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Prisoners and Climate Injustice

By Natalia Cardona - 350.Org, August 8, 2017

Recent headlines are full of dire warnings about heat-related deaths. Just the other day a headline in the Washington Post stated that a third of the world’s people already face deadly heat waves. And it could be nearly three-quarters by 2100.

Recently I came across disturbing footage from a St. Louis jail showing inmates without air conditioning calling for help from inside the stiflingly hot facility. This is not the first time these type of headlines have showed up in the news this summer.

In June of this year, deadly heat waves in the Southwestern United States also led to prisoners facing inhumane conditions due to extreme heat. In Arizona, while the weather channel warned that locals should stay indoors and temperatures climbed upwards of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, 380 prisoners were left living in tents in unbearable heat.

The impacts of climate change add to the layers of injustice prisoners already face. The U.S. holds the largest number of prisoners per capita in the world. Since the 1970’s the U.S. has seen a 700% increase in the growth of prisons. Prisons are already at the frontline of injustice, because of the criminalization of people of color through failed policies like the “war on drugs”. Not only that, holding large numbers of people in enclosed facilities leads to health hazards and human rights violations. Prisons and prisoners also find themselves on the frontlines of environmental injustice. The toxic impact of prisons extends far beyond any individual prison.

Climate Refugees in Toxic Immigrant Jails Are Victims of Environmental Racism

By Candice Bernd - Truthout, July 30, 2017

This story is the fourth piece in "America's Toxic Prisons," an investigative, collaborative series between Truthout and Earth Island Journal. This series dives deeply into the intersection between mass incarceration and environmental justice.

In April, the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, again made headlines after more than 100 immigrant detainees launched a hunger strike to protest the conditions inside the for-profit immigration jail.

The demands reflected many of the concerns originally raised by detainees when they went on strike in 2014: abuse from guards, maggoty food, inadequate access to medical care and exorbitant commissary prices, to name a few. The detainees were also protesting the fact that they were running the prison's basic services for wages of just $1 a day, some reportedly receiving only a bag of chips in exchange for waxing the prison's floors.

Conditions at the immigration jail have drawn in local climate activists and other allies, who, in 2015, blockaded three exits where buses and vans usually carry out detainees for deportation. The activists' interest in the jail is not only grounded in concerns about basic human rights -- it's also about environmental justice.

The 1,500-bed immigration jail, operated by the private prison giant GEO Group, sits adjacent to a federal Superfund cleanup site where a coal gasification plant leeched toxic sludge into the soil for over three decades. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took over the site in the early 1990s as part of its Superfund cleanup of the tar pits, which included monitoring groundwater wells, and stockpiling and capping contaminated soils, according to the News Tribune, Tacoma's main newspaper. Today, the site is still dotted with drainage ditches, retention ponds and a capped waste pile.

The site is just one of several distinct Superfund cleanup sites in the industrial district known as the "Tideflats," encompassing the city's port and multiple railroad facilities. Another cleanup site in the Tideflats is located around the former ASARCO copper smelter, which, according to the News Tribune, emitted lead and arsenic from its nearly 600-foot-tall smokestack for decades, contaminating the area's water, sediments and upland areas in the process.

The area is so polluted that the city designated it unfit for residents -- except, that is, for Northwest's immigrant detainees. Eager to approve the jail, a Tacoma councilman, aided by a city attorney, found a useful loophole to keep it from being built on the city's "prime port property," by determining that it didn't meet the state's definition of an "essential public facility." This allowed developers to get around local zoning laws, according to the News Tribune.

On top of that, the Tideflats district is vulnerable to an array of disasters, both natural and human-caused, with everything from benzene-filled underground storage tanks to oil-filled "bomb train" cars at risk of exploding. Even the ground beneath the jail is made of "fill-material that is likely to liquefy in the event of an earthquake," according to the Seattle Globalist. The sediment there also shows evidence that "volcanic lahars have flowed through the area during past eruptions of Mount Rainier." To make matters even worse, in the event of a tsunami, the prison would fill with as much as two meters of water in less than eight minutes, according to the Globalist.

