I wanted to start a conversation about prisons in the United States. But first, I’d like to start with a little anecdote. A couple years ago my older brother used to hang around the wrong group of people. We live in the hood in Brooklyn and so part of this meant dealing with the culture of the hood. One day, my brother was hanging out with these kids on the train, skipping train cars, which is illegal, and got targeted by the cops. Under the impression that the friends my brother was with were carrying weed, he started running away from the cops. After tripping, a cop finally caught hold of him. Quietly, he said that my brother was lucky he hadn’t put “three rounds in his back.”
Over the years I have questioned the confrontations my brother had experienced with cops in our hood, events that were common because of the abundant Stop & Frisk practices that happened before it was ruled illegal. He would come home heated by a confrontation, unable to do anything… ultimately vulnerable before a gun and a blue suit. For some back story, Jay-Z produced a mini-video on how blacks and Latinos have been targeted in the hood by the NYPD: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/15/opinion/jay-z-the-war-on-drugs-is-an-epic-fail.html?_r=0. It’s interesting and gets to the point of where I’m coming from.
Jay-Z argues that the same drugs being sold on the streets of our hood have been distributed in white user communities with less consequences, and that now, venture capitalists are using these drugs to make millions while our black and Latino brothers and sisters remain in prison for the same crimes. Where is the justice in all of this? How can we as a nation acknowledge this new form of slavery, as one of my heroes Angela Davis, puts it? Are prisons obsolete? And how can we reform it so that if they’re needed, we can make good use of them?
I mean really think about it. How can someone truly learn from their mistakes after being treated like less than a human in a prison? Where are the programs that tackle recidivism? Please lend me your thoughts as I’m still trying to make sense of it all.