Magazine article The Crisis

Advocates Call for Criminal Justice Reform in the Era of Mass Incarceration

Magazine article The Crisis

Advocates Call for Criminal Justice Reform in the Era of Mass Incarceration

Article excerpt

Criminal justice reform is one of the NAACP's six game-changers. It is also a major issue that fueled a heated panel discussion at the NAACP 108th Annual Convention opening plenary session.

The NAACP reports that African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of Whites.

"Mass incarceration is the masses of people of color being subjected to penalties that viciously and specifically target us in ways that throw away the key when we are put into jail," said Georgetown sociology professor Michael Eric Dyson.

"Criminal justice reform means we have to reform a criminal justice system that is often unjust to us," he added.

Colin Warner spent 20 years in prison after he was wrongly accused and convicted in 1980 of killing a man he never met. Warner was 18 when he was arrested in Brooklyn, N.Y. He said more needs to be done to protect youth from wrongful arrests.

"We don't have proper representation. That's key," said Warner. "We are basically on our own."

Andrea James, executive director for the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, served two years at a Danbury, Conn., federal prison.

"They are separating mothers from children," said James, a former criminal defense lawyer who left behind a fivemonth-old son and 12-year-old daughter while serving time in prison.

"I was in a prison with generations of Black women from the same family - grandmothers, mothers and their daughters on the same drug case - incarcerated for a minimum of 10 years mandatory minimum-plus sentences," said James. …

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