About Hundreds of Thousands

“I know what the world has done to my brother and how narrowly he has survived it. And I know, which is much worse, and this is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it.”

- James Baldwin

Hundreds of Thousands aims to make visual the suffering and inhumane treatment of incarcerated mentally ill people and the policies that adversely impact their lives. The demonstration brings awareness specifically to the injustice that Waday is facing but also points to the national failure of our mental health care system and its use of incarceration and solitary confinement as treatment for mental illness. Solitary confinement is inhumane but particularly brutal for people suffering with mental illness as studies show it exacerbates their condition. As of 2019, approximately 34% of the U.S. prison population suffers from mental illness. Mental illness is not a crime, and the hundreds of thousands incarcerated as a result of their mental illness are not criminals.

Hundreds of Thousands takes place in concert with Black August, a commemoration that began in the 1970s to uplift efforts to dismantle mass incarceration, the prison industrial complex, police brutality, and the many social ills that disproportionately affect the African American community. The demonstration is also in alignment with the Poor People’s Campaign as it is poor people of all colors who are incarcerated as a result of the failures of our mental health care system. The profiteering of prisons from the suffering of mentally ill people is a national human rights issue.