In a recently published book “Invisible Men: Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress,” researcher, author and professor, Dr. Becky Pettit, told us that the United States incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other society in recorded history. In 2008, the Pew Charitable Trusts reported that more than two million inmates were behind bars. These statistics paint a picture that should scare us all:
- There are more people in U.S. prisons than are in the country’s active-duty military.
- We have more men and women incarcerated than the top 36 European nations combined — including Russia.
- Over the past 35 years, the number of Americans behind bars has increased five-fold.
- Today, one in 31 American adults is under some form of correctional supervision.
Nowhere is incarceration more prevalent than in the African American community. According to an estimate by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men will serve time in prison over their lifetimes.
The mass incarceration epidemic affects all of us, even those who haven’t gone to prison: It affects the child who grows up without a father who has been incarcerated, the children who are bullied at school by that child, the woman seeking a husband who can’t find a good man to marry, the list goes on and on. When so many of our men are marginalized and incarcerated, this has a powerful impact on the sociological ecosystem of the black community, the same way an economy crumbles when a few large companies go bankrupt.
The point here is that we cannot look at the holocaust of mass incarceration as someone else’s problem or something that just affects criminals. The punishment should fit the crime, and when every study imaginable says that black people are more likely to go to jail for the same crimes, this means that Jim Crow is alive and well. Something must be done at the grassroots, state and federal levels. We cannot allow this epidemic to exist any longer.
Jesus spoke time and again about fairness, justice and equality. If we call ourselves Christian, so should we.
So, tell me friends, what shall we do about this? I am ready to help.