News & Resources: Mass incarceration

The U.S. represents 4.4% of the world population, but 22% of its prisoners. Unjust sentences for victimless or merely statutory offenses are a key part of the problem, together with racism and moralism about drugs and sex. Inmates face high levels of physical and sexual assault, and targets are often transgender people and others with disparaged sexual identities. Rather than seen as a serious and endemic problem, prison violence is often celebrated in public discourse and exploited by the media – not least, “liberal” media such as MSNBC – while widely ignored by the state authorities responsible for inmate safety.

How the “Stranger Danger” Panic of the 1980s Helped Give Rise to Mass Incarceration – A review essay on Paul Renfro’s new book Stranger Danger: Family Values, Childhood, and the American Carceral State

Reflections on a public lynching – A former Federal prisoner reflects on a “reality TV” portrayal of an attempted murder of a prisoner, as a guard and reporters stand by and do nothing.

Harsh sentences for pornography – Excerpts from and commentary about the U.S. Sentencing Commission report “Mandatory Minimum Penalties for Sex Offenses in the Federal Criminal Justice System,” January 2019

Prisons don’t just punish — they also kill  – Dr. Homer Venters – former head doctor for New York City’s Correctional Health Services — has written a book exposing the neglect, deliberate withholding of care, and brutality wreaked on inmates in the city’s Rikers Island prison complex. Click here for an article about Dr. Venters’ book in the New Yorker, and here for a transcript of an interviewer with both Venters and New Yorker staff writer Jennifer Gonnerman conducted by Amy Goodman on her radio show “Democracy Now.”