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Chris Hayes And Michelle Alexander: American Prison System An 'Abomination'

02/05/2012 11:17 am ET | Updated Feb 05, 2012

MSNBC's Chris Hayes used his Saturday show to discuss what he called the "abomination" that was not being addressed in the 2012 campaign: the American prison system.

As Hayes said, there are 7 million people under some kind of correctional supervision in the United States — far more than any other industrialized country. He called this situation a scandal, and wondered why there has been more attention paid to "the actual moon" than to "the millions of souls locked inside our very own prisons."

Hayes then brought on Michelle Alexander, author of the book "The New Jim Crow," which examines the so-called "prison industrial complex."

Alexander called it a "huge challenge" to bring the issue of prisons into mainstream conversation. She said that there are many myths that need to be dispelled about prisons, such as the idea that the huge rise in prisoners over the last 30 years correlates with the drop in crime rates, or that people of color commit more drug offenses than whites.

She also condemned what she called "the rise of a virtual police state," in which "hundreds of thousands of people are stopped, searched and frisked, and enormous numbers are shuttled into prisons and jails, often for non-violent offenses."

Hayes asked Alexander to explain some of the ways that this treatment affects people. Alexander said that those who have been convicted of a felony may be stripped of the right to vote, denied the ability to serve on juries and barred from certain jobs or even public housing.

She also said that the money spent in the War on Drugs could have instead gone to "a massive infusion of investment in education and economic investment in job creation." Instead, she said, "we've spent a trillion dollars on a drug war and a prison building boom."

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