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The Sun Magazine

Culture and Society

Incarceration

The Sun Interview

The Run-On Sentence

Eddie Ellis On Life After Prison

Because of its flawed policies and dysfunctional institutions, this society incarcerates more people per capita than does any other nation. We can’t continue along this path. We cannot afford to keep viewing these issues in a vacuum. We’ve got to do a better job of connecting the dots.

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Joyous Blues God For A Day

It’s 1994, and I’ve been sentenced on drug charges to seven months in a minimum-security prison in California’s Mojave Desert. And yet I feel godlike: I have a single cell, one of the highest-paying jobs in the joint, and a poetry group called the Mad Poets. Also I’m writing a novel, making up my own little world, and this too makes me feel like a god.

Sy Safransky's Notebook

March 2012

I woke up this morning on the third planet from the sun. In the twenty-first century. In the United States of America. Outside, the sky was still dark, but at the flip of a switch the room was flooded with light. Amazing!

The Sun Interview

Throwing Away The Key

Michelle Alexander On How Prisons Have Become The New Jim Crow

Yes, during the original Jim Crow era Whites Only signs hung over drinking fountains, and black people were forced to sit at the back of the bus. There was no denying the existence of the caste system. But today people in prison are largely invisible to the rest of us. We have more than 2 million inmates warehoused, but if you’re not one of them, or a family member of one of them, you scarcely notice. Most prisons are located far from urban centers and major freeways. You literally don’t see them, and when inmates return home, they’re typically returned to the segregated ghetto neighborhoods from which they came, leaving the middle class unaware of how vast this discriminatory system has become in a very short time.

The Sun Interview

And Justice For All

Sister Helen Prejean On Why The Death Penalty Is Wrong

The death penalty could be ended tomorrow if the Supreme Court would reverse its earlier decision. The Court overturned the death penalty once before, in 1972 (Furman v. Georgia), on the grounds that it was arbitrarily and capriciously applied and used disproportionately against poor people. But in Gregg v. Georgia the justices reinstated the death penalty with stricter criteria, limiting its applicability to only the worst of the worst and taking into account the defendant’s character and record. At that time the Court acknowledged the racism in death-penalty sentencing but said it would be too disruptive to our judicial system to correct the bias.