Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A research graphic on "Modern Prisons and Their Predecessors" shows a stain on the nation's conscience

(To the right, a 1911 photograph of convict laborers at Mississippi’s notorious “Parchman Farm” prison)

Labor South has followed the incarceration issue in this country over the years, decrying in one post back in December 2013 how the United States has become “the world’s largest gulag.” Of course, the South, with Louisiana and Mississippi at the forefront, leads the nation in putting people behind bars and often throwing away the key. Twelve of the top 20 incarcerating states are in the South.

The obscenity of private, profit-making prisons is a plague on the land that contributes to the fact that this nation exceeds even China and Russia in incarceration rates. Corrections Corporation of America in Tennessee and the GEO Group, Inc., of Florida are the nation’s top two private prison companies.

Viviana Shafrin, a loyal reader of this blog, recently sent Labor South a research graphic she helped create that details just how big an issue this is. Below is the link to the graphic, titled "Modern Prisons and Their Predecessors:
I think you’ll all find it very interesting.

Here is a short write-up of the infographic Viviana sent Labor South: The United States has the most prisons in the world in order to house the highest number of incarcerated people in the world. In prison can be found 707 of every 100,000 people in the country. Out of every 100 citizens, three work in the justice system. One in nine state employees works in corrections. How this vast prison system evolved is examined by looking back at what was before modern prisons existed.         

Here in Mississippi, the prison system has been rocked by corruption at its highest levels with veteran Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps accused of pocketing $2 million in bribes related to no-bid contracts. Reports of medieval conditions with the state’s private prisons have also put the system’s reputation in shambles.

One would have to go back to the early 1900s to find an era as dark (or perhaps I should say almost as dark) as what is happening today. That was when then-Mississippi Gov. James K. Vardaman, racist though he was, had to weigh in and end the abominable practice of convict leasing in the state’s prison system. Convict leasing was "a source of cheap labor after the end of slavery" in the South, Chris Kromm of Facing South has written.

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