Research Paper: Overcrowding in Prisons: Impacts

Pages: 8 (2391 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] And conversely, when those African-American men are released from overcrowded prisons (in certain cases some inmates are released prior to the time they were sentenced for because they were not convicted of violent crimes and judges have ordered prisons to reduce crammed facilities), the "vast majority will return to the same communities" (smith, 388). This in turn puts "additional strain on already scarce resources" in the communities they came from and want to return to.

In other words, the PIC has a recent legacy of overcrowding, and in the process the PIC "exploits African-American men by extracting their labor" below fair market wages, and then by returning them to their communities where socioeconomic resources are already depleted (Smith, 389). On page 389 the authors use a passage from (Wright, 1997):

"Like Native Americans who became a landless underclass in the nineteenth century, repression rather than incorporation is the central mode of social control directed toward [African-American men].

Capitalism does not need the labor power of unemployed inner city youth. The material interests of the wealthy and privileged segments of American society would be better served if these people simply disappeared. However, unlike in the nineteenth century, the moral and political forces as such that direct genocide is no longer a viable strategy. The alternative, then, is to build prisons and cordon off the zones of cities in which the underclass lives…"

From the references available for this paper, it seems clear that the reason prisons are so terribly overcrowded is not the result from "…a sudden crime boom," but rather, from changes in the U.S. criminal justice system (and the sentencing laws) that are biased against African-Americans and negatively impact black families and black communities (Smith, 391).

The Black Perspective / Principle 2 - Strengths

The movement called "critical social work" searches for the causes, the consequences and the removal of oppressive policies and attitudes vis-a-vis African-Americans. According to authors Jane Dalrymple and Beverley Burke, critical social work promotes social justice both in "practice and policy" (Dalrymple, et al., 2006, 17). One of the strong components of critical social work is involved in the examination of how "…structures of oppression are reproduced in the everyday lived reality of people" (Dalrymple, 18).

Critical social work operates on the assumption that the "structures of oppression" do not just appear as a sudden implementation of a negative policy. Rather, the structures of oppression are "reproduced through ideological processes" (Dalrymple, 18). Social workers have the ability to "transform the experienced realities of clients" and hence social workers can make a difference in terms of empowering clients to resist "…exploitative social relations" (Dalrymple, 18). Critical social work "critiques dominant social science" from a position of "positivism" because social workers are out in the community, more closely connected to clients (African-Americans) than to the bureaucracy, Dalrymple continues (18). Social workers practicing critical social work are themselves "…alienated from the power to act on and in their situation" and they therefore can make efforts to reduce or remove the oppressive policies at a person-to-person level (18).

The Black Perspective / Principle 3 - Diversity

Social workers that are open minded, educated and holistically engaged with their ethical and moral obligations, in most cases fully understand that the African-American community is composed of wonderfully, richly diverse cultures. Hence, the thought of stereotyping black people as though they were monolithic is not only absurd, it's ignorant.

In his book, Handbook of Prejudice, Stereotyping, and Discrimination, author Todd Nelson discusses "High-Power people" and "Low-Power people" (Nelson, 2009, 254) vis-a-vis the way stereotypes and categorizations emerge in social and work situations. Stereotyping black folks (considered "Low-Power people") is not unusual from the prospective of "High-Power people" because Nelson asserts that in STEM domains (science, technology, engineering and mathematics): a) white men are "normative" (not categorized); b) white women are categorized on the basis of their "non-normative gender"; and c) ethic minorities (black folks) are categorized on the basis of their non-normative race" (Nelson, 255).

The stereotyping tendencies of the powerful are not always consistent; they vary, Nelson writes, as a function of their "…social influence strategies," or in other words they stereotype based on their need to achieve certain goals, and those goals include the "contributions of low-power people" including African-Americans (255). When high-power people adopt strategies to move their proposals and polices forward, they stereotype low-power people within the context of the "cultural stereotypes of the groups to which low-power people belong…" (Nelson, 256). Among the common stereotypes -- that from The Black Perspective are abhorrent and totally unacceptable -- that high-power people utilize is that women are "caring and nurturing" and African-Americans are "musical and athletic" (Nelson, 256). Reducing any sub-culture of African-Americans to a stereotype that the only thing they do well is make music and play football and basketball, is an anathema to cultural fairness, and must be rejected.

Works Cited

Dalrymple, Jane, and Burke, Beverley. (2006). Anti-Oppressive Practice: Social Care and the Law. New York: McGraw-Hill International.

Hallet, Michael A. (2006). Private Prisons in America: A Critical Race Perspective. Champaign,

IL: University of Illinois Press.

Harris, Othello, and Miller, Robin R. (2003). Impacts of Incarceration on the African-American

Family. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Ifill, Gwen. (2010). New Drug Law Narrows Crack, Powder Cocaine Sentencing Gap. PBS

News Hour. Retrieved April 5, 2013, from http://www.pbs.org.

National… [END OF PREVIEW]

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