Eastern State Penitentiary and the Critique of Mass Incarceration
Pacific Standard
July 19, 2016

“A humid afternoon in Philadelphia is an unforgiving time to mill around this prison yard. But here they are, of their own free will. Penned between the thick stone walls and brick towers — ominous battlements that evoke a medieval castle — more than a dozen tourists dressed in shorts and tank tops, capri pants and polos, wander across Eastern State Penitentiary’s baseball diamond with audio packs slung around their necks. A voice pipes through their headphones as they contemplate a 16-foot sculpture of a bar graph depicting the jumping rate of incarceration among the general population of the United States. The back side of the sculpture emphasizes the prison system’s increasingly skewed racial composition. ‘So why does the U.S. need to imprison so many people and what are the consequences?’ asks a disembodied voice.”

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