In an explosive new piece titled “Mass Incarceration’s Failure”, Antonio Moore.esq exposes that there has been a 500 percent increase in black males incarcerated since 1980, ballooning the number to over 800,000 inmates. That is an increase from an already astronomical number of 143,000 black men behind bars.
Note: ” that according to the sentencing project, “The number of women in prison increased by 646% between 1980 and 2010, rising from 15,118 to more than 205,000 women are now incarcerated including jail.” This number provides a measurement to understand the black male incarceration numbers in a social context. Because despite having a fraction of the overall population of women of all races combined, they had effectively 10 times the prisoners in 1980. Then those numerical differences were expanded upon when imprisonment exploded due to the “War on Drugs”.
The immense gap in levying of punishment plays a major role in our social decision of who is prone to criminal behavior, even before an act is ever committed. It effects who gets stopped and frisked allowing an officer to find their common possession level drug crime, and who does not. Who is seen as integral to the home as a parent and given probation, and who is not. Who is seen as safe, and who is not. Effectively, who is seen as a valuable part of our society, and who is deemed expendable. Imprisonment inequity is one of the foundational pillars of the American mass incarceration model. In a growing sense fairness for all seems more illusory than actual.
Part of the issue is our incarceration system is now burdened with quotas built into many private prison agreements with state governments. As shown in the piece, “Prison Quotas Push Lawmakers To Fill Beds”
Far from the exception, Arizona’s contractually obligated promise to fill prison beds is a common provision in a majority of America’s private prison contracts, according to a public records analysis released today by the advocacy group In the Public Interest. The group reviewed more than 60 contracts between private prison companies and state and local governments across the country, and found language mentioning quotas for prisoners in nearly two-thirds of those analyzed … Private prison corporations emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, at a time when crime rates were soaring and states were scrambling to keep up with surging prison populations. Lawmakers needed quick alternatives, and looked to private prisons as an overflow valve to house inmates who were overcrowding the existing state systems.
But as state prison populations have started to decline in recent years, advocates point to occupancy guarantees as long-term obligations that raise core questions about who benefits from the service: the state, or the prison contractor?
The problem is as a society we don’t commit enough crimes to service the prison population numbers that states agreed upon in these contracts. How did we get to the place we are at now? Where effectively, it has been deemed the lives of young Black men are the sacrificial lamb to cover the shortfall in these contractual prison debts that are now due.
The consequence that results socially due to these types of discrepancies in imprisonment also effect arrest, convictions, and sentencing adding another dimension to the problem. For our jury based system to work a reasonable amount of parity in treatment is needed, no matter if you are a 34 year old college educated white mother in North Dakota found with illegal prescription drugs, or a 20 year old high school educated black father in Alabama caught with a small amount of marijuana. Our system relies on an objectivity, that requires a semblance of fairness. From jurors deciding whether a crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt, to officers that apply standards of reasonable suspicion for a stop, or fear of imminent danger to justify the use of deadly force.
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