Why Should You Care About Mass Incarceration?
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Politics and Activism

Why Should You Care About Mass Incarceration?

It affects you more than you think.

Why Should You Care About Mass Incarceration?

When it comes to news people usually choose to pay attention to the information that directly affects them and glimpse over what doesn’t. With everything going on in the country it can be hard to choose the information and stories that are important and the ones we can ignore. Sadly, mass incarceration seems to be one of those problems that gets ignored. So the question is “How does mass incarceration affect us and why should we care?”

This year VCU has taken a step towards talking about mass incarceration. To get something the attention it deserves, people have to start talking about it first. The common core book for fall 2016-spring 2017 is called Just Mercy and it has become the first step in talking about mass incarceration.

Author and lawyer Bryan Stevenson exposes the parts of the justice system people don’t hear about. He writes about real cases he has had as a lawyer; it isn’t just a story. He tells the stories of all different people, women and children included, who have been sent to prison for long periods of time, sometimes even life, for small crimes like possession. 46% of people in prison today are there because of possession. They get caught on the street with drugs and can’t afford a good lawyer, there is less than one civil legal attorney — 0.64, to be exact — for every 10,000 people living in poverty, according to the newly released Justice Index from the National Center for Access to Justice (NCAJ). So they are sentenced to harsh terms in prison that don’t match the crimes committed.

It’s not just the lack of funds that hurts people in poverty, it’s the three strikes rule as well. The three strikes rule is when someone commits a crime three times, they are automatically sent to prison for life. So someone could potentially commit a small crime, go to jail, get out and repeat the process two more times and be in jail for life. The three strikes rule happens because the government gives people fresh out of prison no help and expect them to come out of prison as good American citizens. They are excepted to find jobs and turn their life around when in reality they can’t find a job with felon on their record, and they fall back into old habits. Stevenson shows that we do truly live with a broken justice system.

But we can’t just except to read a book and everything to get better. I live in Richmond, Virginia and many parts of the city are struck by poverty. We don’t see a lot of it because we live on campus but if venture into the city you’ll see. Based on what Stevenson has shown through his years as a lawyer, people living here are more likely to go to jail for longer periods of time just because they live in poverty. Until just two years ago the jail they were sent to was falling apart, dangerous, and already overcrowded to begin with. Just because more money was spent on a new prison, doesn’t mean everything is getting better, The Richmond Times has reported that since the new jail opened two years ago there has been eight inmate deaths.

To make matters worse according to The Washington Post, more money is spent in the state of Virginia on prisons than education. Tax dollars that people believe are going towards school, are going towards prisons. The more people that are sent to prison for jail sentences that don’t match their crimes, the more money people will have to pay. Even though it doesn’t seem that spending more money is helping.

So after looking at the money and resources that are spent on prisons that don’t seem to be getting much better, the question really should be “Why shouldn’t you care about Mass Incarceration?"

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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