When I was a child, one of our playtime slogans was “the only good Indian is a dead one!”Â Now the unspoken equivalent is the only good young African American male is in prison.Â The Sentencing Project from which the grim subject quote is taken works actively to redress the imbalance in our sentencing of people for the same crimes along ethnic and racial lines.Â But prejudice dies hard and the second citation from today’s New York Times on the life sentences given to our juveniles (in violation of international law) tells the story vividly of our legal system’s treatment of THEM.
More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For Black males in their twenties, 1 in every 8 is in prison or jail on any given day. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the “war on drugs,” in which three fourths of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color.
A Shameful Record
Locking up juveniles for life without parole is unfair and
a poor use of criminal justice resources.
Personally I am supporting Hillary Clinton as our Democratic candidate for president as the one more prepared to take on the things that must be changed, but I am entirely sympathetic with those who prefer Barack Obama as someone who has been freed from the impact of American prejudice and who hopes that he can make a difference as Jack Kennedy did for Roman Catholics just then emerging from the prejudices against the most recently arrived immigrant groups of his day.Â My main worry about Obama is that in tipping towards Republican standards as a way to broaden his electoral base, he may further lock us into such discrepancies as the biased incarcerations reported above.Â We desperately need to fight poverty on all fronts — equal educational and employment opportunities being essential as entry points to viable lives.
As one who has worked with the ‘discrepancies’ as a social/political/legal philosopher throughout my professional career, I hope we Democrats can get it together and focus our attention on the things that need to be changed rather than our preferred candidate.Â If we weaken our party and its broad based appeal for elected representatives and honest judicial figures at all levels, we will have betrayed those millions who have suffered from our selective national prejudices against persons — particularly children who deserve far better.Â I want us once again to be living in a nation of which we can be proud.Â Think of it — an attorney general who cannot comprehend that water boarding should be outlawed!
So we will go in this next election — where will depend on us Democrats.Â Ironically the major sources of cocaine and heroine are nations where we are currently dumping (wasting?) billions of our dollars — respectively Columbia and Afghanistan.Â These are our ghetto anti depressives which send so many to our jails.Â Tony Papa (Fifteen Years to Life) who served 12 years for a drug sale until he was pardoned, has pointed out that we target specific minorities in our cities from which we draw our prisoners to be incarcerated:
Tony now lobbies actively for sane reform of our draconian and cruelly unjustly applied drug laws.Â May we elect Democrats who will concur!
“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)
Ed KentÂ 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]