REDUCING THE INCARCERATION RATE OF BLACKS
Xavier Thomas Hooper, first year writing UNC Asheville student
The sculpture that I was assigned is Sleeping Justice. To me, this sculpture represents the problems with the justice system and how it serves as a disadvantage to African Americans. In this essay, I will be talking about the problem of the mass incarceration of blacks and discuss different possible solutions. I bet it wouldn’t come as a surprise to you that the United States is the country with the largest amount of prisoners. We hear this fact all the time, but how many prisoners are we talking? Well, at this point in time we have over 2 million prisoners incarcerated, which is about 5 times as high as in 1972 (Roberts, 2004). Out of all of those prisoners, the majority race is African American. The rate of incarceration is “astronomical” (Roberts, 2004), which calls for the question; what can be done to reduce the rate of incarceration for African Americans? In this essay, we shall look at varying statistics that display numbers such as rate of incarceration and spatial concentration of incarceration. We can look at the lasting effects of those incarcerated and ultimately conclude with certain programs and acts that can be done to reduce the mass incarceration of blacks.
Effects of Incarceration on One’s Child
First above all, we must look at the considerable amount of black male inmates locked up, which equates to a whopping 586,700 individuals (Roberts, 2004). This is about a 150,000 person increase from white males, who have 436,800 incarcerated (Roberts, 2004). Much like the black male’s counterpart, black women are locked up more than any other woman of race. With this amount of blacks incarcerated and if the rate of incarceration remains where it’s at, blacks will continue being the majority race incarcerated and so will the next generation of blacks if nothing is done to resolve this issue. Yes, the next generation. Studies show that children whose parents are involved in the criminal justice system face a range of psychological and social hardships. With the most common consequence of parental incarceration being antisocial personality behavior (Martin, 2017), these children perform more criminal acts and show persistent dishonesty (Martin, 2017). These children with incarcerated parents are 6 times more likely to become incarcerated themselves once they grow up. So what can be done to treat this issue? According to the Children’s Bureau, it is important for incarcerated parents to maintain regular contact with their children and attend programs while incarcerated that would help them once released (ACYF, 2015). Contact is extremely important in maintaining or strengthening bonds between parents and children, as these programs can help the inmates better themselves however. Whether it be an addiction problem or any psychological issue, it is quite necessary to work on these problems. It is up to the incarcerated parent to care for their children even while they’re locked up.
Concentration of Poverty
The concentration of minorities in low-income neighborhoods is very prevalent in areas across the U.S. and reaps its’ drawbacks. research in several cities shows that “the exit and reentry of inmates is geographically concentrated in the poorest, minority neighborhoods” (Roberts, 2004). While the majority of these poorer neighborhoods are composed of African Americans, it is evident that these findings apply to the incarceration of them. Spatial concentration of minorities in low-income neighborhoods has many serious repercussions that affects everybody in these neighborhoods, especially the youth. In schools today, segregation is a major issue that still hasn’t been completely resolved, regardless of the Brown vs. Board of Education case decision. As low-income, minority families remain in these concentrated neighborhoods, their children will continue to attend schools in their district that are racially segregated. Most of these schools are composed mainly of minority children. A lot of these schools don’t have the same resources that schools of privileged children attend have. “Teachers and school administrators may develop lower academic expectations when they deal predominantly with poor children, many of whom do not have resources or support in the home” (Jargowsky, 2013) With lower academic expectations from teachers, there is less of an incentive to teach, thus hindering the students’ abilities to learn to their maximum potential. It is evident that “schools in poorer neighborhoods have greater needs than schools with more advantaged children.” (Jargowsky, 2013). All of this ties in to the fact that lower education levels can lead to an increase in criminal activity.
