News • August 20, 2020

Black August: Understanding The Prison Industrial Complex

This month, Equality North Carolina is observing Black August, a month-long period of remembrance about the history of anti-Black, violent, systematic oppression in this country and the giants and revolutionaries who laid the foundation for the work of our movements today.

Today, we're holding space to consider the ways that incarceration and the American prison system shape the lives and experiences of Black and Brown Americans, particularly those that consider themselves LGBTQ.

Since the murders of George and Jonathan Jackson, the American prison population has ballooned from 200,000 in the 1960s to almost 2.3 million folks experiencing incarceration today. The United States incarcerates more people than any other nation on Earth and exploits the labor of inmates through private prison systems -- the labor of folks who are disproportionately Black and Brown.

Low wage -- or even no wage -- labor within prisons has effectively created a system where the bodies of marginalized individuals are exploited for profit and gain. A huge number of these incarcerated folks are also imprisoned on trumped-up petty drug charges often intended to target and exploit communities of color.

This set of interlocking systems is known as the Prison Industrial Complex, and it helps us understand how the enslavement of Black bodies in this country never really ended -- it just became subtly reframed as something else.

This Black August, we're inviting the Equality North Carolina community, especially those of us with more privilege, to challenge their own misconceptions about incarceration and the purpose of the prison system in America. With the knowledge that LGBTQ youth, particularly those of color, are at a greater risk of incarceration and homelessness, many people in our community are born into cycles of oppression that ultimately land them within the walls of the American criminal justice system.

The conversation about policing in this country is more than just about the police -- it's about the criminal justice system as a whole and its impact on Black and Brown bodies. We hope you'll join us in pushing the Equality movement to imagine a new, more compassionate system of safety and accountability for Americans in the years to come.

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