Thursday, December 9, 2010

More African American Men in Jail than in College?

A study shows that more black men in the U.S. today are in prison than in college. According to a BBC article, the number of black men in prison has also increased by five times over the past twenty years. U.S. government figures show that black people make up 46% of those incarcerated while whites make up 36%. At the same time, whites make up almost 80% of the total population of the United States while blacks make up only 12%.

A spokesman for the NAACP was quoted in the article saying: "It is a sad statement about our nation that it appears to be easier for governments to invest precious public dollars into the incarceration of African-American men than it is for them to invest in higher education." But what is the reason for this completely uneven distribution in incarceration rates between the races? It is argued that since the 1990s there has been a significant crackdown on crime. During George Bush Sr.'s term in office, the chances of being jailed for a drug crime rose from 15% to over 50%. Under the Clinton administration, financial incentives were offered to states to ensure that criminals did not serve less than 85% of their time. While these seem like positive incentives to be stricter on crime, the majority of the effect of these policies has fallen on the African American community.

An apparent reason for these incarceration rates is racial profiling by the police, meaning they already know what criminals they're looking for before they find them. If an officer goes on patrol in a rough inner city neighborhood, chances are that most people there will be minorities. Many who don't have other means to support themselves or their families may have had to turn to illegal activity because of lack of economic opportunities in their communities. While I'm not arguing that all criminals are only engaging in this activity because they have no other options for survival, it is a major contributing factor for many. Crime waves in minority areas are most likely due to lack of education and cycle of poverty due to the legacy of racism. The cycle will not be easily stopped either, if many African American fathers are not present in their children's lives because they have been imprisoned. And what if the punishment does not fit the crime? Often there are reports that the police will be stricter on minorities due to the above-mentioned racial profiling issue.

While the reasons for this overwhelming number of African- American men in prison can be varied and argued, I think it cannot be denied that this is a huge problem our society is currently grappling with that can find solutions by providing more educational opportunities that will then lead to economic ones.


1 comment:

  1. I don't necessarily agree that the absence of a father contributes to high incarceration rates, but the absence of a positive figure in general for children in the black community. Though fathers are important in a child's life, there have been many who have made something of themselves without a father. A positive and influential figure that is active in a child's life is important to their self-production and that can be anyone who is willing to take the time out to be somebody to that child.