Jim Crow=Mass Incarceration
According to Chris Hayes in his new book “A Colony in a Nation,” America is approaching conditions that mirror those that sparked the American Revolution.
We have two castes, one that imposes and one that endures. There are two systems of policing, two judicial systems, two economic realities, dichotomous hopes and ambitions.
Hayes writes that the United States is the most violent developed nation in the world with incarceration rates exceeding other nations. After 40 years of escalating rates of violence and incarceration, it’s time to acknowledge mass incarceration does not mitigate violence.
When it becomes widely recognized there is one judicial system for whites and another, harsher system for minorities, faith in the judicial system is fractured, enflaming fear, dissatisfaction and hate.
Hayes writes that politicians and many Americans describe crime using the language of war. Criminals are viewed as enemy combatants, less than human.
He contrasts the American system of electing prosecutors with the European model that operates without democratic input, more insulated from electoral politics. Under the European system, respecting the humanity of a criminal is not viewed as “weak on crime” but as pragmatic.
It was only when the opioid epidemic spread through affluent, white America that the language of rehabilitation and forgiveness began to infiltrate the populist stance on crime. Rehab, in these crimes, now implies not just medical treatment but returning people as functional members of society.
Part of the solution to mass incarceration, Hayes believes, may be shifting our expectation for police from enforcement and control to public safety. Stopping a driver for a broken taillight falls more into the enforcement category than public safety. Running the license plate and sending out a warning ticket focuses more on public safety.
Part of the solution is also language. The language of hate has spiked sharply in the United States and throughout the world. This is hate as a manifestation of fear, something that grows out of the perception that economic opportunity is a zero-sum-game. That’s a society of winners and losers rather than a society that works for everyone.
One of America’s leading authorities on hate speech will speak 7 p.m. Aug. 29 in Peoria. Lecia Brooks, Southern Poverty Law Center outreach director, will lead a free public forum at the Bob Michel Student Center Ballroom, Bradley University. Co-sponsors are Community Word and Bradley University Department of Sociology, Criminology & Social Work; African American Studies; and Intellectual & Cultural Activities Committee. This is an opportunity to expand levels of understanding and view prosperity as inclusive and expansive rather than finite.
Panelists include: Rev. Marvin Hightower, Peoria Chapter NAACP; Imam Kamil Mufti, Islamic Foundation of Peoria; Rebecca Carlson, Jewish Federation of Peoria; Sonny Garcia, Illinois People’s Action. Moderator is Garry Moore. (Clare Howard)