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 More Black Men Now in Prison System than Were Enslaved 
 

Rombus

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      Posted: 29 Mar 2011 23:02 Profile Bermuda


D. Price at LA Progressive wrote:


More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began,” Michelle Alexander told a standing room only house at the Pasadena Main Library this past Wednesday, the first of many jarring points she made in a riveting presentation.

Alexander, currently a law professor at Ohio State, had been brought in to discuss her year-old bestseller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Interest ran so high beforehand that the organizers had to move the event to a location that could accommodate the eager attendees. That evening, more than 200 people braved the pouring rain and inevitable traffic jams to crowd into the library’s main room, with dozens more shuffled into an overflow room, and even more latecomers turned away altogether. Alexander and her topic had struck a nerve.

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, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun after attending Stanford Law. “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,” she said, 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?” she asked, 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.”

Organized by the Pasadena Public Library and the Flintridge Center, with a dozen or more cosponsors, including the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter and Neighborhood Church, and the LA Progressive as the sole media sponsor, the event drew a crowd of the converted, frankly — more than two-thirds from Pasadena’s well-established black community and others drawn from activists circles. Although Alexander is a polished speaker on a deeply researched topic, little she said stunned the crowd, which, after all, was the choir. So the question is what to do about this glaring injustice.

Married to a federal prosecutor, Alexander briefly touched on the differing opinion in the Alexander household. “You can imagine the arguments we have,” Alexander said in relating discussions she has with her husband. “He thinks there are changes we can make within the system,” she said, agreeing that there are good people working on the issues and that improvements can be made. “But I think there has to be a revolution of some kind.”

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 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.

Alexander, who drew her early inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., devotes the last part of “The New Jim Crow” to steps people can take to combat this gross injustice. In particular, she recommended supporting the Drug Policy Alliance. At the book signing afterwards, Dr. Anthony Samad recruited Michelle Alexander to appear this fall at one his Urban Issues Forums, typically at the California African American Museum next to USC.



Sharon Kyle at LA Progressive wrote:


This week we ran a piece written by D. Price entitled, “More Black Men Now in Prison System Than Were Enslaved“. Tens of thousands read it. Many left comments. The popularity of his article and the comments posted has lead to this follow-up article.

The article D. Price wrote was a recap of a talk given by Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow (see image to the left). Alexander, a civil rights attorney turned scholar, recently made an appearance in Southern California. She delivered an information packed presentation at the Pasadena Library, to a standing-room-only crowd.

D. Price wrote a review of her talk. In this article I focus on a specific topic addressed in her book — what is driving the growth in the prison population and prison-based gerrymandering.

Like the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex has had far-reaching negative consequences many of which remain unaddressed or ignored by the larger society but they take their toll on the whole of society never-the-less.

The practice of gerrymandering is one of the costs to our democracy. This practice renders a small minority of Americans with more voting power than others. But the mass incarceration phenomenon is also costing the U.S. taxpayer more than $60 billion per year for federal, state and local prison systems (source The Sentencing Project).

Speaking of the unprecedented growth of the prison population in a recent ABC News article, Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project had this to say:

“The unrivaled growth of the United States’ incarcerated population over 30 years casts a great burden on this nation. The country’s $60 billion prison budget results in less money for education, health care and child services. Communities need the resources to prevent crime by investing in youth and families.”

Many of the people who read D. Price's article questioned whether the natural growth in the U.S. population could explain the growth of the prison population. The Justice Department released a report that makes it clear that the rate of growth in the prison population far exceeds the rate of growth in the U.S. population. You can also read a quick article on this reported by ABC News.
Legal scholar and author Michelle Alexander spent years researching this unprecedented growth. She did not come to this research with preconceived notions. In fact, she makes it clear that before she embarked upon this investigation, she was of the mindset that radical activists were making more of this “prison-industrial complex” than they should. Then she got a fellowship that allowed her the free time needed to delve into the numbers. She slowly but surely drew new conclusions.

The reason her “awakening” is one of the most poignant aspects of this story is because it magnifies the depth and breath of the blindness that she talks about in her book. Michelle Alexander is a black woman. She was a civil rights attorney. She worked for the ACLU and even she was blind to the magnitude of this problem and its racial component until she took a look at the numbers.

