September 19, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

So the ruckus of mis-information continues….The JPI has finally caught wind of the film and decided rhetort by going back to the same (flawed) study that has a particular sore spot with me. This is the JPI’s response to an article by the Baltimore Sun…please watch the language and the assembly of the argument to understand how data and statistics can be manuevered to serve anyone’s cause.

Letters to the Editor

September 8, 2007

Overuse of prisons harms black men

In his column about the documentary What Black Men Think, Gregory Kane suggests that the Justice Policy Institute’s work publicizing the sobering statistics about African-American men and their representation in U.S. prisons vs. U.S. universities is misleading (“New film gets men thinking, talking,” Aug. 29). He even implies that my group’s work is the reason for a scene in the movie in which black people told the documentarian, Janks Morton, that there were more African-American men in jail than in universities.

But according to the U.S. Justice Department, there were 791,000 African-American men in prison and jail in 2002. At that same time, the National Center on Education Statistics reported that there were 603,000 African-American men in universities. The comparison serves as a reminder of the impact of the massive social investment the government is making in prisons instead of universities and of the community most negatively impacted by these policies.

Professor Bruce Western of Princeton University also showed in a 2003 study that, given current incarceration rates, African-American men born in the late 1960s were more likely to have a prison record than a college degree.

Also in 2003, a Justice Department study found that if incarceration rates continued at current levels, almost one-third of African American men (32 percent) born in this decade would serve time in prison at some point in their life, compared with 6 percent of whites.

In Baltimore, half of all young African-American men are under some form of control by the criminal justice system.

I believe such sobering realities are the real reason African-Americans would tell a documentarian that there are more black men in prison than in college.

The real issue here, however, is the nation’s overuse of incarceration, its unequal impact on communities of color and the role the nation’s policies and spending priorities play in creating the reality that there are nearly 800,000 African-American men behind bars.

  1. pamelabrown40
    September 19, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Remember 2001…..remember 2002. My oldest son, honor student, gifted artist, had just completed high school, had a part time job and was accepted at an Art College with a 75% partial scholarship. With all of this going on for him, he and several of his friends chose to enlist in the military. While we talk about college and prison figures, we forgot to include the black college students that were called to active duty, because they had enlisted in the military for the GI Bill (They and their families can not qualify for financial aid, but can not afford to send their children to college without sinking deeper & deeper in debt). During 2002, I am sure the total number of black college students were impacted by the war in Iraq. I am sure my son and his friends were not the only black youth who felt patriotic enough to enlist in the United States Armed Services during this time. If you ask my son how he feels about the whole ordeal, and those numbers, he would shed a whole new light on JPI’s statistical reporting system. Shortly after his 1st tour to Iraq (currently he is serving 5 months into his 3rd tour to Iraq-this is only his 5th year of service-factor those numbers), he told me it took a 22 hour flight to a foreign country at war, dealing with fear he had never imagined before, face people of his own color as a threat, to realize he was an American, not just black. JPI’s reports are biased in the information hoped to be obtained and presented; it does not report a clear and true picture and has definitely influenced a negative image for our black youth and our society as a whole. Even this rebuttal clearly shows, this information Mr. Ziedenberg speaks of, is only publicized to continue to distort one’s perception of Blacks in America.

  2. September 19, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    I attended a lecture at the National Archives on Monday, 17 Sept., held in honor of “Constitution Day.”


    The esteemed Dr. John Hope Franklin used the term often heard, “The Prison Industrial Complex” in describing the aggressive manner in which the U.S. government has historically invested in building facilities of and legislation in support of incarceration.



    Intriguing assessment worthy of further discussion in context to the film “What Black Men Think.”

    Unfortunately, Dr. John Hope Franklin during the same lecture, professed that he is troubled by the reality that there are more black men in prison than in college.

  3. lawandaj
    September 20, 2007 at 10:08 am

    I don’t believe the stats quoted by JPI had anything to do with what black people believe. It is based on what they see around them. I have five brothers. Three went to prison, one went to college. That is the reality of most African American families. Those people were not sitting on corners reading JPI’s latest report. They were speaking from experience.

  4. September 20, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    Lawanda, this isn’t a loaded question. As I ponder this issue myself, I am truly in search of good, sincere dialogue on this issue. I’m compelled to ask you, do you think that the JPI metrics, misleading as they are, reflect mass multimedia misrepresentation of the vast majority of Black males? What value can come from changing the game by being bent on uplifting more positive role models before our young men? Prior to today, all of this week has been about dumb a*s O.J. insttead of what’s been going on down in Jena, LA and what jumped off today. Get at me Sister with more insight based on your experience and observations. I feel your frustration but on the real, the media is controlling what we understand ourselves to be.

  5. Mike
    September 23, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    The statement that there are more black men in jail/prison than college is not contextualized in that it is not a comparison of college-aged black men. However, it does not mean the statement is incorrect. According to the sources JPI mentions there ARE more black men in jail/prison than college.

  6. September 24, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    I seldom engage these discussions and usually allow them to folow their course, however, the constant reference by blacks to the JPI as the “authority” on this issue somewhat disturbs me, on multiple levels, of which the willingness to accept without question any organizations advancement of negative statistics about black men. I digreess, my point, has anyone in the community (outside of yours truly) ever wrote aletter, sent and email, or made a phone call to the National Center for Education Statistics (Telephone: 202-502-7300) and as I constantly say ask better questionbs. Try this out ask them what was the total number of black men enrolled in post-secondary education or colleges and universities in 2000. The answer will amaze you…Thank you very much JPI!

  7. Mike
    September 24, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    Thanks for engaging in the discussion, Janks. I enjoyed the film. I’m not sure if your comment was directed at mine, but let me say that I do not regard JPI as an “authority.” In fact, I had never heard of them until your film. My comment had more to do with the statistics on which JPI reported (namely from NCES and BJS). Essentially, I don’t necessarily agree with you that the census is more reliable than the NCES numbers. Care to share why you think this is the case? I have not called to speak to anyone at NCES but I have seen the stats on their website. When you called did you get a different answer from them?

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