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September 9, 2016 Prison Labor Strike: Understanding what Incarceration Looks like

A guide to help with researching and provide information regarding the national prison labor strike that took place starting September 9, 2016

Understanding Incarceration

There are over 2 million people incarcerated in the United States of America according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics per their reporting in 2014. While the USA has one of the larger prison populations in the world, incarceration does not affect all families equally. One in three Black men are likely to be incarcerated, whereas only one in seventeen White men are likely to be incarcerated. For women the contrast is even starker, one in eighteen Black women are likely to be incarcerated compared to only one in 111 White women will likely experience incarceration.

Contained in this page are resources to help familiarize yourself with incarceration, what it means to be incarcerated, who is incarcerated and how it affects other people as well. This does not happen to just one person, it equally affects their families and communities. If you do not know someone who is incarcerated, been incarcerated or worked in criminal justice you might not know about the living conditions or the labor conditions.

Prisons can be a world unto themselves. These resources can help you better understand what the strike protestors organized against and experience.

Life Inside

The Marshall Project is a non-profit organization that focuses on journalism on criminal justice. They publish a series titled "Life Inside" that presents original nonfiction essays written by people who deal with the criminal justice system, from people who are incarcertated, to lawyers, to judges, to corrections offices/guards. 

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Prison Town, USA

Prison Town, USA shows how four families are affected by the local prison through the eyes of Correction Officers and their families, a family who has to remain in the town because a loved one is incarcerated there, and a local dairy that relies on the prison to survive. It premiered in 2007. 

Books about Incarceration

This is a small selection of books about incarceration. They provide a sampling of policy, someone who has been incarcerated and someone who has had a love one who was incarcerated. This list is in no way shape or form meant to be considered inclusive. There are many different voices and approaches to writing about incarceration. 

Government Sites with Information About Incarceration

  • Bureau of Justice Statistics 
    The Bureau of Justice Statistics collects and analyzes data relating to crime (federal and state) in the United States. They also publish this data. They are part of the Office of Justice Programs.
  • Congressional Budget Office 
    The reports from the CBO will deal more with proposed bills or analysis of current data. It is nonpartisan and does not make recommendations, it only provides cost estimates and analysis.
  • Federal Bureau of Prisons 
    The Federal Bureau of Prisons contains information and statistics about Federal Prisons only. This is for federal laws that are broken, not state laws. The prison population of within federal prisons can be quite different than state prisons.

NGOs that deal with information regarding incarceration

  • The Equal Justice Initiative
    The Equal Justice Initiative
  • Pew Charitable Trusts' Public Safety Performance Project
    Pew works with states to advance data-driven, fiscally sound policies and practices in the criminal and juvenile justice systems that protect public safety, hold offenders accountable, and control corrections costs.
  • Prison Policy Initiative
    Prison Policy Initiative works to educate about the harms of mass incarceration and to creative advocacy programs to help those that are incarcerated.
  • Institute for Criminal Policy Research
    The Institute for Criminal Policy Research conducts research on prisons and imprisonment worldwide, developing and disseminating knowledge to inform policy and practice.
  • World Prison Brief
    The World Prison Brief is an online database providing free access to information on prisons and the use of imprisonment around the world.
  • The Sentencing Project
    The Sentencing Project works for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration.

NGOs that deal with conditions in prisons

Talking to Kids about Incarceration

The Sesame Workshop created a new initiative Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarcerationwith videos and multimedia resources in order to help children whose parents are incarcerated. In 2007 the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report about Parents in Prisons and Their Minor Children detailing information about the 2.3% of minors in the US that have a parent who is incarcerated. This toolkit was created to help children ages 3-8 develop the skills for resilience and to provide their caregivers resources for talking and helping these children.