Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Hebrews 13:3
Out of any three African Americans, chances are that one of you three has a loved one currently under control of the criminal justice system–national, state or local– either in jail/prison, on probation or parole.
There is an epidemic rampaging right before our eyes, ripping through our families, leaving children with one and often no parent to raise them, that is crushing our communities and destroying any semblance of social fabric. It is sweeping young black and brown men of color off our streets, affecting the poor and disadvantaged disproportionately, and increasingly affecting young ladies and women.
What is so insidious, so heart wrenching, about this epidemic is that it is imminently curable . . . if only enough people cared! In fact, if this epidemic was occurring anywhere else but the black and brown and poor neighborhoods of our country, all of our greatest scientists, researchers and, yes, even politicians, would be in a mad rush to find a cure.
I’m not talking about a new flu strain, or STD, or some antibiotic resistant microbe, the epidemic I am talking about is mass incarceration. Today, as the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference has called May 6th, Anti-Incarceration/Justice Sunday, below are a few alarming facts:
- In the 1970’s prison activists were horrified that there were over 250,000 people in U.S. prisons, yet today there are more than 2.3 million people incarcerated . . . the vast majority of them black, brown or poor
- America leads the world in incarcerating our people, at rate of 743 per 100,000, more than Russia, than China
- And racial disparities are astounding and indefensible! Black men are incarcerated at 5 times that of white men and Latino men twice that of white men, and for Black men between the ages of 25 and 29 . . . the number is 15 times that of white men
As tragic as these figures are, it doesn’t end there. Even after our brothers and sisters complete their sentences, parole and probation obligations; there is a blazing red “F” attached to them for the rest of their lives. Depending on where you live, an ex-felon can be legally discriminated against in various ways: voting restrictions, disqualified for public benefits like food stamps, federal housing or student loans, even disqualified for jury duty.
The hard work dismantling our broken justice system has begun. One way you can join the fight is by contacting the Trinity UCC Prison Ministry and The Next Movement committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trinity UCC Justice Watch Team