Endangered: Young Black Males

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Mack says we need bolder measures to deal with the crisis....

I recently had to take a trip to the Downtown Brooklyn Supreme Court. No…I did not go because I was in trouble. I went because a colleague of mine was charged with violating his probation. A few of friends and I wanted to be there for support and put in a good word to the Judge if allowed.
As I walked into the courthouse, entered the elevator to the 18th floor, and entered courtroom #31 I noticed something strange. The court room was completely filled with minority men and women except for the front row. (I do know that at times people self segregate so I didn’t think anything of it). However, as the Judge came into the court and the proceedings/hearings began I realized that all of those in the front row were attorneys.

At a little before 10:00 am they began to call cases. After the first four cases were called I made an observation to my colleague, “Did you notice that all of the first four cases were Black Males?”
He acknowledged my observation and we continued to wait on his case to be called. I didn’t have anything else to do so to pass the time I began to keep record of the demographic make-up of the defendants being called before the judge to defend themselves. I continued to do this until 12:00 when my colleague’s case was called. To make a long story short, including my colleague, below are the final numbers of my impromptu analysis for the two hours that I sat in court:

Total Number of People Called…………………….…………40
Number of Blacks Called………………………………..……..36
Number of Hispanics Called……………………………..…….4
Number of Whites Called………………………………….…..0
Number of Males Called………………………………….…..38
Number of Females Called………………………….…………2

Here are a few other observations of my trip.

• I saw defense attorneys calling their defendant’s name aloud because they were there to defend them, had yet to meet them, and didn’t even know who they were.

• I saw a defendant request to exercise his right to change attorneys. After the judge made a ruling to grant new counsel for the defendant and dismissed the defendant I heard the attorney being exchanged whisper to another attorney, “For such a big strapping man he is such a big baby!”

• I saw a young man in shackles laughing and joking with friends in the audience while the defense and prosecuting attorneys were at the bench whispering with the judge to decide his fate.

• I saw a mother crying as her son pleaded guilty to assaulting a man in Brooklyn. We gave her our business cards so hopefully she would enroll her son in one of our programs upon release.

• I heard a social worker from a program give a positive report about a young man who had been studying the stock market with her program. The judge asked the young man, “When do you think the economy will recover?” The young man stated in a shy voice, “I think that sometime next year we should see a turnaround.” As he was released I ran out after the social worker and gave him and her one of my cards in hopes that we could work together as well.

Besides the huge headache from being frustrated, I had many questions left after the long morning. Did the other hundreds of court rooms share the same demographics? That young man laughing, why was he so apathetic when his fate was being decided? What was that mother thinking as she cried and watched her son pleading guilty in…did she consider herself a failure? I hoped not. I work with a formerly incarcerated group every other Thursday with the Brooklyn DA’s Office and have only seen one non-minority in the eight months of the program…is this a trend?

Sometimes days like these give us a reality check and puts things in perspective. I will leave you to form your own opinions, for I have many of my own of that morning….. Is racism the problem…or is apathy and lack of effort the problem? Is parental responsibility lacking…or has the power/attraction of the streets grown too strong to be controlled? Is it the government or the people who need to take responsibility? No matter where you stand, we have to admit that there is a deep-rooted issue that needs further discussion. High incarceration rates for people of color is not a problem for only people of color, it is an American problem. No matter your race, creed, religious background, or gender it should be OUR priority to end all discrimination. It is in your best interests that everyone receives an equal opportunity to live the American dream. For us to move forward we should all reach out to that young Black male to give him reason to care about his future, give support to that mother to help ease her pain, encourage that young man to continue learning about the market and expanding his mind, or chastise that attorney for being so callous towards her client when she needs to be advocating for her client at all times. These are things that we can all agree upon and we should start there. As each member of the village grows stronger, the village grows stronger as a whole. If we really love this country, let’s show it with daily actions towards each other.
• In 1970, blacks constituted 41 percent of combined state and federal prison populations and whites 58 percent. In 1997, blacks constituted 49.2 percent of the prison population and whites 48.3 percent. Margaret Werner Cahalan, Historical Corrections Statistics in the United States, 1850-1984, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice (December 1986), Table 3.31; BJS, "Prisoners in 1998."

• Blacks comprise 13 percent of the national population, but 30 percent of people arrested, 41 percent of people in jail, and 49 percent of those in prison. Nine percent of all black adults are under some form of correctional supervision (in jail or prison, on probation or parole), compared to two percent of white adults. One in three black men between the ages of 20 and 29 was either in jail/prison or on parole or probation in 1995. One in ten black men in their twenties and early thirties is in prison or jail. Thirteen percent of the black adult male population has lost the right to vote because of felony disenfranchisement laws. (http://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/2000/usa/Rcedrg00-01.htm)

• 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. (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/prisons.htm)

“At the end... we all must do better!” Ryan Mack, President
Ryan Mack is President of Optimum Capital Management and Founder of All About Business Youth Program.

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