I asked a man once if he had done any “hard time” in prison; he looked at me and slowly responded as he shook his head at me. “It’s all hard time in there.”
Prisons in this country aren’t benefitting society overall. A lot of innocent people end up in prisons and so do non-violent offenders. The detention of these individuals is an unjust violent punishment. (In case you weren’t aware, violence is the ruler of prison culture.) Violence begets violence, and those who were non-violent prior to an incarceration are permanently imprinted with the violence acted upon and around them while in prison. Violent offenders in prisons don’t often find rehabilitation or healing. Prison culture in the United States is not about providing for a safe society. In fact, prisons make us unsafe because of the violence they reproduce inside and outside of their walls.
Human rights violations of all kinds still take place American prisons and across the globe. Labor and sexual abuses of prisoners is particularly frequent. In most prisons, mental and physical health is rarely attended to adequately. At the same time, prisons are often the only access people with mental health issues have to healthcare. Harris County Jail in Houston, Texas, for example is the largest mental healthcare provider in the state.
These aren’t places that improve people — these are places that merely punish. Privatization lobbyists push to keep prisons full and making them money, and often exploit the rural economic devolution that’s occurred over the last thirty years. Prison Towns, as they’re called, rely on the continued incarceration of people for their own survival. The links between economic prosperity for small towns across the United States and the high rates of incarceration breed conditions that are responsible for some of the most severe abuses of labor and human rights.
Understanding the depth of prison culture in the United States is not easy. The complicated networks of economic and social reliance make prisons an integral and large part of our society. Use the resources below to inform yourself and others about the abuses and inequalities built into American incarceration practices.
Learn About U.S. Prison Culture:
- Children in Adult Prisons
- Prisons and Sentencing Reform
- Bureau of Justice Statistics
- Words From Prison: Sexual Abuse in Prison
- Just Detention International: Rape is not part of the sentence
- The Sentencing Project
- End Silence: The Project on Addressing Prison Rape
- In the News 2012 – Sexual Assaults in Adult Prisons and Jails
- Prisons and Sentencing Reform | Equal Justice Initiative
- Human Rights Watch: Prison and Detention Conditions
- Prison Labor: Three Strikes and You’re Hired
- The Prison Industry in the United States: Big Business or a New Form of Slavery?
- An American Seduction: Portrait of a Prison Town
- Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex
- Prison Town (PBS Documentary)
U.S. Prisons in the News
- Race And America’s Prisons: It’s Complicated
- The Top 10 Most Startling Facts About People of Color and Criminal Justice in the United States
- Michelle Alexander: More Black Men Are In Prison Today Than Were Enslaved In 1850
- America’s Plantation Prisons
- Wonkbook: 11 facts about America’s prison population
- Throwing children in prison turns out to be a really bad idea
- Judge who accepted private-prison bribes to send black kids to jail sentenced to 28 years
- America’s Worst Prisons
- When It Comes To Illegal Drug Use, White America Does The Crime, Black America Gets The Time
- White America, It’s Your Turn to Talk About Race
- Don’t White People Kill Each Other, Too?
- VIDEO: Torture Inc. America’s Brutal Prisons
- Prison Sexual Abuse Survivor Speaks Out
- Sexual Abuse Of Incarcerated Youth: Prisons, Jails Required To Help Prevent Assaults
- Report: Nearly 10 percent of inmates suffer sexual abuse
- Prison Rape Widely Ignored by Authorities
- One of the Darkest Periods in the History of American Prisons – Andrew Cohen – The Atlantic
- America’s Dehumanizing Prisons
- Overcrowding In Federal Prisons Harms Inmates, Guards: GAO Report
- Prison Labor Booms As Unemployment Remains High; Companies Reap Benefits
- The Incarceration Business: America’s Private Prisons
- The Pentagon and Slave Labor in U.S. Prisons
- U.S. to expand Iraq prisons
- How Private Prison Firms Use Quotas To Fill Cells And Coffers
- If your state has privatized its prison system, this is where your tax dollars are going
- One Disturbing Reason For Our Exploding Prison Population (INFOGRAPHIC)
- This is how private prison corporations make millions even when crime goes down
- Are governments incentivizing longer prison terms?