Wendy Pantoja Castillo, a naturalized US citizen from Mexico, has been campaigning on behalf of detainees at the Northwest Detention Center, including publicly protesting the jail's conditions and visiting detainees there for the past several years. She described detainees' exposure to extremely polluted air and soil in the area, and said she has worked to organize "toxic tours" of the Tideflats district with other local environmental activists.

"Many of the detainees are reporting they have headaches at night, especially. At night, the air is a little heavier, and it's more dirty," Pantoja Castillo said. "It smells really bad, and this is in all the city, but it's really close to the detention center, and at night people say ... they are feeling dizzy."

No environmental study on air quality and impacts has been conducted in the area, which is something Castillo is pushing to change. She and other organizers are working to pressure the city and state Department of Ecology for air monitoring in the district.

Moreover, the water in the area is known to have been contaminated with lead and arsenic from the ASARCO copper smelter, which Pantoja Castillo suspects could be affecting the detainees there. "Many of [the detainees] are reporting that the water is different ... so we don't know about the water quality," Pantoja Castillo says.

The jail underwent both a federal and state-level environmental assessment in 2001, but according to the News Tribune, the review process for the jail was unusual in many aspects, including that the federal and state reviews were not coordinated, that the state determination only assessed one site alternative in play and that the final federal review did not include a required "preferred site alternative" at all. An earlier draft of the federal Environmental Impact Statement identified an alternative site as preferential due to the risks posed by the hazardous waste stored at the original site and its location along the tar pits Superfund cleanup. Subsequent drafts, however, identified the original site as suitable.

Years later, Pantoja Castillo says the city is still pushing its own agenda over the well-being of the detainees. "The city is doing, to be honest, not really anything in this situation because they want to be pushing LNG [Liquefied Natural Gas]," she said.

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) has proposed a massive, 18-story, 8-million-gallon LNG plant at the Port of Tacoma that would liquefy fracked gas and distribute the product on ships and on tanker trucks. The plant has faced opposition from environmental activists concerned that an accident could be catastrophic to the neighborhoods within three miles of the site -- and the even-closer prisoners at the Northwest Detention Center who would have to "shelter in place" if there is an accident. Most prisoners in the US are almost never actually evacuated during disasters.

PSE's own figures show the plant would release 39.6 tons of air pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and particulates, as well as 20,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year. These human and environmental risks are why six protesters chained themselves to construction equipment in May and currently face misdemeanor charges.

Opposition has also come from the Puyallup Tribe, who are native to the banks of Commencement Bay and hold treaty rights within the Tideflats area. The city has solicited the tribe's input as it works to develop a subarea plan to review zoning and land-use rules in the area. Additionally, the city is currently working toward interim regulations on industrial uses in the Tideflats as it conducts its multi-year subarea review.

Following up on the FTP 2017 Convergence

By staff - The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, June 29, 2017

[The following letter was sent to all who registered for the 2017 FTP Convergence, but we felt there was pertinent info in here for the rest of you as well. Have a look, take some action, write some prisoners to tell them about it, and pass it on.]

Greetings Toxic Prison Fighters,

Earlier this month we held our second annual national convergence, bringing together environmental activists with the community of people involved in prisoner advocacy and prison abolition. We also addressed issues which surround this intersection related to labor, immigration, race, gender, sexuality and economics.

For those who were able to support the convergence with your attendance and/or donations, we offer our utmost appreciation. It was a groundbreaking and life-changing event, and it couldn’t have been possible without everyone’s contributions.

First off, here’s a link to a PDF of the convergence program, in case you did not get a physical copy to take home (or were not able to make it, but were curious about the schedule.)

This email aims to keep you plugged in  and engaged. Please use it as a guide to taking action and building this movement. Then pass it along to others who may also see the value in it.

In the coming weeks we will be releasing another series of audio recordings from panels and workshops which occurred over the convergence weekend (as we did last year.). Keep an eye out for that.

Throughout the weekend, we were also able to open lines of communication with prisoners who are still locked up, through direct call-ins with them, letters written to be shared, pre-recorded messages, and calls from support people who relayed messages on behalf of their friends or family.

It is out hope that this will not be a one-time correspondence or a one-way line of communication. To that end, we are providing ways to contact those who joined us in some way from behind the bars. You will find this list at the end of the email. We ask that you reach out to at least one of the individuals to let them know they are not alone, they are not forgotten. Unless you yourself have been inside, you have no idea how much a letter can mean.

