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Black and Brown Inmates Herded into Private Prisons

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Although private schools are often lauded for providing a better education to students, the same can’t be said of private prisons, which house a disproportionate number of people of color, according to a report published in the latest issue of Radical Criminology, an online scholarly journal.

“The overrepresentation of people of color in private prisons indicates they are disproportionately siphoned away from public prisons – precisely the types of facilities that provide the greatest access to educational and rehabilitative programs and services,” the report states. “People of color continue to be seen in the national imagination as sources of profit extraction and not necessarily as citizens deserving of public services.”

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 137,220 offenders were serving time in private facilities, a 55 percent increase over the previous decade.

“One thing that came out of [the data analysis] was that there are fewer rehabilitative programs and educational services available in for-profit facilities, relative to public facilities,” says Christopher Petrella, a doctoral candidate in African American Studies at University of California-Berkeley, and the author of the report. “So when those two trends collide [racial segregation and fewer programs], it begs a variety of questions.”

One has to do with the use of health and age stipulations in private contracts that directly leads to overrepresentation of Blacks and Hispanics in privatized correctional facilities.

More than a half million Black Americans aged 18 to 49 were in public and private state or federal prisons as of 2010, compared to 396,600 Whites, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Among inmates age 50 and older, however, White inmate population exceeds their African American counterparts.

“… Private prison management companies responsible for providing health services exempt themselves contractually from accepting and housing prisoners with chronic medical conditions as well as those whose health care costs will be ‘above average,’” the report states. “This fact results in a prisoner profile that is far younger and far ‘darker’ in minimum and/or medium security private facilities than in select counterpart public facilities. In fact, the states in which the private versus public racial disparities are most pronounced also happen to be the states in which the private versus public age disparities are most salient.”

The most recent data available from the BJS counted 415 privately owned correctional facilities across the country (as of 2005), all engaged in state and/or federal contracts. Today, the two corrections firms with the most beds (Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group, Inc.) own and/or manage 125 of those facilities, and more than half of the state and local contracts in the United States.

For-profit prisons often cap the amount they will spend on inmate care. Contractual terms with state and local corrections departments explicitly obligate states to funnel older and/or less healthy offenders into state-run facilities, thereby not subtracting from the bottom line of private facilities.

For example, a contract between the Mississippi Department of Corrections and Management & Training Corporation states: “ [MTC] will not be responsible or liable for providing counseling and/or mental health programs. MTC will not be responsible or liable for providing medical, mental health, optometry, pharmaceutical, dental, or similar services. MDOC shall provide security and control of inmates for outpatient needs and /or hospitalization.”

A 2012 ACLU report estimates that it costs $34,135 per year to house a non-elderly inmate. That figure literally doubles for inmates over 50 years old, who require extra care, even without a chronic or age-related condition.

“Therefore, age and health serve as dual proxies for race when explaining the persistent racial disparities in private versus public facilities with similar population profiles,” according to the report.

Meanwhile, privately owned prisons continue to make headlines for financial mismanagement, violence, abuse, and civil rights violations. In a class-action lawsuit filed last year, for example, the American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center described “barbaric” conditions at a Mississippi facility managed by Management & Training Corporation.

Because national data by race doesn’t exist yet, Petrella conducted his study by looking at the inmate populations of Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. These states each house more than 3,000 prisoners in private minimum or medium security facilities.

Oklahoma and Texas exhibit the most private to public racial disparity: 57 percent of inmates in Oklahoma’s private facilities are of color, compared to 44 percent in public facilities. In Texas, the split is 69 percent and 57 percent, respectively.

These states also have the most age disparity: 36 percent of inmates in Oklahoma’s public facilities are 50 years or older, compared to 11 percent in private facilities. In Texas, elderly offenders make up 37 percent of the state-run facility population, and 17 percent in private facilities.

Obama Tries to Add Substance to Black Male Initiative

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – No one had seen President Obama more emotional than last week when announced “My Brother’s Keeper,” a new initiative aimed at helping young Black men. He spoke from the heart, recounting the pain of not having his father in the home and not always putting his best foot forward.

