Mass Incarceration: Where We Go From Here
Why is our prison system so barbaric? Why isn't it more humane? Why is such an enormous percentage of the prison population African American? It matters and perhaps to no group more than the black and
Why is our prison system so barbaric? Why isn’t it more humane? Why is such an enormous percentage of the prison population African American? It matters and perhaps to no group more than the black and brown men living in these United States. So where are we and where do we go from here? First, a look at what’s real.
- On any given day, 1 of every 14 Black children has a parent in prison.
- Of the 2.3 million inmates today and counting, 910,000 are African American.
- Blacks make up 43.9 percent of the state and federal prison population but only 12.3 percent of the U.S. population.
- Approximately 1.4 million African American men, or 13 percent have currently or permanently lost their right to vote as a result of a felony conviction – 7 times the national average.
- In at least 15 states, Black men were sent to prison n drug charges at rates ranging from 20-57 times those of white men.
- In 1954 there were 98,000 African Americans incarcerated – 288,800 in 1984 – That’s a 300% increase. From 1954 to today with 910,000 in prison or jail, it has increased a staggering 900%.
Here’s how the United States’ incarceration rate stacks up against the rest of the world according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
The impact on Black men is real. In 2011 New York City police conducted 700,000 stop-and-frisk searches….Take that in for a sec. Eighty-five percent of those searches included Blacks and Hispanics – mostly men. Keep in mind these brothers constitute only fifty percent of the city’s entire population. Basically, the NYPD stopped and frisked more young black men in New York than actually live there. Yeah. Also in NY state, the average cost for keeping someone in prison for one year is approximately $60,000. On Rikers Island its a whopping $168k per person, per year. They have over 10,000 detainees in custody. Do the math. It’s called the Prison Industrial Complex.
A Brief History
Mass incarceration began to take off in 1973 with the “War on Drugs,” in fact it jumped eightfold between 1970 and 2012 * sentencing project.
The Future For Non Violent Drug Offenders
We’ve seen in the news lowering of prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. In 2015 President Obama announced plans to expand clemency eligibility to potentially thousands of people who have been jailed for nonviolent offenses under historically harsher sentencing guidelines. While Obama’s clemency total registered at 91 pardons and 159 commutations, much more work is needed. The Sentencing Commission estimated that an additional 8,550 inmates would be eligible for release by Nov. 1, 2016.
Organizations like Just Leadership USA are focused on decarceration – cutting the US correctional population in half by 2030, while reducing crime. They invest in formerly incarcerated people, through training, become stronger and more effective leaders.
So what can you do as a conscious citizen?
- Financially support organizations like Just Leadership USA.
- Support children whose parents are incarcerated.
- Become a mentor in your community. Help a young man behave and do well in school.