David McDonald (Solidarity 209) says that nobody of Gil Scott-Heron’s stature should end up in jail (in Heron’s case, for cocaine possession).
I think I know what David is saying here — that it is a shame to see such a talented musician get so low. However, Heron would never have claimed any privileges for himself and neither should we. Nobody, no matter who they are, should go to jail just for using drugs, particularly if, as in Heron’s case, drugs are making them ill.
Over 25% of the world’s prison population are in US jails (2 million of its 307 million population). And 10.4% of all black males between the ages of 25 and 29 . Crucially, half of the prison population are in jail for drug-related offences.
The way working-class people — young working-class black men in particular — are forced to live their lives and consequently find themselves locked up, and that this is regarded as just “how life is” is, in my view, one of the greatest continuing social evils of our time.
Heron spent his creative life railing against this system and also against the social conditions associated with drug addiction. And the system which created these evils killed Heron.