Sunday, March 8, 2009

Black men in prison: To fix this problem we must fix the black family

I was reading an article by Earl Ofari Hutchinson entitled, "America's Prison Juggernaut Continues to Crush Black Males." In it, Ofari takes the central stance that "...High joblessness, failing public schools, budget cutbacks in skills training and placement programs, the refusal of employers to hire those with criminal records, and the gaping racial disparity in the drug sentencing laws are the major reasons why far more blacks than whites are behind bars."

Do you agree with this?

I'm not sure I do. Now, while I agree that these factors do play a role in crime for all races, I think other reasons are far more prominent. What about the role of the family? What about the absence of black fathers in the home or a positive role model in the male's life?

Black pastors, how do you feel about the role of family and black male crime?

Now, I don't know about your city, but here in Atlanta, news about black males committing crime doesn't seem to change, in good times and bad. To check out my notional feeling on this, I took the liberty of looking at some Bureau of Justice crime statistics for the years 1993 through 2009. What I found was interesting.

1993 - The incarceration rate of blacks was 7 times that of whites. At year end there were 1,471 black inmates per 100,000 black U.S. residents, compared to 207 white inmates per 100,000 white residents.

2000 - Among the more than 1.3 million sentenced inmates at year end, an estimated 428,300 were black males between the ages of 20 and 39. At year end 2000, 9.7% of black males age 25 to 29 were in prison, compared to 2.9% of Hispanic males and 1.1% of white males in the same age group.

2001 - Among the more than 1.3 million sentenced inmates at year end 2001, an estimated 441,700 were black males between the ages of 20 and 39. At year end 2001, 10.0% of black males age 25 to 29 were in prison, compared to 2.9% of Hispanic males and 1.2% of white males in the same
age group.

2002 - At year end, 10.4 % for black males age 25 to 29 were in prison.

2003 - At year end, 9.3% of black males age 25 to 29 were in prison.

2004 - About 8.4% of black males between ages 25 and 29 were in State or Federal prison

2005 - About 8.1% of black males age 25 to 29 were in State or Federal prison.

2007 - While the imprisonment rates for most groups increased during the past 7 years, the imprisonment rates for black males and black females decreased. At year end 2000, the black male imprisonment rate was 3,188 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents. White men were imprisoned at a rate of 410 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents. By year end 2007, the black male imprisonment rate had decreased to 3,138 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents, while the white male imprisonment rate increased to 481 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents. These changes resulted in a decrease in the ratio of imprisoned black men to imprisoned white men. In 2000 the ratio was 8 to 1 and in 2007 the ratio was 7 to 1.

Again, joblessness and failing public schools may explain some crime. However, it falls far from an answer. Many feel that the black economic resurgence occurred when Bill Clinton was in office (January 20, 1993 – January 20, 2001). If this is true, how would Hutchinson and others explain the rise in black crime rates during this period?

I think it's high time for the black community to seriously examine the core issues affecting crime in our community: absence of black fathers, absence of positive role models in the lives of many young black males, single mothers (may of whom are babies themselves) trying to raise a child, the negative images the media keeps pumping out to our youth, and the lack of personal responsibility and accountability in general.

Black moms, do you really think your kids can listen to much of today's music and watch many of today's videos and not be negatively affected? You tell me.

I tell you, I don't think we're going to fix this problem until we fix the black family.

Now tell me; what do you think? --IamRobert and I'm listening.


Anji said...

I thought that you might be interested to know that this topic is routinely discussed by French 17/18 year olds learning English.
The main conclusion of the articles that we see is that more black boys end up in prison and on death row simply because they are black. I can’t remember how old some of the information was but I seem to remember that some were ending up on death row when they were still minors. (I hope I’ve got my facts wrong there)

Here in France it is the population of Northern African origin which is greater in the prisons. They also get stopped more by the police… you know the story. I taught problem teenagers for 4 years and there were more Northern African immigrant boys in the classes than any other group. I got the impression from some of their behaviour that they also felt they had a reputation to live up to.

Rites Inc. said...

I agree with you. Far too long we (blacks) have said it’s because of this or it’s because of that—and that’s the reason I can’t get ahead—that’s the reason why blacks overall are stuck, stagnant, and stifled.

Though I do not discount systemic elements that unfairly treat blacks, I feel on the other hand, with drive, persistence, determination, and a deep desire to strive for excellence EVERYDAY the outcomes we desire can be reached.

Everything starts at home. And, even if the young person forgets their home-training, it (that training) is always with them. The problem then becomes once they attempt to correctly realign themselves if the consequences of their actions are far reaching those things must still be dealt with.

Yes, an intact family greatly reduces the ills that so easily impact many of our youngsters.

Dads across the board must MAN-UP and some moms must WOMAN-UP too.


Iam Robert said...



It's good hearing from you again!

No, you are not wrong about minors going to jail here in the U.S. While we try to make allowances for age, in most states this is waived with a crime of murder, etc.

Yes, blacks in the U.S. are often sent to jail simply due to their race. As pointed out, laws that prescribe stiffer penalties for crack possession as opposed to cocaine possession, racial profiling, and lack of access to quality lawyers are but a couple of the examples of the realities minorities face here.

But how do we address these problems? Awareness: that’s why I started The African-American Pragmatist—to raise awareness of these types of issues. Next we must voice our opinions, all of us the world over. If American is to be a world leader, we must practice what we preach. The world must let us know what our ills are and we must fix them before we try to fix the world.

What do you think about this?

Iam Robert said...


It's real good hearing from you once again. I think we are both in agreement that we, meaning black folk, must do the right things. Question is, how do we go about making that happen? How can we get people to see the error of their ways without being accussed of name calling or worse? How do we enact change in ourselves, our families, and our communities?

Any ideas you have are much welcomed.

Anji said...

As it happens I knew a little bit more about young black men on death row thanks to an Amnisty news letter I receive from time to time. When I first started to read the newsletter I didn't expect to find so much information about injustice in the United States.

You are right. Everyone needs to be made aware of these issues. Keep blogging!

Iam Robert said...

Thanks Anji!

You know, I wasn't hearing solutions from our politicians. People weren't getting solutions from world leaders. And our ministers here, IMHO, were of a mixed bag. That'why I started this--to let others (in all communities) know what's going on and what WE need to do to get answers: demand them.

God bless, keep reading, and continue sharing your thoughts.