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If you take a serious look at why so many blacks are trapped in poverty, then you can’t escape the role that the prison industrial complex plays in tearing black families apart. Black men are often arrested at an early age, many for non-violent drug offenses, and locked away for decades. During that period, the families they leave behind are often trapped in a cycle of government assistance and poverty.
The New York Times reported the story of Carl Harris, who was jailed for two decades for selling crack,thus leaving his wife and kids to fend for themselves for two decades. Harris worked while in prison, but the $1.15 per hour he earned wasn’t nearly enough to support his wife and family, which left his wife, Charlene Hamilton, homeless more than once.
Hamilton also laments the toll her husband’s imprisonment had on her and her family psychologically.
“Basically, I was locked up with him,” she said. “My mind was locked up. My life was locked up. Our daughters grew up without their father.”
Sadly this is not an isolated incident. The New York Times offers the staggering statistics as it relates to the mass incarceration of black males:
Among African-Americans who have grown up during the era of mass incarceration, one in four has had a parent locked up at some point during childhood. For black men in their 20s and early 30s without a high school diploma, the incarceration rate is so high — nearly 40 percent nationwide — that they’re more likely to be behind bars than to have a job.
And remarkably, no one in Washington D.C. is dealing with the epidemic of mass incarceration and the toll it’s taking on black families.