Columbia Professor and ACLU Claim Blacks Are Jailed for No Reason
March 24, 2008
An African-American professor at Columbia has written an
article, based on ACLU statistics, claiming that American states are
incarcerating black men at higher rates, and expelling black students at
higher rates, because they want to teach them that “their only future
resides in prison or jail.” It is the bias of the professor, and the ACLU,
which leads to that conclusion.
* * * *
The facts for this ACLU Outrage, but not the legal conclusions, come from an
article in The Free Press, on 24 March, 2008.
Dr. Manning Marable, Professor of Public Affairs, History and African
American Studies at Columbia University, has published an article entitled,
“Incarceration vs. Education: Reproducing Racism and Poverty in American
(sic).” Using statistics from a 2007 ACLU study, he argues that “there is
overwhelming evidence that overrepresentation of blacks in prisons is
largely due to discrimination in every phase of the criminal justice
The statistics are sad, but Dr. Marable, apparently deliberately, hides the
reasons behind the statistics. He cites the December 2007 ACLU study, “Race
and Ethnicity in America, for a 500% increase in the number of Americans in
prison in the last 30 years, and that this represents 25% of the world’s
What he entirely misses is that most criminals are repeat offenders in their
specialties, and that larger prison populations means less crime on the
streets. He also misses the point that some nations are dictatorships
amounting to outdoor prisons, and that some other nations simply slaughter
people they deem troublesome. Prison is a more humane choice than either of
He cites the fact that blacks are 11 percent of the Texas population, but 40
percent of its prisoners. If blacks commit crimes at the same rate as other
population groups, this would be discriminatory. But if blacks commit more
crimes than other groups, this is simply a result of behavioral choices by
different groups. Had Dr. Marable looked at incarceration rates of
Asian-Americans in California, where they are a substantial part of the
population, he would have found that they are shockingly underrepresented,
suggesting that race is not a factor in incarceration.
The key to understanding Dr. Marable’s screed is in his choice of verbs. He
refers to “one out of every hundred American adults … living behind bars.”
It is as if being in prison was a lifestyle choice, some people choose to
live in a house, others in an apartment.
He refers to the “mass incarceration of black Americans” as if they were
rounded up in large numbers due to their race. The truth is that every
person sent to prison was charged with specific crimes, and found guilty
after all constitutional safeguards had been offered, including the right to
free legal counsel and the right not to self-incriminate themselves.
He refers to the “national compulsion to incarcerate.” What he means is, a
national insistence on enforcing the laws. If no one broke the criminal
laws, no one would be incarcerated.
Dr. Marable cites ACLU statistics that black students are 17% of the
national population, but have 36% of the school suspensions. He refers to
this as the “deliberate criminalization of young black people.” He again
misses the point that suspensions are due to the behavior of each student.
Again, a comparison with Asian-American students, whose school behavior is
at the top of the ethnic scale, would be instructive.
Then, at the end, Dr. Marable says that states are “reducing” their
investments in education, while “expanding” those in correctional
facilities. He says that between 1987 and 2007, increases for higher
education were 21%, but for corrections they were 121%. A 21% increase for
education is not a “reduction,” an obvious error that many politicians
Dr. Marable makes the error of assuming that states choose to build more
prisons than colleges as a matter of malice. He misses the point that
people apply for both institutions. Both San Quentin Prison and San Jose
State College, for example, have admissions qualifications. You cannot get
into the latter unless your grades are good enough. You cannot get into the
former unless your crimes are serious enough.
Both colleges and prisons are built to accommodate the people who insist on,
and earn, admission to them.
When looked at correctly, the ACLU study and Dr. Marable’s article on it,
prove the opposite of what they claim, when the reasons for the statistics
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