Pubdate: Thu, 24 Feb 2005
Source: Ledger, The (FL)
Copyright: 2005 The Ledger
Author: Charles M. Streeter


Initially, permit me to commend The Ledger for its editorial "Prisons
Not Only Answer to Crime," published Feb. 12. I agree that corrections
has become a $2 billion-a-year enterprise in Florida.

In our nation, we are currently overcrowding our penal institutions
with generations of young men of color at $31,000 a year. Nearly two-
thirds are locked up for nonviolent offenses.

According to a recent Justice Policy Institute report, "Racial Divide:
An Examination of the Impact of California's Three Strikes Law on
African Americans and Latinos": "African-Americans are sentenced to
life at nearly 13 times the rate of whites. Latinos, meanwhile, are
sentenced at a rate 82 percent higher than whites under the three-
strikes legislation." Hence, the question is posed: Is justice in these
United States color-blind?

I wholeheartedly agree with your editorial board that warehousing
human beings, especially members of minority groups, is not a
long-term solution to fighting crime in our state. Your readers should
really digest and internalize the following statement penned in your
editorial: "Investing billions of dollars a year to warehouse human
beings while skimping on rehabilitation and programs that can truly
address the root causes of crime is shortsighted public policy."

African-American males represent 5 percent of the U.S. population and
60 percent of those incarcerated in our penal institutions. Of the
number of African-American males incarcerated, 80 percent dropped out
of school before graduation.

To be sure, the solution to this disproportionate incarceration rate
is not imprisonment, but quality education and increased graduation
rates for AfricanAmerican students.

In sum, the impact of the incarceration of African-American males and
other people of color is a microcosm of what's wrong with the
criminal-justice system in America.

Charles M. Streeter

Winter Haven
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