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The Epidemic of Mass Incarceration

James Cridland, Creative Commons


For the first time in a long time, observers of the phenomenon of mass incarceration in America have seen some good news. The rate of African Americans in prison has dropped sharply over a decade - a trend that pushes back against a historical disproportionality of blacks in our prison system.  These numbers come from The Sentencing Project.

African Americans still make up 38% of those in state and federal prison, and other trends are more worriesome. The rate of imprisonment for whites and hispanics has gone up, and America still has a much higher rate of incarceration than other countries.

How did we get here? Tough drug sentencing laws that can be traced back 40 years to the administration of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. North Country Public Radio reporter Brian Mann has been doing a series of reports for NPR called “The Legacy and Future of Mass Incarceration.”  It’s part of North Country Public Radio's Prison Time Media Project, a yearlong investigative series looking at the national impact of Rockefeller-style laws.

Today, where we live, mass incarceration:  We’ll explore how Rockefeller changed the way we look at prison, and whether these laws helped to spread an epidemic of incarceration in America.  Later, we’ll talk with two Yale law students about their documentary “The Worst of the Worst” - about Northern, Connecticut’s supermax prison.

See "The Worst of the Worst ":

Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, Monday, March 18th from 6-8pm

Real Art Ways in Hartford on Saturday, March 16th. At Real Art Ways, “The House I Live In” will be screened first with the purchase of a ticket. “The Worst of the Worst’ will follow at 3pm for free. A discussion will follow that.

More information on upcoming events at Harriet Beecher Stowe Center 

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