America's prison population, by the numbers


Quinn Norton's "long form data journalism" piece on the American prison system paints a bleak picture of a nation that feasts on its poorest and most vulnerable with a boundless, venomous cruelty.

It isn't just the prisoner who serves time. Families and communities suffer along with them. Right now, 2.3 million children have a parent taken out of their lives by the prison system. These kids deal with life disruptions, changing homes and schools. Their problems can be compounded by a "Conspiracy of Silence" between schools, churches, and neighborhoods.

Children are often lied to about what's going on, sometimes denied visitation, and live with shame about their imprisoned family member. They learn to lie about what's happening to them. They often withdraw from life, and drop out of school. A child with a dad in prison has no better than a 15% chance to graduate from college, with a mom imprisoned, a 2% chance. Many of these children experience the symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) but there is no organized outreach to take care of them.

In many places, the average women's sentenced time of 18 months is enough separation time to terminate parental rights, and lacking in community support, some of these mothers will never be reunited with their children.

A Great Injustice [Quinn Norton]