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Est. April 5, 2002
November 12, 2015 - Issue 629

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Why Are So Many
Black and Brown Men in Prison?

"Our criminal justice system
treats you better if you are
rich and guilty than if you
are poor and innocent."

For most of the first 200 years of U.S. history, our rate of incarceration and our prison population was similar to that of other industrialized nations. For about 200 years the U.S. incarcerated something close to 100 per 100,000 of its citizens. But sometime around 1980 things changed. Today we incarcerate more than almost all industrialized nations combined. Why? Did a large portion of Americans – mostly black and brown – suddenly wake up and decide to start committing crime at unprecedented rates? Or is something else going on?

What has become known as the prison industrial complex has grown like a cancer in the United States touching the lives of untold millions especially black and brown people. I can honestly say that I don’t know a single black person who has not been negatively impacted by our “justice” system, myself included.

To the uninitiated, the U.S. Criminal justice system doles out justice even handedly without regard for race, class, gender, nation of origin or socio-economic status. But it doesn’t take much research to discover what Harvard trained lawyer Bryan Stevenson discovered. In one of the most viewed TED Talks in history, Mr. Stevenson said, “Our criminal justice system treats you better if you are rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent.” To me and many others, this is the civil rights issue of our day. Editorial Board member and Columnist, Sharon Kyle, JD, is the Co-Founder and Publisher of the LA Progressive an online social justice magazine. With her husband Dick, she publishes several other print and online newsletters on political and social justice issues. In addition to her work with the LA Progressive, Ms. Kyle holds a Juris Doctorate, is an adjunct professor at Peoples College of Law in Los Angeles, and sits on the board of the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter and the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party. Click here to contact the LA Progressive and Ms. Kyle.

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is published every Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

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