Critique Of The Black Family And Mass Incarceration By Western And Wildeman

985 words - 4 pages

The article The Black Family and Mass Incarceration was written by Bruce Western and Christopher Wildeman and published in The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science in 2009. In the article, the authors discuss the social problem of mass incarceration. They argue that since the 1960’s, political changes and deteriorating economic conditions have led to high rates of mass incarceration which has a profound effect on the lives of those in the criminal justice system and their families. The main goals of the article are to explain how mass imprisonment came to be a problem in the United States, to analyze the patterns of mass incarceration, and to discuss the effects of ...view middle of the document...

The authors use various studies and research data to illustrate just how disproportionate incarceration rates are in the United States. The U.S. Incarceration Rate is now over seven times that of Western Europe, when historically it was the same up until the 1970’s. The inmate population itself is also disproportionately young, male, disadvantaged, and black. The authors explain they way that the life course perspective accounts for mass incarceration rates. The life course perspective marks certain rites of passages in becoming an adult: school, work, marriage, establishing a home, and having children. Those that complete these in a timely manner are more likely to be stable and have positive life outcomes, while those that fail are more likely to become criminals. Imprisonment change the life course of individuals. It places a stigma on people and lowers chances of obtaining the goals of career and marriage. Those who do not complete their education are also more likely to become criminals, especially for black men. Today becoming incarcerated is a common life event for black men.
Next, the authors discuss the ways that mass incarceration has had deep effects on family life for those that are in the criminal justice system. It splits up the family. It stigmatizes those with a criminal record which deceases marriageability. The authors explain that marriage and families create a “web of obligations” that reduces crime. Marriage rates are falling across the United States and single parent households are increasing, especially among low income blacks. High rates of incarceration contribute to this. While rates of married men in prison are relatively low, about half that of men outside the prison system, they have about the same rates of having children as those outside. This leaves many children with incarcerated fathers. Incarceration damages not only their marriage chances, but their economic chances as well. It also puts stress on the family of the incarcerated due to the stigma of having a family member in...

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