It should not be surprising that the vast majority of Americans who have not taken a look at the numbers are clueless about the toll this is taking on all of us.

Matt Pillischer is producing a documentary entitled,”Broken on All Sides”, that takes a hard look at what is driving this unprecedented growth in our prisons.

While it seems almost impossible to get any traction on this issue, lack of knowledge continues to be a contributing factor that helps to support the phenomenal prison growth especially as it relates to black and now brown male inmates. Some think that black and browns are growing demographics in the prison population because they commit more crime. This assertion has been debunked. Evidence suggests that the war on drugs has a very specific demographic that is targeted.

ABC News ran a report in response to the Justice Department’s announcement that the United States had 2.3 million inmates in custody. Speaking of the Justice Department report, ABC News said:

The report provides a breakdown, noting “of the 2.3 million inmates in custody, 2.1 million were men and 208,300 were women. Black males represented the largest percentage (35.4 percent) of inmates held in custody, followed by white males (32.9 percent) and Hispanic males (17.9 percent).”

The United States leads the industrialized world in incarceration. In fact, the U.S. rate of incarceration (762 per 100,000) is five to eight times that of other highly developed countries, according to The Sentencing Project, a criminal justice think tank.

Some of the key factors for the record imprisonment rate include:

Race: Black males continue to be incarcerated at an extraordinary rate. Black males make up 35.4 percent of the jail and prison population — even though they make up less than 10 percent of the overall U.S population. Four percent of U.S. black males were in jail or prison last year, compared to 1.7 percent of Hispanic males and .7 percent of white males. In other words, black males were locked up at almost six times the rate of their white counterparts.

Immigration: Is it an emerging crime trend or is this the result of more local police and federal targeting of illegal immigrants? Non-U.S. citizens accounted for nearly 8 percent of the jail population at midyear 2007, the new Justice Department report noted. “From mid-year 2000 through midyear 2007, Hispanic men (120,000) represented the largest increase to the custody population,” it said.

In an essay published two years ago in Time magazine, the writers of The Wire made the argument that they believe the war on drugs has devolved into a war on the underclass, that in places like West and East Baltimore, where the drug economy is now the only factory still hiring and where the educational system is so crippled that the vast majority of children are trained only for the corners, a legal campaign to imprison our most vulnerable and damaged citizens is little more than amoral.

The Sentencing Project has reported that more than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For Black males in their twenties, 1 in every 8 is in prison or jail on any given day. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the “war on drugs,” in which three-fourths of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color. And now, with prison populations bursting at the seams, there is a movement underway to shift to privatization. I’ll be writing more on this in future articles. But please move on to the next page of this article to find out more about the collateral consequences of our current sentencing policies and how it impacts all Americans.

Prison-Based Gerrymandering

Last week in her talk, Michelle Alexander addressed most of the salient points covered in her award-winning book with one exception; she didn’t talk much about the impact of mass incarceration on the census, particularly with regard to redistricting. Because I knew this topic was covered in the book , I asked Ms. Alexander to give the audience her condensed version of what has come to be known as prison-based gerrymandering during the Q&A.

Audible gasps could be heard from the audience as Alexander explained census residence rules which require that people who are incarcerated be counted at their places of incarceration on Census Day as opposed to their home addresses while, at the same time, almost without exception these people do not have the right to vote. Alexander went on to say that most prisons are constructed in rural areas yet most people who are incarcerated come from urban areas. The shift in population from urban to rural increases the political clout of rural communities while decreasing the political clout of urban communities.

In addressing the census residence rule and specifically prison-based gerrymandering, the NAACP Legal Defense fund reports:

This residence rule skews the balance of political power by inflating the population counts of communities where prisons are located by including the non-voting prison populations in these districts during the redistricting process.

Over the last several decades, the percentage of Americans incarcerated in prisons has increased four-fold. Incarcerated persons are often held in areas that are geographically and demographically far removed from their home communities. For instance, although non-metropolitan counties contain only 20% of the national population, they host 60% of new prisons.

In addition, because Latinos and African Americans are incarcerated at three to seven times the rate of Whites, where incarcerated people are counted has tremendous implications for how African-American and Latino populations are reflected in the census, and, consequently, how these communities are impacted through redistricting.

