It is presumably safe to say that the United States of America has not always been the “land of the free,” although the National Anthem would have one believe otherwise. Sure, it is true that America has always opened her nurturing arms to the likes of affluent Caucasian men. Certain groups of people, though, such as African Americans, women, Muslims, non-binary individuals, Native Americans, and those with disabilities, however, have fallen through the cracks in America.
These people practically live as second-class citizens while their antithesis, wealthy Caucasian males, face no discrimination based solely on personal characteristics that they cannot change about themselves. The issue of discrimination has been running through the veins of the United States since its birth. Women were originally not given the right to vote, Africans were ripped from their homeland and brought over as slaves, and people who do not fit the societal expectations of heterosexuality only began to see some of their basic rights recognized a few short years ago.
Many people are baffled as to why this amount of discrimination exists in the year 2018. The answer lies within the justice system of the United States. The prison system that is in place favors the elite white men of America while minorities are tasked with facing unequal punishments. Society models the example that the government sets, so it only makes sense that certain groups of people in this country are continually marginalized by others for attributes that they cannot control. Until the prison system is reformed, citizens will follow the government’s pattern of discrimination and there will never be true equality. Prison reform in the United States is necessary to ensure justice and safety for all Americans while effectively rebuilding the trust between citizens and the government.
One of the most painfully prevalent flaws in the United States’ prison system is the mass-incarceration rate of African Americans. The research that has been conducted through years of analysis shows that there is a disproportionate number of African Americans who are arrested and spend time in jail. As stated by Lisa D. Moore, “persons of color compose 60% of the incarcerated population.
In 1996, Blacks constituted 62.6% of drug offenders in state prisons. Nationwide, the rate of persons admitted to prison on drug charges for Black men is 13 times that for White men, and in 10 states, the rates are 26 to 57 times those for White men. People of color are not more likely to do drugs; Black men do not have an abnormal predilection for intoxication. They are, however, more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for their use.” This skewed statistic is proof that the justice system as a whole is “broken.” The fact that African American men are sent to prison at such a higher rate than white men is a testimony to the fact that America still has racism flowing through her veins.
The superiority complex that the racist white individuals in this country have always possessed has translated to the operation of the government. Mass incarceration of African American men is substantial proof of what progressives have been saying for years: racism is a value embedded into American values due to crooked governmental policies which hold back this disenfranchised group of citizens.
It seems awfully contradictory for the National Anthem to state that America is the “land of the free” while a massive amount of black men sit in prison cells, separated from their families, as opposed to many white men who face little to no prison time for identical offenses. Unfair sentencing policies and disproportionate incarceration rates contribute to the fact that many African Americans are put at a disadvantage and held in a state of poverty by the government. Anne-Marie Cusac writes, “Today, one in thirty-one adults is under correctional control.
And, of course, the rates are disproportionate for minorities, especially under-educated black men. The Pew Research Center has reported that the institutionalization rate for this group rose from 10 percent in 1980 . . . to 30 percent in 2000. Even in 2010, the Pew study found, members of this group ‘were more likely to be institutionalized than they were to be employed.’” Cusac also mentions that “seventy percent of inmates in Georgia lack a high school diploma. The prison system reading level averages about eighth grade.” African Americans are being incarcerated at rates higher than other races. Education is lacking in prisons. When these two factors are added together, a recipe for disaster is created.
Arresting a major amount of a certain population, which restricts them from getting a proper education, is a prime example of government-sponsored oppression. It is no wonder that, “at 7.5%, the unemployment rate among African-Americans in 2017 was more than twice the rate of white unemployment and 0.8 percentage points higher than it was in 1968” (Paul). The government of the United States is a well-oiled machine. The American government knows exactly what it is doing when African Americans are discriminated against governmental justice system policies. These policies are a means of holding back a group of people which the white supremacists of America so desperately hate.
