In the first part of a two-part interview for “On Contact,” which you can watch in the player below, journalist Hugh Hamilton and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges discuss the saga of trauma and transformation in an American prison as chronicled in Hedges’ new book “Our Class: Trauma and Transformation in an American Prison.”
The United States imprisons more of its people than any other country in the world. According to the non-profit Prison Policy Initiative, the American prison industrial complex currently holds captive nearly 2.3 million people in more than 6,000 prisons, penitentiaries, jails, detention centers and correctional facilities across the country. In his newest and positively riveting page turner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges takes us behind the forbidding bars of steel at East Jersey State Prison, into a world where prisoners are people. Together, as students in Hedges’ College-level prison class, they embark on a journey of artistic and personal discovery. Tasked with the challenge of writing a dramatic play of their own, these students deliver eloquent, original and often painful voice to the heartbreaking grief and suffering that they and their families have endured.
In the second of a two-part interview, Hamilton discusses with Hedges the role of race and poverty in mass incarceration, as chronicled in his new book. The pipeline that fuels our system of mass incarceration runs through the intersection of race and poverty in all too many of our neglected and marginalized urban centers. In his new book, Our Class, author Chris Hedges describes the impact of this debilitating poverty that pervades many of our cities and towns. He writes: “The social hell of urban America is the great destroyer of dreams. It batters and assaults the children of the poor. It teaches them that their dreams, and finally they themselves, are worthless. They go to bed hungry. They live with fear. They lose their fathers, brothers and sisters to mass incarceration – and, at times, their mothers. “This social hell is relentless. It wears them down. It makes them angry and bitter. It drives them to hopelessness and despair. The message sent to them by the dysfunctional schools, the decrepit housing projects, the mercenary financial institutions, gang violence, instability, and ever-present police abuse, is that they are human refuse.”