U.S. Prisons (slave labour gulags) are shielded from public view on purpose

Heather Ann Thompson on Prison Access

‘Today, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. With over 2.3 million men and women living behind bars, our imprisonment rate is the highest it’s ever been in U.S. history. And yet, our criminal justice system has failed on every count: public safety, fairness and cost-effectiveness.’ – Alex Stamm

Heather Ann Thompson on Prison Access

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Prison fence (photo: Pixabay)This week on CounterSpin: The US locks up more people than any other country, in a criminal justice system whose racial and class biases are demonstrated, and whose entrenchment in the economy is highly problematic. As prison unrest sparks around the country, highlighting conditions that shock the senses, many would like to reopen a conversation about the purposes of incarceration…for individuals, and for society. But it’s difficult to have an informed conversation when a key ingredient—public knowledge of what happens inside prisons and jails—is missing.

Prisons are shielded from public view on purpose, and journalists have to work hard for access when it’s possible at all. The result is a media landscape that pairs relative silence about prison life with an absurdly outsized focus on crime—certain kinds of crime; it hardly encourages compassion for those who wind up behind bars, or even an accurate understanding of who they are.

The question of public access to the country’s prisons is the subject of a recent article on TheConversation.com by Heather Ann Thompson. Thompson teaches at the University of Michigan in the Afro-American and African Studies and History departments, and in the Residential College. She wrote the book Whose Detroit? Politics, Labor and Race in a Modern American City and, more recently, Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in history for this year.

We spoke with Heather Ann Thompson about “What’s Hidden Behind the Walls of America’s Prisons,” this week on CounterSpin.

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