One of America’s Least Understood* Social Justice Issues: the Incarceration Industry

*And most important
Learn more (including a beautiful profile of my friend Larry Watson) here:

THE UNITED STATES has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. Nearly 2.3 million Americans are currently in prison or jail in the U.S.—a 500 percent increase over the past 30 years, according to data from the Sentencing Project. As the incarcerated population grows, so does the private prison industry. CCA owns or operates 66 detention centers in the U.S., making it the country’s leading private prison corporation. In 2011, CCA recorded $1.7 billion in total revenue. According to an article by Suevon Lee at ProPublica, CCA has also spent $17.4 million on lobbying over the past 10 years and made $1.9 million in political contributions from 2003 to 2012.
Though U.S. prisons have long outsourced certain aspects of their operations—such as dining or laundry services or medical care—to private contractors, until the 1980s local, state, or federal governments were the sole owners and operators. President Nixon was the first to link the Drug Enforcement Administration with federal law enforcement agencies, significantly shifting the country’s view of illegal drugs from social ills to criminal acts, which increased incarceration rates. But it was the Reagan administration that ushered in the “private prison gold rush.” Reagan’s highly publicized draconian response to crack cocaine in the 1980s had a disproportionate impact on African-American communities. In the decades since, the prison population skyrocketed, with most of the conviction increase involving drug violations.

To learn more (and please – donate!), check this out: