MitM :: STRUCTURAL RACISM: The Over-incarceration of African Americans: Man with 18-month sentence serves time at Patuxent on same tier with multiple lifers
“They Took Away Our Ability to Earn College Degrees”
By Doni Morton Glover, www.bmorenews.com
A Special Presentation on behalf of the Associated Black Charities of Maryland “More In The Middle” Campaign
(BALTIMORE – June 25, 2012) – Over 40% of America’s prison population is African American men. Blacks comprise some 12 to 16% of the broader US population – revealing an insidious and cunning enemy of the black family: the over-incarceration of African Americans. While attention has been brought to this topic consistently over the years by people like Baltimore-based but internationally recognized ex-offender expert, Brother Ellsworth Bey, and The Men’s Center’s Leon Purnell – the issue has received even more attention as of late because of the Michelle Alexander book, “The New Jim Crow”, and the PBS documentary, “Slavery By Another Name”.
Backdrop: According to Wikipedia, “The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world (743 per 100,000 population), Russia has the second highest rate (577 per 100,000), followed by Rwanda (561 per 100,000). As of year-end 2009 the USA rate was 743 adults incarcerated in prisons and jails per 100,000 population. At year-end 2007 the United States had less than 5% of the world's population and 23.4% of the world's prison and jail population (adult inmates).”
While I cannot speak for you, I personally sense the tart taste of racism.
In Andrew Hacker’s 1992 book, “Two Nations”, he would agree. He suggests that “wherever there are problems in the black community—unemployment, poor academic achievement, a soaring crime rate”—Hacker finds the same explanation: white racism. The book has received front-page coverage in the “New York Times Book Review” and rave reviews in “Newsweek” and other sources. Its publisher claims that “Two Nations” is the first book since Gunnar Myrdal’s 1944 classic, “An American Dilemma”, to “offer an up-to-date and profound analysis of the conditions that keep blacks and whites dangerously far apart in their ability to participate in the American Dream.”
For instance, Hacker asserts that while African Americans comprise only 12% of the U.S. population, some 44% of all prisoners in the United States are Black.
Meet Roc. He is 51 years old. He has a colorful prison history, including stints at Patuxent, Hagerstown – old and new, Roxbury, Jessup “Cut”, “Cut” Annex, and City Jail. While he is gainfully employed today, these “bits” are a part of his history.
I asked him – considering his life story – whether or not he thought that structural racism has impacted him financially. Incredibly astute, he immediately replied, “Of course!” He said, “I run into racism every day. You know those little annoying nuances. Take my brother, for example. He lives and works in Cockeysville, but he can never get a raise. And, yes! He has been called the N-word.
He said that as a consumer, it’s like they want to charge black people more for lousy mortgages, more for car insurance, more to live in Baltimore, more for water, more for parking, more for all these tickets, raggedy ass schools, no recs. Structural racism impacts me in nearly every facet of my life, including my pocket.”
He continued, “This is how it is. If I do something to take out another black person, the police look at it like ‘we just got rid of two of them!’”
Rock said that while a lot of people in prison are guilty, a lot of the inmates are not guilty.
“Do you know how much they make off of each prisoner?” he queried. “They made $16 to $17,000 per year for each inmate when I was last incarcerated two decades ago.” He added, “Back then, they had schools in prisons. We were getting college degrees and vocational training. They took that out.”
Rock said that while at City Jail during one sentence, he and a tier of others serving 6 months to 2 years were shipped to the Patuxent Institute for the Criminally Insane. He said he landed on a tier with people doing life, double life, triple life, quadruple life, and five times life.
However, he said that of all of his experiences, Hagerstown was the most racist.
“In Hagerstown – ain’t no place for a black man. They are very racist. If you want to define racism, just go to Hagerstown. It’s just like being in Alabama.”
It’s a good thing that Rock is employed today. While he doesn’t claim victimhood status, he is, however, very cognizant of the role of race in America – beginning right here in the state of Maryland.
And while he hasn’t earned a college degree, the support of his family has gotten him through. Nonetheless, he is clear about his mistakes … and the cost he has paid. If he had it to do all over again, he said he would have valued school a hell of a lot more. He said he clearly understands that although a black man with a college degree ends up making just a few dollars more than whites who went no further than high school – he’d still go and get the degree.
“A college education is a black man’s best chance,” he said.
FMI on More In The Middle, visit www.ABC-MD.org.