Tag Archives: Criminal Justice

Mass Incarceration: Maybe the Last of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

jail-bars-and-cuffs

Mass incarceration has affected millions of people across all races, and the result is many of these people become a part of a permanent underclass who will struggle to live a normal life. Of course, many of the people who are incarcerated committed heinous crimes that need to be punished. These are not the people this is meant to address. Instead, we must take a closer look at people who were sentenced for minor crimes and misdemeanors, either justly or unjustly. In these cases, incarceration causes an enduring legacy that disqualifies millions of American citizens from returning to a normal life. Far too often, these people are poor, uneducated, and minorities. This is why along with  credit, education, and voting rights, mass incarceration might be the last of the remaining great disqualifiers.

Mass incarceration is a great disqualifier because a criminal record will follow and ex-offender even though they may have paid their debt to society. Although prison is supposed to rehabilitate its offenders, we know it does not do a good job of rehabilitation. Upon release, “reformed” criminals who try to straighten up their lives have a hard time erasing the stain of their criminal record. It follows them as they seek employment, housing, and voting rights. This is due to the requirement to disclose prior convictions on applications to “determine” eligibility. We know the deal here: this disclosure is more likely to disqualify people from a proper evaluation and consideration. Who gets caught in this trap: primarily minorities, immigrants, and poor people who get incarcerated.

Recently I had to look for a job, and I was surprised at the new levels of questions that ex-offenders have to answer. Basically, these questions ask if a person has been convicted of a crime. Depending on the organization or company, a “yes” answer leads to a series of additional questions. The most important of these questions is probably whether the crime was a felony or misdemeanor. I do not have statistics, but I am willing to bet that people who disclose their felony conviction are far less likely to be considered for employment than those who commit misdemeanors. Factor in those who have not committed crimes, and you can see how far behind ex-offenders are when looking for employment post-incarceration. When seeking employment, ex-offenders can easily be disqualified. Mass incarceration is one of the last remaining disqualifiers for them even though they have paid their debt to society.

Ex-offenders are also left way behind when seeking housing opportunities. Once again, an application will probably ask if a person has been convicted of a crime. This time, a potential landlord has the power to determine whether or not the answer to this question will disqualify a person from obtaining housing. I do not have statistics, but I am willing to bet that people who disclose their felony conviction are far less likely to be considered for housing than those who commit misdemeanors. Factor in those who have not committed crimes, and you can see how far behind ex-offenders are when looking for housing post-incarceration. When seeking employment and housing, ex-offenders can easily be disqualified. Mass incarceration is one of the last remaining disqualifiers for them even though they have paid their debt to society.

We have seen wave after wave of challenges to voting rights in America. Perhaps nowhere is this challenge stronger than establishing, or reestablishing the right to vote for ex-convicts. Some states allow ex-felons to return to voting rolls once they are released from prison. Other states do not allow them to vote. The recent trend is to either prevent ex-offenders from voting, or to strike them from voting lists. Once again, ex-offenders are required to disclose their convictions upon reapplying for the right to vote. I do not have statistics, but I am willing to bet that people who disclose their felony conviction are far less likely to be considered for voting than those who commit misdemeanors. Factor in those who have not committed crimes, and you can see how far behind ex-offenders are when looking to reestablish their voting rights post-incarceration. When seeking employment, housing and voting rights, ex-offenders can easily be disqualified. Mass incarceration is one of the last remaining disqualifiers for them even though they have paid their debt to society.

I have provided just a few examples of how mass incarceration is one of the remaining great disqualifiers for minorities, immigrants, and poor people. Simply put, being incarcerated can disqualify a person for life because their rights post-incarceration are never fully restored. These people will find it difficult to get employment. They will find it difficult to find decent housing. They will find it difficult to vote. It is not a pretty picture, especially for those people who get entangled in the criminal justice system for “minor” offenses. For these people and millions of others, mass incarceration will remain one of the last remaining great disqualifiers. We need to ask some questions…

Is there something sinister at work that is designed to ensnare certain group of people into the web of the criminal justice system?

Is there a secret “system” in place to create a permanent underclass based on mass incarceration?

Is mass incarceration another disqualifier on the same level as credit mismanagement, a lack of education, and denial of voting rights?

 

We need to find answers. What do you think is the cause of mass incarceration: the last remaining great disqualifier?

 

This is a follow-up to my original posts:

Credit: One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

Education: Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

Voting Rights: Yet Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

 

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