Uncle Sam wants YOU in jail

Too many black folks behind bars is not a new story, but it is a story that bears repeating – loudly – for as long as this insanity persists.

Earlier this year the Pew Charitable Trusts published a report that earned some attention from the New York Times because the report showed that 1 in 100 adult Americans – actually 1 in 99.1 adult Americans – is behind bars. This marks the first time in the nation’s history that America has had this many of its own locked up.

We’re Number ONE! Yeah, baby! Yeah!

Whoops. Sorry. Reflex.

Anyway, the report states the following, for those of you unfamiliar with the grim realities of Uncle Sam’s paradise:

“The United States incarcerates more people than any country in the world, including the far more populous nation of China. At the start of the new year, the American penal system held more than 2.3 million adults. China was second, with 1.5 million people behind bars, and Russia was a distant third with 890,000 inmates, according to the latest available figures. Beyond the sheer number of inmates, America also is the global leader in the rate at which it incarcerates its citizenry, outpacing nations like South Africa and Iran. In Germany, 93 people are in prison for every 100,000 adults and children. In the U.S, the rate is roughly eight times that, or 750 per 100,000.”

Moving right along , it comes as no surprise that America’s overall incarceration rate actually looks fairly reasonable when compared to the percentage of African Americans and Hispanics behind bars. According to this same study, as reported in the Times:

“Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34.

“The report, from the Pew Center on the States, also found that only one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 are behind bars but that one in 100 black women are.”

One in ten black men between the ages of 20 and 34…

One in 15 black adults…

The raw data, although easy enough to tabulate, doesn’t begin to reflect the reality of the sheer havoc those numbers wreak upon a community. Let’s say a community like Detroit, where more than 85 percent of the population is African American. And where roughly one-third of the population lives below the poverty line, which makes us the poorest big city in America.

Any idea how many young brothers out here can’t get a job because of their priors? Or how many will never be out here again because of their priors? Or how many are either on their way to – or on their way back to – the Big House and aren’t even phased in the least by the journey because by now this is a way of life? In a city like Detroit, the figures provided by this report essentially mean that every resident who calls Detroit home has either spent time behind bars or, more than likely, someone in their family has. If not family, then close friends. But with numbers like one in 10, you don’t have to reach that far outside of family to feel the bars closing in.

And since this is family we’re talking about, then it seems we as family are the only hope that’s left. I wish I could imagine some new and creative way to say what’s already been said so many times, but right now being super creative isn’t the necessary goal. The goal is to turn this thing around before it turns us inside out, or at least more inside out than we already are.

This is our family we’re talking about. If we don’t reach out, who will?

If not us, then who?

If not us, then who?

SHAMELESS PLUG: Read my wife’s blog @ http://thedspotredeux.blogspot.com


~ by Keith A. Owens on August 7, 2008.

2 Responses to “Uncle Sam wants YOU in jail”

  1. I remember hearing about how America has most of their people behind bars. I believe that it is the coming of our government turning to communism. They are dumbing down our general population thus making it easier to be a criminal and never leaving the never ending cycle. Also if you have a chance look up how many of the “crimnals” are in there for drug charges, there are more people in jail or prison for marijuana than murder, rape, and robbery (I think) combined. Its ridiclous and it needs to stop! People need to educate themselves and then their neighbors and help reduce this problem, then we need to turn and reduce the complete power of our government, its there for US not us for them! Power to the People!

  2. Karo,

    Thanks so much for that detailed and thoughtful response. I hope to see you back at the D Spot soon!

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