January 28, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Student Comments on Bedi’s Call for End of Mass Incarceration

Students for Law, Justice & Culture member Kaleb Carter wrote an engaging opinion piece on issues raised in Professor Sheila Bedi’s talk on mass incarceration last week. His comments appear in the Ohio University online student publication The New Political.

When Sheila Bedi mentioned in her Baker Ballroom speech on Thursday that mass incarceration remains “in the shadows” when it comes to public dialogue on major issues, I couldn’t help but nod vigorously in agreement, even though I let it slip my conscious too often. Many are unwilling to talk about America’s overflowing prisons, but are quick to note crime control as it pertains to violence and drug use. Mass incarceration should be on everybody’s mind.

Sheila Bedi, a law professor at Northwestern University, wants to end mass incarceration. Photographer: Olivia Wallace

Sheila Bedi, a law professor at Northwestern University, wants to end mass incarceration. Photographer: Olivia Wallace

When we talk about mass incarceration, we need to bring up not just criminal justice reform, but reconfiguring our current system as a whole. We must note that racial bias plays a role in policing, and in how judicial rulings play out. For-profit prisons cannot continue to go unchecked, and the government cannot allow prisons that have must-reach quotas as far as inmates go (Note America’s “10 Worst Prisons” according to Mother Jones). That there is an inherent nature within the criminal justice system and how it interacts with the mentally ill prisoners and how this directly affects the prison population and recidivism (people going back to jail) rates.

The conversation surrounding crime should reflect that nonviolent offenders make up an overwhelming majority of the prison population, and how mandatory minimum sentences do more harm than good. The effects of the War on Drugs must be realized and be made common knowledge, and we must not ignore the shocking facts about how lower income and communities of color are disproportionately affected (most notably black communities). We must discuss concepts that are foreign to many among the general population, like the school to prison pipeline and prison abolition. We cannot continue to let the huge civil liberties issue of mass incarceration go unchecked. This is not a call for the abolition of prisons, or any ludicrous claim that criminals need to get off scot-free, but to continue to ignore this problem is to invite further poverty, crime, and despair into our communities.

Read more of Carter’s piece in The New Political.

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