Promise, in this way, is exemplary of the New Jim Code; and it is dangerous and insidious precisely because it is packaged as social betterment. This, along with the weight of Jay Z’s celebrity, will make it difficult to challenge Promise. But if this company is to genuinely contribute contribute to decarceration, it would need to shrink the carceral apparatus, not extend it and make it more encompassing. After all, prison conglomerates such as Geo Group and CoreCivic are proving especially adept at reconfiguring their business investments, leaving prisons and detention centers and turning to tech alternatives, for instance ankle monitors and other digital tracking devices. In some cases the companies that hold lucrative government contracts to imprison asylum seekers are the same ones that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hires to provide social services to these very people, as they continue to be monitored remotely.13 While not being locked in a cage is an improvement, the alternative is a form of coded inequity and carceral control; and it is vital that people committed to social justice look beyond the shiny exterior of organizations that peddle such reforms.
A key tenet of prison abolition is that caging people works directly against the safety and well-being of communities because jails and prisons do not address the underlying reasons why people harm themselves and others – in fact they exacerbate the problem by making it even more difficult to obtain any of the support needed to live, work, and make amends for harms committed. But in the age of the New Jim Code, as BYP100 noted, this abolitionist ethos must be extended beyond the problem of caging, to our consideration of technological innovations marketed as supporting prison reform.
Coding people as “risky” kicks in an entire digital apparatus that extends incarceration well beyond the prison wall.14 Think of it this way. Yes, it is vital to divert money away from imprisonment to schools and public housing, if we really want to make communities stronger, safer, and more supportive for all their members. But, as Critical Resistance has argued, simply diverting resources in this way is no panacea, because schools and public housing as they currently function are an extension of the PIC: many operate with a logic of carcerality and on policies that discriminate against those who have been convicted of crimes. Pouring money into them as they are will only make them more effective in their current function as institutions of social control. We have to look beyond the surface of what they say they do to what they actually do, in the same way in which I am calling on all of us to question the “do good” rhetoric of the tech industry.