So what can be done to reduce criminal activity even further? Well, if the youth in these poorer neighborhoods are properly equipped with an equal and fully comprehensive education, then criminal activity can be reduced. First off, “schooling increases the returns to legitimate work, raising the opportunity costs of illicit behavior” (Lochner & Moretti, 2003). With more time to be in school, studying, and less time to perform any criminal activity, incarceration rates are bound to go down. Second off, “education may directly affect the financial or psychic rewards from crime itself” (Lochner & Moretti, 2003). Crime in itself can be rewarding whether it be making money from robbing somebody or gaining reputation from hurting or even killing somebody. Work can substitute both financial and psychic rewards that encompasses committing crime. With a regular salary and internal rewards like completing a work-related task, there is no need for committing crime. Although it is possible to reduce criminal activity in these concentrated neighborhoods through educating the minority youth, the problem with being able to fully provide a complete education lies within the school system itself. In a study performed by the Journey of Justice members, 12 school districts were gathered and examined. In each district, 2 schools, one that was predominantly black and latino, while the other being predominantly white were looked at and the courses that they offered. The findings show that these minority schools offered less course options for math, less AP classes, no art-related classes, and much more. (J., 2018) All of the minority-comprised schools were severely under-resourced and remain to be. With the spread of charter and private schools around the country, more privileged, white people have the opportunity of attending these expensive schools that can’t be afforded by these poorer, minority races. “Today, school closings and the spread of charters in Black and Brown communities across the country make up the soul of the “School Choice Movement”” (J. , 2018)
If the youth in these neighborhoods were provided a fulfilling education, then they will grow up well-educated, with a job and with less incentive to commit crime, then spatial concentration can be reduced, thus helping reduce the incarceration rate of blacks. To be able to do this, it will require “an overdue and bold commitment from policy-makers at all levels to acknowledge and address the harm from institutional racism” (J. , 2018) These policy-makers must change something about the segregated school system. Even something that sounds as little as an inadequate education can lead to an increased crime rate and persist the lasting issue of minority-concentrated neighborhoods. Our youth is our future and they must be praised for doing good and properly equipped with everything they need.
Our youth is extremely important and the power of reducing black crime lies in the hands of them. As racism and hatred towards blacks persists, then blacks will remain a majority race in the judicial system. According to a study, “prosecutors are 75 percent more likely to charge Black defendants with offenses that carry mandatory minimums” (Roberts, 2004). Our court system is biased and poses a disliking of blacks. “implicit biases and stereotypes cause strong associations between minority individuals and criminal behavior” (Roberts, 2004) We need to raise our youth to see everybody the same. Nobody is born with hatred towards another race, it is inherited through learning and observing. If our youth is raised to see every race equally and on the same page, then they will be unable to have predisposed negative views towards blacks. If this were to happen and our court system inherits these now grown-up children, then the system will be less racially segregating, thus reducing the rate of incarceration of blacks.
The whole point I’m getting at here is that the power of reducing black crime lies in the hands of our youth. If they are not raised correctly with a proper education and proper parenting then they will be doomed to remain in the cycle of institutional racism. We need to focus more on the younger generations because they are the ones that are more likely to shift the future. Even in Asheville, there is a major problem with the segregation within the school system. Asheville schools, like Asheville City Schools are still under a desegregation order. Asheville City Schools’ Racial Equity Report Card shows that 60.6 percent of students in the district are white while black students make up 22.4 percent. Black students also receive 57 percent of all short-term suspensions, even though they make up such a small percentage of the student population. These suspensions do nothing but hinder a student’s ability to learn and succeed. It is all happening around us and we need to do something about it.
Child Welfare Information Gateway (U.S.),. (2015). Child welfare practice with families affected by parental incarceration.
Jargowsky, P. A. (2013). Concentration of Poverty in a New Millenium. Retrieved from https://tcf.org/assets/downloads/Concentration_of_Poverty_in_the_New_Millennium.pdf
J. (2018). Failing Brown Vs. Board. Retrieved from https://www.dropbox.com/s/f60dvoxk8ottjzz/Final Failing Brown v Board Abridged.pdf?dl=0
Roberts, D. E. (2004). The Social and Moral Cost of Mass Incarceration in African ... Retrieved from https://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1582&context=faculty_scholarship
Lochner, L., & Moretti, E. (2003, October). The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports. Retrieved from https://eml.berkeley.edu/~moretti/lm46.pdf
Martin, E. (2017, March). Hidden Consequences: The Impact of Incarceration on Dependent Children. Retrieved from http://www.nij.gov/journals/278/Pages/impact-of-incarceration-on-dependent-children.aspx
Project, Y. J. (2017). Racial Equity Report Card - Asheville City Schools. doi:10.18411/a-2017-023