But the one thing that may even be better than a letter is seeing a crowd of people gathered in front of the prison raising a ruckus, declaring their love and support for those locked inside. For those who were able to stay till Monday June 5th, you got to experience this for yourself. And we want to keep the pressure on to #CloseCarswell. Our primary demand is the immediate closure of the extremely repressive and isolated Administrative Unit. Make a call today to the Department of Justice and tell them there is no reason to keep this unit open: Department of Justice Comment Line: 202-353-1555. DOJ Main Switchboard: 202-514-2000.

In other news, since the FTP Convergence, we have received some major news on the Letcher County, KY fight against a federal prison on a former coal mine site. Two weeks ago the Department of Justice, which oversees the Bureau of Prisons, set in stone that they do not have a need for the new prisonand cannot justify $444 million to build it. While members of Congress could attempt to force it’s construction anyway—as Hal Rogers has done—we are in a much stronger position to fight and win than we were last month. Let’s keep the pressure on!

Start by sending U.S. Rep Hal Rogers a note TODAY telling him that you want to see the $444 million for Letcher kept out of the budget.

Members of Congress who sit on the budget committee can be found here.

Pick a few that are closest to you and tell them the same thing… Better yet, show up at their local offices to deliver the message in person.

And as we know, revolution takes more than a few phone calls and emails, it also means we must get out in to the street. On August 19, prisoners around the country and their allies have called for a national mobilization in D.C. to End Prison Slavery. If you can get there, go. If you can’t, plan local events and actions. (For example, check out what FTP in Florida has in store.

And last, you may have heard word at the convergence about a new Immigrant Detention facility underway near Houston, TX, built and operated by GEO Group. We want to support resistance to this construction. Keep up with this issue through the TX-based group Grassroots Leadership.

P.S. We are looking for feedback from participants: What did you come hoping to get out of it and how does that match up with what actually happened? Please reply to this email with your answer and it will be shared among organizers in hopes of improving next years’ convergence.

P.S.S. If you haven’t already, check out the online version of Candice Bernd’s excellent article, America’s Toxic Prisons. Hopefully you got to pick up a hard copy in TX, but this is intended to be an ongoing multi-media series, so keep an eye on it and pass it around.

DOJ Withdraws Funding Request for Kentucky Prison on Mountaintop-Removal Site

By Zoe Loftus-Farren - Truthout, June 30, 2017

Last month the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) withdrew its request for funding for construction of a maximum-security prison atop a former mountaintop-removal coal-mining site in eastern Kentucky.

The proposed $444 million facility, planned for Letcher County, has faced ongoing opposition from environmental and human rights organizations who have expressed a wide range of concerns about potential ecological and health impacts of the project. "Building this prison would have been terrible for the health of prisoners, the surrounding community and all the wildlife in the area," said Lori Ann Bird, who is environmental health program director with the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity.

Read Earth Island Journal and Truthout's special investigation into America's toxic prisons.

The Human Rights Defense Center, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of people held in US detention facilities, pointed to the history of mining-related pollution in the area -- including contamination of drinking water that could be used for the prison. The Human Rights Defense Center also noted the ongoing risk posed by more than a dozen active gas wells near the proposed site, as well as possible radon intrusion linked to coal mining in the area.

In a comment filed in response to the Federal Bureau of Prisons' (BOP) 2015 environmental impact statement for the facility, opponents also cited impacts on the local community -- including potential water pollution from the prison itself -- as well as on nearby habitat and wildlife. Two federally endangered species, the Indiana bat and the gray bat, are found in the region, as are some 60 other species with varying levels of state and federal protections. 

"It's a pretty huge step toward victory," Panagioti Tsolkas, cofounder of the Prison Ecology Project, a program of the Human Rights Defense Center, said of the DOJ's decision to abandon the plan.

The Prison Ecology Project and the Center for Biological Diversity point to growing local opposition, in conjunction with a coordinated campaign by advocates, as triggering the withdrawal. "This has been a tremendous effort by a lot of diverse groups coming together to oppose this prison, and shows the powerful impact we can achieve when the community comes together with activists from around the country to oppose a destructive project," Bird said.

