Mass Incarceration

The United States holds only 5% of the global population but holds a quarter of the entire worlds population of prisoners. You don’t have to be a genius or a math whiz to know that 5% and 25% seems a little fucking disproportionate. In the past 40 years our number of incarcerated individuals has septupled ! That means it has increased by 700%. Again, no genius, but that looks extremely what-the-fuckish.

And oh..it gets worse. Out of every 3 beautiful black boys statistics say we can expect one of them to go to prison at least once in their lifetime. That’s contrasted to only one out of 6 Latinos and one out of 17 white boys. Another overwhelming statistics: Women are the fastest growing incarcerated population and they’re also disproportionately stuck. 60% of the women in jails haven’t even been convicted of a crime yet and are awaiting trial ! As a matter of fact there are twice as many people sitting in local jails waiting for trial AND PRESUMED INNOCENT than in our entire federal prison system.

What went wrong ?? That’s what we all want to know. What happened ? What exactly led us, as a country to this point ? One prominent theory blames the War on Drugs (WOD). The WOD is a phrase referring to a federal initiative aimed at stopping illegal drug use, distribution and trade by drastically lengthening prison sentences for both the user and the dealer. Let’s stroll down History lane together to get a better picture of WOD and how it’s led to our current state of mass incarceration.

Back in the 1890s the old Sears catalogue deadass offered a syringe/cocaine combo for $1.50 (that’s equal to $42.55 today, about half a gram). In 1890 also the first sexy taxes were places on morphine and opium. In 1909 the government, through the Smoking Opium Exclusion Act, banned the possession and the importation of opium if it would be used for smoking. Using it as ‘medicine’ was totally cool though. This was the countries first federal law banning any type of non-medical use of a substance.

Fast forward to five years after that. Congress passed the Harrison Act which taxed every step of the opiate and cocaine trade. Then in 1919, as we well know, alcohol prohibition came. That lasted until 1933 but to be honest niggas wasn’t really havin’ it in the meantime. Okay so now it’s 1937 and the “Marijuana Tax Act” gets passed. This upped the tag on cannabis, hemp and marijuana alike. If you didn’t pay said tax you were subjected to up to a $2,000 fine and five years in prison.

So then everything was relatively chill for a little minute when Nixon’s headass came along signed the Controlled Substances Act into law in 1970. This put all drugs on a 5 tiered schedule based off its potential for abuse and medical application. Schedule 1 drugs are considered the most dangerous for example because they have a super high risk for addiction but little medicinal benefit. This would include heroin, MDMA and lsd. 

June of 1971, when my mom was just negative four months old, Richard Nixon officially declared the War on Drugs and referred to drug abuse as public enemy number one. Word on the street is that the rise in recreational drug use in the 60s is what led Nixon to focus on certain drugs over others. He created the DEA in ’73 which had 1470 special agents and over $75 million. Today it’s up to almost 5000 agents and $2 billion. 

In one 1994 interview Nixon’s domestic policy chief mentioned that Nixon’s true motivation for WOD was that he hated black people and “the antiwar left”. The chief said “we knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”

OH… OKAY.

Between ’73 and ’77 for whatever reason the war relaxed and 11 states even decriminalized  marijuana possession. Then again with the headassery, Reagan comes into office and reignites everything, going ten times harder. In ’84 is when his ol’ lady introduced the Just Say No campaign. The face that Reagan made penalties even more severe led to a massive increase in nonviolence drug crime incarcerations. 2 years later Congress passed yet another Act; this time defining minimum prison sentences for certain drug offenses. And once again it had hella racist undertones. For example, “it allocated longer prison sentences for offenses involving the same amount of crack cocaine (used more often by black Americans) as powder cocaine (used more often by white Americans). Five grams of crack triggered an automatic five-year sentence, while it took 500 grams of powder cocaine to merit the same sentence.”

Also to no surprise to us at least, people of color were stereotyped as probably being guilty more often than whites which led to a huge increase: in 1980 there were 50K nonviolent drug offenses and in 1997 there were 400K. Since then there has been a horrible trickle down affect. People are being charged crazy time. Someone sentences in 1980 is still in jail TODAY. There have been so many crimes since then with no revolving door so to speak. They end up piled on top of each other instead. 

Then there is the other half that is the revolving door. Once incarcerated whether truly guilty or not or once you’ve been held in jail pretrial, whether it was a misunderstanding or not, your life deteriorates. Your reputation is tainted, your employment is often halted which prevents you from paying bills which causes loss of basic needs. If convicted your rights are gone making it harder for you to assimilate back into society. Not only that but the experience leaves behind so many psychological scars, including PTSD often times. So what happens is these people fall back into or newly into a life of crime and/or vices and eventually get entered back into the system and so it goes and goes and goes.

So we’ve identified the huge problem right ? Naturally the next step is to work towards fixing it. I live here in Ohio and like my state, your state probably or hopefully has different initiatives going on to rectify the issue. Here the PreTrial Justice Institute and Montgomery Count Jail Coalition are working together and gathering people from the community to work on policy change. The first thing they’re trying to do is stop Montgomery County from building a newer, bigger county jail.

Our county jail just like others in the country are overfilled and contain innocent people and those who have only committed nonviolent crimes. We don’t want them to build a bigger jail to house even more people, that will soon just be overcrowded. We want them to stop locking people up for dumb shit ! Stop letting innocent people sit in a holding cell. We want to educate people. So many people are stuck in jail simply because they don’t know bail is only $100. Building a bigger jail just seems like a slippery slope, it’s going backwards.

What’s your opinion on the topic ? Do you have any experience navigating the system ? We wanna hear from you ! Write in and tell us about it.

Stereotypes

Aight so boom. Today we’re going to talk about stereotypes. At one point psychology believed that only bigoted people play into different stereotypical beliefs but now the study of unconscious bias has them realizing that tbh we ALL use stereotypes. And we do it like all the time and usually aren’t aware of it. 

Okay so what is a stereotype exactly and wtf is unconscious bias right ? A stereotype is according to Google Dictionary, “a widely help but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing”. Now usually when we make these statements we mention that we’re just speaking ‘in general’. So what’s the difference between the two ? Generalizations are helpful and stereotypes are hurtful. 

When we’re making a generalization we’re attempting to look at seemingly random things or people and group them together by their similarities. The focus is on being descriptive instead of being judgmental. Stereotypes lock people into categories so it’s very limiting and not too much descriptive.

So what’s unconscious bias ? It’s actually described wildly well on the Virgin website. It says “They are learned stereotypes that are automatic, unintentional, deeply engrained within out beliefs, universal, and have the ability to affect our behaviour. For example, if you’re stuck in a car park with a flat tyre, chances are you’d be most likely to approach a man, rather than a woman, if you needed assistance in changing it.” This seems like it’s pretty innocent. You might think like, “well I mean, more men know how to change tires than woman,” but do you know this to be a fact ? Have you researched this and came to a solid conclusion ? Usually not. Many of these things aren’t inherently true or they’re only true because of the widely held belief. It may be that women really don’t know how to change tires as often but the only reason they refrain from learning is because they’ve been led to believe that it’s a mans job.

There’s several different types of unconscious bias’. Affinity bias where we warm up to people that’re most like us. For example, when you walk into a sea of strangers alone, you’ll probably gravitate to other Indian people if you’re Indian or other women if you’re a woman or other children if you’re a child. There’s the halo effect where you start thinking everything about a particular person is good just because you like them. Perception bias, where you fall into stereotypes so hard that you cannot think objectively about people. Confirmation bias where you only consume information that agrees with your pre-existing assumptions. Lastly, there’s group think. Think of the book 1984. Groupthink is when you try too hard to fit in and mimic others instead of forming or acting on your own thoughts and opinions resulting in a total loss of identity. Scary.

The best ways to overcome stereotypes and unconscious bias are awareness and exposure. You have to be aware of the way you think about people. What stereotypes do you notice come up in your mind when you’re around a ton of people ? Pay attention to your thoughts. Get out and talk to people who are different from you. Knowledge is power. Knowing firsthand what other people think and say and how they behave gives you the power needed to overcome stereotypes.

Racism Is Alive

There’s a lot going on in our nation today with the impeachment of Trump and the reelection campaigns as it correlates to racism. 

The first time I ever really realized how real racism was is when I was 12. I’d experienced it before but during those times I wasn’t aware of what was happening. When I was 12 my family and I were riding to a relatives house for thanksgiving when a white man with a confederate flag in a pickup truck (stereotypical right ?) hit our car. My step dad hopped out FURIOUS as did the other driver when we noticed he was drunk. I can’t remember everything that was said but I do remember him saying “I don’t give a fuck about you monkeys.” He then threatened to pull a gun out. My step dad got back in the car and called the police. Between the call and the arrival the driver flashed his gun twice. When the police came (a single middle aged white male) we were told that since the man didn’t shoot us we should just go home. This was in Huber Heights, OH.

What was your first encounter with racism ?

A lot of people are under the impression that racism is either dead or dying. That’s not true at all. The following is from a Twitter thread posted by Michael Harriot.

