Idea Space Features Exhibit on Incarceration in the United States

Written by Chaline Lobti

The U.S. is second to none when it comes to imprisoning its own citizens. This problem has blown out of proportion and has reached the point where the U.S. has incarcerated as many people as it is capable of incarcerating. The Idea Space has an exhibit, “Incarceration Nation” in Cornerstone aiming to start discourse about this issue, emphasizing that this exists not just in Colorado as a state, but also in the local Colorado Springs area.

Education on mass incarceration in the U.S. is an important means to fix the issues. Senior Abe Mamet chairs the Prison Project, a club that seeks to educate the student body about the problems that stem from the way the U.S. approaches incarceration.

Mamet believes that one of the most devastating effects that comes from incarceration is the reinforcement of a new Jim Crow system, and essentially the legalization of slavery by the state and country.  This new form of slavery is due to the expansion of the prison system where it funds and employs entire towns. As a result of this, people are brought and kept in prison in order to ensure the employment of others.

Mamet reiterated that, “It’s not this thing of gathering crops and getting material goods for the slave master and thus the community, it is the gathering of bodies and making the bodies crops to then give jobs to people. This is destructive and there needs to be a whole system change.”

Curator Jessica Larsen-Hunter for The Catalyst. Photo by Emily McBride
Curator Jessica Larsen-Hunter for The Catalyst. Photo by Emily McBride

Jessica Larsen-Hunter, the curator for the Idea Space, believes that art is one of the best ways in which a discourse can be ignited on the issue. Larsen-Hunter said, “an art exhibit can invite people to think about a subject longer, bring people to a place of curiosity about something.”

Exploring the issue of incarceration in the U.S. may help students at CC understand why the system persists as it is now. Mamet said part of this  is that the right wing is most active in criminal justice reform. While liberals, some who self-identify as radicals, are on the ground when it comes to actually implementing laws, that’s where the right wing comes in.”

Mamet described Colorado as the “seat of the prison industrial complex in the U.S.” because it has more condensed jails per capita than most states, and these jails and prisons are all filled. People often forget that it is not just the lives of the imprisoned that are affected, but also family members and loved ones are greatly affected.

The exhibit engages people in discourse about the issues associated with the prison system and the ways in which the country can change.

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