Tag Archives | Prison-Industrial Complex

For those of you who say there are no voices leading America, you need to watch 20 mins of Cornel West

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For those of you who say there are no moving or powerful voices left in America, you might want to direct your attention to a 20-minute clip of American philosopher and activist Dr. Cornel West speaking in a Manhattan church on April 6th of this year. In it West delivers a dizzying, fiery, and tear-jerking sermon reminiscent of the greatest moments in the tradition of American political speech.

The Stop Mass Incarceration Network organized the event, A Call to Act, and it’s no surprise that the Stop Mass Incarceration Network exists or that Dr. West participated. The US now has more prisoners and prisons than any other country on the planet, a fact West is well aware of as he regularly speaks out over the New Jim Crow and to inmates serving time. In fact, the land of the free is now home to more prisons than colleges.… Read the rest

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Astounded by the Lack of Compassion for Men in Prison: Inside the Conversation at The Good Men Project

jmiller291 (CC BY 2.0)

jmiller291 (CC BY 2.0)

Via the Good Men Project:

Lisa Hickey: I’ve been thinking a lot about prison lately. It’s not something that, as a women, I am used to thinking about a lot, and the number of conversations I’ve had about the topic in my lifetime are far and few between. Perhaps men don’t think or talk about it much either, but we’ve been discussing it a lot on the The Good Men Project lately and I’d like to share with you the complexity of the issues and the insights I’ve seen unfolding.

One thing we’ve discussed recently in an article is the difference in sentencing between men and women for similar crimes. I think the sentencing disparity is part of a cultural narrative that goes like this: Men are assumed to be guilty more often, and they are also assumed to cause more harm when they do commit crimes.

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From Our Prison to Your Dinner Table

Via Graeme Wood at Pacific Standard:

One of my daughter’s favorite stuffed animals is a chocolate-colored, beady-eyed buffalo that was stitched—lovingly, I like to think—by the hands of a convicted felon. The buffalo was born in Cañon City, Colorado, on the grounds of a large rural complex of six state prisons with a total of 4,000 inmates. Some of those inmates manufacture cute toys. Others tend real buffalo on feedlots and dairies outside in the mountain air. The goal, said Steve Smith, the prison-labor program’s mustachioed director until his retirement in December, is to convert the prisoners through labor into productive citizens. “This is a therapeutic community,” he said. “We’re trying to make them into taxpayers instead of tax burdens.” He channeled the Book of Isaiah, or possibly Ozzy Osbourne: “No rest for the wicked.”

The most familiar prison work programs involve stamping license plates or breaking rocks as part of a chain gang.

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Life in Prison for Selling $20 of Weed

Torben Hansen (CC BY 2.0)

Torben Hansen (CC BY 2.0)

This is awful.

Abby Haglage via The Daily Beast:

PART I

On September 5, 2008, Fate Vincent Winslow watched a plainclothes stranger approach him. Homeless and hungry, on a dark street rife with crime, the 41-year-old African American was anxious to make contact, motivated by one singular need: food.

Another man, this one white, stood next to Winslow. He is referred to in court documents exclusively as “Perdue.”

It was nearly 9:20 p.m., hours after the sun had dipped below the abandoned buildings surrounding them. The lights of downtown Shreveport, Louisiana, flickered in the distance as the plain-clothes man—unbeknownst to them, an undercover cop—arrived.

“What do you need?” Winslow asked. “A girl and some weed,” Officer Jerry Alkire replied.

Perdue remained silent as Winslow and Alkire negotiated the costs. Winslow wanted a $5 delivery fee for the $20 (two dime bags) of pot. Fine. Money settled, he grabbed Perdue’s bike and took off.

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The Prison State of America

miss_millions (CC BY 2.0)

miss_millions (CC BY 2.0)

Via Truthdig:

Prisons employ and exploit the ideal worker. Prisoners do not receive benefits or pensions. They are not paid overtime. They are forbidden to organize and strike. They must show up on time. They are not paid for sick days or granted vacations. They cannot formally complain about working conditions or safety hazards. If they are disobedient, or attempt to protest their pitiful wages, they lose their jobs and can be sent to isolation cells. The roughly 1 million prisoners who work for corporations and government industries in the American prison system are models for what the corporate state expects us all to become. And corporations have no intention of permitting prison reforms that would reduce the size of their bonded workforce. In fact, they are seeking to replicate these conditions throughout the society.

