U.S. of Prisons
There is a little good news to report about Massachusetts prisons – since 2011 the prison population has gone down 12 %; not much, but something. However, as with everything in today’s world, when there is something good to report, there is usually “but’ that follows. Yes, we see a slight decrease in incarceration rate, but the state now spends 18% more on prisons than it did in 2011. (Massachusetts now spends more on the so-called “correctional system” than it spends on higher education!) Unfortuntaely this increase in spending is not going to cover services and programs for prisoners, such as medical care, re-entry support, education. (The budget for services for prisoners has actually gone down 3% since 2011!) Most of the increase in spending has been used to hire more prison staff (even though the prison population went down!) and for higher wages. (2017 MassINC Report)
Prisons in the U.S. have been used as money-making businesses for a while now. Many in power profit from it, but the poor, minorities, and all the disfranchised are stuck with the human price tag.
In this issue of Mass Dissent we hear voices from behind the bars of those who suffer daily. Shawn Fisher reflects on the impact that Nelson Mandela’s speech in Roxbury had on him when he witnessed it as a teenager, and how he understands this impact now as a grown up man, incarcerated for years. James Riva analyses the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and the devastating results of its one year statute of limitation on habeas corpus petitions. Daniel Holland paints a dire picture of food in prison, especially for those with medical dietary requirements. Shawn Fisher, in his second article in this issue, urges us to fight against constitutionally sanctioned slavery that continues in our prisons. Keith Niemic and Stanley Donald, in their beautiful and very moving poems, contemplate on love, neglect, abuse, disappointment, and all range of emotions that make us who we are. We also hear from Bonnie Tenneriello about services available to prisoners at Prisoners’ Legal Services. We are privileged to hear these voices. We thank all prisoners who submitted their work and apologize for not being able to print all submissions.
– Urszula Masny-Latos –