We have all heard the term “mass incarceration,” and over the years, we’ve become more familiar with what that term actually means. Simply put, the United States incarcerates more people than any other nation in the world, and is the leading contender in the prison population rate. Consequently, mass incarceration disproportionately impacts the poor and people of color and instead of it “making us safer,” it perpetuates a continuous cycle of oppression.
As stated in an article published by the Equal Justice Initiative on “Criminal Justice Reform,” racial disparities persist at every level from misdemeanor arrests to executions. So how did we get here? What was the straw that broke the camel’s back and caused the resurgence of mass incarceration and the urgent need for criminal justice reform?
Let’s take it back to the 1970s wherein the country witnessed a prison population boost because politicians from both parties used fear and thinly veiled racial rhetoric to push increasingly punitive policies. Even though it was President Richard Nixon who promoted the nefarious “war on drugs,” it was during President Ronald Reagan’s administration at which point the prison population truly exploded. According to an article published by James Cullen from the Brennan Center for Justice, when Reagan took office in 1980, the total prison population was 329,000, and when he left office eight years later, the prison population had essentially doubled, to 627,000. The fact that this rise in incarceration numbers affected communities of color the most-and that remains true today- is not surprising.
As cited from an article published by the Equal Justice Initiative, today nearly 10 million Americans-including millions of children- have an immediate family member in jail or prison. Issues ranging from the death penalty to wrongful convictions are prominent and pressing issues that deserve to be at the forefront of policy discussions.
Today, April 26, 2022, the Biden administration announced a plan that is part of a criminal justice reform measure, that will allocate $145 million to developing “reentry plans,” for incarcerated persons, which would connect them to resources, such as jobs, housing and loans upon being released. In accordance with this plan, while incarcerated, correctional facilities should coordinate job fairs and provide skills training for literacy, digital literacy and numeracy; and upon being released formerly incarcerated persons should be connected to services, such as help with writing resumes and interviewing for jobs.
It is nice to see President Biden follow through on some of his campaign promises regarding criminal Justice reform.
We’ll see how well this implementation goes!
We Are Gen Z