Prison Nation: Our Shame

In the United States, we don’t think about the prison system much. It’s that “out of-sight, out of mind” thing.

But that’s the whole point. Prison in America isn’t about rehabilitation; it’s about isolation. As Maya Schenwar writes in Locked Up, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better: “Prison’s role in society, the logic goes, is to toss away the bad eggs so they cant poison us – so we don’t have to see them. With those eggs cleared, we seamlessly close up the gaps and carry on, clean and whole.”

Schenwar is editor-in-chief of Truthout, an independent social justice news website. Her impressive book is far more than a recounting of depressing stats of our penal system. Her sister suffered from a substance abuse problem and was incarcerated repeatedly. Schenwar uses her story as the anchor for this acute indictment of America’s prison system.

Put it this way: If a company produced cars and 43 percent of them were defective, the company would go out of business. No one would buy those cars. But that’s how we operate our criminal justice system. Schenwar writes: “Ninety-five percent of prisoners are released. They’re emerging from their isolation poorer and more alienated than when they went in. They’re coming out with fewer economic opportunities and fewer human connections on the outside… more than 40 percent of those released will return to prison within three years.”

Schenwar explores the racist nature of prison – African-Americans are six more likely to be incarcerated than whites – and the strains placed upon families by its policy of making contact with loved ones behind bars ridiculously difficult.

Truly, the US has earned the title of “Prison Nation,” with more prisons being built and more inmates than any other country in the world. And, as we all know, the War on Drugs fueled this tragedy.

What does Schenwar suggest? Chip away at the edifice of prison from a number of different directions. “All over the country,” she writes, “people are implementing community-based accountability and transformative justice strategies, making human connection both their jumping-off point and their objective. They’re combining new models of doing justice with larger movements for change, taking on deep structural issues that drive the current system.”

Her simple message: We can do better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts
Read More

The Primary Colors of Cannabis

The first modern cannabis hybrid was created in the summer of 1969 in the Santa Cruz mountains by a surfer we only know by his first initial “G”, and legend has it that he crossed together three varieties from Colombia and created what the world has come to know as Original Haze.
Read More

OhGeesy Lets His Work Ethic Speak For Itself

The Mexican-American hip-hop star talks about early music influences, being an inspiration to his son, his latest album GEEZYWORLD 2, and weed as an economic tool.
Read More

Calm in Your Cup

Denver-based Lavender Coffee Boutique has big plans for CBD wellness, education, and craft coffee-drinkers.
Read More

Getting All of Comedian Joel Kim Booster

The Loot and Big Mouth star opens up on stand-up comedy, his creative process, and how he wrote Hulu’s Fire Island on a gram of Super Lemon Haze.
Read More

From the Archives: ATTICA! ATTICA! (1991)

The young, supple digital editor of High Times found out only recently about the Attica Prison riot of 1971 and is very glad to know that our beloved magazine covered the story on its 20th anniversary.