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Study: Black Male Incarcerations Jumped 500% from 1986 to 2004, Resulting in a Mental Health Crisis

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

A report has been released at Meharry Medical College School of Medicine about the devastating impact that mass incarceration has on our society.  The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, is one of the most thorough examinations of the impact that mass incarceration has on the African American community.  The study’s authors argue that the billions of dollars being spent keeping non-v*****t offenders behind bars would be better spent on education and rehabilitation.

“Instead of getting health care and education from civil society, African American males are being funneled into the prison system. Much of this costly practice could be avoided in the long-term by transferring funds away from prisons and into education,” says Dr. William D Richie, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Meharry Medical College, lead author of the paper.

The study’s authors note that 60% of all incarcerations are due to non-v*****t, drug-related crimes.   The authors also note that the cost of substance abuse in the United States is as high as half a trillion dollars per year.

“Spending money on prevention and intervention of substance abuse treatment programs will yield better results than spending on correctional facilities,” the authors claim in the study.

Finally, the authors note that while crime rates have declined over the last 20 years, incarceration rates has climbed through the roof. The inmates occupying these jail cells are disproportionately black.  In fact, the black male incarceration rate has jumped by 500% between 1986 the 2004.  The authors note that, even for those who don’t abuse drugs before going to prison, the likelihood of substance abuse after prison goes up dramatically.

You can read more of the study at this link

The mass incarceration epidemic affects all of us, even those who haven’t gone to prison: It affects the child who grows up without  a father who has been incarcerated, the children who are bullied at school by that child, the woman seeking a husband who can’t find a good man to marry, the list goes on and on.  When so many of our men are marginalized and incarcerated, this has a powerful impact on the sociological ecosystem of the black community, the same way an economy crumbles when a few large companies go bankrupt.

The point here is that we cannot look at the holocaust of mass incarceration as someone else’s problem or something that just affects criminals.  The punishment should fit the crime, and when every study imaginable says that black people are more likely to go to jail for the same crimes, this means that Jim Crow is alive and well.  Something must be done at the grassroots, state and federal levels.  We cannot allow this epidemic to exist any longer.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the creator of the “Building Outstanding Men and Boys (BOMB) Family Empowerment Series” To have Dr Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

73 Responses to Study: Black Male Incarcerations Jumped 500% from 1986 to 2004, Resulting in a Mental Health Crisis

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  2. Kerri Reply

    April 28, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    No, their criminal records should NOT be removed. People have a right to know the history of the person they’re hiring and make a decision to employ or to not employ based on a person’s likelihood of being a worthy employee. @ Jimmy and @ Michael L. Lofton :::::::::APPLAUSE::::::::::::::

  3. Jimmy Reply

    April 28, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    There is no way you can compare these so called mass incarcerations to slavery. Our ancestors didn’t volunteer to be slaves ,they were brought here against their will by force .Their children were born into slavery and didn’t know any other way of life.

    As to these so called mass incarcerations, our young males nowadays have a say in whether or not they go to prison. Don’t do the crimes and you don’t go to prison. People don’t go to prison for a non v*****t first offense either. These are sorry young males that want to prey on and poison their own neighborhoods by selling drugs. They are making someone else rich at their neighborhoods expense.

    I once read a study that said drug dealers were actually only making minimum wage when you consider the time put in and the lack of benefits.

    Then when one gets s**t etc who pays their medical expenses or their funeral expenses. Their mothers are usually saddled with those expenses ,of course all their friends or associates don’t chip in to help with expenses.

    It time for us as a people to quit making excuses for these behaviors and demand better from our young males.

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  6. Michael L. Lofton Reply

    December 18, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    “When will Black people stop holding everybody except themselves accountable for their behavior. Using drugs or having them in one’s possession is against the law. Having them escape any punishment is ridiculous. It’s the same as saying, “I know what I’m doing is breaking the law, but I should be given nice break since I didn’t k**l anyone”. Even if it were possible to forego any sort of punishment, who the h**l do you think would employ them? – drug testing is done in every facility now. And what daycare center or school wants substance abusers and drug peddlers to work for them? Do you want someone doing yardwork, plumbing or electrical work in your home that’s also a drug dealer, but since he can’t be prosecuted, nobody knows his reputation? What makes you think you can rehabilitate someone who would then have free reign to do whatever the heck he wants to without fear of going to jail? What incentive would they have to do the right thing or make good choices? And since drug dealers and users can’t be prosecuted, how fair is that to thieves and drunk drivers? Black men can best help themselves by stopping this foolishness. It’s against the law, so be ready to bear your punishment.”by truthbeliever

    -truthbeliever

    Although your statement is true for these cases it is not an absolute many other instances to where law abiding black men and women are fined, jailed, and/or both without just cause….

    http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-897625

    Oath of Office,: “I, (President, Supreme Court Justice, Congressperson, Assemblyman, Mayor, City Councilperson, Judge, ), during such times as I hold the office, I, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States (the Constitution of the State of California, Maryland, Illinois, etc., etc.), against all enemies foreign (terrorist enemies of the U.S., illegal immigrants, un-American or un-Constitutional anything and everything, etc.) and domestic (treasonous individuals or organizations, any Police Chief who condones this and the Police Chief’s rogue police officers, unethical or criminal elected officials or public servants, illegal aliens or his or her advocates, un-American anything and everything), and that I will bear true faith and allegiance, to the Constitution of the United States , (State Constitution), and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.”