In its announcement of the withdrawal of its request for funding, the DOJ cited a declining prison population over the past several years, and noted that the BOP could expand capacity at existing facilities and through private prisons if necessary. (The Federal Bureau of Prisons is a subdivision of the US Department of Justice.)

Not everyone has expressed support for the DOJ's decision. Local representative Hal Rogers (R-KY) argues that overcrowding in federal prisons necessitates new construction. In a June hearing on the Department of Justice's fiscal year 2018 budget, Representative Rogers argued that the project should proceed, emphasizing that Congress had already appropriated funding for the prison: "Congress has decided this and it's the Congress that controls the purse strings of the country… The money is there -- appropriated, authorized, everything in order." Rogers has also noted that the prison would be an important source of new jobs for an economically moribund region (though research shows that prisons generally don't improve the local economy and are, in fact, more likely to harm rather than help host communities).  

Opponents of the project remain cautiously optimistic while acknowledging that the victory may be temporary -- Congress hasn't yet passed the 2018 budget, and there's always the possibility that the DOJ could reverse course again at a later time. For now, the Prison Ecology Project is setting its sights on the next battle or battles, which might include: FMC Carswell, a women's prison in Texas built on a military base and surrounded by Superfund sites; a proposal to build a new prison on a landfill in Utah; a Hawaiian prison where the BOP has tried to skirt the environmental review process; and a proposal to build a women's jail on a toxic Superfund site in Los Angeles County.   

Tsolkas thinks the Letcher County win will lend momentum to these other fights. "The DOJ said basically they don't want the prison, they don't need it…. That's a powerful position to be fighting from."

From Pipelines to Prisons: The intersection of native rights, mass incarceration and environmental justice

By Panagioti Tsolkas and Nicholas Todd - Earth First! Journal, September 30, 2016

Over the past month, two seemingly disparate issues of prisons and pipelines have captured the attention of activists and independent media across the country. On September 9, as a judge ruled to halt construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), prisoners around the country began a work strike coinciding with the anniversary of the famous Attica uprising.  As we write, demonstrations are continuing nationwide to express solidarity with native tribes resisting the DAPL and for prisoners who launched a coordinated nationwide strike against slave labor in the American prison system.

Now, perhaps more than ever before, the spotlight is on the pushers of pipelines and prisons. Despite a void of coverage by mainstream outlets, social media is ablaze with independent articles covering these two topics. Pipeline opponents who’ve been amassing in North Dakota are now also looking south as drilling under the Mississippi River begins and nearly 340,000 gallons of gas spilled in central Alabama from one of the region’s major pipelines; likewise, prisons in at least 11 states all across the country remain on lockdown in response to the strikes and detailed reports of the strike are only now trickling out.

Just as the U.S. has the largest prison population in the world, with 25% of the world’s prisoners held in its 5000 detention facilities, it also has the world’s most vast network of energy pipelines, with more than 2.5 million miles of pipe which is reported to suffer hundreds of leaks and ruptures every year.

pipeline_line_map-630x420

Pipelines in the U.S. as of 2012

While battles around indigenous land rights have a long history of overlap with the environmental justice (EJ) movement, there is a developing body of research and activism placing prisoners’ rights in the EJ context as well, since prison populations in every state of the U.S. are populated disproportionately by people of color. Only establishing common ground over the conventional concept of “environmental” angles surrounding these issues offers too shallow of an analysis; deeper solidarity requires understanding the bigger picture: the history of a social ecosystem surrounding broken treaties and toxic prisons alike. Doing so can only increase the effectiveness and long term success of struggles to defend the Earth.

Prisons in the U.S. as of 2015

At first glance, drawing a relationship between struggles surrounding prisons and pipelines may seem a stretch, but 45 years ago, activists were readily making these connections. Organizations like the American Indian Movement (AIM) and the Black Panther Party arose and co-existed in a very similar setting. Their bold direct actions inspired the solidarity of many people outside their respective communities as well. One example being activist-attorney William Kunslter, with the National Lawyers Guild, who went from negotiating on the side of the predominately Black prisoners of Attica to representing AIM members after the Wounded Knee stand-off at Pine Ridge. Activists today must know this history and continue to build on this tradition.

