By Jenise Jackson
Blog Content Contributor
Just go ahead and buckle your seatbelts because I’m about to get a little political. Unless you have been living under a rock (or you’re just one of those people who just don’t care), you have probably heard about Meek Mill being sentenced to two to four years in prison for a violation of his probation from his 2008 gun and drug case. What did he do to violate his probation? Mr. Mill was popping wheelies on his dirt bike and got into an altercation earlier this year. The black community, especially fellow rappers and entertainers, have rallied together to support Meek Mill and spark new discussion about criminal justice reform. Although I’m glad Meek Mill’s situation has people talking about a very important issue, we need to understand that mandatory minimum sentencing laws and mass incarceration are a real problem for African American men.
Take these statistics into consideration. The U.S. contains about five percent of the world’s population, but accounts for 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Although African Americans only make up around six and a half percent of the U.S. population, they account for 40.2 percent of the U.S. prison populace. While the latter statistic includes both black men and women, the U.S. prison population is heavily dominated by males. So get this. Black men have a one in three chance of ending up in prison versus the one in 17 chances of white men. Quite the disproportion, isn’t it?
My finger points directly to mandatory minimum sentencing laws, as I see them as a huge contributor to the overall issue of mass incarceration. Why is that? Well, minimum sentencing laws were enacted in 1986 mainly to combat the nation’s drug epidemic. These laws transferred sentencing power from judges to prosecutors. Prosecutors had, and still have, a trend of abusing these powers to sentence defendants to prison terms that are outrageously lengthy. After the enactment of these laws, more drug related arrests took place and the prison population began to increase more and more over the years. Today, 46.3 percent of the U.S. prisoners are incarcerated because of drug offenses. And guess what group is heavily targeted and sentenced for these drug offenses? If you guessed African American males, you’re absolutely correct.
Now, I know that crime has to pay (even though this country has a habit of making exceptions for some people), but people serving more time than they actually need to is absurd. Even if a white man was to commit the same drug offense as a black man, that black man is 10 percent more likely to get a longer sentence. I would go into detail about how the system has failed and is against the black community, but history provides enough examples of that. Sadly, this has more of an impact on the black community than people like to think. I, along with plenty of other black Americans, believe it’s time for the criminal justice system to enforce criminal repercussions equally and fairly.
Yes, I do stand by Meek Mill. He served his time for his drug and gun charges and he shouldn’t have been sent back to prison for an extended period of time for minor offenses. I mean, come on now, the man has been fighting the system for years. I believe what has happened to Meek Mill is just a prime example of what happens to plenty of other black men in the US on a daily basis. It doesn’t take much to notice a discrepancy in the criminal justice system between black and white Americans. Having a conversation about criminal justice reform is great, but my question is: what is going to be done to fix it?
Featured image by Jenise Jackson.