One of the greatest social justice issues facing communities across America is mass incarceration. Though the U.S. has slightly less than 5 percent of the world’s population, it has nearly 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Data from authorities like the Bureau of Justice Statistics and Sentencing Project estimate the overall prison population stands at over 2.2 million people. The Prison Policy Initiative delves further into the issue and indicates that annually over 11 million people will be detained in one of the, “719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 901 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 76 Indian Country jails,” but most of these are non-violent offenders who will not face trial.
In addition, though the number of persons in prison has decreased the last decade, over four million are on probation or parole and nearly seven million are under some form of supervision. A recent report from the Beacon Center of Tennessee, Advancing Sensible Justice in Tennessee (2016), details that not only has the State saw an 11 percent increase in the felon inmate population the last decade, but figures from the FBI’s 2016 Uniform Crime Rate, which calculates the rate violent crimes occur, conveys that while the national violent crime rate average per State is slightly over 380 percent, Tennessee has a rate of 632 percent per 100,000 people.
The costs associated with mass incarceration are equally as alarming as the rise in prison population. Most organizations who have researched this issue concur that the cost associated with it is generally $80 billion annually. Nevertheless, the Prison Policy Initiative asserts this is an underestimate when you take into account variables like, “courts, parole and probation agencies, prosecutors, indigent defense, health care, policing (for criminal law), construction of criminal justice facilities, food for inmates, costs to families (like telephone calls to prisoners), and private prison expenditures.” Notwithstanding the true cost may be upwards of $180 billion when you look at the cost effects in their totality.
The racial disparity witnessed in confinement is another detrimental consequence of mass incarceration that has been chronicled by organizations such as ACLU, NAACP, Sentencing Project, and Equal Justice Initiative. Similarly, it’s worth noting, that not only can you calculate the fiscal costs of the war on drugs in the “trillions”, but the policies which have derived from it such as truth in sentencing, three strikes and you’re out, and mandatory minimum sentencing have had damning ramifications for communities of color. Currently, over 60 percent of the prison populations are persons of color. Black males born in 2001 have a 32 percent chance of serving time in prison while Hispanic males had 17 percent likelihood. Statistics further indicate that one in three black men and one in six Hispanic men will be incarcerated in their lifetimes. Women of color represent the highest growing prison demographic. A 2016 report from the Vera Institute concluded that 64 percent of female inmates were women of color, and 80 percent of these were single mothers. The growing number of women incarcerated has created another unintended consequence, prison nurseries and visitation for the more than 2,000 infants who will be born to inmates each year. Comparably, incarceration is beginning at earlier ages in minority communities as three in five juvenile detainees are youth of color. Black and Hispanic students represent 70 percent of students arrested or referred to local law enforcement, and as a consequence, many enter into the school to prison pipeline.
Respectfully, Unity Group of Chattanooga
Sherman E. Matthews, Jr. Chairman
Pastor Charlotte Williams, Vice Chair
Eric Atkins, Corresponding Secretary and Article Editor
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Can’t do the time?
Don’t do the crime.
When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people's hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong. - Ecclesiastes 8:11
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Michael, you need a new rhyme. You've worn that one completely out. We both know some folks get to do crime and don't have to do any time, all the time. They might even get a promotion. Ya' know what I'm saying? While others get to 'muni-shuffle', where they go one to commit even more crimes, and still don't do any time. They're just allowed to keep on 'muni-shuffling' from one__ to the next.
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I remember when I was younger, back in the dark ages, there were chain gangs. I think this should come back. The inmates can help by cutting the grass alongside of the road. This would help TDOT, they could help to repair pot holes, which would help to cut back on highway maintenance we have all over the Chattanooga and surrounding areas. This would help by cutting the road department expenses.
How about helping to repair our schools? This would help the county school systems. And help clean our jails. This would help the county maintain the jails.
These are a few things I can think of that could cut down on some of the expenses that are paid by taxpayers.
If the inmates had to work, I mean really work for their room and board, they may decide they had rather stay out trouble, and they may even learn how to work, which is something most of them have never learned.