The Roots Of Mass Incarceration Essay

The Roots Of Mass Incarceration Essay

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The roots of mass incarceration go back to the time of slavery. In fact, this prison industrial system is just a new form of age old prejudice and racism. It is now a now a legal reincarnation of slavery in every sense of the word. This oppression can all be seen in the 13th amendment that abolished slavery, except for in the case of criminals. With this loophole, African-Americans were arrested during the Reconstruction Era and forced to rebuild the Southern economy and infrastructure. This lead to the introduction of the Jim Crow Laws. These were prejudice laws that renegated African-Americans to second-class citizens and violated their civil liberties. For nearly a hundred years, African-Americans were abused by the white majority; unable to vote, constantly lynched, and literally forced to sit in the back of the bus. Then with the explosion of mass media and awareness of the plight of African-Americans, public support for the Civil Right movement grew. Finally in 1964 when the Voting Rights Act passed and the condemnation of segregation, it finally seemed that African-Americans would inhabit their rightful place in society as full citizens with liberties. But in the 1970s, Nixon introduced a War on Drugs. This “war” was ostensibly fighting abusive drug use and drug traffickers, but really it just tore up the colored communities once again. Later, tapes of a Nixon policy advisor revealed this. He said that drugs were used by both the black and hippie communities at the time, so as a way to punish these groups, they would crack down on drugs and create a national fear of it. Unfortunately, this worked. By the end of the 1980s, the prison population skyrocketed; black men were 7 times overrepresented and the majority of these dr...


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...about the plight of black Americans has taught to be more aware of my privilege. Also, it has forced me to become more conscious about every decision and comment I make and how they could potentially impact other people. My perspective is extremely skewed when it comes to the penal system and law enforcement because I only know from my own interactions (or lack of interactions) with them.
I would like to know more about how we as a society can change our attitudes towards the criminalization of African Americans . How can I, as a white person attempt to help these people? Does this change in mindset begin with myself? Is legislation or general awareness an effective path towards combating mass incarceration? Looking into the future, what can we do as a society from allowing racism and racial prejudge to undermine our justice system and oppressing a group of people?

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