Prison relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and, increasingly, global capitalism.
Some statistics/facts concerning the prison industrial complex:
- More than two million people out of a world total of nine million now inhabit U.S. prisons, jails, youth facilities, and immigrant detention centers. In the late 1960s there were close to 200,000 people in prison in the United States.
- The U.S. population in general is less than 5% of the world’s total, whereas more than 20% of the world’s combined prison population can be claimed by the United States. Short of major wars, mass incarceration has been the most thoroughly implemented government social program of our time.
- In 2002, there were 157,979 people incarcerated in the state of California alone, including approximately 20,000 people whom the state holds for immigration violations.
- In 1990, a study of U.S. prison populations was published which concluded that 1 in 4 black men between the ages of 21-29 were in prison and jail and on parole or probation. Five years later, a second study revealed that this percentage had soared to almost 1 in 3. More than 1 in 10 Latino men of the same age were in jail or prison, or on probation or parole. The second study also revealed that the group experiencing the greatest increase was black women, whose imprisonment increased by 78%.
This fills me with such sadness and anger. And it will not simply change on its own. It’s an infrastructure we’ve grown to depend on. It’s called a prison industrial complex for a very clear reason. We’re in denial. We must speak and write. Contact your congresspeople and your representatives and demand change.