The Illustrated PEN is a weekly online series that aspires to be at the intersection of literature, journalism, and visual storytelling, where images and words come together in an ever-emerging and essential creative form. We’ll feature fiction and nonfiction graphic narratives, comics journalism and illustrated reportage, stories of social justice and personal stories that can’t be told through words alone.

This week, we feature a piece from our archives by Marc Mauer and Sabrina Jones. Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling tells the story of how the United States came to be the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world—with over 2 million people imprisoned. Illustrations by Sabrina Jones bring to life this essential text for understanding the exponential growth of the U.S. prison system written by Marc Mauer, the director of The Sentencing Project and one of the country’s foremost experts on sentencing policy, race, and the criminal justice system.

Copyright © 2103 by Marc Mauer and Sabrina Jones. This excerpt originally appeared in Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling published by The New Press. Reprinted here with permission.