Filmmaker blames ‘biased’ justice system for high minority prison rate
October 2, 2007
A black filmmaker is taking issue with new Census Bureau figures that show more blacks and Hispanics live in prison than in college housing.
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A new government report says more than three times as many black people live in prison cells as in college dorms. Census Bureau data show the ratio is only slightly better for Hispanics at 2.7 inmates for every Latino in college dorms. Janks Morton is director of the documentary film What Black Men Think. He believes the analysis is “flawed” because it does take into consideration commuters.
“If every single student was in a dormitory, you would have a housing crisis at major universities — so I say that the comparison was flawed in that perspective,” he states. “The second portion of that is that you’re looking at two very specific groups when it relates to age. The median age range for college is 18 to 24. When you look at the age range for prison and incarceration, that’s anywhere from 18 to you know, 80 and 90 years old. [S]ome of those guys [are] still hanging on.”
Morton argues “prevalent bias” in the criminal justice system against minorities is to blame. “There are challenges that I think are specifically met by minorities as it relates to incarceration, and I’m talking specifically, you know, the justice system itself, how it’s set up,” he says. “Minorities just have a tougher time navigating and negotiating that system than say whites. So there is [sic] some … higher demographic or higher numbers in those two groups.”
He says instead of “lowering the bar of expectations” by “constantly ascribing the negative attributes of the black community,” the media should be shining its light on black Americans who are “overcoming and doing extremely well” with their lives. Previous census data have shown more black and Hispanic men in college and post-secondary education than in prisons.