“At the end of the Civil War, the 13th Amendment Abolished slavery, the 14th granted black people citizenship and the 15th guaranteed them the right to vote. A LOT of people believe this is when Jim Crow began. Those people are wrong. After the Civil War, black people freely registered to vote en masse. Voter registration was more than 90 percent in some states, especially in Southern states like Mississippi, where blacks outnumbered whites. Now that slavery wasn’t a thing, how could racists control blacks? Well, they formed terrorist cells and started killing black people. If you’re ever read my description of Reconstruction, you know I don’t portray the massive black lynchings as separate events. It was an organized race war Which brings me to one my favorite but lesser-known episodes in Black History,You must remember that the racist traitors who declared they’d rather own slaves than be American were not yet Americans. 

One of the provisions of Georgia being readmitted to the union was that former Confederates couldn’t vote or hold office. Well, who else was left in Ga? In 1868, 30 black men were elected to to the Georgia House and another 3 were elected to the state Senate. Rufus Bullock, a white man, was elected Governor. You know white people were mad. In fact, they got so mad that a  burgeoning terrorist group came down to help:  The KKK. (This may or may not be the genesis of the song “Devil Went Down to Georgia.”) 

In 1868, the KKK and white supremacists in Ga removed the Original 33 from office. They literally overthrew the government. And for good measure, they started killing them. One quarter of the Original 33 were killed, And when black people [protested], the KKK killed them, too. When blacks converged in Camilla, Ga to protest, whites in Mitchell County stationed in hiding places opened fire, killing dozens. That was just a small taste. In 1868, white terrorists in Georgia murdered so many black people that the entire state was KICKED BACK OUT OF THE UNION. The Ga Supreme Court ruled, in 1869: “…There is no existing law of this State which confers the right upon the colored citizens thereof to hold office”. 

One of my favorite quotes about this reign of terror is that the Gov. Bullock “was obliged by the Ku Klux Klan to resign his governorship and, in his discerning contemplation felt it wise to leave the state.” That’s gangsta terrorist shit, right there. But This didn’t just happen in Ga. This terrorist violent overthrow of the government happened throughout the South. It was the evolution of white supremacy. Death and terror might be the only thing worse than slavery. Ga. was finally readmitted back into the Union  in 1870. In 1871, Congress passed the 3rd Enforcement Act, aka the KKK Act, which allowed the president to suspend habeas corpus to fight the Klan. (Habeas corpus is the right to not be detained without being charged. Nowadays, they only do it to black people). Again, this is not to recount the horrors, this is to show you that white supremacy has never decreased. It only morphs. 

The Enforcement Act didn’t really work though. But in the 1876 presidential election, white southerners killed so many people and suppressed so many votes…Congress was like: Look, we’ll remove troops from the South. Invest in railroads and let y’all do whatever you want to do to black people if yall let this presidential vote stand. It was called the Compromise of 1877 but most people know it as… The birth of Jim Crow. THIS is when the South began passing segregation laws. This is when separate but equal became accepted. White supremacy did not decrease. It evolved. After black soldiers came back from WWI, the fear of black equality returned. To be fair, blacks WERE doing disrespectful shit like looking white people in the eyes (Seriously, there are court records acquitting whites after they gave that explanation.) 

The Red Summer of 1919 was a new wave of terrorist lynchings that might be worse. Then after Congress addressed lynching, there was a second round of voter disenfranchisement using poll taxes, literacy tests and night “raids’. White supremacy did not DECREASE, it just changed with the times. Then came redlining, which barred banks from giving government-backed loans to black borrowers. This would lay the foundation for educational disparities for another 75 years. Now that its (kinda) illegal to lynch, deny education and steal our vote, how did white supremacy morph? It became Voter suppression. In Georgia’s 2018 midterms, 127,000 votes disappeared into thin air. But curiously, no one can explain why it happened ONLY in majority-black precincts. It never made the news. Black voters are disproportionately purged from voter rolls, affected by voter ID laws and denied the right to vote for felony convictions. Why are black schools underfunded? The red areas in those redlining maps from the 40s are still pretty black: https://dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/redlining/ 

If you compare them to where police patrol, where schools are underfunded, or even where the worse drugs are sold, you’ll find that little has changed. But we still fund schools by neighborhood wealth. Those slave patrols eventually evolved into municipal police forces. It is the evolution of white supremacy. It has the same destination. I don’t worry about slave patrols, but my heart still speeds up when I see the police. And if you think I’m overexagerrating. Think about this: According to the Haynes report on lynching, between 1889 and 1919, a little fewer than 80 black people were lynched, on average every year. [In] 1868, the Freedmen’s bureau counted 147 cases of murder by the KKK by that  out of control Georgia lynch mob. In 2019, police killed 259 black people. Now,  I’m not saying it’s worse for black people now than it was during slavery or Jim Crow. I’m not saying they’re using the same tactics. All I’m saying is this: Don’t think they stopped trying.”

What do you think about his assessment ? When did you first realize racism was a thing ? Tell us about a run in with it you’ve had.