1 in 3 Black Men Will be Incarcerated in Their Lifetime

June 4, 2019

Unfortunately, one of the things that is well known about the United States (US) is that they have a very high prison population. In fact, the United States has 25% of the world’s prison population, just in this country alone. There are many theories behind why that is: including the War on Drugs, restrictive policing, that there is intrinsically something wrong or criminal about the American population, and that the prison system is racist. While there are some merit to all of these theories (maybe not that the American population is made up entirely of criminals), but the concept of the criminal justice system being inherently racist is a solid argument.

 

Photo: Emiliano Bar on Unsplash  

 

The problem with the criminal justice system is a very complicated and entangled issue. When looking at the criminal justice system, one must look at society as a whole. Society is set up to continue to push success for some and to stunt success for others.  This comes down, probably considering the US’s recent history in slavery, as a racist structure. Many African Americans in the United States have a difficult time finding ways to climb the social ladder, not because they are incapable, but because the system is created in a way so it is not easy for them to. When people are faced with the concerns of how to provide food, safety, and shelter for themselves and their families, they will go to any means necessary to do so. This is why some areas have such a high rate of crime or gang activity, because these are the areas that need the most help from society and their government, but these organizations are failing them, forcing them to survive in any means possible and punishing them for doing so.

 

There is a theory in criminology that explains this to some degree called “the broken windows theory”. The broken windows theory describes when an area may look run down, it will attract more crime because people are less likely to take care of something when it looks broken. The broken windows theory also explains that because the area looks broken and like there is crime already there, the police presence will be much higher. There is a stereotype that is created when police increase monitoring in who looks like a criminal, and that stereotype often is one based off of prejudice and racism.

Black men have the highest chances of being incarcerated and because of that, many black men feel like there is little to no point in beating that statistic. Due to this, society needs more than ever to take care of everyone. Black men are not only the most likely to be arrested and incarcerated, but they are also the population to most likely be shot by police officers.

 

While not every police officer is racist, there are definitely enough that are and it is becoming very apparent that there needs to be a change. Books like The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander and Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member by Sanyika Shakur explain what is it that black men have to live through on a daily basis, from the fear of incarceration and police to not knowing how they can legally provide for themselves. They also explain incarceration and the apparent racism in the system, during a time when people are claiming that “they do not see color” so they do not have to fix what is very clearly broken. This is not the case for every single black man in America, but it is the case for enough that we need to change our policies and stop consciously imprisoning a huge portion of our population. The American Dream that many black men experience is not the one that we, as a nation, boast about being able to offer people.

 

Elizabeth Coleman is a passionate writer from Massachusetts. She is twenty three years old and is currently working on her MS from Nova Southeastern University in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. She graduated last year from Keene State College with two BAs, one in Holocaust and Genocide Studies with a minor in history and the other in Criminal Justice Studies. Elizabeth loves to read, but her all time favorite book would have to be "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. In five years, Elizabeth hopes to be investigating extremism and hate groups in the United States. Elizabeth steps up for justice, equality, and making the world a bit better for everyone.

 

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