Terrifying statistics

I have been trying to form a blog post around this fact:

In the midst of a fiscal crisis, Maryland, like so many other states, simply can’t afford to spend such an obscene amount of money on corrections when viable alternatives exist. Maryland’s incarceration rate has tripled since 1980, disproportionately affecting communities of color. In Baltimore alone, more than half of African American men between the ages of 20 and 30 are under the control of the corrections system – most serving lengthy sentences for nonviolent offenses. Even after eventual release, the dark shadow cast by a criminal record leaves a large segment of Maryland’s population facing significant barriers to employment.

I wonder what I could say that would drive it home that this absolutely cannot be what our criminal justice system intended – this cannot be the outcome that legislators wanted when they dreamed up things like parole. Just writing it should do the trick, right?  You should get it, that this is a bad thing.  But the public is divided into two camps, those that are horrified (my choir) by this statistic and those that will think (and say to their spouse) things like “well, if black people didn’t commit all those crimes they wouldn’t be in jail”

I know there is a lot more to say, about justice and race and poverty and expectations.  But there isn’t time right now.  There are too many wrongs to bring to light.

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Posted in: Not Gulity No Way   |     |   One Comment

One Response

  1. David Kravitz - February 17, 2011

    Alarming, to say the least. Here are my [completely] unsolicited thoughts: It seems to me it isn't so much poor execution of the "system", but rather a fundamental shortcoming of the system. I'm certainly no lawyer, but it seems to me the system as written prosecutes individuals in accordance with the laws on the books, and if convicted, sentences the offended to the prescribed penalty. That part of the system seems to be working (i.e. offenders are being put in jail). So the problem isn't so much the execution of the system (though I am sure there are problems there, too), but the *intent* of the system. Jailing offenders for non-violent crime is simply not the most effective intent. It is certainly easier than attempting to dig into the socio-economic CAUSES of the crime in the first place, and most law makers are not equipped to go there anyway. So what do we do? We just keep executing the process over and over without questioning the effectiveness of the intent.

    It seems clear we collectively need to step back and re-evaluate the intent (or even spirit) of the laws, and in many cases the necessity of the law in the first place. Does it make sense to incarcerate non-violent offenders for $22K/year? Not if we can actually fund true rehabilitation programs for the same or less money. I would think the first hurdle is raising awareness, then finding a champion to actually work out the logistics of these true rehabilitation programs, then putting into law. Seems straightforward enough to me, yes overwhelmingly difficult to implement.

    It seems right now thousands of lives are being wasted, and these inner city men (and women) just don't stand a chance.

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