Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Criminal Justice

In The New Jim Crow, author Michelle Alexander meticulously crafts the argument that black Americans have been disproportionately targeted by the once widely advertised War on Drugs.  The result has been a massive growth in America's prison population, largely composed of black men, many of whom have spent years in prison for relatively minor drug crimes which would go unnoticed in much of the country.  Further compounding the injustice is the fact that upon release from prison, the label of felon (often forced upon "criminals" through plea deals) makes reentry into society amazingly difficult, as discrimination against felons in the arenas of housing and employment is perfectly legal.  The ultimate outcome has been the decimation of America's inner cities, with fatherless families being all too common and standard stereotypes being unfairly reinforced.  Remarkably, when citizens are asked about the most pressing issues facing our cities, criminal justice reform hardly makes the cut.

In Rochester, we unfortunately have a firsthand look at the hopelessness that can affect urban America.  Our local conversation mirrors the national conversation, with an immense amount of coverage focused on education, employment, transportation, and crime.  Relatively speaking, criminal justice reform receives far less attention.  Yet the reality that drug use in Pittsford is not treated nearly the same as drug use in the city of Rochester cannot be denied.  And the subsequent consequences to our community as a whole are equally undeniable.

Given the above reality, the following questions seem reasonable:

  1. Does our media really need to provide intense coverage of every crime committed in the city of Rochester, often supporting preconceived notions and thus affecting how we direct our community's resources? 
  2. Can our media at a minimum spend an equal amount of time on criminal justice reform as it spends on crime itself?
  3. Does a city like Rochester really want to elect yet another police chief as mayor? (The answer might be yes, but the question warrants consideration.)


 

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