Dr. Michelle Brown, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Tennessee was the featured lecturer for “Mass Incarceration and Transformative Justice” in Kaufman Hall on Nov. 7.
Brown was asked by the Graduate Student Organization of Criminology and Sociology to speak at Old Dominion University about her research involving the U.S. correctional system. She spent many years studying workers from the nation’s prisons as well as those who were incarcerated. She provided examples of how America’s prison system became overburdened by the number of detainees that are in the correctional system.
These problems, she discussed, has resulted in an anti-prison movement led by the scholars who research this area and the families who have loved ones currently in the system. During the lecture, Brown showed a picture of a group at an anti-prison rally holding a sign reading “Bring Our Loved Ones Home.”
“This is reminiscent of anti-Vietnam [War] dialogue,” she said.
Brown also discussed geriatric facilities where the average age of 62 is a result of longer prison sentences. “Prisoners are subject to accelerated aging in these prisons,” she said.
Often the problems of suicide and self-injury are overlooked in regards to prisons, but as Brown pointed out, “Self-mutilation is a routine part of this culture.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, there are 211,150 inmates currently housed in the U.S. prison system. This may not seem like a large number, but when one considers the fact that it costs each state $25,327 a year per inmate it is obvious how much of a burden it could put on a state’s budget.
“What does it take to stop this? We do not have a good answer at all….We’ve got to alter the discourse. We are going to have to find ways to advocate on behalf of those who have been imprisoned,” Brown said.
By Joshua Stanton