All Articles Tagged "incarceration"
North Carolina is the only state in America that has an official review board for verifying the verdicts in cases in which the defendants maintain their innocence. Called the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, this three-judge panel reviews new testimonies and grants greater access to DNA evidence as part of its process. This is part of a new trend in the court system nationwide that seeks to address growing concern with wrongful convictions. Unfortunately, there is no such panel in Georgia, which could have intervened in the case of Troy Davis and saved his life.
The good news is that the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission has already released three men from prison who were wrongfully convicted. USA Today reports on the recent release of Kenneth Kagonyera and Robert Wilcoxson, who served ten years for a murder they didn’t commit:
The three-judge panel made its decision after seven days of testimony in the case against Kenneth Kagonyera, 31, and Robert Wilcoxson, 32.
Wilcoxson was the first to be released. He hugged his 10-year-old daughter, Taneea, and his father as he walked out of jail hours after the hearing. He left quickly, saying only that his plans for his first night as a free man in nearly a decade were simple. “Pray,” he said.
Kagonyera left jail hours later to applause and hugs and kisses from his mother and grandmother.
“It was a blessing,” he said. Kagonyera said he had prepared himself for the panel to rule against his claim though he tried not to dwell on the prospect of going back to prison. He said his plans are to “get a job, move on and put this behind me.”
“I am just so happy I don’t know what to say,” said Charlene Holmes, Kagonyera’s mother.
The hearing came after the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission in April found enough evidence to indicate the men were not guilty, including the confession of another man and DNA testing that pointed to other suspects.
The men had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the slaying of Walter Bowman in 2000, though they repeatedly claimed they were innocent. Their attorneys at the hearing said the men admitted to the murder to avoid life sentences.
(NBC Chicago) – The Chicago Public School system is spending approximately twice as much to educate students in the Cook County Jail as opposed to students in traditional schools. According to figures released by CPS, $7.5 million was budgeted to educate roughly 300 student-inmates at Consuella B. York Alternative school, housed within the confines of the jail. In some respects it’s like any other Chicago public high school. To enter, one must have an ID and walk through a metal detector. But once inside, the student body is captive and the teachers committed.
(Wall Street Journal) — Local officials in California are hastily assembling plans to squeeze thousands of criminals into their county jails and onto probation rolls, the first step in a massive shake-up of the state’s prison system. Over the next few years, county jails will see a flood of an estimated 75,000 inmates who would have previously gone to state prisons, while 26,500 would-be state parolees will now be supervised by county officers. The shift follows Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of a bill in April mandating the change. Set to go into effect in October, the change is meant to save money and reduce state-prison overcrowding, an especially urgent task after a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that California must shed thousands of inmates from its prisons. Now, local officials are scrambling. In coming weeks, Fresno County may reopen an entire closed floor of a jail, while Los Angeles County could hire hundreds of new probation officers. San Bernardino County plans to allow more home detentions.
Mayor Bloomberg has announced plans for a far-reaching program in New York City that will address persistent poverty, incarceration and unemployment among young black and Latino men. The programs, which will target this group starting in middle school, will be funded in part by $30 million from Bloomberg’s foundation and a matching grant from billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros. The remainder of the $130 million budget will be derived from city revenues.
Bloomberg is taking an aggressive stance against the pattern of failure in government agencies and schools to prepare young men of color for successful participation in public life. Through overhauling a host of agencies that until now have let these men slip into society’s margins, the mayor hopes to improve the lives of about 315,000 who typically go undereducated — ending up in a recurrent relationship with the prison system. The New York Times notes the detail of this revolutionary operation:
Starting this fall, the administration said it would place job-recruitment centers in public-housing complexes where many young black and Latino men live, retrain probation officers in an effort to reduce recidivism, establish new fatherhood classes and assess schools on the academic progress of male black and Latino students.
Mr. Bloomberg plans to announce the three-year program in a speech on Thursday morning in Manhattan, in which he will declare that “blacks and Latinos are not fully sharing in the promise of American freedom.”
Even as crime has fallen and graduation rates have risen in New York over the past decade, city officials said that black and Latino men, especially those between ages 16 and 24, remained in crisis by nearly every measure, including rates of arrest, school suspension and poverty.
The plan aims to go to young black and Latino men where they are by installing offices in centers where they normally receive free services. In addition, simple measures like encouraging them to get a driver’s license or state I.D. upon high school graduation will greatly increase their ability to apply for jobs. In a dramatic measure, schools will now be judged based on how well black and Latino men are educated. Failures to serve them could lead to school closings.
