The Injustice System: An Introduction

The Injustice System: An Introduction

This issue examines the US Criminal Justice System, and specifically the experience of prisoners. It attempts to reveal the classist, racist, sexist nature of the US system and its failure to provide equal protection under the law to all persons. From 1975 to 2000, the number of people incarcerated in the US increased from 380,000 to more than 2 million. (1) Yet crime levels during this period remained level. An important determinant was the Reagan Administration’s War on Drugs. These policies criminalized drug use and sent hundreds of thousands to prison. And, we should not forget George Bush, Sr.’s 1988 presidential campaign with black prisoner ‘Willie Horton’ as banner ad. In 1976, the US reinstated the death penalty. Since then over 40 countries have abolished it. While the European Parliament in 1998 called for immediate and global abolition of the death penalty, the US continues to maintain it. Our justice system has emerged as a tool for sustaining a crop of citizens condemned to slavery by a powerful elite who profit politically by their control and exploit their labor. Often described as a revolving door, this system tags and tracks individuals like animals, and discourages the education and social development necessary for reentry or reform. The ‘Prison Industrial Complex’ is one of the fastest growing industries in this country. This industry is both public and private. Government organized incarceration has 650,000 employees making it the third largest employer in the US. Public-sector operating exceed $40 billion. Over the last two decades, the United States has built more prisons than any other nation in history, many privately-run. The privately-owned prison industry manages 140,000 prisoners, about seven percent of those incarcerated. These institutions are overrun by non-violent and drug related offenders, many of whom would benefit from counseling or treatment if those services were made available. Instead, the warehousing of more than 2 million people is advocated as the only solution. If you find the material in this issue disturbing, talk about it with your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and families. Ask yourself how the justice system effects you, your family, and your community. Included is a list of organizations confronting these issues, and as always feel free to contact us with any questions.