In a sign that one prominent faith organization is confronting the Incarceration Nation dilemma, Harlem Riverside Church will be hosting a roundtable with Michelle Alexander, Tina Reynolds (Women on the Rise Telling HerStory, and FIPCM Steering Committee member), and others. The discussion is Saturday, May 21st, from 1-4pm.
A recent Op-Ed by Professor Alexander (a former ACLU attorney) calls into question the commitment of moderates who only see the financial benefits of prison reform, while ignoring the destruction of America that is happening in the shadows:
Those who believe that righteous indignation and protest politics were appropriate in the struggle to end Jim Crow, but that something less will do as we seek to dismantle mass incarceration, fail to appreciate the magnitude of the challenge. If our nation were to return to the rates of incarceration we had in the 1970s, we would have to release 4 out of 5 people behind bars. A million people employed by the criminal justice system could lose their jobs. Private prison companies would see their profits vanish. This system is now so deeply rooted in our social, political and economic structures that it is not going to fade away without a major shift in public consciousness.
The American empire is flopping about like a landed fish trying to save itself, neglecting to view the historical fates of others who utilized military and police powers to maintain control. The push for reform cannot be a nudge, an acceptance of a slightly downsized savings. Instead it must be a force of nature that would make Civil Rights forefathers, and foremothers, proud of the effort.
One of the most dynamic panels I have seen recently included Michelle Alexander and Susan Rosenberg (formerly incarcerated, recently publishing: An American Radical: Political Prisoner In My Own Country). I expect this to me equally illuminating, also including Reynolds, Gabriel Sayegh (Drug Policy Alliance), and Glenn Martin (The Fortune Society) as moderator.
From an activist point of view, we constantly need to be sharing our latest findings, experiences, and strategies. From the general public point of view, one can either glean information from mainstream media sources, or go to the actual participants of what is going on.
One can hope that churches and mosques across the nation are asking critically, “Where have all the men gone?”