In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, will the PIC also tighten its grip on Haiti?

Critical Resistance New Orleans, a local chapter of the national grassroots organization dedicated to abolishing the prison industrial complex (PIC), stands in solidarity with the people of Haiti in the wake of shared devastating natural catastrophes and our ongoing struggle with a legacy of oppression.

Since the abolition of slavery in the US and other slave-holding countries, the PIC has been politically and economically beneficial to the ruling order. Criminalization, the process through which actions become illegal, has been used to exert control and dominance—creating a climate of violence, fear and dependency. According to security analysts and officials from the UN, Haiti’s notorious reputation as a climate of violence and fear is undeserved. Yet, foreign governments continue a legacy of oppression, providing the ruling elite with military supplies disguised as “peacekeeping aid” and causing further criminalization and militarization of civilian life.

After the floods in New Orleans, came the floods of military and press, framing Black people as looters and white people as survivors for the so-called “crime” of trying to take care of themselves and their neighbors. Hundreds of Black people, poor people, and immigrants were arrested in the aftermath of Katrina. The National Guard roamed the streets of New Orleans, terrorizing people in the guise of securing peace, and one of the first institutions created by FEMA was a make-shift prison. The PIC has tightened its grip on New Orleans with more policing of poor people, private policing provided for the rich, and ICE as a policing agency for newly arrived immigrants. The city has dismantled most housing projects and uses the criminal justice system to discriminate against people with convictions who need housing and employment. Rents have skyrocketed and five years after Katrina, people remain displaced because of the pervasive reach of the PIC. There is a lack of free health care, resulting in the prison as the only outlet for the poor who suffer with mental illness.

NYT Article Skims Surface of Bigger Problem

Like New Orleans, the construction of a prison was one of the first responses to the earthquake, despite the injury and deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the untold devastation to natural resources and property. According to a New York Times investigation, in the midst of aftershocks, police used lethal force to prevent people from escaping horrific prison conditions and later attempted to cover up their actions. Before any aid reached the Haitian people, the military took measures to exert control, keeping Haitians dependent on others for resources. The U.S. military—and it’s twin, the PIC—uses its resources, quickness, power and weapons to dominate and convince the world that it can ensure public safety. However, we believe that genuine public safety comes from self-determination and sovereignty. Policies like “free trade” allow the US to exploit less powerful countries, while its influence within the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank force poorer countries, like Haiti, into economic dependency on multinational corporations. Now, Haiti has an opportunity to rebuild itself as a sovereign nation. The people can assist this process by calling for an end to the criminalization and militarization that enhances generational violence and demand the restructuring and redistribution of wealth worldwide.

Critical Resistance aims to build an international movement to abolish the PIC. We do not believe that any amount of imprisonment, policing, or surveillance will result in genuine public safety. We advocate for models of democracy where access to basic needs such as food, shelter, education, and meaningful work can create the conditions for healthier and more stable communities. A new paradigm can exist with an aim towards transformative justice, through holistic and community-based responses to harm and violence, rooted in the process of healing. We remain in solidarity with Haiti and look to its history, as the first republic ruled by formerly enslaved African people, as an example of self-determination and systemic change.