The Real Cost of Prisons Comix on Book Bag

Real Cost of Prisons

Book Bag, Daily Hampshire Gazette
April 2009

This book is a collection of three comic books, including accompanying essays, that explore the social, emotional and financial cost the United States faces by keeping approximately 2.3 million people behind bars. The book also includes comments from community organizers around the country discussing how they have used the book in their work.

This country's imprisoned population is a number that has steadily grown. From the end of World War II to 1970, according to Ahrens, there were 200,000 people in prison. Though there are more than 2 million people jailed now, the nation's crime rate, she says, has changed little.

In a recent interview with the Gazette, Ahrens noted that Massachusetts currently spends a larger portion of its budget for prisons than for higher education. "Maybe people would rather pay for higher education than for prisons. Maybe the days of pure punitive policy are not something people still want to pay for, especially now." For change to occur, she said, "It's going to take people saying they think this is a bad idea - and they're tired of paying for it."

Ahrens, who lives in Northampton, edited the volume and is a contributing writer. Other writers include Ellen Miller-Mack, also of Northampton, along with Craig Gilmore, Susan Willmarth and Kevin Pyle. Illustrations are by Kevin Pyle, Sabrina Jones and Susan Willmarth, with an introduction by Craig Gilmore and Ruth Wilson Gilmore.

Last month, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, a private organization that defines its mission as working for responsive and effective criminal justice, juvenile justice and child welfare systems, named "The Real Cost of Prisons" one of nine winners in the literature category of a PASS award (Prevention for a Safer Society.) Awards were also given in the categories of film, magazine, newspaper, radio, television/video, and the Web.

The council says it grants the awards "in recognition of thoughtful and factual coverage of the issues."

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