Monday Lunchtime Seminar: Cracks in the fissure of Mass Incarceration in America

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Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi of the Wits Justice Project (left), Vincent Schiraldi (middle), and David Bilchitz of The South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights, and International Law (right).

On the 11th of August 2014, The South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights, and International Law (SAIFAC) and the Wits Justice Project hosted a lunchtime presentation by Vincent Schiraldi, who is a Senior Advisor at the New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. The presentation was held at the Constitution Hill (Old Fort Prison).

Vincent lead a discussion on trends in the decrease of prison populations in the United States with the aim that we identify lesson that may be learnt in reducing prison populations.

Statistics from Vincent’s presentation

  • 3 million adults in prisons
  • 3 million under correctional supervision
  • In 2012, nearly 1 in every100 American adults was in prison or jail
  • 1/3 of African American males born in 2001 can expect to spend time in prison over the course of their lifetime
  • Over 47 million have a criminal record
  • State and federal prison populations in the U.S. rose steadily between 1973 to 2009, from about 200,000 to 1.5 million, declining slightly in 2009 to 2012.

What drove this increase, and how has it affected crime rates, individuals, families, communities, and society at large?

To answer this question, Vincent presented a correlation between policies of past American presidents and incarceration growth. Looking at President Nixon’s introduction of ‘War on Drugs’…the rate of incarceration more than quadrupled. Drug laws drove up the incarceration rate for poor, black males. According to research conducted by The Sentencing Project, “one in three young black men is under control of the criminal justice system, that five million Americans can’t vote because of felony convictions, and that thousands of women and children have lost welfare, education and housing benefits as the result of convictions for minor drug offenses”.

 

 

Vincent Schiraldi, Senior Advisor at the New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

Vincent Schiraldi, Senior Advisor at the New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

 

Relevant Sites:

http://www.nap.edu/incarceration

nationalacademies.org/claj

http://cureviolence.org/resources/the-interrupters/

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About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

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