The Social Issue of Racial and Mass Incarceration
Since the ancient times, justice system has tended to be more oppressive to individuals who are being considered as belonging to the ethnic minority. To date, people who are of different color continue being incarcerated and being sentenced at a very high rate. The incarceration based on the race is also reflected in terms of limiting the rights and entitlements for the individuals who belong to a different race. Ideally, this is a form of disfranchising some race and denying the disadvantaged such rights as the universal suffrage, access to basic facilities and other legal entitlements. All these problems arise from the stereotyping that has been accorded to certain races labeling them as being the most vulnerable individuals to engage in criminal activities. One of such group that has faced this racial oppression the African American born in the United States. The problem has spilled down to the incidences where out of 15 black men 1 expects to be incarcerated in the course of their life time.
Incarceration based on the color has been seen as a social problem. The problem has persisted despite the efforts that have been consolidated towards uplifting the individuals who have been seen as racially segregated. Some of the strategies that have been put in place include initiating affirmative action program and initiating programs that are meant towards embracing egalitarian democracy. In society the crime rates have been associated with individuals who are African Americans. The society labels all the Africa Americans as individuals who have loose morals and are in high likelihood of indulging in the sale of illegal drugs. As Alexander notes, the problem of race is more of what the society stereotypes and it has devastating consequences. Upon release, the incarcerated individuals are subjected to social torture as most of their rights are alienated from them. For instance, they are disallowed from participating in political decision, the jury argument are in their disfavor and the general society consider them as an outcast.
Victims of incarceration undergo through a lot of dehumanizing and humiliating experiences. They are often labeled as individuals who perpetuate all the disdains in the society, for instance, illegal drug trafficking. Furthermore, there are laws that are made specifically for the blacks. When one contravened the provision he or she was sentenced to imprisonment or fined heavily. Those who could not raise the required fine were released on debt. Upon the release, they would be sold into slavery for them to settle the debts. This indicates the heights of the social segregation that was subjected to the incarcerated individuals majorly owing to their race. Even the Thirteen Amendment of the U.S constitution in an indirect way allowed the harsh treatment directed towards the incarcerated individuals. According to the provision, slavery was allowed as a form of punishment that those who committed certain crimes would be subjected to. Impliedly, this targeted the blacks (Michelle p.31).
The argument detailing how the incarceration victims suffered is rightly placed. Since all these incidences used to happen during the infamous era of Jim Crow. The documentations done by the CIA indicates that most of the victims that were incarcerated during the time were not offenders but victims of the racial segregation that was so rampant at the time. Furthermore, those in the administration faulted the blacks as being the individuals who were responsible for their misfortune. For instance, West Virginia Senator, Robert Byard intimated that ‘’ if blacks conducted themselves in an orderly way, there will not have to worry about police brutality’’ (Michelle p.42). However, the sentiments are not true since there is no manifestation of how blacks were disorderly.
In his book, Alexander indicates how incarceration was seen as social problem. To some extents he appears to have succeeded since he describes the onset of racial segregation and how Civil Rights Movements came to being for the purpose of ending the vice. However, his misses the point when he argues that poverty was attributable to culture (Michelle p.45). This is not true since at the time of racial segregation, resources were unequally distributed and this was to the disadvantage of the blacks most of whom lived in poverty. Alexander, however, gives hope for the liberation when he gives a chronological strategy that was used during Reagan campaign period. Reagan is believed to a strong advocate for the rights of the blacks. On commencing his campaign. Reagan assured all people about equal protection regardless of their race (Michelle p.48).
The process incarceration presents with it few lessons. From the process, one can infer that the incarceration practice based on race is a thing that started during the old regime. Despite the relentless efforts the practice has continued prevailing in the American society and most blacks are the victims. Consequentially, this has led to the formation of the Civil Right Movements to champion for equality. However, less has been achieved in this fight.
I focused on the issue of education in prison. What I learned was that higher education in prison programs showed a reduction of an inmate repeating a crime which then translates into reductions in crime, savings to taxpayers and long-term contribution to the safety and well-being of the communities to which formerly incarcerated people return.
People who work in prison education programs reported noticeable improvement in general prison conduct and discipline. From research, there was a director from New York who noticed that disciplinary infractions went down among his students during the semester. Another Director talked about how incarcerated students policed themselves out of fear of permanently losing their prison education program. There was a statement that ‘changes in behavior can be attributed to improved cognitive capacity as well as to the incarcerated person having the opportunity to feel human again by engaging in an activity as commonplace as going to classes.’
Mass incarceration also tends to affect many aspects of our society. Children lose their parents to mass incarceration, which can affect the child’s life and lead to poverty or mental health issues. Communities that have high rate of mass incarceration experience first arrest as early as in their teens. 1 in 5 people serving in federal prison charged with drug offense. In addition, almost 3 percent of African American male U.S. residents of all ages were imprisoned in 2013. After being released many have a difficult time finding a job or even applying to one. We are still having difficulty understanding why we have more African American felons in prison for drug possession. Is it something we have to fix on the outside to prevent drug offenses from happening in general. Do we need to find a solution to get rid of drugs completely from the states, or do we need to act similarly to the Netherlands and allow people to use drugs in certain areas. In my opinion, it could possibly reduce the amount of drug incarceration but could increase in over doses or other violent crimes i.e. murder or robbery which still leads to imprisonment but for something other than just drugs. Should we keep the laws we have now but allow drug related prisoners be released on watch but be able to live in government rented apartments, still be able to see their families and work at public-serve jobs, and save money instead of keeping them in prison.
A key missing piece in some of these arrests is who did the arrest and what was the story of the person being arrested. It could be a racial issue, many African Americans who are non-drug users are afraid of the authorities. They are afraid that they might get in trouble for anything small just because of the color of their skin, that is a big issue we face today as well. The most important thing I have learned from this process is that everyone has their own opinion on how to deal with mass incarceration. There are different ways of what people think is right and wrong. I believe that our society should spend more time on this issue and come to a good conclusion where no one will be offended.
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