalities of perpetuation of racism, since “something so fundamental in the formation process does not disappear in the blink of an eye due to the simple overthrow of the monarchy and modernizing pretensions.” (p. 53) Far from being a discussion that some would call “identity”, we are invited to see the impact of this analysis on the structuring pillars of Brazilian society, its neuralgic points and the cartography of silencing that accompanies it. By analyzing the birth of the judicial system in Brazil, we can see how the bases of prison logic are inseparable from a racist and genocidal project, perpetuated at the heart of criminal law and the rationality that governs it, even after the late and unfinished process of abolition of slavery. . From slave to criminal vagrant, the black social place changes its name, but not in oppression. The author emphasizes that, through European immigration, the eugenics project in the country had as one of its keys the incidence of whitening in the workforce with different impacts for men and women. By denying the possibility of social ascension through work”black women ended up as washerwomen, cooks and domestic servants, still under the context of super-exploitation. Therefore, black men were left with the framework of these criminalizing laws.” (p. 79)

But the articulation between gender, race and class gains its high point in the third chapter, in which the contemporary component of the analysis is introduced: the war on drugs. If, in fact, the male incarcerated population is numerically much higher than the female one, the policy of increasing incarceration has a strong impact on women. "Between 2000 and 2014, there was a 567,4% increase in the number of women incarcerated, while the increase among men was 220%” (p. 90), a population composed mostly of black women. Borges notes that this increase coincides with the period of approval of the Drug Law, which had a direct impact on incarceration and its specificities of race and gender. "62% of incarcerated women are responding to drug-related crimes, while among men this percentage drops to 26%.” (p. 98) The author emphasizes that the criteria for such a framework — dealer or user — are based on race and class and, therefore, serve the purposes of structural maintenance of the extermination of the black population.

Such a desolate picture does not prevent Borges from proposing, in the chapter that closes the work, a true call to struggle and to the imagination of a future without prisons. By resuming and aligning herself with an entire intersectional black feminist tradition, the author underlines that only the radicality of thought and action that takes black women as subjects can promote a true abolitionism that frees everyone. In the manner of Mbembe and Buck-Morss, Borges provides a kind of crossing of identity, in which we understand that as long as our reason, our emotions and the structures that produce them are behind the bars of racism and machismo, no universality will be possible or true. .

*Pedro Ambra is a psychoanalyst. Doctor from USP and the Sorbonne Paris Cité, he is the author of several books and articles on psychoanalysis, gender and sexuality. Contributor of pageB.

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