Know Thyself Community Wednesday
How do we reverse the massive incarceration of our community?
“More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began,” according to author, Michelle Alexander, of the book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
Growing crime rates over the past 30 years don’t explain the skyrocketing numbers of black — and increasingly brown — men caught in America’s prison system, according to Alexander. “In fact, crime rates have fluctuated over the years and are now at historical lows.”
“Most of that increase is due to the War on Drugs, a war waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color,” says Alexander, even though studies have shown that whites use and sell illegal drugs at rates equal to or above blacks. In some black inner-city communities, four of five black youth can expect to be caught up in the criminal justice system during their lifetimes.
As a consequence, a great many black men are disenfranchised, said Alexander — prevented because of their felony convictions from voting and from living in public housing, discriminated in hiring, excluded from juries, and denied educational opportunities.
“What do we expect them to do?” says Alexander; who researched her ground-breaking book while serving as Director of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Northern California. “Well, seventy percent return to prison within two years, that’s what they do.”
However change is to come, a big impediment will be the massive prison-industrial system.
“If we were to return prison populations to 1970 levels, before the War on Drugs began,” she said. “More than a million people working in the system would see their jobs disappear.”
So it’s like America’s current war addiction. We have built a massive war machine — one bigger than all the other countries in the world combined — with millions of well-paid defense industry jobs and billions of dollars at stake. With a hammer that big, every foreign policy issue looks like a nail — another bomb to drop, another country to invade, another massive weapons development project to build.
Similarly, with such a well-entrenched prison-industrial complex in place — also with a million jobs and billions of dollars at stake — every criminal justice issue also looks like a nail — another prison sentence to pass down, another third strike to enforce, another prison to build in some job-starved small town, another chance at a better life to deny.
Check out the official website for the new Jim Crow by clicking below:
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