In Defense of Bail Reform
By. Raimondo Graziano
There is a deep history of systemic racism and deliberate incarceration pointed at predominantly black and brown communities, people of color and in some of the most historically marginalized communities across the United States. It is something that is deeply ingrained in American culture and finds its sordid roots in the very founding of the nation, in that fateful deliberate choice to allow the birth of a new nation under the oppression that is the institution of slavery. In that moment, the moment we stand at today, was forged. A nation conceived with the ideals of liberty and justice for all founded upon a foundation whose core pillar which would last for nearly a hundred years after its founding, denied that very ideal to a large portion of the population, thus sowing the continuance of the plague of racism that still deeply grips this country. In our failure to leave slavery in the past with the founding of our country we set the stage for generational poverty, income inequality between whites and blacks, and the perpetuating of racism and discrimination.
This plight did not end either with the emancipation proclamation, or the 13th or 14th Amendment. Racists in government, whose very thinking is antithetical to the god they often defer to, crafted devious methods and means to deny people their rights long after the end of slavery. These empty husks of humanity, parading as human beings, found ways of stifling communities who never had the chance to build wealth and foundations here uninhibited by a system meant to keep them in the mud – from suppressing votes, to housing and labor discrimination and the stain of segregation which lasted well into the 20th century, and in some cases still to this day – racists hell bent on the belief that one race is superior to another, that one race has divine favor while the other is lesser have imbedded themselves in American society and pushed an agenda diametrically opposed to the ideals that this nation was founded on. Though perhaps the greatest sin of all, is denying a free man his freedom through targeted and systemic enforcement of laws built to suppress the black and brown communities of this country through mass incarceration.
Righting the wrongs of our past will take time, and in many cases will take measures that some may deem extreme, the circumstances under which these problems first arose where in essence extreme, inhumane, brutal, and demand rectification. The United States has the largest incarcerated population of any nation in the entire world – land of the free? When a quarter of the worlds prison population rests in the supposed seat of the steward of democracy, we indeed have a problem. For decades now, black and brown communities have been disproportionately targeted for crimes solely based on the color of their skin. Studies have shown that blacks and whites commit crimes at the same rate, then why is that the large majority of the prison population is black men? Many rotting in a jail cell for minor possession charges, and facing insurmountable odds upon being reingratiated in society – if they ever manage to get out.
With polices such as mandatory minimums, coupled with a discriminatory attitude in police forces we have condemned a generation of black and brown individuals to languish away in jail, sons without their mothers, daughters without their fathers, families torn and teared apart – a deep moral scar on the very face of this country. In order for us to right these wrongs bold action must be taken, we must work to stem the tide of continued incarceration through measures that may be unpopular, but that are necessary. The problem we have created must be rectified, and if some may view them as extreme than they fail to see the severity of the situation. Not only are we trying to end mass incarceration, but we have to account for those imprisoned already. It is as if a one man or woman is holding two walls of inequity at arm’s length from crushing and suffocating him or her, and that man or woman is named liberty. The Bail Reforms enacted in New York State are a necessary first step towards righting the wrongs of our morally degenerative epoch in this country, we should not overturn them, we should work to ensure they are enforced effectively and to the benefit of all people, especially those most affected by the racism that persists here, and all across this nation.