Exhausting People, Extracting Revenue: Police, Prisons, and Counterinsurgency.

AuthorByrne, Matthew

Exhausted is a whole lot more than tired.

--Gilles Deleuze (1995, 3)

The United States professionalized its police departments and prisons in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries amid growing resistance to projects of imperialism, resource extraction, and racial subordination (Gottschalk 2006, Morris & Rothman 1997, Parenti 2008). To realize these projects, US officials melded methods of Native genocide with those of French colonial counterinsurgency campaigns: brutal violence and protracted assault to wear down populations and appropriate unceded land (Grenier 2008,Harcourt2018, Khalili 2012,McClintock 1992).Counterinsurgency--the lifeblood of these projects--refers to the flexible set of strategies, practices, and ideologies deployed to contain insurgent movements, military or otherwise, and fortify a crumbling edifice of legitimacy. In this sense, counterinsurgency is both a framework for viewing the world and the strategies that scaffold that reality, making counterinsurgency indistinguishable from insurgency (McClintock 1992). Within this framework, policing and incarceration were--and remain--crucial tools to "exhaust" populations, especially low-income, Black, Latinx, and queer people, into submission (US Department of the Army 2006, 11). Simply put, the story of the US carceral state is one of empire, punishment, and resistance in the context of "global lockdown" (Oparah 2004).

As scholars across the social sciences have unpacked some of these links (Fanon 2016/1961, Harcourt 2018, Khalili 2012, McQuade 2019), historians and geographers have used Foucault's notion of boomerang effects to explain how counterinsurgency tactics tend to be redeployed later in domestic spaces (Foucault 2003, Graham 2011, Gregory 2004, McCoy 2017). Scholars in American studies have gone further, demonstrating how international counterinsurgency campaigns and domestic police actions have always been inseparably intertwined (LeBron 2019, Schrader 2019, Seigel 2018). This work speaks to how shared histories, tactics, and ideologies are woven together in the seemingly distinct regimes of policing, incarceration, and counterinsurgency. Indeed, theorizing the convergences among these regimes is a productive approach for studying the dynamics of the US carceral state.

Recent contributions to this body of work have developed new frameworks for excavating carceral forces beyond the traditional purview of the "prison industrial complex." Grounded in this scholarship, I imagine the US carceral state as a plurality of institutions united by a set of extractive processes, even as the institutions differ over space and time (Beckett & Murakawa 2012, Gilmore 2017, Platt 2019). This framework emphasizes the competing social, spatial, and economic factors that animate the US carceral state without papering over its messy, contested, and ever-changing nature. The specific focus on extractive processes "brings the mechanics of contemporary imperialism to mind" (Gilmore 2017, 227).

In this article, I develop "debilitating taxation" as an analytic to theorize one such mechanism: police and prison integration of counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine. Drawing on European imperial and US carceral regimes, I elaborate three tactics of debilitating taxation meant to preempt resistance and finance state violence: (1) implementing profound surveillance, (2) stretching human geographies, and (3) exploiting relationships of economic dependency. I conclude with an exploration of how the US carceral state sanitizes these violent tactics to preserve a facade of legitimacy. In doing so, this article contributes to two underdeveloped areas within critical prison studies: (1) the structural relationships between law enforcement and cages and (2) the role of those same cages in the project of racial capitalist order-making. In the tradition of activist scholarship (Hale 2008, Oparah & Okazawa-Rey 2009), this article aims to broaden and deepen an understanding of the US carceral state in order to dismantle it.

My notion of debilitating taxation owes much to theorist Jasbir Puar's and criminologist Diana Johns's work on debility. In the context of Israel's brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine, Puar theorizes the state production of "debility" broadly as "creating injury and maintaining ... populations as perpetually debilitated, and yet alive, in order to control them" (2017, x). For Puar (2017, 72), "the material conditions of deliberate population debilitation" are both physical and fiscal, ranging from shoot-to-maim tactics to "crippling debt." Similarly, in the context of imprisonment, Johns (2018, 40) argues that prisoners are "socially, psychologically, and economically disabled." Therefore, addressing the "disabling effects of imprisonment requires looking beyond the prison to ... the places where 'trouble' is endemic and embedded" (ibid., 30).

