African Americans Mass Incarceration

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For this paper I will be researching how the African American family is impacted by mass incarceration in the United States and how in turn this exposes the American ideal of equality as a myth. This is an increasingly pressing topic to discuss because of the abnormally high rates of incarceration among African Americans and the consensus among experts of its negative impacts on said community. It is vital that policymakers understand the consequences as well as the reasons for high incarceration rates in the African American community in order to formulate their judicial responses accordingly.

The article by Western and Muller builds the foundation for my research by presenting the macrosociological impacts of mass incarceration on different minority communities and the poor. From here the research of Smith and Hattery and Perry and Bright narrow the scope of research of Western and Muller by analyzing the individual experiences of different members of the African American family (mothers, children, and fathers). By drawing connections between these three articles, I can simultaneously identify the effects incarceration has on the individual and their family, while also pinpointing the ways in which larger forces, such as the idea of power examined in the article by Perry and Bright, keep the African American community as a whole at a lower socioeconomic status than their white counterparts.

This paper’s goal is to lead me toward a deeper understanding of how mass incarceration impacts African Americans on the individual level, as well as how it contributes to overall systems of oppression that keep the entire racial group unequal to the majority in the United States. I move closer to achieving this goal by analyzing the research of Muller and Pettit, who extend the individual research of the previously aforementioned sources by identifying the “intergenerational” impacts of incarceration and the production of a “new social group” whose singular experiences and relationship with their overall society is negatively impacted by the context of their unique identity (Muller, Petit). This presents a turning point in my research as it brings my argument to the forefront and forms direct ties between incarceration and social inequality. By doing so I am able to support my claim that equality in America is a myth with the reasoning of the relation between mass incarceration and social inequality. I am able to use this stage of my research as a jumping off point to where I can support my reasoning with statistical and sociological evidence which will support my overall claim as well.

The specific research conversation of mass incarceration I am entering has been in discussion for the past few decades. On one hand this works to my advantage, as the amount of research on this topic is far from lacking. On another hand this might be in itself a disadvantage as the sheer amount of research available to me might present its own challenges. Considering this fact, I will approach my research through the limited lens of how mass incarceration impacts African American families and, in turn, the African American community as a whole. My own experiences as a family member to someone who has experiences incarceration gives me a unique perspective into this issue, but only into the overarching issue of the effects of incarceration and not into the specific issues facing the African American family which I hope to uncover after further research.

I have found interesting connections between how individuals are affected by incarceration and how the entire community is impacted by incarceration, which changes my approach to this paper and gives me a clear direction in which I would like to push my research. As I delve into further research for this topic, the sources begin to build upon each other, extending the ideas of one another to form a conversation that assures the validity of my thesis. For one example, Smith and Hattery begin the conversation of the consequences of the removal of African American fathers from the community has on their partners, children, and extended family. The article by Ruiz continues the research of Smith and Hattery by examining the impacts the removal of the mothers from the household on the children and grandparents in the community. In conjunction with each other, the research in both articles extend one another and provide me invaluable perspectives on the issue at hand.

A variety of sources is essential to explore the topic of mass incarceration. I plan to use an equal mix of printed and electronic scholarly resources as the foundation of my project. The use of scholarly resources is vital as this conversation pertains to racial inequality, which can be influenced too easily by racial biases and false statistics in non-scholarly circles. Of the resources I have selected so far, the two I have found most useful in constructing my argument have been the articles by Perry and Bright and Smith and Hattery. The latter partnership of writers present an article explaining the impacts on the individual from incarceration and began to examine the effects on the African American family itself. The article by Perry and Bright pick up where this article leaves off and presents statistics and theories about the impacts mass incarceration has on the family as well as the African American community.

Together these two sources lay the groundwork for my argument as they examine the singular as well as the plural in relation to my topic for this research paper. Their information is expanded upon in the article by Western and Pettit that looks at the discussion of incarceration on a macrosociological level. One source I am hesitant to use because of its questionable pertinence to the issue is a primary source in my family. My brother was incarcerated, and although he is not African American, I would be very interested to hear his experiences leaving prison and reentering into the overall society to get even the foundation of a perspective to how difficult it would be for a group of people who are facing still more challenges. This primary source would be supplemented by the article by Raphael which examines current systems of reentry into the overall community by those previously incarcerated. From here I would gather further statistical evidence in the pursuit of the larger conversation of rehabilitation and reentry programs back into African American communities post incarceration

One of the main challenges I anticipate with my research for this project will be finding studies that examine the issue of mass incarceration on a long-term scale. Although this issue has been ongoing for the past few decades, its extent has only become apparent in the modern era looking back on patterns of incarceration. I hope to resolve this specific issue by pulling information from the extensive research done over the past decades to identify and describe connections between them all. Another issue I predict when approaching my research is the lack of long-term studies focusing on the impacts that incarceration has on the children of those incarcerated. I am incredibly lucky to work at a community college library, where I am given access to their large collection of scholarly databases in addition to the ones provided by UCSD, which will undoubtedly help me find pertinent resources for my particular project. My topic for this paper was also a challenge that developed over a long period of time, transforming first from an examination of celebrity culture, to the myth of reform in American prisons, to finally a study of the impacts of incarceration on the African American family. Finding enough resources for any research project is always a difficulty, so this is also a fear in the back of my mind.

Thankfully, there are many resources available to me for solving the problems I mention above. For one, I can visit the office hours of our MUIR 125 professor Amy Forrest to narrow or expand my research scope and point me in the right direction. I also can visit the numerous labs and tutoring centers on campus that can provide guidance for the polishing of my essay and feedback on its overall comprehensiveness. The UCSD library website, as well as other local libraries that I belong to also have resources for me to use when it comes to research, such as the Ask a Librarian feature on UCSD’s website. Using this feature, I can communicate directly to a librarian and receive assistance in researching my topic and perhaps even connecting my sources together. One of the other ways in which I can help myself find more resources and further expand upon the ideas in the different texts is by paying attention to the key words used in different articles and finding common ones that I can use to find further research. The final resource I can utilize when writing this paper are my fellow classmates that I can learn from in the workshopping exercises for this course.

Works Cited Page

  1. Perry, Armon R., and Mikia Bright. “African American Fathers and Incarceration: Paternal Involvement and Child Outcomes.” Social Work in Public Health, vol. 27, no. 1/2, Jan. 2012, pp. 187–203. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/19371918.2011.629856.
  2. Raphael, Steven. “Incarceration and Prisoner Reentry in the United States.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 635, 2011, pp. 192–215. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/29779418.
  3. Smith, Earl, and Angela J. Hattery. “African American Men and the Prison Industrial Complex.” Western Journal of Black Studies, vol. 34, no. 4, Winter 2010, pp. 387–398. EBSCOhost,login.ezproxy.palomar.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx ?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=57315512&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
  4. Western, Bruce, and Christopher Muller. “Mass Incarceration, Macrosociology, and the Poor.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 647, 2013, pp. 166–189. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23479100.
  5. Western, Bruce, and Becky Pettit. “Incarceration & Social Inequality.” Daedalus, vol. 139, no. 3, 2010, pp. 8–19. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20749838.

Cite this paper

African Americans Mass Incarceration. (2021, Oct 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/african-americans-mass-incarceration/

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