Resources for Understanding Today’s Prison System
Activists are moving to expose the system’s glaring problems, writes Ramirez, if not abolish it entirely. He calls it a “racist, capitalist, sexist, colonialist, ableist, and transphobic” system. Black incarceration rates are five times greater than whites. Life sentences have dramatically increased over the last three decades.
Prisons are more proficient at extracting labor from prisoners than they were at keeping communities safe. The school-to-prison pipeline keeps the system replete with prisoners, fueling the profit-seeking private prisons.
For those without much knowledge on the current state of our prison system, but wishing to learn more, the article lists several podcasts, books, documentaries, and other resources.
Some of the podcasts listed include Beyond Prisons, Code Switch and Justice in America. Beyond Prisons is a series focusing on issues hurting prisoners the most hosted by Kim Wilson and Brian Sonenstein. One episode, “Challenging E-Carceration,” featuring James Kilgore, is an excellent examination of the role that electronic monitoring plays in the prison system.
The podcast Code Switch on NPR includes the episode “How One Inmate Changed the Prison System from the Inside.” It features Michael Shapiro relating the history of activist Martin Sostre who was the first prisoner to successfully challenge the poor living conditions in prison.
Ramirez mentions several books for beginners. The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America, by Naomi Murakawa, shows how the current prison system was forged by both liberals and conservatives after World War II and was thereafter perpetuated by the more modern tough on crime policies.
Nancy A. Heitzeg’s book, The School-To-Prison Pipeline: Education, Discipline, and Racialized Double Standards, explores policing in public schools, how it developed, and who often pays the penalties in school discipline.
In her book, Are Prisons Obsolete?, Angela Y. Davis expounds upon what decarceration might look like. Organizations such as Critical Resistance, which Davis helped to found, has been working towards the abolition of prison for several decades.
Other resources include: a primer on transforming the justice system called 8 to Abolition; the New York Public Library Correctional Services, which supplies prisoners with donated books; and community bail funds which assist those arrested who cannot afford bail.
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