    Although your statement is true for many cases it is not an absolute, in many other documented cases untold numbers of innocent black men, women, and children have been persecuted, fined, jailed, execution due to the atrocities of government and not a criminal act committed by the innocent black men, women, and children who have been victimized by this……

    …all while elected black leaders sworn under oath and mandated by law to uphold the Constitution, an oath office remain silent.

    • Jimmy Reply

      April 28, 2013 at 1:49 pm

      Finally someone with some sense, thank you.

      • Kerri Reply

        April 28, 2013 at 7:23 pm

        Good posts, both of you. People would do well to heed your advice.

  7. Michael L. Lofton Reply

    December 18, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-898506

    The innocent victim is actually Kendrec McDade and not the Illegal Alien Oscar Carrillo, who returned to the U.S. after being deported, made a false 911 call, submitted a false police report, all being criminal acts

  8. truthbeliever Reply

    November 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    When will Black people stop holding everybody except themselves accountable for their behavior. Using drugs or having them in one’s possession is against the law. Having them escape any punishment is ridiculous. It’s the same as saying, “I know what I’m doing is breaking the law, but I should be given nice break since I didn’t k**l anyone”. Even if it were possible to forego any sort of punishment, who the h**l do you think would employ them? – drug testing is done in every facility now. And what daycare center or school wants substance abusers and drug peddlers to work for them? Do you want someone doing yardwork, plumbing or electrical work in your home that’s also a drug dealer, but since he can’t be prosecuted, nobody knows his reputation? What makes you think you can rehabilitate someone who would then have free reign to do whatever the heck he wants to without fear of going to jail? What incentive would they have to do the right thing or make good choices? And since drug dealers and users can’t be prosecuted, how fair is that to thieves and drunk drivers? Black men can best help themselves by stopping this foolishness. It’s against the law, so be ready to bear your punishment.

    • andre harmon-young Reply

      November 22, 2012 at 10:33 pm

      There is a modicum of truth in everyone’s comments. However, I have a perspective too. And, it is, that integrationism has been our d***h kiln. Busing, to effectuate desegregated schools has failed. Voting rights legislation has not succeeded. Affirmative Action failed. I await the U.S. Supreme Court’s updated decision pertaining to A.A.. Folk continue lamenting how “things” have changed. It’s just another version of the same ole thang; similar to slavery, in this Country, only its another version of slavery as was known in the 1800s. Another one of our deficits is the Church. Basely, because Christianity is the version as taught by Caucasians in this Country i.e. they deify themselves as the Supreme Being.

  9. bernice Reply

    November 13, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Johnny Duncan, you are a man who gave thought to what you wanted to say, and I like it. The future for our people was thought of and acted upon, long before we were born. And the results are shown every day in our young men. Prison is another form of putting them on the slave block. When they go to jail for low crimes, they come out as hard criminals with no chance of any rights. This society is has planed your future atleast 20 to 50 yrs. ago. We are short term thinkes. And we rely on them (THE LONG TERM THINKERS) to help us or have a good heart to turn this around. When you become a long term thinker, then and only then will you be able to turn the future around for your young black boys and girls.

  10. Johnny Duncan Reply

    November 13, 2012 at 7:48 am

    The mainstay of “The Peculiar Institution” (Slavery) was the Black male, as field hands and as studs during the “Interstate Slave Trade”. The “Essential Exception” of the 13th Amendment allegedly abolished slavery “except as punishment for crime”. i. e., in prison and jail.

    The problem with Black incarceration being propelled through the stratosphere begins much earler in American History. In 1662 Virginia passed a law making the slave female the head of the family. The child was given the status of the mother to prevent children with white fathers from taking the staus of the free father.

    This act made the Black female the head of the family, one of the few–if not the only matriarchal family in the world. After the creation of the United States, the federal government adopted and promulgated this practice. Consequently, the Black male was demasculated and the woman given reign over the Black family.

    With this tragic set up came Black women portraying themselves as men and trying to fulfill the roles of the man in the family. This effort failed. The result of the this failure can be seen in the lack of discipline in so many families headed by females. With the absent of a man in the family came the dam broke wide open. With very few exceptions, a woman (Black or White) cannot raise a male child with the discipline and success that a man can. The absence of the male discipline in the Black family resulted in the mass incarcertaion of Black males.

    The problems (alluded to in this article) for Black women caused by mass incarceration of the African American male were self-inflicted. The problems were created mentality that was created by the absence of the male in the family. Futhermore, this psychology led to the development of a mental condition which made Black women think that the Black man was dispensable. In other words, like the stud farm during the Interstate Slavery, the Black man was a piece of beef who could be used to get pregnant in order to produce an offspring who would be the source of a government check. That’s it in a nutshell.

    I am Dr. Johnny Duncan, the composer of the poem “I Can” (1987) which created the term Afr-i-can Amer-i-can (hyphens added for emphasis) as it is used today to descroibe Black people.

