No Help Wanted

By Hopewell

I’m honestly torn. People always tell me how horrible the criminal justice system is and that we should make reforming it our first priority but I’m just not sure. The U.S imprisons more of its citizens than any other country. We have 2.4 million behind bars. China has four times more people than the U.S, but only 1.6 million prisoners. Of course, black men make up an ungodly amount of that population- around 35%. Blacks collectively comprise about 40%of total inmate population. This is especially troubling when put into a historical perspective. In his book, “Two Nations,” Dr. Andrew Hacker cites stats from the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicating that in 1930 (a period when blacks were massively incarcerated for the purpose of re-enslaving them) blacks were only 22.4% of inmates, 29.7% in 1950.

But this is not merely a black issue, although today it seems to be. Interestingly enough, there was a net loss of inmate population in the 40’s and 60’s (a small increase the 50’s). However, the 70’s 80’s and 90’s saw dramatic rises in inmate population nationally; an increase of over 400,000 in the 80’s, over 500,000 in the 90’s. Further, it can be argued that perhaps 86% of federal prisoners today of all races are victimless criminals. In other words, they are in prison but there is no actual victim to their “crime.” Of course we know the infamous “War on Drugs” is the primary source of this rapid expansion of prison population but there has to be more- and there is.

I’m told we’ve been in an economic “crisis” for a while. The national unemployment rate peaked at 9.6% in 2010. Problem is, for blacks, we were over 10% for several years before the crisis. In fact, ever since stats have been kept, we’ve always had about twice the national unemployment rate. Even with all this misery, Wall Street is booming. A few weeks ago all the chatter was about the Dow Jones average possibly nearing its all-time high of 14,164. It’s been so great in fact, they’re now pouting over a six day losing streak- a whole six days, the worst streak since August. At this point we must ask ourselves some critical questions: how can Wall Street prosper when so many people have no job? It’s very simple. With just a little thought you’d have to conclude that everyone without a job is completely unnecessary for prosperity to continue.

David Simon said in a 2011 lecture in New York that perhaps 20% of the American population is unnecessary economically. With the shift from manufacturing and actually producing things to paper profits and services, companies simply don’t need as many people and thus massive unemployment can exist while profits boom. What to do with the “extra” people? One option is to have peasants killed by death squads, like the ones we helped fund in El Salvador. However, a more humane option is to simply imprison them. Further, make sure everyone’s tax dollars go toward this enterprise that enriches corporations operating the prisons for profit. But who to target? The most obvious strategy is to go after people no one will particularly miss or make a fuss over- blacks.

So I’m torn. If I fight the criminal justice system and win, what will happen to all those people we let out of jail? Where would they work? What would they do? So maybe that shouldn’t be my primary fight. Perhaps the fight should be to start businesses and promote entrepreneurship to create need for this “surplus” population. Ultimately, it’s not either/or but both/and. We must be deadly committed to both. In parting, I must say a word to non-blacks. While you might believe this is not about you, it is. You may believe your skill level, income or color insulates you but be careful. Once upon a time one couldn’t imagine that companies would not need factory labor. Today poor blacks are unnecessary, tomorrow I.T professionals might be. Put another way, Hitler killed six million Jews but he also killed about four million others.



Nice blog D’Juan, a lot of great stats activist and others can use to make the case for reforming/ dismantling our current legal system

Rashad Howard

The point you make about this applying across color lines should be at the front. I think what most non-black Americans miss is that all the issues that seem to be segmented to certain subsections of the population are CURRENTLY affected them as well. There is tremendous injustice being “practiced” upon one section of the population and the rest of the population is desensitizing themselves to it and ignoring it. The fact of the matter is there will be a day when that injustice begins to scale. It happens gradually at first, in small, seeming immeasurable increments then begins to creep into other subsections. It goes from poor blacks to poor hispanics. Then it goes from poor blacks to black and hispanic veterans (think Kenneth Chamberlain in NY). Then it moves from black veterans to hispanic and white veterans. Then teenagers…and so on. Police brutality is tolerated because it only affects a subsection of the culture today. It will affect you tomorrow. The injustice of the British Army on Colonial “citizens” (of Great Britain, at the time) was originally exacted against the poorer in the colonial populations. It eventually became common practice for British soldiers to invade the private property of wealthier American colonists. Evil is very subtle. We all need to be very concerned about the current prison industrial complex, the increasing police state, and a dangerously “competitive” race to become underemployed (or unemployed altogether) in the US. It’s a gradual plan to drive us all down the road to serfdom.

Jennifer Morgan

It is quite sad when a group of humans can be considered “surplus”. However, as stated in this blog, that is the reality of things.

Unfortunately, I don’t know that (nonviolent) prisoners will ever be released if it is left up to our gov’t (which greatly influences our justice system). The very idea that the country would have to decide how to deal with this large group of formerly displaced citizens is more than most (people in the position of power) can handle. It is just easier (and in many cases, cheaper) to turn a deaf ear/blind eye to the situation.

With that said, I sincerely believe that it will take the effort and pressure of the little man to bring about change. Because we are our brothers’ keepers, continue to fight the good fight (which, in this case, happens to to be twofold).


I myself, find it troubling to use a body of people, especially a racial group, to economic oppression, mental, racial, community and judicial discrimination. Of course, the powers that be will never admitting wrong and use words like, “we’re not racist,” when the tactics to oppress people of color is! When you have private prisons geared towards making money off felony convictions, especially murderers, are horrible, and gives certain ethnic groups no fighting chance. Why is it so many white people have a high money making profession, while most minorities work at low-paying jobs and are reduced to servants? Most of these minorities have been through the “justice” system and will take whatever is given to them to provide for their families. There is a widening gap between the haves to the have nots, and the ways these laws and the police profile these groups is proof enough to me that there is something more sinister to keep the justice system’s wheels greasy for bigger profits and building more prisons. Open your eyes, people…

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