The Cost of Incarceration
“The Cost of Incarceration” is an eight-part occasional series written by Patrice Gaines, former Washington Post reporter; author and co-founder of The Brown Angel Center, a program in Charlotte, N.C. that helps formerly incarcerated women become financially independent. Gaines received a 2009 Soros Justice Media Fellowship from the Open Society Institute to research and write articles on the impact of mass incarceration on the Black community. The National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service has agreed to make this exclusive series available to its membership of more than 200 Black-owned newspapers.
WASINGTON (NNPA) – In communities around the country, Black people are missing. Neighborhoods languish.
Dreams deferred rot in distant warehouses we call prisons. The similarities between the correctional system and slavery are eerie: Families ripped apart. Traditions lost or never made. The shipment of flesh, the pipeline that nearly guarantees Black children go from the cradle to the prison; the insane profits made by warehousing human beings; the burden borne forever by those labeled as “convicts.”
Today, a brutal recession which dictates the need to cut budgets and proof that mass incarceration does not reduce crime is changing conversations in legislative halls around the country. Some politicians, who in the past have only paid attention to fearful constituents who want to make sure people who commit crimes are locked up, are beginning to consider alternatives to imprisonment.
Meanwhile prison reform advocates are wondering if a Black president and a Black attorney general means a quicker end to the disparity in incarceration between Blacks and whites.
Prison “was never a tool to fight crime. It is an instrument to manage deprived and dishonored populations, which is quite a different task,” says Loic Wacquant, a renowned ethnographer and social theorist who teaches at the University of California at Berkeley.