Recently, three states enacted legislation that would adjust for prison populations such that their numbers wouldn’t artificially inflate the population numbers of the district where the prison is located. Legislators in Maryland, New York and Delaware had the foresight to prepare for the 2010 census by addressing this in various forms of legislation. But the rest of the nation still operates under a policy that disproportionately disadvantages black and brown communities and gives unearned advantage and power to small, rural, mostly white communities.

The Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) documents the impact of mass incarceration on individuals, communities, and the national welfare. They produce research and make it available to empower the public to participate in creating better criminal justice policy. Their main focus is on ending prison-based gerrymandering. According to PPI , the 2010 census counted 2 million people in the wrong place. They give specific examples of how and where this happened, for example, PPI sites the following:

In 2002, the New York State Senate deliberately underpopulated districts in the upstate region while overpopulating districts in the downstate region. This problem ran parallel to the fact that the Census Bureau credited downstate residents to upstate census counts, and together served to dilute minority voting rights. For example, one of those upstate districts was the 59th Senate District, drawn to contain 294,256 people instead of the 306,072 that each district should have contained. Using Census data, the state reported that the district contained 6,273 African Americans, but three quarters of this population was incarcerated residents of other parts of the state. The legislature used the prison population to disguise the fact that the district had the smallest African-American population of any senate district in the state and they deliberately underpopulated that district to give it extra influence.

I urge the readers of this article to explore the suggestions made by the PPI. They can be found here. Another recommendation is to read any of the books shown below. Education on this issue is essential if we intend to dismantle this unjust system. It’s also important to support politicians who support dismantling this web of oppression. I’m volunteering to support Marcy Winograd.

The Sentencing Project
The Prison Policy Initiative

Sharon Kyle



I encourage each of you to read this and perhaps reflect a little on the colossal amount of work there is to be done on making the criminal justice system in America something Americans can be proud of.

Edit: Fixed some formatting.

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aMMo.@c

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      Posted: 30 Mar 2011 02:36 Profile United States


lol

Reality check needed.

The problem isn't with the criminal justice system here.

Unicorn01

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      Posted: 30 Mar 2011 03:09 Profile United States


The raw number of people in jail doesn't mean anything. The population as a whole increased. Is the percentage of criminals higher than there were slaves? If not it's totally meaningless.

And yes, I said criminals. Even if they are being targeted more, they still chose to break the law, and should be punished. As should the whites. Either way, don't break the law and you probably won't go to jail.

Legalize drugs and that will be a start to ending a lot of the problem here.

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=NOLB=Kratos

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      Posted: 30 Mar 2011 07:45 Profile


well here is my 2 cents, every where you turn now of days is consider breaking the lay you cant even walk down the street with oput being pulled over by a police officer asking questions, i understand there doing there job, but there job should be more about less harasment and focus more on crimnals....

i would like to also note that some of the laws we have in the us is very stupid and overlap each other.

see i learn along time ago its nothing to them but money and thats what it always be about who has the most that can afford there innocent self out of jail free, when you go to jail they always your innocent until proven guilty but if im in jail, that means im guilty until i prove myself innocent, thats the catcher innocent people dont go to jail its always the guilty, but there has been alot of times that the wrong people have gotten put in jail over failed or mis leading evidence, but i really wouldnt consider this topic out of place to say to the least but i also agree target or no target if they did the crime they should be punished

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viking_from_norway

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      Posted: 30 Mar 2011 10:01 Profile Norway


Rombus that argument is full of more flaws than, Than Lilith's posts on this forum.

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nikooo111

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      Posted: 30 Mar 2011 11:13 Profile Sweden


lol this makes no scene at all!

For instance i can say that today there are more ppl in Jails and prisons world wide then there were ppl on earth 10 000BC. you can't compare ancient stuff to current day without doing some statistics of the total currently and then the percentage and so on!

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Rombus

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      Posted: 30 Mar 2011 14:30 Profile Bermuda


aMMo.@c wrote:

The problem isn't with the criminal justice system here.



Oh? Please expand on this theory.

Unicorn01 wrote:

And yes, I said criminals. Even if they are being targeted more, they still chose to break the law, and should be punished. As should the whites. Either way, don't break the law and you probably won't go to jail.



