An accessible guide for activists, educators, and all who are interested in understanding how the prison system oppresses communities and harms individuals.
The United States incarcerates more of its residents than any other nation. Though home to 5% of the global population, the United States has nearly 25% of the world's prisoners--a total of over 2 million people. This number continues to steadily rise. Over the past 40 years, the number of people behind bars in the United States has increased by 500%.
Journalist Victoria Law explains how racism and social control were the catalysts for mass incarceration and have continued to be its driving force: from the post-Civil War laws that states passed to imprison former slaves, to the laws passed under the "War Against Drugs" campaign that disproportionately imprison Black people. She breaks down these complicated issues into four main parts:
1. The rise and cause of mass incarceration
2. Myths about prison
3. Misconceptions about incarcerated people
4. How to end mass incarceration
Through carefully conducted research and interviews with incarcerated people, Law identifies the 21 key myths that propel and maintain mass incarceration, including:
- The system is broken and we simply need some reforms to fix it
- Incarceration is necessary to keep our society safe
- Prison is an effective way to get people into drug treatment
- Private prison corporations drive mass incarceration "Prisons Make Us Safer"
is a necessary guide for all who are interested in learning about the cause and rise of mass incarceration and how we can dismantle it.
About the Author
Victoria Law has been researching and writing about incarceration, gender, and resistance since 2000. She is the author of Resistance Behind Bars and the coauthor of Prison By Any Other Name. Law has written about prisons and other forms of confinement for outlets including the New York Times, The Nation, Wired, and Bloomberg Businessweek. She is a cofounder of Books Through Bars-NYC and the longtime editor of the zine Tenacious: Art and Writings by Women in Prison. Connect with her at victorialaw.net or on Twitter @LVikkiml.