Human Rights

Lockdown America: Prison Expert Christian Parenti on America's Staggering Incarceration Rate

The Land of the Free punishes or imprisons more of its citizens than any other nation. Parenti explains why.

The Land of the Free punishes or imprisons more of its citizens than any other nation. This collection of testimonials from criminal offenders, family members, and experts on America's criminal justice system puts a human face on the millions of Americans subjugated by the US Government's 40 year, one trillion dollar social catastrophe: The War on Drugs; a failed policy underscored by fear, politics, racial prejudice and intolerance in a public atmosphere of "out of sight, out of mind."

In this excerpt from his interview for The Exile Nation Project, Parenti describes what has changed in the twelve years since the publication of his seminal work on police and prisons, Lockdown America.

This complete interview with Christian Parenti is #2 of 100 in The Exile Nation Project's archive and can be found on Vimeo.

The Exile Nation Project - Interview with Christian Parenti from Charles B Shaw on Vimeo.


In 1999, at only 30 years of age, award-winning investigative journalist Christian Parenti wrote one of the seminal works on the American correctional system, Lockdown America: Police & Prisons in The Age of Crisis. (2000, Verso). 

Over a dozen years later it remains one of the most honest and comprehensive examinations of the American criminal justice system, while Parenti himself remains an outspoken critic of the "system of repression" known as American Mass Incarceration

Christian Parenti is also the author of The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America from Slavery to the War on Terror (2004, Basic Books). He is a contributing editor at The Nationand a visiting scholar at the Center for Place, Culture and Politics, at the CUNY Grad Center. He has reported extensively from Afghanistan, Iraq and various parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. His work has appeared inFortune, The Washington Post, The New York Times, London Review of Books, Mother Jones and Playboy

The most recent of his three books is,The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq. He has a PhD in sociology from the London School of Economics, has held fellowships from OSI, RBF and the Ford Foundation; and has won numerous awards, including the 2009 Lange-Tailor Prize and Best Magazine Writing 2008 from the Society for Professional Journalists.

Charles Shaw is a regular contributor to Alternet, Huffington Post and Reality Sandwich, and the author of Exile Nation: Drugs, Prisons, Politics & Spirituality (2009, Reality Sandwich).
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