Participants in remedial studies will receive internships paying $7.25 an hour as an incentive to gain new skills. In addition, 900 mentors — many who were once troubled youths — will also be paid to inspire these young people to strive. Some believe the mayor could face resistance to funds being used to support such a specific sector of the population, with very little overt benefit to anyone else.
But there is a long-term benefit.
So you know that meme that has been making rounds about black men living longer in prison? Well, it has been bothering me all week, but probably not for the reasons which the study might have been bothering you all.
The study, originally published by Reuters, compared North Carolina prison records with state death records from 1995–2005 to estimate all-cause and cause-specific death rates for black and white male prisoners ages 20−79 years. The findings suggest that black inmates were between “30 and 40 percent less likely” to die of certain causes than those who weren’t incarcerated.
According to Reuters, incarcerated black men “seemed to be especially protected against alcohol- and drug-related deaths, as well as lethal accidents and certain chronic diseases” and were less likely to die of diabetes, airway diseases, accidents, suicide and murder than men on the outside.
That story is now everywhere. There has not been a black blog which hasn’t covered the topic extensively. Naturally, the findings were viewed with both disappointment and welcome by bloggers and media outlets, including the NY Daily News, which couldn’t help but deliver this inflammatory lede: “Forget diet and exercise: A surprising new study says prison can actually extend the life-span of black men.”
The whole thing stinks to high heaven for me, particularly since the week before we had to hear about Michelle Bachmann endorsing a marriage pledge suggesting that “blacks were better off in slavery.” Call it poor timing or me just being overly sensitive, but both leave room for racist, stereotypical and irresponsible conclusions that blacks, in particular black men, are better off locked away or in subjugated positions than they are free. To that I say, no mas.
So I search for the original study thinking that there had to be a flaw in the methods or measurements. The study, entitled “All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality Among Black and White North Carolina State Prisoners, 1995–2005″ is available online for $31 bucks or through a subscription to Anals of Epidemiology Journal. Since I don’t have either, I checked out the original abstract, which has a slightly, but noticeably, different conclusion than the one drawn by Reuters and other media outlets.
According to the abstract, “The mortality of black prisoners was lower than that of black state residents for both traumatic and chronic causes of death. The mortality of white prisoners was lower than that of white state residents for accidents but GREATER for several chronic causes of death.” Furthermore, the study reveals that “the all-cause SMR [standard mortality rate] of white prisoners was 1.12 (95% confidence interval, 1.01−1.25) with fewer deaths than expected for accidents but more deaths than expected from viral hepatitis, liver disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, and HIV.”
Wait, incarcerated white men are more likely to die of chronic diseases – including viral hepatitis, liver disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, and HIV — in prison than they are on the outside? Surely it is equally shocking that in the same penal system which seems to be benefiting black men and their health so handsomely, has been a dismal failure for their white counterparts. So why was this part of the story left out? Moreover, why was it less headline-worthy?
In fact, in the second to last paragraph in the Reuters article was this line: “For white men, the overall death rate was slightly higher — by about 12 percent — than in the general population, with some of that attributed to higher rates of death from infection, including HIV and hepatitis. When the researchers broke prisoners up by age, death rates were only higher for white prisoners age 50 and older.” So does that mean that for white inmate under 50 their life expectancy in prison is lower than the general white male population? If so, wouldn’t that be aligned with the general conclusion of the findings for black men?
As we already know race is inflammatory and when it comes to statistics, it’s not the numbers, but how they are spun, which matters most. To draw a concrete conclusion we have to be able to consider all variables including the length and time of prison stay, the average age of the prisoner and the overall health condition of these inmates at the time of their admittance – just to name a few. And until that study is released in full, we are not going to know those answers, nor will we be able to compare those findings with similar or contrary studies.
In this instance, when we focus on race, without any review of other variables, we get provocative headlines like, “Black Men Survive Longer in Prison,” which only seem to fan the flames of one’s own prejudices. Even the study’s own authors aren’t ready to declare much, other than to say that, “Future studies should investigate the effect of prisoners’ preincarceration and in-prison morbidity, the prison environment, and prison health care on prisoners’ patterns of mortality.” This is not to say that the study might not be legitimate, but from the very narrow scope of how the findings are presented in the mainstream media, I can only surmise that the view we are currently being presented is skewed.
File this under information we’d rather not discover: according to a new study conducted on North Carolina inmates, Black men live longer in prison than they do outside of prison. In essence, the survival rate of Black males is actually improved by prison. Wait til the Tea Party gets ahold of these findings.
The study dealt with 100,000 male prisoners between 20-79 in North Carolina prisons between 1995-2005 – 60 percent of the prisoners were black. Within prison, less than one percent of the men died and there was no difference in the death rates of black men and white men. But outside of prison, the statistics varied greatly as Blacks have a much higher rate of death at any age, than white males.
