A Dec. 16 opinion piece by Jeremy Travis and Bruce Western in The Boston Globe suggests that recent instances of police brutality in Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland and elsewhere across America, are just a symptom of a much larger problem that is the modern U.S. system of criminal justice.
The authors comment on how police brutality against African-Americans specifically is a result of the enormous expansion of state power into mostly poor communities of color. This expansion has led to the dramatic increase in incarceration rates of African Americans and Latinos, giving name to the current era of mass incarceration.
“Paradoxically,” they write, “this new reality has flourished when crime rates — including those in African-American communities — are at historic lows. The residents in these communities must be wondering, “Where is the peace dividend? When will the heavy hand of the justice system be lifted in recognition of the new levels of public safety in our neighborhoods? When will society invest in proven crime prevention strategies that do not cause so much harm?” These questions are rooted not in the events of the last months, but are deep in the history of the African-American experience. The fact that the nation has no answers threatens to undermine confidence in the rule of law and hamper the pursuit of racial fairness. At the deepest level, then, the protests after Ferguson and Staten Island are a cry not just for better policing, but for justice.”
Jeremy Travis is president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York. Bruce Western is a professor of sociology and director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Western is also one of the founders of the Prison Studies Project.
Read the entire opinion piece here.