'We're Incarcerating Whole Social Groups'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The Atlantic’s new cover story, “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” just dropped. It’s a sweeping essay from Ta-Nehisi Coates, with videos, photos, and annotations throughout, so you may want to settle into your favorite chair before reading. From the first section:

Our carceral state banishes American citizens to a gray wasteland far beyond the promises and protections the government grants its other citizens. Banishment continues long after one’s actual time behind bars has ended, making housing and employment hard to secure. And banishment was not simply a well-intended response to rising crime. It was the method by which we chose to address the problems that preoccupied Moynihan, problems resulting from “three centuries of sometimes unimaginable mistreatment.” At a cost of $80 billion a year, American correctional facilities are a social-service program—providing health care, meals, and shelter for a whole class of people.

To listen to TNC narrate an illustrated intro to the essay, see our previous note. Above is another video illustrated by Jackie Lay, narrated this time by sociologist Bruce Western, quoted in the title of this note.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be airing all kinds of discussion and debate over TNC’s essay and a series of companion pieces, compiled here. Email your own contribution to hello@theatlantic.com and we’ll do our very best to feature it. (For an example of this approach, see our long reader debate over last month’s cover story on the new campus PC.)

For the rest of the October 2015 issue, go here. The Notes section will be covering its contents throughout the month.