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Ironically nicknamed Land of the Free, the United States is the world’s #1 jailer. The U.S. represents only five percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s inmates are here. By the close of 2010, America had 1,267,000 people behind bars in state prisons, 744,500 in local jails, and 216,900 in federal facilities—more than 2.2 million people in total. 1 in 5 inmates are low level drug offenders, and Black people are 10 times more likely to be incarcerated for drugs than whites despite using drugs at roughly the same rates. Those who are released from prison are often still under state surveillance, and as a consequence, they are subject to discrimination that contributes to America’s 76 percent recidivism rate. Most people who were incarcerated are required to have employment as a condition of their parole. Employers, however, are allowed to screen people with felonies during the application process, making it difficult for formerly incarcerated folks to get a job and feed themselves and their families.
Related: A Primer On The Prison Industrial Complex

This Labor Day all activists, organizers, advocates, and progressives need to remain cognizant of the plight of the incarcerated, whose labor often is left out of the discourse.

By Devyn Springer While Labor Day has become synonymous with simply being known as the long weekend filled with barbecues, cheap cocktails, and laughs with friends, it is historically much more than that; it is meant to be a celebration of the radical trade unionists and organizers of the early Labor Movement which is responsible for many of our worker’s rights today. Moreover, it should be a celebration of the worker, the contributions to the world the laborers make, and a transgression against current abuses and exploitations workers face. This year massive protests and demonstrations across the country have taken place to demand high minimum wages, particularly the #FightFor15 organizations call for a $15 minimum wage. In other parts of the country immigrants folks are also marching for the rights of immigrant workers, especially in relation to the recent news that Trump has declared war on DACA recipients. While these causes are important, noble, and timely, there is a population of workers whose plight and labor is overlooked each year: the incarcerated. In our conceptualization of “labor,” “laborers,” and “workers,” we often naturally overlook the labor of incarcerated people, which is not a coincidence. Not just their labor, but their conditions and lives as well are often overlooked in most public discourse, as the prison system is this way by design. In most states, the geography of prisons alone is enough to create this erasure; state and federal prison facilities are often places on the outskirts of towns, hour-long drives away from cities. Incarcerated populations are, often quite literally, out of sight and out of mind to the general public, thus the plight of their struggles and their labor is naturally disregarded.
Related: A Primer on the Prison Industrial Complex in America

Most women in prison are the victims of abuse and suffer from mental health issues–inhumane prison conditions aren’t helping.

By Andie Park Earlier this month, Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren publicly introduced the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, a landmark bill to improve living conditions for female inmates who are also the primary caretakers of their families. Some of the provisions of the bill address fairly straightforward and common-sense needs such as creating better access to feminine hygiene products and expanding visitation policies for the families of inmates. Other provisions, however, reveal a more horrifying system of abuse in federal facilities for women. Until the introduction of this bill, the shackling of pregnant inmates was still legal. In federal facilities, several women sacrifice the decision to make a phone call to family members in order to buy box a tampons from their commissary – or vice versa – due to the exorbitant costs tied to each choice. The alarmingly vast lack of protections stems from the institutional inability to include women in legal discussions for reform. Whether it be solitary confinement or going into childbirth while shackled, these actions were still technically legal mainly because legislative measures never accounted for the difference of struggles between female and male inmates. Ultimately, the bill is a push for the Bureau of Prisons to confront its own gender bias and make concentrated efforts to not only protect female inmates but also restore a semblance of human dignity during their incarceration.
Related: ON ITS FOURTH BIRTHDAY, BLACK LIVES MATTER DOUBLES DOWN ON AN INTERSECTIONAL AGENDA

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