By Greg Thrasher, VOD Contributing Editor
For the Black community whenever there is a discussion about prisons and inmates the media and politicians always plaster the airwaves with statistics about the rates of incarceration about Black inmates in our prison system. There is always an underlying theme that Black people are more criminally inclined than others and at any given moment will engage in some criminal or deviant behavior. Quite often the publication and release of criminal statistics are efforts by the media and those in the ruling class to alert and remind people that prison is the normal outcome and lifestyle for Black people. Media portrayals of crime in America have many underlying objective and hidden agendas. Black people in prison of course also impact local economies as well as political elections.
Recently a number of media accounts have disclosed a study which purports that Black males live longer and have better healthcare outcomes if they remain in prison instead of being free from incarceration. Black inmates are by the very nature of being in prison protected at higher rates against alcohol- and drug-related deaths, as well as lethal accidents and certain chronic diseases than those not in prison. These types of studies are dangerous in the hands of anti-Black political interest groups and yet they also have value and are informative for the Black community at large. It is therefore incumbent upon the Black community to examine and evaluate this data in such a manner that empowers and enhances our solutions in dealing with crime and former prisoners once they return to the community.
The stark truth is that for large segments of the Black community information and knowledge about the lives of inmates is unknown and many simply do not care nor want to know. We can no longer tolerate this level of thinking and posturing. For the Black community, the reality of racism, negrophhobia and the flawed administration and operation of the criminal justice system do not allow us to remain on the sidelines with regard to this subject matter. Too many of us are at risk of being injected into the penal system. There is value in knowing how some inmates improve their mental and spiritual life while being in prison. There is useful data to be learned about how healthcare options in prisons address inmates with regard to HIV, Diabetes , Alcohol, Mental Health related problems . When inmates return to the community all of us are impacted by the realities of life in prison these people have encountered. The community inherits all of the issues of former prisoners.
We need to understand all of the lessons good, bad and the ugly that impact and shapes the lives of prisoners while they are incarcerated because the majority of people in prison will return to the community. It is simply in the best interest of all of us from the prisoner to the community to become educated about the reality of life for these who have been incarcerated. Can parents of our youth become better parents upon learning about how prison officials deal with youth offenders? Could employers of former felons get more production from workers who have not been in prison because of the habits of ex-felons? There is simply much to learn from the culture of prison life that can be productive even for those of us who cannot see any value in being an ex-convict.
Knowledge about the life style of human beings who live in prisons is critical for all of us. We must have the vision and courage to learn from those who have experienced life behind bars. Such information and knowledge has value on many levels and layers of life both in and out of prison.