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Video: Reforming prisons as America sets record for incarcerations

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    >> just makes sense.

    >>> forward may have been the branding at the democratic national convention but collective work and responsibility was the message. in direct contrast to the emphasis placed on i was paid to we. one of the projects we have built together as a nation, something that we as americans can uniquely say we have poured our resources into over the years, prisons. we have been incourse rating more of our citizens than any other country in the world. at last check 2.3 million. my home state of louisiana has become the prison capital of the world . louisiana's incarceration rate is 15 times iran's and 20 times germany's. i took a look at what we have taken the time, energy aresources to build in my state and met with a local activist looking to turn that around in new orleans. lawrence henderson spent nearly half his life in prison for a crime he did not commit. now that he's free his work still focuses on those still in the system. hi, lawrence, how are you? i'm melissa, thank you for joining me today.

    >> the first thing i was to see post-katrina, it was the jail. they turned the greyhound bus station into a prison. they were up and running and i was told the jail was up and running. i was told before we had the first school, well, we still don't have a hospital. right now the jail hospital is still closed, but the jail became a priority because this city has enjoyed the benefits of putting their citizens, their residents in jail. but we lead the nation nor capital incourse ration for the place that has the highest crime rate in the country. what is allowed to happen here, prison is a growth industry expressed from louisiana. people ask, how do you know how much about that? well, i spent practically half my life in a prison. i spent 27 years in prison for a crime i didn't commit and i watched this system go from having one penitentiary and one institution for young adults that have grown to 13 institutions and a jail in every parish that are housing state inmates. here in new orleans this perverse incentive , the cost of the person being in jail --

    >> i don't want to miss this because i remember when i first learned this story, right, that the state is paying local policing, local sheriffs, in these parishes -- the counties, we call them parishes, a per diem , per body to house the inmates. there's incentive not to clear out but to keep people in. one of the sheriffs is marlo gus downman. i asked him about the system.

    >> the system of paying someone on a daily basis to house an inmate did lead to the construction of new facilities as a way to finance them. not something that we have done here. and perhaps sometimes you pay for the deeds of others that come before you. we really have gotten away from that. and it's -- what i would like to focus more on is proper funding.

    >> i walked with you a little bit before we got started on this mission and looked at the plans for the new facility up on the wall. there's a part of it that makes my heart sink because there's no principal in this town to walk me through or very few principals to walk me through new facilities being walked or built for their schools. and that image of building jail cells over classrooms is the question people have. why are we investing tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars into facilities to incarcerate people but not to educate people?

    >> well, first of all, there are certainty some very nice schools here that have been rebuilt after katrina. whether you go to the martin luther king school for science and technology or the l.b. landry school across the river that have really been done nice. as far as incarceration, it is an unfortunate fact in our way of life .

    >> this system has been per perpetuating itself for better of 40 years. uneducated people make unwise decisions. so when kids get into trouble here, if you track their academic process, you understand why they are having this problem.

    >> the united states with about 5% of the world's population has nearly 25% of the world's prisoners. why? and what we can do about it when we come back. h


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