The past few weeks have been an awesome time for social justice investigations that impact communities of color, mainly black Americans and Latinos. From school resegregation to reparations to charters and now, an in-depth look at Alabama prisons. With the third-highest imprisonment rate in the nation (and that’s saying a lot in the U.S.), a coalition of Alabama media outlets are (finally?) investigating its prison system in a substantial way. Best part: they’re asking Alabamans and others to weigh in. It’ll be interesting to see in the next few months how this series impacts public discussion. Reforms in Alabama could spark similar efforts in other high incarceration states like Louisiana and Mississippi.
A few facts before you click through to the package that started rolling out this past Sunday: since 1977 Alabama’s prison population has grown nearly 900 percent. A system designed to house 14,000 is over capacity at more than 30,000 and the state spends more than one-quarter of its general fund budget on prisons. According to Prison Policy Initiative, blacks comprise 54 percent of Alabama’s incarcerated population but 26 percent of the general population. Etowah County Detention Center, which largely houses immigrants, has long been considered one of the worst in the country.