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Abolishing Prisons?/Chernobyl

Ralph talks to professor Ruth Wilson Gilmore about abolishing prisons and journalist Adam Higginbotham about his book, “Midnight in Chernobyl:  The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster.”

Ruth Wilson Gilmore is Director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics and professor of geography in Earth and Environmental Sciences at The City University of New York. Professor Gilmore is a cofounder of many social justice organizations, including California Prison Moratorium Project, Critical Resistance, and the Central California Environmental Justice Network. She is the author of Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis and Opposition in Globalizing California and is the subject of a recent article in the New York Times Magazine entitled Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore May Change Your Mind.

“Most people who go to prison no matter what the conviction leave prison. So, imagining that somehow prison is this place where people are sent, and they stay there forever unless the abolitionists have their way is absurd. People go. They come out. So, one: Why have people go? Why not have things in place before people mess up? And two: When people come out, why have this system of permanent punishment instead of the things that are necessary like education, housing, healthcare, culture, well-being – not just for them but for everyone?” Professor Ruth Wilson Gilmore on abolishing prison

Adam Higginbotham is a journalist who began his career in magazines and newspapers in London and is now based in New York City where he has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Wired, GQ, and The Smithsonian. He is the author of Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster

“The explosion tore apart the reactor, lifted the biological shield, the huge lid on the top of the reactor, peeling off the top of it. The radionuclides then escaped into the building. There was a second explosion, which destroyed utterly the roof of the building. And then the radionuclides and this column of poisonous vapor just began roiling right into the atmosphere, where it was snatched away by high altitude winds and began traveling ultimately around the whole of the Northern Hemisphere.” Adam Higginbotham, author of “Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster”


  1. first: black the field (extra electrons no need, workers need).

    John Dewey developed our answer ages ago. how delighted was McCarthy when he read this

    this is why we are stuck with europe’s conqueristo base. take a lifetime of work and write it off. every person a journalist, a wiki

  2. Ben Leet says:

    The American Prospect carried a book review of Charged, written by Emily Bazelon, which addresses prosecutorial over-zeal to charge and convict. The review stated that Canada has an incarceration rate around 22% of the U.S. rate. “To downsize to Canada’s current rate, the United States would have to release 1.8 million inmates.” Total inmates in 2008 was 2.3 million. We’d have to release 78% to achieve the rate of Canada. The US rate is 3.5 times higher than Canada’s. The question arises, Is the crime rate in Canada markedly different? I looked at Real Clear Policy, a web page, Assault and Homicide US and Canada, and it shows Canada has 50% higher rate of “non-violent, non-sexual assault.” The US has about 50% higher homicide rate than Canada. So it’s logical to conclude that assault crime in the US escalates to homicide more frequently in the US., and the ratio of homicide to assault is about 1 to 300. The author of the review, David Garland, professor of sociology at NYU, author of The Culture of Control, states that “the failures of schools, labor markets, housing, health care, social services, and support for families in America’s under-served communities” causes our social problems. Labor markets is my main concern. The lower-earning half of the U.S. work-force, 82 million workers, earns in wages below 8% of the total national income. See the Social Security Administration report: — A higher minimum wage, and stronger unions, and a direct job creation program would end the pain. As well as the goal of ending incarceration, period, and focusing on rehabilitation, restorative justice and the like. Ralph Nader might interview the author of the United Way charity report called ALICE, that documents that 40% of U.S. households cannot afford seven necessities: food, housing, utilities, health care, child care, phone service, transportation. Low wages plus working part-time or partial year contingent employment is a major failing.

  3. I taught in Arts In Corrections (AIC) in the California prison system from 1986 to 2001. AIC lowered the recidivism rate by 33%.
    As one might expect after the statistics were given to the California governor and legislators the program was cut in half (1991) and in 2001 eliminated
    by the then governor Gray Davis.

    • robert says:

      I would be very surprised if AIC cost alot to run. My guess is AIC and perhaps other social programs were eliminated to please certain far right and racist constituencies, yes?

  4. Mary says:

    Thanks Ralph, for keeping the discussion on Chernobyl in a wider context than the one the author was arguing. He wanted to blame the Russians (as per the current climate of demonizing Russia and the rush to war) and an accident like this can only happen in a totalitarian state like the Soviet Union and by association today, Russia. Only the criminal Soviet Union would cover this up using lies and propaganda. Thankfully you pointed out other countries including the USA also were guilty of this. It’s unfortunate he wouldn’t engage with you in the real issue which is the safety of nuclear power. I had hoped you would mention the most recent catastrophe, Fukushima. It has been leaking since 2011 and nowJapan is planning to release 777,000 tons of toxic waste into the Pacific Ocean. Get Higgenbotham back and have a debate.
    Love your show. It keeps me calm in the traffic jams and I learn so much. So much better than NPR. Keep up the excellent work!!