“Mississippi Lullaby:” A Music Video About a Private Prison

Jan 9, 2014
5:35 PM

We saw this via the Prison Culture blog, and even though at first we balked at the pop-like feel of the song, we listed and then we read some more.


Yes, a catchy (maybe sappy) music video about private prisons that in the end is actually a bit tender and moving.

As the artist Lara Herscovitch writes on her YouTube channel:

The United States is the world’s largest jailer: it has less than 5% of the world’s population, and about 25% of the world’s prisoners. On any given day in America, over 70,000 children are in custody; 10,000 of them in adult jails and prisons. An estimated 250,000 children are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults every year across the U.S. Most of them are charged with non-violent offenses.

The song Mississippi Lullaby was first inspired by National Public Radio (www.npr.org) reports about the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi. “The Grove” is an example of the inherent conflict between profit and rehabilitation. Typically, staffing is kept at a minimum, often well below recommended standards; programs for education and treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues – things that will help a person succeed in society and life when they are released – are cut. Private prison company lobbyists influence legislators, resulting in harsher policies and more people behind bars (which is good for business). Regulation and monitoring is often minimal.

The number of people in private prisons in the U.S. has increased by 353.7% over the past 15 years.

A local facility like Walnut Grove is also one of many examples of the so-called “prison industrial complex.” Though in practice the facility hurts kids and in fact teaches them to become better criminals, it’s also seen as a welcome source of jobs and income in a struggling town. In Walnut Grove, there were twice as many kids in prison as citizens.

Children in the facility, with the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center, filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the GEO Group and the state of Mississippi. U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves, who oversaw the case, wrote, “what happened at Walnut Grove ‘paints a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world'” (bloomberg.com). Kids under the age of 17 were subsequently ordered to be removed from the facility and placed in a publicly-run one instead.

Learn more and get involved:
Campaign for Youth Justice – www.campaignforyouthjustice.org
Justice Policy Institute – www.justicepolicy.org
National Juvenile Justice Network – www.njjn.org
The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth – www.fairsentencingofyouth.org