The United States imprisons more people than any other country in the world. But there are big systems at work in our culture to make us forget that—to try and keep prisons, and the terrible impacts of mass incarceration, invisible. This vanishing act requires help from all parts of our society, including our pop culture. While they play a huge role in how our economy, politics, and families function, it’s rare to see the stories of incarcerated people in our pop culture.
On this episode, we share three stories about making prisons impossible to ignore. We hear voices from a recent national protest against prison labor (incarcerated people are paid as little as 12 cents an hour!), talk with filmmaker and disability justice activist Cheryl Green about the often unseen links between disability and incarceration, and hear from powerhouse Andrea James, who co-founded the group Families for Justice and Healing while serving time in Danbury—the women’s prison made famous by Orange is the New Black.
START SEEING PRISONS:
INTERVIEW WITH ANDREA JAMES:
THE LINK BETWEEN DISABILITIES AND PRISONS:
The artist featured on today’s episode is Haley Heynderickx.
SHOUT-OUTS AND RESOURCES:
• There are two books mentioned in this episode that are definitely worth reading if you want to learn more about mass incarceration: Michelle Alexander’s landmark book The New Jim Crow and Andrea James’ book Upper Bunkies Unite. Another great book that’s not mentioned on this show, but is right in line with its themes is Maya Schenwar’s Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can do Better.
• Andrea James wants everyone to know about the campaign Can Do Clemency—organizers are hoping that Obama will undo some of the hardship of the war on drugs before he leaves office by granting clemency to people serving time in federal prison for nonviolent drug offenses.
• Thanks to writer Victoria Law for help putting together this episode. Her book on prison issues is also essential, it’s called Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women.
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