United States lawmakers saying that African Americans have as much opportunity as anyone else is an absolute slap in the face. Being systemically forced into poverty and unemployment is not, by any definition, freedom. If prison reform is not instituted by the government, there will never be true freedom for these people. Racial bias in society is upheld by the policies of the government; likewise, the economic oppression of African Americans is upheld by the government under the disguise of incarceration. The only practical way to wholly liberate African Americans is through the institutionalization of prison reform and, more generally speaking, justice system reform.
The inequality of the prison system stems partially from the so-called “war on drugs.” This movement is said to help the American people by cleaning up the streets and reducing drug usage. The reality is that the war on drugs has incited a slew of racial injustices while doing little to suppress drug usage and sales. A topic which has faced much debate, partially fueled by the war on drugs, is marijuana legalization. Decriminalization of marijuana, a subset of prison reform, is something that must occur to make America a safer place.
Rapidly imprisoning black men at an extremely high rate is in no way a sufficient solution for America’s drug problem. Even Christians believe that mass incarceration is an issue that desperately needs to be dealt with. As stated by Heidi Schlumpf, “the U.S. prison population has increased 500 percent over the last 40 years (even during decades when violent crime decreased), primarily because of the ‘War on Drugs,’ which believed tougher sentencing was a solution to addiction. According to the Sentencing Project, only 41,000 Americans were imprisoned for drug offenses in 1980.
Today, that number is nearly a half a million. Drug offenses are why half of the federal prison population is incarcerated . . . the extremes of U.S. prison policy have not only hurt offenders, ex-offenders and their families, they’re clearly not solving the drug or crime problem either.” African Americans are literally having their lives destroyed for minor offenses they committed in their teenage years while white people can get off more easily. This goes back to the deeper issue of racial bias in the justice system. The war on drugs is a legal form of discrimination, giving officers and legal officials a license to target African Americans. If there is going to be harsh punishment for drug use, the laws should apply to all citizens, regardless of their race.
Black men should not have to leave their families to fend for themselves because they get caught with an ounce of marijuana… at least not while white men can get caught with the exact same amount of the drug and face no charges. The war on drugs also brings about a safety risk to the American public. It has been proven that “alcohol consumption is more damaging to the human brain than marijuana” (Blake). Although other dangerous substances such as alcohol and cigarettes are openly sold and accessible to most people, those leading the war on drugs are trying to keep marijuana from being sold in the same way.
The fact that marijuana is still illegal has led many citizens to seek out the substance on the streets. The result is that they are sold marijuana which is laced with deadly substances like “angel dust,” a hallucinatory drug. Individuals such as Nicholas Gareri, a resident of Dutchess County, New York, have heard a number of painful stories about teenagers who buy laced marijuana and wind up dying.
The stories of so many promising young people having their lives taken by laced marijuana truly haunt him. Prison reform, specifically marijuana decriminalization, would aid this issue. David Dinenberg argues that “the majority of America is now cannabis friendly; nearly 60 percent of our nation’s population resides in states with some form of legalized marijuana. 29 states plus Washington, D.C. have legalized medical marijuana and eight of those states have also legalized marijuana for recreational use.” If marijuana is so widely accepted in many states, then it should be legalized nationwide. No human being should die from using laced marijuana while it is legally being sold in multiple states.
No African American man should spend part of his life in a jail cell, only to be unemployed after serving time, while there are television programs broadcasting guests who openly consume marijuana. Marijuana decriminalization, a division of prison reform, would allow citizens to buy marijuana from a regulated source. This process would keep them safe from laced drugs and decrease the institutionalization of African Americans, who are continually locked up for using a drug that is less dangerous than alcohol.
Although the decriminalization of marijuana is an important step in the prison reform movement, there are other solutions which need to be incorporated as well. A major issue in the system that needs to be reformed is overcrowding. As explained by Iulia Lazar, “when prisons are overcrowded the conditions tend to be worse and expenses start to become heightened. According to While overcrowding can be temporarily decreased by building new prisons, practice shows that trying to overcome the harmful effects of prison overcrowding through the construction of new prisons does not provide a sustainable solution.