I love how your solution to this problem is to just incarcerate even more people!

greeneyes

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      Posted: 30 Mar 2011 14:39 Profile Satellite Provider


=NOLB=Kratos wrote:

every where you turn now of days is consider breaking the lay you cant even walk down the street with oput being pulled over by a police officer asking questions, i understand there doing there job, but there job should be more about less harasment and focus more on crimnals....


that is how it should be, we need to preserve our "free world". we need to catch "the enemies of free world".

=NOLB=Kratos wrote:

when you go to jail they always your innocent until proven guilty but if im in jail, that means im guilty until i prove myself innocent,


if you were arrested there are 99.99% chances of being guilty. 00,01 is an acceptable margin for error.

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Rombus

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      Posted: 30 Mar 2011 14:41 Profile Bermuda


greeneyes wrote:

if you were arrested there are 99.99% chances of being guilty. 00,01 is an acceptable margin for error.



Either prove this or stop pulling numbers out of your butt.

PS. You can't prove it because it is hilariously wrong.

greeneyes

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      Posted: 30 Mar 2011 14:48 Profile Satellite Provider


Rombus wrote:

greeneyes wrote:

if you were arrested there are 99.99% chances of being guilty. 00,01 is an acceptable margin for error.



Either prove this or stop pulling numbers out of your butt.

PS. You can't prove it because it is hilariously wrong.



might be wrong, but not more wrong than this:
http://forum.americasarmy.com/...2981400
anyway my reply was dedicated to buddy kratos.

=NOLB=Kratos

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      Posted: 30 Mar 2011 14:56 Profile


Rombus,

yes green likes to follow me around and debate me like an old pup its ok xD he is cool

Rombus

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      Posted: 30 Mar 2011 15:53 Profile Bermuda


greeneyes wrote:

might be wrong, but not more wrong than this:
http://forum.americasarmy.com/...2981400
anyway my reply was dedicated to buddy kratos.



I am stunned. "I am wrong but so are you! I wasn't talking to you anyway." is truly a masterful argument.

wrath_of_grunge

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      Posted: 30 Mar 2011 16:22 Profile


Rombus wrote:

greeneyes wrote:

if you were arrested there are 99.99% chances of being guilty. 00,01 is an acceptable margin for error.



Either prove this or stop pulling numbers out of your butt.

PS. You can't prove it because it is hilariously wrong.



i agree.

the reason most people end up in jail is due to several factors. public defenders being one, they work for the DA so it's really not in their interest to help your case all that much, they'll usually just offer you a bad plea deal. improper attire is another reason, judges really hate that stuff. lack of personal responsibility is another.

i once had to serve 30 days in jail over a pack of rolling papers plus probation for over a year. the DA actually wanted me to serve 7 months.

the biggest problem in the african community has more to do with africans than jailtime.

allow me to demonstrate.
http://www.police.nashville.or...dex.asp <-- this site is press releases from the metro nashville area. a few minutes of reading over it will show you exactly why there are such a high number of africans in jail.

recent papers show that Lincoln wanted the freed slaves to migrate to other parts of the world. he didn't feel that they could co-exist with whites.

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Rombus

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      Posted: 30 Mar 2011 16:26 Profile Bermuda


wrath_of_grunge wrote:

the biggest problem in the african community has more to do with africans than jailtime.



Please expand on this? Do you feel people of a certain skin color are naturally more prone to crime than people of any other skin color?

wrath_of_grunge

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      Posted: 30 Mar 2011 16:38 Profile


no. but i do feel that a number of socio-economic factors play into this.

income
environment
lack of paternal figures in the household

a somewhat taboo subject within the black community occurs when a member of a family does something like attend college. oftentimes the student is trying to succeed and get ahead by 'playing by the rules' somewhat. in a sense of resentment towards this potential success story, the family of some of these students claim that they 'are trying to be white' and will take actions or positions that can lead to isolation of this new student.

blacks feel a resentment towards the white man's system. really, who can blame them. it enslaved them, shipped them across oceans, and in the end freed them. we bail out billion dollar failures all the while waging a war on drugs that's just as useless as prohibition was in the 20's.

i'm not saying that it's a fair stereo type that blacks go to jail. but it's not necessarily a stereo type without basis.

in another generation or so, i think things like this will become less of a issue. there's a lot of old fogies in the legal system (lawyers, judges, cops). once they're out of there maybe we can finally call off this war against drugs and get on with our lives.


 More Black Men Now in Prison System than Were Enslaved 
 

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