Harsh imprisonment specifically for “petty crimes” causes voter suppression and racial injustice. Petty crimes are usually things like possession of marijuana or even small traces of crack or heroin on clothing could land someone a sentence without parole. Becoming a felon in the United States makes one a second class citizen. Second class citizens do not have the same rights as the average American such as the right to vote, a fair and honest work environment, and all the other rights that our constitution gives us. These rights are fundamental to all Americans and most, if not all, misdemeanors do not affect one’s’ right as an American. Having rights is something that was created with the founding of our nation but it is also something that our founding fathers left for their successors to change as the world is changing everyday. Though this is a clear principle our founding father wanted for this country, those who want the government to remain small believe it is not the government’s job to mandate every problem and especially if has to do with prisoners.
Let’s look at the governments The First Step Act the bill was passed with a bipartisan agreement of 360-59. Although the bill is going in the right direction for the future of our prison reform, it does not address the problem of mass incarceration. According to Chrysse Haynes’ of Equal Justice Under Law, “The Act solely focuses on the “back-end” by allowing prisoners to accrue “time credits” and some can exchange those credits for early release into a halfway house or home confinement. Therefore, this Act does not resolve the problem of extremely long sentences being imposed on prisoners at the outset.” meaning prisoners are not really being fully freed after doing time credits because they would need to serve time between home arrest and/or in the halfway house. There are people thrown into federal prison due to the “war on drugs” despite the fact that the biggest drug problem in the United States are the pain-relieving drugs prescribed by doctors otherwise known as opioids. Additionally, minorities only make up about twelve percent of the opioid overdoses in the United States. This is a much lower percentage than white, non-hispanic people to make up about 78 percent of the total overdoses. Petty crimes are counted as felonies in our justice system and many people view this as a way to suppress minorities and low income households because of the emphasis on cash bail. Cash Bail is money that people pay as a deposit for the release of a person who has been arrested. The Department of Finance holds the money to help incentivize that the defendant will return to court for their trial. This cash bail system is in place in all 50 states in the United States.
The reason why cash bail does not work is because bail ranges from $500-$25,000 and if one can not afford to pay for the bail one could get a bond which is usually 10% of bail but all in all cash bail is an expensive cash grab from the government. Although in the in past the United States government had used like poll taxes making it harder for minority groups to vote. Even today it is still hard to vote because of gerrymandering and the political fight constantly going on in the United States. In the state of South Carolina their gerrymandering has successfully suppressed the minority votes in South Carolina’s 6th district because of their control in the Governor seat politicians were able to keep most of South Carolina black votes in one district. Obviously things like this happening nationwide to gain political capital but it is illegal and it restrict the people’s right to elect anyone into office with our current system in place.
Although, the system is ran from the top down according to The Economist “two new reports that look at changing local fortunes in America over the last decade and over the past 35 years suggest that opportunities for poor Americans are diminishing. Both report that there has been no recent progress in achieving regional income equality.” meaning over the course of the last 35 years it has been harder to achieve the American dream even more than ever. According to U.S Poverty Statistic, “While the poverty rate for the population as a whole is 12.3% the rate varies greatly by race. Blacks have the highest poverty rate at 21.2% and Non-Hispanic whites the lowest at 8.7%. The Poverty rate for Blacks and Hispanics is more than double that of non-hispanic whites.” further my point that minority groups are put into this never ending cycle of prison and poverty. Although one should not do not want to refer to white people as being inherently evil because it is the politicians that we need to blame. They will do anything to stay in power and they are willing to let people suffer to achieve that.
In conclusion, our prison system here in the United States is far from perfect. Using cash bail as a “get out jail free card” is a low blow to freedom. Black, Hispanics, and other minority groups are stuck in a system of poverty and mass incarceration compared to white people. Politicians use techniques such as gerrymandering to help the minorities votes by keeping them contained to certain areas. Minorities are unfairly targeted for non-fatal drug offenses and tend to face much harsher sentences than white people who are charged with the same crime. Additionally, politicians claim to be passing bills to help with prison reforms but they are actually just more ways to keep formerly incarcerated minorities from fully rejoining society. This is clearly demonstrated through examples such as halfway houses and home confinement. Subsequently, they also have done nothing to address the current problems of mass incarceration. This country has had a history of trying to keep not only black people, but other minorities separate from the rest of society and that can still be seen today through our government and justice system.
Pfeifer , Robert S. U.S. Poverty Statistics. 2019, federalsafetynet.com/us-poverty-statistics.html.
2018, The Economist, The gap between poor and rich neighbourhoods is growing.
Haynes, Chrysse. “The First Step Act.” Equal Justice Under Law, 30 Aug. 2018, equaljusticeunderlaw.org/thejusticereport/2018/8/21/the-first-step-act-a-pros-and-cons-list.