I just read the comments you've left since the last time I posted and I must say that if you can keep writing responses that long and well reasoned I will make a solid effort to write as much as possible in the future. I have less than 10 readers but you and maybe 2 other people are the ones I'm writing for, so if you are interested i'll give you what I got.
Since you had so many good questions about the prison system, I'm going to let you in on my main source of knowledge on this topic. There's a guy who posts on a message board with me named HidingFromGoro. This guy is a common man genius with an incredible amount of drive. He shares a blog with 2 other Luminaries from that same message board. They each have a field of expertise that you'd be hard pressed to beat them on if you searched the validictorians of all the Ivy league schools. HFG writes clearly, thoroughly, and uncensored accounts of his experiences in the American Prison System. He has enough first hand knowledge to qualify him as an expert just off that, but now that he's out of the system he's deeply involved in issues of inmates rights, prison issues in general, and educating the general public as well as academics who want an unvarnished and untainted (by corporate money and such) view of the real problems, their causes, possible solutions, and most importantly to me, the actual depth and endemic nature of this corrupt system. It's poisoned from the ground up and it manifests itself all the way up the chain to the rich motherfuckers who own the prisons and senators who's pockets are lined to build even more of these things and get those motherfuckers full.
For me, personally, when a system is fucked from the foundation, I cannot advocate anything less than total upheaval, revolution, and constructive change. This means I will support acts of radicals operating outside the bounds of acceptability drawn by the same corrupt leaders that benefit from all of it. Fuck free speach zones and protesting where the police say you can as long as you got permits in advance. That's not activism, thats like a puppet show. We are under a constant threat of lethal violence from our law enfourcement to the point that you may be killed without ever even breaking a law. Police don't even respect the law, in fact, they know very little of it or even why it's there. They ignore all laws that limit their conduct as red tape yet pretend that the law is sacred when it applies to ruining the life of a citizen. anyway I've gone off topic. HFG is a font of knowledge and writes prodigously on that blog i mentioned. The other 2 writers are cool too and will give you insight into things like economics, polotics and whatever else. i'm less familiar with them, but only because of time constraints. so at long last here is the link Re-Think America. Reading some of the articles there will enlighten you to the point where you could clearly explain the answers to your own questions to someone else who isn't up on this topic.
Prison justice is important to me for a lot of reasons but mainly because these are the people who the public cares about the least, are victims of a system built to fuck them, for the fear that I may one day be in that system, and for the mere fact that I have a severe case of human empathy that just gets worse as I get older.
I gotta say, I'm really really really happy you are taking time to go through ascent of humanity regardless of speed. That book is basically my non-religious Bible. I'm not sure if i've suggested this before but the Podcast/radio show that exposed me to Charles Eisenstein (as well as things i've yet to write about like the deep ecology movement, altruistic economics, uneducation, etc) is called Unwelcomed Guest. The show is broadcast weekly and is two hours a pop is choc full of the best interviews, readings, discussions etc, that I have found in one place. I will go out on a limb and say it is the most valuable project currently alive on the internet.
The Unwelcomed Guest collective has recently had a period of change and rebirth, in the form of a new functioning website, graciously made by the new host Robin Upton (spelling may be fucked). The show has an archive of all 520 of its past broadcasts and for the first 10 years is was hosted by a heroic lady named Lyn Gary who was the one that chose most of the interviews, lectures, readings, and other content for the show. Her fantastic taste and genius for seeing what is relevent and powerful has set the nature of the scope that the project embodies. The topics are so numerous, meaty, and vast that I think a lesser host would not have been able to maintain a cohesive spirit, or such a powerfully focused agenda. It seems to me that no matter the show topic, it ties into other show topics so seamlessly that you'd think the various contributors where in cahoots rather than being spread over time and space yet still moving towards a central core of truths with roads from every subject imaginable.
I haven't even touched upon her strength of self that allowed her to be open about her passion for this quest for truth and human justice. When she read the entirety of Ascent of Humanity, there were times when she was in tears and reading with such emotion that I couldn't help but be moved and found myself crying visibly on the bus more than once. As she read the book, one could see her joy at seeing her feelings shared by this author she'd never met, and the relief of knowing she wasn't alone, wasn't crazy, didn't have misplaced priorities, that the core of her being was understood by others, and as she indulged in that, I was able to do the same but almost doubled in a way. Those same feelings were mine, hers, AND the authors. If they understand then perhaps people all over the world would be able to as well. I had never felt such connection or understanding since the days before I renounced christianity. the difference here was that it wasn't built on superstition or old fables but my own thoughts about the world I lived in and how wrong this society felt for someone who prioritizes caring and happiness.
