The Unites States is facing an epidemic as more and more Americans are being incarcerated for petty crimes, breaking families apart, and consequently creating a racial underclass. Over the last half century the number of incarcerated citizens has skyrocketed from 300,000 in 1970, to a staggering two million. The boom in incarcerated citizens has its roots buried deep in America’s war on drugs.
The war on drugs started in 1970 as an attempt to reduce the flow of illegal drugs into the United States, and also reduce domestic drug trade. The war on drugs was intended to better American society, but has caused detrimental effects on aspects of American civil rights, as the amount of blacks arrested continues to rise and the whites seem to miss the harsh punishment. Six times more African Americans are arrested than whites, with African Americans making up 58% of the prison population, (Criminal Justice Fact Sheet). This phenomenon is visible in the lower income, ghettoized areas of the United States, where education is minimal and the need for money surpasses the need to follow the rules.
In Brooklyn, New York, the police force utilizes methods of interrogation such as stop, question and frisk. This method of law enforcement is statistically shown to be harsher on the black men living in these communities. The form of justice for these non violent offenses is severe and unnecessary, ultimately separating them from their families for years and costing around 200 billion dollars annually. The war on drugs hasn’t reduced the amount of drugs on the streets, it has however removed a disproportionate amount of black men from society, locking them up, removing them from their wives and kids, effecting the next generation.
The police are most active in the “ghetto” areas, where money is tight, and higher education is rare. The kids born in areas such as these, are born into a vicious cycle, trapped in the ghetto, unable to better educate themselves. Education standards are low, with many schools not reaching the necessary requirements to stay accredited, significantly diminishing the students chances of a college education. The result is teenagers and young adults lacking the necessary education to hold a steady well paying job. Lacking the ability to receive higher education, many turn to crime as a way to pay the bills and support their family. When the inevitable happens and they are caught, it leaves them with a criminal history, a box they will always have to check, a job repellent.
The criminal record makes employment near impossible, in some cases removing the vital government welfare, stripping them of their right to vote, and throwing them salary-less back into a world of crime they know all too well. The biggest problems with the prison system in the United States is the massive repercussions of minimal offences when the inmate is released from jail. The fact they are a convicted criminal greatly limits their ability to improve their way of life, through a well paying job. The criminal history box on job applications doesn’t acknowledge any efforts to improve or change as a result of the offense. If the employer is concerned about who they are hiring they should conduct a background check after the interview, leaving the door open for genuine people who have improved their ways. When employer sees that that box has been checked, why should they continue to read the application. So they don’t, resulting in high unemployment amongst people who have a history of breaking the law to make money.
The rates of incarceration are staggering, discrimination over runs the way policing is executed, blacks receive absurd sentences for nonviolent crimes, and the challenges they face upon release from prison and reintegrating into society are huge. All of these factors combine, creating an undercaste that has spread throughout the country, causing an epidemic of incarceration. The system isn’t intended to make an obvious undercaste in American society, but it certainly has, with its roots buried deep in thousands of years of prejudice and discrimination, change will be hard, but is vital if we hope to keep improving equality, and modernizing the civil rights movement.
“Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.” NAACP. Web. 20 Jan. 2016. <http://www.naacp.org/pages/criminal-justice-fact-sheet>.