Excerpt from the Covenant with Black America
The mass incarceration of black people in America is a real and present danger. About one in every 265 whites is incarcerated in local, state, or federal prison. By contrast, of the 36 million African Americans in this nation, almost one million of them are in prison; that is about one in every 36 black people who is behind bars somewhere in America. African Americans represent 44 percent of all incarcerated people in state and federal prison cells, yet account for only 12 percent of the American population. Something is clearly wrong when the government’s most effective affirmative action program is the preference people of color receive when entering not college, but the criminal justice system.
How did we get here? And, given the current trend, can we change direction?
Racial bias in our criminal justice system has many causes—historical, political, and economic—but we know that any solution to the growing crisis of mass black incarceration must begin with focusing on how our communities, especially our youth, are policed. Police are the entry point, the gatekeepers, of the criminal justice system.
Fortunately, there is a lot we already know about the type of change that needs to happen in policing and there’s a lot happening across the country that we can draw on—policies that encourage respectful, accountable policing in our communities.
-excerpt from Maya Harris’ essay in the Covenant with Black America
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