“[Black men] were less likely to die of diabetes, alcohol- and drug-related causes, airway diseases, accidents, suicide and murder than black men not in prison,” according to Reuters.
The access to healthcare was a big variable in survival rates. “Ironically, prisons are often the only provider of medical care accessible by these underserved and vulnerable Americans,” Hung-En Sung of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York told Reuters.
The findings of the study are bleak but may lead to greater improvements in healthcare. If prisoners are better off in prison, then what does that say about the conditions plaguing low-income communities and the services being offered to people of color?
Graham Boyd in (2001) asserted that the “war on drugs” is the New Jim Crow. His use of this metaphor is to illustrate the erosion of rights African Americans are subjected to under this pernicious campaign. Moreover, many of the same rights fought for during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and the 19th Century by the abolitionist are being fought today because of this campaign Boyd opines. He predicted that by the year 2017, more black men would be under bondage than they were during the zenith of slavery in 1860. Michele Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow has been quoted as saying more black men are in prisons, probation and parole than they when they were enslaved. Her statement appears to confirm Boyd’s prediction.
Much has been made in regards to the inimical impact hyperincarceration has on the African American community, especially the impact on African American males. Michele Alexander builds on the earlier work of Graham Boyd and offers an interesting line of reasoning in regards to the impact incarceration has on the African American community. When she characterizes mass incarceration as a racial caste system, she inserts a different and interesting viewpoint, which has not been explored to the degree her new tome has forced scholars to examine. This caste system she defines is one where the stigmatized group is relegated to serfdom as a result of law and custom according to her. She goes on to aver that the residual affects of incarceration locks incarcerates out of mainstream society and the economy.
Both authors make excellent cases in regards to how the prison system resembles Jim Crow in the way it circumvents rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Additionally, they both underscore how incarceration decreases life chances for gainful employment, successful college matriculation and a host of other life enhancing opportunities averted once ensnared by the criminal justice system. However, I assert that they have placed the cart before the horse and have failed to credit the educational system with being the most salient reason for a permanent racial caste in the United States. Lack of education is the gateway to a lifetime of limited opportunities and a pathway to prison and poverty.
The educational system creates the caste system and prepares students for incarceration by reproducing social inequality via cultural and structural mechanisms, which researchers such as Ewert and others have demonstrated.
School practices such as tracking hamper future social and economic mobility. A byproduct of tracking is decreased skill level and low educational attainment, both salient factors in regards to contact with the criminal justice system. Educational attainment enhances occupational mobility and mitigates disadvantaged background and in many instances provides an upward path toward economic and social mobility. As a result, we should treat the symptom of incarceration and not the cause of hyperincarceration.
I strongly believe that the African American community should focus its energy on improving the educational system before attempting to get laws changed to mitigate the collateral consequences of a felony conviction. Why? Because researchers have found that schools socialize students to assume their position in the class structure through a myriad of mechanisms according to Ewert (2010) et al. The authors, along with various other researchers, “contend that schools reflect the occupational structure and expectations found in society.” Thus, the underclass is prepared by the educational system to remain in the underclass and the mechanisms used to maintain their mediocrity are tracking, socialization and inadequate school funding.
Many authors have shown the link between lack of educational attainment and contact with the criminal justice system. Tracking, dropout, carve-out, and push-out mechanisms are the real culprits in creating fodder for the criminal justice system. As iterated, years of research have unequivocally established a connection between education, employment and criminal involvement. Furthermore, the inability and unwillingness of the government and schools to educate students has led to an unprecedented number of dropouts.
The Center for Labor Studies at Northeastern University found that “nearly twenty-three percent of all young Black men ages 16 to 24 who have dropped out of high school are in jail, prison, or a juvenile justice institution in America.” The dropout problem is worse than we realize because the Current Population Survey which does not count the incarcerated population underestimates the dropout rate among African American males by as much as 40% according to Ewart and others.
So when you consider that fifty-four percent of the nation’s dropouts ages 16 to 24 were jobless on an average month during 2008 and you consider the link between educational attainment and contact with the criminal justice system, reforming the educational system has the most potential to mitigate the impact of mass incarceration on the African American community and provide a pathway to economic and social mobility.
Byron E. Price is an Associate Professor of Political Science in the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University and the author of Merchandizing Prisoners: Who Really Pays for Prison Privatization?
According to the Sentencing Project, more than 60 percent of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. Of black males at least 20 years of age, 1 in every 8 is in prison or jail on any given day. Given the disproportionate number of black males incarcerated, it begs the question of why are so many black men the targets of the prison industrial complex. A corollary question is in order here: is there a motive behind keeping black men in prison?
