When an individual is arrested and charged with a crime the American justice system decides if the individual charged is guilty or innocent. If guilty they are sentenced by the justice system as well. A very simple concept, but what is the public not seeing?
Justice is the pursuit of fairness, but how fair is justice in this country? If it's fair that someone should be put away for profit, then it's fair to detain kittens in a dark box for years. If it's fair to lock someone up because of their race, then it's fair to victimize black labradors.
The prisons in America are overcapacity, full of disease, and unsafe for anyone inside the walls. America alone holds more prisoners than China and Russia combined. The "justice' system in America arrests human beings the same way a toddler would organize building blocks, by color.
Racism continues to be a problem in the U. S. and its effects can be seen clearly in our prisons. Five times as many white people are using illegal drugs, yet the incarceration rate for African Americans is 10 times that of Caucasians. Moreover, African Americans are being imprisoned at a rate nearly six times higher than white Americans and this is not because they are committing more crimes.
If everybody knows that there is no difference in the crime rates of African Americans to white Americans, then how can incarceration rates show that there is? This question points to the very essence of the problem in our mass incarceration culture in this country: Racism. There is no other explanation.
The reason white people are not being incarcerated at the same rate is because they are white. Police target people of color as a regular practice. For instance, stop and frisk is a policy that, until recently, the New York City police used at anytime, anywhere. The vast majority of people stopped were black and Latino, most of whom were innocent. Being a white female, I could walk down the New York streets and be fairly confident that I would not be stopped. But if I were an African American female I could be stopped three times in one walk.
In this country your skin color can make you suspicious. Being any color should not define you in the eyes of the law. It is an embarrassment that in a country where freedom is our highest value we use that freedom to lock people up.
Some people say that racism is gone, while some people believe that people are not being targeted because of their race. If you are one of these people, keep reading. This is a true story, told by a 32-year old African American woman I interviewed. She grew up in the Bronx and has been victimized by racial profiling.
"When I was in high school I had a white boyfriend. Out one night with him we needed to get home but had no money to pay the train fare. So we jumped the gate trying to get home before curfew. We were both arrested. They took us separately to be booked into jail. After a night in jail, I was released. When I asked how my boyfriend's night in jail was, he replied that he had not stayed the night. He said they had told him that he, 'looked like a nice kid,' and that he should just stay away from people like me because they believed I influenced him to jump the gate. Do you know why? Because I'm black.
"Years later when I had become a fine arts major at Cooper Union I traveled through that very train station. Because I was enrolled in a rigorous college and was a motivated art student I had to carry a backpack to hold my art supplies. Every single day, before I even got to my platform a police officer would stop me, search me and take the contents of my backpack away. I would often ride to school in the morning with a white friend, who carried the same backpack and same college ID. Yet everyday she would walk past the police while I got stopped.
"Do you know why I was forced to give the police my expensive materials and time? Do you know why I was directly targeted day after day? Because I'm black, because I'm black and was carrying a backpack. I showed them my college ID every time but they didn't believe a person as suspicious as I could be in college, or perhaps a person as black as I. Unprepared and late for class daily, I was forced to stop using that train station. I had to take up walking, waking up quite a bit earlier and do you know why? Because I'm black, that's why."
The imprisonment of all these people is quite expensive, yet people are being sentenced for long periods of time for small, non-violent offenses. Prison is supposed to be for people that are a danger to society, but is it worthwhile to spend the money, give up the prison space and need that much more staff to keep track of prisoners on Marijuana charges? It definitely is not worth it for us as a society, but prisons for profit are making money by keeping innocent and non-violent offenders in prison. Only 7.9 percent of inmates detained in America are violent offenders, meaning that most of of the prison population is not a threat to society. The prison system in America is both big business and a new form of slavery.
The justice system in this country affects everyone, if not morally then financially. Where do you think the government is getting the money to pay those companies and run those prisons ($74 billion a year)? We are paying to incarcerate people that don't need to be in jail. You are paying so that people in high places can mindlessly take peoples lives away and make millions of dollars. We have more prisoners is this country than engineers, teachers and nurses. At least half of our prisoners could and should be released. How can you continue to let this happen in your country? The justice system is more like a legal slave trade than a mechanism for keeping the people safe.