The US has the distinction of being the world leader in incarceration: 2.3 million people live in our prisons and jails. Recent data show that one in 32 adults—over seven million people—are incarcerated or on parole or probation. Incarceration has had a particularly devastating impact on communities of color: for Black males in their twenties, 1 in every 8 is in prison or jail on any given day. As a country, we spend more than $68 billion on prisons each year.
Utilizing our unique power to monitor New York’s prisons, the CA sheds light on what really goes on behind the prison walls. During our visits, we have found that prisons often ignore people’s medical and mental health problems and leave their substance abuse problems untreated. Incarcerated individuals’ relationships with their children and families suffer because they’re so far from home. Job training and educational programs are woefully insufficient. And while college education dramatically reduces recidivism rates, funding for such programs has been decimated. Preparation for re-entry should begin the moment someone enters a prison, but unfortunately, such smart and humane practice is rarely the case.
Employing a strategic model of research, policy analysis, prison-monitoring, coalition building, leadership development and advocacy, the CA’s overarching goals are to:
- stop the ineffective use of incarceration as a response to the socio-economic problems facing our communities;
- ensure that conditions in prisons are humane and that the rights of incarcerated individuals and their families are protected;
- promote transparency and accountability in the justice system and hold government and prison officials responsible for reform; and
- change the power-dynamics of policy-making and provide opportunities for the people most affected by incarceration to become leaders and active participants in efforts for reform.