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What Goes In Must Come Out

by Jerome Chou, Nov 01, 1999

What goes in must come out. Sasha Abramsky's "When They Get Out," in June's Atlantic Monthly, considers how booming incarceration rates have affected our society, and speculates about what will happen when these prisoners are released. The article focuses on national trends (in twelve states, for instance, ex-offenders can never vote again, which may lead to widespread disenfranchisement), but the implications for New York are obvious. One organizer estimates that beginning in the year 2005, New York's prisons will release about 30,000 inmates a year -- people who will have a hard time finding work and medical care. Abramsky asks important questions about a problem we've swept under the rug, but one we'll have to face up to eventually.

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Jerome Sounds Off:

41 bullets, 1000 arrests, and countless Mayoral defensive postures later, what have we learned from the City's police brutality crisis? The infamous Street Crime Unit now sports uniforms -- not that the City's minority residents had too much trouble spotting groups of beefy white guys cruising their neighborhoods. Meanwhile, according to a recent poll, 25% of New York's white voters consider police brutality a "serious problem," compared to 81% of black voters. Despite the unlikely multiracial coalition that rallied around Al Sharpton's City Hall protests, as the chant goes, "No justice, no peace" -- at least not until both sides acknowledge common ground. Shrill activists have their sound bites. But who's speaking for residents of poor neighborhoods, who want more, not fewer, cops on the beat? And when will the Mayor and the Commissioner acknowledge the systemic racism that plagues the force? Sit back, we'll be here a while.

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Jerome Chou is a freelance writer. He works part-time interviewing recently released ex-offenders about their re-entry into society.

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