The Causes and Effects of Incarceration on Black Families
Prof. Marsha Allman
The College of New Rochelle
Mass black incarceration has a myriad of effects on the culture and society of black communities across the nation. This paper examines these effects, including the reasons for black male incarceration, the widespread nature of it, the effects it has on black women, children and the community. The research was taken from several social scientists well-respected in African-American culture and includes interviews, surveys, raw statistics and data. By compiling this research, it is clear that a common theme is that the black women of African-American communities are somewhat forgotten victims of the mass incarceration of black males. But most researchers concluded that black male incarceration has immense negative effects on not only the stability of the individual black family but the black communities in the United States.
Widespread incarceration of black adults, both male and female, disrupts black family life across the inner-cities of the United States; in some cases, irrevocably. With the incarceration of a family member, black families left behind often find themselves reeling in the face of added pressure, both sociological and psychological. The negative effects of incarceration reverberate not only through an individual family, but through the black community. The problem lies in the high incarceration rate of young black males; however, whether the problem lies within the community and the family, or outside forces, such as policy and biases in law enforcement has been researched extensively. Either way, incarceration has quantifiable and unquantifiable negative effects on families, especially in the black community, and this trend must be researched and treated, for the sake of the normal function of black families across the United States. This paper will primarily discuss the effects of black incarceration of families, including data, sociological research and interviews about the history and also the causes of incarceration. This paper will also integrate prior research of this trend with research that has been more recently conducted to demonstrate the changing face of the black community and the worsening state of this epidemic. Black Male Incarceration and its Effect on Black Females
A great deal of research has been done concerning the effects of incarceration in the black family. Much of the research focuses on the female plight of black male incarceration—the effects of losing a husband, brother or father on the family, and how black women attempt to fill the void. In a 1990 study by Darity and Meyers, research shows that “the proportion of families headed by females has surged to new heights during recent years. Black families long have experienced greater incidence of female headship than have white families. During recent decades, however, the proportion of black families headed by females has increased from about 25 percent to 44 percent.” (Darity & Myers, 1990, p. 15) The effects of black women having to fill both roles of father and mother often included added pressure for the women, which sometimes manifests itself in drug culture and illegal activity. On the other hand, while the women struggle to fill both roles, the children of the black family, who are exposed to inner-city lifestyles and hardships, often lose vital education and social movement opportunities that would come had they not been without a parent. Research in 1985, by Lewis and Garfinkel, shows that, in fact, “older and more educated family heads were less common in female-headed families.” (Garfinkel & Lewis, 2007, p. 83)
Darity and Meyers suggest, based on their statistics, that female headship of the household destabilizes the black family. Their basis for this suggestion is that, according to data...