Jim Crow alive and well in U.S. prison system?
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Since before this country’s inception, black people have struggled against deeply ingrained race based expressions of power, privilege and exclusion. After post Civil War reconstruction was defeated in 1877 and the era of Jim Crow was ushered in during the mid 20th century, America’s elite universities and well respected ‘scientists’ advanced claims of biological evidence connecting black physical features to inferior intelligence and predisposition to criminal behavior. This ‘evidence’ further fueled the national hysteria about a growing black population and offered justification for criminalizing black men.
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Today, there is a more nuanced but equally damaging perception of poor black people that has resulted in a ‘cradle to prison’ superhighway, which we call a network of legislation, policy, practice and structural racism that has fostered blacks being incarcerated at unconscionable levels at increasingly younger ages for minor acts. It is no wonder then that blacks believe the term ‘racial justice’ is an oxymoron.
After decades of prison construction and record incarceration rates, proponents of punishment continue to argue that serving time is an effective tool to combat crime. The incarceration epidemic has been buttressed by misinformation and exaggeration from high profile politicians, psychologists and criminologists. It has been reinforced by sensational news accounts that daily parade black men…young and not so young in handcuffs and orange prison uniforms in front of the public.
Does the name John Dilulio ring a bell? Dilulio is a conservative writer and former Bush aide who worked in the White House. He greatly contributed to the incarceration frenzy by introducing the pejorative political catch phrase, “super predator,” to describe these black men. To incite fear, those who advocate for harsher penalties for law violators have used the term relentlessly, which in turn provides public support for a flawed justice system.
The implications of the “cradle to prison” for our children, families and communities are far reaching and deserving of attention. For example, while the majority of blacks incarcerated are men, black women have also felt the brunt of these practices. Black women are 18 times more likely to be incarcerated for similar offenses than are their white counterparts. Since women are usually the primary caretakers, incarceration has a particularly devastating effect on their children, extended family and spouses.
Regrettably, the juvenile justice system is no better. At the beginning of the 20th century, the founders of the juvenile court had great aspirations for the treatment of children and their families; more than a century later, their aspirations have not been realized.
As a result of the coexistence of national anti drug efforts and “zero tolerance” campaigns…which reach into the school’s and begin criminalizing black children at a young age, more youth of color are being introduced to the juvenile justice system than ever before. The striking racial disparities within the juvenile system corrode the notion of justice, particularly for youth who experience injustice firsthand.
The “Correcting the System of Unequal Justice” talk show represents a realization that there is a multi-headed, multi tentacle monster out there devouring blacks who live in certain neighborhoods. Incarceration is just one aspect of this menace, but it is an overwhelming damaging aspect. Our job on this new talk show will be to educate…to work and achieve fairness and equity. We will be sounding the alarm about the unjust criminal justice system and demand that our leaders and those in power act now to halt this destructive, unfair treatment of our brothers and sisters….especially our children.
We hope that you join us…
www.eotmradio.com — Tuesday, July 25th @ 6pm PST.
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