In addition, building new prisons and maintaining them is expensive, putting pressure on valuable resources. Instead, numerous international instruments recommend a rationalization in sentencing policy, including the wider use of alternatives to prison, aiming to reduce the number of people being isolated from society for long periods.” It is evident that expanding the prison system to make room for more and more inmates is ineffective and an irresponsible use of the government’s money.
Locking up people for drug possession and usage is extremely inappropriate and unjust Since there seems to be such an issue with drugs in the United States, the government should invest in rehabilitation and detoxification programs. Investing in these programs will not only improve the lives of so many who suffer from addiction, but it will also reduce the number of people taking up space in prison. Holding addicts in cells for years upon years instead of getting them help is not going to solve anything, it just causes overcrowding of prisons and prevents them from making any personal progress on the road to recovery.
Some people may argue that prison reform will make the country dangerous by integrating criminals into society. For instance, there is talk about Donald Trump rejecting a bill that would implement prison reform. It is reported that “the Justice Department released its own statement, further criticizing the proposal. ‘We’re pleased the president agreed that we shouldn’t support criminal justice reform that would reduce sentences, put drug traffickers back on our streets,’ it read” (Touchberry).
Donald Trump believes that actively working to reintegrate prisoners into society will be a hazard to society. This argument holds little weight because there are many ways for the government to keep track of those who have formerly incarcerated. Another point to take note of is the fact that Trump claims to not want drug dealers to be free to do as they please. His argument fails to recognize the fact that the war on drugs has not been successful in solving the real issues of addiction in society. Instead, this movement has targeted minorities unjustly and contributed to the overcrowding of United States prisons.
The argument that has been presented is clearly refuted by the fact that technology can be used to track prisoners and monitor what they do with their newfound freedom. A solution presented by Barry Latzer proposes that “the latest GPS technology can be used–and is already being used worldwide–to track the whereabouts of offenders. We should expand electronic monitoring (EM) of prisoners released to parole, offenders sentenced to probation, and arrested persons not yet adjudicated (pretrial defendants) as much as is feasible and affordable.
With ramped-up EM, we get the best of both worlds: additional crime deterrence and reduced incarceration. It’s a winwin proposition.” As shown in Latzer’s argument, there is no risk of having drug dealers be released from prison only to wind up selling drugs again. The risk that was present in previous years has been eradicated through the use of available technology. Donald Trump has a very narrow view of prison reform even though it is an extremely complex issue. His argument makes it seem as though drug dealers will just be allowed to roam the streets without being observed. This obscene opinion of his, which comes from a place of privilege, is a ridiculous reason to turn down a proposed bill regarding prison reform.
Donald Trump sits comfortably in the White House, spreading preposterous fallacies about prison reform, while the victims of racial profiling and nonviolent drug charges sit in cells. This technology is readily available and needs to be implemented as soon as possible. The use of GPS monitoring will keep Americans safe while allowing ex-convicts to rebuild their lives. Expanding this system would aid the issue of overcrowding in prisons. It would also allow formerly incarcerated people, who have been outcast from society, to reintegrate themselves so that they do not return to a whole new world where they find themselves unemployed and impoverished.
The reality is that prisoners are still citizens of the United States. Prisoners are released on a daily basis and given no support in their new lives. The government of the United States has a duty to implement prison reform, which would aid ex-convicts. These reforms would make the streets safer by getting rid of laced marijuana and allowing it to be bought from a reputable source. Not only would America be safer with the implementation of prison reform, but it would also be more equal for all people.
Prison reform would reduce the number of African Americans who are locked in cells for minor charges which have been brought about by racial profiling. Rehabilitation programs must become implemented nationwide so that those with drug addictions may get help instead of being locked away, contributing to the overcrowding of prisons. Prison reform is the only adequate way to ensure justice and safety for all Americans while effectively establishing marginalized populations’ trust in the government.