In September 1996, 53-year-old heroin addict Billy Ochoa was sentenced to 326 years in prison. His crime: committing $2,100 worth of welfare fraud. Ochoa was sent to New Folsom supermax prison, joining thousands of other men who will spend the rest of their lives in California’s teeming correctional facilities as a result of that state’s tough ‘3 strikes’ law. His incarceration will cost over $20,000 a year until he dies.
Award-winning journalist Sasha Abramsky uses immersion reportage to bring alive the political forces that have led America’s prison and jail population to increase more than four-fold in the past 30 years. Through personal stories he explores in devastating detail how the public has been manipulated into supporting mass incarceration during a period when crime rates have been steadily falling.
Hard Time Blues deftly explores the “war on drugs,” the Rockefeller laws, the growth of the supermax prisons, the climate of fear that led to laws such as ‘truth-in-sentencing,’ and how the stunning repercussions of imprisoning 2 million citizens affect all of America.
From the opening courtroom scene through the final images behind the electrified fences of the nation’s toughest, meanest prisons, Abramsky paints a grimly intimate portrait of the players and personalities behind this societal earthquake.
Hardcover, 284 pages