Mass Incarceration and Racism:
"I want to discuss the race problem tonight and I want to discuss it very honestly. I still believe that freedom is the bonus you receive for telling the truth. 'Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.' And I do not see how we will ever solve the turbulent problem of race confronting our nation until there is an honest confrontation with it and a willing search for the truth and a willingness to admit the truth when we discover it."
—Martin Luther King, Jr. March 14, 1968
"Seeing race is not the problem. Refusing to care for the people we see is the problem. The fact that the meaning of race may evolve over time or lose much of its significance is hardly a reason to be struck blind. We should hope not for a colorblind society but instead for a world in which we can see each other fully, learn from each other, and do what we can to respond to each other with love. That was [Martin Luther] King's dream—a society that is capable of seeing each of us, as we are, with love. That is a goal worth fighting for."
—Michelle Alexander, "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness"
News & Upcoming Events:
Maryland Criminal Justice Reform:
Friends supporting proposed legislation on criminal justice reform currently in Maryland's General Assembly will be interested in reading this op-ed piece in the Daily Record, 27 March 2015, by Annapolis Friend and Anne Arundel circuit judge Phil Caroom.
"The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" by Michelle Alexander; Book Discussion Series Summary:
Four discussion sessions were held in the fall of 2013. Average attendance was around 6 people, with peak attendance of 12 at the first meeting. Each participant was encouraged to share a selection from the book that moved him or her as an "ice-breaker". The following guidelines were used: listen when someone else is speaking (don't use that time to formulate your reply), use only facts found in the book, and use only anecdotes from yourself or someone close to you. Facilitators were T. Hamboyan Harrison and Leigh Anne Dodge.
Sample Statistics from the Book:
- "The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid." pg. 6
- "One in three young African American men will serve time in prison if current trends continue..." pg 9
- "Between 1980 and 984, FBI antidrug funding increased from $8 million to $95 million. Department of Defense antidrug allocations increased from $33 million in 1981 to $1,042 million in 1991. During that same period, DEA antidrug spending grew from $86 to $1,026 million, and FBI antidrug allocations grew from $38 to $181 million. By contrast, funding for agencies responsible for drug treatment, prevention, and education was dramatically reduced." pg. 49-50
- "When the War on Drugs gained full steam in the mid-1980s, prison admissions for African Americans skyrocketed, nearly quadrupling in three years, and then increasing steadily until it reach in 2000 a level more than twenty-six times the level in 1983... The number of whites admitted for drug offenses in 2000 was eight times the number admitted in 1983... Although the majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white, three-fourths of all people imprisoned for drug offenses have been black or Latino." pg. 98
- "The racial basis inherent in the drug war is a major reason that 1 in every 14 black men was behind bars in 2006, compared with 1 in 106 white men... One in 9 black men between the ages of twenty and thirty-five was behind bars in 2006." pg. 100
- "African Americans were more than six times as likely as whites to be sentence to prison for identical crimes... African American youth account for 16 percent of all youth, 28 percent of all juvenile arrests, 35 percent of the youth waived to adult criminal court, and 58 percent of youth admitted to state adult prison." pg. 118
Links for More Information:
- Campaign to End the New Jim Crow: A joint project of the Riverside Church Prison Ministry and The American Friends Service Committee
- Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform (MAJR)
- American Friends Service Committee:
- Drug Policy Alliance: See this link for a flier that contains a brief summary of "The Drug War, Mass Incarceration, and Race".
- Center for Constitutional Rights: They're the group that sued the NYPD for racial profiling in their Stop & Frisk policies.
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): Since the publication of "The New Jim Crow", the ACLU has become more involved in ending mass incarceration and racism. See this link for information about marijuana arrests in Maryland.
- The Sentencing Project: This group is primarily involved in research about mass incarceration and racism. They're the group that funds the kind of studies that provide the statistics Michelle Alexander uses in her book.
- All of Us or None: Supports people in prisons and those released from prison, particularly those with children.
- Friends Committee on National Legislation: Incarceration Concerns
Related Books & Movies:
- Movie: "The House I Live In", about "The War on Drugs" and mass incarceration
- "Beyond Prisons: A New Interfaith Paradigm for Our Failed Prison" by Lauraet Magnani (Author) , Harmon L. Wray (Author)
- "Time on Two Crosses: The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin", an African American Quaker who was instrumental in organizing the March on Washington;
- "The Soul Knows No Bars" by Drew Leder, a Baltimore Quaker who teaches philosophy in local prisons;
- "Black Fire: African American Quakers on Spirituality and Human Rights";
- "Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice" by Donna McDaniel and Vanessa Julye;
- "The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration" by Isabel Wilkerson, about the "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to the North and Midwest
- In January of 2015, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting approved the following minute on racism:
Friends tested and affirmed the work of our clerks and our elders, since being tasked during Annual Sessions in July 2014, to help discern a way forward in addressing many '-isms' including-racism, sexism, genderism and classism. Friends also heartily affirmed that as a Yearly Meeting we:
• Commit to increase our consciousness as Friends about the intersection of privilege and race in our culture and spiritual community. We know our knowledge is often limited by our own experiences and that we have much to learn from each other and from outside resources.
• Commit to move forward with our entire community. The yearly meeting is the community of all our individual Friends and monthly meetings and this work needs to be done with the involvement of all of us.
• Commit to integrate this work into what we do in an ongoing way at the yearly meeting level. We want this work to become part of the fabric of what we do whenever we get together as yearly meeting members and attenders.
- "The courageous many: Undoing racism as a spiritual practice"
- Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minute on Drug Concerns; March 26, 2000:
"Friends for over 300 years have sought to live 'in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars.' Today our country is engaged in a 'war on drugs' which bears all the hallmarks of war: displaced populations, disrupted economies, terrorism, abandonment of hope by those the war is supposedly being fought to help, the use of military force, the curtailment of civil liberties, and the demonizing of the 'enemies.' While we are all affected by the war on drugs, we are painfully aware that particularly victimized are people of color, the poor, and other less powerful persons."
- Reflections from the Discussions, by T. Hamboyan Harrison
"This is the truth we have been hiding from: that our United States prison systems are mostly full of young African American men; and that they are full not because young African American men are more likely to commit crime, but because they're more likely to be arrested and incarcerated because of crimes committed. This is particularly the case with the 'War on Drugs', which has been used disproportionately against African American males to imprison them in federal courts with mandatory minimum sentencing, whereas their white counterparts are instead more likely to be tried in state courts, where mandatory minimum sentencing rules may not apply."