What does this mean for families?
Families are without one or both of their parents. Parents suffer the loss of their child. Brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces lack role models and support of family members.
When did this huge rate of incarcerations start?
High rates of imprisoning started with "The War on Drugs" during the Reagan administration. And like most wars - the perceived goal was and has not been realized ergo drugs and drug use were not reduced.
High rates of incarceration continued with the Clinton administration with its mandatory sentencing and its three strike rule.
To add insult to injury the following have also occurred:
- Private prisons also instituted under the Clinton years mean states are compelled to keep the prisons full in order for the private corporations make profits off of the their own form of slave labor.
- Plea bargaining seems to the the only way that public defenders have the time or the resources to help...even if the person is innocent!
- Unpaid court fees now can result in jail time until paid...I thought we had done away with debtors prisons...not when it comes to court fees.
- And when those in prison have served their time, they are to report on all employment and housing forms that they have been convicted of a crime. What kind of chance do they have then?
The poor are being targeted...especially Blacks and Latinos. Of the prison populations 40% are Black and 22% are Latinos although they only make up 12% and 17% of the populations.* Everything is stacked against the poor.
Who suffers as well as "those paying their debt to society"? Their families. Their communities. All of us.
Prisons costs $74 billion per year. After people have been removed from society and locked away, these people** return more broken than wen they went in. They can't find work but still have to pay court fees and housing and food...eventually so many break another law.
Poverty steers so many to breaking laws.
Poverty is like a neon sign for law enforcement to look for illegal activity.
Poverty prevents good legal counsel.
Poverty sends people to jail.
What about OUR debt to THEM? We yank families apart. We keep people poor with zoning laws, bad schools, not enough financial support, not enough health care support, name-calling, blaming, and tearing down self-esteem at such an early age.
If we value families then its time to not only rethink out justice system but also our economic system as well. It is time to call for change and actually do something. IF we are "family values" people.
*20% of Whites use all kinds of illegal drugs including hallucinogens while only 10% of Blacks and Latinos use illegal drugs.
**Ex-cons is a term we need to lose from our vocabulary.