One explanation to illustrate a motive as to why black men are disproportionately incarcerated is social control theory. Social Control theorists contend that when social constraints on antisocial behavior are weakened or absent, delinquent behavior emerges. An example of social constraints and how the state exerts power is the New York City Police Department practice of racial profiling documented by Bob Herbert of the New York Times.
He found that minorities were involved in 84 percent of the stops made in regards to police looking for weapons, drugs, and other illegal antisocial acts blacks are perceived to engage in. Moreover, racial profiling by NYC Police Department underscores the strength of the state and is an example of how state power serves as a deterrent to crime–NYC cites that crime has steadily gone down as a result of the state exerting its power. In addition, the reduction of crime is used to justify the criminalization of black males and the over incarceration of black males.
Another reason black males are cannibalized by the prison industrial complex is the need of the capitalist system to exploit labor—black labor has been the labor of choice for exploitation since the founding of the United States. Blackmon, in his book Slavery By Another Name, does a yeomen’s job explaining this forced labor black men were subjected to once they were freed. Today’s over-incarceration of black males is a continuation of capitalistic practices looking to exploit black labor.
Most of us are not aware that the prison system, as we know it, did not develop until black slaves were manumitted. Once they were freed, the South needed to recapture the free labor black male slaves provided. Thus, the invention of the current day prison system was born.
In the year 1820, there were 783,781 black males enslaved providing free prison labor and in the year 2000, there were 792,000 black males incarcerated providing free prison labor. Ironically, black males while incarcerated work for Fortune 500 companies such as Dell etc., but once released, the felony conviction precludes them from gaining meaningful employment. Now consider the year 1860, the zenith of slavery. In 1860, 1,981,395 black males where under labor bondage and juxtapose this to the year 2017 when 1,999,916 black males will be incarcerated. According to Graham Boyd (2001), author of the Drug War Is the New Jim Crow, by 2017, 1,999,916 black males will be incarcerated and they will be under labor bondage and will receive no compensation for their labor although it is contracted out to multinational corporations—see Figure 1 for computation of inmate population for 2017.
Taken together this research strongly suggests black males have been targeted for their labor. Moreover unbeknownst to many is that the custodians of black male labor–the prison system and for-profit prison corporations–make billions of dollars off their labor. Sadly, many states have not set a fair wage standard to govern prison wages and employment. Wages in prisons can range from $.50 cents an hour to $2.00 an hour. There is something patently wrong with this arrangement. This is a modern version of slavery and the basis for intergenerational cycles of penury.
Consider an aside here: Karl Marx characterizes the oppressed as the surplus population—in this discussion it connotes the black male population. The continuous exploitation of black male labor is state-sanctioned dehumanization. The prison system, the state apparatus is sine qua non in capturing black male labor for capitalist production. Sadly, forced slavery is sanctioned by Section 1 of the 13th amendment which reads as follows: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
The final motive in regards to keeping black men in prisons is a product of elite deviance, which uses state power to maintain the status quo instead of dealing with social problems which are byproducts of inequality. Instead of dealing with the poor and oppressed, they are incarcerated so we do not have to deal with the issues they create as a result of their social conditions. Black men are viewed as incorrigible reprobates unworthy of rehabilitation. Given the perceived threat of black men to the superstructure, fake campaigns such as the war on drugs and get tough on crime will continue the criminalization of an ever widening range of social problems for the sake of exploiting black male labor. Politicians are more interested in militarizing the police, building prisons as opposed to providing quality education for every child, creating jobs which provide livable wages, and developing an intelligent sound public health response to drug abuse.
Byron E. Price is an Associate Professor of Political Science in the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University and the author of Merchandizing Prisoners: Who Really Pays for Prison Privatization?
(Cleveland Plain Dealer) — For nearly 10 years, Augustus Turner had a lot of time to ponder an American dream that he refused to believe was out of reach because of a big mistake and a permanent label.
He knew the odds weren’t good. Although 97 percent of prisoners are eventually released, only 53 percent find work, and a far smaller share start their own businesses.
“What I learned from the streets is how to hustle,” said Turner, 39. “You can dream. You can pray. It all starts there. But you have to actively make it happen.”
In Washington, D.C., if you’re indigent and Black you are more likely to end up in the judicial system, according to a report released July 27 by the Justice Policy Institute.
“Capital Concern: The disproportionate impact of the justice system on low-income communities in D.C.,” is a fraction of a nationally-focused report on the intersection of race, poverty and criminal justice to be released later this fall. The District report also showed what seemed to be a mismatched allocation of funds relative to the areas of need.