Thousands of prisoners strike ‘to end slavery’ across the United States

By Ann Montague - Socialist Action, September 18, 2016

Sept. 9 saw thousands of incarcerated men and women go on strike to take a stand against civil and environmental injustice in their respective prisons. The multi-state strike was organized both inside and outside of the prisons.

Some unions have begun addressing the twin issues of racial justice and economic justice with all their members. These discussions have moved from mere individual solutions to the need to end “institutional racism.” There is no clearer example of institutional racism than the prison system.

Michelle Alexander, in her book “The New Jim Crow,” wrote, “I came to see that mass incarceration in the United States had emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow. No other country in the world imprisons so many of its racial or ethnic minorities as the U.S.” Since the beginning of the so-called drug war in 1982, the U.S. penal population exploded from 300,000 to more than two million in less than 30 years.

The National Prison Strike calls attention to the 13th Amendment of the Constitution—generally believed to have ended slavery in 1865. But there was a loophole, which says, “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” It was a common practice in 1865 for plantation owners to lease Black convicts out of the prisons to work their fields, and today prisons are a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Inmates in federal and state prisons run recycling plants, fight fires in California and Georgia, and run call centers for state agencies. They make uniforms for McDonalds, prepare artisanal cheeses for Whole Foods, run call centers for AT&T. Think of a major corporation, and they are getting free labor from prisoners. That is why the National Prisoner Strike was a “Call To End Slavery In America.”

Rally at Coleman Prison in Support of Prisoner Strike Amidst Riots and Lockdowns across Florida

By Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons - It's Going Down, September 11, 2016

Activists from across Florida, including GJEP’s own GE Trees campaigner Ruddy Turnstone (who is operating the megaphone in the video below), attended a demonstration Sept. 9, focused on calling attention to the modern-day slavery conditions, rampant abuse and toxic conditions that occur in prisons around the country. The address of FCC Coleman is 846 NE 54th Terrace, in Wildwood, located half-way between Orlando and Tampa.

The event occurred as part of a nationwide strike on Sept. 9, the anniversary of the Attica prison uprising in New York, was initially announced earlier this year by prisoners in various states, including Alabama, Ohio, Virginia, Texas. It is still unknown how many prisons had people participating in the strike, but over 50 events and demonstrations were planned outside prisons in dozens of cities and rural towns across the U.S.

Riots, work refusal and administrative lockdowns of entire facilities in Florida have already been reported. Other state and federal facilities have reported similar situations around the country.

The Coleman prison complex houses over 7,000 prisoners and is home to the largest prison factory in the entire country, primarily producing material goods such as furniture for government agencies nationwide.

Federal Prison Industries, also known as UNICOR, has over $34 million in contract obligation coming out of Bureau of Prison (BOP) facilities in Florida. This is three times higher than any other state in the country.

These workers are subjected to slave conditions based on the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution, which exempts prisoners of protection from slavery.

Over the past 10 years, UNICOR facilities have repeatedly been cited for unsafe working conditions and environmental hazards across the nation.

Additionally, FCC Coleman is surrounded by an industrial waste land of rock mines and their water storage pits, which have been known tocontaminate regional water supplies in other areas of the state. Tainted water is a common problem in prisons around the country as well.

“Prisons all over the country are coupled with environmentally hazardous land uses that threaten the health of prisoners and local ecosystems,” said Panagioti Tsolkas, an organizer with the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons. “There is no way to justify forcing people to live in these conditions.”

The event at Coleman is being organized by the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons and the Gainesville branch of the IWW labor union.

The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons aims to develop ties between the environmental movement and the movement against mass incarceration.

The IWW is the only labor union in the country which actively accepts prisoners as members.

Rally to End Toxic Prison Slavery in Solidarity with September 9 Nationwide Prison Strike

By staff - The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, August 11, 2016

Sept 9th is the 45th anniversary of the Attica Uprising in New York, where national attention was drawn to the problem of prisons in this country. This year there will public demonstrations in support of prisoners who have a called for a coordinated national work strike in response to extreme abuses they face, including toxic environments, discrimination and literal slavery based on the 13th Amendment which wrote prison slave labor into the U.S. Constitution.

The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) is calling for action in solidarity with the IWW Union’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) and other prisoner-led groups in planning activities around Sept 9th.

We are spreading the word to our prisoner contacts to invite friends and family on the outside to participate in these necessary efforts to address the violations of civil rights and environmental justice that still occur behind bars.

