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Jul 22nd
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Civil Rights
Time to end mass incarceration by Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
April 10, 2015

Mass incarceration in the United States is counterproductive and disproportionately causes a long-term injury to Black Americans and others who remain trapped in poverty and disillusionment.

How is it that the richest nation on earth and the most technologically advanced society now has the largest prison population in the world?

Michelle Alexander’s brilliant best-selling book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, provides a classic analysis of the twin problems of race and injustice. Alexander revealed how the so-called criminal justice system reinforces racial discrimination and bigotry aimed particularly against Black Americans and other people of color. Whether it is an “old” or “new” Jim Crow, the impact of decades of massive unjust imprisonment on the Black American community continues to be devastating.

‘War on Black America’

The “war on drugs” launched by the Reagan administration in devolved into a “war on Black America” where the courts and prisons became institutions to expand the racial oppression of more than 1 million Black Americans. Incarceration rates in the U.S. quadrupled over this period.

According to Alexander, mass incarceration in America targeted Black Americans and maintained by a “racial caste” system of laws, policies and institutions. Alexander explained, “The term mass incarceration refers not only to the criminal justice system, but also to a larger web of laws, rules, policies and customs that control those labeled criminals both in and out of prison. Once released, former prisoners enter a hidden underworld of legalized discrimination and permanent social exclusion. They are members of America’s new undercaste.”

National priority

I agree with Michelle Alexander that this caste system needs to be successfully challenged. The challenge is how to end the mass incarceration caste phenomenon. What strategies will be effective to end this injustice? This is an important question today. Yet, there appears to be some reluctance in the current public discourse to address this issue forthrightly.

There are some who state correctly that we have made considerable progress in America toward a more just and equitable society over the past 60 years. However, that’s only half the story. The reality in 2015 is that the issue of over-incarceration and the lingering debilitating impact of the system of injustice that continues to negatively impact millions of Black American families should be a national priority. But it isn’t.

List of issues

Even as many of our national civil rights organizations add mass incarceration to a long list of other issues of serious consequence, there is not yet a national consensus that it should rank at the top of that list. The truth is that poverty, unemployment, internecine violence within our communities, poor health care, economic inequity, and inadequate education can all be traced to the short- and long-term suffering that mass incarceration continues to have on Black American families.

There needs to be a stronger and more effective national coalition established to end mass incarceration in America. Ironically, and this is good news, there appears to be a convergence of commitments from both liberals and conservatives to stand together to tackle this social, political and economic contradiction that stands in the way of the U.S. becoming a more perfected union of democracy, freedom, justice and equality. The time to end mass incarceration is now!

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association Mass incarceration in the United States is counterproductive and disproportionately causes a long-term injury to Black Americans and others who remain trapped in poverty and disillusionment.

Legal cannabis market 'would be worth £1.25bn a year to government' by Jamie Doward
September 26, 2013

Report sets out potential cost-savings and tax-take from a regulated cannabis market in England and Wales

 A new report by the  Institute for Social and Economic Research, based at the University of Essex, suggests that introducing a regulated cannabis market could be worth as much as £1.25bn a year to the government.
Memo to the Chancellor: Fancy a cool billion pounds from a legal cannabis market? by Jamie Doward
September 26, 2013

From her Oxfordshire home, Amanda Feilding leads a group with the sort of academic and political influence that could see cannabis being legalised – and, crucially, regulated
Call Off the Global Drug War by Jimmy Carter
June 17, 2011
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In an extraordinary new initiative announced earlier this month, the Global Commission on Drug Policy has made some courageous and profoundly important recommendations in a report on how to bring more effective control over the illicit drug trade.
Sacrifice of the Innocents: Drugs, Money and Murder in Mexico by Amanda Feilding
In Roberto Bolano's novel 2666, the women of the city of Santa Teresa are being brutally raped and relentlessly killed. The culprits are unknown, but a shadowy alliance of drug dealers, police officers and local government officials is never far from the scene.
End the War on Drugs by Sting
April 13, 2010

Whether it's music, activism or daily life, the one ideal to which I have always aspired is constant challenge — taking risks, stepping out of my comfort zone, exploring new ideas.
Maine Referendum Would Scuttle Gay Rights
Groups that support gay rights have sent a 12-page letter to Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap outlining what they say is wrong with a proposed referendum question submitted last week by Michael Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine.

A Debate at the Oxford Union by Michael Carmichael February 16, 2006
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Last Wednesday, I was invited to represent Democrats Abroad and the Democratic Party by participating in a black-tie debate at the Oxford Union.