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Over the past several weeks, I have been involved in a number of conversations regarding poverty and how it affects the African American community; along with that I’ve been in a few discussions about the incarceration of minorities. Today, I was sifting through some websites and one article in particular peaked my interest; thus, leading me to write what you are currently reading.
Residential segregation and ongoing poverty has left a large number of African Americans in impoverished communities. It is believed that outside of their being the largest number of people suffering from higher poverty rates, they suffer from concentrated poverty. Studies show that 45% of African American youth reside in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty; thus, making them more likely to experience more social and behavioral problems, suffer
academically – have lower test scores, and are more likely to drop out of school. A major issue with what was previously disclosed is that many of these youth find themselves in situations leading to incarceration. Although still a concern, only 12% of White youth reside in similar neighborhoods, facing similar factors leading them to ‘continue’ the culture of poverty. Minorities, particularly African Americans are in trouble; our youth are our future….if the rate of incarceration continues what will happen to this country and those residing in it? Yes, ALL races matter; this is why the focus on the minority communities is so important!
Listen to this…between 1980 and 2008, the number of people that have been incarcerated in the USA has quadrupled; the number of inmates have gone from approximately 500,000 people to 2.3 million. The United States is 5% of the world’s population, and hold about 25% of the world’s prisoners….crazy? I agree! But what is worse is that of the number of people that are incarcerated there are also a large number of people on probation or parole; in combination 1 in every 31 adults (3.2% of the population) is under the control of the correctional system!
Now that you have an idea of the number inmates (and those on parole and probation) in general, let me provide you with details on minority incarceration; this will blow your mind, at least it should. Of the 2.3 million people incarcerated 1 million of them are African American; in 2008, African American and Hispanics constituted 58% of the prison population. In 2001, one in six African American men had been incarcerated; it is believed that if things do not change we can expect that one in three African American males born today will be incarcerated at least once in their lifetime. Scary??? To me it is! What is even worse, women are included in this sad issue; at least 1 in 100 African American women are incarcerated as we speak.
Something else to consider….African Americans are incarcerated at least six times more than Whites. In 2002, 80% of them served time under the federal crack cocaine laws causing them to spend more time in prison for drugs than their White counterparts. African American youth represent 26% of juvenile arrests; 44% of them are detained; 46% of them are judicially waived to criminal court; and 58% of them are admitted to state prisons.
The first part of addressing this issue is recognizing the major contributing factors that assist in increasing the number of youth serving time; many of them people tend to overlook as they point the finger at everyone and anything other than the truths that lie in the guts of this society. Several obvious factors that are often overlooked include, a) as previously mentioned, concentrated poverty....it does exist; b) inner city social and economic isolation; c) poverty; d) child maltreatment and neglect; e) educational difficulties; and f) incarcerated or deceased parents.
The next suggested means of addressing this issue is to realize that prison HAS NOT been proven to rehabilitate individuals and their behavior; in fact, two-thirds of prisoners re-offend. Further, the cost of holding prisoners cost $70 billion per year; it would be much more cost effective to prevent incarceration then it is to so called ‘rehabilitate’…..especially considering that rehabilitation is not likely.
So, how do we begin to tackle this issue? Good question….I am so glad you asked! Let’s start by implementing prevention strategies rather than intervention strategies; especially strategies that do not work (i.e. prison). One prevention strategy would include reducing youths’ exposure to concentrated poverty; there is research that suggests that this can improve youths’ likelihood of upward economic mobility.
How do we reduce the exposure of concentrated poverty to youth??? Hmmm, another good question. This is where you, the reader come in. It is obvious that you have a major concern or interest regarding this issue because you have read this entire entry. That being the case, I am asking you to provide me, and others with suggestions. I ask the question again, how do we reduce the exposure of concentrated poverty to youth???
Let’s work together in addressing this and the many other issues that are youth are faced with. Please….provide some feedback; if not on the blog, then send us an email. We are working on programs that will be affective; your input is valuable not only to TC, but to the many youth that are in need of our help.
It takes a village to raise a child….a life today, a nation tomorrow!
Mrs. Tomaro M. Pilgrim, MS