I hope you’ll all read Adam Gopnik’s recent article in the New Yorker, which addresses how “[m]ass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today.” In his attempt to answer the question, “how did we get here?” he describes two different ideas: one, elaborated by the late, beloved Bill Stuntz, that conceiving of justice as procedure and process rather than principles results in a system that is essentially impersonal and insulated from its human effects; the second, put forth by Michelle Alexander among others, that the prison is an institution of white supremacy that functions in the service of racial domination as social control.

This long and thoughtful piece opens with a nice meditation on time in the context of incarceration– the “timeless time”  of death row, and the way that in prison, time becomes something being done to you, not something you do things with. It also offers some sobering facts: six million people are under correctional supervision in the U.S., more than were in Stalin’s gulags; Texas alone has sentenced more than four hundred teenagers to life imprisonment; during the past two decades, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education. There is more– a discussion of the relationship between crime and such punishment, and of stop and frisk programs, some Shakespeare and a little hope– and more than that too, that makes it worth your while to take a look.