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Phony Progressives and Mass Incarceration

I have been involved in a very deep and lengthy discussion with a friend, Kathleen Wells, who is sponsoring a petition to end mass incarceration in prisons around the country because of the hugely disproportionate impact they have on African Americans.

Kathleen, an attorney and broadcast journalist for KCAA Radio in Loma Linda, California, has a bone to pick with liberals and progressives, who she believes are big phonies when it comes to blacks and their rights. She believes that we as a lot are greater purveyors of injustice, because of our phoniness, than conservatives, because the problem is that we talk a good game, and are relied upon to advance a progressive agenda, and then don’t do shit. The very people who should be working for justice just sit back and do nothing.

White supremacy is on the rise because of the mass encarceration of blacks, and Kathleen has begun believing that there is a conspiracy in this country to encourage white supremacy by Zionists and by pretentious liberals who deceive everyone into believing that they are doing something about it, all the while not doing anything at all. So I need your help.

Mass incarceration is a huge deal. The prison industry in the U.S. is the largest of any country in the world.

As of 2009, the incarceration rate is 743 per 100,000 of national population (0.743%). In comparison, Russia has the second highest 577 per 100,000, Canada is 123rd in the world with 117 per 100,000, and China has 120 per 100,000. While Americans only represent about 5 percent of the world’s population, one-quarter of the entire world’s inmates are incarcerated in the United States.

In The New Jim Crow in 2010, legal scholar and advocate Michelle Alexander contended that the U.S. incarceration system worked to bar black men from voting. She wrote “there are more African Americans under correctional control — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.

Another interesting statistic is that

In 2000 there were 791,600 black men in prison and 603,032 enrolled in college versus 1980, when there were 143,000 black men in prison and 463,700 enrolled in college. In 2003, according to Justice Department figures, 193,000 black college-age men were in prison, while 532,000 black college-age men were attending college. On an average day in 1996, more black male high school dropouts aged 20–35 were in custody than in paid employment; by 1999, over one-fifth of black non-college men in their early 30’s had prison records.

The leading cause of incarceration of an African American male is a non-criminal drug offense.

Additionally, between 1985 and 1995 the American prison population of drug offenders increased from 38,900 to 224,900 with African American males at the top.

According to Project America:

black males have experienced the highest rate of imprisonment—6.5 times that of white males and 2.5 that of Hispanic males—of the three major races in the United States. Black males also face execution at rates far greater than those for the general population—approximately 4.5 times more than that of white prisoners and 17.5 times that of Hispanics. In a study of routine traffic stops, racial differences were seen not in stops—blacks and Hispanics were stopped just as often as whites—but overwhelmingly in searches, as blacks and Hispanics were searched nearly 3 times their white counterparts.

I think it’s time that we did something about this. Progressives, where are you? Are we for real or aren’t we? Sign this petition. That’s the least you can do.

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About Paul Barrow

Director of Policy and Communications, United Progressives