Blacks in Prison
Blacks in prison
America’s Prison System – Where the Minority is the Majority
In a country where African Americans make up 13 percent of the population but are more than 39 percent of the prison population, it’s evident that there is something extremely wrong.
According to a 2011 report released by the NAACP, state spending on prisons grew at six times the rate of state spending on higher education over the past two decades. This sends a clear signal that our political leaders are more interested in sending African Americans to prison than to college where they could receive an education and be able to enter the workforce and provide for their families. The disproportion numbers of Black people incarcerated is also due to the elimination of social programs that were previously used to help the underprivileged cope during tough economic times and generally.
Combine this with high unemployment rates --generally the unemployment rate in the African American population is several percentage rates higher than in the White community-- and with the fact that many people exhaust unemployment benefits, or don't receive benefits, then the social consequences are predictable.
With the lack of employment and social programs, some people fall victim to drug abuse and other anti-social behavior and illegal activities. Some Black folk who get caught up in the system don’t have adequate money for legal representation and usually end up getting sentenced to serve time in prison. The U.S. so-called criminal justice system operates as a racist institution; it's designed to marginalize and control millions of Black folks. The system needs public scrutiny and disbandment.
What is to be done?
How to break from the cycle of unemployment, the recession, and the devastation caused by drugs infiltrating the communities? Until state officials decide to spend more on higher education than on prisons, we won’t see any improvements within our communities and the disproportionate amount of Blacks who are imprisoned will forever remain a daunting issue.
In 1986, Congress enacted the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, instituting mandatory penalties for crack cocaine offenses that have been characterized as the harshest in history. The law established drastically different penalty structures for crack and powder cocaine offenses, based on the understanding that crack cocaine was more dangerous than powder cocaine and posed a greater threat to public safety. This is what has come to be known as the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity. The law's effect on the disproportionate number of African Americans in United States prisons is staggering. While drug use rates are similar among all racial groups, African American drug offenders have a twenty percent greater likelihood of receiving a prison sentence than their white counterparts and African Americans now serve virtually as much time in prison for drug offenses as whites serve for violent offenses.
In 2010 Congress approved a bill that would change the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, but that bill has yet to be signed into law. The biggest crime in the U.S. criminal justice system is that it is a race-based institution where African-Americans are directly targeted and punished in a much more aggressive way than white people. Saying that the US criminal system is racist may be politically controversial in some circles, but the numeric facts are overwhelming. There doesn't seem to be anyone who's willing to debate that.
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