The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, by far, with 2.2 million citizens in prison or jail. This phenomenon has generally been driven by changes in laws, policing, and sentencing, not by changes in behavior. The results have disproportionately impacted poor and disenfranchised communities (mostly communities of color). In contrast, these historic changes remain nearly invisible to many Americans.
Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration, a new exhibit at Eastern State Penitentiary, sheds light on these issues. It elicits personal connections to recent historic changes in the U.S. criminal justice system, encourages reflection, supports dialogue, and suggests steps that visitors can take to help shape the evolution of the American criminal justice system moving forward.
Prisons Today is the next step in Eastern State’s continued focus on issues of contemporary corrections. It acts as a companion to The Big Graph, now on view, as well as The Searchlight Series, a monthly discussion series about crime, justice, and the American prison system.