Thursday, August 9, 2012

Jail For The Poor

The following comes from The Contributor, Nashville street newspaper. (know that Nashvile's city jail holds an average of 350 homeless people at any given time. That's 10% of Nashville's total homeless population.)

According to the International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College in London, there are over 2 million people incarcerated in the United States today. That’s nearly 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Only 40 years ago, there were 200,000 people incarcerated in the United States. That means that, in a mere four decades, the number of people living behind bars has increased tenfold. To put it lightly, something is awry in our nation’s criminal justice system.

 “Locked Up for Lack of Income”: In this issue’s cover story, we add to our occasional series on criminal justice in the U.S. by exploring poverty’s intimate relationship to prison. As we learn in this story, getting caught up in the “justice” system can almost always be avoided, so long as the accused has access to one thing: money.

On the flip side, being poor in the United States means there’s a decent chance one will end up behind bars at some point in time. Contrary to the claims of equal justice, it is often the case that two people guilty of the same exact crime will find themselves on opposite sides of the barbed wire fence—a line, as we learn in this story, that too often runs parallel to the distinctions of race and class. Be sure to read this story to learn more about the state of “justice” as it relates to poverty in our country today. “When Povery and Desperation lead to Incarceration”: In our second cover story, we hear from a formerly homeless Nashvillian and vendor of The Contributor on his experience with both poverty and prison.

 Putting flesh on the bones of our first cover story, this piece illustrates vividly what it means to say that living in poverty means one might eventually live in prison. Having lived both on the streets and behind bars, this writer shares his firsthand experience with readers in a story you won’t want to miss.

 And More... In addition to these pieces, this issue also features our usual vendor spotlight, an array of quality submissions from vendors on surgery, windstorms and being a good person, an excellent new series of poems, new letters to the editor, and much more. Also, please take the time before the end of August to complete our 2012 Readers’ Survey online at www.thecontributor.org/survey. Your feedback is immensely important!