Wednesday, 04 March 2015 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG
  • Jails: Time to Wake Up to Mass Incarceration in Your Neighborhood

    By James Kilgore, Truthout | News Analysis

    Chicago Metropolitan Correctional Center; Chicago, Illinois. While at a given moment, jails hold only about 30 percent of the nation's 2.2 million people behind bars, turnover in jails is much faster, resulting in the enormous admissions levels. (Photo: Eric Allix Rogers)Chicago Metropolitan Correctional Center; Chicago, Illinois. While at a given moment, jails hold only about 30 percent of the nation's 2.2 million people behind bars, turnover in jails is much faster, resulting in the enormous admissions levels. (Photo: Eric Allix Rogers)Last week, the MacArthur Foundation launched a $75 million grant initiative to support counties and cities in developing strategies to reduce jail populations. Julia Stasch, MacArthur's President noted that "jails are where our nation's incarceration problem begins (and) too often serve as warehouses for those too poor to post bail, nonviolent offenders, or people with mental illness." The MacArthur initiative represents a belated awakening to the reality that jails are the local face of mass incarceration and, in many places, the New Jim Crow.

    To date, popular knowledge about jails has remained a compendium of scenes from "Cops," MSNBC's "Lockup" or the pics circulated by Mugshots.com on their website and their widely distributed magazine. But the critical lens is widening. Even small Midwestern towns are taking action.

    On February 23, the city council of Urbana, Illinois, passed a resolution condemning mass incarceration. The resolution went on to urge their county board, currently debating a much contested $32 million jail proposal, to stop jail planning until funding was mobilized to alternatives to incarceration.

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