By Shannon Alomar
With Halloween quickly approaching and people finalizing what horrifying and fictional characters they will embody, my mind cannot help but be consumed with a real horror story affecting my community: the killing of innocent people and mass incarceration.
October is a month filled with several causes looking to spark awareness from the masses (many of which I am a proud supporter of), but one cause I would like to turn your attention to is #RiseUpOctober. This call-to-action hashtag is being used this month to encourage people all across the country to pour into New York City and march for the purpose of spreading the message that “police terror must stop, and it is up to [us] to stop it!”
Before I pour my heart out and tell you why I believe it is so important for people to support this movement, I would like take a moment to use this editorial as an instrument of education.
It is no secret that the United States houses one of the largest incarcerated population in the world, literally. Did you know that one in every 99 adults in the U.S. is imprisoned daily? According to VICE, nearly 2.2 million citizens are behind bars on various levels including, “federal and state prisons, local jails, juvenile correctional facilities and immigration detention centers.”
Aside from the statistical data, a “simple” definition of mass incarceration would be “the imprisonment of a large number of people,” but in reality there is so much more behind the effects of this epidemic than is recognized. This issue is not new at all. In fact, mass incarceration is deeply rooted in the societal construct of American culture that is used to oppress those who “challenge” the severely flawed “justice system.” Do not get me wrong, there are many people who commit heinous crimes and should be dealt with accordingly; however, there are several people who have been taken into the system wrongfully or charged harshly for acts that could easily be rectified through programs that are therapeutic or rehabilitating.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a prominent organization that promotes the end of mass incarceration and provides educational tools for people to stay abreast of why this is indeed an issue. For clarity, ACLU has broken down some of the key topics that are seen as current issues of mass incarceration. They include The War on Drugs, Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice, Privatization of Criminal Justice, Fiscal Cost of Mass Incarceration, Alternatives to Incarceration, Unnecessary Incarceration and Clemency and Pardons. In a perfect world, I would love to provide the readers with a clear understanding of each of these subtopics in this one article, but I encourage you take some time and delve deeper (and these sub-topics of interest could be a great help!).
Circling back to #RiseUpOctober, the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN), which was founded by activist Dr. Cornel West and founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party Carl Dix, will be leading a powerful three days of action beginning on Oct. 22, and concluding on Oct. 24 with a huge rally. Much like the missions of SMIN, the events taking place among these three days are meant to bring awareness “to stop the slow genocide of mass incarceration and all its consequences; racial profiling, a legal system that disproportionately impacts Blacks and Latinos, the police murder of our children, the criminalization of a generation, discrimination, widespread torture in prisons and treating those formerly incarcerated as less than full human beings.”
As the daughter of a man whose life was consumed with and ended by the American prison system two years ago, I believe that this is a topic we need to bring to the forefront and find solutions for. Recently the public was informed of the 6,000 federal prisoners who are to be released by the end of this year and that is a start, but we cannot halt our voices with an inch of progress.
Any Hofstra students interested in attending the march on Saturday, Oct. 24 to stand against mass incarceration or to learn more about the cause are welcomed to join the NAACP Hofstra Chapter as we travel into the city to stand up for what we believe in. Transportation from the campus will be provided. Please contact HofstraNAACP1@gmail.com for more travel information.
The views and opinions expressed in the Op-Ed section are those of the authors of the articles. They are not an endorsement of the views of The Chronicle or its staff. The Chronicle does not discriminate based on the opinions of the authors.