Ok now to the logistics of what I'm getting at. The show was broadcast over 10 years and is still going (with a new host). With over 500 shows at 2 hours each we are looking at over 1,000 hours of material. I don't know if I know anyone besides myself who has the interest, time, and fortitude to plow through the body of the project all the way. I did it by putting 6-10 hour chunks of shows onto my mp3 player and going through them as i rode the bus and when I had time at home. I finished it all in a few months and I couldn't get enough of it. If you don't think you have that in you then I highly suggest reading the summaries of each episode lovingly written by the current host, so that anyone can read the gist and decide for themselves if the topics are something they are ready for at whatever point you are in your life/growth. I beg anyone reading to give this show a try. I don't dig the theme song but amazing quality of the content is superior to anything i've seen anywhere else. it makes TED talks look like preschool, and i like TED. This show is unafraid to ask the questions at the foundation of our societal problems. TED and the like are always attempting to solve problems in box of Global Capital and never even wonders whether the assumptions underlying their paradigms are the real source of the ills they'd claim to want fixed.
Without checking the summaries myself, I'll make a few suggestions off the top of my head, and would love to have some dialogue about the content of the eps i'm promoting. Firstly check out all the early interviews with Michael Parenti in the early eps, check out anything with Derrick Jensen and the Deep Ecology movement, any interviews with my personal savior Charles Eisenstein. If reading through Ascent of Humanity is too hard going, there is now a zip file containing Lyn's entire reading of the book, which i recommend mostly for the authentic conviction of her voice as she reads the chapters. She's feeling the words while she's speaking them and if you are able to relate even a little, the power of her conviction can potentially reach you emotionally in ways you might have thought were lost to you. woops losing focus here. more suggestions are eps involving Chomsky which can be located here, also check out John Taylor Gatto and Alfie Kohn who are an awesome pair. here's a blurb about alfie :
"Alfie Kohn speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. His main critique is that traditional parenting and education models models are too prescriptive, and assume a selfish, often narrow, behaviourist focus ("How to I get the kids to do what I want?") rather than trusting kids as independent moral agent"
Ok I think I've made my point. If I haven't then I'll state it now: Unwelcomed Guest is the most valuable collection of knowledge that is actually important (vital) to our world to the extent that even after our leaders let our world fall into chaos and suffering, the UG archive holds blueprints for starting the world anew from scratch in a way that prioritizes the inherent worth of every human being and shows us how to make a world based on dignity, empathy, prudence, love, and all the other values we say are important yet continually shunt aside as unrealistic. For my money, this is the crowning achievement of the web up to this point. If the entire internet was disintigrating and I could only save one thing it would be this archive (and some fine asian ladies). The last 2 years of my personal journey have been the deepest and least immature of any of my psychological transitions and the guiding force behind it has been this show. Everything I look for in new sources of knowledge have been collected here. Scientific rigor, intellectual honesty, questioning the unquestionable, aknowledging the spiritual dimension of life without falling into superstition or lazy philosophy, fearlessness in the face of "Authority" and treating the listener as an equal participant in our world rather than speaking down to us as ignorant students. Expecting that the lessons shared continue after the episode is over. It's expected that we will integrate our learning into what makes us individuals and in doing we can build future lessons on top of the former lessons to create a mighty structure of truth, unassailable by cheap sophistry and mindless, baseless arguments, which are remnants of the "common sense" and "realism" pounded into us by the institutions that support this society we've built on obvious falsehoods. Showing someone the preposterousness of the basic assumptions of our society is simple, the hard part is convincing them to let go of the fear that ties them to those lies and showing them that taking a quick jump into the uncertainty of a truth based world is worth the rewards and is morally right even if the rewards were not gained. Once a person lets go of the chains of obligations held in place by supposed duties to things they never agreed to, they can become free and assess all the chains binding them and test for themselves which responsibilities have merit and contribute to our growth as humans and which are bullshit, invented by those with only selfish interests as guides. We think we live free in America, but we unthinkingly allow bondage from every area of our lives to squelch that understanding. You don't have to maintain relationships that are making your life worse. You are not bound to family members just because they are your family members. You can quit a job you hate and try something else even if it's less money if it makes you happier. You don't have to marry and have kids, especially if you aren't ready or have dreams yet to be realized. Children born to older parents do better in every measure of development and quality of life since the parent is often more mature and better off financially later in life and less likely to divorce since they've had time to live as individuals and find out who they really are before bonding to a life partner. There's no rush. I could ramble like this eternally but you get the angle. questioning a foundational principal allows further questioning of others. Those that stand after scrutiny are good, the rest are waste and ready to be replaced with a supposition consistent with human dignity and social justice. Our world of Infinite economic growth, domination of all things, and the subjugation of happiness for the sake of productivity is wrong, evil, unsound, and on route towards its own destruction. man i ramble.