A searing expose of the effects of mass incarceration on the families of those locked up – including the 2.7 million American children who have a parent in jail – told through the stories of three families struggling to live the best lives they can within the confines of a brutal system.
With nearly 2 million people locked up in the United States, Americans have become increasingly familiar with concepts like mass incarceration and the criminalization of blackness. But what are the ripple effects of these phenomena for families who have a loved one in prison?
In The Shadow System, Sylvia A. Harvey follows the fears, challenges, and small victories of families in Mississippi, Florida, and Kentucky, illustrating how they navigate the different regulations, programs, and economic costs, learning to cope (or not) with impossible stakes. She reveals a shadow system of laws and regulations enacted to dehumanize the incarcerated and profit off their families — from mandatory sentencing laws, to restrictions on prison visitation, to charges of up to $24.95 for a 15-minute phone call. The Shadow System will transform our understanding of the lasting impact incarceration has on American families and communities and delivers a galvanizing clarion call to fix our broken system.