Jack Norton is a researcher for the Vera Institute of Justice’s In Our Backyards project, an initiative exploring the shifting geography of incarceration in the United States. (June 2020)


Cut the Carceral System Now

A protest outside Broome County Jail, Binghamton, New York

Even before this past week, carceral institutions have been in the news as the prison and jail boom of the past forty years has intensified the damage of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mass incarceration has a devastating effect on public health. For the past two decades, as counties across the country have built new jails, the rural US experienced a wave of hospital and mental health facility closures. In rural Washington County, New York, where I am writing from, there are two state prisons. An abandoned hospital looms on the hill above town—closed in 2003, the same year the county built a new, larger jail.