MASS INCARCERATION AND THE US CRIMINAL "JUSTICE" SYSTEM
THE US HAS SLIGHTLY LESS THAN 5% OF THE WORLD’S POPULATION, BUT OVER 20% OF ITS PRISONERS.
For the over 2.3 million people behind bars, the approximately 7 million on probation, parole or in correctional facilities, or for the 70 million Americans with criminal records, discrimination, violence and assaults on dignity are a daily reality.
According to Michelle Alexander, author of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness," mass incarceration is the most pressing racial justice issue of our time. As she and other civil rights activists have made clear, slavery and Jim Crow have not ended in this country, they have simply evolved into a new racial caste system. There are now more men of color under correctional control in the US than there were enslaved in 1850. US prisons hold more than one third of the world’s incarcerated women, the majority of whom are Black and Hispanic and have experienced physical and sexual abuse, poverty and addiction. For the over 650,000 people who are released every year, the collateral consequences of a criminal record make productive re-entry almost impossible and fuel pain, trauma and high recidivism rates.
No time has ever been more important for the public, and particularly for high school students, to learn about mass incarceration and the US criminal justice system from the people who have experienced it and from those working for change.
In the words of Alexander herself, "The fate of millions of people - indeed the future of the black community itself - may depend on the willingness of those who care about racial justice to re-examine their basic assumptions about the role of the criminal justice system in our society."
“Broken?” is an exhibit that highlights the experiences of those who have been caught up in the USA's 40-year unprecedented experiment in punishment and brings into focus its human costs. It asks us to consider four questions: How did the "land of the free" become the world’s biggest jailer? Is the US criminal justice system broken or is it doing exactly what it was designed to do? Can a system that was designed by men who did not believe that everyone was equal, be just? And if not, how do we change it?
Since 2015, the project has been bringing together students, UNIS alumni, teachers, photographers, formerly incarcerated people and activists working to end mass incarceration and to building a criminal justice system that respects human dignity and delivers safety, repair and justice.
UNIS Human Rights Project 2015
Investigating and educating about mass incarceration