Tag Archives: prison

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The City Inside

Hakim Bellamy at the Monroe Correctional Facility

Hakim Bellamy at the Monroe Correctional Facility

The Prison Arts Coalition

By Hakim Bellamy

About the guest blogger: Hakim Bellamy became the inaugural poet laureate of Albuquerque on April 14th, 2012, at age 33. He was the son of a preacher man (and a praying woman). His mother gave him his first book of poetry as a teen, a volume by Khalil Gibran. Many poems later, Bellamy has been on two national champion poetry slam teams, won collegiate and city poetry slam championships (in Albuquerque and Silver City, NM), and has been published in numerous anthologies and on inner-city buses. A musician, actor, journalist, playwright and community organizer, Bellamy has also received an honorable mention for the Paul Bartlett Ré Peace Prize at the University of New Mexico. Bellamy is the founder and president of Beyond Poetry LLC. For more information on the author, please visit www.hakimbe.com.

The City Inside Me

I want to think about my future.
I want…

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“The Race to Incarcerate: Locking Up Poor Blacks and Latinos ” via sync504.com Newsletter

The Race to Incarcerate: Locking Up Poor Blacks and Latinos

Most prisoners are people of color. That is not justice.

by Scott A. Bonn, Ph.D.

 The number of persons in U.S. prisons is more than 2 million-roughly equal to the entire population of Houston, Texas. The massive U.S. prison population does not mirror the demographic profile of U.S. society or the actual patterns of crime. In fact, there is a stark pattern of racial disparity in the prison population that is the result of racial profiling by authorities.The vast majority of U.S. prisoners are poor, uneducated, unskilled, emotionally or psychologically troubled, drug and/or alcohol dependent, and either Black or Latino.The racial disparity between prisoners and the general population is particularly profound. Blacks and Latinos together comprise less than 30% of the general population but nearly 70% of the U.S. prison population. How can this be?Conventional – that is, uninformed – wisdom suggests the reason Blacks and Latinos represent the majority of the prison population is that they commit the majority of all crimes in the U.S. That is simply not the case.Top of FormBottom of FormThe reality is that Blacks and Latinos are differentially targeted and processed throughout the U.S. criminal justice system. The tremendous discretion afforded the police, prosecutors and judges at all stages of the criminal justice process – from arrest to incarceration and parole – allows Blacks and Latinos to be given harsher treatment than Whites who commit the very same crimes.

 This is largely a result of “racial profiling.” According to the ACLU, racial profiling “refers to the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.” Stated differently, racial profiling is the reliance of criminal justice authorities on a group of non-legal personal characteristics they believe to be associated with crime.

Consider these facts: Blacks make up 12% of the U.S. population and comprise 14% of all illegal drug users, but they represent 35% of all drug arrests, 55% of all convictions for drug crimes, and 75% of all those who go to prison for drug crimes! This is clearly not equal justice for Blacks relative to other races.

 Disturbingly, racial disparity in the criminal justice process exists for most other crimes, including murder and rape, as well. The startling crime statistics reveal that racially biased patterns of processing are very common throughout the criminal justice system.

 It is time to pull the blindfold off of lady justice and admit that she is not blind after all. She sees quite well, indeed. Her acute but sometimes prejudiced vision unfortunately leads her to differentially profile, target and incarcerate many poor Blacks and Latinos.

The result is a prison population that does not fairly represent the true picture or color of criminal activity in the U.S. It’s time to put an end to such practices and deliver justice fairly to all U.S. citizens.

PRE-ORDER From These Many Rooms: The 2014 INK Prison Writing Contest Anthology

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Random House Acquires 1800s Prison Memoir

Random House Acquires 1800s Prison Memoir

 

Poem “LETTERS AND TRAINS” Examines the Significance of Receiving Mail in Prison

LETTERS AND TRAINS

Letters arrive as if by train at a station platform

The puff and steam from men of all sizes and power.

Awaiting crowds crammed and craning on deck

To see the size and heft of it and in the mouth of it.

Peering, like through small car windows, even

from the corner, across from government art.

Himself the towering locomotive between two tracks of tables

Is the Conductor, steeped in blue with loops of keys, shouts:

“Mail Call,” “Mail Call,” “Last Call for Mail Call”

And shouting the names, Lopez, White, Hernandez, Coker…

All listen, the hopeful closer, the privileged closest,

The lost or forgotten eerily busy in their houses.

The mail bag emptied, the men exhale the final steam.

My name is called and I run alongside, late, waving

The loved ones have arrived, sent by partners, family.

My passengers manifest and take my hand, overhead

passing through packed uniforms to my numbered house.

Stacked by subject; letters, newspapers, novels, law.

First, we chat and laugh out loud as we used to do.

The stories alive and memories return like the children

In The Color Purple, in majestic colors

And we later sit in silence too, like we used to do.

In school, at the firm, at home, before court.

I then introduce them to others, interested or in need.

Sometimes we have no visitors among arrivals

So we return the next day and each succeeding day

Turned away, hard men blink like boys.

Sometimes it takes years to stop greeting the train

Most often we never stop, still watching, listening, hoping

Such is the power and allure of letters in prison.