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.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Evidence is one thing, Fighting is the right thing

A good friend and mentor, Howard Saffold (a founder of the Negro Patrolman's League and CEO of the Positive Anti-Crime Trust), once forwarded to me a wonderful report, The Adoration of the Question: Reflections on the Failure to Reduce Racial & Ethnic Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System. The actual report deals with challenges to move from theory to action, from minor tinkering to real transformation, in the obvious and clearly unjust racial and ethnic disparities in our juvenile justice system, but the first part of the title, "The Adoration of the Question," has stuck with me through the years as the reams of studies have been developed on the issue of mass incarceration, but the will of our politicians, and our people, seems unmotivated to act.

This editorial in the NYTimes is another high profile call for an end to America's epidemic of mass incarceration. Motivated by a 444 page report from the National Academy of Sciences, The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences - yet another treatise on this issue - they quote the usual statistics (2.2 million incarcerated Americans, disproportional effects on black, brown and poor, nearly 160,000 people serving life sentences) and some new ones ($80 billion a year spent on direct corrections costs). They also mention a report by Human Rights Watch, Nation Behind Bars: A Human Rights Solution, and a particular quote:

. . . while prison should generally be a last resort, in the United States “it has been treated as the medicine that cures all ills,” and that “in its embrace of incarceration, the country seems to have forgotten just how severe a punishment it is.”
With Professor Angela Davis' book, Are Prisons Obsolete?, from 2002, and Professor Michelle Alexander's more recent book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness, and the many other books, research reports, editorials, documentary films, etc., that describe and inform on the subject of prison and mass incarceration, the depth and damage of this humanitarian nightmare is clear.

What is needed now is not more Adoration of the Question, but more action!

There are organizations spouting up in cities across America focused on ending the mass incarceration epidemic, ending the drug war, making sense of our sentencing laws, and reestablishing mental health treatment capacity in this country.  If you are in Chicago, join us, The Next Movement. If you are anywhere else in the country, look for a Campaign to End The New Jim Crow, or contact us to help locate an organization in your area.

Stop adoring and start fighting.

A luta continua,

Daryle Brown

No comments:

Post a Comment