America’s Prison Industrial Complex: The Minority is the Majority

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[National: Comment]

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 incarceration rate of Black folk is also due to the elimination of social programs that were previously used to help the underprivileged cope during tough economic times; the fact that when unemployment is high the rate in the African American community is the highest relative to that in the White, Latino and Asian communities. When you combine all this with discriminatory law enforcement, including the disproportionate sentencing for crimes, no wonder the disproportionate incarceration rates.
It should also come as no surprise that when unemployment benefits are exhausted, when some people don't qualify, and cuts in social programs, other anti-social behavior and drug abuse and can creep into the community and increase the prospects of arrests.

Moreover, the growth of private prisons with profit targets also increases the incentive for questionable arrests, prosecutions and incarcerations.

Many Black folk who get caught up in the system don’t have adequate money for legal representation and usually end up getting sentenced to time in prison. Ultimately, the American criminal justice system is a racist institution designed to marginalize and control millions of Blacks. The system needs public scrutiny and disbandment.
As pressing issues such as unemployment, drug abuse and the recession continues to linger for years to come, we will find ourselves faced with the same social challenges. 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 number of Blacks who are imprisoned will forever remain a daunting issue.

A report entitled "Mandatory Minimums and the Crack/Powder Sentencing Disparity" that was published by on September 6, 2007 states: "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 finally approved a bill to change the Anti-Drug Abuse Act.

As Bill Quigley says in his article entitled "Rampant Racism in the Criminal Justice System" which appeared on on July 26, 2010 "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 American criminal justice system is racist may be politically controversial to some, but the numeric facts are overwhelming.

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