[NOTE: This article was originally posted on the blog of the Durham Association of Educators. Click HERE to read it and view the photographs.]
Since the early 1970s, the United States government has embarked on a project of mass incarceration unlike any other in the world. At the time, the population of people locked up in the U.S. was roughly 300,000 on any given day. Today, that number is somewhere between 2 and 2.5 million people behind bars, which makes the U.S. the keeper of 1/4 of the world’s prisoners. There are lots of ways to analyze this situation, and that’s not the purpose of this post, but it feels worth pointing out two truths: that the overwhelming majority of the people incarcerated in the U.S. are locked up for non-violent offenses, and that there has been a shift from a rehabilitation-based approach towards one that largely results in human warehousing. It is also worth noting that it is incredibly difficult for formerly incarcerated individuals to find employment, and that one stint in jail or prison often results in one being locked out of opportunities to support oneself with meaningful work.