Here’s a lesser-known red flag in the black community: the fastest growing incarcerated population in the country is African American girls and young women. What does not seem to be rising however, is the number of black girls who are actually committing crimes.
Not only is this baffling, it’s a hard-hitting problem as efforts to stop the mass incarceration of black girls are practically nonexistent. According to Barry Krisberg, Research and Policy Director at UC Berkeley’s Earl Warren Institute on Law, African American girls face brutality, emotional and sexual abuse once they are in the prison system.
Recently, the Thelton Henderson Center for Social Justice at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Law School moved to address the issue by hosting a free day-and-a-half conference, called “African American Girls and Young Women and Juvenile Justice System: A Call To Action.” The conference brought together academics and activist from across ages, race and class groups. Many of whom were formerly incarcerated.
Nikki Jones, a sociologist from UC Santa Barbara and Meda Chesney Lind, University of Hawaii, and attendee of the conference, has studied the statistics of imprisoned black girls for over 10 years and explained, “we have never seen these kind of numbers before,” reports EthnoBlog.
So far, the cause for this epidemic has been attributed to national zero tolerance policies and a justice system that treats girls of color differently than white girls.
Pricillia Ocen, one of UCLA’s Critical Race Studies professors, also points to the long-term effects of slavery and systems such as the chain-gang. But hasn’t that always been the case?
Let’s hope that the efforts of this conference and hopefully, other efforts to spark awareness, can help to get to the root of this problem and push the numbers down to a new all-time low.