Although America currently incarcerates a quarter of all prisoners in the world, people do nothing. 2.2 million citizens are missing from the nation, yet we see it as perfectly fine as these men, women, and children are criminals. Yes, they are criminals but they are also people. People who in our current prison system are being denied the basic human rights. Most prisoners are being tortured with solitary confinement, spending up to seven years with little to no human contact, with no way out.
There are a few reasons why racialized mass incarceration occurs and how it negatively affects poor black communities. Blacks are overly portrayed in jails and prisons. Bobo and Thompson stated that in 1954, 98,000 African Americans were in jail or prison. By 2002, there was an increase of 900%, 884,500 African Americans were in jail or prisons. In 2007, blacks made up 39% of detained males in prisons or jails however they make up 12% of the total adult male population.
The racial disparities in imprisonment have been felt the most by young African American males (Western and Pettit 2010). Males are a significant majority of the prison and jail populations, accounting for around ninety percent of the population (Western and Pettit 2010). Racial disparities in incarceration are astounding when one counts the men who have been incarcerated in their lifetime rather than those serving time on any given day (Western and Pettit 2002). For instance, in 1989, approximately two percent of white men in their early thirties had been in prison compared to thirteen percent of African American men in their early thirties (Western and Pettit 2002). These extreme racial disparities disproportionately affect communities of color and have significant collateral effects such as family stress and dissolution,
Peter Mosko, “an assistant professor of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice” (Frazier) stated, “America, with 2.3 million people behind bars, has more prisoners than soldiers” (Frazier). There have been studies that have shown “there are more men and women in prison than ever before. The number of inmates grew by an average of 1,600 a week. The U. S. has the highest rate of crime in the world” (Clark). Because of this influx in inmates, many prisoners’ rights groups have filed lawsuits charging that “overcrowded prisons violate the Constitution’s 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment” (Clark).
Our system is failing because “The U.S. prison population has more than quadrupled since the early 1980s: when mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drugs when into effect” (Borowski, 2016). this clearly depicts a failing system in need of reform. Millions of people are suffering due to a system that has been targeted at incarcerating people who commit low level crime or nonviolent crimes. We are truly living in a period of governance through crime which has only set fear on people and increase the prison population drastically. This system has been used since president Nixon took into office and instated his war on drugs that gave the birth to the huge problem of mass incarceration.
That is approximately 1.8 billion people that we have imprisoned with us each and everyday. Using the most recent data available, 753 per 100,000 people in the U.S. are in prison or jail. More than 3x higher than the next country with second highest. This billion-dollar industry has problems of its own and financial tolls on our economy. The state of life of prisoners, their well-being after their sentence, and the degrading economic standpoint on costs of maintenance contributes to the fact that we are living within a multi-faceted failing project.
The American prison system is one that can be viewed as extremely flawed. Our prisons are overcrowded, and our incarceration rate trumps all other nations in the world. However, crime rates have dropped in the past couple decades. Despite these drops, we still see a great deal of mass incarceration. In our correctional system, we fail to focus on rehabilitation for criminals, and reintegrating them back into society.
The term mass incarceration was coined by sociologist and historians to emphasize the increase of the number of individuals incarcerated in America's prisons in the past four decades. Since the beginning of the “war on drugs” and the passing of crime bills like The Anti-Drug Abuse Act and The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act incarceration rates have spiked. Mass incarceration can be attributed to the disproportionate amounts of minorities, particularly African American males being thrown into jail due to mandatory sentencing and the three strikes law, institutionalized racism and Americas broken judicial system.
There are many causes of prisons overcrowding, one is the harsh and biased policing. According to the Sentence Project, black men are six times more likely to be put in prison than white men and Hispanics are 2.4 times as likely (“Prison”). There are There are many people put in jail for minor crimes such as driving with a suspended license. The minimum amount of time is ninety days and the maximum amount is a year. Police are arresting people and putting them in jail for minor crimes like this one (Reinhart).
Not only does the United States incarcerate more people, but it also exposes more individuals to solitary confinement than any other nation. It is estimated that about 84,000 of those people are exposed to the harsh conditions of solitary in U.S. prison systems (Public). After a short period of time in segregation a person will start to disintegrate mentally and emotionally (Jeffreys). Over the past 150 years of research it has been concluded that any more than ten to fifteen days of segregation results in a distinct set of symptoms including emotional, cognitive, and social issues, causing “harmful psychological effects that can become irreversible” (Public and Lueders). A study done in 2013 gathered information from eighteen states and found that 3,100 inmates had been held in segregation for one or more years, including 200 inmates held in segregation for more than ten years (Lueders).