From 1973 to 2009, the prison population grew from about 200,000 to approximately 2.2 million. With this spike, the U.S. now holds close to a quarter of the world’s prisoners, even though it accounts for just 5 percent of the global population.
If the Marshall Project has gotten you thinking about America’s vast prison industrial complex, or if you have taken a road trip on America’s Blue Highways and seen the spreading of prisons outside small towns you are aware of how many resources are now put into locking up prisoners. Why do we spent some any tens of thousands of dollars to lock up people for even petty crimes? Why don’ t we work harder to help these people live productive straight lives when they are released?
There are many theories about this and it seems it has finally gotten to the point it is so bizarre that even George Soros and the Koch Brothers have decided to help fund programs to stop mass incarceration.
If you want to know more please read: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, Inside This Place Not of It by Robin Levi and Ayelet Waldman, (you can hear them at Columbia University here <begin at minute 25>) New Jack: Guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover, or Running the Books by Ari Steinberg.
You can watch the Frontline program Prison State about Kentucky. Then listen to Stanford trained civil rights attorney/author Michelle Alexander from a 2010 appearance at the University of Washington. She reminds us that there are more African Americans are incarcerated, on probation or on parole than were enslaved in 1850! Black men under the age of 35 with no high school diploma are now more likely to be in jail than working in the labor market, sad indeed, but you should move to change it with small steps by talking to your politicians about how distasteful it is that prisons are becoming rural employment centers and prisons upon release have so few options and resources.