Prisons & Criminal Justice
Philosophy 1301 w/ Colby Glass

"More than 1.7 million people are in prisons or jails in the USA. More than 60 per cent are from racial or ethnic minorities. Over half are black. Since 1980 the number of inmates has more than tripled; the number of women inmates has quadrupled." (from Torture and Abuse of Prisoners from Amnesty International).

"The U.S. criminal justice system has become a national disgrace with prisons that strip people of their dignity. The staff of the American Friends Service Committee's Criminal Justice Program believe that we must abolish the current, failed system, not only because of the horrible conditions that prisoners and their families are forced to suffer. Consider these facts:

"The American Friends Service Committee's Criminal Justice Program wants to reduce and eventually eliminate the "solution" of throwing people in jail as a response to crime and violence. Working together with many groups across the country, we want to create a system that is based not on prisons, jails, and executions but on the needs of both victims of crime and victims of poverty and injustice. We also want a system that recognizes drug and alcohol abuse as mainly health problems, not criminal justice problems; allows local communities to help create fair and humane responses to crime; and treats offenders as individuals, not as faceless "criminals."" (from Abolishing an Unjust System)

"..prisons should not be reformed and prettied up, but should be dismantled, brick by brick, leaving to our grand-children no physical reminder of our barbarity... [There is] evidence that prisons do not help fight crime, and that they probably make things worse--thus removing any justification for a system of unspeakable cruelty" (Zinn 445-6).

"..the huge proportion of poor people in jail for crimes against property suggests that prisons are inevitable counter-parts of banks" (Zinn 446).

"Stopping the Prison-Industrial Juggernaut", by Linda M. Thurston (from the Nonviolent Activist magazine)

"But prisons are not only a national shame. They are also big business. Correctional Corporation of America, Wackenhut and other companies have discovered in the United States' propensity for locking away its own people a prime opportunity for profit. Private prisons have sprung up across the country. At least one, an immigration detention facility in New Jersey, has seen a major uprising in protest of conditions, yet private prisons remain even less accountable to the people than are the public prisons that pioneered mass incarceration... Prison guards in some states make more money than college professors, leading the working class to see their hope for financial survival in the business of locking up their fellow Americans."


"Prison massacres, dramatic protests, and violent guard abuse earn occasional news headlines, but the deplorable daily living conditions that are the plight of the great majority of the world's prisoners pass largely unnoticed..

"Many countries, moreover, foster public ignorance of prison inadequacies by denying human rights groups, journalists, and other outside observers nearly all access to their penal facilities. A smaller group of countries, including China and Cuba, even bar the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from providing basic humanitarian relief to people in their prisons..."

This site has a great deal more information. Go there and read up on the subject.

Related Links

American Friends Service Committee site & links on criminal justice

Works Cited

Zinn, Howard. The Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy. NY: Seven Stories Press, 1997.

Please send comments to: Colby Glass, MLIS

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