Urban Media

Problems Within The Criminal Justice System – #StreetSoldiers #PrisonPipeline Recap

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Incarceration rates are steadily rising and the main people filling up the beds are African American and Hispanic men. The NAACP reports that since 2008 minorities “comprised 58% of all prisoners.”

Lisa Evers who reports exclusively for Fox5 and Hot97 with her hit show Street Soldiers recently discussed the flaws within our legal system and how after you’ve served your time, trying to live in society makes you feel like you’re still in jail. Living legend Prodigy from the group Mobb Deep, hip hop artist from Harlem JR Writer, and Khalil Cumberbatch who works with Just Leadership USA that helps ex offenders get their life back on track, joined Lisa for the hot talk.

Prodigy began the conversation and stated that one of the issues within the legal system is that our government officials are aware of the problems and aren’t looking to reform it, instead they are finding ways to profit off of it. “They turn it into big business,” Prodigy said.

A bigger concern from Criminal justice advocate Khalil is that neither the Democratic or Republican party from this election addressed or even acknowledge that the system is failing. “It only reinforces to us how much more louder our voices need to be,” Khalil said. He believes that the only way for our voices to be heard is to “create the space” for government leaders to listen to us. When the people who are directly affected by issues speak their voices loud enough, they’ll be forced to listen.

Prodigy, JR Writer, and Khalil opened up about serving time in jail and how it affected their lives. They all agree that once you’re in the system, your life is already set up for failure.

“It’s set up to make you come back, they want you to come back,” JR Writer said. He explained how in his case he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong crowd. In our criminal justice system, sometimes it’s more beneficial for the defender to take a deal instead of fighting it and risking having to take the maximum sentence if you lose. JR Writer was looking at seven to eight years and took a deal so that he would do two and a half.

The challenges people face when they come home from jail is not being able to get jobs, go to school, or get apartments. Another obstacle they face is that once you’ve paid your debt to society, you’re forced to go to programs and visit a parole officer weekly, all of which has consequences if you don’t show up. Keep in mind, each visit to the parole officer isn’t free so you could get locked up just for not having the money to pay for your visit.

Prodigy spoke about how when he was in jail, a police officer told him that they’re programmed to pull over minorities that fit a certain stereotype. It’s an easy bust for a cop if someone is dressed a certain way. “They looking for easy arrest, they just want to get their numbers up, they definitely targeting us,” Prodigy said. He went on to say that a cop even told him that if you want to avoid being profiled, take your hat off when you drive.

Racial profiling is a major problem within the criminal justice system. Khalil explained how society is programmed to think that black people are dangerous. “Black males are automatically trialed and convicted in the media using terms like super predator, and animals and wolf packs,” Khalil said. This results in someone being guilty before they have even stepped foot in a courtroom.

If you’re convicted of a crime from the moment you’re put in jail, you’re dehumanized. Your name is now a number and in your new over crowded home you’re subjected to sexual abuse, violence, and discrimination based on your disability, mental illness, race, or gender identity. You’re forced to do what the correctional officers say, when they say to do it, and eat whatever they give you, which has minimal nourishments.

Prodigy, who has sickle cell anemia, had to focus on proper nutrition while in jail in order to stay alive. Health options are very limited when you’re incarcerated and the C.O’s could care less about your health needs.

Prodigy’s three-year jail experience led him to write his seventh book, “The Commissary Kitchen,” which teaches people how to eat healthy while behind bars. Definitely prepare your own meals and have your family or friends send you canned vegetables in your package.

Unfortunately for those who don’t have any loved ones to send them anything have to work in the can for some cans. Working for .10 to .15 cents an hour makes it nearly impossible to be able to afford any of your basic necessities.

Some people believe that when you’re in prison, you’re suppose to have a hard time and Prodigy made it clear and said, “just because you’re serving time, doesn’t make you a animal, you still have human rights.” He went on to say that prison reform is to remind people that prisoners are human. The only way to assure that when people come home from jail are able to function in society is to treat them like a person while they’re serving their time.

Other ways to improve prison life would be to include an educational system that’ll train them in a particular skill, implement a transitional program for when they’re about to be released, raise wages, and supply better food.

Khalil believes if people in urban communities were given access to opportunities such as better education and jobs, this would prevent them from becoming a slave to the system in the first place.

 

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