Mass Incarceration in the United States

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The United States has more citizens in prisons than any other nations. The increase in the jail and prison population are from about 200,000 in 1972 to about 2.2 million today which has led to prisons being overcrowding. The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of its prisoner. Mass incarceration is usually called mass imprisonment, or the prison boom incarceration, which is high rates of imprisonment mainly targeting young, African American men living in neighborhoods of disadvantage(Garland 2001).

Race has always played a huge role in being sentenced. One of the main groups targeted are minorities or people of color. It is often said that black people are more likely to be criminals. The United States have gain an increased in media attention since Treyvon Martin, a 17 year old unarmed black teenager, who was shot by George Zim­Merman. The deaths of unarmed black males at the hands of the police, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on Aug 9, 2014,Eric Garner in New York City on July 17, 2014, Walter Scott on April 4,2015, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland on April 12, 2015 werefollowed by many protests (Time, 2015). These deaths of black men by law enforcement not only sparked riots but imprisoned those who protested.

According to Walker S (2010), in the Chicago homicides, most young black men are both the offenders and the victims. When it comes to mass shootings , white mens are often the perpetrators. Some factors that comes from race are discrimination and racial profiling and racial stereotypes. People of color are often the ones looked at first when a crime is committed. When we all thought slavery ended was right when the new jim crow law began , disguised as a way to redesign our caste system but only discriminated people of color and made our prisons overcrowded, and deprive our children of having a parent present. The new Jim crow law only created racial disparities and racial segregation, people were not being treated equally and humiliated and even brutalized (Litwack 2009).

According to Alexander M (2010) she argued that the criminal justice system discriminates based on felony status. The primary reason for the increase in the prison population is the War on Drugs. Drug offenses have led to about two-thirds of the increase in the federal and more than half of the increase in the state incarceration rate (Alexander M 2010). The enforcement of drug laws has targeted communities of color, though they are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than any other being. Law enforcement focuses on particular communities.

In some states roughly around 80 to 90 percent of drug offenders in prison are African American.The New Jim Crow is a reincarnation of a caste-like system in the United States, one that reacted with millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then lowered to a permanent second-class status which denied the very rights won in the Civil Rights Movement. It’s not fair and it still is not today, people of color are targeted and locked up for minor offenses. In Michelle alexander’s words “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. According to data from the nation survey of children health, 15 percent of minors lives with a guardian who has been incarcerated before (SYKES, B., & PETTIT, B. (2014).

Being incarcerated affects families and the communities such as taking away a father , a husband, a brother or a son. It causes psychological trauma, parental detachment, it takes away a family only source of income.More half of the offenders locked up have childrens under 18.Around 1 in 25 minors have parents who are locked up(Wildeman 2009). Many young people of color receive such a high sentence for minor offenses. The war on drugs just decided to take everyone off the streets , it might have looked like a good thing to take drugs off the streets but it doesn’t make sense to sentence someone for so long over a minor offense, that is why our prisons are overcrowded today.

Some of us need to ask ourselves whether mass incarceration is clever policy and a good use of taxpayer dollars. Most important is that we need to emphasize about how mass incarceration endangers democracy and equality, two main visions to our country.More than half of young African-American men in major cities =have criminal records. The racial disparities in mass incarceration are disturbing, especially because they have little or no link to crime rates. The major cause of prison growth has been the war on drugs, it has affected people of color the most.

Yet drug use and drug selling seem to be the same across racial lines. One government study has shown that white mens are a third more likely to have sold illegal drugs than African-American men (Rigelhaupt 2012). Although the majority of drug users and dealers nationwide are white most people imprisoned for drug offenses are black or Latino.The war on drugs has been fought in alot of communities of color. Urban communities of color have experienced America’s failed in war on drugs and the eventually the effects of mass incarceration. Mass incarceration has also led to increased political deprivation for African-Americans: One in seven African-American men no longe can vote, or lose citizenship. Almost half a million people are locked up because of a drug offense.

One in three people are usually locked up for drug offenses, Over one million drug possession are arrested every year (Wagner 2018). There has been the overrepresentation of youth of color whether its being sentenced unfairly for being SQF. People of color have always been targets and The Civil Rights Movement failed to take away racial barriers, ibt ended the violence of segregation,but not the violence of poverty(Litwack, 2009). Alexander Michelle believed that the civil rights movement was using the war on drugs to manifest itself. And i believe she was right because it had only increased prison population.(Alexander, 2010, p. 51)

The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, introduced mandatory minimum sentences for the distribution of cocaine,including punishing equally, the sale of crack cocaine were asso­ciated with blacks, and the sale of powder cocaine associ­ated with whites. Almost 80 percent of those sentenced under the anti drug abuse act were African American (Nadelmann, 2010. In 25 years the U.S. prison and jail populations grew from 350,000 to 2.3 million (Alexander, 2010).

About a quarter of the 2.3 million, over half a million people, were in prison or jail because of our failed war on drugs, while at least half of the prison population had committed non-violent offenses and would have been better off in treat­ment, social service, or educational/ vocational programs (Stein, 2012, p.259). Arrests for marijuana possession, usually for very small amounts,account for 44 percent of drug arrests nationwide. The rates of incarceration in the United States are higher than in any nation at any time. The vast majority of young black men are either under the control of the criminal justice system or seen as crimi­nals for life. (Stanley Cohen (2001).


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Mass Incarceration in the United States. (2021, Oct 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/mass-incarceration-in-the-united-states/

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