ECC hold workshop on challenging the “new American slavery”


Photo by M. Carnero Masis

ECC Hosts workshop to discuss the growing problem of a rising amount of incarcerations in the United States

Cory Bray, Staff Writer

On Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 the Building B Heritage Room was filled to capacity with Elgin Community College students, faculty, staff, and community members participating in a workshop aimed to scrutinize the structural forces that have created and expanded the ghetto, as well as, sustained the prison industrial complex.

“This is a conversation that we need to have and it’s great that ECC allows us the opportunity to have things like this here,” said Jason Jarred second year ECC student.

“You can tell the importance of the topic by how many people came. Professors where still bringing their classes down after it started,”said Nakia Dorsey.

Dr. Vincent Gaddis, who’s taught at Benedictine University for over 21 years and is currently the department head of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies; which also includes majors in Catholic Theology and Global Studies, is a minister and community activist.

“No one incarcerates like we do,” said Gaddis.

On the screen behind him, a slide with diagrams showed a 500 percent increase of incarcerations over the last 30 years. There was also a  bar graph that gave an alarming visual of how much more 2.3 million (the current number of incarcerated people) looks compared to others nation’s  incarceration rates.

“How many know someone who is currently, imprisoned, on probation, or on parole raise your hand?” said Gaddis.

Roughly 98 percent of attendees instantly raised their hands which provided a physical representation of the lives affected by the prison industrial complex.

The Prison industrial complex is a term used to describe the overlapping interest of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to what are, in actuality, economic, social, and political problems.

Taking root in the early part of the 20th century “the prison industrial complex” is  a system that actively works to deny opportunities, creates a belief of hopelessness. For those who are hopeless and for those who lost hope, what reason do they have to believe that the institutions in place are going to help them?” said Gaddis.

Although many American lives are affected, Gaddis explained African Americans have been systematically targeted and supported his claim with the fact that African Americans make up 13 percent of the population, but represent 53 percent of the prison population.

“You don’t construct things without a purpose for its construction,” said Gaddis.

Using the ghetto in Chicago as an example, Gaddis informed attendees that the ghetto was not organic to the development of Chicago, but that it was constructed.

“The urgencies of colonialism is built on a process of mystifying the oppressed to justify the wrong,”said Gaddis.

Colonialism, which is an alien group exploiting or subjugating an indigenous or transplanted group within the borders of a single country, is the source of the problem and the prison industrial complex is the result.

Upon wrapping up, Gaddis made a bold statement.

“It’s not terrorism the United States should be worried about; it’s nihilism: the belief that a society’s political and social institutions are so bad that they should be destroyed,” said Gaddis.

The workshop ended with an open Q&A and one student asked: “What do you believe we can do to change things?”

“what do you think you can do to changes,” said Gaddis.