  11. Maat Reply

    November 12, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    PB Short–You spoke volumes in your post, volumes of truth that sadly too many in this country willfully ignore. In effect, slavery wasn’t abolished, it has simply morphed into something different, but the results are the same–massive amounts of black people being exploited for free or d**n near free labor. I would also like to point out that a global system of apartheid is in effect, you can see it where ever black and brown people exist. Until we the world majority decide to overthrow this system and create a truly egalitarian system in it’s place, nothing will change. Certainly not the creators of the current system.

  12. PB Short Reply

    November 12, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    During Bill Clinton’s presidency, more prisons were built; for instance, the state of Ohio has nine million (9,000,000) people in the entire state, and have thirty six (36) male prisons with an average population of three thousands inmates per prison compared to the state of Clifornia that has over twenty million (20,000,000) people and the same thirty six (36) prisons…

    Education must start and end in the homes as it is the parents responsibility to make sure their child is educated…

    The main problem I see with mass incarceration of our people is the fact that we continue to take deals made by the prosecution, and we encourage our people to take the so-called deal…

    When a person give up their right to a trial, then they lose everything…there are no sentencing guidelines when a person pleads guilty…

    If a person takes their case to trial and lose, there are sentencing guidlines, and the person has a right to appeal their case for a number of reasons…

    We are constanly being told and believeing that a all white jury is not going to believe you, or that you are going to make the judge mad if you waste the states money by going to trial which is all a bunch of bulls c**p…

    I would guess that ninety percent (90%) of the men incarcerated gave up their right to a trial plead guilty to a crime they did or did not committ…

    Another problem I see is with Black attorneys who have totally turned against their own race for the money…since we cannot afford the high price of an attorney, these attorney’s are forced to take the government contract (welfare) as a court appointed attorney, and they are told to convince their Brother to plead guilty…

    I watched a Black female attorney, who represented me and about thirty other men in Virginia convince everyone to plead guilty…she tried her best to get me to plead guilty or to take a deal of three (3) to five (5) years for a crime I did not commit…I ask her how could she sleep at night knowing that she was locking up Black males for no reason other than to satisfy the state…she had no answer…and sadly, all of my friends thought I should have taken the deal offered…instead, I chose to exercise my right to a TRIAL, and the judge dismiss the case because there was no case, but if I would have plead guilty, I would have received a minimum of five (5) years…

    The purpose of this so-called imprisonment is to employ whites who live in remote areas of each state, you know, in the mountains…thus the reason why people have to travel a minimum of three hours to see their family members…

    The second reason is to attract big businesses, especially international businesses…for instance, in order for the state of Ohio to get Honda to build a plant there, they built part of their plant onto two prisons for the inmates to perform the work for ninety dollars ($90.00) per month…

    This is why I have always said that both the republicans and democrats are both against black people…they play the role of “Good COP (democrtes) and Bad COP (republicans) during the interrorgation (geeting your vote) but the outcome is the same…

    The bad cop always treat you bad and the good cop say “hey, I’m your friend, you can trust me”…but both parties work together…

    At some point in time, we will need to form our own political party, not to become president, but to rule the house and the senate…

    The last problem we have is greed…some of our people will seek positions of power for their own benefits and agenda’s…just like the perverted white male catholic…

    So much needs to be done within our own commuity but the power of conquer and divide is so hard to break through because of greed…

    We live in a country and world that is ruled by greed and ignorance…

  13. d-rhyme Reply

    November 12, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Don’t get abandonment part. Barak was abandoned.

  14. Elizabeth Reply

    November 12, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Unless African-American adults begin to teach and train their young males this problem will never go away. We cannot expect the President or any government official to correct or train our children. We need to stop expecting others to solve the problems in the African-American community.

    • Otis Reply

      November 12, 2012 at 11:51 am

      Even well trained Black men are not safe. It does help when you learn to carry yourself in this society, but to this point, the history of this country, allows for Black men & boys to continue to be targets of this racist system. I’m 45yrs old and have worked since 16, even did a few years in the military. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been pulled over for nothing except my color and having a nice car. I’ve been “detained” because I fit a description. I’ve been questioned and asked for I.D. because I didn’t fit that neighborhoods’ profile. I’ve heard dumb a*s racist remarks at work, the list goes on. When I access the internet, and see these remarks that people make about our President, who is probably one of the most intelligent, strong, and beautiful people I’ve ever seen, it’s a constant reminder that even the most powerful man in the world, is subject to the double standard that exist in this country. Blacks are constantly undermined no matter how good we are or what we’ve contributed to this world. Kids, early on need to be taught equality and tolerance. Enough of George and Abe. Education needs to be more diverse, teaching about ALL who have made contributiions. We are all equal, and that needs to be the starting point.

  15. Tammanee Treasure Reply

    November 12, 2012 at 3:18 am

    This should be th next Obama Bill…

    All Non v*****t Offenders sentences should be re-elvaluated…If these persons have completed parole & or probation at the present date, their criminal records should be permanently removed!
    This allows A Second Chance for Success

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