Today, there are over 1.7 million people incarcerated in the United States, more than in any other industrialized country. They are disproportionately African American and Latino (almost 70% of US prisoners are people of color) and two thirds are serving sentences for non-violent crimes. One in three African American men between the ages of 20 and 29 is either in jail, on probation or parole. 1.4 million black men -- or 13% of African American men -- have lost the right to vote because they have committed felonies.
Taxpayers foot the bill for "get tough" policies that treat a generation of young people -- mostly young people of color -- as expendable. New York and California, states that once had arguably the finest public university systems in the country, now spend more money locking people up than on giving them a college education. Meanwhile, prison gates are swinging wide open for corporations. Some like CMT Blues, Microsoft, Boeing, TWA, and Victoria's Secret, are using low cost prison labor for every thing from manufacturing aircraft components and lingerie to booking reservations.