Social scientists believe the stricter penal system during the failed War On Drugs, which has proven to essentially be a strategic plan to destroy the urban community, has caused a massive shift in economic gain, or lack thereof, for the black community. Black men are significantly imprisoned more than their white counterparts and their sentences are nearly 20 percent longer than a white counterpart who commits a similar crime.
“Prison has become the new poverty trap,” said Bruce Western, a Harvard sociologist. “It has become a routine event for poor African-American men and their families, creating an enduring disadvantage at the very bottom of American society.” The number of Americans in state and federal prisons has quintupled since 1980. Among African-Americans who have grown up during the era of mass incarceration, one in four has had a parent locked up at some point during childhood. For black men in their 20s and early 30s without a high school diploma, the incarceration rate is so high — nearly 40 percent nationwide — that they’re more likely to be behind bars than to have a job.
In addition to the economic disparity, researchers attribute the epidemic spread of AIDS in the black community to the mass incarceration of African American men. Incarceration disrupts steady relationships and can lead to high-risk s*xual behavior. When sociologists look for causes of child poverty and juvenile delinquency, they link these problems to the incarceration of parents and the resulting economic and emotional strains on families. “Education, income, housing, health — incarceration affects everyone and everything in the nation’s low-income neighborhoods,” said Megan Comfort, a sociologist at the nonprofit research organization RTI International.
Maria Lloyd (@WritingsByMaria) is the Business Manager for the Your Black World Network and Dr. Boyce Watkins. She is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University and an advocate of dismantling the prison industrial complex, increasing entrepreneurship, reforming education, and eradicating poverty.