Currently the United States houses the largest prison population on earth—around 2 million, growing by 700 percent since the late 1970s. The hip-hop generation, Blacks, Latinos and the poor have all been disproportionately affected. Recently, Attorney General Holder announced a federal policy shift away from lengthy sentences for non-violent drug crimes. Additionally, numerous states struggling with historic budget shortfalls are enacting policy reforms to reduce their reliance on incarceration. Although these efforts seem promising, what obstacles persist to ending mass incarceration as we know it?
Hip-Hop, Media & The prison industrial complex answers this question by placing two of America’s most influential industries in the crosshairs: corporate media and entertainment. From exploring trends in national news coverage to debating narratives that dominate hip-hop music and popular culture, a provocative panel of scholars, activists and artists consider the ways these industries reinforce the status quo of mass incarceration.
Beyond media and entertainment, this forum scrutinizes prison privatization efforts (such as private prisons corporations like the GEO Group that trade shares on the US stock market) and the for-profit culture that surrounds prisons (including manufacturers like Starbucks, Boeing and Victoria’s Secret that benefit from a literally captive market’s cheap labor), which fly in the face of prison reform efforts.
• How does the hip-hop industry contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline?
• What economic opportunities exist for local communities that bring prisons to their area?
• In what ways has the Great Recession of 2007-2009 affected the national prison debate?
• What organizations and efforts are at the cutting edge of rethinking prisons in America?
• Do Black males commit more crimes, or is there a direct connection between mass incarceration and corporate interests?
• What impact does mass incarceration have on education, civic participation and families?