Black women filling prisons

A phenomenon of sorts has occurred with black women and record-setting statistical numbers, again. No, it isn’t AIDS or HIV. This time it’s the inflation of their presence in the prison population system.

Vincent Schiraldi, executive director of the Justice Policy Center recently reported that black women made up an alarming three-fourths of all females in state and local prisons during 2003. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ report pinpointed this increasing lockdown of black women in staunch Republican states, particularly in the South.

So what does this have to do with the increasing number of these women behind bars?

Experts have attributed it to the states’ tougher sentencing policies and the Jim Crow legacy.

While harsher penalties for breaking the law may be seen as a way to curb the likelihood of people committing crimes or the incidence of repeat offenders, it does very little to help get people out of the system and keep them out. More programs simply need to be instituted that address offenders’ reasons for being locked down. For instance, state funded programs established to wipe out illegal substances from prisoners’ neighborhoods could do a lot to reduce drug offenses.

Moreover, prisons still need to make a more effective crack at the rehabilitation effort instead of adding cellblocks to their units. However, this reality may never be taken seriously since the prison industry has become something of a cash cow.

On the other hand, we have seen the many times where a punishment was issued, and it did not fit the crime. In that respect, aspects of Jim Crow continue to be sad mainstays embedded in our judicial process. But this fault lies at the feet of the American public. Whether it is done directly or indirectly, we have a hand in determining who sits before court benches doling out sentencing judgments and what those verdicts should entail.

To realize this would cut back on the nation’s unjust criminalization of members in the black community as well as provide a means for learning to live like a law-abiding citizen.