The war at home

Courtesy of Reuters.

Courtesy of Reuters.

It’s the one being waged against our own population, via mass incarceration and often inhumane treatment of inmates. From Reuters’ impressive gallery of the year in 95 photos, here’s the story behind this one:


“I arranged to travel on a bus from Los Angeles with children who were visiting their fathers in San Quentin state prison. The prison has the largest death row in the United States, and the only gas chamber and death row for male inmates in California.

The children slept on the bus overnight as it made the nearly 400-mile journey, met with their fathers for a few hours, before returning to LA the same day.

I had arranged to meet reporter Mary Slosson from Sacramento at the prison. We chatted with the families and photographed them for a couple of hours. I wasn’t allowed to photograph one family who was visiting a death row prisoner in a separate locked room, but Mary talked to the press officer and arranged for Reuters to have a prison tour.

We were shown around the exercise yards, some of the cells, and the medical building. A lot of the prisoners wanted to chat to us, and they swarmed around as we walked through the exercise yard.

In the medical building we crossed paths with a death row inmate and other shackled “administrative segregation” prisoners. One inmate was sitting in a cage in an empty room, watching television.

We passed a room of administrative segregation prisoners sitting in cages for a group therapy session. I took four frames before the prisoners started staring and a guard told us to move along.


2 thoughts on “The war at home

  1. You cannot commit a crime and then cry foul because someone else didn’t get caught and prosecuted for the same crime.

    What’s being lost in this discussion about Mass Incarceration is the fact that people are exposing themselves to the criminal justice machine by making the poor choices. I can speak to this from personal experience. I was sentenced to 15 years in Federal Prison for drug related crimes under the mandatory drug sentences.

    Since the book, The New Jim Crow, the buzz word in the criminal justice world had has been “Mass Incarceration”, which has morphed into the Stop Mass Incarceration movement. Granted the 2.3 million people languishing in United States Penal System is startling number but 95% are not there because they were innocently rounded up and mass incarcerated. I find that black intellectuals are using race a s way to explain why so many black men and women are in prison, when more often then not, it all boils down to poor choices. There’s a segment of the black populace who have bought in the self-destructive mindset that accepts prison as a norm. What is sending the majority of blacks to prison is a mindset. Once a person buys in this mindset and finds themselves caught up in the system he/she cannot urn around and cry foul because his/white counter parts are not being punished in the same way he/she has been. The simple truth is a large amount of black are mentally incarcerated, which makes it much more easier for them to find themselves physically incarcerated.

    If a black person and a white person take a test and both cheat, and the test administrator who is white catches the black person cheating and turns a blind eye to the white person, can the black person turn around and say, oh it’s not fair because the white person got away with cheating? No!! He should have never been cheating in the first place.

    Citing “Jim Crow” as the reason so many blacks are in prison should not be a rallying cry to exempt people from the fact they did something wrong. And once you leave yourself open and exposed to the disparities in which exists within the criminal justice system between blacks and white you cannot cry foul.

    In this instance the Stop Mass Incarceration movement that has taken shape has only done one thing and that’s spark conversation about criminal justice in this country, but it should used to exonerate those who commuted offenses.

    Randy Kearse, author of Changin’ Your Game Plan: How I used incarceration as a stepping stone for SUCCESS

    • Thanks for your comment!

      I’d have to disagree with this statement, though: “What is sending the majority of blacks to prison is a mindset.” It’s not so simple. The fact is, African-Americans are prosecuted (especially for drug-related crimes) at absurdly higher rates than their white counterparts. Furthermore, the nature of punishments for drug-related crimes is such that ones committed predominantly by black suspects (i.e. crack cocaine) are much, much harsher than those committed by predominantly white ones (i.e. powder cocaine), for no discernible non-racial reason. It is disparities like this that make the prison-industrial complex so impossible to justify.

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