Prison Industrial Complex

I recently paid a visit to the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership where I participated in a workshop on Dismantling the Prison Industrial Complex that was facilitated by Mariame Kaba. Mariame is a nationally known organizer, educator, and curator, and the voice of @prisonculture on twitter.  I’m sharing a few rough notes that I managed to take in from the visit.

In addition to the video shared above, Mariame asked us to consider the answers to the following questions for discussion.

Who is impacted/implicated by prisons and jails?

What are the social forces that lead people to be criminalized? How/why do people end up locked up?

Who benefits from prisons and jails?

Who is harmed by prisons and jails?

Here are just a few answers that the group I was with had:

How would you respond to the questions?

This diagram that Mariame shared with us from The Corrections Project can help to illuminate the many ways multiple institutions are implicated in maintaining the prison industrial complex. When considering your answers to these questions, consider what systems and structures you have to interact with. Consider what systems and structures you are a part of. 

PIC=Prison Industrial Complex

Mariame also shared this talk with us from Maya Schenwar on defining the prison industrial complex:

Another illuminating piece of information Mariame shared was this graphic from the Prison Policy Initiative’s report: Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017 and asserted that although private prisons are often talked about as being heavily implicated in mass incarceration, state prisons and local jails actually hold the largest populations of imprisoned people in the United States.

I think of Sandra Bland, Kalief Browder, and so many others when I consider the reality that the majority of people in local jails are not convicted of any crime, and many of the life-ending or life-threatening outcomes that can result while they await trial.

Other notes: The bail system reinforces inequality for folks who can’t pay it. While not its original design, Bail and bonds are used in coercive ways that force people into taking convictions. We must also address the disproportionate representation of LGBT+ people of color within the prison industrial complex.

As the workshop ended, we made a shift towards imagining a society that valued a restorative justice approach to solving problems.


From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones

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I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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