I came across 4 stories today and I found a common link they all share: Poverty and Class.
The first article comes from the Philadelphia Inquirer, written by Helen Ubinas titled, “Getting out of prison isn’t always a release”
In it, Ubinas explains the difficulties that ex-cons have after leaving prison. She writes:
The film, “Pull of Gravity,” follows several Philadelphia ex-cons. It was shot over a year in North Philly and features three men in different stages of re-entry:
There’s Andy, 44, in and out of prison for 25 years, and home for six after serving 10 years behind bars.
Of the streets and old friends and habits, he says, “It pulls you” – just like gravity.
There’s Kev, 19, who served three years and was home for just a week when filming began.
“What happens in a month from now if I have no job?” He doesn’t blink. “Streets is where I go. That’s what I’m forced to do. I got a kid to feed. Mom to feed. Gotta hustle hard, man.”
And then there’s El Sawyer, who learned how to shoot video while in Graterford Prison.
Sawyer is one of the movie’s co-creators, with filmmaker Jon Kaufman. Sawyer served eight years for aggravated assault and has been home for 10. He works for the Village of Arts and Humanities. But freedom is still something he’s coming to terms with.
“It’s hard to be out here, and hard to stay out here,” he says. “It doesn’t get any easier.”
The film, funded by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, is one of the office’s many outreach efforts, which also includes a Re-entry Court.
Why is an office that’s in the business of convicting criminals doing all this outreach? It didn’t go soft. It got smart. And we better do the same.
“We can’t arrest our way out of the crime problem,” said U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger.
We can’t incarcerate our way out of it, either. We have 200,000 Philadelphians with criminal records that keep them from getting jobs or housing and making it on the outside.
The last time I spoke with Colwin Williams, the ex-con I’ve been writing about since March, he was waiting to hear if he’d be allowed to leave a Philadelphia halfway house. He planned to move in with his mother. But the senior-housing complex where she lives doesn’t allow ex-cons. Now he isn’t sure what to do.
I encourage you to read the rest of the article, but I’ve bolded the parts that our system refuses to acknowledge or address. People in prison aren’t adequately taught the necessary job skills and education they need to succeed once release. These programs are poorly funded by state governments all over the country.
Not only that, but because of their past criminal record, many companies refuse to hire them because of the stigma of having committed a crime in the past.
We say that prison is about rehabilitation, but no one really believes it. So what happens is this: Joe gets out of prison, tries to find a job, he can’t, so he goes back to what he knows will get him some income to support himself. Joe gets caught again and is sent right back to prison and the cycle continues.
The second article is by Margaret Sullivan of the New York Times. In this piece, she addresses fellow Times writer Nicholas D. Kristof’s awful article “Profiting From a Child’s Illiteracy“. Kristof’s article consisted of victim blaming, Republican talking points about “dependency on the system” (instead of addressing the system’s failure for allowing this), and even wrote:
Of American families living in poverty today, 8 out of 10 have air-conditioning, and a majority have a washing machine and dryer. Nearly all have microwave ovens.
Sullivan called out Kristof for his incorrect statistics and poor reporting: He didn’t speak with primary sources, “the parents of poor and developmentally disabled children”.
Kristof was called out by many poverty advocate groups, including Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. But instead of recanting and apologizing, he continued to argue his point despite the evidence slapping him in his dumb liberal face.
Sullivan was more polite than what I would have been, and pointed that she was grateful for Kristof pointing out the lack of poverty discussion during the 2012 Presidential election. But when you get the facts wrong about poverty when introducing the discussion, you’ve already failed.
The next article is by John Tierney, titled “Prison Population Can Shrink When Police Crowd Streets”. Tierney supports the near-fascist actions that NYC Mayor heir-apparent Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has implemented. Tierney argues that by placing a large police presence around “crime-prone areas” aka poor minority neighborhoods, that less people will be locked up.
However his argument doesn’t address the real problem: Why are these “crime-prone areas”? Tierney talks about how this tactic saves the city 1.5 billion dollars a year. That money doesn’t go towards addressing poverty in these neighborhoods at all. They just create a police state that harass minorities unfairly; e.g. NYPD Stop And Frisks being targeted towards minorities and the police not finding anything the majority of the time.
The city said that unless its request was granted, the NYPD would be required to take the immediate and burdensome step of having to retrain its police officers.
God forbid the police would have to be retrained to not be racists. In fact, the NYPD has unveiled another way to get around the order. By producing, and I shit you not, radiation scanners to detect guns.
Again, those in power ignore the actual problem of poverty and create NEW problems to continue the cycle of poverty.
The last article comes from The Philadelphia Inquirer. Being a Philadelphian, this one was near and dear to my heart. Pennsylvania now ranks 2nd in black homicide.
Folks, the black poverty rate in Pennsylvania is 35%. Homicide is always related to class and poverty. Without a way for people living in poverty to move upward the social ladder due to the State and Federal government continuing to punish and ignore people in poverty, they have no hope.
I want you to imagine being a 17 year old black male in the projects going to an assigned public school where there is little funding, and the teachers don’t care. All you have is the streets. This is all you know. You are traumatized so much that you do not believe you can ever achieve anything other than being a statistic. Black Hopelessness exists. But we need to extend this to ALL races and genders. Poverty Hopelessness exists.
By the way, Missouri was ranked #1. It has a 39% poverty rate for black people.
Until we start forcing our government to start caring and addressing poverty, then we will continue being a Nation of Violence, Born in Violence and, Will Die in Violence.