The primary FTP events will occur on Sept 10th at 10am in front of the Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) of Coleman, located at 846 NE 54th Terrace, Wildwood, Florida 34785. 

This location is the largest prison factory in the entire country, producing material goods for government agencies nationwide. Much of the very furniture which accommodates the offices of the bureaucrats that we live under is made by prison slaves at this facility.

Federal Prison Industries, also known as UNICOR, has over $34 million in contract obligation coming out of Bureau of Prison (BOP) facilities in Florida. This is three times higher than any other state in the country.

In addition, this prison is also home to one of the most famous political prisoners in the world, Native American activist and warrior, Leonard Peltier, who has been incarcerated over 40 years for his participation in the 1973 stand-off at the Pine Ridge Reservation and the liberation struggle of his people who experienced genocide and witnessed ecocide at the hands of the government who now holds him prisoner.

Also, it’s no coincidence that FCC Coleman is surrounded by a vast wasteland of rock mining operations, an industrial activity with a record of creating giant toxic ponds across Florida. Prisons all over the country are coupled with environmentally hazardous land uses that threaten prisoner’s health.

As another example of this, the federal Bureau of Prisons is now proposing to build a new maximum-security prison and slave factory on top of a former strip mine site in the coalfields of Letcher County, Kentucky. Any federal prisoner could at any time find themselves transferred to this prison, subjected to the health risks associated with a site where the air, water and soil are polluted by decades of coal mining and processing, which is still ongoing in the surrounding mountains.

Along with putting prisoners on a toxic site, the prison would also impact local people who live nearby, turning their community into a prison town. Construction alone will waste $444 million of federal tax dollars which could be used to address the crushing poverty that so often forces people into prisons in the first place.

The proposed site also sits a mile from a rare pocket of eastern old-growth forest that is home to dozens of Appalachian plant and animal species listed as threatened or endangered.

We feel that the existence of this industrialized, slavery-based system of mass incarceration stands as a primary obstacle to universal goals of freedom and harmony with the earth. Its continued existence is among the ultimate symbols of injustice in this country.

Stop Prison Slavery!
No New Toxic Prisons!
End Mass Incarceration!
Defend the Earth!
Free All Political Prisoners!

Mass Incarceration vs. Rural Appalachia

By Panagioti Tsolkas - Earth Island Journal, August 24, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Feds want to build a maximum-security prison on top of a former mountaintop removal mining site in eastern Kentucky

For all practical purposes the [Cumberland Plateau] has long constituted a colonial appendage of the industrial East and Middle West, rather than an integral part of the nation generally. The decades of exploitation have in large measure drained the region.

Harry M. Caudill, author, historian, lawyer, legislator, and environmentalist from Letcher County, in the coalfields of southeastern Kentucky (May 3, 1922 – November 29, 1990)

The United States Bureau of Prisons is trying to build a new, massive maximum-security prison in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky — and there’s a growing movement to stop it.

The prison industry in the US has grown in leaps and bounds in the past 20 years— a new prison was built at an average rate of one every two weeks in the ’90s, almost entirely in rural communities. As of 2002, there were already more prisoners in this country than farmers. The industry seems like an unstoppable machine, plowing forward at breakneck speed on the path that made the world’s largest prison population.

Today, about 716 of every 100,000 Americans are in prison. Prisoners in nations across the world average at 155 per 100,000 people. And in the US, Southern states rule the chart. Viewing these states as countries themselves, Kentucky ranks at lucky number seven.

“Sounds terrible…” you may be thinking, “But what does it have to do with the environment?”

Well, this seemingly impenetrable multi-billion dollar bi-partisan government-driven industry does have a weak point: it’s a well-verified ecological mess. For a 10-year period of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Prison Initiative, prison after prison that the EPA’s inspected in the Mid-Atlantic region was plagued with violations. Violations included air and water pollution, inadequate hazardous waste management and failing spill control prevention for toxic materials.

From the initial breaking ground on construction in rural and wild places to the inevitable sewage problem from operating chronically over-populated facilities — running a prison is dirty business. And when you factor in the plethora of environmental justice issues facing the prisoners, disproportionately low-income and people of color, it becomes an outright nightmare.

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