Prison Nation

“Go directly to jail, do not pass go.” More and more Americans are hearing this phrase as of late. We are becoming a prison state in which 1 out of every 100 American adults is incarcerated. This nation has over 2.3 million people in its prison system. China comes in a distant second with 1.5m, and that’s in a country of over 1.3 billion people. The U.S. has a population of just over 300 million.

If you are an African American male between the ages of 20 and 34 you have a 1 in 9 chance of being imprisoned.

What can be said for a country that deals with its citizens in this way? In a recent interview with The Sun Magazine Van Jones has this to say about our nations addiction to incarceration:

“…it’s no surprise that the country that has the world’s biggest pollution problem also has the most prisons. We’ve got a disposable mind-set: disposable products, disposable species, disposable people. We don’t see our sisters and brothers, much less all the animal species, as sacred. The failure to honor the sacred is at the root of both problems.”

Jones hits the nail on the head. A “disposable mindset”, that’s a good way to describe it. As our landfills fill up with consumer driven waste so to do our prisons with what many view as human throw aways. Expendable people.

So here we are, humanity. This beautiful seething mass of hearts, souls and minds that have the capacity for creativity beyond what most of us will ever experience. And yet in the midst of all this human potential come “solutions” that betray us, betray our capacity for compassion and love toward one another. Instead of understanding we choose ignorance. And with our choice of ignorance comes fear. Fear of anything we do not understand. Fear of “them”.

“Them” eventually comes to encompass a larger and larger body of individuals and eventually your neighbor next door is not someone to invite over for a meal but instead someone to be wary of. Someone to fear. Fear has spread across this nation like a disease; a disease that starts in the mind and eventually makes it way to the heart, destroying any shred of hope that once resided there.

I do not speak of something I do not know of. I know this fear. I have lived within its imprisoning walls for too many years. I write this entry as a confession. I have lived by the dictates of this disease for too long. I’ve let it hollow me out, let it turn my love for others into the fear of everyone.

And so this $55 billion a year prison industry thrives on our fears. Thrives on numbed minds and callused hearts.

It thrives on our silence.


Blogger elle indsay said...

corey! i want to share an article with you. it's called "from slavery to mass incarceration" by loic wacquant. he connects the institution of slavery to the prison-industrial complex as a modern reincarnation of, well, slavery.


it's about fear, yes, and turning fear into $$$. oh, capitalism.

3:22 PM  

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