Mass Incarceration. The New Jim Crow. The War on Drugs. Thanks to Professor Michelle Alexander these phrases are now intimately linked in the minds of social justice advocates and faith leaders as we begin a critical struggle for fairness, justice and human rights in the criminal courts, police precincts and prisons of America. The Next Movement is convinced that America can do better, and that the majority of Americans would want us to do better, if they knew the truth. The truth about systemic incarceration, structural second class status, completely uneven law enforcement practices, oppressive and selectively enforced laws that is filling the prisons of America.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

If Only Common Sense Weren’t So Uncommon . . .

This is not the way to create safe communities

Once again, the public is subjected to totally thoughtless commentary from people to whom we entrust our safety, and general quality of life. Once again, a politician is putting forth policy ideas that if implemented would be incalculably worse than the problem they are seeking to solve. Once again, for want of a headline, a completely senseless proposal is getting attention it does not deserve, wasting resources we can’t afford, and misleading the public.

We were utterly disappointed in Senator Mark Kirk’s bizarre solution to the gang and gun violence problem we have in Chicago. We are revolted by the senseless violence and deaths that have plagued some of our communities, but the idea to lock up 18,000 members of one particular gang as a solution is thoughtless, simplistic, and devastatingly wasteful. 

You lock up 18,000 black men and then what? Most certainly, any gaps in the drug trade would be immediately filled either by “dealers in training” or the competition, and most likely spur a new round of competitive warfare; ultimately, our communities would be less safe, less stable, and less livable.

For all of that “less,” it will certainly cost more. In fact, the $30 million that Senator Kirk has requested is a rounding error compared to the $810 million it will cost to imprison that many people.

It is sad and disturbing that Senator Kirk and his staff appear to have done no research on this issue — not with the leading academics, not with the local politicians, not with the communities. It seems the best we can hope is that this is somehow a ploy to bring attention to this problem.  

What we suggest is that the $30 million dollars (money he plans to request from Congress) be combined with Mayor Emanuel’s $50 million dollars (the amount he hopes to raise through the Chicago Public Safety Action Community Fund) and redirect it to projects and programs that do make our communities safer, by creating opportunity for young men and women who otherwise would work in the underground drug economy: job training, jobs, education, behavioral health services (including drug addiction services), and other community-based services.  

While we are a bit encouraged by his meeting with Congressman Rush and a fresh commitment to engage the community on the issue of public safety, the danger is that this was merely a face-saving tactic. In the coming days, we will also seek to meet directly with Senator Kirk to offer our suggestions for real solutions to our community’s issues.

For now, please take a few minutes to write and send a letter to Senator Durbin (or call), and encourage him to skip the inflammatory rhetoric and focus on community focused solutions:

Senator Mark Kirk 524 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC, 20510 202-224-2854

Dr. Patricia Simples
Daryle Brown
The Next Movement committee

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