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Van Jones: How Prisons Hurt Communities

‘What about the times you’ve broken the law?’

Van Jones is a former advisor to president Obama, and has founded four not-for-profit organizations engaged in social and environmental justice. Most recently, Jones launched #YesWeCode an initiative to help low-income kids learn to write code. He was spurred to action back in 1992 when, as a student at Yale, he saw social inequality at work. “I was seeing kids at Yale do drugs and talk about it openly, and have nothing happen to them or, if anything, get sent to rehab,” he says. “And then I was seeing kids three blocks away, in the housing projects, doing the same drugs, in smaller amounts, go to prison.”


After decades of working for social and environmental justice, Jones has some words that everyone must hear about mass incarceration. In the video above, he describes the devastating impact that mass incarceration has had on American communities. The U.S. is now the number one incarcerator of human beings in the history of the world. It has five percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of its prisoners. Jones also explains how America’s drug laws destroy poor communities and that choosing rehabilitation over prison will save money and lives.

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