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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Black Man

posted by on August 7 at 10:51 AM

Another statistic:

More black men in the United States are behind bars than are in higher education, according to a new study by a Washington DC thinktank.

Following a boom in prison construction and an increase in the numbers of people being incarcerated for non-violent crimes, there were 791,600 black men in American prisons and county jails in 2000, and only 603,032 enrolled in colleges and universities, according to the Justice Policy Institute, which favours alternatives to imprisonment.

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This is news? This "news" was in an Ice Cube song 15+ years ago:

And motherfuckers that say they too black
Put em overseas they be begging to come back
They say keep em on gangs and drugs
Yyou wanna sweep a nigga like me up under the rug
Kicking shit called street knowledge
Why more niggas in the pen than in college?

Posted by jmr | August 7, 2008 11:03 AM

Here is a link to an article with more statistics and general information on US jails today.

BEst regards,

Posted by MediaMentions | August 7, 2008 11:05 AM

I honestly believe that this is reason #1 that the War On Drugs was declared by Nixon in the first place -- to roll back the Great Society policies of the LBJ era and negate the advances of the Civil Rights movement. And of course the rise of privatization means that the modern prison system is a corporatized version of the Jim Crow tradition in the South of trumping up charges against black men, throwing them on chain gangs, and using that labor to build roads for next to no cost. An updated form of slavery, basically. Free labor, no rights, you're not allowed to leave, there's a chain around your leg, etc.

Providing college educations for everybody would obviously be cheaper than incarcerating such a large portion of the population, but if maintaining a permanent exploitable underclass is the whole idea then education would just be counterproductive.

Posted by flamingbanjo | August 7, 2008 11:16 AM

The War on Drugs was created to give employment (way before Nixon) to all the anti-moonshine cops right after Prohibition was repealed.

And it's been a continual farce ever since.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 7, 2008 11:23 AM

Will: Okay, fair enough, but it was my understanding that the term "War on Drugs" was first used by Nixon, picking up on Johnson's "War on Poverty." And that the spike in incarceration rates that characterizes it followed.

Posted by flamingbanjo | August 7, 2008 12:20 PM

charles, care to speculate on the reasons for this statistic?

is that the mayor of detroit heading for the hoosgow?

Posted by max solomon | August 7, 2008 12:56 PM


I think that's probably correct, but it only tells half the story, the other half being that incarcerations have also increased in concert with the privatization of the penal system.

Just like any other Capitalistic system, the corporate Incarceration Industry relies on an environment of steady, continual growth. And the easiest way to "grow the industry" is to simply find more excuses for throwing otherwise harmless people into prison - and KEEPING THEM THERE (or, which at least provides a mechanism that essentially guarantees recidivism.)

So long as putting people in jail is a for-profit enterprise, low-risk offenders, and particularly people of color who generally lack access to the sorts of legal resources educated/white people take for granted, will continue to flood into the system.

Posted by COMTE | August 7, 2008 1:00 PM

Does anyone know what the corresponding number of Caucasians, Asians, Hispanics in jail and higher education are for comparison, or what percentage of the whole these numbers are?

Posted by Beth Delaney | August 7, 2008 1:10 PM

Comte: Indeed. In California the Prison Guards union is one of the most powerful lobbying groups, and they consistently vote for every tough-on-crime, three-strikes-and-you're-out measure to come down the pike. We've created an economic incentive to increase crime -- the more criminals, the more tax dollars are funneled into private pockets and the more free labor is available for their prison sweatshops. Much like property forfeiture laws create an economic incentive for police departments to raid as many suspected drug dealers as possible, especially since the property seizures precede any convictions and the burden of proof is on the accused. All of which diverts resources away from fighting the sort of crime which is not a direct result of prohibition in the first place.

It's a neat little system. And nobody seems the least bit concerned that it has nothing to do with making us safer.

Posted by flamingbanjo | August 7, 2008 1:30 PM

No mention of the fact that almost all of those 600,000 black men in college are in their late teens/early 20s? Meanwhile, those almost 800,000 black men in prison likely run the gamut in ages, from teenagers to very old men.

Posted by keshmeshi | August 7, 2008 1:55 PM

That's from an article reposted from 6 years ago. Still relevant. But worth noting the source.

Posted by Trevor | August 7, 2008 4:55 PM

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