Let’s do some math; a study reported by pbs.org says Americans make up about 5% of the world’s total population. However 25% of the world’s prisoners are incarcerated in the U.S. Within that 25% a little over 60% of inmates are minorities. What most teens who engage in illegal activities don’t realize is that if caught, prosecuted and sentenced their rights, respect and life as they know it will be forever altered. According to the NAACP.org African American males makeup 26% of juvenile arrests but 56% of juvenile convictions and sentencing. These numbers are unfavorable and placing more and more teenagers in youth detention centers that provide no rehabilitation. Studies have shown that 2 out of every 3 juveniles will become repeat offenders until convicted as adults and placed in actual prisons.
The inhumane actions inflicted upon a prisoner are becoming more cruel and unusual. Recently, in California prisons over 10,000 inmates went on a hunger and an imprisoned work strike because of abusive use of solitary confinement. According to the L.A Times a prison policy states an inmate can spend up to 4 years in isolation but it has been reported that prisoners at times spend up to 10 years in confinement. Prisons have even gone as far as forcing female inmates to have medical procedures making them unable to have children; this effect carries on permanently even after their release. What is happening to these prisoners regardless if they are first time petty crime convicts or hardened criminals is torture. They are regularly denied education, quality meals, medical attention and separated by race. In a Youtube video by Pro-Prisoner Coalition inmate Todd Ashker reflects on the hunger strike and a need for change, “None of us want to do this, but we feel like we have no other option”. The prisoners peaceful protest conflict with the general idea of inmates being monsters. With the ongoing statistics and percentages it’s highly possible that these prisoners nightmare could very much become some people’s own reality. We may be a minority within our nation but a majority of us are suffering and regressing drastically in facilities meant for rehabilitation.
By: KayLynn Harris, Junior, Whitney Young High School