Racism is alive and well… and so is fighting it (part 2)

http://www.seeingblack.com also contained the following info:

“2.4 Million Now in Federal and State

Statistics from the Justice Department show that nearly 2.4 million people were incarcerated in state and federal prisons at the end of last year.  Another 5 million people were on parole or probation.  This means that about one in every 31 adults in the United States were in prison, in jail, or on supervised release at the end of last year.  According to an analysis of the data by the Sentencing Project, the data reflects deep racial disparities in the nation’s correctional institutions. A record 905,000 African-Americans are now being held in prison. In several states, incarceration rates for Blacks were more than 10 times the rate of Whites.”

Also according to the Sentencing Project “More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For Black males in their twenties, 1 in every 8 is in prison or jail on any given day.  Because of laws that prohibit voting by people with felony convictions an estimated 13% of Black men are unable to vote.”

Sadly, the connections between racism and the criminal injustice system are endless! A short free association of the words “Criminal Justice System and Racism” with a friend brought up the following: racial Profiling, “driving while black”, harsher treatment by police for people of color, Jena 6, the death penalty disproportionally used when victims are white or perpetrators are not, “a jury of your peers” (provided your peers are white, middle class and live in the suburbs), mandatory minimum sentencing…  … the list goes on and on Not convinced racism has anything to do with it? Consider the following:

·         According to an article in the Los Angeles Times on December 3, 2007 (Jury under justices’ scrutiny by Henry Weinstein) In 2003, the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Center  released a study of 390 trials and more than 13,000 potential jurors, showing that over a nine-year period Jefferson Parish prosecutors used peremptory strikes to throw blacks off juries more than three times as often as whites.

·         Look at the prior difference in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine offences. A single gram of crack cocaine had triggered the same punishment as 100 grams of powder cocaine. Crack penalties had been as much as eight times longer than those for powder cocaine And while there has been some movement and much hope with the recent Supreme Court cases, and changes to sentencing guidelines that went into effect Nov. 1st’ there is still the question of if those already in prison will get a break. According to a Nov. 20th article in The Detroit Free Press it could mean earlier freedom 19,500 federal prisoners, 86% of whom are African American

 ·         School-zone drug laws state if you are caught selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school zone, you will experience a mandatory or enhanced penalty. The problem with this law, according to Marc Maurer, executive director of the sentencing project is that there that are not within 1,000 feet of a school zone, so “urban offenders and more subject to the penalties than suburban.”  There is also nothing in the law that distinguishes sales to consenting adults outside times the school is being used, and selling to the school children.

Now I’ll grant that this post is not a particularly deep analysis of the issue. But, it does seem more than obvious even without that deep analysis – something is wrong. And things must be change.

As with my earlier post on racism – this reality makes me want to curl up under the bed and moan.  But, also like “part 1” it can be a call to action…

So…Check out….

http://www.sentencingproject.org/Issues.aspxSeeingBlack.com

http://www.colorofchange.org/jena/ 

http://www.aclu.org/crimjustice/index.html

And/or some of the other fantastic resources out there…

And do something to fight racism in the criminal injustice system!  Become a court watcher, write congress and tell them to restore voting rights to former prisoners, confront racial profiling, push for the changes in crack cocaine sentencing guidelines to be retroactive…baby steps or big steps… we can all do something.     

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