Black Gold: Prison Industrial Complex

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At midyear there were 4,777 Black male inmates per 100,000 Black males held in state and federal prisons and local jails, compared to 727 white male inmates per 100,000 white males

[National: Op-Ed]

I am calling out so called Black leaders for being silent on the 3 federal judge order to release 44,000 inmates from  California's overcrowded prisons.

A web search of California Clemency Boards will show that I have been preparing for a prison release order since 2000. And though this has come "Black leaders" are silent when  the California governor and a State senator are vowing to fight the 
release order.

When I hear the term “Black leaders” usually I am watching or reading the news describe how the NAACP, the Rev. Al Sharpton or Rev. Jesse  Jackson has come to voice their opinion on some injustice dealing with Black people.

This past week a 3 federal judge panel has ordered the State of  California to release up to 44,000 prisoners in our overcrowded prisons over the next two years and they must also come up with a plan  to release these prisoners in “45 days.”

I have not heard one word from the so called Black leaders. This is  especially disturbing when there are others like Governor Schwarzenegger who was quick to say “We will appeal” and California  State Senator, John Benoit who was quoted by a KESQ reporter in Palm  Desert as saying  “…We should not lie down and take a federal court  decision."

Where are the Black leaders when State leaders balk at a 3 federal  Judge panel’s order to release many Blacks in an overcrowded prison  system? Never mind the fact that many of these prisoners don’t belong  in prison anyway.

According to  the Bureau of Justice Statistics 2008 “At midyear 2008, there were 4,777 black male inmates per 100,000 black males held in state and federal prisons and local jails, compared to 1,760 Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males and 727 white male inmates per  100,000 white males.” has reported, “The soaring use of imprisonment in California has not been borne equally. Human Rights Watch has shown that African-Americans in the state are incarcerated at nearly 6 times (2,475 per 100,000 versus 421 per 100,000) the rate of whites.  Hispanics are incarcerated at 4 times the rate of whites.”

California can comply with the 3 judge order to come up with a plan in  45 days to release as many as 44,000 of the most suitable prisoners in  2 years without risking the public's safety.

By creating a five person panel of current elected officials in every  one of the State's 58 counties the responsibility to receive these  released individuals breaks down to 379 prisoners on average per year,  per county.

Now if counties receive $8,000.00 per released individual that comes to a little over $3,000,000 for rehabilitation for each county (again average. With the added incentive of granting a full pardon to those who complete rehab and stay out of the system for 3,4 or 5 years  depending on their current prison record) many ex-cons would jump at the opportunity to have a clean record.

This is easier than the current convoluted way to determine who should be released. Why? Because the easier you make the process the better chance the ex-con could follow it.

Jones is a prison reform activist who lives in San Francisco.

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