Friday, September 23, 2011

Prison Proliferation: 1778-2005

Here's a great visual representation of the growth of prisons in the U.S. over the past couple centuries.  The green dots represent prison construction from 1778-1900 (122 years).  The yellow dots represent prison construction from 1901-1940 (39 years); orange dots from 1941-1980 (39 years) and the red dots from 1980-2005 (25 years).  The artist does a great job capturing the growth in the prison industry since the Civil Rights movement and the recent War on Drugs.  This is when prison became political and the number of those incarcerated in state and federal prison grew from around 300,000 (early 1970s) to 2.3 million (today). This represents the greatest number and rate of incarceration in the world.  That's right, in the world. China might share the title, depending on measurement.  Further, the U.S. incarceration rate for African Americans is over 2,000 per 100,000--4,919 black men per 100,000 according to the Department of Justice.  This represents a higher incarceration rate than was the case in apartheid South Africa.  Not surprisingly, the growth in incarceration has had virtually no effect on violent crime.  In fact, New Orleans has one of the highest incarceration rates for cities in the world and it's still one of the most violent cities in the U.S.   Check it out, it's about 10:00 minutes long.


  1. Wow - this is like watching a slow motion funeral of the death of a country. It is an amazing visual demonstration in the South of the impact of convict-leasing and plantation farming (no green dots), the impact of the civil rights movement (increasing orange dots) and finally the current mass incarceration trends.

  2. Yeah, there's a bump in incarceration/control with each significant policy change towards equality and justice. What do you expect the post-obama, conservative reaction will be? My guess, new voter laws.