Toxic prisons : an exploration of the connection between prisons and Superfund sites
McHale, Claire Jordan
May 19, 2020
When one thinks of the dangers and problems within prisons, issues of environmental justice do not typically come to mind as being a significant issue. The harsh reality is that this is a major problem in prisons, jails and detention centers across the country as individuals are currently suffering from serious health problems due to environmental hazards. This is a significant issue as the U.S. has the largest prison population in the world with around 2.3 million people currently incarcerated. Despite the severity of this problem it remains largely unacknowledged within the prison industry, though in recent years there has been growing attention brought to this issue as people are slowly making the connection between severe health problems and neighboring toxic facilities, especially Superfund sites. Currently, around one third of all federal and state prisons are located within three miles of a Superfund site. This puts a large percentage of incarcerated individuals at risk of developing severe health problems due to their prison’s close proximity to a Superfund site. To explore the relationship between prisons and Superfund sites, in this thesis I conduct a comparative case study that analyzes three prisons located by Superfund sites; The Northwest Detention Center, ADX Florence and SCI Fayette. Through my analysis and comparison of these three prisons, I uncover a range of causal factors that can be attributed to the flawed siting process that led each of these prisons to the toxic locations they reside in today.
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