Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hidden LIfe Sentences in Communities of Colour

Poverty has stalked the Black community from the moment we were dragged in chains to the new world.  White supremacy has worked diligently for centuries to ensure that many are born poor and remain so until death.  Efforts include but are not limited to reduced access to education, pigeonholing in low paying jobs, refusal of mortgages and incarceration.  Currently Blacks are over represented in the prison population.  This is a sentence that is commonly uttered when the Black community is being discussed, but what is ignored is that this means a lifetime disenfranchisement for many.  Colloquially we say don't do the crime if you can't do the time, but we don't say that for many the time means a lifetime of being punished for said crime.  We perpetuate the myth that the recidivism rates are high because people have criminal tendencies, rather than the reality that people seldom get a second chance after they have been incarcerated for any length of time.  Poverty creates much of what we consider crime today and until we deal with our communal responsibility for the creation of circumstances that lead to incarceration, prisons will continue to be a revolving door. One such example is:



Vincent had been convicted of break and enter 25 years ago and now has to report this to potential employers.  Each time they run a background check on him and discover his criminal record he loses his job.  It has been 14 months since he was last employed and his wife is currently two months pregnant.   If Vincent has not committed a crime in 25 years, why is he still being punished?  There is no forgiveness in our current system and a record could lead to a lifetime of unemployment.  This is what awaits people when they are released from prison because we are socially invested in thwarting rehabilitation at every turn.   The problem is that we have so invested in the idea of the responsibility of the individual, we cannot see the ways in which certain groups are set up to fail before they even start. Furthermore, because Americans have become dependent on the prison industrial complex, they cannot see the ways in which these system benefits the bourgeoisie, while permanently damaging so many that we have come to view as surplus population.

In times of recession it becomes even more important to raise the living the standards of those with the least. We have instead invested in ensuring that the rich amass even more wealth.  True social change is not going to happen from the top down.  If we want to truly see an end to high unemployment and a rise in the living standard of the country, people like Vincent not only need to be given a second chance, the government must invest in them.  This would be considered far to radical because like most systems in a capitalist economy the government exists to oppress and pave the way for the continued progress of the wealthy class.  Poverty is the root of many of the social problems that society is currently burdened with and building super prisons is not going to bring that to an end.