It’s Okay These Days to Discuss Incarceration in the U.S.


It is not a beautiful sunset from the other side.prison gates


Mass incarceration affects all aspects of life and all life.  Families are fractured.  Children are broken.  State and federal prison programs are ineffective to non-existent.  People are taken into the system and treated as sub-human.  Re-entry systems are not in place to assist ex-convicts.  Why then, has it taken nearly 50 years to realize mass incarceration’s broad impact on society?  Is there new concern about helping inmates or a new interest in the savings generated from releasing them? Either way, was it necessary that white male faces are the ones telling us what we already know?

The school and sexual assault to prison pipelines now have the attention of U.S. economists.  President Barack Obama appointed economist Dr. Jason Furman White House Council of Economic Advisory Chair.  During the Clinton administration, Dr. Furman worked at the Council of Economic Advisers, National Economic Council, and at the World Bank, therefore, he is not new to political dogma.

Constitutional expert and President of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law Michael Waldman recently addressed the economic impact of the criminal justice system[1].  His insight into the economic implications of the prison system, however, is not new information for the millions of people incarcerated, on parole or probation, or their families and communities.  His employment at the Brennan Center for Justice addresses the impact on marginalized communities. I would be remiss not to remind my readers that Waldman worked for the Clinton Administration.  The chart below depicts that the prison population increased by 673,000 at the state and federal levels during the Clinton administration – more than during Ronald Reagan’s two terms, who enacted the War on Drugs.

Prison President         Strategy                  Authors                                     Source                                      

Lyndon B. Johnson   War on Poverty    Kathryn J. Edin & H. Luke Shaffer   Bureau of Justice Statistics                                                                           Prison Population and Year under Johnson 187,000

Ronald Reagan         War on Drugs       K. Edin, L. Shaffer & Greg Krikorian   LA Times

Prison Population and Year under Reagan  316,914

George Bush             War on Crime      Greg Krikonian                                    LA Times                                                                                           Prison Population and Year under Bush       559,914 (increased 243,000 during his last 4 yrs.)                                                                                                                                                                                is last 4 yrs.)

Bill Clinton                 Three Strikes       Greg Krikonian                                   LA Times                                                                                           Prison Population under Clinton              1,232,914

George W. Bush    No Child Left Behind   Heather C. West & W. J. Sabol     Bureau of Justice and Statistics                                                            Prison Population under G.W. Bush         1,872,000

Barack Obama         Prison Reform Act   G. Warren School of Social Work   Washington University of St. Louis                                                    Prison Population 2.3 million on any given day

Why is this important?  The faces of mass incarceration remain Black and Brown males with increasing Black and Brown women, yet economists are now cognizant of the economic impact mass incarceration has had on these communities.  Incarceration is becoming a topic of choice of media and cable news.  Economists and the Department of Justice are addressing the failure of incarceration and are realizing the U.S. incarceration rates pale in comparison to other countries.  It is now an appropriate topic to discuss publicly and openly.

Mass incarcerations directly have affected Black and Brown communities fiscally, emotionally, and its primary prey are children and its’ effect on education for decades.

[1] C-span April 27

4 thoughts on “It’s Okay These Days to Discuss Incarceration in the U.S.

  1. Tracy Riley says:

    It is time to release our black and brown skins from jail, stop the systematic process that puts them in those cages and give them and their families reparations. End of discussion.

    MAJ Tracy Riley (ret)

    1. Dr. MABL says:

      It is indeed time to reform the judicial system and it’s impact on Black and Brown individuals, families, and communities.

  2. Trent A. Garrett says:

    The school to prison pipeline is a head problem. Collectively, our subconscious allows us to believe that the system that now exist satisfies the safety and security need that Maslov lays out in his hierarchy of needs, but what we miss is the incredible amount of shaming that stiffles the society at large’s ability to grow and thrive. At our core, cages are something we view as an appropriate means to restrain animals. However, in spite of Darwinian efforts to classify black people as inferior to other humans, our humanity stands in the way of cavalierly accepting what we know inately just is not true… black people are not inferior to white people. There are countless examples in everyday life. In civil society, black people are presidents, lawyers, doctors, nurses, psychologist, psychiatrist, businesspeople, billionaires, inventors, etc. At the same time, white people are crack addicts, murderers, thieves, hulksters, illiterate, inbred, ignorant, poor, homeless, stricken with cancer, HIV positive, oppressed, incarcerated, etc. We are bound by the same destiny. White people cannot allow school to prison pipelines to continue any more than black or brown people can allow it to continue. If there were no black or brown Americans, who do the oppressed in America think the statistic would be?

    1. Dr. MABL says:

      Well Trent, you covered everything. The statistic would be the poor white people.

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