Mass Incarceration

How to dismantle the pipeline from poverty to prison


I’m, as a result of we’re.

The South African philosophy means the essence of humanity is to acknowledge the humanity of others. 

The idea of Ubuntu was invoked Thursday night time at Washington Corridor at a workshop for the Seattle MLK Jr. Organizing Coalition’s annual commemoration of the life and classes of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and, most essential, the work that’s left to be finished.

The event, “From Mass Incarceration to Mass Liberation,” featured audio system from the Black Prisoners’ Caucus, a greater than 50-year-old organization to foster “respect, duty, self price and unity” for individuals incarcerated in Washington state prisons.

Now again locally, the BPC members who spoke final week mentioned they are going to proceed to combat for these nonetheless inside.

BPC member Cyril Waldron, who talked about Ubuntu, described it by saying “our expertise, our oppression — in addition to our liberation — are all linked. None of us might be free till we’re all free.”

MLK expressed his personal model of Ubuntu, in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” writing, “Injustice wherever is a menace to justice in every single place. We’re caught in an inescapable community of mutuality, tied in a single garment of future. No matter impacts one instantly, impacts all not directly.”

That message, of shared humanity and shared liberation, is usually hardest for society to embrace in relation to individuals in our jails and prisons. At any time when I write about this topic, I get a flood of suggestions from individuals saying “Cease complaining — in the event that they didn’t need to go to jail, then why did they commit the crime?”

However the actuality is there isn’t any option to incarcerate our option to public security. True public security means investing in individuals and communities in order that crime doesn’t occur within the first place.

Kimonti Carter, who was featured in a 2020 column in regards to the movie “Since I Been Down,” mentioned on the occasion that for him, mass liberation means a cultural and paradigm shift, one that can change when “we collectively agree we’re not going to throw anybody out.”

He mentioned, “After we deal with individuals like outcasts, if you deal with them like rubbish and also you deal with them like dust, that’s what we’re getting again. That’s the response. … It’s simple for us to evaluate, to be crucial of another person’s household, another person’s poor choice, another person’s way of life. However the second it hits laborious, then we wish grace. We would like grace when it occurs to us.”

However a part of the rationale that grace isn’t provided by so many is that the felony authorized system doesn’t ensnare individuals from all backgrounds equally. 

As has lengthy been the case, white individuals are underrepresented in U.S. prisons whereas Black individuals are dramatically overrepresented. Wealth inequality performs an enormous half in who’s incarcerated as properly, with a Jail Coverage Initiative report discovering in 2015 that incarcerated individuals aged 27 to 42 had a median annual revenue of $19,185 earlier than incarceration, or 41% lower than nonincarcerated individuals of comparable age. 

Whereas it could be laborious to recollect a time when the U.S. didn’t have one of the world’s largest percentages of individuals in jail on this planet, it’s really a reasonably current phenomenon, with the variety of individuals incarcerated increasing 500% since 1970.

In Washington, the present legislative session has some measures geared toward enhancing situations for incarcerated individuals. Waldron highlighted the proposed measures, considered one of which included House Bill 1024, pre-filed in December by previously incarcerated lawmaker Rep. Tarra Simmons, D-Bremerton, which might require incarcerated individuals to make the state minimal wage whereas working inside jail and would modify the variety of deductions that might be taken from an individual’s wages. Simmons told The Olympian the hassle was a response to her expertise of constructing $0.42 an hour whereas in jail. 

One other measure, House Bill 1087, would lastly restrict the period of time individuals might be held in solitary confinement. As I wrote in 2019, there are a selection of euphemisms for solitary in our state, generally known as “administrative segregation” or “ad-seg” or “intensive administration unit” or “IMU.” Regardless of the title, the expertise is identical, and was described by a United Nations official as tantamount to torture. HB1087 would restrict the usage of solitary confinement to a complete of 45 cumulative days a yr. 

“And so what that might do is shift [the Department of Corrections] method from warehousing and throwing individuals and their issues away, to now looking for options which are humanizing options which are coping with the foundation causes corresponding to psychological well being … and pivoting away from this antiquated apply,” Waldron mentioned. “[Solitary is a] torturous apply of throwing away our issues, which we have now seen has failed our communities by and huge.”

Supporting incarcerated individuals and altering the system will take all of us, BPC members mentioned. They requested the viewers what they are going to do to meet the rules of Ubuntu and MLK and see incarcerated lives as interconnected and priceless.

BPC member Faraji Bhakti mentioned everyone knows the pipeline to jail exists, so “What are you doing to loosen a bolt on that pipeline?”

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Tha Bosslady

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