Attention now shifts from an emotional announcement to follow-up. The details of the initiative have not been fully flushed out, but a memorandum President Obama signed launching the “My Brother’s Keeper Task Force” chaired by Broderick Johnson, the cabinet secretary and assistant to the president, provides a closer look into how the president plans to move forward.

According to White House officials, the task force is designed to:

 

  • Assess the impact of federal policies, regulations, and programs of general applicability on boys and young men of color, so as to develop proposals that will enhance positive outcomes and eliminate or reduce negative ones;
  • Recommend, where appropriate, incentives for the broad adoption by national, state, and local public and private decision makers of effective and innovative strategies and practices for providing opportunities to and improving outcomes for boys and young men of color;
  • Create an administration-wide “What Works” online portal to disseminate successful programs and practices that improve outcomes for boys and young men of color;
  • Develop a comprehensive public website, to be maintained by the Department of Education, that will assess, on an ongoing basis, critical indicators of life outcomes for boys and young men of color in absolute and relative terms;
  • Work with external stakeholders to highlight the opportunities, challenges, and efforts affecting boys and young men of color and
  • Recommend to the president means of ensuring sustained efforts within the Federal Government and continued partnership with the private sector and philanthropic community as set forth in the Presidential Memorandum.

 

Flanked by students from Being a Man (BAM), a Chicago-based program that teaches discipline, conflict resolution and offers mentoring, the president shared details of his life that all too-often mirror the experiences of young men of color. “I didn’t have a dad in the house,” said President Obama. “And I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices. I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do. I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short.”

The president shared that he “grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving” and that he relied on a support network of family teachers and community leaders that many young Black men don’t have access to.

The president called on dozens of business leaders, nonprofit organizations and corporations to invest in and offer support for the initiative. The foundations pledged to invest $200 million over the next five years to lift up programs that are proven to work.

The president was joined by representatives of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, The Ford Foundation, The John and James L. Knight Foundation, The Open Society Foundations, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and The Kapor Center for Social Impact.

“From the White House, the president has been able to shine a light on issues that some of us have been working to address for decades,” said Shawn Dove, the manager for the Campaign for Black Male Achievement at the Open Societies Institute “It’s a clarion call for collaboration and to handle some of America’s unfinished business.”

Simmons College of Kentucky Wins Accreditation

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By Yvonne Coleman Bach
Special to the NNPA from the Louisville Defender

LOUISVILLE – Simmons College has become accredited as the first private Historically Black College and University in Kentucky and is only the second HBCU in the state, along with Kentucky State University, a public institution.

Simmons has just learned that it has been accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE).

“Simply put, accreditation is value,” explained President Kevin Cosby. “It is proof that Simmons has met national standards necessary to produce graduates who are prepared to enter into selected professions.” He explained, “The accreditation of Simmons College of Kentucky will have a ripple effect throughout west Louisville and the Commonwealth of Kentucky and is the most monumental achievement, by African Americans, to take place in the state in the last 100 years.”

Most HBCUs were founded in the post-Civil War era, when Blacks were not allowed to attend college with Whites. Today, many private HBCUs are struggling to remain keep their doors open. Last summer, St. Paul’s College, a private Black institution in Lawrenceville, Va., ceased operating after being in existence since 1888. Its 35 buildings and 183 acres have been put up for public auction.

Simmons College sees itself in the opposite trajectory and will be a vital force for the community it serves.

Rev. F. Bruce Williams, chair of Simmons’ Board of Trustees, said the goal of the college is to “teach the unteachable and reach the unreachable.”

And there are plenty of needy people to reach.

The college is in west Louisville, in the heart of the 40203 zip code. With open enrollment, it targets students in zip codes 40203, 40210, 40211 and 40212. Those four zip codes contain a population of low-income, first generational college students with limited resources to attend college.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 76,399 people live within those zip codes, 15,184 being between the ages of 20 and 34. The unemployment rate for those in that age group ranges from 20.6 percent to 38.8 percent. In the 18 to 25 age group, 55 percent do not have a high school diploma.

