Skip to content

IHT: "The Jailing of Black America"

Orlando Patterson, professor of sociology at Harvard, writes in International Herald Tribune:

America has more than 2 million citizens behind bars, the highest absolute and per capita rate of incarceration in the world. Black Americans, a mere 13 percent of the population, constitute half of this country's prisoners. A tenth of all black men between ages 20 and 35 are in jail or prison; blacks are incarcerated at over eight times the white rate. The effect on black communities is catastrophic: One in three male African-Americans in their 30s now has a prison record, as do nearly two-thirds of all black male high school dropouts. (...)
Black relationships and families fail at high rates because women increasingly refuse to put up with this abuse [in relationships]. The resulting absence of fathers - some 70 percent of black babies are born to single mothers - is undoubtedly a major cause of youth delinquency.

Regarding the first sentence in the quote: Nobody knows for sure how big Chinese and North Korean prisons are. Though, it is not much of an excuse to point out that these two countries are worse than the United States of America.


No Trackbacks


Display comments as Linear | Threaded

Zyme on :

Did somebody consider that they might simply be less capable of abiding laws? Here in Germany the percentage of foreigners being in prison also far outnumbers the percentage of foreigners living in the country. One may easily assume that they have more difficulties in coping with advanced legal systems. "The effect on black communities is catastrophic" So things would be better if those criminals were set free and able to further enrich their communities?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Please! Let's be careful with generalization such as "they might simply be less capable of abiding laws" Otherwise this comment thread will discuss only where free speech ends and racism begins.

Zyme on :

I did not say that I am sure of them being less capable in this regard. I simply asked whether this question is considered. It is utterly unscientific to say "they must be less capable and thinking different is wrong" - just like it is not scientific to totally rule out that they might be less capable in certain regards.

Sonja on :

Being "born to single mothers - [is] undoubtedly a major cause of youth delinquency"?? Are we really back to these kinds of accusations again?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

I think the claim is fair enough. (The professor might be talking about correlation rather than a causation though) It is tough growing up in a poor and crime ridden inner city neighborhood with bad schools and only one parent, who has to work two jobs. It's not an excuse for becoming a criminal though. Here's another quote from the article: [quote]The circumstances that far too many African-Americans face - the lack of paternal support and discipline; the requirement that single mothers work regardless of the effect on their children's care; the hypocritical refusal of conservative politicians to put their money where their mouths are on family values; the recourse by male youths to gangs as parental substitutes; the ghetto-fabulous culture of the streets; the lack of skills among black men for the jobs and pay they want; the hypersegregation of blacks into impoverished inner-city neighborhoods - all interact perversely with the prison system that simply makes hardened criminals of nonviolent drug offenders and spits out angry men who are unemployable, unreformable and unmarriageable, closing the vicious circle.[/quote]

Kevin Sampson on :

"it is not much of an excuse to point out that these two countries are worse than the United States of America." Excuse for what? Putting criminals in jail? Unless you are arguing that vast numbers of blacks are being wrongfully imprisoned, in which case some supporting facts would be appropriate, I see no need for any excuses.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Excuse for failing to reduce crime among "black communities." Nobody is born a criminal. So how come so many black Americans become criminals, when growing up? America is supposed to be the land of opportunity for everybody, no matter what skin color you have. Every kid should be able to pursue happiness etc. Sure, there is plenty of discrimination in Germany, which certainly is not the land of opportunity. A few months ago I have read some thesis about the German welfare state keeping people without job prospects out of trouble, while America does not help them much and therefore has to put them behind bars. I don't know how the exact thesis went. It was a very generalizing statement anyway. Since many conservative Americans criticize the German welfare state as a waste of money, it might be useful to point out how expensive the US prison system is...

Zyme on :

A good point. My understanding is that a state not only has to watch that the citizens abide the rules but also creates a contentness in the society. Thus to some extend the potentially discontent have to be tranquillized so that social peace remains intact and order is kept up. Free Bread and Games do the job since the Ancient World :)

Sue on :

The US has strict drug laws. That is the reason for the record number of incarcerations. I don't think incarceration has a terrible effect on the "black community" (I don't believe that exists; there are a lot of different "black communities," including a thriving black bourgeoisie in southern cities like Houston and Atlanta). The behaviors associated with incarceration are the problem. People who regularly use and deal drugs don't make very good parents, workers, or students.

Pat Patterson on :

Except that in the 18-24 year old category there are five times as many black males in college as in prison according to the US Census Bureau. The statistics are indeed grim concerning prison population but the trend is away from more blacks being in jail and more in college. While it is among Hispanic, mainly from Mexico, where the trend is toward more in prison and less in college. One of the main reasons that the crime rates have declined in the US is that the ones committing the crimes are in jail and unable to commit any more crimes.

Anonymous on :

The problem is culture not race. Black statistically face a higher change of incarceration because African-american culture does not stigmatize prison to the same degree as Hispanic or white culture. This obviously a generalization and as anyone who has lived in the ghetto (West Philly and Harlem) for any period of time is aware of: the ghetto is the most religious place in America. You will be asked to leave shops for saying ‘shit’ or blaspheming. Hispanics on average are less likely to be incarcerated despite having achieved a lower level of education. Black culture generally as it is currently sadly constituted accepts ‘being sent down’ as socially-acceptable.

Sue on :

It's interesting that a prison record is a reverse status symbol in hip hop and rap lyrics; no prison, no street cred. The mother of middle-class rapper Kanye West is a college professor in Chicago. Oh the shame!

Anonymous on : "San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom proclaimed the nation's war on drugs a total failure and insisted the crime rate would go down if the government spent money on treatment as opposed to jailing people with drug problems. The mayor maintained local jails are overcrowded with people incarcerated for drug offenses, taking up room that could be used to hold more violent criminal offenders. He said violent criminals with lengthy felony records are being turned loose, too often."

Anonymous on : "BY THE END of yesterday's Supreme Court argument in Kimbrough v. U.S., two things seemed clear. First, thousands of defendants charged with crack cocaine offenses will continue to face irrationally long sentences."

Pamela on :

Every study I have read for 20 years ends up attributing this to the breakdown of the Black family, beginning when welfare benefits were higher for families w/no father present. They stopped getting married. There is an article in today's Washinton Post on some graduates of Cardozo high school in Washington D.C. The ones that managed to get into university were stunned when they realized how academically unprepared they were. One girl told of going to math class in Cardozo and being given an assignment of cutting pictures out of magazines. The physical plant of the school is crumbling. Washington D.C. school system spends more per student than just about any other school system in the country. Why are these kids not getting the education they should? One administrator said the staff spends 99% of their time on the 1% of the students that are troublemakers. Throw their butts out. One board member is going to jail for embezzlement. The culture of 'victim/entitlement' runs deep, and academic achievement is viewed as 'white'. And hey, who cares about school when Snoop Dog wears his weight in diamonds and Michael Jordan can lose a king's ransom betting on his golf game? Of the successful Blacks I know with strong family structures and sane kids, there are two parent families with both parents strict disciplinarians. The family next door has six kids. Their dad works 2 jobs and their mom doesn't hesitate to give the back of her hand to any one of them that so much as whines. I've seen her lift her 14 yr old son off his feet by the back of his neck because he told her he'd be in for dinner "in a few minutes". heh.

Add Comment

E-Mail addresses will not be displayed and will only be used for E-Mail notifications.

To prevent automated Bots from commentspamming, please enter the string you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.

Form options