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 Faithful utterances: 

If the system is rigged, who does it work for?

by Froswa Booker-Drew
Froswa’ Booker-Drew

 More than 600,000 people, the majority of whom are people of color and women, are released from our prison systems every year and have challenges that many of us are unaware of. I have several friends who have been impacted by the criminal justice system.

 Walking with them through that journey taught me so much about the challenges they face. It can be so difficult to find a place to live or obtain a liveable wage job. It isn’t easy to have access to banking for many with ‘backgrounds.’

 For Black and Brown people, most of us have been impacted by incarceration even if we weren’t imprisoned. I have had friends with sons who are terrified about their sons being stopped by police and the care that has to be taken by reaching for your insurance paperwork.

 Many of us understand the challenges of the bail and bond system—families who don’t have much are putting their resources up for collateral. We know what it’s like to put money on someone’s books. The saga endured when visiting a loved one or dealing with exorbitant costs to use the phone or internal mail system. Even if you haven’t been to prison or jail, you go through it with those you care about.

 We know the many personal accounts of the injustice of the justice system, particularly when it comes to Black and Brown communities. Data also verifies that there are problems that are not being addressed.

 According to a report from The Sentencing Project, an organization dedicated to reforming the criminal justice system, the data from October 2021 reveals that Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons across the country at nearly five times the rate of White Americans.

 The report also found that in 12 states, more than half of the prison population is Black, and in seven states, the disparity between the Black and White imprisonment rate exceeds nine to one.

 Another study examined data on 95 million stops across the United States. The findings indicate that police stop-and-search decisions exhibit persistent racial bias. It was discovered that Black drivers were less likely to be stopped after sunset when it is more difficult to determine a driver’s race.

 The study discovered systemic disparities in how police conduct stops and searches based on the race of the driver.

 Similar to the adult criminal justice system, youth of color are disproportionately represented at every stage of the juvenile justice system in the United States. The placement rate for Black youth was significantly higher compared to a much lower rate for White youth.

 It’s interesting that when this system impacts Black and Brown communities, it’s just and fair. When wealthy individuals of a certain age and status are affected, terms like ‘affluenza’ and ‘rigged’ are offered as answers.

 For most poor, Black, and Brown individuals, that luxury is not an option. Criminal behavior is not more prevalent in one group than another. Historically, wealth has been a factor for a select group to avoid sentencing or jail time.

 We are called to be involved in this space. We cannot forget them. Matthew 25:36, for example, quotes Jesus as saying: ‘I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

 Hebrews 13:30 states: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”

 We must not continue to punish them after they have served their time, especially when people are trying to do the right thing but the help is limited or unavailable.

 The South Dallas Employment Project was created to make sure that people impacted by incarceration have access to resources so that going back to prison is not an option.

 If we analyze data, if the system is rigged, it tends to favor the wealthy, White, male, and over a certain age.

 Fixing it does not mean we create more loopholes for those who have resources to avoid consequences. We know the system is broken and needs to be repaired to be just and fair for all.

 (Dr. Froswa’ Booker is the president of Soulstice Consultancy; the founder of the Reconciliation and Restoration Foundation; and the author of four books. Visit <drfroswabooker.com>.)

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