Simmons College is a story of revival.

Founded in 1879 by former slaves as the Kentucky Normal and Theological Institute, Simmons College of Kentucky was the premier liberal arts institution for African Americans in the state. With law and medical departments, a teacher’s school and ministers’ studies, Simmons prepared a number of well-trained Black attorneys, physicians, teachers and ministers and emerged as a top choice for Kentucky’s Black middle class.

But like most Black colleges, it has recently struggled financially.

Under the leadership of President Cosby, who took the helm seven years ago, Simmons has taken several steps to restore it to its original prominence. In 2007, the college regained its original campus after 77 years and relocated to its original site. In 2010, the institution attained candidate status with national accreditor ABHE, making it immediately eligible to receive federal funds under Title IV.

It signed an articulation agreement with the University of Louisville and enjoys partnerships and agreements with Jefferson Community and Technical College, Spalding University and Campbellsville University. Simmons is a signature partner of the 55,000 Degrees, a community-wide effort to add 40,000 bachelor’s degrees and 15,000 associate’s degrees in the Louisville Community by 2020.

Rev. C. B. Akins, a Simmons Trustee, said “The time was right for Dr. Cosby to be at the helm of this school. If I told him he could not swallow an elephant, he would say, ‘I can if I take one bite at a time.’”

With the recent accreditation, Simmons is diversifying its curriculum with new Associates and Bachelor’s Degrees, starting with the 2014 fall semester. Four new degree programs will be added, including Associates Degree in General Studies, Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with the focus on entrepreneurship, Bachelors Degree in Communications with focus on cross-cultural communication and a Bachelors Degree in Sociology with the focus on lifelong wellness. In 2015, Simmons plans to reopen its West Campus, located in the most destitute and deprived area of west Louisville.

At the celebration last week announcing the accreditation, Carl Thomas, executive director of the Gheens Foundation, presented a check to the college for $2 million.

“The Gheens Foundation applauds the work of Simmons College of Kentucky and its desire to bring about transformational change in west Louisville,” said Thomas. “We hope our gift will encourage others to give to this important work taking place at Simmons.”

Also joining the celebration were Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Congressman John Yarmuth (D-KY), State Senator Gerald Neal and Metro Council President Jim King.

Senator Paul said, “What an exciting day.” He said he was proud to be a part of the ceremony, acknowledging Simmons as an Integral part of Louisville and Kentucky.

Yarmuth borrowed a quote from Vice President Joe Biden, saying, “This is a big deal.”

China Increases Influence in Region; Nurses, Military Boats for Trinidad

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By Bert Wilkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

Kamla Persad-Bissessar is the latest in a string of Caribbean Community heads of government to have made the political pilgrimage to China in recent years to sign off on bilateral agreements ranging from military assistance to concession aid loans to trade and investment deals as China increases its influence in the region.

The Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister is currently on a state visit to China with a laundry list of issues the oil and gas-rich twin-island republic wants assistance with.

Chief among them is the very urgent request from authorities in Port of Spain for the island to buy a Chinese-made long range military vessel to help the coastguard better patrol its border particularly with nearby Venezuela. Intelligence officials say many of the weapons used in gangster and other serious crimes in Trinidad come from Venezuela as its coast is only seven miles from Trinidad and separated by the frequently used Gulf of Paria waterway.

They also contend that tons of cocaine and marijuana also come from this route so a long range vessel will certainly improve the capacity of the coastguard to better patrol the area and keep out smugglers.

“National Security remains the number one priority of my government right now.” Persad-Bissessar pleaded, asking that the vessel be made available to T&T “right away and in the shortest possible time. We are here today to further the partnership we started 40 years ago. I am hoping that you could use your good office to drive these projects.”

She even said that the vessel could be sent on its way to the island as soon as it is ready while teams from the two sides could sit down and work out financing details later.

