Poorest of the Poor

Recently, I watched a video about wealth distribution in a America that I have not been able to get out of my head.  While reading Captive Genders, I was constantly reminded of this video and the ways in which so many disenfranchised Americans are set up to fail.  In particular, the words of R in “The Only Freedom I Can See” further proved how poverty and the gap between the rich and poor force those at the lowest end into “crimes of poverty.”

Here is the video: VIDEO

Even though several statistics are thrown at you through this video, it is a visually compelling and staggering example of just how inequitable America’s wealth is.  What does this have to do with the industrial prison complex?  Well, if we stop and think about the “actual distribution” chart and the reality that is laid out for us in which the lower 80% Americans share only 7% of America’s wealth.  That is very little money to stretch among 80% of America.  In this likely scenario, the poorest of the poor do not even register on the graph.

I will admit, most of us watching the news during The Occupy Movement’s peak have heard a version of this story before.  However, imagine being born into that “poorest of the poor” economic climate, one that doesn’t even show up on a graph, but includes about 15% of Americans.  That is a massive number of Americans that, according to the “what Americans think” segment, 9 of 10 Americans don’t even know exists.  Now, that is a sad reality.

When taking all of this into consideration and looking at cases such as R, is becomes clear just how young people from similar circumstances are essentially born to fail.  In addition to resorting to crimes of poverty purely as a means of survival and the thought that 90% of Americans do not even know this type of poverty exists, a prison system like ours has every ability to deny the impoverished and incarcerated basic human rights.

Though it is absolutely true that something must be done about the incarceration levels in the United States and the treatment of prisoners, it also must be recognized that issues like  inequity of wealth feed into our ability to ignore, and thus destroy, the “poorest of the poor.”

-Elizabeth Nash

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