Crime is big business these days, or should I say prison is big business. Ever since prisons began to privatize, it’s been a boon to investors and states who wanted to relinquish the operations of major prisons across the United States. This niche market has become so big, it’s even traded on Wall Street. Making millions for its investors. The largest of which is Corrections Corporation of America, ticker symbol CCA.
All of this commotion is the unintended consequence of the war on drugs. At least that’s the argument. Anyone with half a brain can see that the war on drugs has had a devastating impact on communities of color. Some such as Michele Alexander, who authored, “The New Jim Crow” claims that this is social construct by design to control people of color.
According to her premise, this is the evolution of centuries of social control by the dominant society to keep people of color, blacks in particular in their place. Ever since the founding of the republic, whites have pondered what to do about the black population.
Ironically middle-class blacks have been complicit in helping the war on drug reap such devastating consequences in the black community. For profit prisons have actually had the audacity to guarantee 90% occupancy in their prisons. Of course the overwhelming majority of the new “client’s” are people of color.
They (private prisons) have come up with a business model that guarantees their success. If a elementary student is not reading at grade level by sixth grade, he or she (mostly males) has a 70% chance that he will end up in prison. Poor inner-city schools are the “prison pipeline” guaranteeing future prisoners to enrich those who profit from this system.
There is a devious twist here. There has been much controversy over disparate sentencing rates in the United States. White who get arrested for using powder cocaine get probation and no jail time. Whereas; blacks who use crack cocaine get time in prison and are forever in “the system.” This is a huge problem.
Whites are much more likely to not get prison time or probation. Blacks are ten times more likely to get prison or court supervision. Some say the war on drug was an unintended consequence of high incarceration rates, others feel, it’s by design. I’m the camp of the latter.
As we celebrate fifty years of civil rights progress and Martin Luther King Jrs. epic march on Washington, we need to do some reflecting. How far have we come? It’s a question we all need to contemplate.
Eric Holder, the nation’s first African-American attorney general has called for the repeal or elimination of our current drug laws. The statistics are overwhelming that we need to make drastic changes in our country’s drug laws.
The genesis of this policy came from the “ Law and Order” strategy of Richard Nixon or “The Southern Strategy” as it was called to play on the fears of whites in the suburbs. It worked brilliantly. It has involved into a full scale war on the black and brown communities. The right has always played on white fears to make political hay come election time. The sad thing is, that this strategy had become a sure-fire method to scare whites into voting for policies being promoted on the right.
In conclusion, if we don’t wake up and intervene, we will lose an entire generation of black and brown boys who will never realize their full potential. Hopefully, Eric Holder will be successful in his efforts to to repeal our current drug laws.