Monday, December 9, 2013

Somewhat Less than a Civilian

I've been trying to do this post for a couple of days. I saw the video and had a whole lot of hooks.... Things to talk about.

Although not at all mentioned, I have this whole thing about slavery never really having disappeared from America. It's just that they tend to be state owned rather than privately owned and generally for limited times. Such is the prison system.

I like the fact that he actually defines terrorism. It's not a bunch of guys who practise a particular religion. Every time there's some sort of event in America, we in New Zealand hear, via our news, about the increased security for fears of further terrorist attacks. The attacks aren't actually necessary because the fact that there's increased security means that people are already living in terror. The question is, is this a result of the terrorist attacks or the media who seem to lap at these easy stories? Take a marathon, add security angle, mention terrorist. Job done, rest of the day free.

And then there was the idea of a life time denial of voting rights for people who have been within the prison system - admittedly only 2 states (Kentucky and Virginia) but I still find this disturbing. Compare and contrast that to the African-American population and how that number seems to explode within the prison system.

Actually, there's also something in there about the idea that The United States of America shouldn't be viewed as a country but rather a whole series of individual countries given that each state has the right to deny people their voting rights.

I've talked about statistics on this blog before - mainly around the idea that statistic collection is flawed mainly in terms of surveying. The money that goes into it is ridiculous. My pet hate is the World Internet Project. It's another one of those projects that Internet NZ support and tell us about at NetHui but just feels so completely flawed that I find it really difficult to support it. Despite all of that I'm going to use statistics now...

So the statistics.

According to wikipedia, for every 100,000 people in Kentucky (being one of the two states that deny voting rights once someone's gone to prison), 492 are prisioners.

According to this page, the African American population of Kentucky is only around 7% and they represent around 36% of the prison population. I do have my doubts about the figures on this page and I have no idea how old those figures are. It's a page that has the figures I was looking for though so we'll just go with them.

Let's expand that out.

According to this site (public data), Kentucky has a population of 4,280,400 people.

Of that 4,280,400 (based on the figures above):
  299,628 are African American.
    21,059.568 are incarcerated.
   7,581.44448 of those incarcerated are (soley - those figures don't include mixed race) African American.

We can ignore the decimal points... What does all of this mean? That currently, within the prison system in Kentucky, around 2.5% of the total African American population of Kentucky are currently incarcerated.

Okay, this probably doesn't sound like that big a deal. But it's numbers based on one point of time. According to this article, 1 in 5 (why a ratio when 20% would do just as well?) African American's in Kentucky can't vote because they've been, at least one time in their lives, caught up in the criminal "justice" system. I know - the numbers are completely flawed...

Where am I going with all of this? There's something really disturbing about racial profiling, being turned into a slave within the prison system, and having that further reinforced when you've done your time and no longer have the right to vote. i.e. you're somewhat less than a civilian.

And why did this happen in the first place? A friend of mine works within law enforcement and was saying that things get busier during Christmas. People get more desperate and more crimes happen... The all mighty disenfranchised can't keep up with the ridiculousness of what Christmas is supposed to be.

So Kentucky's and Virginia's solution? Make sure they remain disenfranchised after leaving the prison system. Make absolutely no acknowledgement that people can change. And while we're at it, make sure the African American vote gets completely watered down.

Anyway... that's enough fire and brimstone from me... Go and watch the video. It really is very good.

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