Summary: In the United States, nearly 1 in every 100 adults are now in prison or jail, meaning that the U.S.incarcerates more people than those regimes Americans typically regard as repressive, such as China and Russia. Why are there so many people in American prisons? In this video from Last Week Tonight, John Oliver explains that 50% of the male prisoners in federal prisons and about 58% of female prisoners are there as a result of drug offenses. The same is true for 25.4% of all prisoners in state prisons. Given other posts on The Sociological Cinema, which explore racism in the criminal justice system (here, here and here), it may come as little surprise that a disproportionate number of prisoners are black and Latino, even when controlling for education. In fact, Human Rights Watch recently completed a study where they concluded that blacks were 10.1 times more likely to enter prison for drug offenses than whites. One result is that blacks constitute 40% of all prisoners under state jurisdiction, while whites only constitute 29% of all such prisoners. The disproportionate incarceration of blacks for drug offenses is even more striking when one considers that with the exception of crack, whites actually use more illegal drugs than blacks. The video concludes with a review of some of the deplorable conditions prisoners are now forced to endure, due in part to a move toward greater privatization. Oliver discusses the high risk of sexual assault, the small size of cells, maggot-infested food, and substandard healthcare, including an incident of pouring sugar into woman's C-section incision as a substitute for antibiotics. In another post, I have explored the fact that between 2006 and 2010, at least 148 women in California prisons were sterilized by doctors under the precepts of a eugenics ideology, a fact which underscores the desperate vulnerability of the bloated U.S. prison population.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist