Mass Incarceration, is the End Truly in Sight?

From Dallas to Manhattan, one common trend resonates through America, “End Mass Incarceration Now.” From Black Lives Matter to Blue Lives Matter, it is no surprise that police brutality, specifically the violence imposed on Brown communities has become a mainstream of discourse, but its new profound political discourse is a pleasant but unexpected surprise.

Sarah Stockman, author of the NYT article, How ‘End Mass Incarceration’ Became a Slogan for D.A. Candidates reflects upon the political shift in District Attorney races from tough on crime stances, to promises to reform criminal justice.

The NYT articles highlights the re-election victory of a Dallas District Attorney, Faith Johnson, a Black female Republican who formed her election campaign on criminal justice reform. Her Democratic competitor, a white male, lost the election with an antiquated message to be tougher on crime.

This trend follows on the heels of Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance, a white, male Republican, notorious for his “keep Manhattan safe” is also singing a new tune, one that echos rehabilitation versus incarceration.

On 10/24/2018, D.A. Vance delivered the keynote remarks at the NYS Corrections and Youth Services Association Symposium. Wasting no time, he set the tone for his upcoming November 6, 2018 re-election,

The dual mission of the Manhattan D.A.’s Office is a safer New York and a fairer justice system. As applied to incarceration, that means our job is to keep Manhattan as safe as possible, using not one more day of jail than is necessary. That is the overall ethos that contemporary prosecutors’ officers need to work with in order to reduce mass incarceration safely and significantly (NYS Corrections and Youth Services Association Symposium, Oct. 2018).

Is Ending Mass Incarceration truly the new era of humanity?

Or is it simply a campaign tactic to appease Brown voters?

It’s hard to say.

Proposals for criminal justice reform juxtapose the stiff prosecution of non-violent drug policies advanced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Meanwhile states are slowly decriminalizing marijuana use and the New York Stock Exchange is now publicly trading marijuana stock as of 10/23/2018.

In a heated election cycle that influences executive branch power, elected Republicans are arguably threatened by the partisan alliance that connects them to the fiery, often unpredictable rhetoric of President Trump. Whereas crime reform was once a polarizing topic reserved for Brown Democratic constituents, Republicans such as D.A. Vance and D.A. Faith have co-signed to the justice reform agenda, hopefully for genuine gains.

Nonetheless, this is the perfect political climate to capitalize off criminal justice change. Activists (in)directly impacted by incarceration can rally to amplify the emotional and financial impact of mass incarceration and later hold elected officials accountable to the campaign promises that helped catapult them to power.

After a century of convict labor camps and unjust punitive punishment, policymakers are adapting. Mass incarceration may not end right now, but one thing is for certain, it is on schedule to end sometime soon.cornellsun

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A Tale of Two Penalties, Parole or Re-incarceration.

Published on Linkedin 10/19/19


According to the Sentencing Project, NYS state is less likely to imprison its residents, ranked 39 out of 50 states. Whereas NYS is more likely to re-incarcerate its persons on Parole, ranked 9 out of 50 states. The latest Criminal Justice Reforms are great, ATI programs have lowered overall misdemeanor rates whereas pre-trial detention services have decreased bail for otherwise ineligible defendants. But there is stark discrepancy about what the State’s perceived guiding principles are versus who the state’s guiding principles are designed to actually help. The criminalization of first time opioid users in Bronx, NY contrasted by the rehabilitation of first time opioid users in Staten Island, NY is a prime example of how the application of criminal and the implication of justice vary across city demographics.

Despite the continued publication of its fiscal inefficiency, incarceration is yet championed by state legislatures nationwide. And because only 0.7% of the American population is incarcerated, the invisibility of a problem affecting a perceivably invisible demographic, results in the the dismissal of respectability politics for communities impacted by incarceration. Onward with parole, which proportionately affects an ever fewer percentage of the incarcerated population, parole is even more easily ignored. This is Alinsky’s first principle of ethics, that one’s concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with one’s distance from scene of the conflict.

So, what do we do when we can’t get people to care about what we care about? Ethics principle #10 Alinsky would tell us to do what we can with what we have and clothe it in moral arguments. What does this look like?

  1. Community organizing to build statistical representation and
  2. Awakening via attacking the moral consciousness of the comfortable bystander

Alinsky based his organizing model off the premise that communities build representation with the fact that people power is in numbers. The campaign issue against mass incarceration is hard(er) because the percentage of people who benefit by the industrial prison complex surpasses the persons exploited by the IPC.

Whereas reducing incarceration is the compromisation of human morality – Parole reform is thus the absolutism of human dignity.

Parole reformation is analogous to true societal forgiveness as opposed to excessive surveillance and re-incarceration that represents permanent suspicion and accusation. In the same manner Black liberation authors Frantz Fanon, Ralph Ellison and W.E.B. Du Bois dismantled the physical structures of slavery by fracturing the mental ideologies that permitted slavery, we too, can aid in prison abolition by publishing memoirs of the yet imprisoned and the double consciousness of enslavement that affects one’s self-identity politics.

Parole reform is human reform. To permanently incarcerate is to permanently devalue whereas parole to an eventually freedom is to permanently re-value. The next idyllic step, community reinvestment is to add group value. By appealing to the economic benefits of parole reform we can also engage community development in a way that incentives appeal to a wider audience.

Parole reform envisioned as human reform conceptualizes a world where everyone can have some versus resource monopolization that readies the fear that gain can only mutually exist at the expense of some others having none. Parole reform is wearisome, exhausting, onerous – but it is also beautiful. It is the tangible act of eliminating total fear so that all can have total hope.