Category Archives: Mass Incarceration

GUIDANCE FOR FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES REGARDING THE USE OF RACE, ETHNICITY, GENDER, NATIONAL ORIGIN, RELIGION, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, OR GENDER IDENTITY

The past day the U.S. Department of Justice released an outline for a new ‘use of race’ policy for the police force. It “builds upon and expands the framework of the 2003 Guidance and aims to dissolve “biased practices. Which promote mistrust of law enforcement, and perpetuate negative and harmful stereotypes”.

http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/ag/pages/attachments/2014/12/08/use-of-race-policy.pdf

I suppose the question I’ve come to ask myself as time transpires and more of these cases reach the public eye and not just the local sphere is ‘quis custodient ipsos custodes'(Satires VI, lines 347-8). Which translates to who watches the watchmen? Even Plato pondered on what it means and how to have a powerful force held in account for their actions. For the longest of time, society has, generally, regarded the police as the moral good. Even if their actions are questionable, we assume they are acting under the moral good, and therefore their actions are forgivable. But what happens when the actions are unforgivable and the moral good is made hazy from internalized racism and biased practices? Who do we have in this day and age to hold the police accountable for their actions? Who holds sovereignty over these watchmen? Do you think that something like this document and policy can make a drastic change in how police handle stops and activities?

 

There are two parts of this document which bother me, as they seem to do the very thing the document is attempting to shun. Under discussion A, there is a section where crime rates are discussed. The diction actually harms their argument, if there is no conclusive evidence that “certain crime rates among certain groups” exist, then using the argument of ‘some’ biases and skews whatever neutral stance the wish to partake in. That portion sounded like they were trying to justify the use of ‘profiling’ based on inconclusive ‘statistical evidence’ that have long been argued because of overall discrepancies. Am I the only one to feel that way about that portion?

 

Finally, the portion where they state they may “use a listed characteristic in connection with source recruitment” such as in the case of a terrorist organization. Let’s not beat around the bush, the characteristic they are referring to is race/skin color and in most cases, they are looking for brown people. Do you believe that these policies truly change anything within the system, or are they temporary band-aids to quell the situation and appease people who ask for ‘change’?

Colorblindness and Charity Johnson

http://www.deborah-holoien.com/papers/HoloienShelton2012.pdf

This is less of an article, more of a psychological study, on the impact of being primed to see things in a “colorblind” manor on both the minority experiencing the prejudice and the individual who has been conditioned not to see their prejudice.  Priming, being a memory effect where your exposure to a certain stimulus will incite and influence your response and behaviors to another. So, being raised to see no color will ultimately render you unable to see color as a factor in all the things that it is undeniable factoring into.
The reason I chose this particular article, is because, and honestly, individuals I know on facebook frustrate me to no end with their denial of race being an issue in things that it is an issue in. Not to mention, the effects of not seeing a person’s race as part of their identity and a factor in their experiences. Ultimately, the study wants to make known the effects of ideologies on one’s own, as well as, other’s cognitive abilities and behavior.
This ties in nicely, in my opinion, with Michelle Alexander’s proposition of mass incarceration as targeting minorities and everyone else is failing to see it as an issue because of the colorblind ideologies we have been implicitly conditioned to accept. For example, take this article , http://www.buzzfeed.com/katiejmbaker/why-did-charity-johnson-pretend-to-be-a-teenager-for-20-year where a 34 year old woman assumes the identity of a young teen and lies to a coworker so that the coworker could grant her a living space, food, clothes, etc. Ultimately, she gets away with being treated as a child, but the first response was not to question whether or not she is psychologically sound? If she isn’t regressing due to repressing or has any sort of mental disorder (mind you, she was on medication), because all of her actions should beg the question…Why? No, instead, they have booked her in jail for several months. What’s more disturbing, to me, were the slew of comments about her leeching off the system, or that ‘she deserved it’. Which ultimately, I view as another way of saying ‘I don’t see your humanity and I don’t care to understand your circumstances.’  Rather than help and re-establish, the prison, in this case becomes another form of social control for profit.