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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: U.S. | Health, Housing, and Public Services
In slavery at its peak
In 1991 there were about one million Americans behind bars. By 2012 the number was over 2.2 million, a more than 100 percent increase. Our prison population, in fact, is now the biggest in the history of human civilization. There are more people in the United States either on parole or in jail today (around 6 million total) than there ever were at any time in Stalin’s gulags. For what it’s worth, there are also more black men in jail right now than there were in slavery at its peak.
See if this syllogism works, then. Poverty goes up; Crime goes down; Prison population doubles. It doesn’t fit, unless some sort of alternative explanation comes into play. Maybe all those new nonviolent prisoners fit into some new national policy imperative. Maybe they all broke some new set of unwritten societal
One Vietnamese woman, a refugee and a rape victim who had only recently come to America, applied for welfare in San Diego. An inspector came to her door, barged in, and began rifling through her belongings. At one point, he reached into her underwear drawer and began sifting around. Sneering, he used the tip of the pencil eraser to pull out a pair of sexy panties and looked at her accusingly. If she didn’t have a boyfriend, what did she need these for? That image, of a welfare inspector sneeringly holding up panties with a pencil end, expresses all sorts of things at once. The main thing is contempt.
Ted Rudow III, MA