Where Is the 'Carceral State'?
In the past 40 years, America’s correctional apparatus has become so vast, so wide-reaching, that it’s earned the name “the carceral state.” This tries to describe not only our prison system, but a society that’s been transformed on a much wider scale. Our workforce and economy: since 1979, 36 states opened prisons to private industry. Our educational environments: 28% of schools now employ armed police officers. Our families: 1.7 million children with a parent in prison.
The prison boom reshaped our landscapes — and our democracy. In the 1990s, a new prison opened every 15 days. They were mostly filled by people brought far from their homes — arrested in cities, but sent to rural “prison towns.” Many states count incarcerated people as residents where they’re imprisoned, though they can’t vote there. This inflates the population of prison towns, their number of congressional representatives, and the power of its free residents’ votes.