Stop the Violence, Start the Love: Addressing Youth Incarceration & Public Safety

Today in America, there are over 2.3 million people behind bars. We are 5% of the world population but we hold 25% of the world’s prisoners. And most of these prisoners are people of color who comprise 60% of the prison population – with African Americans alone making up 37% of those behind bars.  And yet, despite decades of “getting tough on crime” and locking up more and more people, public safety has not improved and crime rates have not significantly declined.

Furthermore, there’s reason to believe that incarceration actually leads to increased violence and decreased public safety.  The primary purpose of prisons and juvenile institutions is not primarily to provide the services, training, education and rehab that individuals need to face the challenges of establishing stable lives when they return home.  Rather, punishment has become the main purpose of our prisons, jails and juvenile institution, where low level, first-time, nonviolent offenders are exposed to over-crowded and violent environments.

Our nation’s obsession with incarceration is not without its collateral consequences either. 2.7 million children in America wake up every day with a parent behind bars. Roughly 500,000 children have a father behind bars and studies show that nearly ¼ of children with fathers behind bars get expelled from schools.  Expulsion and drop out rates in turn are linked with incarceration. 

The facts indicate that relying on mass incarceration as a one-size-fits-all strategy to many of our social problem has not only failed, it has created a system whereby African Americans and other communities of color are disproportionately swept up in the criminal justice system, a phenomenon that has grave collateral consequences for entire communities for generations to come. 

This year, at the NAACP 102nd Annual Convention, the Criminal Justice Department will host a workshop for the NAACP Youth and College Division titled, “Stop the Violence, Start the Love: Addressing Youth Incarceration and Public Safety.”  The workshop will bring together expert panelists who will lead a discussion about the role that youth activists can play in helping implement strategies that decrease our reliance on incarceration, increase public safety, and help heal communities of color that are most impacted by crime, violence, and mass incarceration. 

The workshop will be held on Monday 7/25/11 from 2:00-4:00 p.m.

This panel will feature:

-Demar L. Roberts, Member, NAACP National Board of Directors

-Jonathon Lewis, Regional Field Fellow, NAACP

-Dr. Niaz Kasravi, Senior Manager for Criminal Justice, NAACP

-Rob “Biko” Baker, Executive Director, The League of Young Voters

-Tshaka Barrows, Program Manager, Community Justice Network for Youth

-Kim Mc Gill, Organizer, Youth Justice Coalition

Please join us and add your voice to this informative and important discussion.