What a paradox. If anyone needs to see, try it certainly would be Justice! The statue of Lady Justice wearing a blindfold is supposed to symbolize the sense of “fair-play” and objectivity within the judicial system. Things such as money, viagra power, weakness, gender or identity cannot influence Justice herself, in theory. Justice looks only at the particular set of facts presented and renders judgment without favor or partiality. This is what we hope for when we call upon the law to protect us, or defend us or provide a fair, impartial and just decision. But is justice actually just? I don’t think so.
The FACTS are these:
- The US incarcerates the largest number of people in the world.
- The incarceration rate in the US is four times the world average.
- Some individual US states imprison up to six times as many people as do nations of comparable population.
- The US imprisons the most women in the world.
- Crime rates do not account for incarceration rates.
The US is less than 5% of the world’s population and yet incarcerates over 23% of the world’s prisoners. When you begin to interrogate the racial demographics of our nation’s prison populations you will soon become acutely aware of the fact that black & brown people are over 75% of the incarcerated population. In the US, African Americans are over six times as likely to be incarcerated as whites; Latinos over twice as likely. Clearly there is a disproportionate rate of incarceration for non-whites than whites. Several factors exponentially add to these statistics in the US. The most evidentiary reason is the systemic web of arbitrary justice that creates laws and policies. It is also the criminal profile that “racial-izes” certain types of crime (both actual and perceived), media coverage of the worst cases, public perceptions, political opportunism, and misdirected laws, policies, and practices.
The large majority of incarcerated people are serving time for non-violent crimes despite widely held beliefs in the public arena to the contrary. The sentencing laws, which haphazardly dole out ridiculous sentences for small-time non-violent crimes, which are mostly drug related are culturally coded and targeted. If the US simply looked at the judicial system’s disproportional rates of incarceration for people of color and actually began to deconstruct the colonial system of oppression and race based justice routinely applied, and then enacted the reforms necessary to reduce its disproportionate minority rates of imprisonment, America would immediately and significantly change its profile as First in the world among the top prison states.
The crime rate itself has effectively had much less to do with the higher percentages of incarceration than changes in sentencing laws that have accounted for an 88% increase in the rate of incarceration over the past two decades. Of course another factor is the privatization of the prison system itself. It is BIG business!
Promoting the PIC (prison industrial complex) as a job creator is at cross-purposes with the idea of rehabilitating criminals or reducing rates of incarceration through reforming current laws, policies and practices. The prison industry has a vested interest in keeping the rates of incarceration high. The most effective way to do that is to prey upon the most marginalized populations. Justice in this country is NOT blind or even blindfolded. Justice has a targeted population and community and if you don’t see that then you are the one wearing the blindfold. Talk to me!
Up Next Week: Mental Illness Out in the Open