A disproportionate number of working-age African-American men are imprisoned, The Pew Charitable Trusts found in 2010.
One in 12 African-American men aged 18-64 are incarcerated, The Pew study showed. That compares to one in 87 for whites and one in 36 for Hispanics.
“Inmates cannot work to provide for their families,” according to Yi Wu, a graduate from Boston University. “Instead of producing goods or being trained, they are locked in cages. In every 12 African-American families, there is one missing breadwinner. It is estimated that imprisoning one person costs $23,286 annually in lost productivity.”
According to Yi, “more than one out of three young black men without a high school diploma are incarcerated. If you are a black male high-school dropout, you have only a 63 percent chance of being free.”
Yi attributes the high prison rate to the War on Drugs and mandatory minimum sentences, both of which are currently being reviewed for potential changes by state and federal governments.
“Inmates cannot work to
provide for their families”
Legal scholar Michelle Alexander called these policies the “New Jim Crow” replacing the “old” explicit Jim Crow laws to keep people of color at an inferior status.
Similarly, attorney Tanya Coke, in a speech to John Jay College, suggested motives for sustained support of long sentences including “racial fears of unemployed black men and the threat of incarceration, but also a cause for policy choices targeting low-skill, poorly educated men for imprisonment.”
“It is time to stop the vicious cycle of incarceration of joblessness that disproportionately affect communities of color. The first step is to enact serious criminal justice reform — to release and rehabilitate some inmates and assist their reentry into the labor market, and change laws, in particular drug laws and mandatory minimums. Only by ending Jim Crow of our day can (Martin Luther) King’s dream for a more equal and free nation be realized, and only by doing so can the work of marchers not done in vain,” Coke said.
Coke added, “As the first African American Attorney General, Eric Holder has recently called for some limited reforms toward that goal, and hopefully, the 50th anniversary of the march will be another turning point in history.”