Columbia Professor and ACLU Claim Blacks Are Jailed for No Reason


ACRU Staff


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

prison population.

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

frequently make.

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

are examined.

Source for original story on the Net:



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