Josh Estey/AusAID

The debate over solitary confinement brings us back around to a basic question about prisons: do we lock people up to correct their behavior, or only to punish them? 

Roughly 100,000 people are locked up alone in small cells every day, a situation Terry Allen Kupers explores in the book Solitary: The Inside Story of Supermax Isolation and How We Can Abolish It

Our region is home to California's only state "supermax" prison (Pelican Bay), so this is not a remote issue. 

Rennett Stowefrom USA via Wikimedia Commons

Thousands of pregnant women pass through our nation’s jails every year.

What happens to them as they carry their pregnancies in a space of punishment? In this time when the public safety net is frayed, incarceration has become a central and racialized strategy for managing the poor.

In the book Jailcare Carolyn Sufrin uses ethnographic fieldwork and clinical work as an ob-gyn in a women’s jail to explore how jail has, paradoxically, become a place where women can find care. 

Keeping Prisoners And Their Families Apart

Jan 11, 2016
California Department of Corrections

The number of people in jail and prison in America is staggering itself: more than two million people. 

Stop and think about the loved ones of the prisoners, and you realize millions more are waiting on the outside. 

And many prisons are changing the rules for family visits, putting more time and distance between inmates and their loved ones. 

Sylvia A. Harvey wrote about this recently in The Nation

Cuisine And Cons: "Prison Ramen"

Dec 14, 2015
Workman Publishing

Given the grim conditions in most correctional institutions, we could not imagine a cookbook emerging from such a place.  We were wrong. 

Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars gives us an unexpected glimpse of life on the inside, where some people are trying to live normal lives--including preparing meals--despite the circumstances. 

©Berkeley Rep/

Where you start in society often determines where you end up in society. 

If you start poor, odds are good you'll end up poor... and maybe in prison, too. 

The playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith explores the situation in a one-person show, "Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education, The California Chapter." 

It's about the school-to-prison pipeline that exists for many people, and Smith brings excerpts from the show to some rural communities, including to the Yurok reservation on Monday (Aug. 24). Admission is free. 

Girl Scouts Beyond Bars

Dec 19, 2013
Ellen Spiro/University of Texas

Going to prison is no picnic, but it's hard on more than the person serving time. 

The Girl Scouts of America runs a program to help women in prison stay connected to their daughters, for the benefit of both.

Violence Increasing In California County Jails

Nov 29, 2013

California County jails have seen a marked increase in violence since they began housing thousands of offenders who previously would have gone to state prisons.

Assault records requested by The Associated Press show that many of the 10 counties that account for 70 percent of California's total jail population have experienced a surge in the number of inmate fights and attacks on jail employees.

State Prison Culture Comes To The County Jail

Oct 1, 2013
California DCR

Journalists have the differences between "jail" (shorter-term stays, generally pre-trial) and "prison" (longer stays, post-conviction) hammered into them. 

But California's prison/jail realignment is narrowing the differences between the institutions.