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Mass Incarceration

A research guide on mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex.

Finding Audio & Video on Mass Incarceration

NYU users can stream audio & video from over 100 databases and borrow CDs, DVDs, and blu-rays.

Video Collections and Audio & Music Collections are on the Articles & Databases page. Check under the content-specific section. Search the NYU Libraries catalog to find physical and electronic copies of audio and video. Then use the "Tweak my results" menu on the left side of the page to limit your results. Below are select audiovisual resources on mass incarceration available at NYU Libraries and online.

Broken on All Sides: Race, Mass Incarceration & New Visions for Criminal Justice in the U.S.

Today, there are more African Americans in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. The prison population has exploded by 500% since the end of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. America locks up more of its racial and ethnic minorities than any other country (including South Africa at the height of apartheid). Mass incarceration has emerged as America's new caste system. How could this happen? With Philadelphia as an entry point, Broken on All Sides explores the intersection of race and poverty within the criminal justice system.

Slavery by Another Name

Slavery by Another Name is a documentary that challenges one of Americans’ most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery in this country ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. The film tells how even as chattel slavery came to an end in the South in 1865, thousands of African Americans were pulled back into forced labor with shocking force and brutality. It was a system in which people, often guilty of no crime at all, were arrested, compelled to work without pay, repeatedly bought and sold, and coerced to do the bidding of masters. Tolerated by both the North and South, forced labor lasted well into the 20th century. For most Americans this is entirely new history. Slavery by Another Name gives voice to the largely forgotten victims and perpetrators of forced labor and features their descendants living today.

Free CeCe!

On her way to the store with a group of friends, Chrishaun Reed “CeCe” McDonald was brutally attacked. While defending her life, a man was killed. After a coercive interrogation, CeCe was incarcerated in a men’s prison in Minnesota. An international campaign to free CeCe garnered significant support from media and activists, including actress Laverne Cox. Cox signed on as executive producer of Free CeCe!, committed to exploring the role race, class, and gender played in CeCe’s case. In the end, CeCe emerged not only as a survivor, but also as a leader. 

Out of State

Out of State is an inside look at the lives of two native Hawaiians sent thousands of miles away from the tropical islands to a private prison in the Arizona desert. In this unlikely setting, David and Hale find a community of other native Hawaiians and discover their indigenous traditions from a fellow inmate serving a life sentence. Hoping for a fresh start and eager to prove that the experience has changed them forever, the two men finish their terms and return to Hawai’i. But once on the outside, they struggle with life’s hurdles and wonder if it’s possible to ever go home again.

Does the library have Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime?

The terms of use for popular streaming services (like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime) outline that their content is only for personal, non-commercial use and not for public or institutional use. The librarians at the James E. Tobin Library of Molloy College explain these restrictions in their Streaming Media research guide.

Some Netflix Original educational documentaries are available for one-time educational screenings if you have a Netflix account. Read the Netflix Help Center article about educational screenings of Netflix Original documentaries.

13TH poster. A black and white illustration of the United States flag is in the center. The flag dissolves into a figure in a striped outfit with their legs shackled.The Netflix Original documentary 13th is available for one-time educational screenings. The title of Ava DuVernay’s extraordinary and galvanizing documentary refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity. With a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis.

Visit the Netflix Media Center for information about educational screenings of 13th.

TED Talks

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world. Visit the TED website for more information about their programs.

Michelle Alexander is a lawyer, advocate, and author of The New Jim Crow. Alexander discussed mass incarceration and racial injustice at TEDxColumbus. Watch "The future of race in America" on YouTube. Captions and transcript available.

Eve Abrams is a documentarian, radio producer, writer and educator. In her 2017 TED Talk, Abrams addresses issues surrounding mass incarceration by interspersing audio interviews with incarcerated people and their families into her call to action to rethink the current justice system. Watch "The human stories behind mass incarceration" on the TED website. Captions and transcript available.

Ismael Nazario is a formerly incarcerated individual who spent 300 days in New York's Rikers Island jail before being convicted of a crime. Nazario, who went on to work as a prison reform advocate, addresses his personal experience as a teenager in jail during his 2014 talk. Watch "What I learned as a kid in jail" on the TED website. Captions and transcript available.

"Negro Prison Camp Worksongs" by Prisoners at the Ramsey and Retrieve State Farms in Texas

Recorded by Pete & Toshi Seeger in the winter of 1951 at two Texas prison farms, this album represents some of the oldest and most traditional work songs found among African American prison communities in the southern United States. Traditionally a participatory art form, these songs were typically sung while groups of 10-30 prisoners performed tasks such as chopping and hoeing. With origins reaching back to their West African ancestry as well as during the era of African American slavery, work songs served the purpose of alleviating the mundane nature of repetitive tasks as well as providing a forum for the song leader to keep the group together through rhythms and lyrics. This collection includes 10 songs, 40 minutes, with liner notes featuring an introduction by Pete Seeger and song lyrics.