Some years ago an inmate at SCI Gratford Prison Pennsylvania conceived of an entirely new approach to prison education, designed not only to enlighten its participants intellectually but socially as well. Through its implementation, it’s succeeded in providing prisoners with hope, and breaking down barriers between social groups. Called “Inside-Out classes,” an inmate by the…Read More
On February 5, 2014, Prison Legal News editor Paul Wright interviewed Noam Chomsky, 85, at his home in Lexington, Massachusetts. Professor Chomsky is the foremost dissident intellectual in the United States, and for decades has been a prominent critic of U.S. foreign policy, human rights abuses, imperialism and the media’s facilitation of same. He is also one of the world’s eminent linguists and has been a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1955. He was arrested and jailed for anti-war activism in the 1960s.
The author of dozens of books on politics, media analysis, foreign policy and other issues, Professor Chomsky was also one of PLN’s earliest subscribers and has corresponded with Paul on various topics since the early 1990s. However, in his books, essays and interviews, Professor Chomsky has rarely addressed human rights abuses in the United States with respect to policing and prisons – until now.
While Professor Chomsky agreed to be interviewed by PLN, scheduling was difficult due to his extensive travel and speaking schedule. It turned out that the day of the interview was also the day a massive snowstorm hit Boston, and he did not come into work. He graciously agreed to conduct the interview at his home, and Paul and PLN advertising director Susan Schwartzkopf made an adventurous cab ride through the snowstorm to his house.
We extend our thanks to Professor Chomsky for this interview and to his assistant, Beverly Stohl, for making the necessary arrangements.
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PAUL WRIGHT: I think one of the things that’s interesting is I’ve been reading your work since I was in high school, and I would say that for at least 30 years now, 30-plus years, I’ve been reading your work and all the interviews that you’ve done, and very few people ever ask you about domestic issues.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Really?
PW: Yes. About domestic stuff, in terms of … you know, they ask you about human rights in other countries, but not about human rights in this country. I think you did one interview in the mid-90s which we reprinted in Prison Legal News.
NC: There are many. I don’t know what happens to them. There are so many, I can’t keep track. There’s several a day.Read More
American prisons are currently experiencing a shortage of space and an abundance of prisoners; in a word, overcrowding. The United States incarcerates 25 percent of the world’s prisoners despite accounting for only 5 percent of the world’s population. The Federal Bureau of Prisons alone is experiencing overcrowding at a rate of 40 percent in its facilities, with projections indicating this rate will continue to increase. With this overcrowding, prisoner unrest, violence, and misconduct increase. The system is broken, and the phrases “Prison Nation” and “Incarceration Nation” continue to become more apt every year. Something must be done, but first, the extent of the problem must be understood. Triage is required.
While much of this overcrowding is due to our country’s policies concerning crime control (i.e., incarceration as a solution of the first resort), a significant cause of this problem is due to recidivism — the instance of prisoners or probationers returning to criminal activities and being sanctioned for doing so. While many understand and agree that the initial instance of crime can be reduced through stronger social and educational programs for children, we find ourselves faced with a problem of returns on our current efforts. We must stem the blood flow of recidivism now so that the system can be patched up well enough for us to focus on future generations of children, some of whom are destined to turn to crime without reform to the services currently being provided to them.
And with this, I present the following statistics in the hopes that the extent of our broken criminal justice system problem can be realized, and solutions of the same magnitude can be envisioned:
The Current State of American Corrections
- · In 2009, the U.S. prisoner population totaled 1,617,417 inmates.
- · In 2010, there were 500 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents.
- · The South incarcerates the most prisoners, followed by the West, Midwest, and Northeast.
- · Black males are incarcerated 6.7 times the rate of white males.
- · Black men and women are significantly more likely to be incarcerated than all other races.
- · Males are over 10 times more likely to be incarcerated than females.
- · Federal prisons are currently operating systemwide at 140 percent of capacity.
- · In 2010, 53 percent of released male prisoners recidivated.
Are you a college professor who is in search for a worthwhile project for your students? An undergraduate or graduate student in search of an internship? Are you particularly talented at academic research, public relations, web design, or marketing? Do you want the chance to make a difference by shaping modern public policy and thought?…Read More
AWARD WINNING FILMMAKER, ATTORNEY, AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND MASS INCARCERATION THOUGHT LEADER MATTHEW PILLISCHER, ESQUIRE TALKS TO IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD(R) Photo courtesy brokenonallsides.com PHILADELPHIA, PA (USA) – 24 January 2014 – Through his award-winning, riveting, and provocative film documentary, “Broken On All Sides: Race, Mass Incarceration, & New…Read More
The good, the bad, and the very very ugly. These are some things that stood out for me in 2013, and with them, I wish you all a Happy New Year.
1. Wonderful news for every prisoner who managed to get out of prison, stay out, stay clean, promote a worthy cause, get a job, heal/end negative relationships, and/or make a healthy start: bravo.
2. Thankfully Massachusetts has finally improved on a federal law. We struck down life without parole for juveniles: The ruling goes farther than the Supreme Court decision in 2012 that struck down automatic sentences of life without parole for juveniles per The Boston Globe.
3. Massachusetts raised the age of juveniles — finally — from 17 to 18. As of July, 2013, 37 other states had already raised the age so juveniles would not be tried as adults. But in Massachusetts, a child of 14 who kills can stil be tried as an adult. (What say you, progressives?)
4. Annie Dookhan went to jail for her part in the state drug lab scandal but how many assistant district attorneys did not? And why is there still such silence about this? Apparently, the moola — $8.5 million already spent to deal with this and Legislature setting aside an additional $8.6 mil — and putting innocent people behind bars and releasing people who may or may not be ready is all gonna fall on her shoulders.