States, in the name of austerity, have stopped providing prisoners with essential items including shoes, extra blankets and even toilet paper, while starting to charge them for electricity and room and board.

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The Modernized Slave Labor System: Also Known as the Prison Industrial Complex


via The Anti Media:

(TheAntiMedia) The united states prison system, not only a machine for mass incarceration, but a machine for modernized slave labor. The United States has 5% of the worlds population, yet we have 25% of the worlds prison population. Land of the free right?

It would seem the statistics say otherwise, since the official drug war president Nixon announced in the 70′s, our prison population has grown over 700%! Recent estimates put our prison population to well over 2.4 million inmates. 50% of the federal prison inmates are for non violent drug offenses. All the while 20% of state prison inmates are drug related.

Read More: http://theantimedia.org/modernized-slave-labor-k-prison-labor/

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ACLU Awarded $50 Million by Open Society Foundations to End Mass Incarceration

Kate Ter Haar (CC BY 2.0)

Kate Ter Haar (CC BY 2.0)

via Don’t Comply:

The Open Society Foundations today awarded a grant of $50 million to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in support of its nationwide campaign to end mass incarceration. The campaign seeks to reform criminal justice policies that have increased incarceration rates dramatically during a period of declining crime —and exacerbated racial disparities. The nation’s adult jail and prison population numbers over 2.2 million with one in 100 adults behind bars, the highest incarceration rate in the world. The ACLU intends to cut that number in half by 2020, with the most ambitious effort to end mass incarceration in American history.

“Reducing our nation’s prison population by 50 percent may sound like a lofty goal. But Americans are recognizing that we can’t arrest our way out of every social problem and, in fact, the overuse of our criminal justice system has been making matters worse,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D.

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State Imprisonment Rates 2012-2013

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Via Brennan Center for Justice

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Head over to The Brennan Center for Justice for an active map that gives exact statistics for each state.

via Vox:

Over the past few years, federal* and state* governments have been trying to shrink their prison populations. Recent data suggests there’s a lot more work to do.

On one hand, the number of inmates in federal prisons is finally starting to decline. On the other hand, the total number of inmates in state prisons is creeping back up after four years of decline — and those state increases more than offset the decrease at the federal level.

But even the aggregate numbers don’t tell the whole story. Some states reduced their prison populations in 2013, while others didn’t. And much of the upward trend this year was caused by rising prison populations in a few big states — states that had been working to shrink their prisons in the past, but fell off pace this year.

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The Worst Psychological Torture? Solitary Confinement

“Why Solitary Confinement Is The Worst Kind Of Psychological Torture” by George Dvosky at io9 outlines how solitary confinement came into use with the best of intentions, but is now understood to cause, in some cases, irreparable psychological damage.

This photo is of a recreation yard within the housing unit now referred to as the "Old Main." by Ken Piorkowski

This photo is of a recreation yard within the housing unit now referred to as the “Old Main.” by Ken Piorkowski

via io9:

There may be as many as 80,000 American prisoners currently locked-up in a SHU, or segregated housing unit. Solitary confinement in a SHU can cause irreversible psychological effects in as little as 15 days. Here’s what social isolation does to your brain, and why it should be considered torture.

There’s no universal definition for solitary confinement, but the United Nations describes it as any regime where an inmate is held in isolation from others, except guards, for at least 22 hours a day. Some jurisdictions allow prisoners out of their cells for one hour of solitary exercise each day.

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Drop Prison Rates, Drop Crime Rates

 Overcrowding in California State Prison

Overcrowding in California State Prison

States that have dropped incarceration rates have also seen a drop in crime rates.

via Think Progress:

The United States still has the highest incarceration rate in the world, but those few states that managed to significantly reduce their prison population over the last decade saw benefits other than reduced lock-up costs. They also saw their crime rate go down at a higher rate than the national average, according to a new report from the Sentencing Project.

The report bolsters the notion that locking up the wrong people doesn’t improve public safety. In fact, “smart on crime” policies not only minimize punishment toward non-violent offenders; they can also re-allocate resources toward violent crime.

“The experiences of New York, New Jersey, and California demonstrate that it is possible to achieve substantial reductions in mass incarceration without compromising public safety,” wrote Marc Mauer and Nazgol Ghandnoosh of the Sentencing Project.

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