America Behind Bars

America Behind Bars - To associate America with freedom...

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To associate America with freedom, liberty, and equality is, to an extent, generic, in some ways false, and very naïve. Inequality is still being faced today and predictably not much is being said or done, politically, to change it. Without expounding the American social hierarchy that bounds some groups to the bottom, the government thus acknowledges that rich, well-educated White men are, in terms of race and gender, superior, and that women and minorities are subordinates. This notion that African Americans and women with troubled pasts, or those who have dabbled with the law belong in jail has become superimposed by society and through the news media with the mass incarceration of such groups during the “get tough war on drugs” in the eighties; as well as through controversial government policies aimed at sending such groups to the big house. In turn, America has dehumanized its women and Blacks, and has turned them into martyrs for a losing battle against social injustice; left to rot behind the thick metal bars of America’s ineffective, and obsolete, prison system. Social injustice still exists today, and is seen in the prison system more than any other place in America. Hault. Before anyone is to be made into an activist for social justice or prison reform, it is necessary to note that both women and African Americans have experienced social injustice throughout American history. It is not difficult though, to keynote such events as the women’s suffrage movement in the early nineteenth century as well as the civil rights movement of the sixties because for many of us, or our lineage, these events have had a resounding influence on our very presence in America. These significant movements are only two of the many advances for social justice that have been made throughout time, where issues of gender and race have been challenged; women have been granted the right to vote and African Americans are no longer subject to segregation
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or treatment as second-class citizens. The goal of social justice is to ultimately bring all peoples; men and women, whites and blacks, to equality; however, the impending issue of mass incarceration, which makes prisons into facilities that “solely punish,” challenges this ideal, and must be ratified to make social justice a right, universally accessible to all. The facts. Though many similarities can be drawn between women and African Americans’ inextricable relationship to the American prison system; the first can be seen egregiously in prisons across the nation. Overcrowding due to mass incarceration of both groups has come fairly recently: “For most of the last century, the United States imprisoned about 5,000 to 10,000 women, only reaching the level of 12,000 by 1980. By [the nineties], this figure had climbed to more than 90,000… the number of women in prison more than [doubling].” (Chesney-Lind 2002, p. 80-81) Now, the rate of women’s imprisonment, nationally, is at an all time high; California leading with the most incarcerated women out of all fifty states. The same numbers can be seen within the
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