Five steps to reduce mass incarceration of African Americans

It is quite telling that this photo of a prison reentry training program looks very heavily “people of color.”

Last Month, I introduced my cousin Brandon Garrick, Masters of Social Work Candidate at NC State, who will be a regular monthly guest blogger writing about key social issues connected with my field of diversity consulting.

His first blog was “Three Key Impacts of the Mass Incarceration of Black Americans” – Link, and now he follows up with some proposed solutions with “Five steps to reduce mass incarceration of African Americans.”

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Mass incarceration of African Americans cripples our society in so many ways. I explained in a earlier blog (link included), on how it negatively affects our country from an economic and sociological perspective. As a country we need to reduce mass incarceration, especially when it comes to non-violent offenders who are serving mandatory sentences. I have come up with five steps we can take as a country to reduce mass incarceration among African Americans.

1) Increase Drug courts. Drug courts are a federal expanded program that offers offenders an alternative to incarceration. Drug courts provide substance abuse treatment within a court setting, with the goal of reducing recidivism or incarceration . Drug courts were developed in response to the growing number of drug cases crowding our courts and prisons. Drug courts have been studied since its creation, and positive results are evident.

2) Increase Mental Health Courts. Mental health courts were created to assist criminal defendants who have a mental illness that significantly contributes to their criminal offense. Mental health courts provide court mandated treatment programs instead of prison. Mental health courts provide an excellent alternative to incarceration while providing mental health treatment.

Effective prison reentry programs and employer incentives can provide productive jobs for people instead of them living on the street.


3) More Effective Re-Entry Programs. Returning to the community from prison is a complex transition for most inmates, as well as for their families and communities. Upon reentering society, former offenders are likely to struggle with substance abuse, lack of sufficient education and job skills, inadequate lodging options, mental health problems, and other various issues. Therefore, as a country, we need more effective Re-entry programs to help reduce recidivism.

4) Reducing Mandatory Minimum Sentencing. Mandatory minimum sentences a major contribution to the spark of mass incarceration. Horrendous public polices and awful crime bills can be liable for destroying African American communities throughout our country . As a nation, we need to fight these mandatory sentencing as they are very problematic for over-crowded our prisons. One organization that is fighting hard against these is Families Against Mandatory Minimums(FAMM). You can find out more information at http://famm.org/

5) Increase incentives for employers to hire ex-convicts. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit Program is a excellent program that leads to former inmates finding employment. Employment can go a long way in reducing recidivism. One of the main problems former inmates have is finding employment when released. Re-entry services can only help so much when it comes to guiding released individuals to employment. As a country we should provide more incentives to companies that hire ex-convicts, the same way we offer incentives for hiring ex-military.

This blog enumerates some ideas on how to reduce mass incarceration among African Americans. If you have any other ideas and would like a more detailed paper on some of these alternatives, feel free to email me @ [email protected]

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Guest blogger Brandon Garrick is a Masters of Social Work Candidate at NC State University

Brandon Garrick is my second cousin who I enjoy spending a lot if time with. He recently completed his Bachelor of Sociology at North Carolina State University, and has now entered their Master’s Program of Social Work. He worked full time at North Carolina’s Central Prison as a corrections officer while completing his bachelor’s degree, and has a deep concern about the many social issues facing our nation and the world. He will now be a regular guest blogger discussing these various issues.

Three Key Impacts of the Mass Incarceration of Black Americans

In some cases, huge numbers of black and brown prisoners are segregated into special units (from an LA Sentinel Article March 2014)

Guest Blog by Brandon Garrick, Masters of Social Work Candidate at NC State University

In the United States, mass incarceration among African Americans is a social issue that is often disregarded. Like other issues, our population often overlooks this particular issue since it does not directly impact the majority of the population. The negative racial perspectives on criminals associated with African Americans is a contributing factor to society’s collective blindness on this problem. This cycle of placing a disproportionate number of young African Americans behind bars based on Racism and Racial discrimination is definitely problematic.

The enormous imprisonment of African Americans has three key impacts that include:

1) Economic Cost. Mass incarceration as a whole is expensive, and in many cases of innocent individuals and non- violent offenders, is unnecessary. Individuals within prison are given meals, healthcare, and are excluded from earning revenue or paying taxes. The overall price tag on American incarceration is nearly 80 billion dollars. The amount we spend on incarceration has nearly tripled since 1980. Incarcerating millions of African Americans is negatively effecting society from a economic perspective.

2) Increasing our racial divide. The imprisonment of large percentages of African Americans negatively contributes to a racial divide in our country. The mind-boggling statistics of how many African Americans are facing incarceration feeds into the negative stereotype of African Americans being criminals. In addition the media portraying African Americans in hand cuffs or behaving criminally negatively shapes these views.

3) Harming communities and families. The mass incarceration of African Americans hurts communities in various ways. Mass incarceration often breaks family structures which hurts exterior communities. Also prison does a poor job of rehabilitating African Americans and often throws them in them back into same communities with little chance of succeeding.

Mass incarceration of African Americans is truly everybody’s problem, and should not be overlooked. This issue of mass incarceration is problematic from a social and economic perspective. When these individuals are released back into our communities without proper skills to make it, it often results in them continuing the crime cycle, further harming our communities. Bryan Stevenson does a great job explaining the overall issue alongside statistics. This dynamic “Ted Talk” video explains a lot more of the current issue of mass incarceration. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2tOp7OxyQ8

Look for part 2 of this blog series in 3-4 weeks, where I will propose some solutions to this issue.

And if you want to learn more about the social issue of mass incarceration among African Americans and receive a more in depth paper on this issue, you can reach out to me at [email protected]

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Guest blogger Brandon Garrick is a Masters of Social Work Candidate at NC State University

Brandon Garrick is my second cousin who I enjoy spending a lot if time with. He recently completed his Bachelor of Sociology at North Carolina State University, and has now entered their Master’s Program of Social Work. He worked full time at North Carolina’s Central Prison as a corrections officer while completing his bachelor’s degree, and has a deep concern about the many social issues facing our nation and the world. He will now be a regular guest blogger discussing these various issues.