- The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population but nearly 25% of the incarcerated population of the world. Our prison population has increased 500% over the past 30 years.
- The U.S. imprisons more people than any other nation in the world – largely due to the War on Drugs.
- In 2012 there were 1.5 million drug arrests, and more than 80% were for possession only – not for selling drugs.
- Although rates of drug use are similar across racial and ethnic lines, black and Latinos are far more likely to be criminalized than whites.
- 75% of people in state prison for drug conviction are people of color although blacks and whites see and use drugs at roughly the same rate. In NYS, 94% of those imprisoned for a drug offense are people of color
- From 1997 to 2007 – in 10 years! -- the number of women in prison has increased by 832%
- Over the past two decades, state spending on prisons grew six times the spending of higher education
I could draw my own conclusions but I rather share the words of Nicholas Kristof (New York Times, Sunday, October 12, 2014.)
Those of us who are white and in the middle class rarely see this side of the justice system. The system works for us, and it’s easy to overlook how deeply it is skewed against the poor or members of minority groups.
Too many … accept a system that disproportionately punishes blacks and that gives public schools serving disadvantaged children many fewer resources than those serving affluent children. We are not racists, but we accept a system that acts in racist ways.
Whose to blame?
Some people think that the fundamental problem is young black men who show no personal responsibility, screw up and then look for others to blame. Yes, that happens. But I also see a white dominated society that shows no sense of responsibility for disadvantaged children born on a path that often propels them toward drugs, crime and joblessness; we fail those kids before they fail us, and then we, too, took for others to blame.
The truth is that injustice is easy not to notice when it affects people different from ourselves; that helps explain the obliviousness of our own generation to inequity to day. We need to wake up.
Together we have much work to do.
WHAT CAN YOU DO? First, Learn More, Then, get engaged.
Nicholas Kristof – When Whites Just Don’t Get It, N.Y.Times, Octo. 12, 2014
Read -- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Watch Bill Moyers & Michelle Alexander -- Locked Out of the American Dream
Read-- Marjory Jones inspiring story, Finding My Voice in Prison at www.Elder-Activists.org
VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND! Every community has a need for folks to help with parole preparation, prison education and legal services projects, amongst many others.