playlist

Truths about the US prison system

These engaging talks explore the systemic issues of the US criminal justice system and how they plague everyday people and society as a whole.

  1. 23:41
    Bryan Stevenson We need to talk about an injustice

    In an engaging and personal talk — with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks — human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America's justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country's black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These issues, which are wrapped up in America's unexamined history, are rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness.

  2. 14:55
    Will Potter The secret US prisons you've never heard of before

    Investigative journalist Will Potter is the only reporter who has been inside a Communications Management Unit, or CMU, within a US prison. These units were opened secretly, and radically alter how prisoners are treated — even preventing them from hugging their children. Potter, a TED Fellow, shows us who is imprisoned here, and how the government is trying to keep them hidden. "The message was clear," he says. "Don't talk about this place." Find sources for this talk at willpotter.com/cmu

  3. 13:39
    Eve Abrams The human stories behind mass incarceration

    The United States locks up more people than any other country in the world, says documentarian Eve Abrams, and somewhere between one and four percent of those in prison are likely innocent. That's 87,000 brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers — predominantly African American — unnecessarily separated from their families, their lives and dreams put on hold. Using audio from her interviews with incarcerated people and their families, Abrams shares touching stories of those impacted by mass incarceration and calls on us all to take a stand and ensure that the justice system works for everyone.

  4. 15:57
    Adam Foss A prosecutor's vision for a better justice system

    When a kid commits a crime, the US justice system has a choice: prosecute to the full extent of the law, or take a step back and ask if saddling young people with criminal records is the right thing to do every time. In this searching talk, Adam Foss, a prosecutor with the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office in Boston, makes his case for a reformed justice system that replaces wrath with opportunity, changing people's lives for the better instead of ruining them.

  5. 11:54
    Ronald Sullivan How I help free innocent people from prison

    Harvard Law professor Ronald Sullivan fights to free wrongfully convicted people from jail — in fact, he has freed some 6,000 innocent people over the course of his career. He shares heartbreaking stories of how (and why) people end up being put in jail for something they didn't do, and the consequences in their lives and the lives of others. Watch this essential talk about the duty we all have to make the world a bit more fair every day, however we can.

  6. 16:04
    Alice Goffman How we're priming some kids for college — and others for prison

    In the United States, two institutions guide teenagers on the journey to adulthood: college and prison. Sociologist Alice Goffman spent six years in a troubled Philadelphia neighborhood and saw first-hand how teenagers of African-American and Latino backgrounds are funneled down the path to prison — sometimes starting with relatively minor infractions. In an impassioned talk she asks, "Why are we offering only handcuffs and jail time?"

  7. 12:43
    Salil Dudani How jails extort the poor

    Why do we jail people for being poor? Today, half a million Americans are in jail only because they can't afford to post bail, and still more are locked up because they can't pay their debt to the court, sometimes for things as minor as unpaid parking tickets. Salil Dudani shares stories from individuals who have experienced debtors' prison in Ferguson, Missouri, challenging us to think differently about how we punish the poor and marginalized.

  8. 14:24
    Robin Steinberg What if we ended the injustice of bail?

    On any given night, more than 450,000 people in the United States are locked up in jail simply because they don't have enough money to pay bail. The sums in question are often around $500: easy for some to pay, impossible for others. This has real human consequences — people lose jobs, homes and lives, and it drives racial disparities in the legal system. Robin Steinberg has a bold idea to change this. In this powerful talk, she outlines the plan for The Bail Project — an unprecedented national revolving bail fund to fight mass incarceration. (This ambitious plan is one of the first ideas of The Audacious Project, TED's new initiative to inspire global change.)