The disproportionate number of African-American males incarcerated within the United States is a difficult social dilemma that needs to be more fully understood and addressed. This paper will explore the mass incarceration of African-American men. The paper will look into the prevalence, causes, consequences, and offer solutions to this crisis. Specifically, seeking to find what factors have created such high levels of criminal justice control for African-American males, and explore the impact on the family and community.
Incarceration is immense in the United States. Since the 1980s, the United States has experienced a massive increase in incarceration. The overall rate has increased from 139 prisoners per hundred thousand US residents in 1980 to 502 prisoners per hundred thousand US residents in 2009, a 260 percent increase (JobsandtheEconomy, 2011). On December 31, 2010 state and federal correctional authorities had jurisdiction over 1,605,127 prisoners (United States Department of Justice, 2011). Astounding is the fact that there are more than a million and a half Americans behind bars today. Although high, the true startling figure is the inequitable amount of Americans that are incarcerated with black skin.
According to the US Department of Justice, by the end of 2010 black non-Hispanic males had an imprisonment rate seven times higher than white non-Hispanic males (United States Department of Justice, 2011). In fact, when comparing the three major races in the United States, a 2005 study conducted by The Sentencing Project found that “African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six (5.6) times the rate of whites” (Mauer & King, 2010). In November 2010 this lead to the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is responsible for examining the human rights records of all 192 UN member countries to condemn the United States on a wide assortment of civil right abuses.
In particular, the human rights groups slammed the US prison systems. The United Nations Human Rights Council also noted that the United States has the largest prison population in the world, inclusive are numbers and percentage of population with a disproportionate imprisonment of blacks (Randall, 2011). This reality is a scary truth for a country that still practices, in many of its states, capital punishment. Additionally, with the condemnation from the United Nations Human Rights Council it leads one to question the motives or why this disparity exists within a culture that prides itself on projecting globally, an image of righteousness.
With such a great racial disparity existing, one must think about the racialization of imprisonment, within the United States. Intellectuals and activist have thrust themselves into researching the historical beginnings of racialized slavery; as a compelled by force labor form and social system, to make an attempt an answer the huge increase in mass incarceration in the United States. In taking into consideration race as a factor, we must refer back to emancipation and article VIII of the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states: neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction (Congress, 1865).
In essence, the VIII Amendment led to laws or Black codes, as they were known within the Deep South. These “Black Codes" were legal statutes and constitutional amendments enacted by the ex-Confederate states following the Civil War that sought to limit the liberties of newly freed slaves, ensure a supply of inexpensive agricultural labor, and maintain the white dominated hierarchy (George Washington University, 2011). The Black Codes were particularly beneficial in the Deep South by providing intellectual and legal mechanisms to enable the states to use “un-free” workers by letting out prisoners to neighboring businesses...
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