Election night 2012: Who will speak for the poor and incarcerated?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but how many times did “the poor” or “lower class” populations come up during the presidential campaigns, and what does this mean for those who make up that population especially those who, inadvertently or consequently, lost their rights including the right to vote? I’m speaking of those who are entangled in the criminal justice system, who many people don’t care about one way or another.

However, there is a growing trend of people who are indeed interested in this population, those private corporations such as Corrections Corporations of America (CCA) operating hundreds of facilities nationwide and are traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). So who will speak for the voiceless and those seen as profit rather than people?

“The justice system in America is built on the backs of the poor. Those who are charged with crimes, awaiting trial, incarcerated or on probation and parole are generally from among the class who are considered the “have nots”, expressed Deric Muhammad, Houston-based community activist and Chair of the Millions More Movement Ministry of Justice.

According to a 2008 report in the New York Times, “more than one in 100 American adults are behind bars”. It further states that “one in 36 adult Hispanic men is behind bars. One in 15 adult black men is, too, as is one in nine black men ages 20 to 34. One in 355 white women ages 35 to 39 is behind bars, compared with one in 100 black women”. In 2012, it was reported that over six million people are under correctional supervision in the United States.

Not only do certain groups fall victim to the criminal justice statistics, but certain states within the U.S. are considered notorious for imprisonment. According to a New Orleans crime index Louisiana is known as the “world’s prison capital”. Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly five times Iran’s, 13 times China’s and 20 times Germany’s. Texas alone has imprisoned more than four hundred teen-agers to life sentences.

Who will speak for the voiceless? Mr. Muhammad replied, “While Obama will more than likely be more sympathetic to the plight of the poor than Romney, I don’t think either will facilitate the way for any meaningful improvement in the justice system. Such reform will have to come from the bottom-up, not the top-down.”
–ebony s. muhammad





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