Those jailed for animal cruelty are also victims? Critical race theory and the carceral state!

I’ll start this discussion with the concept of the “carceral state“. It means a country where they punish people who are in breach of the criminal code by placing them in jail to put in simplistic terms. Or to put it another way it means policing, monitoring, surveillance, criminalisation and incarceration of people who are in violation of the criminal law. And those who are not in violation of the law because of police racism and poor attitude.

Another phrase that is used in this discussion is “critical race theory” (CRT). This is another difficult concept but advocates of critical race theory might argue that the carceral state is one which supports white supremacy. They might say that it is designed to criminalise and incapacitate black people rather than provide a source of justice for all people. It is a kind of police state. The reports of death by cop seem to bear this out. And therefore, the carceral state should be disband. Trump strongly disagrees! As he would.

Trump disagrees with CRT
Trump disagrees with CRT

And it is the anti-carceral state people such as Michael Swistara who argue that people who abuse animals are victims. He wants to impose on them what he calls “love with accountability”. Swistara has written about the topic in his paper: “What comes after the defund?: Lessons from police and prison abolition for the animal movement”.

He thinks that the “mainstream animal protection movement have begun to agree with and incorporate criticisms of an overly carceral approach but remain unsure of where to go next”. He wants to draw lessons from the prison abolition movement which “adopts a harm prevention approach to animal protection”.

He wants to defund the carceral system and invest “new ways to prevent harm and respond to those who cause harm [to animals]”. How can you protect animals from serial abusers with love and accountability?

Nathan Winograd disagrees entirely with Swistara’s proposals. In his argument he refers to a dog called Desmond. Desmond was surrendered to a Connecticut shelter by a woman who was in an abusive relationship. The abusive person, her former partner, tracked down the dog and adopted him. Subsequently the dog was found dead after this man had starved, beaten and strangled him.

The former boyfriend pleaded guilty but was not sent to prison. He spent four months on a ‘diversion program’ and the state expunged his record. The sentence was incredibly lenient. Connecticut passed “Desmond’s Law” in response to toughen up sentencing of animal abusers on conviction.

Book display of works on critical race theory at the University of Wisconsin–Madison
CRT books – Book display of works on critical race theory at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Image: Wikipedia

Nathan Winograd says that critical race theory advocates want to undo the progress of the Connecticut legislators in passing Desmond’s law. He, rightly in my view, argues that when somebody deliberately and with malice abuses and is cruel to an animal, in any way, the person should be arrested, prosecuted and convicted and “there should be legal safeguards put in place to protect potential future victims, such as incarceration, bans on acquiring more animals, animal abuser registries, and allowing the police to search for and seize any animals they find”. He asks whether people want that or do they want to cut police budgets by 50% and release half the prison population including animal abusers. He asked whether people want animal neglect cases to go unprosecuted.

There is clearly a movement in America and perhaps in Europe for a sharp reduction in police funding and a reduction in the funding of prison system and to treat the perpetrators of criminal behaviour in a different way and not a way which is based upon the carceral state which in turn they would argue is based upon the suppression of black people in America.

I have a more conventional viewpoint which is that if a person commits a crime they should be punished on conviction. I think that chimes far better with the human mentality. Humans recognise punishment as a means to rectify doing wrong but then again prison rarely works if you read the reports. People going to prison come out even worse sometimes rather than rehabilitated. There is no easy solution.

But I believe that in general the punishment for animal abuse is too light in nearly in nearly all countries. It starts with the police who very often show little interest in catching animal abusers.

Michael Swistara would say that the carceral system encourages the police to be abusive towards animals. There may be some truth in that as there have been many instances of dogs and cats being killed by police without justification. But I don’t think these cases alone are enough to defund the police and the prison system. The carceral state does foster irresponsible, arrogant and unjust police behavior. It empowers them but they don’t have sufficient integrity to use the power bestowed on them in moral way. I have learned to hate the police.

So how can criminals be victims? F.T. Green writing for says: “Around the world, people who commit crime tend to be crime victims as well. Policing can’t solve that riddle”. Is he saying that deprived and marginalised people are often the victims of crime and turn to crime themselves? If so the carceral state does not deal with them justly. They need to learn accountability and receive love?

What do you think?!

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Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Speciesism - 'them and us' | Cruelty - always shameful Note: I will donate 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment made over the next three months on pages where comments can be made.
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