In the United Sates one out of every hundred people is incarcerated. One out of every thirty-one is under the surveillance of the criminal justice system, either in prison or county jail, or on probation or parole. People are adversely affected by racialized assumptions about both inferiority and criminality. More than seventy percent of those imprisoned in the United States are people of color, and the fastest growing group of prisoners is black women. Resources that could address these issues in positive ways are being drained off into our prison industrial complex which absorbs many billions of dollars of our social wealth. Some states spend more on corrections than they do on higher education. In California the average cost of caring for an elderly prisoner is $70,000 annually. We are ‘disappearing’ our social problems from public view into our prison system. This means we are forsaking some of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised persons among us, rendering them voiceless and invisible behind prison walls.
One of the driving principles of the Lioness Tale Prison Project is that reality is a web of relationships in which everything is connected to everything else. We are connected to the poor, prisoners, and to the socially designated ‘non-person.’ Their well-being is connected to our own. Our treatment of those considered ‘least among us’ directly reflects on who we are as individuals, communities and governments.