Environmental injustice occurs when marginalized groups face disproportionate environmental impacts from a range of threats. Environmental racism is a particular form of environmental injustice and frequently includes the implementation of policies, regulations, or institutional practices that target communities of color for undesirable waste sites, zoning, and industry. One example of how the United States federal and state governments are currently practicing environmental racism is in the form of building and maintaining toxic prisons and immigrant detention prisons, where people of color and undocumented persons are the majority of inmates and detainees who suffer disproportionate health risk and harms. This article discusses the historical and contemporary conditions that have shaped the present political landscape of racial and immigration conflicts and considers those dynamics in the context of the literature on environmental justice. Case studies are then presented to highlight specific locations and instances that exemplify environmental injustice and racism in the carceral sector. The article concludes with an analysis of the current political drivers and motivations contributing to these risks and injustices, and ends with a discussion of the scale and depth of analysis required to alleviate these impacts in the future, which might contribute to greater sustainability among the communities affected.
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