Grounding my analytic in Puar's and Johns's theorization of debility, I develop debilitating taxation to emphasize the daily violence of the US carceral state ("exhaustion"), while uncovering the productive cycles of revenue generation key to COIN-inspired policing and incarceration ("taxation"). For this reason, I select the noun "taxation' because its two denotations--the levying of taxes and physical exhaustion--capture the ways carceral power scales from the macro to the micro. Throughout this article, I attend to the consequences of carceral power at both ends of the scale: from how it exploits "group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death" (Gilmore 2007, 28) to how it degrades individuals through daily humiliation. In short, I attend to the brutality of policing and incarceration, not just police brutality or carceral violence.

This discussion of what I am calling debilitating taxation is also influenced by my own positionality. I am brought to this theorization by my experiences as an instructor inside men's and women's state prisons in Washington and California. Each day, my students--with diverse racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender identities--embodied grit and resilience in the face of the prison's grinding totality (Goffman 1961). While I was allowed to leave the prison after each lecture--unlike my students--I was left drained, taxed to exhaustion by my performances for correctional officers and by my awareness of watchtower surveillance at every corner of the prison. These experiences stuck with me as I continued my studies. Time and again, I noticed the themes of debilitation, exhaustion, and taxation in documentaries, biographies, and scholarship examining colonial regimes and state responses to progressive activism.

Surveillance as Debilitating Exhaustion

As a tool of social control, surveillance links colonial counterinsurgency campaigns to the modern carceral state. In the nineteenth century, London Metropolitan Police, French colonial viceroys, and US domestic law enforcement routinely shared surveillance tactics (Khalili 2012, Parenti 2004). As colonial tactics slowly boomeranged back to domestic spaces, US law enforcement added new technologies--like fingerprinting--to their repertoires to catalog and track 'suspect' populations (Foucault 2003, McCoy 2017). Around the same time, law enforcement integrated colonial ideologies that imagined domestic civilians as enemies rather than as individuals needing protection (Correia & Wall 2018, Khalili 2012, LeBron 2019, McQuade 2019, Parenti 2004, Schrader 2019, Seigel 2018). This civilian-as-enemy mentality (what we might now refer to as profiling) remains prevalent among modern police, as in widespread surveillance practices and wanton, often racialized, police violence (Balko 2014, Harcourt 2018, Parenti 2008).

In explaining the civilian-as-enemy mentality, popular discussions of police violence often do not venture beyond law enforcement repatriation of military weaponry (i.e. ubiquitous paramilitary SWAT teams, the infamous 1033 program, and the defunct Law Enforcement Assistance Administration). To counter this tendency, I develop the notion of debilitating taxation to allow scholars and activists to see police as death-dealing "violence workers" (Seigel 2018) and to draw attention to the strategies deployed in racial capitalist order-making.

Before law enforcement professionalized in the 1960s, surveillance operations required targeted violence. Colonial occupations and COIN campaigns in the past and present have often entailed the torture of racialized and dissident communities (Fanon 2016/1961, Harcourt 2018). Now, US law enforcement achieves "total information" by more painless means: by tapping into international telecommunications to deploying military drones in civilian settings (Graham 2011, Harcourt 2018).The exceptional moment of 9/11 normalized unprecedented law enforcement data collection to manage suspect populations, a designation applied disproportionately to Muslim and Middle Eastern men. Under what scholar Shoshana Zuboff (2019) labels surveillance capitalism, law enforcement treats civilians as "tiny territories" (Gilmore 2017, 227) to be strip-mined for behavioral data, including daily movements as well as Internet, cell phone, and social media usage patterns.

These surveillance tactics remain as debilitating and taxing as those of colonial occupations. Police disproportionately target underserved, racialized communities, whose inhabitants must modify their behavior and appearance ad infinitum to avoid police punishment (Maynard-Moody & Musheno 2003, Rios &Prieto 2017, Stuart 2018). Averting an officer's stare, adjusting one's gait, or even expressing certain emotions are all grounds for suspicion (Paperman 2003). Police even manipulate their presentation of self (Goffman 1959) to elicit manifestations of an individual's suspected deviance (Paperman 2003). All this emphasizes the fact that individuals from heavily policed neighborhoods must contend with the discretionary--and thus racially...

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