The island has been recording an average of 400 murders annually making it one of the capitals with the highest proportion of such crimes in the world.

Meanwhile, as she visits the Forbidden City and other historical sites in China, she and her team are also seeking assistance with a string of other projects including the construction and designs for six new economic zones on the island, the development of a transshipment port and dry dock facility in South Trinidad, construction of two new modern hospitals and equipment for extracting greater volumes of material from its world famous pitch lake.

Her office said in a release that the delegation wants” early processing of a loan agreement with the Exim Bank so these projects can be expedited.”

While the visit and talks are ongoing, authorities will re-commission a T&T embassy in Trinidad, while an agreement for at least 100 doctors and nurses from China to help with a dire shortage there will be signed during the visit.

Young Black men suffer from high rates of depression

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By Frederick H. Lowe
Special to the NNPA from The Louisiana Weekly

They are hyper-vigilant for any signs of danger because they are under intense surveillance

(Special from the NorthStar News) — Young African-American men suffer from much higher rates of depression because of trauma compared to their white counterparts, and many Black men don’t recognize that they have been traumatized, Dr. Waldo E. Johnson Jr. said during a one-day symposium on Saturday at the University of Chicago.

Because young Black men and Black men rarely find places where they can feel safe, they are on hyper-surveillance concerning their surroundings, and they are hyper-vigilant to any signs of danger coming from the police, or individuals who act like the police, such as a George Zimmerman, security guards following them in stores and other individuals in positions of authority, Dr. Johnson said. He added that Black men always are under intense surveillance by others.

Dr. Johnson made his comments during the opening panel discussion at a symposium titled “Black Young Men In America: Rising Above Social and Racial Prejudice, Trauma, and Educational Disparities,” which was held at The University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.

Dr. Johnson, author of “Social Work with African American Males: Health, Mental Health and Social Policy,” said trauma is caused by any number of events, including: violence, bullying, sexual abuse, physical abuse, loss of a parent, incarceration of a parent, loss of childhood friends, and family members succumbing to the use of drugs.

The educational experience for Black males is often traumatic He explained that African American males educational experience can be traumatic. Dr. Johnson said Black boys are disproportionately suspended from school, given high numbers of in-school timeouts and assigned to special education classes because teachers believe they are incapable of learning. These traumatic incidents make Black boys’ educational experiences considerably different from those of young whites males. As a result of these negative experiences, Black boys brains become wired differently from white boys.

“Black boys are more depressed because they believe their physical safety is always being threatened. Their families are economically poorer than whites and many Black families live below the poverty line,” he said.

According to many researchers, including Charles H. Hennekens, MD, of Florida Atlantic University’s School of Medicine, homicide is the leading cause of death among young Black men, a phenomenon he has referred to as a ‘national tragedy.’

Though suicide rates are generally lower among Blacks than whites in the United States, the suicide rate for young Black men between the ages of 20 and 24 years old is highest among Blacks of all ages and both genders.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the suicide rate for Black men in this age range is 18.8 per 100,000.

Dr. Johnson noted that Dr. Michael A. Lindsey, associate professor of Social Work at the Silver School of Social Work at New York University, has written that African-American adolescent boys under-utilize mental health services due to the stigma associated with depression.

Dr. Lindsey’s comments are contained in a study, titled “Family Matters: The Role of Mental Health Stigma and Social Support on Depressive Symptoms and Subsequent Help Seeking Among African American Boys.”

“While treatable, there are significant racial and gender differences concerning who gets treatment for depression,” Dr. Lindsey wrote. “Few children and adolescents, especially African-American adolescents with a depressive disorder, receive care.”

He added that African-American boys may be compromised by gender-based notions that men who show their emotions are weak.

The conference, which drew a record crowd from diverse backgrounds, including academics, journalists, social workers, students and individuals who work with men in Black churches, want to create environments where young Black males feel safe to discuss openly issues that affect them.

This article originally published in the February 24, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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