Common sense, incarceration, and the penal system

Fact: The number of people who are locked up who are black get longer sentences no matter what crime is committed. The sentence is not chosen by the jury, but by the judge, by the way.

This is not some opinion of mine. It’s not a symptom of some “mental illness” they claimed I had. This is a well-known fact, and you can even look this one up in each state’s statistics. All this leads to larger numbers of black males locked up in our penal system.

Many people are locked up who did not commit crimes. Some are awaiting trial for a long time and during that time cannot afford bail. So they spend this time incarcerated, assumed to be criminals. Whether or not they are acquitted, imagine how being in a jail while awaiting trial affects their lives.

This can happen to anyone. Your car might look like that car. Or you might be the same height or wearing the same jacket. Or you were in that store that night. Or have a similar name.

You were on your way to class and then the next thing you knew you were in a jail cell and no one in your family had the money to get you out. You were there for a whole month. Nothing.

Two days after they took you, you asked for at least you clothes back. They wouldn’t give them to you. You got food, though. Sort of. The next day a guy, god knows who, fondled you, the rest, well, you were told not to talk.

Your lawyer didn’t show up. You asked for a phone and a guy came in saying in a hour. No phone. Nothing.

Your lawyer was supposed to show up Thursday and didn’t.

“Well, Honey, you were there, see, it must have been you. It looked like you. Fair is fair. You’re looking at at least five years.”

Yes it is that bad. Don’t tell me it isn’t.

While the rest of us go about our lives and claim it doesn’t happen. While we claim slavery was abolished around 150 years ago. While we claim blacks and women have this thing called “equal rights.” While we claim we live in the land of “opportunity” that actually doesn’t exist for those that can’t afford it.

I ask why we choose to turn our backs. I also ask why we choose to slam the door shut on our neighbors in the name of “boundary-setting,” a closely-related concept that needs to be chucked. I ask why we deny common sense and basic human dignity, and continue to lock up human beings. Meanwhile, we obsessively buy cage-free eggs and call ourselves “civil.”

How can incarceration be called “justice”? How is Justice at all “served” by putting people behind bars? Our penal system dis-serves any concept of Justice ever thought of, disgraces the very idea of what it means to be human.


Feedback and comments welcome!