2020 Candidates Should Have a Plan for Ending Mass Incarceration.
By Alicia Garza and Marie Claire
The crisis of mass incarceration is shocking. Despite being 13 percent of the U.S. population, Black people make up more than 40 percent of the incarcerated population. Black women are the fastest growing population in prisons and jails. And one in four women have a family member who is in prison; for Black women, that number rises to nearly one in two.
It’s no secret that Black men are over-incarcerated in America. Michelle Alexander uncovered this shameful truth in her book The New Jim Crow. But Black men are not the only people being over-incarcerated, or who suffer from the impacts of mass incarceration. The movement to end mass incarceration is largely projected in the image of Black men, which means the impacts of mass incarceration on women and our families is often overlooked. Women are changing that.
To me, this work is not unlike that of the abolitionists in the 1800s. Harriet Tubman led more than 300 enslaved people to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Today, Tubman’s spirit lives on in the movement to end mass incarceration through women like Gina Clayton, Founder & Executive Director of Essie Justice Group, and Jessica Nowlan, Executive Director of the Young Women’s Freedom Center (YWFC). Clayton maintains that “women are the re-entry system of this country.”
But millions of women bear the burden of incarceration in isolation and with shame. Whether you’ve been incarcerated yourself or have a loved one who is currently or formerly incarcerated, it’s not the first topic of conversation that arises at the dinner table-as evidenced in Essie’s report Because She’s Powerful. The impact of incarceration on women and their families is also not a topic of conversation among Presidential candidates-but with all the talk about the power of women in the 2020 elections, it should be.
Nowlan, Clayton, and thousands of women and gender non-conforming (GNC) people are leading a movement to change this dynamic -across the state of California and nationwide.
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